NZ Trip Report

Reply

Mar 4th, 2018, 07:44 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 31
NZ Trip Report

Days 1-2

I will try to post as I go along--hopefully some of this will be helpful

Our flight to Auckland--nonstop from Houston--was the best international flight I've ever taken. The crew were delightful and helpful, and the aircraft (a 787 dreamliner I believe) was amazingly comfortable. We had ponied up for premium economy on the advice of friends that make this trip regularly, and it was VERY MUCH worth the extra $$. These seats have far more room and a leg rest that allows you to recline much more comfortably. We both were able to sleep well on the flight over; nearly a regular night's sleep. I can't believe we've been missing out on this for so many years.

Arrival in Auckland was relatively painless, the wait for customs was a bit long but passport control is fully automated. NZ makes a great first impression with a clean and modern terminal. We did use a travel agency for ground arrangements--contrary to many years of traveling--as we were both so slammed with work last fall that we just could not manage to handle the bookings. (and I had not been able to use all the great advice from Fodorites while working 16 hour days). OTOH, the drive into Auckland was a breeze as we were met by a friendly and very capable driver once we cleared customs. I quickly purchased a local SIM card at the Vodafone booth (there is another, that might be a bit cheaper, but Vodafone booth had fewer in line). Easy peasy, I have a local NZ phone number and data for our 3 week trip.

Arrived at Hotel de Brett for check-in. We had booked the night before to ensure that we could nap and shower on arrival (arrived at the hotel around 7:15 AM). This was expensive, but worth it to us. We showered, had a lovely continental breakfast (fruit, beautiful breads and granola plus yoghurt and terrific coffee), and were ready to go for a full day touring. The weather, despite forecasts, cooperated with no rain and sun by the end of the day.

Our walk to the harbor was great fun as there were crowds heading to a race being held that day, starting near the harbor. Many nationalities and most dressed in what looked to be team colors. The walk to the harbor down Queen's street is a great introduction to modern Auckland, and offered good views and appreciation of Auckland's lovely, water-bound setting, and mix of ferries and commercial, container piers.

From there we grabbed a cab to the Auckland War museum, which proved a great move as that is quite an uphill trek. Our taxi travelled up Parnell Street through that very charming neighborhood, and at the museum we were entranced by terrific views of the harbor and close-in islands. I highly recommend this as a way to get the layout of the city. Then, inside, we were overwhelmed with both quantity and quality of the Maori exhibits inside. Most of the first floor of the museum is devoted to these and they are stunning. Since we won't be visiting Wellington on this trip we were fortunate to see such a large collection of Maori art, many dating from the 18C and a few before that. The museum offers a Maori cultural performance, which we very much enjoyed (additional fee, fyi). This involved dancing, singing and explanations by six Maori young people. After the show one of the young women told me that they are from the same family, and grew up with these traditions. It is touristic, I guess, but we found it interesting and fun.

Not quite at overload yet, we went up to the two other floors of the museum, devoted to natural history (fascinating on geology, fauna, etc) and to New Zealand's war-time experiences. The latter were affecting--particularly, for me, those that covered WWI. I had read many times about the disastrous Gallipoli campaign and the eyewitness accounts included in those exhibits evidenced that tragic loss. There is a section which appeared to be a reference library for local families which was also quite impressive.

So far so good--we decided to walk back down to the hotel via Parnell St. We had spotted the Anglican Cathedral on our way up and thought it worth further inspection (interesting architecture, the 19 C section looked to be carpenter Gothic). Great stop for coffee along the way, and oh, those views of the harbor! Once we got back to the hotel we checked the fitbit and it recorded that we'd walked about 5 miles so far that day. After a 30 min. nap we were sufficiently revived to walk up to the Auckland Art Gallery. The highlights of that collection for us were several contemporary NZ artist's works (particularly the very large mural by, I think I remember correctly, John Pule), and the early 20C Maori portraits by David Goldie. The latter are sympathetic and impressive, accompanied by photographs of the period of Goldie and several Maori chiefs and chieftesses.

