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Trip Report 8 Days on the South Island, NZ

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Timeline:

Arrival in Dunedin on January 23, 2016
Eight full days in the southern part of the South Island
Departure from Dunedin on January 31, 2016

The Backstory:

It’s been one month since my first trip to wonderful New Zealand. While I did take some trip report notes during my travels, I waited a bit before typing it all up. This way, I think I’m able to be more objective when reflecting on the trip - and I get the added benefit of reliving it as I go along!

I wanted to post my TR for New Zealand even though it was a different kind of vacation compared to most of the threads I’ve read here. Unfortunately for this trip we didn’t have nearly enough time to really dig in and explore amazing NZ! This vacation was more of a quick trip and overview to a couple of areas on the South Island. However, I want to say thanks to everyone who posted trip reports and discussions over the years, as I really did enjoy reading them for research and entertainment leading up to my own trip. I expect that I will probably return to NZ again some day and hopefully be able to take a more slow-travel approach and focus on the incredible scenery and nature NZ has to offer.

This trip came about when my younger sister (CJ) was accepted to a study abroad exchange program to attend the University of Otago for her 2nd semester of junior year. Last summer, she did a shorter summer-session study abroad program in Denmark, and our dad and I were able to travel with her before her program started. Well, this time our mom and I decided we needed to do the same for her New Zealand study abroad. The girls’ trip to the South Island was in motion! CJ and Mom live in the same state in the southern US, whereas I currently live in southern California. We booked flights that were to arrive in Auckland around the same time, and then the three of us would take the same connecting flight to Dunedin together.

Traveling with Mom means that CJ and I get to stay in nicer hotels and eat at nicer restaurants than we normally would if we were without our generous parent :) We mapped out our plan: Dunedin, Queenstown, Te Anau, Milford Sound, and back to Dunedin. Then Mom and I would fly back to the United States, and CJ gets to stay in NZ until June.

Next up: Day 1 - Arrival, driving on the left, and Dunedin!

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    Saturday, January 23rd - Arrival, driving on the left, and Dunedin!

    As our trip got closer, Mom and CJ had a change to their long-haul flight that meant they would miss the connection from Auckland to Dunedin. They were rescheduled onto a different flight that would go through Wellington, and then another flight down to Dunedin. Since I would still be able to make the original connection in Dunedin, the plan was for me to pick up the rental car, check in at our hotel, and come back to the airport later in the afternoon to pick them up.

    I worked a half-day at the office before an easy, short flight up to San Francisco. The week before the trip, I debated back and forth about what luggage to pack and whether or not to check it. Finally I ended up packing in a carry-on size rolling suitcase, but I decided to check it. I was worried about the carry-on weight limits on the domestic Air New Zealand flight. I packed a change of clothes in my backpack just in case. I had a pretty short layover in San Francisco with enough time to comfortably make it to the international terminal. I had paid the $50 extra to have a “better” economy seat for the long-haul flight. I had a window seat in one of the few 2-seater options. I couldn’t believe how narrow the aisles were in the 3-4-3 alignment which began just one row behind my seat.

    Anyway, I just read, watched movies, ate the food, and slept on the long flight. Unfortunately the flight was about 30 minutes late when we finally reached the gate in Auckland. Going through customs and picking up my bag didn’t take that long, but it was still past the time limit to drop off my checked bag. Hmm, could I rush over to the domestic terminal to catch my flight, and leave my suitcase to follow on a later flight? No - the bag is not allowed to travel without the passenger :-) Well, if I was going to miss my flight, I at least knew I wanted to get on the later flights Mom and CJ would be taking. I asked the agent if she could put me on the next flight through Wellington and then on to Dunedin? Yes - there is one seat left! I asked the agent to check my last name and see if I could have a seat next to my family members. That wasn’t possible, but I would be just a couple rows behind them. All right! I couldn’t wait to surprise Mom and CJ at the gate.

    I took the airport shuttle bus over to the domestic terminal. The gate area was pretty empty so I sat on the floor and did some stretches, then continued to read while I waited for Mom and CJ to show up. The flight was already boarding when they finally arrived, running over to the gate. Wow! We made it to Wellington and finally had a little time to relax together and get some breakfast/lunch. It sounded like Mom and CJ had a much more uncomfortable flight than I did. Apparently CJ had spent the whole long-haul flight with a bad cold and was still blowing her nose today. But nothing could dampen the excitement of actually being together in New Zealand!

