ES­CAPE Why New Zealand Rocks

A ge­o­log­i­cal won­der­land fea­tur­ing a range of fas­ci­nat­ing for­ma­tions

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New Zealand is a ge­o­log­i­cal won­der­land fea­tur­ing a range of fas­ci­nat­ing for­ma­tions – some as old as time, and some more re­cent ar­rivals. Smooth round spheres or squished pancake stones, New Zealand boasts all man­ner of rocky cu­riosi­ties that make vis­i­tors scratch their heads. What are they? How did they form? Here’s a brief guide to some of the coun­try’s most in­ter­est­ing and oth­er­worldly ar­range­ments.

Di­nosaur Eggs, KaikȬura

The 2016 Kaikͻura earth­quake un­earthed a clus­ter of pre­vi­ously un­seen stones. The size of beach balls, these new­est kids on the ge­o­log­i­cal block have been dubbed “di­nosaur eggs”. Part of the up­lifted seabed at Gooch’s Beach, the boul­ders are con­cre­tions – dis­tinc­tive masses of min­eral ma­te­rial that have em­bed­ded them­selves in sed­i­men­tary rock. Some are cracked in two while oth­ers are per­fect spheres. One thing is cer­tain, they were not ap­par­ent be­fore the mighty Novem­ber shake. The ques­tion on all the lo­cals’ lips is will these stony orbs give New Zealand’s fa­mous Mo­er­aki Boul­ders a run for their money?

Travel Tips

Kaikćura is about 200km north of Christchurch and 155km south of Pic­ton on the South Is­land. Most vis­i­tors come for the town’s fa­mous seafood (Kaikćura means ‘eat cray­fish) and to spot whales, dol­phins, seals and shore­birds. The South­ern Alps meet the ocean here, and the re­gion is wel­com­ing year-round. Gooch’s Beach, a stony bay pop­u­lar among surfers, is a short dis­tance from the Kaikćura Es­planade.

Split Ap­ple Rock, Tas­man Bay

Cre­ated via a process known as ice wedg­ing, this whop­ping nugget of gran­ite is shaped a lit­tle bit like an ap­ple that’s been cut in half – hence the name. His­tor­i­cally, M͊ori peo­ple ex­plained the odd­ity with a tale that in­volved two mighty gods fight­ing over who owned the rock. To set­tle the mat­ter, they chopped it in half. Rest­ing on a boul­der pile that seem­ingly floats on the sea about 50m off the beach be­tween Kai­teri­teri and Mara­hau, this won­der (called Tokan­gawh͊ in M͊ori) is ac­ces­si­ble by foot or kayak and, when the tide is out, you can even wade over and peer di­rectly into its core.

Travel Tips

Tas­man Bay, near Nel­son at the top of the South Is­land, is a tourist hotspot – the gate­way to Abel Tas­man Na­tional Park and home to all man­ner of hikes, cy­cling ad­ven­tures and wildlife. Visit any time, though the cooler months be­tween April and Oc­to­ber mean less peo­ple and more peace.

Pancake Rocks, West Coast

Pu­nakaiki’s lay­ered Pancake Rocks were formed 30 mil­lion years ago from the pen­e­tra­tion of ma­rine crea­tures and plants into sub­merged lime­stone by ex­treme wa­ter pres­sure. Over time, seis­mic ac­tiv­ity lifted the lime­stone above the seabed, and acid rain, wind and waves fur­ther sculpted the stri­ated stone. When the tide is high, and the sea is rough, some of the rocks be­come gush­ing blow­holes. Make time for the Pancake Rocks and Blow­holes Walk, which takes about 30 min­utes.

Travel Tips

Pu­nakaiki is lo­cated be­tween Grey­mouth and West­port on the west coast of the South Is­land. The road be­tween the two towns was rated one of the world’s top 10 coastal drives by Lonely Planet. If you’re not in a hurry, spend a night at Pu­nakaiki Beach Camp, where the stargaz­ing is out of this world. There are also walks, glow worms and the Pancake Rocks Cafe, which serves de­li­cious food – yes, even pan­cakes.

Cathe­dral Cove, Coro­man­del Penin­sula

Known to M͊ori peo­ple as Te Whanganuia-hei, this stun­ning nat­u­ral for­ma­tion near Ha­hei Beach on the Coro­man­del Penin­sula is ac­cessed via a rel­a­tively easy 2.5km walk. The cove fea­tures dra­matic coastal scenery and an arch­way that frames a gi­ant sea stack (which stars in count­less pho­tos). With tow­er­ing white cliffs that burst out of the earth dur­ing an erup­tion some 8 mil­lion years ago, Cathe­dral Cove is named for its pho­to­genic tri­an­gle-shaped cave. From the car park, the walk takes about 90 min­utes re­turn, though you’ll want to spend the bet­ter part of the day here.

