New Zealand – Third time around and ready for more

May 26th, 2019, 12:02 PM
  #1  
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New Zealand – Third time around and ready for more

This is an overview of our third trip to New Zealand, so it is in no way the best itinerary for someone’s first trip, or even second. Rather, it is mostly a peek at some of the places we missed the other times around. We traveled from mid-February to mid-March.

Intro to the travelers: My husband and I, both mid-sixties, enjoy hiking with a good meal and nice bottle of wine at the end of the day. Our adult daughter, on sabbatical, traveling solo for a year.



Itinerary:

San Francisco to Queenstown via Auckland

Bannockburn – 3 nights

Queenstown – 2 nights

Glenorchy – 3 nights

Te Anau – 5 nights

Owaka – 2 nights

Dunedin to Auckland

Wyuna Bay – Coromandel – 4 nights

Kerikeri – 6 nights

Auckland – 4 nights





What I would change:I would skip Queenstown altogether save the airport and grocery shopping.
I would not drive to the Coromandel Peninsula, but ferry over from Auckland and stay in Whitianga or rent a car there for further explorations.
I would travel clockwise from Bannockburn in order to end in Queenstown to fly to the North Island, possibly offering better flight options than out of Dunedin.

Where we stayed:

Bannockburn – Bannockburn House – this is a BnB along with a self-catering 2 bedroom cottage. We were very comfortable there, the hosts were great, and I would recommend.

QueenstownHeritage Queenstown – this is a large hotel about 20 minutes walk from the center. As it was a weekend, this is one of the few places I could get a decent rate for the three of us. We were comfortable enough in a suite with a washer and dryer, but hotels are not our preference. We were disappointed that there was no public place to relax and take in the view of the lake. On previous trips we stayed at Villa del Lago – a condominium complex on the lake about twenty minutes walk to the center on a shaded path along the lake.


Glenorchy - We rented a bungalow through Air BnB listed as “Modern Glenorchy Cottage”. It was a cozy, comfortable, clean, well-stocked two bed-room bungalow. While just off the main road, it was screened with trees, and being Glenorchy there was little to no traffic noise. The listing makes it appear to have a view of the mountains, but the greenery blocks this. I believe the greenery separates this property from a one-bedroom listed by the same owner. There is a counter to eat at, but no table. I would recommend, but it may be a bit crowded for 4 people.

Te Anau – Another Air BnB find listed as “Brand New Modern Home – 250 m from Lake Te Anau”. This home is in a new subdivision, less than 5 minutes drive to the center. At three bedrooms it was far more house than we needed, but the space, amenities, and location were great. Access to the lake path was literally around the corner. The brand new sun-filled home looked stage for sale. An outdoor grill would have been a nice enhancement. The owner was extremely nice, and answered all my questions promptly. I would recommend.

Owaka - Yet another Air BnB find listed as “Tiromoana-Catlins Ocean View Accommodation”. High on a hill overlooking the estuary and on out to sea this place is amazing. Again, it was far more room than we needed, but the location was perfect. The kitchen is stocked as if parties are catered there regularly, and if you like lamb, be sure to purchase what is on offer from the farm. The outdoor spa was enjoyed. We were even treated to a working sheep dog demonstration! I would recommend.

Wyuna Bay – Our final Air BnB pick listed as “Absolute Beachfront Upper Apartment”. (There is also a lower apartment.) This pick worked for us, although it is further out of the center of Coromandel town than we realized on narrow, winding roads. The smaller, twin bedroom was quite small and dark. The views over the water are within hands reach, although low tide leaves a view of mud. A quick walk uphill brings you to a view over Hauraki Gulf and the setting sun. I would recommend with the above reservations.

Kerikeri – We booked 88Lodge directly through their site, receiving a discount for the number of nights we stayed. We booked both the suite as a place for the family to gather and one of the smaller rooms. The suite was quite comfortable, the smaller rooms were quite small. The gardens and pool were lovely, the breakfasts were fine. The inn was being put on the market while we were there so I cannot speak to the change in owners. The inn is not in the town center.

Auckland – We stayed as guests at the home of a woman we met on the Milford Track during our first trip to New Zealand. She lives in the Takapuna area, a north shore suburb filled with great restaurants and close to transportation.

Why Bannockburn? We thought it would be nice to visit cellar doors without needing to drive back to Queenstown at the end of the day. In addition, we wanted to check out the bike trail, and we had heard that Queenstown has become a tourist zoo.

Why Queenstown? – It was our daughter’s first time in New Zealand so I thought she should see this beautifully sited city. It is also a good place to provision for onward stays.