    In the Wellington airport, we were really amused by the huge Lord of the Rings sculpture installations hanging from the ceiling. We ordered our first flat whites of the trip and shared some toasty sandwiches from a cafe in the food court area. After a bit, it was time for our last flight down to Dunedin. We arrived with no problems and picked up our luggage at baggage claim. Mom’s suitcase didn’t make it! The staff were able to easily track it and said it would be delivered to our hotel later that afternoon.

    Finally we walked over to the Avis rental car office and picked up our car. We got in the car for the first time, started the ignition, and the radio came on. The radio volume was turned up and it was blasting the song “Land Down Under”! Jetlagged and confused, the three of us looked at each other in disbelief. Is this a joke?? No! The radio was really playing that song upon our arrival to the southern hemisphere!

    It was my first time driving on the left side of the road, and luckily I had Mom and CJ to give me the driving directions from a Google Maps printout I had made before departure. I had prepared by watching YouTube videos of people driving on the left, and taking the video quiz here: http://bit.ly/217u4M0. It was lightly raining, and I kept changing the windshield wiper settings when trying to use the turn signal - and vise versa :) We made it to our Dunedin hotel - Bluestone on George (http://bit.ly/1LB8N0Y).

    We all wanted to take showers and change clothes before heading out into town. It was a straightforward walk from the hotel to the Octagon. We started walking and I convinced Mom and CJ to pop into Knox Church when I saw the door was open. I think I picked up this habit from traveling in Italy - if you see a church is open, go in! You never know if it will be open the next time you see it! We took a quick look at the cool wooden ceiling and continued down George toward the town center.

    We made our way down George just taking in Dunedin for the first time and looking at all the shops and restaurants. It’s an amazing feeling when the trip you have spent so long planning and researching is finally beginning to happen for real. Knowing that CJ would live in Dunedin for the next 5 months gave us the extra perspective of trying to envision the town as a home rather than just a vacation destination.

    We made it to the Octagon and walked around it looking at the dining options. The Wellington airport food seemed like days ago and we were ready for an early dinner. We finally chose a restaurant called Nova (http://bit.ly/1Ook04I) and ordered a big tapas sampler platter and a chicken burger. We shared this food among the three of us and it was a good option for our jetlagged state of mind. Our favorite thing was the focaccia bread with dukkah.

    Since it was still early after our dinner, we decided to walk over to the University of Otago campus. CJ said that the study abroad Uni Flats office was supposed to be always open and that she could pick up the key to her flat at any time. We walked to the university campus and found the study abroad office. There were instructions on a phone box next to the door, so she called to ask to be let in. After a few minutes, a staff member walked over to the office and unlocked the door. CJ checked in and picked up the key to her flat, along with instructions on how to find it.

    It was lightly raining, but we had jackets on and started walking off-campus to her new flat. It is on a street pretty close to the university. CJ let us in with her new key and we explored the main living area and kitchen. Her key also let her into her assigned room. It had a double bed, wardrobe with hangers, smaller dresser, and a desk with chair. Pretty good! It is a 5-bedroom house with 2 bathrooms.

    While we were checking out the kitchen, CJ’s “Kiwi Host” arrived home. He is the New Zealand local who goes to the university and lives in the flat with the 4 study abroad students. The “Kiwi Host” acts a resource for the study abroad students if they have questions or need help. He was really friendly of course, but we were finally fading from this unending travel day and wanted to walk back to the hotel to sleep.

    We walked back to Bluestone on George, and Mom’s suitcase had been delivered and was waiting in her room! We unpacked a little bit, used the WiFi to let the rest of our family know we were settled in, and fell asleep.

    Next Up: Day 2 - Second full day in Dunedin

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    Thanks TripPlanner & Mel! Nice to know someone is reading my first TR. Mel, I remember reading several of your reports, especially the ones featuring the South Island. I'm sad to report that we didn't have any Indian food on this trip :(

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    Sunday, January 24th - Second full day in Dunedin

    I woke up this morning and realized: I’m actually in New Zealand! Yeah!

