Three weeks in paradise - NZ trip report


Sep 12th, 2007, 11:40 PM
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Just saw the price and am no longer tempted.
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Sep 13th, 2007, 12:29 AM
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heathy -

It didn't look anything like the photo in the link you posted. In fact, if the BOMC site hadn't mentioned it, I'd have had no idea what the thing was - it wasn't furry, just soft and warm. Probably the imitation mink you mentioned earlier.
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Sep 13th, 2007, 02:58 AM
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All photos now up -

Final report installment to follow.
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Sep 14th, 2007, 04:22 PM
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Hi, Mel,
This is my first visit to fodors in a very long time, and what a pleasure to read your trip report so far. The Marlborough area is such a beautiful spot, and still quite unsettled making it great for tramping / walking - not that I am able to do either for long!
We travelled on the water taxi a year ago, and thought it was an amazing way to suss out where you would want to investigate further.
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your report in a couple of weeks' time when school holidays are here. The photos really complement your descriptions. Just love the pictures of the letterboxes - that is something I have photos of from various parts of NZ. People are really clever with their ideas, aren't they. We often go through from Kaikoura to Christchurch via Hanmer Springs because it is so picturesque and there is less traffic to cope with in January when we travel around the South Island each year.
Is the Singapore Zoo still pretty amazing with its non-visible-for-the- most-part fencing? Our family had a wonderful visit there in 1989.
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Sep 14th, 2007, 05:27 PM
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Hi dotty - welcome back to Fodor's!

Appreciate your feedback - where do you live in NZ?

We enjoyed the Singapore Zoo also - nicely done and full of critters we'd not seen before. Felt sorry for the polar bear though - all that fur and living in Singapore? Yikes.
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Sep 14th, 2007, 06:35 PM
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Hi Mel,
We live in Wellington, have done for millions of years!
I meant to say that the red flower in your photos looks very like a kaka beak.
I gather your email is still going even though there was another largish quake last night NZ time - it made the headlines on our news. Hope you haven't suffered too much damage, or are you on the outskirts of the 'quakes?
As someone said earlier in this thread, it is so nice to be able to put faces to the names of people you feel you know quite well. Not quite sure though about the 'round' in 'round, high mileage bodies'!
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Sep 14th, 2007, 08:11 PM
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dotty -

Ha! Fleece does wonders for roundness!

We've had several mild aftershocks and tremors, as we're not terribly far from the epicenter, but so far so good.
No damage here, just a wee bit of dizziness and that uneasy feeling one gets when the earth trembles beneath their feet.

Thanks for the info on the red flower -I'll add that to the photo caption.

Mark -

Forgot to respond to your question about reserving vs winging it in Feb - suggest you take a look at NZ school holidays at the site below - if you're there during holidays, it'd be best to book.

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Sep 14th, 2007, 09:56 PM
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We left our lovely cottage and drove to Bannockburn on SH 6. Our destination was Carrick Winery, specifically to try their EMB Chardonnay (Extended Barrel Maturation) which had been recommended to us at the Wine House and Kitchen. We found the winery, loved the EBM, bought a bottle (the only other bottle that made it home with us), then had a picnic overlooking the river near the winery. This is a lovely area with several nice wineries, many of which we’ve visited on past trips.

We got back on SH 6 headed towards Cromwell, making a stop at Jones Fruit Stall, a great shop packed with fresh fruit and produce, dried fruits and nuts, honey, jams, chutneys, etc. I loved the razcherries and the sugared ginger.

The next winery on our list was Rockburn (Cromwell) where we were helped by a friendly young woman from Michigan. We loved their Pinot Noir and Riesling and wanted a bottle of each, but our remaining days in New Zealand were rapidly dwindling and we were at our take home limit, so we settled on one. So much fabulous wine, so little time!

Our next stop was Freeway Orchard, another wonderful fruit and vegetable shop. We found out later that they also have good fruit ice cream, but we somehow managed to miss it (darn).

Next door to Freeway Orchard, we found Benger Juice and Cidery, where an employee explained the business while we watched the bottling. Incidentally, Benger produces my favorite cider, Wild Cider from Central Otago, which is made from Granny Smith and Cox's Orange apples (not too sweet). We also stuck our head into Prenzel’s, producers of schnapps, brandies, infused oils and vinegars and the award winning Blenheim Bay Gin, which I now regret not trying.

Back on SH 6 we continued the pretty drive to Wanaka, our home for the next three nights.

After getting settled in our apartment, we drove into town and picked up a couple of walking maps at the DOC. We also popped into the Visitor’s Center, where we inquired about Indian restaurants in Wanaka. There were loads of people milling about and Wanaka felt suspiciously like Queenstown to us.

