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New Zealand Trip

When did we go:

  • Nov 2-22, 2019

 

Why did we go:

  • New Zealand has been on my bucket list for decades
  • we had heard nothing but good things about the country and the people

 

How did we get there:

  • on the way over we flew Air Canada from Calgary to Vancouver (1.5 hours) and then Air New Zealand to Auckland (14 hours)
  • on the way back we flew Air New Zealand from Christchurch to Auckland (1.5 hours), then Auckland to Vancouver on Air New Zealand (13 hours) and Air Canada from Vancouver to Calgary (1.5 hours)

 

 

How did we get around:

  • my wife researched tour companies and came across a company called The Road Trip who offered a package that would take us from Auckland thru to the south end of the north island (Wellington) and then to Christchurch in the south island where we explored the interior and west coast
  • our driver/guide, Constance, was very good as she was knowledgeable and attentive
  • we traveled in a Hyundai Tucson on the north island and a Skoda Kodiaq on the south island (small vehicles but we managed to get all of our luggage in)
  • in the middle of the trip, we flew from Wellington (south end of the north island) to Christchurch (halfway down the east coast of the south island) which was a 1-hour flight
  • we drove 3909 km around the two islands and walked close to 200 km

 

 

Interesting facts:

  • the name New Zealand comes from the word Zeeland which translates to Sealand (a province in the Netherlands) after it was sighted by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman
  • New Zealand is called Aotearoa in the Maori language which means Land of the Long White Cloud
  • population of 4.8M people with three-quarters of them living in the four main urban centers (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton)
  • the Maori were the original settlers sometime between the 9th and 13th century and currently makeup 15% of the population
  • the native flightless kiwi bird is that national symbol and where the nickname ‘Kiwi’ comes from for the local people
  • Rugby is the main national sport and the national team, the All Blacks, is among the most successful in the world
  • jade is the predominant mineral and can be found in carvings and jewelry throughout the country
  • the diverse and beautiful landscape enabled the filming of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • despite facing economic challenges, the sheep industry continues to be prominent around the countryside due to specialized production of specific meats, cheese and wool
  • the country has a burgeoning wine industry with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir being the most prolific
  • the currency is the New Zealand dollar which was trading at a slight discount to the Canadian dollar
  • 15% of the power for their grid comes from geothermal power

 

 

Accommodations:

  • Auckland – Hotel deBrett (centrally located in the downtown core, funky older retro hotel, quiet rooms, great service)
  • Whitianga – Casa Aquila (Bnb, wonderful hosts Paula and John that were fun to visit with, beautiful house on a lovely canal, excellent breakfast)
  • Rotorua – Novotel Rotorua Lakeside Hotel (good location near the lake and downtown restaurant mall and shops, slightly weathered room but generally okay)
  • Tongariro – Chateau Tongariro (historic facility but somewhat dated, not great service)
  • Wellington – Bolton Hotel (good location, large room including laundry facilities and a separate bedroom, very friendly staff, excellent breakfast buffet)
  • Christchurch – The Classic Villa (central location, shared common areas, small room without much room for our two suitcases, noisy building, good breakfast, nice outdoor sitting area)
  • Franz Josef – Ribbonwood Retreat B&B (nice farmhouse setting, hosts Julie and Jonathan were nice to chat with, comfortable accommodations, very nice breakfast with wonderful homegrown rhubarb, five-minute drive to the town center)
  • Wanaka – Lakeside Apartments (beautifully appointed, huge space with a massive balcony overlooking the lake, right in the center of town)
  • Te Anau – Dusky Ridges B&B (spectacular 500-acre farm property five minutes outside of town, nice hosts Win and Henrik, beautiful accommodations in a separate house, wide variety of delicious food and drinks for us to prepare our breakfast and snacks, very informative farm tour from Henrik, the locally produced port was a wonderful welcome gift)
  • Queenstown – Browns Boutique Hotel (European style Inn, centrally located a few blocks above the city center, good breakfast, enjoyed the common sitting area with the fireplace, sat beside Penny and Les from West Virginia at breakfast but thankfully they are not ‘penniless’)
  • Tekapo – The Mackenzie Suites (newly built one-bedroom apartment overlooking Lake Tekapo, surprising that they put dated furniture into a new apartment, continental breakfast provided in our fridge, 10-minute walk from the shops/restaurants on the lakefront)
  • Christchurch – once again The Classic Villa (see above)