Why Glenorchy? – close to great trails and amazing scenery, just a short distance from Queenstown which cuts down on travel time between destinations. We had hiked out of Glenorchy on previous trips, and I decided it would be a great base after reading many trip reports. While there are a few restaurants, I recommend planning to self-cater so that you are not subject to limited hours and menu options.

Why Te Anau? – Fiordland National Park, Kepler Track, natural beauty, access to both Milford and Doubtful Sounds. Having hiked the Milford Track on our first trip to NZ we knew there was more to Te Anau than just a spot for the tourist buses to stop for lunch.

Why Owaka? – the Catlins were one area we had not ventured into previously. We ended up in Owaka because I liked the accommodation that we found. Another choice would have been to break the area up into two one-night stays, which is not our preference.

Why Coromandel? – When we cut our previous trip to NZ short due to a family emergency, our next stop would have been Coromandel. Seemed like a good place to start! The roads on the peninsula are very narrow and winding. While there is tremendous scenic beauty here if you are at all nervous driving on the left side, this peninsula might not be for you. We enjoyed the options in our little town, but for once felt we might have had more options if we had stayed in Whitianga. Our daughter would have preferred being able to head out the door to explore rather than needing to get in the car which was required where we stayed in Wyuna Bay.

Why Kerikeri? – this was a great place to base for our explorations of the Bay of Islands. Many of the things we wanted to do were close by. There is a wide variety of accommodation, and we found excellent restaurants in Kerikeri.

Why Auckland? – I used to feel that Auckland was the place one had to spend the night in order to catch the return flight home. No more. We were able to see the city from a resident’s perspective, plus take in a world class art museum, fantastic restaurants, and nearby island trips.

In my next post I'll list activities and restaurants.
PJTravels is offline  
May 27th, 2019, 07:59 AM
  #2  
 
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Hi PJ -

Along for the ride. Your SI itinerary sounds a lot like a few of ours

We really enjoyed Bannockburn House too - we stayed in the cottage, which I assume you did also?

We were in the small cottage separated from yours in Glenorchy - it was tiny, and while good for a night or two we found it too small for our longer stay. We also had some issues with mildew. Yes, same owners.

Look forward to reading more.
Melnq8 is online now  
May 28th, 2019, 03:23 PM
  #3  
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Melnq8 - I've read all of your reports when planning our trips to NZ, so small wonder the itinerary seems familiar! We did stay in the cottage at Bannockburn House, and took breakfast with the other guests at the inn so it was the best of both worlds. We had booked the cottage in Glenorchy before I read your review of their other property, but the place was spotless and cozy other than the lack of indoor dining space for more than 2 people.
PJTravels is offline  
May 28th, 2019, 05:40 PM
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PJ - figured you might have picked up a few ideas from my TR's given your itinerary - I hope our experiences enhanced yours!

It's been a year since we were last on our beloved SI and reading your report just makes me want to go back again...and again...and again.

I look forward to reading more.
Melnq8 is online now  
May 29th, 2019, 11:28 AM
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Thanks for the detailed information on where you stayed and why.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest!

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 03:23 PM
  #6  
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Continued
Activities and Dining


February 13 - Twenty-four hours from our doorstep to our inn in Bannockburn. The flight was not bad as we got a sweet deal in economy premium plus and were able to sleep. Our equipment had been modified for United’s new Premium Plus service, but it had not yet been introduced as a fare option. We weren’t given the food service for this soon-to-be class, but the leg room and the seat with foot rest are all I cared about. It took quite some time for our bags to arrive by which time the line to declare teabags (plant material), power bars (food), and hiking boots (last used on city streets) was long, but fast. It had been eight years since our last visit to the Queenstown airport, and the build-up was incredible to us. Last I remembered there was a new grocery store, now it is surrounded by shopping centers. We kept hearing about what a traffic nightmare Queenstown has become so we tried hard not to keep mentioning how things had changed.

Our stay at Bannockburn House Cottage was a 45 minute drive away. The cottage was perfect for the three of us. We picked up our world traveling daughter in Cromwell who had been on her own in New Zealand for the past month, and was arriving on the bus from Wanaka. Returning to the cottage to run her month’s worth of laundry we set off for dinner.

The Bannockburn Hotel is walking distance from the cottage, and serves nice meals. While they offer pub style food on the menu, they specialize in shared plates. The shared plates are generously portioned, creative, and all were excellent. The three of us shared boquerones, burrata, chorizo, fish tacos, and a cheese platter along with a Matt Connell Rendition Pinot. We had a laugh when our wine arrived. Ordering wine in the SF Bay area we are used to being asked, “How many glasses?” when dining with our youthful adult children, so upon being asked, “Three glasses?” we responded affirmatively only to be served three glasses of wine, not the bottle. The pours were more than generous, so no harm done. My husband ordered a second glass of wine, Matt Connell Bendigo Pinot. It was a lovely way to begin our New Zealand adventure and celebrate being together with our daughter during her year of international travel.

