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New Zealand South Island SPLENDOR: Celebrating 25th Anniversary Surrounded by RIBBONS OF WATERFALLS!!! Feb. 2007

New Zealand South Island SPLENDOR: Celebrating 25th Anniversary Surrounded by RIBBONS OF WATERFALLS!!! Feb. 2007

Feb 27th, 2007, 05:37 PM
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QUEENSTOWN (Continued):

Queenstown Kiwi Birdlife Park:
My rating: 7/10 Enjoyable

We loved unwinding at the relaxing Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown. After days of driving and cramming in sites and activities it was pleasant to spend a couple hours at this park and then stroll around central Queenstown.

We got a 10% discount coupon for this park with our Avis car rental. Regular admission is about $30 NZ each. A head set comes with admission.

Wonderful view of 2 kiwis right up against the front of the glass enclosure! They were walking along the front windowsill inside their enclosure, poking at the glass with their long bills. I have waited my whole life to actually SEE a real kiwi and I was delighted. 8-)

The path through the Bird Park wanders past trees and along a native garden trail. The park also includes some exhibits about the Maori traditional culture. We spent about 1 ˝ hours on the trail, enjoying the native caged birds, and then saw the 3:00 pm show, which includes wildlife and also Maori dance and song.

We were delighted to see the adorable, fluffy baby brown teal ducklings, one of the world's rarest.

To Be Continued
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 09:27 PM
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Queenstown Dining

Little India bistro & tandoor
Above Bakery, 15 Shotover St., Queenstown
Shammi Sandhu: Director
web-site: www.littleindia.net
My rating: 99/100 Outstanding Food!

This place serves the best Indian food in the galaxy!>< From the outside it looks very modest. From the inside...your senses will be tantalized...the scent of spices...the sound of accents from India...the taste of divine Indian food.

We shared an order of Vegetable Samosas for $6 NZ. I have NEVER tasted Samosas this wonderful! The description alone will make you salivate: “Savoury pastry, with a filling of fresh diced vegetables and grated cauliflower tempered with roasted cumin.”

I fell in love with the Lamb Pasanda for $18.50 NZ: “Diced lamb sauteed in onions, garlic, ginger, coriander & tomatoes. Cooked with spices, yoghurt, cream and crushed almonds.” Nice pot of Indian tea (Chai?) for 2 people for $8 NZ.

We sat on high stools at a window seat with a view of the city below. Part of the fun is having a little trouble communicating with the friendly employees. Nothing like hearing an accent that seems to blend India with Kiwi. I don't think it matters what you order here...everything was outstanding. My husband loved his Chicken. Main dishes were adequate portions but not huge, so enjoy some delicious starters.

The Little India bistro & tandoor menu proudly proclaims: “Our herbs and spices are bought whole, of which small quantities are roasted and ground at our premises for the ultimate in fresh flavours.” Interesting note: 10% discount on takeaway meals over $20 NZ when paid with cash.

Now I am spoiled forever and must return to Queenstown...to EAT!

Patagonia, Queenstown

Stop by Patagonia on the waterfront in Queenstown for delicious chocolate and ice cream!
Lakeside, 50 Beach Street, Queenstown
My rating: 10/10 for the Waffle dessert

We returned to Patagonia's 3 times for ice cream and chocolate! I love the “fig and pistachio” ice cream flavor.

We have a photo of our favorite scrumptious dessert at Patagonia's! The fresh hot Waffle with melted gourmet chocolate, fresh fruit, and your choice of a scoop of ice cream. HEAVENLY! Definitely the best dessert we had in NZ.
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Feb 27th, 2007, 09:33 PM
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WAI Waterfront Restaurant, Queenstown

Waterfront, Steamer Wharf
Beach Street, Queenstown
My rating: 8/10 For this Price Range; Excellent

Wai Waterfront Restaurant is an expensive restaurant where the food and fine dining experience is worth the price. We had a reserved table with view. This is an appropriate place to celebrate a special occasion...this was our 25th anniversary trip.

It was hard to choose between the lamb and the seafood. Everything we ordered was attractively presented and very tasty. Service was friendly and attentive.