 

 

Auckland:

  • the largest city in New Zealand (one-third of the countries population lives there) and known as the City of Sails
  • named the area for George Eden, Earl of Auckland, British First Lord of the Admiralty
  • quite a beautiful city with the ocean, beaches, hills, and spectacular trees
  • hilly landscape results from being on top of 53 volcanoes

Day 1

  • walked around the harbourfront admiring the beautiful yachts
  • strolled thru Albert Park (beautiful huge trees) and through the Auckland art gallery (some nice exhibits)
  • had lunch at Winona Forever in the Parnell area (good healthy food) and walked around the area admiring the beautiful historic houses
  • walked thru the upscale shopping part of Newmarket (nothing overly exciting other than a side street with some cool murals)
  • moseyed along the shops on Queen and High Street (so many coffee shops)
  • had dinner at Lulu Inn on the harbor with our buddy Eldon’s friend Paul (nice setting, good food and a fun discussion with our new friend)
  • surprisingly we had no jet lag (this is often the case when we travel east to west)

Day 2

  • our guide, Constance, picked us up at our hotel to start our tour
  • visited the One Tree Hill obelisk in Cornwall Park which is one of the many volcanic peaks in Auckland (very important memorial place for the Maori and other New Zealanders, 360-degree views of Auckland and the surrounding area)
  • drove north of Auckland and did a wine tasting at Soljans in the Kumeu Wine Country which is still owned by the same Croatian immigrant family since 1937 (bought a bottle of their famous port that evaporated during our trip…funny how that happens at happy hour)
  • had lunch at a winery called The Hunting Lodge (nice boutique operation in a picturesque country setting)
  • walked the Otakamiro Trail on Muriwai Beach to view the huge colony of gannet birds nesting on the cliffside
  • had dinner at the Orbit 360 Restaurant in the Sky Tower which is 328 meters and is the highest man-made structure in New Zealand (great panoramic views of the entire area as it rotates around once every hour, excellent three-course meal)
  • during dinner we viewed the display of fireworks set off by locals around the city to celebrate Guy Fawkes day (in 1605 he was guarding the explosives that were set in place beneath the House of Lords in an attempt on the life of King James 1, bit strange that they would honor a criminal)

Day 3:

  • drove through some of the neighborhoods around Auckland
  • toured around Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park enjoying the gardens and the great views of the main Auckland harbor and Rangitoto Island
  • drove from Auckland to Coromandel on the windy roads along the ocean and over the hills (Marilyn got a bit car sick after several hours of being jostled around corners with our self-described rally car driver/guide Constance)
  • the views of the ocean, hills, and valleys were quite spectacular
  • we grabbed a quick lunch in Coromandel, and then went to The Driving Creek Railway which is a rather eclectic pottery property where the founder, Barry Brickell, build a railway to transport clay and pinewood fuel to his kiln (in 1975 he turned the railroad into a tourist attraction to help pay off his mounting bank debt, and it has been a major tourist attraction ever since)

 

 

Whitianga:

  • one of the key locations of the gold rush in the 1800s and the spectacular Kauri Tree Forests
  • located on picturesque Mercury Bay in the Coromandel Peninsula
  • spectacular countryside of lush rolling hills, amazing trees, and beautiful beaches

Day 3:

  • dinner in Whitianga was at Sabys Kitchen which was quite good
  • after dinner, we had a blast playing at the ‘all ages’ playground across the street from the restaurant (they had impressive playgrounds throughout the country that we should have in Canada)

Day 4:

  • started the day at Hot Water Beach where people dig holes in the sand to access the hot water fissures that are underneath a central part of this beach
  • we had trouble locating a hot spot, but we were fortunate enough to hop in with a Quebec optometrist chap named Simon, who nows lives in Wellington and is a Calgary Flames fan
  • I enjoyed a few rounds of body surfing which was an unexpected treat
  • after our beach excursion, we stopped in at Hot Waves Café for a tasty lunch
  • in the afternoon we went to Hahei where we walked for 45 minutes to the beach at Cathedral Cove that had amazing rock structures, and then took the short boat ride back to where we parked our vehicle (this is a must-see site)
  • our last stop was at 309 Honey (just outside Whitianga) where the proprietor Sue entertained us with her animated description of the very healthy Manuka honey that they produce at her fine establishment (some of the beehives are located on a farm owned for decades by our hosts John and Paula)
  • we enjoyed happy hour with our hosts at Casa Aquila where we swapped travel, health, and general life stories
  • dinner was at Stoked (good location overlooking the bay, very good food, decent service)

