Bruce Munro takes his family on a Lake Wanaka
Twilight finds the Lady Pembroke in the sheltered haven of
Fisherman's Bay. Photo by Bruce Munro.
Sensory overload aptly sums up our fabulous long weekend on
stunning Lake Wanaka aboard the houseboat MV Lady Pembroke.
The lakeside trees are at the height of their golden
late-autumn glory when our family vehicle draws up at the
Wanaka marina where Graham Tompkins, the builder of the
four-berth luxury houseboat, and its present manager Russell
Allan, who works for the UK-based owners, are waiting on the
My wife and I, and our four children, have been eagerly
anticipating this adventure for several months, so only take
a few minutes to relocate the boot-load of bags, food and
oddments to the catamaran.
What first strikes me during the familiarisation tour is the
size of the 16m by 7msteel-hulled houseboat.
That, and the comparative smallness of the two shiny chrome
levers with which I am supposed to steer and propel the whole
22-tonne kit and caboodle.
Russell assures me a current driver's licence is all that is
required, and it seems like no time at all before the
demonstration and test drive are over, Graham and Russell
have disembarked, and I am doing it for real.
There is a coarse colloquialism which I discourage my
children from using.
"... ," I think as I try to get comfortable with how the two
60hp high-thrust Mercury outboard motors respond to the
" ... , ... ," I think several more times, body tense and
eyes on stalks, as the split-screen radar depth finder and
GPS map gleefully record the trail left by our somewhat wonky
progress up the lake.
Navigational aids include a shoulder-height cardboard-backed
map marked with felt-pen crosses pinpointing safe havens.
We hope to reach Mou Waho (also known as Harwich or Pigeon
Island), but as the late sun threatens to disappear behind Mt
Aspiring we chose to divert to the closer mooring of
Fisherman's Bay at the north end of the peninsula.
The beauty of Lake Wanaka and the grandeur of its surrounding
geography does not touch me until the next morning.
When it does, it shakes me hard.
Lady Pembroke has four bedrooms in addition to an open
living, kitchen, dining area, a bathroom and toilet.
I wake to the sound of our two youngest boys setting up a
game in the lounge, so sneak from bed to check they are warm.
My noble parental intentions, however, are hijacked by the
scene beyond the boat's windows.
Instead, I snatch my camera and step outside.
Our cove is still steeped in the black and steel grey of
pre-dawn, but across the lake the unseen sun stretches
peach-coloured fingers along the tops of the barren mountain
Completing the ethereal scene, clouds drift mere tens of
metres above the lake surface.
The growing light unveils another gorgeous scene close at
Directly in front and to the right of our tethered vessel a
stony beach surrenders to native bush coating the lower
flanks of soaring, craggy hills.
On our right, bare rock and bush-covered cliffs plunge
headlong into brilliant turquoise and teal waters.
After breakfast we set a course for Mou Waho, pausing only
briefly to drift in the middle of the lake while we phone
Russell to check why the GPS map shows a skull and crossbones
near our intended destination, a small beach near the
northeast tip of the island.
A reef of rocks, but plainly visible, he says, and so it
proves to be.
The next few hours pass extremely pleasantly.
Francesca and I prepare lunch while the younger boys explore
the immediate coastline and their two older siblings bring
the kayaks down from the top deck and paddle out to the reef.
We then all walk the track up through the bush towards the
On the way we are lucky enough to have a close encounter with
one of the inquisitive weka which have been re-introduced to
Mou Waho from the Chatham Islands via nearby Stevenson's
Sitting atop Mou Waho is a lesson in scale and mortality -
our puny and transient presence amid these giant landforms
scoured and wreathed by the body and arms of this ancient
Fishing is on the must-do list for the weekend for my wife
because a fishing rod that was a family Christmas present is
still waiting to be christened, and for myself because I have
invested time and money in fishing licences and a couple of
lures the salesman assures me are almost irresistible to the
brown and rainbow trout and Chinook salmon found in these
Before sunset we have returned to Fisherman's Bay which we've
been told is not misnamed, and chance our arm at trolling.
But to no avail.
The next morning Fran and the boys try again while our
daughter cooks up a storm and I start packing because I know
it just is not going to happen.
Then comes a muffled yell from the back deck.
Fran's rod is bending as she swiftly draws in whatever is on
the 6lb line.
And then there it is - a beautiful brown trout about 40cm
But just as quickly it is gone, taking the lure with it as it
flees down into the lake's dark depths.
The missed opportunity is disappointing, but the excitement
of having a real fish on our own line lingers longer.
After an early lunch we take the long way back to Wanaka
township, around Mou Tapu (Crescent Island) and past Roy's
Peninsula, eking every last moment of pleasure out of these
three wonderful days.
If ever there is a right way to experience this spectacular
lake, Lady Pembroke has shown us how.
Star journalist Bruce Munro and his family enjoyed their
weekend aboard Lady Pembroke courtesy of Wanaka Houseboats