Kia Ora – First Visit to New Zealand Nov. 2023

Old Nov 26th, 2023, 08:19 AM
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Magsrose, I love your report and photos of Queenstown, and so happy to hear that you really enjoyed yourself there. We are planning on 3 nights in Queenstown. I especially like your photos and comments about the TSS Earnslaw. I have that on my list of things to do. How far in advance did you make your reservations? We will be in NZ in November, too.

You make a comment about not having tap water to drink at the hotel, and having to go to the lobby to fill your water bottle. Are you saying the tap water in NZ is not safe to drink? Just curious.

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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 12:11 PM
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magsrose mentioned in post #16 about the cryptosporidium outbreak in Queenstown. Seems to be an issue with the public water supply in that area.

https://www.qldc.govt.nz/community/e...d-information/
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 04:36 PM
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KarenWoo Yes, the only reason why I had to use the lobby water was because of the cryptosporidium outbreak in Queenstown that's been going on for a couple months and they are under a boil order. Everywhere else the tap water is excellent. I booked my lake cruise only 1.5 months ahead of time. Because of the timing of the business trip final approvals, I didn't have much time to plan my personal vacation time. The other thing I wanted to say about Queenstown is that if I had more time, I would have liked to take the bus to Arrowtown and spend part of a day there. And I was interested in seeing the Wanaka Tree too.

I think 3 nights will be a good amount of time for you to enjoy Queenstown. There are so many nice restaurants and great variety of fun things to do. I was interested in trying Botswana Butchery, which was also highly recommended by the guide who took us to Milford Sound.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by mlgb
magsrose mentioned in post #16 about the cryptosporidium outbreak in Queenstown. Seems to be an issue with the public water supply in that area.

https://www.qldc.govt.nz/community/e...d-information/
Thanks for letting me know. I had read post #16, but obviously forgot about the cryptosporidium outbreak.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by magsrose
KarenWoo Yes, the only reason why I had to use the lobby water was because of the cryptosporidium outbreak in Queenstown that's been going on for a couple months and they are under a boil order. Everywhere else the tap water is excellent. I booked my lake cruise only 1.5 months ahead of time. Because of the timing of the business trip final approvals, I didn't have much time to plan my personal vacation time. The other thing I wanted to say about Queenstown is that if I had more time, I would have liked to take the bus to Arrowtown and spend part of a day there. And I was interested in seeing the Wanaka Tree too.

I think 3 nights will be a good amount of time for you to enjoy Queenstown. There are so many nice restaurants and great variety of fun things to do. I was interested in trying Botswana Butchery, which was also highly recommended by the guide who took us to Milford Sound.
magsrose, It looks like there is a lot to do in and around Queenstown. I also have the Skyline Gondola on my list with the Skyline Loop Track walk, the Queenstown Gardens, Arrowtown, Kiwi & Birdlife Park, and maybe the Jet Boat Tour on the Dart River if we have the time.

mlgb, have you been on the Jet Boat Tour or know anything about it? Is it rough? Are passengers tossed around? The scenery does look beautiful.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 05:45 PM
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Yes Jet boating is generally a thrill ride, they skim along the top of the water, through rapids, like to spin you around and go fast. I'm a thrill seeker though. YouTube probably exaggerates the effect. You can also do a Skipper's Canyon tour by vehicle (rental cars are not allowed).
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by mlgb
Yes Jet boating is generally a thrill ride, they skim along the top of the water, through rapids, like to spin you around and go fast. I'm a thrill seeker though. YouTube probably exaggerates the effect. You can also do a Skipper's Canyon tour by vehicle (rental cars are not allowed).
Thanks for the description! We are in our 70's so not necessarily looking for thrills. Not sure if our old bones can take the spinning around!

Have you done the Skippers Canyon Tour? I think I was on their website. Is that the one where the road is very dangerous? Very narrow, no guardrails, etc.
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Old Nov 27th, 2023, 08:49 AM
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Karen, I, too, am older, but took the Dart River jet boat tour and really enjoyed it because of the scenery more than the thrills. We thought it was too cold to try the trip that had kayaking after the jet boat. There was a bit too much "Lord of the Rings" sightseeing on the way back to Glenorchy for my taste, but was still beautiful and I would not be put off by trepidation about the "spinning." Yes, there is some of that, but not all the time. We drove our rental car from Queenstown to Glenorchy, poked around the area, and took the afternoon tour. One of the highlights of our trip.
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Old Nov 27th, 2023, 10:06 AM
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traveler318, thank you for your comments and opinions. I love to hear from "older" people like us! I will keep the Dart River jet boat tour on my sightseeing list. Definitely not interested in kayaking. I haven't kayaked in decades.
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Old Nov 29th, 2023, 09:54 AM
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Love that first sheep close-up. And Patagonia of course, one of my favorite spots in Queenstown...and Wanaka...and Arrowtown.
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Old Nov 30th, 2023, 07:30 PM
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Yes Skippers Canyon is an unpaved road along the Skippers Gorge with dropoffs and no guard rail. I went in a Jeep type vehicle. I didn't think it was that bad, I've been on worse. As long as they keep the amateur drivers out should be okay. I think it's reputation as a dangerous road is undeserved. We did see a few larger buses towing kayaks or inflatables ahead of us. I would say it compares to the road up to Machu PIcchu (although that one is paved at least).

