New Zealand Trip report part 1 of ? Dec 2006

Old Jan 6th, 2007, 12:03 PM
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GP
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New Zealand Trip report part 1 of ? Dec 2006

Background information
Our trip was from December 10th to the 30th of 2006. I am 54 and my wife Amy just turned 50. This trip was for her birthday and I was glad she chose New Zealand. This was not designed as a budget trip. I planned this trip over 11 months using lots of Google searches, the travel forums at TripAdvisor and Fodor’s. (I am also posting this over there) I brought four guide books Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Frommers and Fodor’s. The most time we could get off from work was three weeks. In the early planning stages it became clear to see everything New Zealand has to offer we needed more time or less places, as we are outdoor types and my hobby is plant ecology, we decide to just focus on the south island. We ended up with 20 days on the south island. The plan was Dunedin 3 nights, Catlins 2 nights, Te Anau 4 nights, Queenstown 2 nights, Nelson 3 nights and out on the Able Tasman Tract at the Awaroa Lodge 4 nights.
Day 1 Travel to Eureka to Dunedin (ACV to SFO, SFO to AKL, AKL to DUD)
We left Eureka to San Francisco in the pouring rain on 12-10-2006 .Our scheduled departure on United express was 9:41am but with the rain both at ACV and SFO we were delayed 2 hrs. The night before I knew this was going to happen so I had rebooked my 3:14pm flight to 9:41am. Turns out my original 3:14 flight was delayed 2 hours to and we would not have made the connection to air New Zealand. It took us at a very slow pace a little more than an hour to get to our gate in the International terminal. You might make it if you ran and had 30 minutes but you really need 45. Another twist is any one using a code share must show their passports and get new boarding passes from ANZ. It is a 12 and a half hour flight from SFO to Auckland. Thanks to xanax I got 5 or 6 hours of sleep. We cleared customs and took a slow walk with all our luggage to the domestic terminal, that took about an hour. You could make it quicker if you had to but 30 minuets might not be enough time to make this connection. Auckland to Dunedin is about 2 hours flying time. Arrived in Dunedin picked up our luggage and took a taxi ($70 NZ) to the Abbey Lodge arrived there 10am local time. (30 hours travel time from Eureka airport.) Where we will spend the next 3 days. We had reserved their executive suite ($300 NZ). The room was great. It included a large living room with a separate bedroom with a king bed and single bed. The living area had refrigerator, hot plate, microwave, a fold out sofa, large entertainment center DVD, cd, jet spa bath and shower even a small extra toilet. There was bar and restaurant on site. Pool and hot tub. We enjoyed our stay and would go back. On the down side the hotel is located away from central Dunedin ($7.00 NZ taxi to the Octagon) and is right by the college so the neighborhood consist of students living in the flats and houses. There is a rather large college bar across the street and my guess it could get noisy but we were there just after the end of the semester and school year and the students were gone. The on site restaurant was not too good but the bar offered a free drink social hour. M-Th.. One great plus was that the motel was steps away from the Dunedin Botanic Gardens.

Day 2 Dunedin The weather was sunny and warm. We were not as jet lagged as we thought we were going to be. So after checking in we took a short walk over to the gardens. What a find this place was. In late spring most everything was in bloom and we ended up spending several hours wandering the immaculate well tending grounds. An added bonus was all the songbirds. There is a small café called Croque-O-Dile overlooking the duck pond a choice people watching spot. The café offered sandwiches and crêpes so we had lunch. ($25 NZ for two with soft drinks) Amy can be picky about her food but she was raving how good her crêpes was. We went back for breakfast a couple of days later. We had dinner at the motel and though it was convenient the food was forgettable. However it was our first interaction with the locals. We were the only Americans there that night and boy are the New Zealanders friendly. We were engaged in several conversations and a wonderful time was had by all. We collapsed in our bed around 10pm.

Day 3 Otago peninsula via Elm wildlife tours. WOW!!!!!! Exceptionally great! We give our highest ratings and recommendations for this company and tour. We scheduled a private tour ($500 NZ lunch include) our guide Shawn picked us up at the lodge at 11am. We returned 7 and half hours later with memories and photographs that will be with us till we die. You can opt for several less expensive tours that are probably good, but we had a private tour just us, Shawn, the wildlife and views. Shawn and Elm wildlife tours are passionate about the Otago peninsula and the conservation of the Yellow eyed penguins. Shawn was well versed in the birds, plants and geology of the area and was able to communicate his passion to us. Having someone drive us on these narrow roads left us the time to take in the wondrous vistas. We made numerous stops to observe and photograph the scenery and birds. We stopped at the Albatross Colony for their tour and a wonderful lunch both included in cost of the tours. The lunch of sole the highest priced item and a couple glasses of wine would have been $45 NZ food was very good. We even got to see albatrosses flying. After that the real fun started. Elm leases land from private land owners and work under a permit by the DOC so we had access to private lands and a private beach where Hector sea lions, New Zealand fur Seals and yellow eye penguins live. We were in a 4 wheel drive vehicle like a Toyota rava and took advantage of it’s capabilities to transverse steep, velvet greens, sheep covered hills down to the beach.
Here were 3 different hides for penguin viewing and we were not disappointed. We lost count of the number of penguins we saw. There were was penguins coming out of the ocean, going into the ocean, climbing the cliffs, in their nests. It was outstanding. Afterwards we got some up close views of Sea lions on the beach. We had been on the tour now for about eight hours and Shawn asked if we wanted to do more! Amy and I agreed we had had enough. So we returned to the lodge via Baldwin street the “steepest street in the world”
After a quick shower we headed out (by taxi) to the Reef for dinner. we ordered mussels and prawns as an appetizer and the blue cod entree along with a couple bottles of wine the bill came to $125 NZ. After dinner we walked a few blocks to the Octagon it was about 10pm and the bar scene was starting to jump went into 2 bars that both featured live music and no cover. We were the oldest people in there. We had a night cap danced to and old Men at Work tune and caught a cab home.

