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Here's our trip report from our fast paced trip to the South Island!!

Here's our trip report from our fast paced trip to the South Island!!

Old Mar 7th, 2006, 05:49 AM
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Here's our trip report from our fast paced trip to the South Island!!

Here's our trip report from our trip to New Zealand, February 7-20, 2006.
What a whirlwind, wonderful trip we had! I say whirlwind because we flew into Auckland, spent one night there and then flew to Dunedin to begin our 12 nights on the South Island. I'll start by admitting that 12 nights is not enough, but you all know that…but it's all we had so we made the most of it!

We rented a car in Dunedin and dropped it off in Christchurch.
Then we flew from CHC to Nelson, then picked up a rental car for the last 2 days there.
Lots of people have posted about how narrow and windy the roads are in NZ. Maybe it is because we have driven in Ireland, but the roads in NZ are just fine. (Generally, no shoulders and a little narrower than the States.) And after a day or two, driving on the left feels natural. It was three days into our trip that we learned NZ has a unique right of way rule, though: If you are turning right, and the car approaching is turning left (say, you're both turning onto the same street), you (making the right turn) have the right of way. Just don't do it if the approaching car is going straight, obviously.
Gas was a little under $4US per gallon. Cheaper in the big cities and the most expensive in the tiniest towns, so fill up in a big town whenever possible.

I've included the links to tripadvisor.com for our reviews and photos of each hotel.

Here goes:

1 night Auckland. Crowne Plaza. OK, but not as nice as expected. http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...th_Island.html

Had lunch near the hotel at "Mexican Cafe" - good mexican food! Then we took the 12 minute ferry to Devonport - recommended! You'll get great views of Auckland. Devonport is a nice little town with adorable houses. We walked up the hill to Mt. Victoria and over to North Head. Nice walk after all the time on airplanes and a good way for us to get a second wind to stay awake til nighttime. Spent the late afternoon and evening strolling thru downtown Auckland.

Next day, we flew AirNZ from Auckland to Dunedin.

2 nights Dunedin. Best Western Seville. Just OK. http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...th_Island.html

Arrived Dunedin in the afternoon and picked up a self-guided walking tour map from the info center. Enjoyed walking around the Octagon and the town. Pretty neat town with lots of neat buildings, even a casino.
Recommend "Indian Summer" for great Indian food.
The next day we woke up to fog. We attempted to drive parts of the Otago Peninsula, but as the road climbs into the hills, it became socked in by the clouds and fog to the point where visibility was very poor. So we scrapped that plan and decided to drive out to Port Chalmers, about an hour northeast along the coast from Dunedin. It's a quaint little town where a huge Princess cruise shipped was docked. The scenery was still pretty even though it was gloomy.
Back in town we drove to Baldwin Street ("steepest street in the world&quot. It's just a few minutes drive north of the Octagon. It was kind of neat and maybe worth the look, especially since it had been raining and we didn't mind being in the car instead of walking around town.

That afternoon we took the 3:30pm Elm Wildlife Tour http://www.elmwildlifetours.co.nz/peninsula_tour.shtml
and highly recommend it!! (We booked it the day before at the Dunedin info center.) They'll pick you up from your hotel and bring you back. There is alot of walking (up and down hills) and it can be quite windy and cold on a gloomy day. (Wear layers or warm clothes, although they did have extra jackets.) They provided binoculars. We saw lots of flying albatross (which were very impressive!), sea lions and fur seals. But the best of all was the penguins! We must have seen at least 20 penguins and got to watch them for quite a long time. There was nothing like seeing them come in from the ocean after a hard day out at sea! They come in out of the water and SLOWLY make their way up into the grassy hills to meet up with their babies and sleep for the night. It was an experience we won't soon forget! On the beach we got about 20 feet from them (the guides don't like for you to get much closer) and in the grassy areas there is a covered wooden viewing area where we watched them walk right by just a few feet away!!! That was really great!! They dropped us off about 10pm.