The company I used was Nomad Safaris they are still in business.


The drive to Glenorchy is easy and scenic, you can continue around to Kinloch. Can be a bit sandfly-ish but nothing like the west coast.

Last edited by mlgb; Nov 30th, 2023 at 07:39 PM.
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Old Dec 1st, 2023, 06:16 AM
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mlgb, thanks for the video! Can't imagine driving the bus towing the inflatables on that road!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2023, 10:09 PM
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Monday: Drive in to Milford Sound and overnight cruise

Monday morning was rainy. I checked out of the Ramada Queenstown Central and crossed the street for the RealNZ pick-up place at the entrance to Copthorn Hotel. By the way, the hot chocolate I bought the night before at Patagonia was still delicious the next morning warmed up in the microwave and stirred. The RealNZ coach tour bus picked me up around 8:30. The driver was a one-man show—driver, guide, history lecturer, luggage porter, and all-around very knowledgeable, calming, and friendly person. Brandon was great! As soon as I was picked up and found a seat on the bus, I felt relaxed and ready to start a two-day adventure. I liked that our group was fairly small. About one third of the bus was occupied. This rainy drive, incredible scenery, and wonderful commentary was one of the best parts of my entire trip. I could have sat back and listened to our guide speak all day—which is what I did! Brandon taught us about the history of Queenstown and other surrounding towns, the geological history of the area, all about the native plants of this area, and about the native animals to New Zealand and the effects of introducing non-native animals over the centuries. I can't say enough good things about how much I learned on this tour.

Lake Wakatipu driving south. I asked our guide what side of the bus was better to sit on. He said both are great, but for the drive in sitting on the right side will get the best views.






We stopped for morning tea in a town that I thought was called "Goston," like Boston, based on the way Brandon pronounced it. And then I laughed to myself when I saw this sign. Our stop had a little of everything you could want for morning tea: restrooms, a coffee and sandwich cart, a Mānuka honey shop, an antique store, and a post box. I ate my baguette sandwich I had bought the night before at Fergbaker, and it was delicious.


We loaded back up and kept driving towards Te Anau and listening to Brandon's commentary until we stopped at the Te Anau bird sanctuary. We got out and walked around and each got to see a wonderful Takahē, one of New Zealand's most endangered birds. There are only a few hundred left. It's a gorgeous bird.



We dropped off a couple who were heading on a tour of the Doubtful Sound with promises to pick them up the next day and hear their review of which experience they liked better. They had done a day cruise of Milford Sound the day before. Then we stopped for lunch in Te Anau. I only saw the main street of Te Anau, but the town seemed different from what I was expecting—more modern. There were plenty of mom and pop shops and restaurants along that main road and a supermarket. We had 45 minutes, and I got an idea to find a post office. I had a few postcards to send, and remember all the Whittaker's chocolate bars I'd bought over the previous week? They were making my bags so heavy. I walked to the post office and decided to send a box to myself back in the States to lighten my load. I'd read on another Fodors forum a recommendation to do this to make your life easier while traveling. I had no idea how expensive it is to mail a parcel from New Zealand, though. I swallowed hard and paid a lot, but when I walked out with an empty backpack, I felt it was so worth it. It was there that I also learned my stamped postcards had to be dropped in the light blue box down the street in front of the Four Square market. I don't remember the name of this delivery company. My last stop was to Miles Better Pies, which was highly recommended to us from Brandon.


I got a creamy chicken pie, and it was good. I would have liked it better if it had the potatoes, carrots, and peas that go in a traditional chicken pot pie. Then it was back onto the bus and time to drive into the Fiordland National Park. Our first stop within the park was a short walk along Mirror Lakes which had some pretty views.



