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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

Mar 5th, 2007, 03:41 PM
  #81  
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Mt. Cook to West Coast Drive:

The drive from Mt. Cook to the west coast, via Haast Pass, is beautiful! We loved this drive. You pass several huge lakes, and I believe it is a law in NZ that the color of water must be stunning and varied! Along your route from Mt. Cook to Haast on the west coast you pass Lake Pukaki and Lake Hawea. You drive close to Wanaka, though we didn't stop in Wanaka. Then you head up towards Haast Pass. Beautiful drive and we were glad we started after breakfast and spent a gorgeous day enroute to the west coast.

We timed it to arrive at Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki on the west coat between Haast and Fox Glacier before dinner. It was a beautiful drive, and I had a big generous scoop of Hokey Pokey ice cream at a roadside cafe in Makarora, near Haast Pass. There are 2 roadside cafes in Makarora. One has better pre-wrapped sandwiches, is cheaper, and friendlier than the other. You can easily stop and check out both as they aren't far apart. Don't let the tour buses scare you as this place has efficient service and they have a big supply of good pre-made sandwiches that they replenish after the tour buses clean them out. By buying pre-made sandwiches you save time and therefore have more time for your scenic stops.

This is a long drive, from Mt. Cook to the west coast, and we didn't have time to dilly-dally, so we skipped Wanaka and saved our stops for scenic road-side stops and had lunch, toilet stops, and snacks in quick road-side cafes en route. I had been dreading this drive which is listed as 5 hours which I knew really means 8 hours for us...but it was a beautiful day. No worries. There are several scenic stops in the Haast Pass area that you want to save time for, such as the Thunder Creek Falls (10 minutes) and the Blue Pools walk (30 minutes).

Coming Up Next: West Coast; Flying home from Queenstown; and Travel Tips
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2007, 04:40 PM
  #82  
 
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The YHA in Mt. Cook does have a small supply of groceries for sale, milk, eggs, soup bowls, etc. It's a very good budget choice, they have private rooms (upstairs with share baths). Not a view of Mt. Cook itself. I wonder if where you stayed was the old Glencoe Lodge or if it is brand new?
mlgb is offline  
Mar 5th, 2007, 05:15 PM
  #83  
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mlgb: We didn't stay in the Glencoe Lodge. The place we stayed is fairly new and is called the Aoraki/Mt. Cook Alpine Lodge. It was opened around July 2005. It has 15 rooms with ensuite bathrooms plus cheaper dorms. The front rooms (ensuite) are the ones with mountain views of Mt. Cook. It is run by Adele and Tony Delaney. The web-site is:
www.aorakialpinelodge.co.nz

There aren't any reviews of it yet on tripadvisor but I plan to add one. In the recent past someone mistakenly posted a review of the Aoraki wing of the Hermitage hotel under the name "Aoraki/Mt. Cook Alpine Lodge". I wrote to tripadvisor and explained that the review was in the wrong place. I think they fixed that mistake. I will soon post my review of the Aoraki/Mt. Cook Alpine Lodge on tripadvisor...it's NOT affiliated with The Hermitage, although it is actually located within walking distance of The Hermitage. The Aoraki/Mt. Cook Alpine Lodge, the Visitor's center, and The Old Mountaineers Cafe are all located close to one another, which is convenient. The Glencoe Lodge is actually further away. Hope this helps. Also, the new Rough Guide New Zealand, fifth edition, published September 2006, is currently the most up-to-date guidebook that I found, and it contains several new places, including mentioning the Aoraki/Mt. Cook Alpine Lodge in Mt. Cook village centre. For anyone seeking budget lodging, the lodge also has dorm rooms at $36. We didn't see the dorm rooms and can't comment on them. I can only say that we would definitely stay here again, in one of the rooms upstairs with the view of Mt. Cook, as I loved having a view for only $165 NZ.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2007, 05:20 PM
  #84  
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mlgb: One more comment...on page 728 of the new fifth edition of the Rough Guide I see a map which shows Glencoe lodge and the YHA as being fairly close to one another, and a bit distant from The Hermitage. Then, at the top of the map, further north, is shows a cluster of buildings together, and they are: The Hermitage, Visitor Center & DOC office, The Old Mountaineer Cafe, and Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge, plus the Chalets that belong to The Hermitage.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2007, 11:18 PM
  #85  
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West Coast:

From Haast on the west coast, if you continue driving north along the coast, you drive through a wild area of lowland rainforest, with beautiful tree ferns and flax.