Travel Tips

Ha­hei is a roughly two-hour drive east of Auck­land. Be­sides hik­ing in Cathe­dral Cove, vis­i­tors can snorkel at the mag­nif­i­cent ma­rine re­serve off Gem­stone Bay, kayak, take a boat tour or en­joy a soak at heav­enly Hot Wa­ter Beach. Take food and drinks with you or try one of the de­light­ful cafes at Ha­hei when you’re tuck­ered out.

Ele­phant Rocks, North Otago

Dis­cov­ered on a pri­vate farm in North Otago, 5km from Dun­troon, these siz­able lime­stone rocks – some 10m wide – squat in the green grass like an­i­mals. If you didn’t have your glasses on, you’d be for­given for mistaking them for ele­phants. At least if you squint. Ac­cess is via an easy fiveminute walk, where­upon vis­i­tors won­der how these per­ma­nent pieces found their way into this pad­dock. It’s also re­fresh­ing that the farmer hasn’t cho­sen to charge ad­mis­sion so long as vis­i­tors re­spect the rocks and the stock.

Travel Tips

A 40-minute drive from his­toric Oa­maru on the South Is­land (to­day also known as the steam­punk cap­i­tal of New Zealand), tiny Dun­troon is home to Van­ished World, a fa­cil­ity that shares the magic of the area’s fos­silised charms. The Mìori rock draw­ings Takiroa are also in the re­gion, as is the Alps 2 Ocean cy­cle­way, which passes Ele­phant Rocks.

North­ern Ire­land may be famed for its cham­pi­onship links golf, but it also pos­sesses glo­ri­ous park­land cour­ses. Be­yond cap­i­tal Belfast’s five park­land beau­ties there’s a wealth of in­land cour­ses for golfers to play through­out the re­gion. Some of them are at golf re­sorts where the fair­ways are just steps away from your room, while oth­ers are un­sung jew­els just wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered by vis­i­tors.

There are three golf re­sorts in North­ern Ire­land, all of them of­fer­ing ex­ten­sive golf fa­cil­i­ties as well as ac­com­mo­da­tion, bars, restau­rants, recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties – and full-ser­vice spas with mas­sage treat­ments, to help ease those aching mus­cles af­ter a round or pre­pare the body for the next golf­ing foray.

Just 20 min­utes from Belfast, and only 10 min­utes from Belfast In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the Hil­ton Belfast Tem­plepatrick Golf & Coun­try Club in­cor­po­rates a 129-room four-star ho­tel and a par-72 golf course that stretches to over 7,000 yards. De­signed by for­mer Euro­pean Tour pros David Jones and David Fe­herty, it opened in 1999 and chal­lenges golfers with a mix of lakes and ma­ture trees. Other golf fa­cil­i­ties in­clude a flood­lit driv­ing range, short game prac­tice area and two prac­tice putting greens. The re­sort also has a spa and health club, both of which were re­fur­bished in 2014.

Mal­one Golf Club was founded in 1895 and has been part of the sport­ing and so­cial land­scape in Belfast since its in­cep­tion. From its first lo­ca­tion at Stran­mil­lis to the cur­rent site at Bal­lydrain, the club has wel­comed many golfers from all lev­els in­clud­ing those that sim­ply want to en­joy the sur­round­ings and bar fa­cil­i­ties or, as it's called in Ul­ster, the 'craic'. It is lo­cated 5 miles south of Belfast, in the lower La­gan Val­ley at Bal­lydrain. The course gen­tly rolls through 330 acres of im­mac­u­lately main­tained park­land along the River La­gan and was de­signed by CK Cot­ton and As­so­ci­ates.

The main course com­prises the Drum­bridge and Bal­lydrain nines - named af­ter the lo­cal area. Mea­sur­ing al­most 6,700

yards, Mal­one is a solid test of Golf. Ac­cu­racy from the tee is de­manded due to the many ma­ture trees that await a way­ward tee shot. Af­ter find­ing the fair­way, golfers must ne­go­ti­ate the cham­pi­onship greens which, in con­junc­tion with the grounds are main­tained to the high­est stan­dards.