Our lodging –

52 on Willowridge - - $195 per night – apartment

This is a large house located in a subdivision above Lake Wanaka. The owners (Lorraine and Wayne) operate a Bed and Breakfast and also rent out an apartment on the lower level of the house. We were in the two bedroom apartment, which has a separate entrance that opens onto the garden, offering lake and mountain views. It was clean, spacious, well equipped, quiet and completely private. We enjoyed our stay here.

That evening we had a wonderful meal at Amigo Café – huevos rancheros for Bill, cheese enchiladas for me. Both were very good..

Day 1 –

The Rob Roy Valley walk sounded intriguing, so armed with our maps, we sought out Mt. Aspiring Road, west of Wanaka. The road became unsealed past the Treble Cone turnoff and we were soon overwhelmed by the pungent odor of livestock. We entered West Matukituki Valley and continued our drive along the valley floor. This area reminded me of Glenorchy and our drive to Paradise – gorgeous snowcapped mountains, streams, and yes, rough roads and fords. The second ford we reached was pretty deep, so we chickened out and decided heck, we’d just walk the remaining 4 km to the Raspberry Creek car-park. So, we parked and headed out foot. As we walked, we noticed a few low clearance vehicles drive past us. Hummmmm... if they can cross that ford without bottoming out their cars, maybe we can too. So, we turned around, retrieved the car and took our chances with the second ford, which turned out to be no trouble at all. Three minutes and seven fords later, we were at the Raspberry Flat car-park feeling silly for having walked over 2.5 miles and almost an hour for nothing (good exercise though).

The Rob Roy Valley Track crosses the West Matukituki River via a swing bridge and then climbs through a gorge to the top of the valley, which offers views of the Rob Roy Glacier. I won’t lie to you, I found this walk difficult and challenging, with plenty of rocks and limbs to scramble over. It was hard on my already sore knees and it wore me out. Bill seemed unaffected by the rough terrain and 300 meter elevation gain. In fact, this was his favorite walk of the entire trip. No doubt it was a beautiful hike, and we saw more trampers here than on all our other walks combined, as it’s one of the area’s most popular tracks.

The track is marked 3-4 hours return, and it took us just under four hours (10 km, 6.5 miles).

That evening we had a disappointing meal at Ashraf’s, then checked our e-mail at a place called dubdubdub.

Day 2 –

We woke to a beautiful day. After a discussion about local walks with Wayne, we decided to take his suggestion and try the Diamond Lake Walk, which is located 12 km from Wanaka on Mt. Aspiring Road. We weren’t looking for a challenging walk, but we inadvertently found one and I soon felt like a mountain goat with wobbly knees.

We reached Diamond Lake in 10 minutes, via an uphill climb from the car-park. We took in the views from the platform overlooking the lake, before continuing on to the Wanaka Viewpoint for some incredible views of Lake Wanaka, which is quite a bit bigger than we’d realized.

From here we’d planned to walk the lower circuit, but somehow we’d missed the turnoff. So, we embarked on the Rocky Hill Summit Circuit and soon found ourselves on a steep, narrow trail of switchbacks, working our way up to the 777 meter summit of Rocky Hill.

This track isn’t recommended in winter and I can understand why – had there been any mud or ice it would have been a dangerous climb. We eventually found ourselves on the top of Rocky Hill, were we struggled to stay upright in the fierce, cold wind as we took in the views of Lake Wanaka and it’s two largest islands, Mou Waho and Mou Tapu.

The Diamond Lake/Rocky Hill Summit Circuit is marked a three hour return. Surprisingly enough, we walked it in under two and a half hours (7 km, 4.5 miles).

We decided to drive out to the airport to investigate Wanaka Beerworks, where Bill tried their beer sampler ($5). Then it was back to Wanaka, where we walked around a bit and had lunch at Sagun Café, a sort of fast food Indian restaurant. We weren’t impressed.

Then it was on to the Rippon Winery for one last tasting and some fabulous views from their tasting room. Here we sampled Osteiner, a German style white we were completely unfamiliar with. Rippon is the only vineyard in New Zealand that produces Osteiner.

Dinner that evening was at Bombay Palace – “Indian hot” Kadai chicken for Bill and medium hot paneer masala for me, complemented with a nice chilled bottle of Rockferry Marlborough slightly oaked Sauvignon Blanc – delicious. The food was very good and a huge improvement over Ashraf’s and Sagun Café - $7 corkage.