Hotel de Brett had offered us each a complimentary drink at the charming bar where we met our local tour operator to review our land arrangement details and vouchers. The local agent was a very well-travelled local New Zealander and she shared some great additional tips for local views, cafes and side trips. Will post as we go along what we found.

I had booked us into Sugar Club at Sky Tower for the first night's dinner. This is not cheap, but oh what a great meal and the views, at sunset, were just stunning. A reservation also included complimentary access to the Observation Deck which is well worth it as it gives 360 degree views of Auckland skyline with some graphics to explain key sights (buildings or islands). We ordered a fantastic NZ pinot noir and each had a four course tasting menu (our pick of courses). The standout was the crawfish linguini--a stunner with saffron sauce, equally as good as many crawfish dishes we've enjoyed in New Orleans. Also, the venison dish was amazing. I've never had venison that was both tender and light. Terrific.

We walked back to the hotel and despite good intentions of watching a DVD, both were asleep immediately The hotel is small, stylish, well-located and the staff are helpful. Our room is comfortable and the bathroom is particularly impressive with both a tub and a shower. By international standards, I'd call the rate fair, but not a deal. I think you are paying for the superb location as well as very nice facilities.

Tomorrow we are off to Napier for wine and Art Deco architecture. Will post more later. (Hope this is not too long, I've included a lot of detail to help others planning)
Nntexas is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 4th, 2018, 10:01 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,361
Nntexas -

When I saw this post I thought, no way, they're back already? Glad to hear that's not the case!

Which airline did you fly? I flew Air NZ in Premium Economy from NZ to Australia three days after they commenced flights on the Dreamliner - it was wonderful. We'll be flying them again next month from CA to Auckland in Premium Economy (and we've put in One Up Bids for Business Class, fingers crossed).

You sure got a lot of bang for your buck on your first day! Count me in for the ride.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 4th, 2018, 10:57 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,113
Wow! What a way to hit the ground running! Auckland does indeed have a beautiful setting with its harbor and surrounding volcanoes. If you haven't done so and have the time still, take a ferry over to Devomport and head up one of the two volcanic hills for even more gorgeous views of the city and harbor.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 5th, 2018, 02:05 AM
  #4
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 31
Melinq8--Yes, we flew Air New Zealand. Great airline. Gosh I hope you are successful with your bid for business class. Will be interested to hear what you think of the difference.

Tripplanner, thx for the suggestion re. Devomport. We will be back in Auckland at the end of the trip and hope to take a ferry to Waiheke then. Not sure we'll be able to do two ferry trips.

Will post more about our trip out of Auckland to Napier today. It was a long drive, but we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery, and our brief stops in Tirau, Rotarua and Huka Falls.
Nntexas is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 5th, 2018, 03:24 AM
  #5
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,113
Glad you will be able to visit Waiheke Island. It's close to Auckland but feels very far away - and oh so tranquil.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 6th, 2018, 03:00 AM
  #6
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,599
Thanks for reporting back so soon! You really captured Auckland's cultural vitality. My guess is you caught the start of the Ports of Auckland Round the Bays race.

I agree, the Auckland Museum's Maori collection is outstanding. I think of the Maori traditional performance (or "kapa haka") as a living complement to the Maori galleries. When I first visited the museum 21 years ago, the Maori performance took place right in the gallery and there was no extra charge. They might have not even been an admission charge for the museum back then.

I enjoy the Auckland Art Gallery, too, though I think admission for international visitors is a little steep ($20). I like your tastes in art. I love John Pule's art! His monograph Hauaga sits on my coffee table and I own one of his limited edition lithographs. He was born on the island nation of Niue, but moved to NZ when was 2 (between 90–95% of Niuean people live in New Zealand). The museum's Goldie and Lindauer portraits are true classics.

Looking forward to reading about Napier. I get the feeling we'll be reading about more fine dinners!