Back on the bus was a good time to try my cream bun I got at Fergbaker the night before, and it was delicious! We drove longer and stopped again at an impressive waterfall at Falls Creek. When we got off the bus, a Kea was hanging out on a car. I'd been warned about this bird and the word that was used to describe it is cheeky! I learned it's the only Alpine Parrot, it's mischievous, loooves man-made things, and has the intelligence of a 4-5 year-old human (is that a bit of a stretch?).






I'm sure you've notice my photos from this day show how rainy it was in the park. Of course many of the guides say the rain makes your experience all the more spectacular with hundreds of extra waterfalls. That part about the extra waterfalls is true, but the almost white-out conditions and lack of visibility don't make for a more spectacular experience. More on that later.



Our last stop was the end of Milford Road where we were dropped off at the Milford Sound marina to board the Milford Mariner for our overnight cruise. There was a counter within this building where we checked in and got our cabin keys and then boarded the boat with specific instructions to follow upon boarding.

I will end today's post here and pick up again with my account of the overnight cruise, and hopefully I'll be able to include the return trip out of Milford Sound and back to Queenstown.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2023, 10:28 PM
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I wanted to add what I wore this day in case it's helpful for anyone planning. I wore weather-proof (ish) Eddie Bauer pants, socks and weather-proof Sorel ankle boots, a sweatshirt, and a zip-up windbreaker/rain jacket type jacket with a hood (the brand was Zella). The jacket wasn't as weather-proof as I was hoping for.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2023, 10:20 AM
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magsrose, I love your narratives and photos of the drive to Te Anau (where we plan on spending 2 nights) and then on to Milford Sound. And you read my mind! I was planning on asking you what clothing you wore on that day but you were a step ahead of me. Knowing what people wore on their trips is so important. I hate to overpack with inappropriate clothing. So your information is very helpful for planning purposes. I do have a very good waterproof windbreaker with a hood (Marmot), and a good warm fleece with a hood. And waterproof hiking boots. My sneakers are not waterproof. But we don't have waterproof pants. We have plenty of time to shop around for those. I kind of hate to spend the money because we are not avid hikers, and we don't do anything outdoorsy in the rain at home. But I would hate to be miserable while on vacation if we get really rained on, which sounds like is a good possibility in NZ.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2023, 11:13 AM
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Great reporting magsrose. Looking forward to the next installment

RE packing, a PROPER rain shell is needed. I recently was cleaning out my closets and tossed my old rain paints and bought some iCreek overpants that are supposed to be waterproof...not yet tested but the jacket is much more important.

I found that in summer most of the time you only really need a fleece vest, layered over a merino base layer top. I also had a pair of fuzzy leggings, and a few track-suit type pullovers that were smooth on the outside. There were times when we were out on the water that I was glad I had a warmer jacket also. Wool socks and some kind of gloves, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen (ozone hole). Of course many items can also be bought as souvenirs, like the hand-knit beanie that I lost within two days!

My spare shoes were Skechers type slipons but I almost always wore the hiking boots for outdoor activities. If you have wool socks, it won't matter much if the hiking boots are still slightly damp. I also used a pair of (Crocs) flipflops often if it was raining outside and not cold.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2023, 01:25 PM
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I should mention that my above comments are more for the far south, and we were there in early December. North end of North Island in particular, can be warm, if not upleasantly muggy. And rainy. But last year was especially bad weather with the massive floods at Auckland Airport and then again after we left, around Hawke's Bay. But it was clear and sunny on the west coast of the South Island, while we got snowed on right near the Milford Tunnel. Be prepared for wet and if you don't get any, consider yourself lucky! And layers, layers. Including at least one warm weather outfit.
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Old Dec 5th, 2023, 10:21 AM
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That part about the extra waterfalls is true, but the almost white-out conditions and lack of visibility don't make for a more spectacular experience

I laugh every time I hear someone (usually a Milford employee of some sort) use that line. It just isn't true.
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Old Dec 6th, 2023, 11:55 AM
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Gutted I didn't go to Hamilton on my visit, was hoping to snatch at least a day there to chalk it off on Worldbagger but time constraints got in my way. Ah well, next time.
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Old Dec 6th, 2023, 06:57 PM
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Overnight Cruise on the Milford Mariner

After checking in and getting my cabin key inside the welcome center, we boarded the Milford Mariner at a middle level, with one level above us and one below. We were told to drop our bags at this level at the bottom of the stairs and go immediately to the upper-level dining room for an orientation. The staff met us there and gave us the safety brief and a timeline of the evening and morning. Afterwards, I went into my cabin to see my room and drop off my bags. When I came back up, they were serving afternoon tea, which consisted of coffee and tea and brownies and finger sandwiches.