Lo­cated on a 600-acre penin­sula be­tween Lower Lough Erne and Cas­tle Hume Lough in the Fer­managh Lake­lands, Lough Erne Re­sort com­prises a five-star ho­tel and the Faldo Cham­pi­onship Course – six-time Ma­jor win­ner Sir Nick Faldo’s first de­sign in Ire­land – that opened in 2009, as well as a sec­ond 18-hole course, the Cas­tle Hume. The re­sort also has a golf academy fea­tur­ing a pri­vate golf stu­dio equipped with video and ball-track­ing anal­y­sis.

Lough Erne Re­sort opened in 2010 and has 120 rooms, suites and lough­side lodges. Its Thai Spa of­fers a dual treat­ment room ideal for cou­ples, with treat­ments in­clud­ing a two-hour Golfers Tonic mas­sage. The re­sort’s Catalina Restau­rant is named af­ter the World War II fly­ing boats that were based on Lough Erne. Lough Erne Re­sort wel­comed world lead­ers in­clud­ing Barack

Obama, Vladimir Putin, An­gela Merkel and David Cameron when it hosted the G8 sum­mit in 2013.

Roe Park Re­sort lies in the beau­ti­ful sur­round­ings of the Roe Val­ley Coun­try Park. It is just a short drive from 2019 Open Cham­pi­onship venue Royal Portrush and other top links lay­outs as well as the Cause­way Coast’s world­class vis­i­tor at­trac­tions, among them the Gi­ant’s Cause­way, a UN­ESCO World Her­itage Site. The 18-hole park­land course gives golfers views of the Sper­rin Moun­tains and Lough Foyle from el­e­vated holes. Its par-3 6th hole re­cently un­der­went ex­ten­sive work in­clud­ing a new two-tier green as part of £1 mil­lion ren­o­va­tions to the course. Fa­cil­i­ties also in­clude an academy and high-tech in­door teach­ing stu­dio.

Formerly a stately coun­try house dat­ing to 1729, Roe Park Re­sort’s four-star ho­tel opened in 1995 and of­fers 118 rooms and suites, two restau­rants, in­clud­ing its re­stored 18th cen­tury Coach House, and a spa that is a teach­ing academy for Elemis. The re­sort of­fers a Cou­ples Es­cape pack­age that in­cludes din­ner, bed and break­fast plus a mud skin treat­ment for two fol­lowed by a cou­ples mas­sage.

Although not con­nected, Gal­gorm Re­sort & Spa is close by for those play­ing golf at Gal­gorm Cas­tle Golf Club and it fea­tures a new river­side Ther­mal Vil­lage. A cou­ples pack­age in­cludes bub­bly and truf­fles on ar­rival, use of the Ther­mal Vil­lage and a Deluxe Duo treat­ment, with op­tional four-course meal and a cock­tail or glass of wine. The re­sort was the host ho­tel for the Dubai Duty Free Ir­ish Open in 2017, played at Port­stew­art Golf Club.

Gal­gorm Cas­tle Golf Club is laid out through ma­ture wooded grounds in the heart of the 220-acre Gal­gorm Cas­tle Es­tate, along­side

its 17th cen­tury cas­tle. It stages the an­nual North­ern Ire­land Open, part of the Euro­pean Tour’s Chal­lenge Tour. More than 40,000 peo­ple watched the free-toen­ter tour­na­ment in 2017, a record for the tour. A new Fun Golf Area at Gal­gorm is aimed at fam­i­lies and fea­tures a six-hole pitch and putt course and the Hi­malayas putting green, a scaled replica of the fa­mous St An­drews at­trac­tion.

Among North­ern Ire­land’s best-kept golf­ing se­crets, Kil­keel Golf Club is a pic­turesque park­land lay­out at the foot of the Mourne Moun­tains in the far south­west that has played host to qual­i­fiers for the Bri­tish Am­a­teur and Se­nior Bri­tish Open events.

The re­gion boasts sev­eral cen­te­nar­i­ans out­side of Belfast. They in­clude: Massereene Golf Club, es­tab­lished in 1895 and of­fer­ing a chal­leng­ing course on the

shore of Lough Neagh; New­town­stew­art Golf Club, founded in 1914 and laid out through ven­er­a­ble oaks and beech trees in the Baron­scourt Es­tate, home of the Duke of Aber­corn; Tan­dragee Golf Club, dat­ing back to 1911 on the Duke of Manch­ester’s Es­tate with bunkers in­clud­ing some re­sem­bling Amer­ica’s Great Lakes that were de­signed by the Cincin­nat­i­born Duchess of Manch­ester; and Omagh Golf Club, which was ex­tended from a nine-hole course built in 1910 to 18 holes in 1983.