Last edited by Diamantina; Mar 6th, 2018 at 03:02 AM.
Diamantina is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 6th, 2018, 11:53 PM
  #7
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 31
Diamantina, I think we must be soul sisters

Posting Days 3-5 now. Fair warning, this will (I think) be long and I may digress.

We picked up our rental car at Hertz the day after our arrival. We had slept fairly well the night before (no doubt due to the fantastic food and bottle of wine at Sugar Club the night before. Hertz in town is an easy cab ride from the hotel and it was a painless, no-wait rental. What did we all do before Google? I remember many trips where I was the navigator, consulting maps (I confess I still love a paper map), but getting confused and hence having a difficult time leaving a big city. This was a breeze and we were soon out of town; luckily we were heading opposite the traffic direction, South, towards our destination of Napier. Yes this was a long drive. When I originally booked our air tickets in October, Air NZ was offering a good price on the flights within NZ so I took a guess (based on a quick consult to all of you and your good advice here), and booked our interior flights. With what I know now, I would have booked a flight from either Napier or Wellington to South Island, and paid up for the one-way rental. But whatever, we very much wanted to see Napier/Hawke's Bay, hence the long drive.

The route south is not bad and we stopped at Tirau, about 2 hours out of Auckland, to stretch our legs. What a fun small town! Apparently the native art is making massive "sculptures" using corrugated metal. There is a pig, a sheep and a cow, plus a prophet. Great fun. And many cafes are there as well as a fantastic ice cream shop. Onwards we went to Rotorua for the second stop. I very much wanted to see St. Faith's Anglican church, which is a bit North of the center of town and on the lake, because I had read about its interior largely being carved by Maori parishioners. Amazing, really, to see this art within the church. The pulpit, in particular, as well as the pew ends and interior columns, date from early 20C. A nearby chapel has a clear glass panel with an etching of Christ--the effect is of Him on top of Lake Rotorua. Very moving. Opposite the church is a Maori meeting house--and much evidence nearby of the volcanic activity with "gassy" rocks. Also nearby is a cemetery for veterans of various wars...all in all this was a memorable stop. We briefly visited the Government house and nearby rose gardens before heading onwards to our final stopover of the day--Huka Falls. The latter is justly famous with its blue/green roiling waters. It is a quick walk to see the falls.

After this we headed on to Napier, our stop for the evening. The road from Taupo to Napier goes through some tall mountains and high alpine meadows (over 700 meters for quite a while). It is remote, and at times challenging driving but we were fortunate that the weather cooperated. We arrived at our hotel, County Hotel of Napier. What a disappointment that property is. I could not believe that it has been awarded a Tripadvisor "Certificate of Excellence" as the interior was quite tatty and the staff dispirited at best. We had been booked for two nights but immediately searched for another option. Luckily we found one, but in an effort to be fair to the hotel, we stayed one night advising them of the second nights's cancellation. As I write we are still disputing that refund with the hotel despite our advising them well within cancellation time of 5PM and the commitment of the staff that evening to provide us a refund for the one night. It just proves that it is very hard to believe online reviews. Probably the subject of another post--i.e., how hard it is to evaluate other folks' opinions of a hotel or restaurant. So many people are content with a reasonably ok place, but for me, the hotel or lodging is such a large part of the trip, and while I don't require glitz, I do want a place that is well kept. Anyway, we decided to make lemonade out of lemons and did enjoy the Art Deco architecture in the town, and had a decent, though not notable, meal at Emporium restaurant in town.

After our early dinner we happened upon the local Napier theater, and on a lark, attended the show that night--a Michael Jackson "history" tour. What a blast that was--the band, the headliner (who looks remarkably like MJ), and the dancers. The audience seemed to be a good cross-section of locals, including some younger children sporting Michael Jackson hats and gloves. The show definitely helped assuage our disappointment in the hotel.