I enjoyed my fresh fish of the day. This is a small restaurant so you will need to reserve a table for dinner. You will notice from the tone of my review that we were pleased, but not ecstatic. That is because we prefer to pay less, and when we pay these prices, we want something that is not only excellent, but truly exceptional. I would say that our entrees were excellent, but perhaps not truly memorable...I remember being pleased, and that is why I took their business card to include in my report. However, I don't remember precisely how my seafood was prepared. This means, for me, Wai is very good, and I'm glad we tried it, but next time we will try someplace else.
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 10:13 PM
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We had a 3-night stay in Queenstown mid-trip, and then returned to Queenstown for a 1-night stay at the end of our trip. We stayed in both of the following 2 accomodations:

Villa del Lago Apartments, Queenstown

249 Frankton Rd., Queenstown
Your host: Sue Singleton
My rating: 9/10 Excellent

We booked a 1-bedroom apartment at Villa del Lago for 3 nights for $240 NZ per night. These are Qualmark 5-star apartments, and they are attractive and well-appointed, with the bonus of your own kitchen and laundry in your apartment. Small washer, small dryer, and a jar of free laundry powder.

It is a 20-minute brisk walk from Villa del Lago, along the lakefront path, into Queenstown town centre. You can also drive into town and deal with parking if you want.

Sue and Gemma were very helpful by e-mail. They helped me to select the right apartment for us. We booked the lakefront apartment, as it is furthest from the road and we felt it had more privacy. Between our apartment and the lake there was only a footpath and some trees. (The trees partially block the lake view but they also increase your sense of privacy.) Our apartment was very quiet, clean, and serviced daily.

If you want the lakefront apartment you do have to descend some steps with your luggage from the parking area. But I was pleased with our choice.

I can highly recommend these well-run apartments. Villa del Lago is very well-managed. There is an office if you wish to book any tours or if you need restaurant reservations.

These apartments are non-smoking which we think is great. Overall they were even nicer than I expected and a good deal for the price and for Queenstown. The only inconvenience is that, for the price of staying in this peaceful location just outside of the noisy town centre of Queenstown, you will have to choose between a brisk 20-minute walk into town...or else you will have to hunt for parking for your car when you drive into town.

I would happily stay here again.
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Feb 27th, 2007, 10:48 PM
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Browns Boutique Hotel, Queenstown

26 Isle St., Queenstown
My rating: 5/10 Average for this price range.

Browns is a Qualmark-4-star hotel that is less than a 5-minute walk to Queenstown town centre. It is just above town, close to the gondola.

Our rate of $280 NZ per night included GST (tax) and breakfast. We booked room 10 upstairs with a nice view and a small balcony. By New Zealand standards, the room was small. (Our experience in New Zealand was that you often can get an entire apartment for the price of a room!) However in this case, we had 1 room with a King bed, a mini-frig with free wine and beer, and a bathroom with an unfortunately leaky shower door.

We were only here at Browns for 1 night. I enjoyed the romantic view, and breakfast was nice. However the leaky shower was a definite problem. The seal was worn away that had once kept the shower door from leaking. After the 2 of us showered, the floor was so wet that a puddle had formed.

Veronica immediately came up and cleaned the floor as soon as I explained the problem. This was appreciated. The floor mat was completely soaked and there was still a puddle...there wasn't any way we could clean it up ourselves.

I feel that for a room at this price, this problem needs to be fixed. If I had booked this room for 3 nights, with my usual habit of enjoying both morning and evening showers, this would have become a major problem. Visions of wet socks, pants getting wet at the hems, and going for an unexpected swim...

They did seem to be aware of the problem but I really feel that the owners need to solve this problem with a new shower door.

Browns has a very convenient location.

We had a wonderful welcome from Veronica, who insisted on helping us carry our luggage upstairs. Thank you, Veronica, for being so nice.
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 10:48 PM
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Melissa -

Glad to hear Villa Del Lago worked out for you. Your description of Little India is making me salivate...
Melnq8 is online now  
Feb 27th, 2007, 10:59 PM
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Melnq8: Next time I should just let you and mlgb plan my whole trip! In fact I think you 2 practically packed my suitcase for me with all of your great advice! Thank you both for being so generous with your help...and Tim & Liz...and BillJ...and everybody is so great on fodors!

Now if only the owner of Little India has a cousin who wants to bring Little India to San Diego...
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 11:57 PM
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I amazed myself by hiking for 8 miles (round trip) on the Routeburn track, a feat which took me 7 hours, including stops for lunch, rest, photos, and bird-watching through binoculars. I went to New Zealand believing that a 3-hour hike was the longest I could do...and I came home discussing with my husband whether we might do the 5-night Milford Track hike next trip!

We enjoyed 2 beautiful day-hikes on the Routeburn track. The nearest towns to the Routeburn track are Queenstown, Te Anau, and Glenorchy.
We hiked the Routeburn track from both ends, as day-trips from Queenstown and also from Te Anau.