Other gems in­clude County Down golf clubs Rock­mount, St Patrick’s, War­ren­point, Eden­more and 36-hole Clan­de­boye, County Antrim’s Lis­burn Golf Club and Coun­try Ty­rone’s Dun­gan­non Golf Club.

Sev­eral ex­cel­lent sea­side cour­ses lie in the shad­ows of renowned venues. Just around the coast from the cel­e­brated Royal County Down, the short but spec­tac­u­lar Ard­glass Golf Club links hugs the rocky shore and cliffs, with sev­eral holes of­fer­ing views across the bay to Coney Is­land. Golfers can en­joy the craic af­ter their round in the bar of the old­est club­house in the world, orig­i­nally built as a cas­tle over 600 years ago and with can­nons point­ing out over the fair­ways just in front.

Kirk­istown Cas­tle Golf Club, on the Ards Penin­sula, is the clos­est links course to Belfast and was de­signed by leg­endary ar­chi­tect James Braid, while Bal­ly­cas­tle Golf

Club, a mix of park­land and links, lies op­po­site Rath­lin Is­land on the Cause­way Coast along­side the ru­ins of 500-year-old Bona­margy Fri­ary. Cairndhu Golf Club is a park­land course with sev­eral holes right by the sea, its sig­na­ture, par 3 2nd hole end­ing in a green perched on a rocky head­land.

How­ever, few cour­ses can match the his­toric con­nec­tion en­joyed by Foyle Golf Cen­tre, on the out­skirts of Derry be­low the Done­gal Hills. Its cham­pi­onship park­land course is named af­ter avi­a­tion pi­o­neer Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the At­lantic. She made an emer­gency land­ing at the end of her his­toric flight in 1932 on what is now the 6th green of the Earhart Course.

Castle­rock Golf Club is si­t­u­ated in the sea­side re­sort of Castle­rock, which lies ap­prox­i­mately 5 miles west of the town of Col­eraine on the North Coast of North­ern Ire­land. Castle­rock is a fab­u­lous links course set among rolling sand dunes. Its scenic qual­i­ties em­brace the River Bann flow­ing out to the At­lantic, eye­catch­ing views of Done­gal and on a clear day to­wards Scot­land and the Isle of Is­lay. The Cham­pi­onship course, Mussenden Links is a true test of golf even for the ad­vanced player. The best known hole is the 4th called the Leg O'mut­ton, a 200yard par-3 with a rail­way line to the right, a burn to the left and a raised green. Ad­di­tion­ally the 9 hole Bann course has widened the ap­peal of the club which con­tains a par-5 that has been de­scribed as "one of the most scenic holes in Ir­ish Golf"

What­ever your pref­er­ence, North­ern Ire­land’s park life golf is a hit. For more in­for­ma­tion on North­ern Ire­land and its golf, visit: www.dis­cov­er­north­ernire­

The 2016 KaikȬura earth­quake un­earthed a clus­ter of pre­vi­ously un­seen stones

Lo­cated at KaikȬura on Gooch’s Beach, these beach ball sized rocks have been dubbed “di­nosaur eggs”

Pu­nakaiki’s lay­ered Pancake Rocks were formed 30 mil­lion years ago

Split Ap­ple Rock, lo­cated in the Abel Tas­man Na­tional Park

Cathe­dral Cove, a stun­ning nat­u­ral for­ma­tion near Ha­hei Beach

The Ele­phant Rocks in North Otago squat in the green grass like an­i­mals

Dis­cov­ered on a pri­vate farm in North Otago, the Ele­phant Rocks are siz­able lime­stone for­ma­tions

Hil­ton Belfast Tem­plepatrick Golf & Coun­try Club

Ae­rial View of Roe Park Re­sort


Lough Erne Re­sort

Gal­gorm Re­sort and Spa - El­e­ments

Gal­gorm Re­sort and Spa - Ther­mal Vil­lage

Port­stew­art Golf Course

Clan­de­boye Golf Club

Kil­keel Golf Club

Kirk­istown Cas­tle Golf Club

Kil­keel Golf club

Bal­ly­cas­tle Golf Club

The 19th cen­tury club­house in the early evening sun

View across the 18th green at sunset, with Bal­lydrain lake in the back­ground

Kil­keel Golf club

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