The following day our strategy was to visit a few vineyards early so we could get to the new hotel early enough to enjoy the pool while the weather was still decent. The first vineyard, Te Mata, proved to be our favorite. The winery itself is charming, and the wines are, honestly, amazing. My husband is the oenophile and hard to impress, and he was very impressed. Te Mata is family owned and run, and our guide was one of the great-granddaughters of the founder, who was so knowledgeable and warm--what a treat it was to learn more about the wines and the area from her.

After that we drove almost around the corner to another family-owned, though more recent, winery--Craggy Range. Again amazing wine and our guide, Matthew was incredibly generous with information and wine pours. Both of us were so impressed with how much more personal and unique the approach to wine tasting is in Hawkes Bay. Just wow!

After two such lovely visits we decided to decamp to the new hotel to enjoy the pool and relax. Mangapapa was a revelation--an exemplar of a perfect country house hotel. Without exception, the staff impressed us with their warmth and knowledge. Mangapapa won an award for best renovation recently, which managed to update the historic house while maintaining the historic flavor of the house. Our room was so comfortable, attractive and well designed. What a difference a day makes!!! We both enjoyed the pool and a massage, as well as some of the other guests. Dinner was equally revelatory--especially the salmon starter and the lamb "two ways" (which included a lamb croquette). I would highly recommend Mangapapa, and Hawke's Bay is on my wish list for a return visit, when the weather might cooperate enough so we can see the gannett colony nearby

Today we enjoyed a fantastic breakfast, then drove up to Taupo after stopping at Mission Estate and "Eskvalley vineyard for additional wine tastings. Both were good, but neither matched Te Mata or Craggy Range.

Today we enjoyed the small Taupo Museum and a catamaran boat ride on Lake Taupo to see the (modern) Maori rock carvings. We were fortunate that the heavy rains stopped during our boat trip! Our meal tonight was also accomplished--at Plateau--in town. The oysters and steak in particular were notable. Our hotel here--Acacia Cliffs Lodge--is modern and stunning with incredible views of the lake. Our room has a balcony overlooking the lake, but unfortunately, the ubiquitous rain prevented our using it.

Sorry if this is a bit long today....
Nntexas is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 7th, 2018, 06:05 AM
  #8
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,361
Nntexas -

Please don't apologize for the length - I for one, love the details.

<< Both of us were so impressed with how much more personal and unique the approach to wine tasting is in Hawkes Bay. Just wow!>>

I think you'll find this is the case for most of New Zealand (as well Australia). I don't know what your comparison is, but if you've ever been wine tasting in CA, WA or OR, you can't help but be wowed at its polar opposite! Oh, how I miss the wineries of NZ and AUS.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 7th, 2018, 03:11 PM
  #9
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,113
I too enjoy the length of your report; it gives me enough texture to better appreciate the places you visit and the experiences you have. Agree with you on the hotels and glad you were able to find something better quickly.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 8th, 2018, 02:51 AM
  #10
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,599
Your report is not long at all. It's just right.

"I think we must be soul sisters"
Maybe! Because I like your tastes in wine, too. Craggy Range and Te Mata were also among our Hawkes Bay favorites, though, unfortunately, we didn't find Te Mata too friendly, nonetheless we bought a bottle of their Coleraine. If you liked Hawkes Bay, I think you'll love the Central Otago wine region.

I googled "Tirau". Those giant sculptures are delightful.

You got lucky with your timing. The Taupo-Napier highway was closed today due to flooding and slips (though it might have re-opened by now):
Weather: School evacuated, Napier-Taupo road closed as rain douses Hawke's Bay - NZ Herald
I hope the weather improves for the South Island portion of your trip. It was beautiful (and dry) down south today.