On our 4th day we set out around 8:30am from Dunedin to drive the Southern Scenic Route. We took the scenic route to Invercargill, then went up Hwy 6 to Lumsden, then 94 to Te Anau.
The highlights of the scenic route for us were:
-Nugget Point (where we saw fur seals and a sea lion)
-Cannibal Bay and Castle Rock
-Purakaunui Falls
-Florence Hill Lookout
-Curio Bay (petrified forest - this was really neat!)
-Porpoise Bay (where we saw people swimming with dolphins right off the beach!)
-Slope Point (pretty neat just for the photo op).
We weren't able to do Cathedral Caves because it was high tide. We walked to Jack's Bay Blowhole but it wasn't blowing. Lake Wilkie we could've skipped.
We did see lots of sea lions on our own on this drive. But nowhere did we ever see penguins on our own which was why we were so glad we did the Elm Wildlife Tour!
We had dinner in Invercargill at "Sopranos" - great brick oven pizza!
Then continued on to Te Anau arriving around 10:30pm.
We took our time and spent all day driving this route. We stopped at almost all the sights and didn't feel all that rushed, but it was a long day.

2 nights Te Anau. Campbell's Autolodge. Excellent! Highly recommended! http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...th_Island.html

1st day in Te Anau we drove to Milford Sound. We took about 3 hours to drive there stopping LOTS along the way for small walks and lots of photos. The Chasm is definitely worth the walk, I think it took us, at most, 10 minutes one way.
I've read alot on this forum about the Milford Road being difficult to drive...we never saw this to be a problem at all...don't worry about it! No problem thru the tunnel either, just had to wait about 5 or 10 minutes for our turn.
If the boats are full and you can't get a ticket, the drive alone is spectacular and a great way to spend the day!

Arrived around 1pm and had plenty of time before our 3pm Red Boat Day Cruise http://www.redboats.co.nz/home/page.aspx which we had booked back in January, but the boat was not full. It lasted about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Saw more seals lounging on the rocks.
The Milford Sound Cruise was really nice and is recommended. The scenery is wonderful!
There is only one cafe in Milford, selections were varied and not too expensive considering that fact.

Dinner in Te Anau at "Ming Garden" for excellent Chinese food!!

2nd day, made the 30 minute drive to Manapouri for our Real Journeys overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound. http://www.realjourneys.co.nz/Main/Doubtfulovernight/.
We booked this way back in October and in fact, couldn't get the date we originally wanted, so we basically had to work our whole trip around the date they had available. Book this in advance!!
This was one of the absolute highest highlights of our trip!!! Cannot recommend it enough! It does cost a lot of money, but it was such an enjoyable experience that we felt it was worth it!
After arriving in Manapouri you board a small boat (departing at 12:30) to cross the lake (about an hour) then you board a bus (45 minute ride) to Deep Cove where you board the overnight boat. The Fiordland Navigator is a wonderful vessel. The staff is great, friendly, and funny! The rooms were really nice, quiet and spacious. Soon after boarding, the cruise began. We were served muffins after checking into our rooms. The scenery kept us very busy and at around 5:30 they served soup and bread. We had a great sighting of dolphins and fur seals!! Around 6pm the boat anchored in the wonderful setting of Precipice Cove, where you have the option of going kayaking (single person kayaks), or on a smaller boat ride around the cove with a large group. We opted for the kayaking and it was so beautiful and peaceful! Great fun! Kayaked for about an hour. For the foolhardy, a swim around the boat was offered.
Dinner was served at around 7:30 - it was a great selection and was delicious - salad, salmon, roast beef, lamb, veggies, rice, etc. Then there was a great assortment of desserts!
After dinner they had a slide show hosted by our guide Richard (who was a crowd favorite!)...very entertaining and informative!
We weren't bored for one minute. There is an early wake up (about 6:30) when the boat pulls up anchor and sets sail again. Great, full breakfast was served from 7-8am.
The morning scenery was probably the best of the whole cruise!! The water was so still, the light was just beautiful and we even got another great show from some dolphins!
The boat arrives back at Deep Cove at 10am for your return journey back to Manapouri by noon.
All food and tea and coffee are included, as are the kayaking or boat ride. Alcoholic beverages and sodas are available for purchase. Bring warm clothing and a windbreaker as it is quite cold out on the sound.
Again, I can't recommend this enough! If you can fit this into your budget, make every effort to do so. I cannot imagine that you'd be disappointed. Most travelers we talked to agreed it was one of the highlights of their trip.
We chose the overnight on Doubtful instead of Milford because Doubtful is 3 times larger than Milford and it seemed like it was more fitting for an overnight.

