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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Trip Report New Zealand - South Island - quick trip along the Southern Scenic Route

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Had a great whirlwind trip of the lower south island. I went with my teenage son. We booked through Air New Zealand's "Grab a Seat" and scored tickets from Wellington to Queenstown for $79 each way. (We almost had $69 tickets for the previous day, but I quickly remembered that we had a Leaver's Dinner that night...could not be missed!) Love the fact that Air New Zealand sent helpful emails after I purchased my tickets. They emailed details on car rentals, airport shuttles, etc., which I took advantage of.

I booked a super shuttle so I did not have to pay for airport parking. It arrived promptly at 5am. We had poached eggs and spinach for breakfast at the airport.

My son's ears were killing him as we landed in Christchurch for our layover. We found a pharmacy in the terminal and were able to buy some "earplanes" for our next flight.

We finally made it to Queenstown after a delay in Christchurch, picked up our rental car keys (Very happy with Avis - everything was quick, easy, and painless), grabbed our luggage and out the door we went.

We could not believe how beautiful the scenery was at the airport. We had to remind ourselves that there was still more to see, and pushed ourselves to get moving.

From Queenstown, we drove to Dunedin. A colleague suggested that next time, I should book an open jaw flight, but I enjoyed the scenic drive. As our flight arrived late, we missed out on a few activities that I had planned for our afternoon in Dunedin. We stayed at the Larnach Castle on the Otago Peninsula. The scenery was beautiful, the grounds were lovely. WIFI was free/included, but it did not work. We may have connected twice for about 30 seconds. The main reason we went to Dunedin was to check out Tunnel Beach. Glad I printed out Googlemap directions before we left home, as the hotel receptionist was not familiar.

It was a long, very steep, 20 minute walk downhill through private farmland. It was amazingly beautiful...to see the land and the sea...it took my breath away. Watch for the sign that sign that says "Warning: Beware of Cliffs"...you do not want to fall off the edge! The tunnel was pretty cool, and the beach below was a nice secluded area. Apparently, a local politician, in the 1870s, commissioned the tunnel for his wife and daughters...so they would have access to their own private beach. Naturally, the 20 minute walk down was a 40 minute walk uphill. Yikes!

We hit the local Countdown grocery store and bought a roasted chicken, some fresh veggies and dip, and some drinks. We had a quick bite before heading out along the peninsula to look for wildlife. We took the upper road, which was windy and steep...with glorious views...sometimes with water on both sides. It starting getting dark, so I decided to turn the car around before we went over the edge.

Larnach Castle lodge was nice. The beds were a bit squishy, but the room had a gorgeous view, and it was clean. We got up early the next morning to hit the road and look for Cathedral Cave on the Southern Scenic Route, so we missed out on the included breakfast. (note: the castle closed at 5pm the night before, and we decided to do the tunnel beach walk instead of touring the castle - darn flight delays!)

We got a later start than what was planned. Then we drove in circles around Dunedin for an hour or so before we got headed in the right direction. (We could have just stayed at the castle and had breakfast!) We were still shooting for Cathedral Cave, and agreed to rush through Nugget Point instead of going to the cave first and then doubling back.

That was a nice thought, but you just cannot rush a trip out to Nugget Point.

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