Melnq8, I don't think you've been to California's Anderson Valley wine region in Mendocino County. You'd probably enjoy it. It has nothing like the crowds or tour buses of Napa.
Diamantina is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 8th, 2018, 04:39 AM
  #11
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,361
Good to know Diamantina, I'll keep that in mind should we return to CA.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 8th, 2018, 03:24 PM
  #12
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,599
Nntexas, neglected to mention in my last post: since you're foodies, it's not only the season for Bluff oysters, but also for feijoas, a South American fruit that Kiwis have made their own. You might want to try feijoa while you're here, they're tart and a bit like guavas, but often appear in drinks and desserts. Also, when driving from Blenheim to Nelson, you'll pass through Havelock, the green lipped mussel capital of the world. You mentioned in your other post that you don't usually break for lunch, but this would be a good spot to share a bowl of mussels (that is, if you like mussels) as this is about as fresh as they get. Or you might just want to stop to snap a photo of the Mussel Pot's colorful roof.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeands...-world-to-love
https://www.newzealand.com/my/articl...-of-the-world/

Melnq8, if you ever make it to Anderson Valley, avoid holidays and weekends. The Mendocino Coast is lovely, too, and the coastal redwood forests of Humboldt County are just north of it.
Diamantina is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 8th, 2018, 09:44 PM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 31
Diamantina, wow, so glad we missed the slides on the Napier/Taupo road. There is some challenging driving on that section of the road, but the high alpine meadows are quite beautiful. I will look for the green lip mussels--another friend of ours has highly recommended them.

Interesting to hear that you were not warmly received at Te Mata--we had the opposite experience, with lengthy chats with one of the younger family members as well as her grandfather, whom I presume is now paterfamilias.

We are in Hamner Springs tonight, which is a charming alpine village not far from Christchurch. We took in a couple of the Waipara wineries on our way here (Waipara Springs and Black Estate). These were fun, but the wines are not quite as good as Hawke's Bay wineries that we visited. We are drinking some Chardonnay from Black Estate now, though, and it is quite good.

Yesterday we drove from Taupo to catch our flight to Christchurch in Auckland, and visited Orakei thermal area nearby. The lakeside setting is quite nice, the trails (most are wooden paths and stairs) are quite well-maintained. We found the local flora (especially the many varieties of farms) nearly as interesting as the various springs, caves and geysers. The cafe on-site attracted a number of local campers; and we were blessed with some welcome sun while there. We also stopped, briefly, at Cambridge on our way north--what a charming town and so quintessentially British, we thought.

Our flight to Christchurch was a bit delayed due to weather, but otherwise uneventful. The drive in to town went through some lovely suburbs, and we settled in to our Hotel, Hotel Montreal, prior to an excellent meal at 27 Steps. The bread there was out of this world, as was my husband's scallop entree. My salad and fish were also good and we had great fun chatting with a fellow diner. The walk around Christchurch was certainly sobering--so much destruction still on the ground and so sad to see the Cathedral still off-limits. On the other hand, the spirit of the locals seems undaunted, and we witnessed the re-opening of one of the small parks adjacent to the River Avon, surely a hopeful sign. There are some very chic shops in town as well, though I had more success here in Hanmer Springs (where it is quite cold and rainy today).

We ventured to the Hanmer Springs pools and springs and very much enjoyed a 30 minute dip in the warmed, mineral water in the "Private" pool area. Our pool had a lovely window overlooking a serene scene of greenery and bonsai. Quite a fun break! Will post later on how we like the restaurant (No. 31).
Nntexas is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 10th, 2018, 01:17 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,599
I'm glad you didn't get trapped by the slips on the Taupo-Napier road, too! I'm enjoying hearing about your meals and look forward to what you thought of No. 31. I've never been to Hamner Springs, as I'm not into hot springs, but maybe it's time I went.

I've heard and read great things about Waipara's Black Estate's wines. We ran into one of Dunedin's top chefs (from Bracken restaurant) about a year ago at one of our local wine shops and he said his current favorite was Black Estate Pinot Noir. In 2017, NZ's Cuisine magazine voted Black Estate's winery restaurant the best in the country. Not been there myself, but I'd like to check it out.
https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/ne...in-the-country

I would have recommended Greystone/Muddy Waters and pretty Pegasus Bay. I've also had some tasty wines from Mt. Beautiful.