    We dressed in very comfortable clothing and walked from the hotel to The Good Oil Cafe on George (http://bit.ly/1Q9Keu7). We ordered three flat whites and a sweet muffin to share. Wow, the butter that came with the muffin was amazing! Mom and CJ both ordered the breakfast omelet, and I ordered the bagel with hummus and tomatoes. We enjoyed the ambiance of this cafe and watching the locals come in for coffee or breakfast.

    After breakfast, we walked a few more blocks down George to the Spark store to purchase a SIM card for CJ’s iPhone. After that painless process, we walked back to the hotel to pick up the car. It was time to do some shopping to set CJ up in her new Dunedin flat.

    We parked near the Farmers department store (http://bit.ly/1mVyq6g) and browsed around. CJ picked out a couple of bath towels that were on sale. She also found a soft, fuzzy blanket that she wanted for her bed, but we decided to wait and see if we found a better option somewhere else. The employees at Farmers suggested that we go into the Kmart to look for things like a shower caddy and school supplies. We walked to the nearby Kmart (http://bit.ly/1SRf00v) and ended up buying a cheap skillet and some other minor kitchen items that we had noticed that her flat was missing.

    Next we moved the car to the New World supermarket (http://bit.ly/1Mjciwb) parking lot and went in to buy groceries. Mom especially loves seeing the grocery and shopping options while traveling, so something as simple as a supermarket trip is fun in its own way. Since we would be leaving Dunedin shortly, we decided not to buy CJ any perishable groceries for her flat. Instead we got items like tea, wine, nuts, snacks, and pasta for her to leave in the kitchen. We drove from New World over to her flat and dropped everything off.

    By this time we were getting really hungry for lunch, but didn’t want to drive back near the Octagon and deal with parking again. We used the WiFi at CJ’s flat to look at Yelp and TripAdvisor for lunch ideas. CJ found a restaurant for us to try: No.7 Balmac (http://bit.ly/1PWBYzE). We drove up to the Maori Hill neighborhood and found this cute restaurant. Right away we were thrilled with the cool interior and the view from our window booth over their terraced gardens.

    We had a special lunch that we all loved - CJ ordered a salad with wilted greens and chicken. Mom had the garden vegetable lasagne. I got the baked spinach ricotta which was delicious and came with an amazing grilled tomato. So simple, so good.

    We got to chatting with our waitress, Cecilia, who was originally from Florida. She was great and gave us some ideas about what to check out during our time in New Zealand. We rarely pass up dessert so when Cecilia told us they had a chocolate brownie, Mom asked if it was possible to have the brownie warmed up with some vanilla ice cream on top. Cecilia obliged and wow, it was so good. That ended up being the best dessert of the vacation. Is this the last we see of No.7 Balmac this trip? Stay tuned…

    After our late lunch, we drove over to Saint Clair Beach and enjoyed watching the waves crash up by the walkway. It was high tide, so we weren’t able to walk down to the sand. It was a little bit too cool to want to sit out on the beach. Even though we were visiting Dunedin in the middle of summer, it’s not a fair comparison weather-wise since I live in southern California. My January winter was a bit warmer and sunnier than Dunedin happened to be that week :)

    After some time at Saint Clair, it was back in the car to drive over to Tunnel Beach. Even with the new SIM card, we didn’t have the best directions, and ended up at a scenic bluff near Tunnel Beach. But wow, what amazing views! By this time we were tired of driving around, so we started heading back towards Dunedin city center.

    On our way back into town, we saw the Bed, Bath & Beyond signage on the side of a building. We drove around in circles for a while trying to find the building and parking lot, thinking this would be a worthwhile stop to see if they had anything good for CJ’s flat. By the time we figured out where it was, it was closed for the day. However we knew we were near the Dunedin train station, so we parked close by and walked over.