The Routeburn track takes you through parts of Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks, part of a World Heritage Area.

From Queenstown it is a 1-hour drive to the start of the Routeburn track at the Routeburn Shelter. We parked our car here, and headed onto the trail with our packed lunch. We didn't bring a watch, and didn't realize we would end up walking 4 miles to the Routeburn Flats Hut.

I think the rainforest hypnotized us. It was a beautiful walk through rainforest and past a river with lovely clear water.>< When we arrived, very tired, at the Routeburn Flats Hut (and the nearest toilets), I greatly regretted that we hadn't arrived earlier and hadn't booked a bunk...never saw simple bunk beds that looked so inviting to my weary feet!

Then we had to walk all the way back to our car, 4 more miles...for a total of 8 miles that day.

But Oh what a beautiful day, it was well worth the effort, and I learned I can do much more than I thought I could! I had some scraps of paper and a pen on the hike and will share my notes, written while on the Routeburn track:

Hearing my footsteps on the gravel path. Feels great. The thrill of the river
burbling below and birdsong. Brisk air.
Glimpses of forested mountain across the river through the trees. Wow.

Mosses and ferns everywhere. Yellow-breasted bird sits on my shoe and catches sand flies! Bell-bird's fluting call. Bird: a fan-tail shows off white tail. Filtered sunlight pierces the forest canopy and highlights the ferns. Right under the path a little stream plays among the rocks. Two mountain peaks frame a glorious blue sky up ahead, high.

Earlier in the trip, from Te Anau we had driven along Milford Rd. and at The Divide we had parked the car to do a shorter day-hike from that end of the Routeburn trail, at Fiordland National Park. It was a beautiful rainforest hike, but the trail was ascending the whole way, and of course descending the whole way back. I found that end of the trail more difficult though also worthwhile.

It also began to rain on us when we were on the Routeburn track in Fiordland National Park so we had to walk back to our car in the rain...that was the same day that we drove in the rain the rest of the way to Milford Sound, and witnessed the dozens of ribbons of waterfalls falling thousands of feet from the sheer canyon walls...on a summer evening...

On the day we did the 8-hour hike from the other end of the Routeburn track, near Queenstown/Glenorchy, it remained sunny and mostly clear all day, and the temps fluctuated from cool and crisp to warm...There wasn't more than a sprinkle of rain that day.

Now maybe you can understand why I love vacation...I ate all the ice cream I wanted and I still lost 5 pounds on our 2-week trip to New Zealand!

Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 12:13 AM
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Coming Up Next: Invercargill, Te Anau, Mt. Cook, and West Coast
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 11:01 AM
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Good for you on your hiking prowess! The first leg of the Routeburn is like a fairy tale inhabited by birds, isn't it? Waiting for further installments!
mlgb is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 02:01 PM
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Thanks for your wonderful NZ report Melissa5.
My partner and I are spending 2 weeks in the South Island in March and your report has been a great read.

aussietina is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 04:51 PM
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mlgb and aussietina, thanks for replying! I will be posting more soon...

Mlgb, yes, I am proud of my new hiking prowess, and I like your description of the Routeburn track section with the fairyland of birds!
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 04:53 PM
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Coming Up Next: Te Anau, Mt. Cook, West Coast, and Travel Tips for NZ
Melissa5 is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 07:41 PM
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Looking forward to it Melissa5
aussietina is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 04:09 PM
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This trip report is NOT in geographical order, as my brain doesn't work that way. This was our itinerary, in the proper order:
--Fly LAX to Auckland to Dunedin
--Dunedin/Otago Peninsula: 3 nights
--Drive Dunedin to Te Anau via Invercargill
--Te Anau: 2 nights
--Doubtful Sound overnite: 1 nite
--Queenstown area: 3 nights
--Mt. Cook: 1 night
--West Coast: 3 nights
--Queenstown again: last night
Fly home!

Invercargill & the Southern Scenic Route:

Three cheers for Invercargill and the Southern Scenic Route! We zipped along the Southern Scenic Route between Dunedin and Invercargill on the new paved road. We peeked at Invercargill and then continued on to our next motel in Te Anau.

With the new road, the scenic coastal route from Dunedin to Invercargill is only a little longer than the boring inland route (assuming you don't stop for any sight-seeing!!) Locals told us NOT to take the inland route as it's dull.

However, note that if you stop for all the sight-seeing along the Southern Scenic Route, it would take you all day! Also, the side-roads aren't paved which may lead to your scenic stops.

We had to drive this lovely stretch of the Southern Scenic route with NO stops, except for lunch. But I can give you our impressions of the area.

