Thoughts on New Zealand Trip

Old Jan 23rd, 2009, 04:52 AM
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Thoughts on New Zealand Trip

Our visit was 10 nights and 10 Ĺ days. we spent two nights in Wellington, two nights in Nelson, one at Fox Glacier, One in Dunedin, and two in Christchurch. Drove 3300Km or 2115 miles in a Ford Focus stopping for gas twice in Nelson, once on the West Coast, Te Anau, Queenstown, Gore, Dunedin and finally in Christchurch. We were getting about 30 miles to the gallon.

Our accommodations ranged from a nice hotel - Wellington, Holiday Inn; upscale B&B - Fox Glacier, Misty Peaks; and Budget New Zealand chain, Bella Vista Motel - Nelson and Dunedin in king studio and Christchurch in a two bedroom apt. All the places were nice and we would stay there again.

We had breakfast at the accommodations every day. We ate our main meal either at lunch or dinner depending on what was happening, trying various venues: winery restaurant, alehouse, seafood and steak house, Italian Restaurant, local cafes and take out sandwiches, pizza and KFC for picnics! The food was good to very good. We also really enjoyed the local produce and cheeses.

I read lots of things about not trying to cover too much in one day, but we really wanted to do a sampling. We are in our sixties with bad knees that keep us from doing long walks on uneven ground, plus we enjoy driving and site seeing from the car. So with that in mind, we took the ferry from the North Island to the South Island, beautiful trip. Three days we drove between 500 and 600Km each day. It was doable with stops for the over looks and the shorter walks of 30mins, or less, round trip, gas and food. These days started around 9 and ended around 6. We would also do this again if it meant getting from one great area to the next and saving a one night stand somewhere of lesser interest. However if long walks are you thing you will need to slow down...there are many longer walks that looked like they would be really nice.

What can I say, we loved New Zealand! The Wellington area and the South Island scenery and wines are world class! If I were planning this trip again, we would spend our time in three areas, staying in a cottage or nice B&B centrally located in each area: the greater Nelson/Picton area for the wines, crafts and scenery, greater Queenstown area for the wines, food and scenery and the Catlins (Dunedin area) for the scenery. We would stay at least three days or maybe longer in each area and do the long one day drives to get from place to place.

I must say though, that there were several places that we would not make the effort to go back too. First the West Coast, the sand flies are awful and we found the Southern Scenic Route much more interesting with the plus of not being bitten to death when we got out to see something. More importantly none of the cafes and places to stay seem to have A/C and they donít have screens on the windows either! In fact we slept under a net our night there. The second place is Milford Sound. I know most everyone thinks this is a wonderful place. It is very pretty and worth protecting, but just not worth the effort, time and fighting with the sand flies to get there... IF... you have seen the Norway fjords or have been to Alaska or if you are planning to go to either place. Now if you are into trekking and camping that is a different deal and you are looking for a different type of experience then we are. But if you are like us, there are so many other great places on the South Island to visit.

The Spectacular!
Ocean views along the south coast of the North Island and the north and south coast of the South Island
Lakes, rivers and mountain passes

The Interesting.
One lane, two way traffic with or without a train track down the middle!
Poo Wars, farmers underselling each otherís bags of cow or horse sh...!

The Good.
Good well maintained two lane roads with well placed passing lanes
Very well maintained gravel roads.
Speed limits set at least as high if not higher than we could comfortably drive.
Well equipped kitchens in the studios/apartments.

The Complaints!
Very early check-outs...10am.
Poorly marked/located directional signs on roads.
Need more overlooks along the spectacular rivers, lakes, gorges and mountain passes. I took many, many pictures out the front window!

Thanks to everyone who answered my questions over the last year as I planned our trip. We have just finished our visit to New Zealand and are in Australia now. All the input really helped make our visit great.

If you are interested in a day by day report with pictures, we have a blog working for our friends and family.

Please visit
cwn is offline  
Old Jan 23rd, 2009, 07:37 AM
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Thanks, very interesting report. I can second your mention of Bella Vista -- we booked late for our December 2007 trip and were lucky to get into the Bella Vistas in Kaikoura and Christchurch, and were more than pleasantly surprised. They are well located for motorists, and also an easy walk to city centers.

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Old Jan 23rd, 2009, 08:12 AM
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Thank-you! Very interesting. My husband has bad knees too and we like driving. Will bookmark this for our planned trip in November.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2009, 04:05 PM
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cwn -

I just finished reading the SI portion of your blog - wow - you certainly managed to squeeze in a lot in a short time! I can certainly relate to your description of Takaka Hill - I usually end up carsick, but my husband loves driving around all those curves.

Thanks so much for posting, and enjoy the rest of your trip - sounds like a good one.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2009, 09:45 PM
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Thanks for your trip report and observations. We are planning a 4 week holiday in April next year so we are taking in as much information as possible. Interesting thoughts on Milford Sound, we have been on the Norweign Coastal Voyage and also done Norway in at Nutshell, do we need to see Milford? We shall ponder that one.

Your blog was really interesting and I loved all the photo's, at least I was able to say a few times - I've been there! Glad to see that you are heading to my hometown of Perth. I shall keep checking in and see how your holiday is progressing.

Best wishes for the rest of your trip, sounds fantastic.
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Old Jan 24th, 2009, 06:54 AM
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Maudie (and others) --

I also did Norway in a Nutshell. (Unfortunately, it was during torrential rain!) Milford Sound looks VERY much like the Norwegian fjords. I enjoyed Milford Sound -- but I wasn't blown away.

I took a bus tour to Milford Sound from Queenstown and some of the scenery en route (especially Mirror Lakes) was SPECTACULAR. So ... the boat trip on the Sound was nice ... but not a highlight when compared to the scenery en route -- and Skipper's Canyon that I'd seen the previous day on a fabulous tour (with Nomad Safaris) from Queenstown.

An unexpected "WOW" on the Queenstown to Milford tour was seeing the stars lighting up the sky outside Queenstown on our return trip. It was breathtaking.

If I'd never been to Alaska or Norway I might have been more impressed -- and I'm certainly NOT saying it wasn't beautiful. Just not one of my top picks.

Hmm ... I guess that's the price you pay as you see more and more beautiful places. The bar gets higher. What a nice problem to have ;-)

We LOVED Queenstown, but on our upcoming trip it looks as if we'll be visiting Abel Tasman and Northland -- and skipping Queenstown. I hope I won't be disappointed.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2009, 03:00 AM
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Thanks everyone for the nice replies.

We are in Fremantle now and hveing a great trip. Hope to up date the blog tonight now that we have internet again.

I think you will be happy with the North of the South Island. We really loved it and Queenstown area too!

By the way the stars are just spectaular from the Albany coast in Western Australia too!
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