    The three of us enjoyed walking inside, upstairs, and around the grounds of the train station and taking photos. Finally we went back to the car and drove back to the hotel to relax and figure out dinner plans. We were kind of wiped out from our first full day in Dunedin and all the driving around, so we decided to walk a few blocks over to Pizza Bella (http://bit.ly/1RlfBnZ) and get a pizza to go. We ordered and then saw two guys come in and order giant waffle ice cream dessert dishes. While we were waiting for the pizza, we walked across the street to a shop to buy a bottle of wine. We took everything back to Bluestone on George and had dinner at the nice table outside in our courtyard garden area. To be honest I would not recommend this pizza place. It was okay, but not that good or special in any way. After that we used the WiFi and packed up for our departure tomorrow morning!

    Next Up: Day 3 - Morning in Dunedin, the drive to Queenstown, and evening in Queenstown

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    I found your report interesting as I live in Dunedin (between St. Clair and Tunnel Beach). Sorry to read the weather was awful when you were here, but it seems like you were super-busy getting your sister settled. Dunedin has a reputation of having poor weather, but it's not that bad. It reminds me of my home town, San Francisco.

    We've had a warm, sunny summer, except for two weeks in January, when rainy, cooler weather hit many parts of the country. Sounds like that's when you were here. Yesterday, it was 30C (86F), today it's raining again. That's NZ.

    A suggestion: If she hasn't yet done so, I highly recommend your sister splurges on an Elm Wildlife Peninsula Encounters Tour (NZ$99), but on a clear, sunny day when the weather forecast is good. In my opinion, this is Dunedin's top travel experience. Many students don't have cars and can't get out to the Otago Peninsula, one of NZ's wildlife "hotspots" and, even if they can get to the peninsula, they won't have access to the private viewing areas that Elm has access to. I took the Elm tour for the second time last week. We saw endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins, Little Blue Penguins, endangered Northern Royal Albatross, endangered NZ Sea Lions, loads of Fur Seals, and were treated to wonderful views. It was a memorable experience. Summer (now) is the best time for taking this tour, when there are penguin chicks and fur seal pups around.

    You're right, the pizza's not too good here. I've yet to try Balmac No 7. We've popped by there a couple of times to find they were closed, then gave up trying. But your comments make me want to try again. It's proved popular with celebrities, too:
    http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/321564/fassbender-latest-star-dine-restaurant

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    Hi Diamantina, thanks for Otago Peninsula tours recommendation! I just emailed CJ about it. In my trip planning, I read about several things like the Moeraki boulders and the yellow-eyed penguins that I wanted to see - but it just didn't work out this trip. A reason to return!

    Overall, the weather wasn't too terrible... Mom and CJ were happy since it was much better weather than back in their home state. All of CJ's photos since we left her in Dunedin have looked much sunnier.

    Speaking of San Francisco, I will be there for a quick and fun weekend getaway in about a month! Hope I get a few clear days :)

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    Monday, January 25th - Morning in Dunedin, the drive to Queenstown, and evening in Queenstown

    This morning we woke up and filled the trunk of the car with all our luggage. We checked out of the hotel and then drove to CJ's flat to drop off her large suitcase and a few other things we didn’t need with us for the rest of the trip. At this point we had two goals: get on the road for our drive to Queenstown, and get Mom a large cup of American-style brewed coffee (as opposed to espresso). That’s how we ended up at the Dunedin McDonald’s for breakfast sandwiches and black coffee.

    After that quick stop, it was time for the road trip to Queenstown! We had decided to take the northern route (http://bit.ly/1QwOzqj) with a stop in Cromwell for lunch at a kebab restaurant. To be honest, I started out driving kind of slowly. I was still getting used to driving on the left on the highway, and it was raining with lots of fog, and lower visibility. But after about half an hour, the weather cleared up and there were barely any other cars on the road.

    We were immediately struck by how “untouched” the NZ landscape seems. No built up developments, no ugly billboards, hardly any signage at all, and - of course - SHEEP! So many sheep around every turn. We loved it. CJ found “The Breeze” radio station and we had a soundtrack to the road trip. The scenery and the sheep were the highlights of the morning. I kept getting startled by Mom’s gasps, thinking I had done something wrong in my driving, but really she was just blown away by the amazing views!

    After the first hour we pulled over and got out to take photos. During the rest of the drive, we stopped once more to use the restrooms at a town’s rest stop. It was a long road trip but it made me very confident with driving on the left. After this day I was happy to drive around as much as our crew wanted!