PROS: The Southern Scenic route takes you through a delightfully peaceful and less populated area of the South Island of New Zealand. Here you can find native bush, and we heard birdsong even from the car. This would be a lovely, peaceful area to get a cottage on the coast or a room in the Catlins.

CONS: The Southern Scenic route lacks the dramatic effect of the high mountain peaks that you see from the other parts of the South Island...areas like Mt. Cook and Fiordland are much more dramatic in terms of sheer height.

CONCLUSION: If you only have 2 weeks for a first visit to New Zealand South Island, skip this area. If you have 3 weeks or more, include it if you love peaceful, less crowded, natural areas. We would love to stay here on our third visit to New Zealand.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 04:40 PM
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Henry the Tuatara

My biologist husband's passion is herpetology. Therefore we cannot visit New Zealand without seeing Henry.

Henry is wrinkled, secretive, and patient, with beautiful eyes. He is the oldest tuatara in the tuatarium at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill. Henry was born around 1880. We first met Henry 22 years ago on our first visit to New Zealand.

The tuatara are an ancient race that hasn't changed in hundreds of millions of years, and are isolated in New Zealand. They are basically "tiny dinosaurs", and aren't related to lizards, snakes, or crocs.

Henry isn't tiny...he is a most impressive size...but by ancient dinosaur standards he would be considered small!

We had a great view of the tuataras, as it was a sunny afternoon and they were out sunning themselves. We called ahead and Lindsay the curator was kind enough to meet with my husband. We had a fascinating chat with Lindsay, who is the brilliant curator of the tuatarium, and I believe he is the world's leading expert on them. The successful captive breeding program for the tuatara was developed by Lindsay, who continues to work out ingenious solutions to saving the tuatara race.

Invercargill: A Peek at "Real" New Zealand

We find Invercargill to be delightfully un-touristed. This was the hometown of the inventive man who is honored in the movie, The World's Fastest Indian.

We pulled into town and parked at the curb to consult our map. An older Invercargill woman was taking a brisk walk, and she leaned right in our window, gave us directions, and then had a chat with us about where we were from. What a friendly welcome to Invercargill!

Dinner: Waxy O'Shea's Irish Pub

We enjoyed a hearty dinner at Waxy O'Shea's Irish Pub in Invercargill. We were served a great bowl of potato leek soup, enough to feed an entire Irish family in the potato famine. This was followed by a huge meal of tender 1-year-old lamb with lovely potatoes and vegies.

Three shamrocks for Waxy's, the Irish pub at the bottom of the world! Slainte!
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 04:48 PM
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aussietina: Thanks for "hanging out" here with me!

Coming Up Next: Te Anau, Mt. Cook, West Coast, and Travel Tips
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 09:10 PM
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Te Anau

We spent 2 nights in the little town of Te Anau, which we found to be user-friendly and relaxing, and a great base for Fiordland.

We loved Campbell Autolodge in Te Anau! We were so comfortable here, wish we had stayed longer... We will definitely stay here again on our next trip. This was my husband's favorite lodging, as it was his style: comfortable, homey, and a good price. He sat on the balcony each morning enjoying his tea and the lake view while he waited for me to get ready. My review:

Campbell Autolodge, Te Anau

42-44 Lakefront Dr.
Te Anau, Fiordland
My rating: 9/10 for this price range. Excellent!

Your "room" at this motel is actually a lakefront apartment! It is thoughtfully designed. It is convenient, comfortable, homey, and a good price at $180 NZ in high season including taxes. Serviced daily.

The kitchen and sitting area with balcony are in the front, with a beautiful lake view. >< (Although the balcony is shared with your neighbors, there was never anybody out there when we used it.)

The bathroom includes a toilet in a separate room from the shower room, which is so convenient. Included in the bathroom were thoughtful extras you usually don't get for this price in NZ, such as shower cap, mini vanity set, shoe shine sachet, etc.

Our bedroom with King-sized bed was in the back of our "apartment", which is the most quiet area for sleeping at night.

Our rooms and carpet were very clean. Milk in frig, tea, coffee, hot chocolate.

Laundry room behind the building which can be used by guests after 11:00 am. Free laundry powder. Washers are free but you need $3 in NZ coins for dryer.

We were very pleased, better than expected for this price and in this location.

Lawn and motel driveway on front property between motel and the street so it's quiet. Lake view is right across the street. These 10 apartment units have the best lake views I saw on the street.

