Craig & Jeane Visit New Zealand's South Island

Mar 3rd, 2018, 03:03 PM
Join Date: Sep 2012
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Thanks again Craig. Good to know. I'm looking at 3 weeks on the South Island with hopefully numerous hiking opportunities.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2018, 10:41 PM
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I'm vicariously and happily revisiting many of my favorite places (and restaurants) through your report, Craig. What a fun trip!
Being held up on one's journey by sheep-haphazardly-crossing-the-road is a quintessential South Island experience (though maybe not with tour buses in attendance). On June 1st, dubbed "Moving Day" (formerly known as "Gypsy Day"), cows are taken en masse across roads to winter pastures.
Part of that scenic drive from Kingston to Queenstown is known as the "Devil's Staircase", named that in 1859 by D.A.Cameron and A.A.MacDonald due to the strenuous effort needed to reach its summit. It's considered one of Queenstown's most photogenic spots:
Diamantina is offline  
Mar 4th, 2018, 03:32 AM
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tp - with three weeks, you should not miss out on any hiking opportunities. We came up short due to the weather and missed two planned 3-hour hikes .

Last edited by Craig; Mar 4th, 2018 at 03:33 AM. Reason: Added emoji
Craig is offline  
Mar 4th, 2018, 06:54 AM
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Thx so much for the posts. We just arrived in NZ and your comments are so helpful!

Don't think I will be bungee jumping but it is great to live vicariously
Nntexas is offline  
Mar 4th, 2018, 07:14 AM
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I scheduled our jet boat tour for the last day of our trip, hoping that the weather would improve. It was raining when we got up that morning so I called the Dart River people in Glenorchy to make sure our 9 am tour was on. They do not go in heavy rain as the water levels are too high. However, it was not raining there at all, so it was a "go". We headed out at 8 am for the pretty drive along the east side of Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy. There was little rain on the drive and 45 minutes after departing, we arrived. At about 9:30 our group of eight hopped into a tour bus, armed with the insulated waterproof jackets provided by the tour company and our own warm clothing as the weather was now both chilly and breezy. Our guide joked that the jackets were “one size fits nobody”. After a bumpy 1/2 hour ride we arrived at the starting point for our short walking tour.

The 1/2 hour hike was the most interesting part of our day as our guide pointed out the various natural features of the damp rainforest while we walked. Afterward, we returned to the bus to put on every piece of warm clothing we brought with us and headed for the jet boat. Once we had all boarded our driver gave us some safety instructions and then off we went. Jet boats are designed to ride on shallow waters at speeds up 90 kilometers per hour. At these speeds there is a constant strong wind in your face whenever the boat is moving. Even though it was very overcast, I found that wearing my sunglasses made the ride more comfortable.

While the Dart River and surrounding landscape were scenic, it would have been much nicer on a sunny day. Because of the windy ride, we really needed the heavy coats and their hoods to stay warm. Fortunately it was not raining. Along the way, we did some 360 degree spins, which was fun. From time to time we would stop and our driver would point out some of the features of the river and its surroundings. Our driver also mentioned that he had had 100 hours of training over a 3 month period before being allowed to do tours. After about an hour and a half, we were dropped off at our bus and returned to Glenorchy.

The drive back to Queenstown was equally scenic. We saw hardly any other vehicles on the Queenstown-Glenorchy road that day in either direction. There was a light rain again when we returned to our hotel, so we decided to finish watching the movie that we had started the previous night and then began packing for our flights home.

Our final meal was at Blue Kanu, located in the main town. By dinner time there was a steady rain but since the it was a short walk, we grabbed a couple of the hotel’s umbrellas and headed to the restaurant. We were seated promptly when we arrived. We each enjoyed a cocktail and after perusing the Asian-influenced menu, we decided to split an order of “The Big Kahuna” or BBQ duck. The duck was served promptly with mu shu pancakes, plum sauce and other accompaniments. It was very good. Afterward, we ordered a “Trio of Desserts” to split, which was equally awesome. As we left, we noted that unlike every other place we had dined during our trip, this restaurant was not even half full. Perhaps the tourist hordes were dining somewhere else.


On our last morning in New Zealand, we enjoyed one final delicious breakfast. We had another good group at our table, including another couple who had both been bungy jumping. After some final packing, we bid our host Warren farewell and headed to the airport, allowing extra time to arrive for our 11:55 flight. It was raining again and now the temperature had dropped to 7C (45F) - downright raw. On a positive note, we could see that the snow caps were returning to the mountains. The airport was only 15 minutes away but we had to fill up with gas and return our rental car. The gas station was very busy that morning so we had to wait a bit for our turn at the pump. When we arrived at the airport, there was no signage for rental car return. After leaving Jeane at the terminal with our bags, I was eventually able to find the place to leave the car. There was no Hertz representative either in the lot or at the counter inside, so I deposited my key in the drop box and headed back to the departure area, hoping that I would not be charged for any unknown damage to the car. Fortunately, I received an email the next day confirming that the car had been returned unscathed.