    We stopped again in Cromwell but the kebab place we wanted was closed on Mondays. Oops! We went to the pub next door and saw a bit of an NFL playoff game on the TV there. Some Americans at a nearby table had requested the game be put on, but as soon as they left, the staff changed the TV back to cricket! I had a pasta dish with vegetables and chicken that was actually not bad at all.

    We took a photo of the “giant fruit” in Cromwell and got back in the car for the rest of the drive to Queenstown. Finally we made it to the Queenstown Villas (http://bit.ly/1SUB0aF) for our next hotel stay. These rentals are a short drive away from the main waterfront and town area of Queenstown and positioned with nice views. And wow, from my perspective it was a big luxury to stay here. Thanks Mom!

    After a quick check-in process, it was again raining a little, but we decided to walk down the hill into the city center. My first thought for dinner was to try to go to Flame (http://bit.ly/1S1ygao), but they were booked for the rest of the night. We set a dinner reservation there for the following night and wandered around looking for dinner (and getting a little grumpy without food).

    Finally we settled on Ivy & Lola's (http://bit.ly/1Qf5CS8) for a good dinner after all! Mom got the 3-hour cooked steak and CJ and I both ordered the tandoori chicken. I had this restaurant on my list as a good brunch option for us to try, but I’m glad we ate dinner there instead.

    After our meal, we walked around for a little while and looked in the souvenir shops. Most of the other real stores were closed at this time. We decided it was too dark, misty, and cool to walk all they way back up to the hotel, so we used CJ’s phone to call the Go Green cab service. They had a deal with Queenstown Villas for a $10 flat rate ride back up to the hotel. And with that we ended our night, excited to explore this new area in the morning!

    Next Up: Day 4 - Full day in Queenstown

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    Tuesday, January 26th - Full day in Queenstown

    What do three ladies do with a full day and no plans in Queenstown? Well, it was another overcast and rainy morning, but that didn’t stop us from driving down the hill into town and getting a street parking spot near the WWI Memorial. It was a short walk to Vudu Cafe (http://bit.ly/1LQPYWG), which was already extremely crowded even this early in the morning!

    The veggie eggs benedict I ordered for breakfast was pretty good, but it was the flat whites that really stole the show. Best coffee we had in New Zealand! Compared to Dunedin, we thought we saw a lot more visitors and tourists in Queenstown. Even during our first stop at Vudu, we saw groups as well as solo travelers with backpacks and guidebooks.

    After a leisurely breakfast, we wanted to walk around the waterfront area and the shops. The three of us stuck together and we mostly followed Mom into all of the clothing stores. We managed that for a while, but CJ and I didn't have the stamina for all day shopping. Mom was on a shopping mission so CJ sat by the water and drew in her sketchbook. I went to go move the car from the spot on the street into longer-term parking.

    Then we reunited and made a plan for the next part of the day. CJ had seen a bike rental place and wanted to go on a bike ride around part of the lake. That did sound kind of enticing, but I thought it was still too rainy to ride bikes - instead, I wanted to walk around Queenstown and find a place to relax and maybe read on my Kindle. Mom wanted to keep shopping, so we split up with a plan to meet back at the WWI Memorial.

    I walked around for a while and I kept seeing Fergberger with the most unbelievably long line. This line only increased in length throughout the whole day! I continued to walk around and could definitely see how this part of Queenstown is a resort/ski town. Parts of it kept reminding me in different ways of Park City, Jackson Hole, and Breckenridge in the US.

    I walked all through the center but didn't see any cafes that were more enticing than Vudu. So I found Mom in one clothing and apparel store, and sat on a sofa there and read on my Kindle while she tried on clothes. I was glad that it had stopped raining for the benefit of CJ on her bike ride. Then we went back to Vudu together and this time ordered the americano and latte coffee drinks. These were both good, but not as great as the flat whites from this morning. We sat at one of the outdoor tables and enjoyed a little bit of sunshine and people-watching. Then Mom and I walked around some more and met CJ after her bike ride.

