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Trip Report NZ Winter 2013 (July) Trip Report - 20 days SI & NI

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We went to NZ starting on June 30th (left the US on June 28th), for 20 days. This is part of a larger, seven week trip, including Australia (posting this from Darwin, NT right now). We're two adults, a fourteen year old girl, and a six year old boy. We flew to Auckland, connected on to Queenstown, rented a car, and drove slowly back up to Auckland. This will probably be a fairly long trip report, as I'm taking it from my journal. Will post in sections.

Day 1 - Travel

Overnight flight from SF was pretty good, a nice 747 (Air New Zealand). Arrived at Auckland at six am. Immigration line was quite long and slow as it was understaffed.

There's quite a walk from Intl terminal to the domestic one. Could have taken the shuttle bus, but it was nice out and we had the time. Got sim cards for the phones (about NZ$30 each for a month's calling and texts, plus 1GB data) and cash and coffee. Domestic terminal is quite small. Security check is quite lenient and rational compared to the US.

Gorgeous views of the mountains on the flight down to QT. QT airport is quite small, but with spectacular mountain views. Renting car at Apex took quite a while, although they were very nice. (Apex was in general great, good car, good prices, free child booster seat, no hassles on return at all.) Checked into our apartment (Spinnaker Bay) which is very nice; good sized two bedroom/two bath; it was probably the largest place we had in NZ, and a great way to start the trip. The garages are a bit tight, and took some careful maneuvering to get the Camry in. We had fabulous views of the lake and mountains. The only downside is that it's a 25+ minute walk into central QT, although most of the walk is on a path along the lake. Given the winter weather we mostly drove into town, although parking 'downtown' was sometimes challenging.

After getting organized for a bit, we went into QT and got some late lunch at Devilburger, which was quite good. It was the last day of the Winter Festival, so there were bands and various booths set up. Not a huge festival, but still fun. Kids tried out balancing on some webbing that some local kids had strung between two trees. Everyone was worn out from traveling, and so we crashed fairly early.

Day 2 - Dart River

Cold, on and off rain, at times heavy. It rained at least a bit every day for the first nine days of our trip. It was cold in QT - in high thirties / low forties Fahrenheit. We went to Glenorchy and did Dart River Wilderness trip. 30 min hike in forest was OK, but the jetboating was awesome! The jet boat really turns on a dime, and must not draw barely any water at all. Amazing stuff. Scenery spectacular although a fair amount of clouds and rain. Highly recommended - we had a blast even though the weather was pretty bad.

Lunch at Foxys Cafe - Irish stew, quiche - ok. Popped into a shop making things out of possum fur - really soft fur. But surprisingly expensive, so we didn't get anything. If the NZ govt is serious about getting rid of possums, they should subsidize it more.

Drove to Kawaru bungy jump to spectate. DD pleaded to be allowed to jump, but to no avail - DW told here to do some research and present her with safety statistics! Looks like a well run gig. Drove back to QT to do Skyline gondola and luge, but they stopped selling family pass 5 mins before we got there - weird. Went back to condo. Kids chilled out while DW and I went to QT Gardens for a nice walk since the weather was ok.

Dinner at @thai, which was good, with attentive service. They mold the rice into teddy bear shapes. Pricier than Devilburger. Then went to grocery store to load up on snacks and breakfast stuff.

Day 3 - Queenstown

Heavy rain until about 11 am. Drizzle after that and a bit cold. Hung out at the apt until 11 then we went to the Kiwi Birdlife Park. It was OK. Saw some kiwis and a bunch of other birds. Also saw some tuatara lizards which are cool. Was still raining a bit, and it was a bit expensive. On a nice day it would be ok, but one could definitely miss this one. Got a parking ticket; turns out those little yellow lines along the side of the road mean 'no parking'!

Went into town and got lunch at Devilburger again - everyone really liked it. Then we went up the gondola and did the luge. Everyone had lots of fun. Huge line to do the luge for your first time. After that you go in a different line that moves much more quickly. Funny to see people crash - one guy went completely off the track. It's a bit harder than it looks in the curves. DS did OK, and DD was loving it. Takeout dinner from Winnie's Pizza - yum. Everyone in bed by 9:30 - still jet-lagged.

Day 4 - Arrowtown, Te Anau

Went to Arrowtown, which has a really great historical museum. Walked around town a bit, which is a nice little old town that tourism has discovered but not totally ruined, but it was raining like crazy. Saw the old Chinese Settlement there, or what's left of it. Had a great lunch at creperie Bonjour. Did some shopping at the center in Frankton near the airport which has a supermarket, the Warehouse variety goods store (think smaller Walmart or Target), pharmacy, etc.

Drove from QT to Te Anau, about a two hour drive. Great views of the lake and mountains on the way. Passed many deer farms. And went through some 'red tussock' land, which is scenic. Occasional views of very scenic mountains.

In Te Anau, we saw the movie about Fiordland, which was very pretty (but a bit pricey) - nice that you can take a beer in, and probably the most comfortable movie theater seats I've ever sat in. We wanted to do the glow worm gave tour, but the caves were flooded from all the rain. Bummer.

Stayed at Radford's Lakeside motel in Te Anau, which fairly nice. Two bedroom apt again. Shower was a bit small and showerhead too low. Not as big as Spinnaker Bay apt, but decent. Dinner at Toscana which was just OK, service was lackluster.

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