At check-in, we had to insist that the Air New Zealand personal check us all the way through to our final destination in the US. After some hemming and hawing, they were finally able to do so. On our flight from Queenstown to Auckland, Air New Zealand had switched our reserved seats from the exit row aisle and window to the middle and window in another premium row. I was not happy about that but the aircraft was full and there was nothing I could do about it. On a two hour flight you’d think they’d offer more than tea, coffee or water plus a chintzy bag of corn chips or a small cookie. But they don’t.

On arrival in Auckland, we followed the “green line” from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. Fortunately it was sunny and mild there. On arrival, we handed in our departure card, went through security and had about 20 minutes to relax in the Air New Zealand business class lounge before boarding our United flight to San Francisco. At San Francisco, immigration was a breeze. We used our mobile passports for the first time and sailed right through. From San Francisco we flew to Houston in Economy Plus and then on to Hartford in First Class. We were home by midnight on the same day we departed, due to the 18 hour time difference.

We appreciated the natural beauty and ease of travel in New Zealand. While it is not in the “top 5” of many years of annual 2 week trips, it was a memorable experience. I am glad we knew in advance that the weather would be variable and that we would be there at the height of tourist season during the Chinese New Year. That really helped to manage our expectations, as we are limited to taking long trips in February due to our work schedules. We definitely felt that the South Island would have been prettier, sunnier and less crowded in the spring but we live with the cards we are dealt. We will perhaps someday return, but next time to the North Island.

Thank you to all who provided advice to us on this forum, especially Diamantina Crellston, and Melnq8.
Craig is offline  
Mar 4th, 2018, 11:03 AM
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Thanks for sharing what seemed like a very quick whirlwind trip. I enjoyed following along.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2018, 02:43 PM
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Thanks for a great trip report, Craig. It was an entertaining, informative, good read. I'm sorry you didn't have brilliant weather for your trip to Glenorchy and the Dart River. Alas, it was a strange summer of extreme weather.
FYI: Should you return to NZ for a visit, spring tends to be wetter and colder than summer, but if you like colorful blossoms, you'd find it lovely. February usually brings the warmest, driest weather, but this year was exceptionally wet, probably because of La Niña and the continuing effects of climate change.
Diamantina is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 05:15 AM
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Thanks for posting Craig - enjoyed your report.

FWIW my two hour flight from COS to Las Vegas and return last week didn't offer so much as water on the flight - but they were right there with their IPads to sell you overpriced snacks and drinks, and went to great effort to get people to sign up for their credit card.
Melnq8 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 03:22 PM
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Thanks for sharing your report with us, Craig. It sounds like a wonderful trip!
Kathie is offline  
Mar 6th, 2018, 09:05 PM
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Thanks for sharing your trip report! We got caught in a sheep jam in Hakatere Conservation Park and had a lot of fun recording it on my phone.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Mar 7th, 2018, 10:04 AM
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Re Akaroa, it is a very reluctant cruise port, in fact the locals are very upset about the number of cruise ships that are arriving there now. They previously used to berth at Littleton just out of Christchurch but the infrastructure was destroyed by the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011. Hopefully it won't be too long before the cruise lines can stop there instead of Akaroa. It used to be a nice sleepy town and a great place to visit.
nelsonian is online now  
Mar 7th, 2018, 11:32 AM
Join Date: Sep 2014
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Great trip report, very informative! Out of curiosity, what are your top 5 places you have travelled to, since you mentioned New Zealand did not make your top 5. I hear many people list New Zealand as one of their favorite places, and am up in the air on whether or not to plan a trip there or not, as I am not one for adventure sports.
havetwinswilltravel is offline  
Mar 7th, 2018, 11:54 AM
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My top 5 places are Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Bali and the Galapagos Islands. South Africa, India and Japan are also close to being in that group. I would not go to New Zealand for adventure sports, but for the scenery, wines and experiences.

Last edited by Craig; Mar 7th, 2018 at 11:55 AM. Reason: Additional sentence.
Craig is offline  
Mar 8th, 2018, 08:56 AM
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Craig, thanks for the reply of your top five places. I am going to go back and read your trip reports. Thanks for being a great resource and sharing your adventures!
havetwinswilltravel is offline  
Mar 9th, 2018, 10:13 AM
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An excellent trip report Craig. Thank you for sharing your experiences and perspectives of New Zealand. I have enjoyed following along.
crellston is offline  
Jun 28th, 2019, 09:41 AM
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Great TR! Planning a trip to NZ this winter and this will be helpful.
yestravel is offline  
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