2 nights Queenstown. Bella Vista Motel. Very pleased, recommended! http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...th_Island.html

The drive from Manapouri to Queenstown took us about 2-1/2 hours.
We had a quick fast food lunch then headed straight for the Kawarau Bungy Jump! http://www.ajhackett.com/index.php/p...ame/queenstown Wasn't hubby's cup of tea, but I did it and it was the most amazing thing I have ever done in my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!!!! This was my first "extreme" activity (besides zip-lining in Costa Rica) so I was definitely scared, but I so wanted to feel that rush and boy, did I!!! There is no need to book in advance like most of the other activites in town. Just drive out there (20 minutes from town) and sign up! If you are one of those people that are thinking about it but aren't sure...DO IT!! The rush is amazing!! And get the DVD!! It's worth every penny! 2 seconds after it's over you can't even comprehend what you just did, so being able to watch it over and over is amazing! If you are hoping to do a tandem jump with your travel mate, be aware there is a limit of a 30kg weight difference between you and your jump partner. There is also a total weight limit, you might check their website before you go. Spent the evening wandering the lovely town of Queenstown. Busy but quaint.
Dinner at "Freiya's" for good Indian food.

2nd day was cloudy and dreary. We walked up the trail to the Gondola summit (about 45 minutes to an hour hike up). The trailhead is on Lomond Cres. street. The view from the top was beautiful even though it was gray. We did the luge which was a cheap little diversion. Then it rained, alot. We took the gondola back down. A girl at the info center gave me the tip that if you walk up and take the gondola back down, they don't check to see if you have a ticket...she was right. Signs at the top imply you will need one.
Lunch at "Dux de Lux". Great cozy atmosphere which was nice during the rain. Great soup and salad.
The rain gave us a good excuse to take it easy for the rest of the day til it cleared up around 6pm. More walking around the town and the boardwalk.
Dinner at Winnies on the Queenstown Mall pedestrian street. Good atmosphere and pizza (but expensive at $28NZ for their only size).

Day 9 Left Queenstown heading toward the West Coast.
Stopped in Arrowtown for a nice walk around for about an hour. Check out the Chinese Village, quite interesting.
Continued on to Wanaka for our next "extreme" activity: Skydiving! This time, the both of us went to celebrate our 9th anniversary! We called "Skydive Lake Wanaka" early that morning to book our tandem skydives. The weather and scenery were spectacular and this experience was absolutely unforgettable!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!! This was such a thrill and very addictive! And once again, if you do it, get the DVD!!! We have had so much fun reliving the experience!! http://skydivenz.com/
We, unfortunately, didn't spend any time in the town of Wanaka...it is a beautiful town and looks like its worth at least a few hours. Lots of restaurants and a couple of large grocery stores.
We continued on around 3pm to Fox Glacier and arrived around 7pm.

1 night. Fox Glacier. Rainforest Motel. Very nice and highly recommended. http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...th_Island.html

The town of Fox Glacier is very small, not much to choose from for dinner or nightlife.
Next day we did the 1/2 day glacier hike with Alpine Guides at 9:30am. Booked this in December.
Like most guided tours, if you are a fast paced type of person, you may find it a little slow. Lots of waiting around for the rest of the group. And the guide went agonizingly slow on the glacier, literally stopping every 10-15 seconds to pick at ice. Even other people in the group were growing impatient and wanting to get on with the walk up the glacier. We kept thinking how much more ground we could have covered if we'd gone on our own. We spoke with other couples that felt the same. There is one sign along the trail that says "guided groups only beyond this point" but it seemed like you could easily "ignore" it. The trail is easy (even though the guides would have you believe otherwise) but you would need to bring your own crampons. There is one section with a ladder to climb, and one that is steep with a dropoff but there are ropes to hold. If you've done any sort of mountain hiking before you won't find this difficult.
As for the overall glacier experience: if you've never seen a glacier before you will be impressed and will enjoy it. However, if you have ever been to a place like Alaska (where we did the helicopter ride that landed on the glacier) you may feel like you could skip this area if you are pressed for time. Just something to think about...not to undermine the beauty of the area.