Day 5:

  • toured the beach community of Whangamata (massive beach where it would be fun to return to boogie board, paddleboard, or surf)
  • viewed the Marta Pit Mine and Cornish Pumphouse @ Waihi
  • visited the Karangahake gold site and checked out the property although there wasn’t much left to see from the century-old mining operation other than several plaques describing the operation
  • stopped in Paeroa at the famous Lemon and Paeroa soda pop bottle site for a quick picture with a replica of this historic drink
  • had lunch in Waharoa at Kaimai Cheese (nice setting in a cheese factory with good food, bought some cheese and condiments for happy hours during our journey)
  • toured the Hobbiton movie site outside of Matamata (beautiful property in the rolling hills, interesting to see the film set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies, despite not having seen the movie)

 

 

Rotorua:

  • situated on Lake Rotorua
  • known as the adventure capital of the north island
  • large amount of geothermal activity in the area that has attracted tourists and health seekers since Victorian times
  • has the largest Maori population in the country

Day 5:

  • had dinner at Leonardo’s (one of the many restaurants at the food mall called Eat Street near our hotel, decent food)

Day 6:

  • went to the historic Te Puia (Whakarewarewa) fortified settlement where we experienced the Maori culture of carving and weaving, watched the Pohutu geyser which is the biggest in the southern hemisphere, saw the bubbling mud pools, and caught a brief glimpse of the nocturnal kiwi bird
  • had a healthy lunch at Capers and bought some unique food condiments
  • walked thru the Redwood Forest with its massive California Redwood trees
  • visited the world-renowned Agrodome where we watched the farm show which included sheep-shearing, cow milking, stock auction, baby animal feeding, dog demonstrations, and observing numerous types of animals around the farm
  • dinner (earth cooked hangi feast) and entertainment was at the Mitai Maori Village where we had an authentic traditional Maori experience which was great to learn more about their culture (the host was amazing as he was able to converse with some sort of greeting in most of the 20 nations that were represented at dinner, one of the performers did not seem the least bit Maori, so it was kind of funny to watch him)

Day 7:

  • viewed the Wai-O-Tapu mud pools (large pond with bubbling mud which was cool to see)
  • toured the Wai-O-Tapu thermal grounds (a huge site that is considered the most extensive geothermal system in NZ, purchased a Maori mask)
  • stopped in at the Lava Glass shop (amazing glasswork and we purchased a small colorful vase)
  • watched the Aratiatia dam open and spill its water into the gorge below (fascinating to see how fast the river filled up)
  • viewed Huka Falls (drainage from Lake Taupo that flows quite rapidly due to being the only outlet on this large lake)
  • stopped in at Huka Honey (tasted and purchased some mead wine, lots of great displays and a huge variety of bee-related products)
  • Lake Taupo (got our picture taken in front of the town sign on the edge of the lake, typically a popular lake for water sports but not on our day as it was quite stormy out)
  • had lunch at Café Baku in Lake Taupo (good selection of healthy food, nice view of the lake)
  • drove through Tongariro National Park but it was not clear enough to view New Zealand’s three most active volcanoes (Tongariro, Ruapehu, and Ngaurauhoe)

 

 

Tongariro:

  • first national park in New Zealand
  • dual world heritage area
  • three ski hills and numerous hiking trails around the three volcanoes that are the prominent features in the park

Day 7:

  • had dinner just below the Chateau Tongariro at Tussock Bar & Restaurant (old-style pub, decent food)

Day 8:

  • stopped at Ohakune to visit the infamous carrot sculpture and the funky highly automated bano (carrots were first grown in the area in the 1920s by Chinese settlers who cleared the land by hand and explosives)
  • made a roadside stop at Tangiwai to view the tribute to New Zealand’s worst train disaster, which occurred in 1953
  • the most unique stop of the tour was in Taihape to view the gumboot sculpture along the highway and then compete against each other at the Gumboot Throwing Lane (Constance threw her boot sideways over the fence, and Mare won with her frisbee like toss)
  • we made an IM-PROB-A-BULL and UN-IMAGIN-A-BULL stop at the town of Bulls where everything is UN-BELIEVE-A-BULL (numerous signs around town play on the word BULL)
  • lunch was in Foxton at the Dutch Oven restaurant beside the de Molen windmill (the project originally started in 2003 as a tulip growing operation which failed due to a virus and unsuitable conditions; however the windmill has carried on the Dutch traditions)