We visited Te Mata a long time ago, and, unlike you, we probably weren't served by a family member. If we had been I'm sure we would have felt more welcomed. When we arrived at the winery, the server was already with one couple, so almost ignored us. We'd also just been to Arataki Honey, where staff were super-sweet (I'm not trying to make a joke, they were actually lovely).

I think it's always special when you can have that exclusive wine tasting, one server to a couple. The best experience we had was at Mulderbosch in South Africa's Stellenbosch. We bumbled into the winery after it had closed. Nonetheless, the winemaker, who'd been chatting with his assistant, greeted us warmly and invited to sit down. For the next hour, we all sat around a coffee table, tasting the wines, discussing how they were made, how winemaking was an art, our travel experiences, and the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke (both the winemaker and I were fans of his poetry). We left with a bottle of the chenin blanc, the rosť, and some copies of Rilke's poems.

We also had a great experience at Graham's port house in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal. After having toured Sandeman's with a large group followed by a so-so tasting, we visited Graham's expecting something similar. But we were the only ones who'd shown up for the tour, so we got a private tour, followed by a vintage port tasting for my husband and a tawny port tasting for me, at a table overlooking the Douro River. Memorable! I'm sipping on a Graham's 20-year old tawny tonight.
Diamantina is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 11th, 2018, 01:48 AM
  #15
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 31
Days 5-7
Well we are surfeited with fantastic wine, fabulous food, wildlife and finally, good weather!

No. 31 in Hamner Springs was quite good. The bread course and scallop starters were both lovely. We had mains of pork with apple and a slow cooked lamb shank; both were fantastic. We had an early start the next day so took home the extras that I could not finish which gave DH a good breakfast. The drive to Kaikuro was over some twisting mountain road, with accompanying lovely scenery, but we were sweating whether we would arrive at the Kaikuro airport in time for our fixed wing flight to see the whales. There are some curious sections of the road and a few local airstrips (why? are these vacation spots), plus we saw some antique autos traveling to road rallies. We thought that this road (SR 70, I believe) had suffered from the heavy truck traffic that are diverted to this route while SR! between Kaikura and Christchurch is being fixed.

Our whale watch flight was fantastic. (Wings over Kaikuro, I believe). They show an informative video as well as handing around models of the whales and other marine life before boarding the small plane (in our case 6 adults and a child, plus the pilot). This was a lovely way to a see the whales--we spotted two on our roughly 35 min flight. I've been on whale watch boat cruises before and the flights offer a better, imo, view of the entire majestic whale, as well as fantastic scenery. Our pilot was quite informative as well, pointing us to a roadside van serving the eponymous Kaikuro crayfish for lunch, which proved to be quite nice and a good pick me up before we walked some of the Kaikuro coast track to spot penguins and birds.

On our way to Blenheim we stopped at "The Store" in Kakarengu...charming spot with lovely coffee and quick eats. We arrived at The Vinters Hotel in Marlborough before 5 and enjoyed a welcome happy hour prior to our evening meal at Arbor, which did not disappoint--a very foodie experience which offers the opportunity for a 3 course "surprise" meal (they have christened it, "Just Feed me"). The duck confit was particularly good and the space is charming--close to the hotel as well.

The following day we biked to three vineyards via "Explore Marlborough". Our guide shared insights about the wine-making process, the soils, local viticulture as well as the three spots that we visited. Our favorite, Bladen Vineyards, is family owned with a compelling story about how it started--basically via grit, persistence and hard work from the now 60-something owners. What an admirable group of folks are the Kiwis---hard working, good-humored despite obstacles, and friendly! Add in some wonderful food and wine and we are converts to this charming country.

Dinner that evening was a sublime meal at Hans Herzog Estate. If Michelin were rating NZ restaurants (if they aren't yet, why not this would be a 2 rosette experience, easily. The five course meal with wine pairings was revelatory, superb service and lovely setting. All in all we are feeling very blessed and thank goodness we biked about 5 miles today to work off at least some calories.