The west coast of the South Island is wild and beautiful, from Haast up to Lake Matheson! We loved it!

The little town of Fox Glacier is very touristy, however. 8-) This was quite a shock, after spending time in the relative wilderness of the Lake Moeraki area, where there is no civilization for miles around the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki.

We felt privileged to spend 3 nights at the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki, which is expensive, but hey, it was our 25th anniversary trip, so it was worth it. There isn't anyplace else around for miles! This Wilderness Lodge is located on the west coast, close to the highway, between Haast and Fox Glacier. Even though it is close to the highway, it feels very much isolated in nature. (There aren't any other hotels or restaurants for miles in either direction.)

From the lodge it is a convenient hike to the Monro Beach, which is a lovely wild-looking beach with drift wood. In November you can see the Fiordland crested penguins here; however this was February and you can't see them in February. It is still a beautiful beach. (You can stop at this beach on a day-trip if you stay in Haast or Fox Glacier.) There are rugged rocks in the water, with the ocean spraying up around them. We had no sand flies as it was too windy fortunately.

There are several rainforest walks you can take right from our lodge. I saw an intriguing ancient tree on one of these walks which I am positive is an Ent.

Because of the absence of city lights in this area, on a clear night, the sky is inky black and you can see trillions of stars. We were astonished to see the milky way so clearly! >< It is also the absence of pollution, I think, that allows this amazing view of the stars. Also, you can see glo-worms right from the highway, which is very dark at night near the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki on the west coast. This was one of their short guided walks, to see the glo-worms. It was pitch black outside and the guide had a powerful flashlight, and we walked carefully along the highway. (Very few cars at night here, as there is no place for them to go!)
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2007, 11:28 PM
  #86  
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Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki:

www.wildernesslodge.co.nz

We booked a rainforest room with King bed for 3 nights. This place is expensive, but we wanted a splurge for our anniversary. Price includes 3-course dinner and a coffee/tea social hour after dinner. Food is gourmet and there are 2 choices at dinner for your appetizer, entree, and dessert. We enjoyed excellent lamb, venison, and fish. These dinners were among the best we had in all of New Zealand. Full breakfast menu included in room price, as well as short guided nature walks.

The staff was very enthusiastic and helpful by e-mail. They reserved us the rainforest room that has the best view...it has a view of both river and forest. Very romantic view! Many rainforest rooms don't include the river view, so I am very grateful to the staff for making our anniversary special.

In fact the Wilderness Lodge staff is great. Upon check-in we were given an enthusiastic welcome and tour of the facilities. There are kayaks and canoes available for guest use...sorry, they don't let you go down the rapids though!

I would describe the rooms at the lodge as “wilderness luxury”, meaning that they are understated in décor, yet very comfortable, and with nice big windows to enjoy the view. The rooms are generous in size. Free laundry room with free laundry powder, and the washers and dryers are large capacity which is handy. Free internet use with 1 shared computer.

Malcolm, the manager, was very friendly and knowledgeable. Also met Anne, one of the owners. She said the owners live at the other Wilderness Lodge at Arthur's Pass, and they visit the Lake Moeraki lodge.

Malcolm will be moving on to open up a new place, and I am excited for him. I think it will be a great place, and it will be especially good for bicyclists, as it is on a cycling route. I will give you the web-site, and look for this place to open soon, as I have a hunch about this place, having met Malcolm, it will be good:
Kokonga Lodge
Central Otago, New Zealand
kokongalodge.co.nz
Please note that I haven't stayed here...it isn't open yet! I am mentioning it because I think it looks interesting. Kokonga Lodge will be handy for bikers and walkers from the Central Otago Rail trail.
Hosts: Malcolm Edwards & Dorothy Piper
Kokonga Lodge will be 2.5 hours from Queenstown or Wanaka.