Wanaka was bustling with skiers and partygoers, the bars were overflowing and it looked to be a busy night.
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Sep 16th, 2007, 11:23 PM
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We said goodbye to Lorraine and Wayne and left Wanaka via 84, 8A and SH 8 to Omarama. We drove through the bleak, thirsty looking landscape, which has plenty of relief, but is covered in brown, dry tussocks and not particularly scenic. We passed a couple of film crews; a portion of the road was closed to traffic as they filmed what appeared to be a car chase.

We reached Omarama just over an hour after leaving Wanaka, and continued on to Twizel. We passed the turnoff to Lake Ohau and the snowfields beyond, which looked to have no shortage of snow. The sun was shining, so on a whim we decided to make the 55 km detour to Mt. Cook, driving alongside the creamy, turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki. As we closed in on Mt. Cook, dark clouds began to gather and we found ourselves in the rain, looking at a completely socked in mountain; just like every other time we’ve tried to catch a glimpse of the majestic and elusive peak.

After a quick stop at the Hermitage, we backtracked to SH 8, leaving the rain and gloom behind. The closer we got to SH 8 the better the weather became; soon we were back in the sunshine and on our way to Lake Tekapo, surrounded by distant towering snowcapped mountains.

Lake Tekapo has grown quite a bit since our last trip through here. There are several new homes, hotels/motels and an ice rink. A quick visit to the Church of the Good Shepherd and a few photos, then we were back in the car. We turned on 79 to Geraldine and suddenly the road was no longer straight, the landscape was green and wooded. The drive became even prettier after passing through Fairlie. After a Tip Top break in Geraldine, we chose Scenic Route 72 instead of taking SH 1 up the east coast to Christchurch. We passed Mt. Somers, Mt. Hutt and Rakaia Gorge, a beautiful spot and a complete surprise. We’d never been through here and were quite taken with the scenery.

Near Oxford we picked up 71, and eventually made our way to Christchurch, arriving 7.5 hours after leaving Wanaka.

It should come as no surprise that after checking into our motel, we wasted no time locating the closest Little India, where we had yet another wonderful Indian meal.

Our lodging –

De Lago Motel - - $135 per night

We had a unit with king sized bed on the second floor. The bed was incredibly comfortable, with quality linens and lots of pillows. The room was compact and spotless, with sleek contemporary decor, large flat screen TV, good sized bathroom and small kitchen area. It had a washer/dryer combo that we had trouble figuring out, but it came in handy. Our room could have used one less chair - it felt as if there was too little space for too much furniture, but otherwise we liked this place.

The only drawback for us was the noisy city location, but that was the case with all motels/hotels on Papanui Road.

Day 1 –

We woke to a completely cloudless sky with a high of 16c expected. On the advice of Adam, one of the proprietors of De Lago, we decided to explore Sumner and the port town of Lyttelton.

Sumner reminded me of a more populated Nelson with homes perched up on the rocks overlooking the bay. We explored Sumner Beach and the esplanade, very pretty with all the flowers in bloom. We followed the sign to Taylor’s Mistake on a narrow road that led to houses on a hill (Scarborough) overlooking Sumner Beach. We ditched the car at Nicholson Park, and embarked on Taylor’s Mistake Walkway, a path of switchbacks along the coastal cliffs, which eventually led us to the small seaside community of Taylor’s Mistake.

This was a pretty, undulating (yes, that word again!) walk overlooking the sea. Instead of walking down to the beach, we took the 193 steps up to the road and returned to Nicholson Park, walking just under two miles in less than an hour. Back in the car, we drove down to Taylor’s Mistake, literally the end of the road. There were many families out enjoying the Sunday afternoon. We noticed that several walks and bike trails on Godley’s Head originate from here.

We backtracked to Sumner Beach, busy with surfers, and took Evan’s Pass to Lyttelton. We soon found ourselves winding along on some extremely narrow streets, surrounded by houses built into the steep hillside. It reminded me somewhat of Battery Point in Hobart, Tasmania. We parked and explored the tiny town of Lyttelton on foot.

We had a light lunch on the patio at Freeman’s, then popped into the local milk store for our last few scoops of NZ ice cream.

Back on the road, we continued our drive, passing Governors Bay and heading towards Akaroa. It’s pretty through here and we saw many lambs. As we approached Akaroa, we chose the Tourist Summit Road, working our way down to Duvauchelle. We’d walked Onawe Peninsula on a previous trip and considered walking it again, but decided against it and headed to Akaroa, where we parked and walked along the pier.

We left via the Eastern Bay Tourist Drive, winding along the upper rim of Banks Peninsula. There are some fabulous views of Akaroa and the valley from up here.