 

 

Wellington:

  • located on the southern tip of the north island
  • capital and second-largest city in New Zealand
  • beautiful city with a lush hillside covered in white wooden houses overlooking the harbor
  • due to its steep hills and susceptibility to earthquakes, it is often compared to San Francisco
  • it is also known for it’s nagging, often chilly wind

Day 8:

  • walked around the downtown core checking out the various shops and the harbor area (Cuba Street is their historic street and where we saw a homeless chap threaten four authorities that he would call his lawyer if they didn’t leave him alone and he was alone when we walked by him again a half hour later which was quite hilarious)
  • had dinner at Charley Noble (very good food and service in an upscale bistro near the harbor)

Day 9:

  • early in the morning, I hoofed straight uphill to the Botanical Gardens for a great workout and spectacular views of the area
  • walked the harborfront and poked into a couple of boutique shops where I purchased some unique items
  • toured the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum (one of the best museums we have ever seen with amazing exhibits and interactive displays for people of all ages)
  • took the cable car up from the bottom at Lambton Quay through the terraced houses of Kelburn to the expansive lookout over the city and harbor (cable car started operation in 1902)
  • walked around the Botanical Garden viewing the unique trees and birds
  • also checked out the human sun dial which worked bang on
  • had lunch at the top of the cable car at Kohai Café (great views and good food selection)
  • took the shuttle bus over to Zealandia, which is an award-winning eco sanctuary  (225-hectare predator-proof ecosystem with a 500-year vision to restore Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state, saw some beautiful birds and lizards, the kiwis come out at night)
  • stopped in the Kelburn village area for a pint at the Kelburn Village Pub and java at Kelburn café (fun to just sit and watch city life in action)
  • had dinner at the Thistle Inn which is Wellington’s oldest pub (originally built in 1840, good food, expedient service that was a bit too much as we felt rushed, average décor for such a historic site)

Day 10:

  • drove up narrow, windy roads to a lookout overlooking this beautiful city en route to the airport for our 1-hour flight to Christchurch
  • we were amazed at the lack of security to board our flight (too bad it can’t be this way everywhere in the world)

 

 

Christchurch:

  • known for its English heritage (named after an Oxford college)
  • located on the east coast of the south island
  • largest city on the south island
  • the city was devastated in the 2011 earthquake but has rebuilt itself extremely well so far

Day 10:

  • stopped for lunch at Café Colombia (very tasty food, owners from Bogota) on our way from the airport to our Villa
  • walked around the downtown area checking out the devastation and restoration from the 2011 earthquake
  • took a half-hour Edwardian-style Punting boat ride down the Avon River along the Botanical Gardens (interesting experience although our guide was a bit drab)
  • walked thru the new Riverside Market that is a big part of the downtown revitalization
  • enjoyed a happy hour beverage at Orleans (cool setting that combines four restaurant/bars with one common outdoor area)
  • had dinner at King of Snakes (exceptional modern Asian food, nice setting)
  • broke up the walk home from dinner with a nightcap at Fiddlesticks (nice restaurant/bar near our hotel)
  • observed the award-winning Dyslexia Discovery Exhibit beside our Villa (great tribute to this often misunderstood segment of our society)

Day 11:

  • took the Tranz Alpine train from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass (normally would go beyond this point by train but the track was under repair, scenic views of the Bealey River, beautiful valleys, sheep, cows, and the towering Southern Alps)
  • at the pass, we stopped in at the Otira Stagecoach Hotel, which has a huge collection of eclectic antiques (we snacked on a whitebait fritter – whitebait are small 1-2 inch fish)
  • drove to the seaside town of Greymouth and walked around the town
  • bought some raw jade pieces at Boustridge Fine Jade for my brother who was looking for a hand-size piece to meditate with
  • had lunch at the Monteith Brewery (outstanding food, great beer and cider selection, beautiful facility)
  • toured around Hokitika where we fixed the instagrammable driftwood town sign on the beach as part of the ‘t’ had fallen off (I wonder how may people earlier that day had posted a picture of ‘Hokilika’)
  • bought some socks made of merino and possum knitwear (the gal keyed in $224 for the $24 purchase, but luckily I noticed it and avoided buying the most expensive pair of socks in the world)
  • toured a couple of jade shops that had some amazing pieces but the raw natural pieces I had my eye on were all part of collections editions and hence not for sale