I am confident that the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki will always be in good hands. I'm not sure who will manage it when Malcolm leaves, but as I said we met one of the owners, Anne, and I know you will always be in good hands at either of the locations of the Wilderness Lodge (Lake Moeraki or Arthur's Pass). We only stayed at the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki, but we met other guests who had also enjoyed the Wilderness Lodge Arthur's Pass.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2007, 11:42 PM
  #87  
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Jackson Bay, West Coast:

One of our day-trips from the Wilderness Lodge was to drive down along the west coast as far south as the road goes, to Jackson Bay. It was a pleasant drive, through coastal rainforest. We ended up at Jackson Bay, which is about as UN-touristy as you can get. It is a quiet bay, with little boats, and has a slow and lazy feel. Small pier. End of the road. No tourists except for us. There is a little trailor on the shore called the Cray Pot, which is inexpensive and you can enjoy the fish of the day. We had the best fish and chips there for a good price! The catch was elephant fish the day we visited. We had asked Malcolm at our hotel if there was anyplace to eat at the end of the road, and he recommended the Cray Pot. (Now, don't blame me if it changes owners...whoever runs it in February 2007 during our visit was doing an excellent job!)

There is a trail you can take through coastal rainforest from Jackson Bay, but we only had a few minutes on it because we were out of time. We wanted to go back to our lodge to do the Monro Beach walk at low tide in the afternoon. Malcolm at our lodge has a tide chart.

Fox Glacier:

From the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki on the west coast, we took a day-trip on our own to the glaciers. It was an hour's drive to Fox Glacier. We walked 30 minutes to the viewing area at the face of the glacier. We have seen the glaciers on both of our trips, and my husband and I have opposite reactions. I am bored with glaciers...although I understand they are a unique feature, they look like dirty ice to me and I am not very excited standing there staring at them. :-< However my husband gets very excited about glaciers. He was thrilled to fish a piece of the icy glacier out of the shallow glacial stream that was accessible to visitors. He held it in his hands and explained to me how old it was and how exciting that was to him. I didn't really get it. This shows our opposite reactions!

I need to say that there are barriers at both glaciers and warning signs about the dangers of going past the barriers. We stayed on the safe side of the barriers. Glaciers are dangerous to take an unguided walk on...ice can collapse! The guided walks don't start from the same face as the viewing spot. They start from someplace else and they have special equipment.

Lunch at Neve Cafe, Fox Glacier:

My rating: 7/10; Very Good
Great smoked chicken with salad, and a creative thingie with potato, zuchini, kumara (sweet potato?) portobello mushroom, dressing, etc.

Fox Glacier town:

The village of Fox Glacier, from the highway, looks amazingly touristy to me. I was shocked to see how touristy it is, after coming from the natural area surrounding the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki, south of Fox Glacier. There are an amazing number of tourists in the glacier area. It attracts tour buses too. There are so many signs for scenic flights it makes you dizzy. Personally I think the coast south of the glaciers, all the way down to Haast and even south of Haast, is prettier and less crowded than the glacier area!

Lake Matheson:

On a clear day, Lake Matheson is worth a stop even if the wind prevents you from seeing reflections on the water. Unfortunately a lot of other tourists will stop along with you. There is a new cafe right at Lake Matheson. But the sight of Mt. Cook, in the distance beyond the lake, is gorgeous on a sunny day.

I got a photo I love with grazing cows, and Mt. Cook in the background! An intriguing combination. Right near Lake Matheson.

We were glad that we walked along Lake Matheson, as it was beautiful even though it was too breezy to see reflections.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2007, 11:55 PM
  #88  
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West Coast to Queenstown Drive:

It was sad to leave the Wilderness Lodge as it was nearly the end of our trip. But the drive from the west coast, through Haast Pass, to Queenstown is wonderfully scenic. It was another beautiful sunny day, and we got some great photos.

