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Trip Report Trip Report: South Island New Zealand and Fiji - 2 Weeks in Nov

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After my brother and his family got back from an awesome trip to New Zealand last March, my husband and I started talking about adding it to our trip we were considering to Fiji. It seemed like they could be tied together, seeing as we were coming from SF, they are 'close'.

I love to research trips and working at a travel company, I knew others who had been to NZ or Fiji before and got a lot of advice from them. Really the NZ part I took the advice of my brother as we have similar traveling styles. He has a little one though, so his family rented a campervan to drive around, my husband and I prefer hotels.

Note: I reviewed all the hotels, restaurants, activities, etc on TripAdvisor so there will be some areas where I just include the link to the review - this would get ridiculously long if I included all the reviews, but at least those who are interested, can click to read more. I get pretty detailed in the actual reviews.

Day 1: Sat pm, SFO-Auckland. We were using miles to fly Air New Zealand and used the lounge beforehand (they use the EVA lounge). It was fine, nothing amazing, but good enough. They actually had pretty good food, as far as a cheese selection and some breads, at least that's all I had, Most seats were taken as the lounge isn't too big. Unlike the United lounge, they don't have plugs at every chair.

Boarding was a bit chaotic, but we got on pretty fast and had 2 great pods next to each other. We were in the front of the plane (but not upstairs) and the first few seats don't have storage above, which means each person went on seat back to store their stuff. We didn't have a problem, but others got annoyed.

We really enjoyed our flight. The service was excellent, the food was pretty good and the bed was comfortable enough, but my husband said there's a lot more room in Singapore's first class. I won't complain though, it's sooo much better than coach! The time difference from SF isn't bad at all - only 3 hours (well, plus a whole day), so you wake up and your body isn't too far off. The big problem was that the entertainment system did not work. They tried multiple times and for us, we ate dinner and went to bed so it wasn't a bit deal, but they gave us each a $100 gift certificate to use at duty free so it worked out. We just bought wine which we drank throughout our time in NZ.

Day 2: Mon (you lose a full day) Auckland-Queenstown on ANZ
In Auckland, we walked between the international and domestic terminals, which I'd recommend instead of waiting for the bus. It's not more than a 10 minute walk (if you're not carrying big bags, children, etc) and the fresh air is nice. Note, they didn't call any status levels on the domestic flight - usually we stay seated until they call that, but they didn't, so we walked to the front and people were so nice, they just let you right in. I really like the domestic flights on ANZ - they give you snacks, or in this case, one of 2 options for breakfast - their safety videos are the best. Note, there was no business class.

The flight into Queenstown will probably be one of the most memorable I ever have. Absolutely stunning, if you can fly into Queenstown, you definitely should. This airport is small and we deplaned down stairs, basically turned the corner into the car rental place and after a short walk, were in our car. It's not confusing at all, and you're literally in the town of Queenstown in about 10 minutes, just following the lake. We drove around for a while to get oriented, then walked around Queenstown Gardens for a bit which was lovely, but not much to do.

We then went to Pategonia for a coffee and churros - 'so good!'

Before heading to Aggie's for lunch - not sure I'd recommend, but 'good affordable fresh seafood'

We walked around town and stopped in a few activities storefronts to decide what we wanted to do over the next few days in town. Then we headed to our hotel to check in.

Pounamu Apartments, Queenstown, stayed for 2 nights. Excellent! 'Great Option for Queenstown, Outstanding Staff'

With the help of the hotel, we then went to do some activities that afternoon - the luge and zip lining!
'Best Spot for Great Views of Queenstown'
'Fun Activity w/Great Views'

We then headed back to the hotel to enjoy some of our duty free wine with spectacular views over the Remarkables before heading to dinner at Flame. Which was good, but not fantastic:
'Excellent Value, but the Food is Average'

We quickly discovered that taking cabs in Queenstown is expensive.

Day 3: Tue, Queenstown, Lord of the Rings Tour of Glenorchy.

I've never seen LOTR, nor do I have any desire too, but my husband wanted to do this and it sounded like we'd get to see great scenery regardless, luckily we did and I would highly recommend the tour:
'Great Tour, Even if Some in Your Group Don't Like Lord of the Rings'

In the afternoon, we headed out to Gibbston to do some wine tasting. This area is beautiful and we were also pointed to another spot from LOTR, which is on the turnoff to visit the winery that is the right turn right after the left turn to go the bungy jumping bridge - sounds confusing, but there aren't many roads in NZ, that should be enough to get you to an amazing view! Oh and by the way, GPS is not necessary here, we got by fine with just maps (and that actually includes NO arguments over directions!)

Our best meal of the trip was at the Wine House - it's not on Trip Advisor so I actually didn't review it yet. But my husband got gnocchi with duck and it was amazing. I ordered corn fritters and they were also very good. We got a bread plate to start, very high quality ingredients and the location is lovely. I highly recommend having a meal here. We then visited Gibbston Cheesery, which was fun and we got some stuff for our picnic during a hike the next day. We stopped at Amisfield for a tasting, the wine was just okay. We then headed out to Arrowtown, which unfortunately, even at 4:30pm, was pretty dead and everything was closed. We then took an alternate drive back to Queenstown so we could see what they call 'Our Road to Mordor' from LOTR which is on the way to the Skipper's Canyon jetboat (same road). It's a bit of a drive up the hill, but it offers stunning views.

Day 4 - Wed - Queenstown-Te Anau/Kepler Track hike

We ate at Halo this morning before heading out of town, pretty good food. 'Nice Spot for Breakfast'

We then drove along the south side of the lake over to Te Anau. The roads are easy to follow, the views spectacular, but not much in between. Make sure to fill up gas in the main towns, you never know how long it will be before you can get it again. We lucked out and saw the old steam train going by and my husband got an awesome pic. The drive was maybe 2, 2.5 hours. We went straight to the visitors center where you can book hikes, but despite what the Lonely Planet book said, if you're just doing a day hike and not trying to stay overnight, you don't need to book anything.

We drove towards Manapouri and stopped off at the Kepler Track to do some hiking. We did the Rainbow Reach which was about 3 hours and despite the light rain, you're walking almost under a canopy so we didn't get wet anyways. Once we made it to the beach, the sand flies were bad though, so we couldn't even eat there. They say not to leave much in your car as there can be break-ins. For lunch we had our snacks we got at Gibbston Cheesery.

We then drove back to Te Anau and just made the boat to the Glowworn caves. I was skeptical but this turned out to be fun - still expensive so if you're debating, I wouldn't say it's a must-do, but still pretty cool. 'Actually Pretty Cool and the Boat Ride is Great'

We made it back just in time to eat at Mainly Seafood right on the lakefront in Te Anau. 'Great Find, Really Fresh'

We then checked in to our lovely B&B, Dunluce B&B: 'Wonderful Place to Stay near the Sounds'

...more to come

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