We started our New Zealand adventure with a private tour of Auckland with Miles from Moa Trek, highlights were Piha the main wild black beach on the west coast, Kitekite Falls, Kelly Tarltons Underwater World, famous for its penguins. We had lunch with Ross from Great Sights. Auckland has some lovely parks, beaches and open spaces on the outskirts and we visited Mount Eden for a wonderful view of the city.
Ipipiri is a small overnight cruise to the Bay of Islands. We were lucky enough to have good weather for our trip and a clear night, which meant that we were able to see millions of stars, the Milky Way and Magellan galaxies and shooting stars. We had lunch in Russell, New Zealand’s oldest town which was very quaint and interesting and well worth a visit.
Rotorua is renowned both for high volcanic activity and its strong Maori culture. Te Puia geyser, bubbling mud pools, Maori crafts, Rainbow Springs, The Agrodome, Hells Gate, Mt. Takawera and the buried village, and the steam rising from Lake Rotorua itself make it a fascinating place to visit but it isn’t too touristy so it holds a unique charm. It was ANZAC day when we arrived so we celebrated in the RSA club and received a very warm welcome.
Napier is a pretty little seaside town full of art deco buildings. We stayed there for a couple of days before moving on to Wellington, the tiny capital of New Zealand. Wellington has plenty to see and do, the cable car, Te Papa museum, Carter Observatory, Zealandia, a lovely beach, many bars and plenty of restaurants with a variety of cuisine. We did the Hop on Hop off tour which is a great way to get round hilly Wellington
Dunedin is home to Cadburys Chocolate Factory. It is also home to the Taeri Gorge railway, which is a picturesque four hour trip to Pukaweri from Dunedin Station, a beautiful example of Victorian architecture with its tiled floors and stained glass windows.
From there we drove down the Southern Scenic Route to Invercargill. Invercargill is mostly very industrial but there is a great pub there called Waxy O’Shea’s. We had a couple of really good nights in there with a Dublin singer and entertainer, oddly named Busmans Handbag and we also met up with some Australians on holiday. There is also a lovely park and museum at the other end of town
From Invercargill, we took a day trip with Stewart Island flights. Our trip was touch and go because of the low cloud, but luckily our trip went ahead. We took the speedboat to Ulva Island, which is a bird sanctuary including many endemic birds that were close to extinction. We walked through the rainforest where hundreds or maybe even thousands of birds called each other noisily through the trees until we got to a wild deserted beach with just our own footprints on the sand and a few gulls at the edge of the sea.
After a lunch of delicious local green lipped mussels we were taken on a tour by the appropriately named Stewart. Stewart Island only has 400 inhabitants, a school with 26 pupils and one supermarket. Visiting Stewart is like going back in time; it’s a really lovely place with stunning beaches and frequent rainfall combined with the sparse population means it is home to an abundance of wildlife, including penguins and kiwis.
Te Anau is a small, one street town and a convenient place to visit both Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys and Milford Sound with Great Sights . The journey to both is much shorter and more convenient from Te Anau saving about 6 hours on the journey from Queenstown. My preference was Doubtful Sound, a much smaller boat with far less tourists, which allowed the experience to be much more peaceful and leisurely. This involves a 50 minute boat ride across Lake Manapouri, a coach ride over the mountain and a 3 hour cruise on Doubtful Sound. The route depends on the weather but we were very lucky to get out to the Tasman Sea and see two schools of dolphins, albatrosses and Neel Island, which was full of hundreds of fur seals.
We loved Queenstown, the autumn colours were really beautiful, and as it is quite a lively town with many bars and restaurants it has a great ambience. We took a Lord of the Rings tour with Southern Lakes Sightseeing. This is the only tour that is not by 4WD. We are not Lord of the Rings film buffs and much more interested in the scenery so our guide Richard tailored the trip especially for our needs, and showed us some really picturesque areas and what he told us about the filming was really fascinating; we even got the opportunity to look at and handle approved replicas of swords and knives from the films. We also saw Arrowtown, vineyards and the original A J Hackett bungy site which is still as popular and crazy as ever.
Next we visited Franz Josef, a really small but very friendly place. Our main reason for staying there was for the Air Safaris Mt Cook traverse flight. This was very scary but at the same time one of the best and most exciting things we’ve ever done. Again this is very weather dependant and we were very lucky to get the trip. The flight is almost an hour flying over the beach, the Tasman Sea, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook. It is excellent value, an opportunity not to be missed
We took the bus up to Greymouth and stopped in a little place called Hokitika which has a beach, Jade Museum and also a sock museum (shame we didn’t have time for this) It is at Greymouth that you can take the famous Tranzalpine train to Christchurch.
Christchurch is currently a long way to recovery. The Avon River is fully operational as is the aquarium and the parks are mostly untouched. The CBD area is completely closed and the trams are not operating. The buses are still running on temporary schedules and there is really not much open at this stage
To find out more about New Zealand and get a quote for your trip, please contact me