We stopped for a tasty pre-wrapped sandwich and a generous scoop of ice cream at a roadside cafe along the 6 highway in Makarora near Haast Pass. There are 2 roadside cafes down the road from each other in Makarora. One of them has better pre-wrapped sandwiches, and big scoops of ice cream. You can easily stop at both and have a look at the sandwiches in the case and you will see which one you prefer. The one we chose is more popular with the bus tours as well, but the service is friendly and efficient. They have a lot of pre-made wrapped sandwiches, and they replenish them quickly when the buses come through. They taste very fresh and are a good price. I loved the hokey pokey ice cream, and I had a scoop on both of our scenic drives, as we passed through the Haast area on 2 different days! (Mt. Cook to west coast drive, and west coast to Queenstown drive.)

Last Night in Queenstown:
Browns Boutique Hotel


I have already previously reviewed our last night's hotel, Browns Boutique Hotel in Queenstown. For the price I was disappointed. It is a nice place, with a hard-working kind staff, but I felt it was over-priced, our room was small for the price, and our shower door leaked water onto the floor. The good part was that it is near the gondola so we had time to take the gondola up for a great view before we flew out of Queenstown our final morning!

If they fix the leaky shower door in room 10, it would help a lot. I also think the price is a little high for the size of the room. I suggest that they stop offering free wine and beer in your mini-frig, and cancel the breakfast, as there are lots of places in town for breakfast...and that way they could probably afford to lower the price a bit and fix the shower door.

Flying out of Queenstown:

We flew Air New Zealand from Queenstown to Auckland, and WHAT A VIEW! The fantastic view made up for the scenic flight which we hadn't had time to take. Our flight left around 3:00 pm. Stunning, jaw-dropping views of Mt. Cook from our window on the right side of the plane! >< White snow, rugged mountains; a few scattered whisps of white cloud, WOW. Blue and blue-green...were those lakes? Incredible...where clouds are thicker it looks like a frothing sea has been frozen in time between the mountain range. The mountains live, they breathe, they remember the history of the land. They hold their secrets. This is the glory of God...this is our higher power, whatever we believe.

I will return to New Zealand. Mt Cook beckons again and again. Fiordland is a glorious place. The southwest coast boasts a beautiful rainforest and deserted beaches. The peace of the wild, natural southwest coast really suits me. So long, New Zealand....but NOT goodbye.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 12:15 AM
  #89  
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THE END

And you thought this trip report would never end! Actually I think I didn't want it to end, because I was reliving all our trip highlights. (Thank you to anyone who has actually read down this far! I hope it helps somebody else.)

ishki: That is great that you also celebrated your 25th anniversary in New Zealand! Enjoy your upcoming trip. If you stop at the tuatarium in Invercargill, let me know how Henry is getting along with his new girlfriend. (Henry the determined bachelor has refused to mate with the ladies and tries to bite them.) Yes, I am talking about Henry the tuatara! Let us know about The Croft when you return...I heard that is a good place. I agree, you can never get enough of those mountain vistas. Enjoy!

okoshi2002: I think it's great your family can check out the Otago University together with your daughter. I thought Dunedin was a pleasant university town...and she can also travel around and see the south island from there! Let us know what she decides.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 12:22 AM
  #90  
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I forgot to mention that after we flew from Queenstown to Auckland, we then flew from Auckland back to LAX on Air New Zealand, and drove home from there.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 09:16 AM
  #91  
 
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Thank you Melissa for taking the time to tell us about your New Zealand trip. I have enjoyed reading about your adventures. My husband and I leave a week from tomorrow! We are spending two nights at Christchurch and five nights at Queenstown (with some day trips planned to other areas). I am very excited, but I am also in a "Kiwi Panic" as I prepare for our trip! =) Grandparents will be staying with our daughters while we are away. So part of my anxiety is leaving them behind and wanting everything to go smoothly at home. Take Care.
MarsBars is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 11:39 AM
  #92  
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MarsBars, how well I remember those times when my husband and I left the kids with grandparents and flew off somewhere. Promise yourselves at least some time when you won't be talking about the kids! Take solace in the fact that you will be even better parents when you return, as you will miss the kids and you will realize more than ever what a blessing they are, since you are going to have a much-needed break from them!