As we headed out into the fiord (and the wind picked up enormously), we were free to roam the boat, so most of us went outside to see as much as we could. I’ll be honest—the weather was awful. It was grey, wet, and really windy. I was glad I had my boots on and waterproof pants, but my windbreaker was not even close to a rain jacket. I had issues finding a good one before I left. I gave it my all to enjoy the views from the decks. The waterfalls were still massively impressive and could soak you in an instant.







We spent the night in a small harbor area where the boat was anchored. The evening water activities went on even though the weather wasn't ideal. We had the option to kayak or take a small paddle boat out with a crew member. They also recommend that you jump in for a swim. This is also usually a good time to see penguins and maybe dolphins. I was fully planning on doing either the kayaking or paddle boat, but when it came time to check-in for the activity, I just didn't want to do it. My clothes were drenched from the rain, wind, and waterfalls and I was freezing. So, I did exactly what they told us not to do. I went to my room and hung out there alone.



My room was on the lowest level, so the surface of the water was right at my eye level when looking out the window. Most of what I captured that night were videos, not photos, so I tried to find some still shots to add here. That's why they look kind of blurry. This image below was taken from my cabin window.

There was an electric heated towel bar in my room that I wanted to use to try to dry my wet clothes but it was not turned on and I couldn't find any way to turn it on, so my clothes stayed wet and cold. There also was no temperature control in the room. So I had to get under the covers to warm up. I changed into dry warmer clothes and wrote postcards and ate Whittaker's Almond Gold chocolates until it was time to go to dinner. I found myself wondering if this expensive excursion would be worth the money. I was even wondering if I would have rather enjoyed a third night in Queenstown.

When I went up for dinner, cabin numbers were assigned booths to sit in, so I was seated next to two Belgian couples. They were sweet and kind. The meal was great! I liked that they served some international dishes like a few chinese dishes and a thai curry that brought me back for seconds. The dessert was a passionfruit cheesecake. Yes please! After dinner a member of the crew gave a presentation about the wildlife in the Milford Sound and showed all kinds of photos and videos of some of her favorite moments in the sound. Some of her dolphin footage is amazing! It definitely made me yearn for a sunny day, but the good news is we were told the next day was supposed to be clear. Surprisingly, after the nature presentation they also served a beautiful cheese board and cake, so I had a little of that. The dried apricots were my favorite. I went out on the deck a few more times to see what I could, but I think there just wasn't anything to see that night. So then I went to bed, and slept just fine. I could tell my body was noticing the rocking of the boat, but it didn't make me sick. We had an early morning the next day.

When I woke up and looked out my porthole window, it was still getting light, but I could tell the weather had cleared up. I WAS PUMPED. They started serving a continental breakfast at 6:45 and a hot breakfast at 7:00. I went up at 7:00 but I was way too interested in what was happening outside of the boat to eat. After initially seeing the views, I grabbed a piece of toast. To give you an idea of the change in weather and scenery, here are two photos that were taken of the same general view—one from the rainy evening and the other from the sunny morning.




Being greeted by that blue sky and having light to see depth and contrast and detail made all the difference. The whole morning was magical, and I could not put my camera down.










I learned on this trip that there's a difference between a waterfall and a cascade, which is a vertical river. I don't know what this one above is, but I know its a really, really long and tall waterfall and is absolutely amazing.






You may not be able to tell, but this is my photo of the penguins I saw. There are two on the shore, just to the right of that main line coming up from the boat. They are standing against a darker rock. These penguins are about knee-length in height. It was my dream to see penguins and I saw them! They were clumsy and falling all over the rocks.


This is a lighthouse at the point where the sound opens up to the Tasman Sea. We went out for a minute or two, but it is a very rough seasecond roughest in the world. We turned back, and I was ok with that because my stomach was lurching. It was so rocky I couldn't take any photos. The view returning back into the sound was absolutely majestic.






I was looking for dolphins, but we didn't see any. We did see a seal sunning himself on a rock though! How in the world did he get up there?








In this photo, we're looking at a glacier, a rainforest, and a fiord. Pretty neat! I use fiord and sound interchangeably, but this waterway is a geological fjord (fiord). When it was was drawn on the first maps of this area centuries ago, "fjord" was not in the English dictionary, so sound was used and has stuck. I was told that the Milford Sound has the tallest sea cliffs in the world. It makes me wonder if I don't even need to go to Norway or Alaska anymore, since I've seen the amazing Milford Sound. I know we can't control the weather, but if you have a choice, go on a clear day!




As we were returning back to the marina, I saw the first day-trip boat heading out. What an experience to have the Milford Sound all to ourselves.
I will end this here for today and come back with the return trip on Milford Road, returning to Queenstown, and wrapping up my trip.
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