 

 

Franz Josef:

  • small village near the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers in the Southern Alps (known for their low elevations whose glacial tongues sweep into the temperate rainforest below near the ocean)
  • there are 110 km of trails in the surrounding area
  • comprised of a few dwellings but mostly hotels and restaurants to support the burgeoning tourism business

Day 11:

  • had dinner in Franz Josef at King Tiger restaurant (nice ambiance, combination of Asian and Indian food – we chose Indian, excellent flavors)

Day 12:

  • our BnB hosts Julie and Jonathan made a lovely breakfast, including a rhubarb compote from their garden that was marvelous
  • took a stroll up the valley towards Franz Josef glacier (nice casual walk to a view of this beautiful landscape, tons of helicopters flying overhead transporting people onto the glacier or for views from overhead)
  • walked into Lake Matheson which is also known as Mirror Lake (can see views of major peaks in the area including Mount Cook on a clear day and the lake reflection, but not this day due to the cloud cover at the higher elevations, there was beautiful moss on the trees and the ground all along the hike)
  • were not able to access Fox Glacier as the access road had been wiped out due to recent flooding
  • stopped in the town of Fox Glacier to get a picture taken with the local Sasquatch
  • had a coffee and signed our own personal rocks at Bruce Bay while also watching the pounding surf
  • took a stroll in the swamp forest and checked out the windswept sand dunes at Ship Creek
  • lunch was at Hard Antler Cafe in Haast (had a massive Venison nacho dish and watched NZ crush Ireland in a women’s rugby match on the TV)
  • drove over Haast Pass past Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea into Wanaka

 

 

Wanaka:

  • located on the south end of Lake Wanaka
  • gateway town for all the recreational activities in Southern Alps Mount Aspiring National Park
  • very good vibe in this quaint town

Day 12:

  • walked along the lakefront and checked out the famous Wanaka willow tree that stands alone just offshore and has become New Zealand’s most photographed tree (how do you spell Instagram)
  • dinner was at Ode Conscious Dining (great service, cool layout with an open kitchen protruding into the dining space, outstanding three-course plant-based meal, nice wines)

Day 13

  • had breakfast at Relishes as it was our only day that breakfast was not included with our stay (good healthy food, great service, nice local art on the walls)
  • first stop of the day was to observe the Bradrona Fence where breast cancer survivors leave their bras on the fence as a tribute to their journey
  • just down the road was the Cadrona Distillery (beautiful buildings, four-year-old operation, beautiful art exhibits of various types of tapestries, we bought a single malt whiskey from their first-ever release and a unique Butterscotch liqueur)
  • next up was the Cardrona Hotel (historic hotel, general store, and pub)
  • drove over the Crown Range which is New Zealand’s highest highway
  • stopped at the Wakatipu Basin lookout (sweeping view of Queenstown and the surrounding area)
  • lunch was at Amisfield Winery (top-notch facility, had a three-course meal that was actually six courses, Marilyn enjoyed a unique three flight nonalcoholic drink assortment)
  • drove thru rolling farmland from Queenstown to Te Anau with huge sheep operations dotting the landscape

 

 

Te Anau:

  • located on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau
  • known as the gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound
  • second largest lake in New Zealand

Day 13

  • had a tour of our BnB host’s farm from Henrik (500 acres, 2000 sheep, 200 deer, chickens, alpacas, cattle, two working dogs)
  • in the evening we were scheduled to see the Glow Worm Caves, but the trip got canceled due to high water levels
  • had dinner at The Moose Bar in Te Anau and watched some cricket on TV where Constance enlightened us with some of the rules and strategies of the game

Day 14:

  • took a bus from Te Anau to Lake Manapouri, boated across the lake, hopped on a bus over Wilmot Pass and onto a boat to cruise the UNESCO World Heritage site of Doubtful Sound (one of the most scenic places we have ever witnessed with the towering peaks, stunning waterfalls, and dense foliage)
  • Doubtful Sound was originally named Doubtful Harbor in 1770 by Captain James Cook, who did not enter the inlet as he was uncertain whether it was navigable under sail (it was later renamed Doubtful Sound by whalers and sealers, although it is not technically a sound but a fiord)
  • had dinner at Redcliff Restaurant and Bar (quaint old house, very good food, and excellent service)