February 14 – The day dawned gray, chilly and with rain forecast. Is this really Bannockburn where I expected blazing heat? After a tasty breakfast we headed in to Cromwell to tour the Heritage area and walk a bit along the lakeside before heading out wine tasting. We started at Quest, as tasting room where we could sample more of the Matt Connell wines. Conversation there led us to Wooing Tree for their Blondie. It was nearing lunch time, and the place was packed with diners. We sampled the Blondie, purchased a bottle, and headed to our lunch spot.

The Shed at Cloudy Bay, which was recommended by our hosts, enjoys a lovely setting with attractive outdoor seating. By the time we arrived the wind was up, and the rain had begun. They don’t serve cooked meals, but have paired wine flights with a variety of platters. Despite the weather we enjoyed our smoked salmon and meat platters while deciding what to do next. We had hoped to spend some time on the Alexandra bike trail, but by this time the rain was really coming down. We drove into Alexandra, spent a bit of time in the museum for something to do, and headed back to our cottage for naps and reading.

By early evening the rain had stopped so we took a quick walk, and headed back to the Bannockburn Hotel for another lovely dinner of shared plates. This time we enjoyed smoked salmon pate, another burrata (we loved the preparation of this with pine nuts, dice dates, roasted red pepper, and prosciutto), lamb brochette on couscous, chimmi churi steak, and desserts. For dessert we had some of the best ice cream I have ever had – both a chocolate and a salted caramel. A crème catalan was also nice, but paled in comparison for me. This time we ordered a bottle of the Burn Cottage Pinot. We thought our meals here were quite nice. The only quibble would be that they don’t bring serving utensils for the shared plates.

Last edited by PJTravels; Jun 1st, 2019 at 03:24 PM. Reason: line spacing
PJTravels is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2019, 05:44 AM
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Unfortunately Wooing Tree was out of Blondie last time we visited. I hope you made it to Mt Difficulty? Home of our favorite dry Riesling of all time.
Melnq8 is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2019, 10:10 AM
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Melnq8 We skipped Mt. Difficulty this time around, choosing to wave to it on a hike. We do enjoy their wines, although I heard more than one state that the restaurant quality has slipped.
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Jun 2nd, 2019, 10:31 AM
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Yeah, we were a bit disappointed in the food last year, but the wine is still good.
Melnq8 is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2019, 10:35 AM
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Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more and making notes for my own visit to SI later this year.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2019, 04:17 PM
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Continued
February 15 – Our moving day dawned sunny with a pleasant breeze. We opted for hike around the Sluicings with interesting views over the tailings and vineyards. It’s a look at Central Otago I had not seen up close before. It is not a hike for a hot day due to exposure, but the weather was perfect for us.Ceres winery had been recommended to us for nice wines as well as a bit of an art gallery. We enjoyed their Riesling which had a lovely long finish.

By late morning we hit the road toward Queenstown, stopping at Peregrine’s cellar door to enjoy its architecture more than anything. The tasting room was packed with a large, overly perfumed group which meant we couldn’t taste anything if we had wanted to.

The next stop was Arrowtown for lunch. This town attracts plenty of day-trippers, but we were able to find 3 seats on the deck at the Chop Shop which serves lovely, Asian-inspired dishes. We had their Bang, Bang Chicken Salad, a prawn salad, and a beef cheek curry. The portions were generous, and we left happy.

After lunch we took a short stroll long the Anniversary Trail, and then on in to Queenstown and a bit beyond to our hotel, the Heritage, in Fernhill. The hotel was ok. We had a suite, sleeping 3 with a washer and dryer. It was one of the few openings I found for a late summer weekend. Our accommodation of choice in Queenstown is the Villa del Lago – condominiums on the lake.

We walked 15-20 minutes into Queenstown proper which is pleasant enough along the lake. The wharf area was elbow-to-elbow with people lined up waiting to board the evening lake cruises. It turns out that our daughter had spent a few nights in QT early in her trip so we could have skipped this part of the itinerary altogether! We hiked back up to our hotel, and then further up steep Fern Hill to dinner at VKnow. It’s an interesting little place, and our dinners of cod in green curry and a sautéed cod were nice. The George Road Pinot was a highlight. I felt the meal was pricey for the atmosphere, but the preparation was good and it is Queenstown after all.

February 16 – We walked back into town for breakfast at an old favorite, Joe’s Garage. It was a sleepy Sunday morning so we had no problem getting a table. Our fond memories of Joe’s did not disappoint as the food was as good as ever, with ample portions. We had three orders of the Gorgeous George, and two of us ordered it with smoked salmon. It was a hella lot of salmon for a $2 upcharge!