BTW, Diamantina, we had both oysters and mussels today, which were wonderful. But still no chance to have the camera (sp?) fruit. I am keeping my eyes peeled.

Last edited by Nntexas; Mar 11th, 2018 at 01:53 AM.
Nntexas is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 11th, 2018, 06:24 AM
  #16
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,361
Assume you mean Kaikoura?
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 11th, 2018, 04:02 PM
  #17
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,599
Nntexas, thanks for the trip update and more tempting restaurant reviews. Sounds you got very fresh oysters! So glad you finally got some good weather. It's been gorgeous over the last few days in south. Ex-Cyclone Hola is raining down on parts of the north, but hopefully will quickly pass. .

My guess would be the airstrips are for planes and helicopters related to farming and agriculture, though they'd also be useful for emergencies, such as emergency medical helicopter landings. But just my guess.
Wings Over Kaikoura sounds like an excellent way of viewing whales while avoiding seasickness. What a good idea.
Did you see penguins on the coastal walk?

Was that the famous Nin's bin you stopped at for crayfish? FYI: In Māori "kai" means food, meal or to eat; "kōura" means salt-water crayfish. Good to hear the crayfish fishery has recovered post-earthquake. Kaikōura is also known for its paua fishery (abalone), which hasn't fared as well. Paua fritters are a popular NZ specialty.

The South American fruit that has made its way into the appetites of Kiwis is feijoa. On their own, they're quite tart.
Diamantina is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 14th, 2018, 02:43 AM
  #18
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 31
Diamantina, the spot we stopped in on the way to the fabulous walk at the end of Kaikoura was a caravan on the side of the road---we'd call it a food truck in the U.S. I don't remember the name...the pilot at Wings over Kaikoura recommended it.

So, picking up, from where I left off, we spent 2 nights outside of Nelson near Mapua. The drive up to Nelson was lovely, we made the detour to drive the Queen Charlotte drive from Havelock to Picton, which offered amazing views and some out of the world spots that indulge one's fantasy of "dropping out" and living overlooking the beach. We did not find Picton particularly prepossessing, though the incredible Shakespeare port just outside of Picton was an incredible sight--huge amounts of lumber being loaded in a very large container ship.

We enjoyed our brief stop in Nelson, particularly the Nelson Cathedral at the top of the hill overlooking the town. Walking down Trafalgar Street was enjoyable, some fun shops though none quite as "arty" as I had hoped for. The drive to our hotel took us through an extensive commercial section; Nelson is quite the commercial/industrial center. We stayed at an amazing place, The Bronte Country Estate, which is situated on the estuary near Mapua, north of Nelson. The inn and gardens are quite lovely, and our cottage was so comfortable and delightfully decorated. We had a super dinner at the inn. The new owners just bought the property in August, and are adding their stamp of style and comfort to the inn. Our view of the estuary from our cottage--watching the tide come in and out--is nearly hypnotic.

We traveled to Abel Tasman for an all-day hike and kayak. The 6.5 km hike gave us some astounding views of the sound and beaches; luckily we started early so at least part of our walk was less crowded. FYI, to anyone heading that way, the direct road to Marahau is closed for "awhile", so you have to travel there via the Kaiteriteri Road.

Our full day hike/Kayak started in Torrent Bay, where we hiked to Bark Bay. Birdsong along the way was lovely--the only downside for me was must the long swinging bridge along the way (I have a bit of acrophobia). The track is quite well maintained and smooth, not too many spots with steep grades. We had a nice lunch on the beach before we got on our two-person kayaks. The weather and bay were nearly perfect--sunny with enough cloud cover to help block the sun, and not a lot of surf. The highlight of the kayak ride was watching the seal cubs playing in a protected inlet at Pinnacle rock...endlessly fascinating to see them dive, cavort and frolic in the protected pools. The folks running the Able Tasman water taxi and the hike/kayak (R&R kayaks) were so talented and flexible--it was incredible to watch them rope up 9 kayaks on the back of the water taxi (if a bit worrying given the tendency of those kayaks to slip and move). We were reminded of the loaded truck seen in the old 60's era TV show, in the c"The Beverly Hillbillies". What a testament to the can-do culture of the New Zealanders!