After the glacier hike we were on the road by 2pm and in Greymouth by 5pm.
We did stop at the Franz Joseph Glacier and took the short walk to a great viewpoint of the whole glacier. Very beautiful!!

1 night Greymouth. Gables Motor Lodge. Very nice. Recommended. http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...th_Island.html

We went into the town for a bite to eat then drove to Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks) 40 minutes from Greymouth.
It was low tide but still worth the look. There is a nice walkway for you to get a good look. At high tide I hear it's really impressive.

Day 11 Drove from Greymouth to Christchurch via Arthur's Pass.
The drive was a pleasant 4 hours. As far as whether to decide if Arthur's Pass is a must-do for you...if you've ever been on the Million Dollar Hwy in Colorado or anywhere thru the Rockies or someplace like Banff, then the scenery along Arthur's Pass doesn't even come close. We just looked at it as a pleasant route to get to Christchurch. (Not a must do in our opinion.)

1 night Christchurch. Columbo in the City. Very nice but needed AC. http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...th_Island.html

This was a great city to walk around. It's very pretty, lots of nice parks, gardens, the Avon River, lots of restaurants and bars. We enjoyed it! Be advised that the Dux de Lux in CHC is different from the one in QT. In QT we sat down and ordered from a waitress. In CHC you go up to the counter and order your food and the menu did not seem to be the same. It was packed with people, however so is very popular...so packed in fact, that we decided to go somewhere else instead of waiting in the long line. But it must be good.
We had dinner at "Cafe Valentino". Very good Italian!

Next day we drove out on the Banks Peninsula to the town of Akaroa. Highly recommended!!!!
This is a beautiful drive (about an hour or so from CHC) and the town of Akaroa is very picturesque, sits on French Bay, where you can book a number of different harbor cruises to go swimming with the dolphins (or just watch for them). Unfortunately for us, this was one of the only things we hadn't booked in advance of our trip and when we got out there on a Saturday, all the dolphin cruises were booked up til about 3pm which was too late for us since we had to be headed back to CHC for an evening flight to Nelson.
But this was one of our favorite days! The weather was stunning and this was just a really great town to spend a half day!

Evening AirNZ flight CHC to Nelson.

2 nights Richmond. Kershaw House B&B. Wonderful and highly recommended! http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...th_Island.html

Richmond is near Nelson (10 minutes from the airport) and a 1 hour drive to Marahau.
The next day we drove to Marahau where we caught a water taxi to walk part of the Abel Tasman coastal track. We used Aqua Taxi. http://aquataxis.co.nz/departures.html We took the taxi to Anchorage Bay ($25NZ per person) and we walked back. With a couple of side walks and a stop for snacks, it was about 7 miles and took us about 4-1/2 hours.
The scenery it so beautiful. You never tire of the amazing color of the water!! This was a nice way to spend the day! But it would have been better if we'd have had more time. As it was, we went back to Richmond that night for our very last night of the trip.

The next day before our 2:30 pm flight, we went into the town of Nelson and walked around a bit. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll thru Queens Garden then had lunch at the "Boat Shed" - good seafood, reasonably priced for the wonderful, waterfront location.
We flew from Nelson to Auckland then back to the US.