Queenstown is a wonderful base for 5 days. Are you going to rent a car? There are so many great day-trips from Queenstown. And good food in town too!

When you return do tell us about Christchurch too. We couldn't fit Christchurch in on this trip. I think we saw it on the first whirlwind trip, but we spent so little time in each place on that first trip that I can't remember a lot of places we saw!

Enjoy!
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 01:13 PM
  #93  
 
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Hi Melissa - I am glad you shared your experiences and I enjoyed that for a time our trip reports intertwined.

Obviously your return journey was much longer than my 3 hrs back to Sydney.

And now for Europe eh?? I will be going again late this year or early 2008(spring)and will go to LA first(my father now lives 2 hrs out of LA) then NYC then who knows but certainly Poland.

angelnot1 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 02:08 PM
  #94  
 
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It has been great reading your (and angelnot1's) trip reports. Brings back so many neat memories. All of your detailed planning seems to have paid off with a successful trip.
As they say, "Good on ya, mate!"
PS: Old ice from Fox Glacier is about 1,000 years old. Supposedly does wondrous things for old scotch. However, it didn't taste any different to me either.
BillJ is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 02:32 PM
  #95  
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Angelnot1, yes, it's been fun watching our trip reports unfold at the same time! Yes, our return journey was long...first we flew Queenstown to Auckland, with wonderful views. Then we flew Auckland to LAX non-stop, 12 hours. The time goes fairly fast on Air New Zealand as they have the individual screens with movies on demand...you can even pause your movie and rewind! (Of course it took me about 2 hours to figure out how to do that!

angelnot1, I love starting to plan a new trip just when I am feeling sad about the previous trip being over! Who knows, maybe someday we will be writing Poland trip reports at the same time! I have one question on the Poland forum, and will add many more...as soon as I can finish my reading about Eastern/Central Europe. I will look for your trip report after you visit Poland again!

BillJ: Good on ya, mate! I like that...though I'm not sure what it means, it sounds good. I think I am glad my husband didn't make me taste the 1,000-year-old ice! Thanks for hanging in here with angelnot1 and I... I did get a bit...ummm...wordy!!! Now that I have printed out my own trip report I can say that I've finally written that novelette...

Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 02:33 PM
  #96  
 
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This was an incredible amount of work. Thanks so much for sharing. My son just moved to Wellington for at least a year to get his master's at Victoria Univesity. We hope to be heading there in December or January. I went on to a lot of your links to get information to save for our adventure.
AprilinParis is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 03:11 PM
  #97  
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AprilinParis, you mean...this was an incredible amount of play! Yes, it was a lot of work...but I happen to love both travel and writing, and they do go together so well! Enjoy planning your adventure in New Zealand. December or January will be NZ summer as I'm sure you know. This year, they had an unusually cold December. I think I might cross my fingers and shoot for January if you have a choice!

How great that your son will be getting his Masters in New Zealand. It will simply be your duty to visit him!

I'm glad some of the links I included were helpful. I know other people's trip reports have been a great resource for me. I am glad to return the favor.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 12:26 PM
  #98  
 
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What a fabuulous report! One more question: Flying Qt to Auckland were you on the right side of the plane facing fore or aft? Are the views great from either side? I may as well try to get the best view possible. Many thanks. C.
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Mar 11th, 2007, 06:59 PM
  #99  
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gtnz07, thanks! We were on the right side of the plane, assuming you are facing towards the front of the plane, where the pilot sits... We had great views from our window, as we could see Mt. Cook and beautiful mountains and what looked like lakes, flying from Queenstown to Auckland. However, I'm not saying the views from the left side are bad, as we couldn't see what those people were seeing. I did peek over there now and then, and I never felt like their view was better than ours...Hope this helps! I would sit on the same side again. I think we were near the wing, but the wing wasn't in our way. Maybe we were over the wing. Enjoy your flight!
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 08:10 AM
  #100  
 
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Yes, you do want to be on the west side of the plane if possible!
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