    I had a list of restaurant options to try while in Queenstown, and we ended up going to The Cow (http://bit.ly/1QyusIf) for a late lunch. My half serving of spaghetti bolognese was soooo good. Normally we each share our dishes and let the others have a good taste, but I could not let them have even one bite. Mom ordered a different pasta dish that probably wasn’t as good as mine, and CJ seemed to not be that hungry after the cycling exercise, so she just ordered the garden salad.

    After lunch, CJ wanted to get ice cream and stay in the city center by the waterfront. I wanted a little break from walking around and Mom wanted to use the hotel WiFi to call Dad before it got too late in the day again. So, we made a plan that CJ would stay in the main part of Queenstown and use her phone to call us at the hotel if she wanted a ride back to our rental. If not, then Mom and I would drive back down and meet her at Flame around 7pm before our dinner reservations.

    Mom and I drove back up to the hotel to relax and change. I tried to do a load of laundry, but once I transferred the clothing into the dryer, the hotel smoke alarms upstairs started going off! I ran upstairs and had to stand on the beds to push all the smoke alarm re-set buttons. Finally I realized that something must be wrong with the dryer, and that I had left the laundry closet door shut tight. My guess was it probably got all steamy from having no air flow. I called reception and they told me exactly what dryer setting to use and said it was no problem that I had made the smoke detectors go off. Oops! Lesson learned.

    After that excitement, Mom and I changed clothes and I drove us back into town to meet CJ and have our dinner at Flame (http://bit.ly/1S1ygao). We found her next to the water and enjoyed a bit of non-rainy weather before walking over to the restaurant. It was lively inside with lots of people having dinner. Mom and CJ both ordered steaks and I ordered the ribs - and we all shared these three dishes. The steaks were great and we loved the recommended mushroom sauce. The ribs were just okay, but we had enough food even without them!

    After dinner we walked around for a little bit more and then drove back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. That night, I had a dream that I was back at work, and realized that I could only remember the NZ drive from Dunedin to Queenstown, not the rest of our vacation! I was so bummed out (in the dream) that I couldn't remember the second half of our vacation at all. I couldn’t believe that our trip to Te Anau and Milford Sound would be that unmemorable. When I woke up the next morning and realized I was still in the hotel in Queenstown, it was a great feeling! We still had the rest of the trip to go!

    Next Up: Day 5 - Morning in Queenstown, the drive to Te Anau, and evening in Te Anau

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    Wednesday, January 27th - Morning in Queenstown, the drive to Te Anau, and evening in Te Anau

    We slept in this morning and then walked across the street to the Heritage Hotel (http://bit.ly/1H6iuRW) where there was a breakfast buffet in the restaurant. It was quite empty in the large dining room. I mixed up the breakfast rice, grilled tomatoes, scrambled eggs, and baked beans for a big breakfast. It was actually pretty good! We also liked all the coffee and juice options at this buffet.

    We walked back and checked out of Queenstown Villas, and loaded up the car. Then we got on the road to Te Anau! The drive (http://bit.ly/1TPgd7g) was easy and much shorter than our first road trip from Dunedin to Queenstown. We stopped once at the Brown Trout Cafe (http://on.fb.me/1nh9gzf) for coffee and the restrooms.

    We arrived at Radfords on the Lake (http://bit.ly/1pPPsCK ) in Te Anau. The staff there were so friendly. Our room was still being cleaned so we got in the car and drove to the end of the main road of the town. We were hungry by this time, so first we had some sandwiches and a salad at the Sandfly Cafe (http://on.fb.me/1LT2shs) for a late lunch.

    Next we walked all through town looking at the shops and restaurants. Mom went in a lot of the clothing stores, but didn't get anything. Finally she decided to go back to a sports and outdoors store we passed earlier to buy a light blue Gortex North Face jacket for our Milford Sound cruise tomorrow.

    We got back in the car and went to Radfords on the Lake to drop off our luggage from the car trunk. CJ and I went on a lakefront walk and took lots of photos while Mom stayed in the hotel room to use the WiFi. Then we drove back into the end of town again to Fiordland Cinema (http://bit.ly/1QJq1ut) for the 5pm showing of the cinematic “Fiordland on Film” movie at the main cinema. Wow! That got us really excited and looking forward to our Milford Sound cruise tomorrow.