A quick recommendation for dining at The Boatshed in Mapua--terrific cafe with a charming beachside location--great food and what a setting! (FYI, this is NOT the Boat Shed Restaurant in Nelson, which I believe is still closed after damage during the high tides in Feb)..

From Nelson area we traveled to Punakaiki. We took a slight detour to visit Upper Moutere, a thoroughly charming small town with a lovely cafe, church and local stores. There is a secondary road south of there that intersects with Route 6 west of Nelson-- well maintained and oh the views! The trip to the West Coast on Route 6 through Murchison follows the Buller River, much easier driving than our drive from Taupo to Napier. Outside of Westport the seal pup colony at Taraunga Bay was well worth the detour--we had a great view, again, of the seal pups and their play. We could see the tags on many of the pups (conservationists tag pups depending on where they are born, as well as their gender--we saw mostly "local" pups but a couple originating from further south on the coast). One thing I learned from prior safaris in Africa and Asia is how fascinating it is to watch animals in the wild.

On the drive to Punakaiki, there are two spots where recent washouts of the road were quite obvious. Again, we felt blessed in our timing, as this road was closed to travel very recently. We have been pleasantly surprised with the food at Punakaiki Resort--quite a nice meal and fun international servers. The hotel is fine--spacious room, nice view from the balcony and very close to the famous Pancake Rocks, which were well worth the circuit walk.
Nntexas is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 23rd, 2018, 03:20 PM
  #19
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 31
Picking up from where I left off, I will try to cover a few more of our days before I need to check out of the hotel today.

After Punakaiki, we traveled along the twisty West Coast road towards our two night stop in Franz Josef. The rain cleared a bit and we stopped in Hotikika, which we found to be a charming town. Melinq8, I think, recommended this is an alternative stop if traveling from Nelson/Marlborough down to FJ, and I agree. The town is lively and seemed to be a bit more fun than Punakaiki. There is a small nature center there--The National Kiwi Center-- that houses two kiwis and a tuatara, as well as the giant eels. It was a great spot and quite intriguing to see the kiwis.

From there we headed to FJ with more rain, sadly. Our hotel in FJ (Te Waunui) was quite nice, walkable into town. Despite the rain we did the hike up to FJ glacier, which was well worth it as it shows the raw power of the glaciers. It is not a bad walk, about 1 1/2 hours or so return if you start at the parking area near the start of the hike (outside of town). The next day it cleared enough for a hike around Lake Matheson, though sadly we did not get the "mirror" view of the glaciers given the clouds. No luck with the heli hike that day or the next morning, though it did clear enough for us to see the snowcap on top of the two glaciers. We did venture up to Lake Mapourika--site of former ports and timber hauling operations, as well as atmospheric bird sanctuary. It gives one tremendous respect for the dogged determination of the New Zealand people in building towns and an economy in such a challenging landscape!

Next day's drive to QT via Lake Wanaka was a highlight of the trip. From Haast to QT the scenery, particularly those stunning Lakes (Wanaka and Hawea), was spectacular. We arrived at QT early enough to settle in and have a very good dinner at The Rees's restaurant, "True South". The Rees is nicely located on the lake with stunning views from our room, which was very comfortable indeed.

Our first day in QT was sunny so we walked the lakeside path into QT, via the Botanic Gardens. I'm a rose grower so seeing the specimens in the QT Botanic gardens was a treat. Central QT was busy and a fun walk that day. We met friends for an early dinner at Amisfield Winery--not to be missed if you love interesting cuisine. The presentation of each course was amazing--of note was the dish with a cheese filled truffle concealed in "edible soil". The wines are no slouch either

Will pick up later with the trip to Milford Sound.
Nntexas is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:35 PM.