Day 3 Amy learns to drive. We rented a full size car from New Zealand rental car.for 8 days took all of the insurance we could and it came to $768 NZ This part of the trip scared Amy the most, as she was dreadfully afraid of driving in New Zealand. After we got the car Amy insisted on going back to Croque-O-Dile for more crepes. It was excellent the second time. Our first driving trip was up to Moeraki to see the boulders. We planed to make a full day of it by driving the backroads along the coastto stop at the many beaches along the way. Amy got the hang of driving quickly although I could tell she was still quite nervous. Anyway the weather was still nice and we visited many beaches had a picnic lunch at Shag point where we spotted another penguin. If you go the boulders as a destination you might be disappointed because really they are just round rocks on a beach but as an endpoint of a nice drive up the coast with other stops it was all good. For dinner we took a cab to Speight’s Ale house $11.50 NZ. Amy had the filet of beef (she said it was on the tough side) I had the rib eye. We bot had cheese cake, a bottle and two glasses of a great pino called Wanka Road 2004 bill was $125 NZ

Day 4 Into the Catlins
We had a rented a bach down in porpoise bay for two nights so we stocked up with supplies, a chilly bin and groceries before heading out south on the scenic southern highway. We were taking our time, stopping along the way. We stopped for lunch at the Point at Kaka point $25NZ before heading out to Nugget point. We also made a stop at Purakaunui falls, well worth the short walk. We had rented a three bedroom house at porpoise bay for $120.00NZ a night. I found this on a websearch. Right on the beach not fancy, no TV or phone, but one terrific view. We cooked our sole dinner washed down with a bottle or two of wine and hit the sack.

Day 5 We explored the catlins forest today. We hiked to McLeans Falls, around Lake Wilkie and Curio bay. We had one of the best dinners in all of our time in New Zealand at the Niagara café. I had rack of lamb Amy had thesea food chowder we shared a bottle of wine and two deserts $120NZ The food here was outstanding and this place is in the middle of nowhere. All I can figure is that a well trained French chef is in the witness protection program out here. We fell asleep to the sounds of the waves and the calls of the blue penguins. To be continues as we head to Te Anau and the sounds of Doubtful and Milford.

I’ll be happy to answer any questions just post here I’ll be around

GP
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Old Jan 6th, 2007, 03:38 PM
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Enjoying your report GP - keep it coming!
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Old Jan 6th, 2007, 09:42 PM
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Terrific trip report, GP! I'm looking forward to reading the rest.

Lee Ann
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Old Jan 7th, 2007, 03:14 PM
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We also enjoyed Dunedin and our (group) tour with Elm Wildlife tours.

Can't wait to read more!

Liz
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Old Jan 9th, 2007, 12:43 PM
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Great report - please continue and add you next part to this thread so that it is easily found again.
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Old Jan 12th, 2007, 12:35 PM
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Part 2 will be out tomorrow 01-13-07 work got in the way of my report!

Have Fun
GP
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Old Jan 15th, 2007, 02:58 PM
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Old Jan 17th, 2007, 01:56 PM
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Wonderful report. As my trip is coming up in March I am anxious for your next installment. Thanks. Chris
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 09:28 PM
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So glad you enjoyed New Zealand (Aotearoa - Land of the Long White Cloud).

I'm from the North Island.

Merv
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Old Jan 26th, 2007, 11:56 PM
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GP, I have been enjoying your trip reports. You gave Amy a great birthday present! I notice you bought 4 guidebooks. Did you bring them all with you? Which ones were most helpful for consulting while you were actually in NZ, as far as choosing meals and activities and practical info?

I have Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Fodors, AAA, and Eyewitness Travel NZ guidebooks. I have been consulting them all for home planning.

But I don't want to bring them all to NZ! I have booked all our accomodations so I would mostly need 1 or 2 of them in NZ for restaurants and site-seeing...descriptions of where to find public beaches, etc.

Thanks for sharing with us! Great reports. =D>

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Old Jan 27th, 2007, 08:34 AM
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For future readers here is the link to part 2 of this report

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads..._name=GP&fid=3
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Old Jan 27th, 2007, 01:27 PM
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Hi Mellisa5

I did not bring any guide books with me. I brought a laptop instead and my notes. I did find myself saying boy I could use Lonely Planet about now. The final part of my trip report should be out tomorrow 1-28-07 I hope.

Have Fun
GP
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