Barry Campbell is kind and friendly and was very helpful by e-mail. He answered all of my questions about travel in New Zealand. He is a wealth of information and has a good sense of humor. His wife is friendly and welcoming.

The shower head in the bathroom is set a little low if you are 6 feet tall like my husband. But this is a minor inconvenience. We plan to return to Fiordland next trip, as it is a magnificent area. Campbell Autolodge offers good quality clean accomodations for a fair price, and we definitely plan to stay here next trip.

My only regret is that we went out to breakfast both mornings as planned. If I had known how beautiful Lake Te Anau would look in the mornings, I would have bought supplies from the market and we could have sat out on our balcony and had breakfast with a view from our room! Next time we will know!
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 09:15 PM
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Do you see the dramatic mountain scenery if you drive from Dunedin to TeAnau inland ?

With your stop to see the tuatariumin in Invercargial and dinner at the Irish pub, how long did it take you to reach TeAnau from Dunedin ?

Would we be able to see the tuataras if we go to the Southland Museum ?

I am following your report very closely as we leave in 2 weeks, and have thoroughly enjoyed it !

What did you wear most of the time ?

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Mar 1st, 2007, 10:49 PM
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Questions and Answers

Okoshi2002: You asked if you can see the tuataras...sure you can! The tuatarium is in the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill, which is open til 5:00 pm. There is a $2 NZ donation requested to enter the museum. Be aware that the tuatara sometimes like to hide. They are most likely to be visible when out sunning themselves on a sunny afternoon. That is when we saw them.

You also asked how long it took us to get from Dunedin to Te Anau with our stop in Invercargill. It was basically a 10-hour day. We left Dunedin at 10:00 am, stopped only for lunch, and spent a couple hours at the tuatarium in Invercargill at the Southland Museum.

Next we called ahead to Campbell Autolodge, using a calling card we had bought in New Zealand, to let them know we would be arriving late. This is very important to do for the small and mid-sized accomodations, which usually don't have 24-hour desks. They appreciated the call and gave us instructions for our late check-in. (I recall we couldn't find a phone booth in Invercargill. Waxy's was going to let us use their phone but Te Anau is long distance from Invercargill and it wouldn't work. Finally we were able to use the calling card from the internet cafe which had a phone! Such a challenge, just making a phone call!)

Next we had dinner in Invercargill. Then we drove from Invercargill to Te Anau via the fastest route. We arrived at Campbell Autolodge in Te Anau around 8:00 or 9:00 pm...In summer it doesn't get dark in New Zealand until almost 10:00 pm!

I don't recall if the route was scenic at this point between Invercargill and Te Anau...the day was long and the drive at this point wasn't a highlight. We just wanted to get there.

I haven't driven from Dunedin to Te Anau via the inland route, but I don't think it is that scenic, but you may need to ask someone else. Also try this web-site which is useful: http://www.aatravel.co.nz . Click on "times & distances" or click on "road trips"

You must be getting excited as you are leaving in 2 weeks! You might have shorter days than we did as the fall is coming. Find out when it gets dark in March in New Zealand. The South Island is gorgeous any time of year from what I hear!!! I think BillJ was in New Zealand in March, I would ask him on-line.

Our most scenic drives were:

--Milford Rd.: fantastic! From Te Anau to Milford Sound is a beautiful drive with lots of possible stops.

--Queenstown to Glenorchy & Paradise: Beautiful drive. About 40 minutes drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy.

--Queenstown to Mt. Cook on a clear day: gorgeous! Stunning!

--Mt. Cook to west coast, via Wanaka area and via Haast Pass: Beautiful drive!

--West coast near Haast to Queenstown via Haast Pass: Beautiful!

--West coast drive from Haast up to Franz Josef Glacier: lovely views of coastal rainforest, glaciers, coast, and glimpses of Mt. Cook from Lake Matheson.

What we wore:
comfortable walking shoes or hiking shoes with tread on the bottom (to prevent slipping.) My shoes were Nike leather walking shoes. My husband wore his hiking shoes. If you wear actual hiking boots that will require an extra check at security on the way home at the airport (for soil on shoes...)

You need to wear a hat with a brim to protect your face from sunburn...there is a bigger "hole" in the ozone layer over New Zealand and you can get sunburn even if it doesn't seem very hot!!! We were always comfortable with long-sleeved light-weight tops, and long light-weight pants. Plus we needed to have a polar fleece or sweater with us as the weather changes often throughout the day. Also we needed to have our waterproof outer layer with us...I loved my jacket which was unlined, waterproof, windproof, breathable. It was light-weight and easy to carry.

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