    After the movie, we decided to have an early dinner at Cafe La Dolce Vita (http://bit.ly/1SfTJwy). The lasagna and panzanella that CJ and I shared were so good. Mom got the spaghetti bolognese (since I couldn't share my dish at lunch the day before), but it wasn't as good as the food CJ and I ordered, or as good as my pasta yesterday at The Cow. Overall we enjoyed our dinner!

    When we left the restaurant, it was still very light out so we went to the New World grocery store to buy breakfast and snack food for tomorrow. Back at the hotel we just relaxed and flipped channels until we found “The Kid” on the Sky Disney Channel. We had a lazy movie night with a some red wine :)

    Next Up: Day 6 - Milford Road and Milford Sound Cruise

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    Thursday, January 28th - Milford Road and Milford Sound Cruise

    So far on the trip I had been having a wonderful time experiencing new places and spending so much time with my mom and sister. But as a traveler, I was especially excited for this day. The Fiordlands are something I think of when I imagine New Zealand. We were all expecting Milford Sound to be something really special, and were not disappointed at all.

    Today was the only day we set an alarm clock to wake up extra early. The three of us made eggs, toast and coffee in the kitchenette in the hotel room. We dressed in all our layers and got picked up by the Cruise Milford (http://bit.ly/1VTbC3d) mini bus right at our hotel.

    There were only nine of us (plus our driver) on the bus. The drive out on Milford Road was a little rainy but we got to stop at some good spots. The Mirror Lakes (http://bit.ly/21KpiB7) were not that reflective this morning, but The Chasm (http://bit.ly/1hJzW95) was really amazing! Being able to comfortably ride, not worry about driving, and enjoy the scenery was great. Finally we went through the tunnel and made it to Milford.

    There were only about 25 people for the cruise on our boat, which was great. The cruise was about an hour and half with a box lunch included. We didn’t have to wait long before boarding the cruise and setting off.

    The Fiordlands scenery was everything we could hope for: unique, untouched, beautiful. There are so many great trip reports that describe this location so well, but being there in person was really amazing. We were able to sit both inside and outside during the cruise and take way too many photos.

    After the cruise, our same group of nine passengers returned to the mini bus and had a few more photo stops on the way home. Everyone was tired and I napped a little bit. The only downside to the whole day occurred when we had a break at a historic camp spot, and the driver left the bus doors open while we all got a snack or used the restroom. The doors were left open so that we could return to the bus whenever we wanted, but unfortunately that meant that a ton of sandflies made their way into the bus as well.

    Back at the hotel we used the WiFi to Facetime with our family back home. They had some great news - our youngest brother just got accepted to the same university that I went to, and that CJ currently attends! We were so excited and proud!

    For dinner we decided to drive back to La Bella Vita (http://bit.ly/1SfTJwy). We ordered the pasta del giorno which was fettucine with eggplant, along with the same lasagna and panzanella again. They were amused to see the three of us again for the second dinner in a row!

    After dinner, we walked around a little and then went to The Ranch (http://bit.ly/1Rsgski) for dessert. We sat upstairs at the bar and got a berry parfait and a chocolate mudcake.

    Finally we drove back to the hotel and got a DVD (Australia) from the reception desk. We took much-needed showers and looked at all our photos. Then CJ wrote and drew in her sketchbook while Mom and I watched the movie before falling asleep.

    Next Up: Day 7 - Morning in Te Anau, the drive to Dunedin, and evening in Dunedin

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    How unfortunate about sandflies on the bus! The same thing happened to me on the bus along Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound. From Dunedin to Te Anau to Manapouri to DS, it was the only place I was bitten by sandflies. It was akin to having mosquitoes on the inside of one's mosquito net.

    Glad you otherwise had a great time on Milford Road and in Milford Sound.

    Is your sister still in Dunedin? If so, how is it going for her?

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    Raeda_infossa, thanks for sharing your trip experiences in NZ! Glad you had such a good time. Many of the places you describe bring back nice memories of our visit in 2012!

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    You've told us a great story about what you did, and where you went, but haven't said much about how you liked it. What were your favorite sights and experiences? What did you enjoy about Dunedin and Queenstown?

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