After breakfast we stopped in at the D.O.C. (Dept. of Conservation) to ask about recommended trails. We got advance information about Glenorchy hiking and were waved off the Mores Lake trail for this day due to a marathon and festival happening. We decided on the Mt. Crichton Loop which we have done before, but it is a nice, easy hike with lovely views and a variety of terrain. We returned to the hotel for some time at the smallish pool, although it was a bit cool for a dip.

Dinner was in Queenstown at The Bunker which was a total miss for us, laughably so. The food was very good, the wine list was ridiculously overpriced, the cocktails were watery, the 1970’s music didn’t jive with their romantic concept, and our waiter was a pretentious jerk. Upon being asked if we had any questions, I started to ask about the fish of the day whereupon the waiter turned the pages of my menu back to the start and began reading the set menu details to me. When my daughter ordered a sazerac, he said he had never heard of it. (She ordered a Manhattan.) The Burn Cottage pinot priced at $78 in Bannockburn was listed at $130. They had an interesting selection of ales, but when the waiter opened my husband’s at the table, it foamed all over the empty chair at our table, the table cloth, down one sleeve of my sweater, and into an empty service plate. His response, “They always do that.” Seems to me if that was the case he should have learned to come prepared with a beach towel. When he did pour the beer the glass was ¾ foam. My husband said it was excellent once he was able to get to it. Based on our experience so far we decided to order only one course each. Not being able to sell us the prix fixe our waiter disappeared. We took dessert at Patagonia Chocolates with their second story view up the lake.
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Jun 6th, 2019, 12:43 PM
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Continued
February 17 – Back to Joe’s Garage for more of the same, checked out of the hotel and hit Fresh Choice for self-catering supplies. (Note to self: always need more cheese, crackers, smoked salmon, and chocolate than purchased.)

We headed off to Glenorchy on a beautiful day. Our hostess was cleaning the cottage, but she let us drop our bags and load the fridge. We then walked the lagoon trail in town while waiting to officially check in. Our cottage was clean, well-equipped, and comfortable. The bed was a bit too soft for me, but that is such a personal issue that it is not a knock of the rental. There was a decent amount of cooking equipment, and a reasonable amount of basics in the order of teas, coffee and spices. It came with a washer and a clothes line in the back.

After our walk we spent a lazy afternoon with our Wooing Tree Blondie on the deck in the sunshine where I took my first sand fly bite. They always get me before I know they’re around. I’m highly allergic to the bites. In fact I thought I had an infected blister between my toes until I put two and two together. They do not bother my traveling companions one bit. We took a sunset walk to the lake, and settled in to weigh hiking options for the next day with rain forecast.

February 18 – We were up early for a quick breakfast and lunch making session. With rain in the forecast, the driver was not interested in driving across streams in a low-clearance rental vehicle which eliminated some of our choices. We headed off for the Invincible Mine Track – rated 1 hour, 40 minutes up through beech with a one hour return. This was a fairly realistic estimate. The trailhead is across a fairly decent stream, with no parking, but there is a pull-out for cars just a bit beforehand. Sustained uphills provided occasional openings with views up the Rees River and back down toward the headwaters. The temperature was great for hiking, but it was one of those rain coat on and off again days. We ate lunch standing in the shelter of the beech forest, and then the clouds broke away affording sunny views on the way back down the track.

We arrived back at the cottage for tea and cookies followed by a walk to Queenie’s Dumplings. We shared an order of pork and shrimp dumplings which were delicious, and vowed to plan our future returns before their 4 p.m. closing time. There was more snacking at home – notice a trend? – and the skies opened up. We opened a Matt Collins Rendition pinot for dinner, making a note that we will definitely need to purchase more wine before heading to Te Anau.

February 19 – This day broke windy with lots of rain forecast. We chose the Mt. Judah track as it is close in. It was a steady, gentle uphill to some mining sites. There were nice views across the lake, and even rainbows against the distant hills. There was no variation of terrain once we were in the notch, and the trail became steeper. I turned around about 30 minutes shy of the Bonnie Jean hut as I was concerned about my cranky knees coming down. Our daughter said that the hut had been turned into a display so it was a good thing we hadn’t planned to sit out a storm there.

We returned to Queenies for a late afternoon noodle soup and more dumplings. That filled us up enough to clean out the fridge for dinner accompanied by a Ceres Reisling which proved a bit too sweet for my taste with a nice, long finish. It poured rain. Due to the weather and reluctance to drive to certain trailheads we missed trying many of the tracks I have read about. We have hiked this end of the Routeburn before and recommend the first section as a day hike, but I knew my knees couldn’t handle it this time. We’ll need to return to Glenorchy if we make it back to New Zealand for a 4th trip.
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