We stopped at Otepatatu Scenic Reserve and walked to Bluff Viewpoint and on to Laverick’s Peak (50 minutes return, 1.1 mile). This was a great little walk with spectacular 360 degree views from the top. We were surprised to find rainforest up here on the top of an otherwise dry peninsula. As we sat atop Laverick’s Peak soaking up those incredible views with no one else in sight, we reflected on what a wonderful trip we’d had and only wished we’d had a bottle of wine.

We returned to Christchurch via Tourist Drives 1, 2, 3, unfamiliar territory for us; a really nice drive with gorgeous views.

Then it was on to Little India, sadly, for our last dinner in New Zealand.

Departure –

We left our motel and headed to the airport for our flight to Singapore. The drive only took about 15-20 minutes, check-in and security were a breeze, so we had plenty of time to visit the Air New Zealand business class lounge before our flight. Wow. This place has really changed since our last visit – in fact, the new lounge had only been open for five weeks. Relaxing music, soft lighting, quiet alcoves, comfortable seating, computers with internet access in addition to a special work area for those with laptops, full range of beverages and assorted snacks, and best of all, the most welcoming greeting I have ever received in an airport lounge anywhere. Even the restrooms were posh, with a sofa, showers, cloth hand towels, and sleek fittings. I rarely get excited about airport lounges, but this one was very nicely done.

Our 10.5 hour flight to Singapore was good, despite being bounced around rather violently during some clear air turbulence. The snacks and entertainment were plentiful and we were both able to catch up on our movies.

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Sep 17th, 2007, 05:48 PM
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Thanks for such a great report, Mel! Whew, what a marathon piece - I thoroughly enjoyed reading each installment. Our turn soon, thanks for the heads up on various restaurants. Will definitely write a report on our return, though I don't think it will be quite as engaging as yours have been. I'll think of you as I have my TipTop fix!
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Sep 17th, 2007, 08:23 PM
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Forgot to mention that we drove 3,979 kilometers on this trip. I've got all the gas receipts, but I'm afraid to add them up.

bellytoo -

I hope you have a wonderful trip! I'm looking forward to reading all about it when you get back. Enjoy the Tip Top!

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Sep 21st, 2007, 06:32 PM
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Hey, Melnq8, welcome back, I just skimmed your report and I'm looking forward to a more thorough read this week. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us! I'll have to print this out and place it in my file for our NZ trip#3 that I'm dreaming of...someday...8-)
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Sep 23rd, 2007, 10:54 PM
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Melnq8 - enjoyed your reports & photos.
My wife & I will be in the south island of NZ this coming November, and really looking forward to our return to NZ. Abel Tasman National Park is one place we never got to visit last time, so its high on our list.
Its good to see detailed reports with photos on various trips, it really gives others fodorites a chance to "taste" the journey that someone else has enjoyed. Great reporting.
I guess with this type of reporting, one could throw away the travel guides!
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Sep 23rd, 2007, 11:35 PM
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Thanks tropo - enjoy your trip!
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Dec 27th, 2008, 02:39 AM
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Book marking
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Feb 24th, 2009, 12:18 AM
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Hi Melnq,

id like to ask, thinking of doing the abel tasman track, but walking one way and maybe doing water taxi back. Only ahve 2 days 2 nights, and maybe staying at one of the huts (anch/bark bay). do you have any suggestions as far as the specifics? i think i'll leave the car in the south carpark (moutarka)??
which track would you suggest, as far as the northern vs southern. if we started southerly, i think the most i can get is bark bay. would i be missing out hugely? also do you think i can fit in a half day of kayaking in there?

btw i'll be goin gin may, so anything specifically i should know as far as weather. thanks for help!
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Feb 24th, 2009, 04:12 AM
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Hi Kevin -

There are car parks at Marahau, Totaranui, Wainui and Awaroa. Marahau is the southernmost carpark and it's considered the gateway to Abel Tasman - it's not far from the town of Motueka.

No, I don't think you'd be missing out to only walk as far as Bark Bay. I believe kayaking is available from just about any beach along the track, but you'll need to check and book in advance.

Where you stop will really depend on how much you want to walk in a given day. It's possible to walk a section, spend a night, kayak for a few hours, then take the water taxi to another stop along the track and continue your walk. There are many options and you're only limited by your imagination, the tides and the taxi schedules.

I absolutely loved the walk from Totaranui to Mutton Cove, but Totaranui is the end of the line for the water taxis, so you'll need to either double back or arrange a pick up at Wainui car park. An alternative is to pick up the track to Separation Point from Mutton Cove which makes a loop.

The weather should still be pretty nice in May, but you just never know in NZ. Be prepared for rain. You might also run into reduced water taxi schedules, so be sure to check in advance. This site should help you with your planning:
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