As we look back on it, our absolute favorites (things we would NEVER have wanted to miss) were:
The overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound (including the dolphin sightings and kayaking)
Bungy Jumping / Queenstown activities
Skydiving at Lake Wanaka
Seeing the penguins on the Elm Wildlife Tour on the Otago Peninsula
The Southern Scenic Drive
Banks Peninsula

Our favorite towns:

Since we had such a short amount of time, the lessons we took away from it were, that there were some places we would skip and add more time to others. For instance:
We would've stayed 3 nights in Dunedin instead of 2.
Stayed a night somewhere along the southern coast, to give us more time to work around the tides.
2 nights in Te Anau was perfect for being able to see Milford Sound. Wouldn't change that.
We would have loved to have stayed 3 nights in Queenstown instead of 2. There is so much to do!
We would've also liked 2 nights in CHC instead of 1.
Then we would've skipped either the glaciers or Abel Tasman. They were both beautiful, but we were mostly impressed with the scenery in Fiordland, the Otago and Banks Peninsulas and along the southern coast.

If we had 3 weeks or more all of these places are definitely "worth" seeing...it's just that if you have a limited amount of time you'll more than likely have to choose between some places. Hope all this information gives you some ideas and helps you to do this.

You can view our photos on our website at: http://web.mac.com/drizzle/iWeb/Site...20Zealand.html

Wishing you all a great trip to New Zealand...no matter how your itinerary turns out, you really can't go wrong...I'm quite sure it will be a vacation you'll never forget!!
Safe travels,
luv2globetrot is offline  
Old Mar 7th, 2006, 06:29 AM
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Wonderful report on a wonderful trip.
Jed is offline  
Old Mar 7th, 2006, 10:22 AM
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Thanks Lisa!! Might have to find a free holiday to so the Doubtful Sound trip.
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Old Mar 7th, 2006, 10:44 AM
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Thanks Lisa for your trip report. I'm glad you had fun on the overnight trip to Doubtful...I'll definetly look more into that
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Old Mar 7th, 2006, 12:16 PM
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Great report, Lisa! We had the same reactions as you. 3 nights minimum in Dunedin and Queenstown, 2 nights minimum in Te Anau....
Can't wait to go back.
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Old Aug 25th, 2006, 01:33 AM
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luv2globetrot: I just found and printed out your New Zealand trip report...we are going in February 2007! I'm excited and after a quick browse through your report I notice that if we want to do the overnite on Doubtful Sound I better hurry up and plan this adventure!

Looks like I'll be spending the rest of August and September reading and researching, and I'll want to be making reservations by October...you said the dates you wanted for the doubtful sound overnite were already booked by October! Wow!

I don't have our itinerary yet but I expect we will probably spend our 2 weeks on the south island.

Now that a whole year has passed, what favorite memories linger in your mind?

We saw New Zealand over 20 years ago with our 2-year-old. This time it is just the 2 of us, and we want to go slower and select just a few special places to explore.

so hard to choose! Having beautiful dreams...
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Old Aug 25th, 2006, 05:04 AM
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Hi Luv2!

Thanks for the great trip report...felt like I was reliving NZ again.

And congrats on the bungey jump!!! I agree, it's a RUSH! So far, I've tried in vain to get a client to do it -- when I tell them how great it is they just look at me as if I've gone off my meds!


Certified Kiwi Specialist
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Old Aug 25th, 2006, 12:41 PM
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We went just this past February, so it's only been 6 months, but the great memories still linger! The overnight on Doubtful was definitely one of our favorites! I think maybe that the day we originally wanted was booked up by a tour group. I think it may have been just a fluke...you may not have any problem. But you can easily find out availability by going to http://www.realjourneys.co.nz/Main/Doubtfulovernight/
There are still so many great things that stand out, but absolutely my bungy jump and our skydives were some of the coolest experiences in our lives!! We also loved the Southern Scenic Drive, Queenstown and Akaroa and Christchurch!
Feel free to check out our travel photos :

You're so lucky to be able to be making a 2nd trip!!!
Have fun planning!
Safe and happy travels

wlzmatilda: I would recommend bungy jumping to anyone who's contemplating it! I was scared to death, but the feeling was something I can't even explain!! I was so high on adrenalin!!! I was so glad that I made myself do it!!
Glad you enjoyed the trip report
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Old May 21st, 2007, 04:28 PM
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Luv2globetrot- Read your "old" trip report recently- thank you-. We want to do the overnight trip on Doubtful Sound also. What type of accomodations did you have? Please describe the various options for me. Thank you, Zin
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