Day 15:

  • enjoyed the scenic drive from Te Anau to Queenstown with the fresh snow adorning the mountain tops

 

 

Queenstown:

  • known as the adventure capital of the world
  • situated on Lake Wakatipu and across the lake from the Remarkables Mountain Range, which is one of the most famous backdrops for Lord of the Rings
  • numerous wineries and historic mining towns in the surrounding area

Day 15:

  • stopped in at the original bungee jumping site at Kawarau Bridge just outside of Queenstown to watch the brave folks plummeting towards the river below (in retrospect I wish I had done this as it didn’t look as intimidating as I expected)
  • strolled around the shops in Arrowtown trying to find a French coffee shop that was recommended to us, but had unfortunately shut down a few months earlier
  • we did enjoy a lunch of dumplings at Queenies Dumplings
  • stopped in at Shotover Jet Boat Tours; however, the water level was unsafe, so we put it on hold until the following day
  • rode up the Skyline Gondola and took the luge ride from the top of the mountain down to the Stratosfare Restaurant (our luge instructor was from a place called Calgary…go figure)
  • enjoyed a huge buffet selection at the restaurant with its views of the surrounding area while being served by kids from around the world (Lithuania, Chile, Argentina, Sweden, England)

Day 16:

  • took the jet boat tour with Shotover Jet on the Shotover Canyon where we did numerous 360-degree spins and reached speeds up to 90 km/hr (very fun adrenaline rush experience with our driver Phil the Thrill)
  • drove along the north end of Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy which was once a major gold mining area (beautiful farmland and towering peaks, my bro JAS nearly bought a huge sheep ranch near Glenorchy back in the early 2000s)
  • lunch was back in Queenstown at the iconic Fergburger where we lined up halfway down the block (in the rain) and then waited 25 minutes after ordering to get our burger and fries (they are known for their high-end, inventive burgers, and it was quite good)
  • treated ourselves to a Chinese massage to loosen up our travel bones (the owner had amazing intuitive skills that she used and shared with Marilyn)
  • enjoyed a drink at The Bathhouse on the waterfront before dinner (great location that would be nice to have dinner at and watch the sunset)
  • dinner was at Blue Kanu (Asian/Polynesian vibe and menu, cool place, excellent service, tasty food)

Day 17:

  • drove by the historic Mt. Lyell mining site that would have been fun to tour if time had allowed
  • stopped at a viewpoint at the Roaring Meg hydroelectric station on the Kawarau River (fed from Lake Wanaka)
  • picked up some snacks at Jackson Orchards in Cromwell (could have done an orchard tour as well if we had more time)
  • checked out the Shrek exhibit in Tarras (he was a famous Merino wether sheep belonging to Bendigo Station who gained international attention in 2004 after avoiding capture for six years by hiding in caves)
  • stopped at the Lindis Pass Summitt lookout in the Waitaki District to observe the stark and hilly landscape
  • fed the salmon at High Country Salmon (one of our least favorite stops although it did provide some background on sustainable fish farming)
  • next time we would stop at the Clay Cliffs in the same area as they appeared to be a cool geologic formation
  • the next lookout was on the south end of Lake Pukaki to marvel at its blue waters with snow-capped Mount Cook and numerous other peaks in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park area providing a dramatic backdrop
  • had lunch at the lodge at Mount Cook where unfortunately the clouds had rolled in, so we didn’t get a closeup view of this famous peak named after Captain Cook
  • the inclement weather prevented us from doing a few hikes in the area
  • checked out the Mount Cook exhibit which had some informative history of the area

 

 

Tekapo:

  • known for stargazing due to its very clear atmosphere, large number of clear sky nights, and relative freedom from light pollution
  • the first jet boat was developed in this area by William (Bill) Hamilton in the early 1950s

Day 17:

  • enjoyed the 360-degree views from the Mount John University Observatory above Lake Tekapo and its turquoise waters
  • stopped on the lakeshore to witness the amazing display of colorful lupins on the beach along with some ducks and their ducklings
  • checked out the historic Church of the Good Shepherd building standing alone along the water
  • walked into town and explored the dog statue (a tribute to the border collies that the Scottish shepherds brought with them to help farm the land)
  • had dinner on the waterfront at Kohan Restaurant (Japanese cuisine, quite tasty, lake view)
  • enjoyed a couple of beverages at Our Dog Friday (loved the two bathrooms that each had a plaque for the two halves of the story of the dog Friday and his Scottish immigrant owner James Mackenzie who were renegade sheep rustlers that escaped the law back in 1855 on a technicality and had the region named after Mackenzie)
  • went stargazing with Dark Sky Project at an observatory just on the outskirts of town (amazing experience to see the sky lit up like a white canvass and to learn the unbelievable distances, the formations, the navigational stories, and to watch the satellites scream across the sky)
  • since the town is purposely kept in low light at night to accommodate the star gazing we navigated our walk home with light from Marilyn’s cell phone

Day 18:

  • stopped at the Fairlie Bakery (shared a venison and cranberry pie at 9:30 am, but who’s judging)
  • found a group of nine black sheep in the South Canterbury region (we had been searching for one, and we hit the gold mine)
  • stopped in Geraldine for coffee (smallest ever) at Berry Bean Bakery and sampled some cheese at Talbot Forest Cheese (bought some unique gourmet dip and mulled wine mixes, wish we had space and a cooler to take some of their tasty cheeses)
  • pulled over at Rakaia Gorge (scenic view of the gorge and surrounding hills, jet boating location)

 

 

Christchurch:

Day 18:

  • had lunch at The Coffee Club (good selection of relatively healthy food)
  • visited the International Antarctic Center (rode on a Haaglund vehicle, petted the Husky dogs, experienced a storm, watched the penguins being fed, went on a 4D ride, and checked out numerous informative exhibits)
  • had a pre-dinner drink back at Orleans where we listened to some live music
  • dinner was at The Monday Room (good chow, nice setting, relatively close walk to our hotel)
  • stopped in at Fiddlesticks for a post-dinner beverage where we once again tried to figure out the old movie that was playing on the TV (it happened to be the same one we saw our last time through – Some Like It Hot starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon)

Day 19:

  • drove 90 minutes east of Christchurch thru the Banks Peninsula area to the quaint French village of Akaroa
  • the first part of the tour was thru the seaside port of Lyttelton that was the epicenter of the 2011 earthquake
  • stopped on the hillside overlooking the harbor at the Timeball Station that seafarers, port workers, signalmen, locals, and even a dog used to tell time (constructed in 1876 and one of only two purpose-built sites of this type in the world)
  • checked out the Akaroa Harbor from a viewpoint at Hilltop (super windy roads in this area with some great views of the sea on both sides of the Peninsula)
  • arrived in Akaroa and tried to visit The Giants House, but it was closed (it contains beautiful gardens and some cool sculptures of which we caught a glimpse over the fence)
  • grabbed a coffee at a French café called Sweet As, Les Delice
  • took a catamaran voyage with Akaroa Dolphins (saw the rare native Hector’s Dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, White-flippered penguins, sea birds, shorelines of beautiful volcanic cliffs, lava flows, and sea caves, our captain George let me steer the vessel for a while and his first mate Albie was an English Springer Spaniel, the spotter/server was Sophie from the UK)
  • had lunch at The Wharf (nice patio on the harbor, excellent food, perhaps my best meal of the trip)
  • had our final windy drive back to the Christchurch airport for our long journey home (our bags both snuck in at exactly 23 kg each)

 

 

Interesting stories:

  • we covered a good portion of both the north and south islands in 19 days but left enough things to do for another long visit
  • my name is pronounced Eed by the Kiwi’s
  • minimal police presence as it is a very safe country
  • the weather was as low as 1C at night to highs of 28C during the day
  • the country seems to be well ahead of the curve on sustainability
  • they have public toilets available throughout the country and something other countries tourism bureaus should learn from (some of them are very state of the art)
  • most of the bridges are single lane, but it seems to work quite well with drivers understanding who has the right of way
  • we met many international people that lived, worked, or were touring in the country (Soviet Union, Lithuania, Thailand, Israel, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, UK, United States, China, Japan, South Africa, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, India, Australia, Wales, Croatia, Nepal, Philippines, Austria, Czechia, Malaysia, France, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Belgium, Italy)

 

 

What did we purchase:

  • Maori wood carved face mask
  • blown glass vase
  • raw, unpolished Jade
  • All Black ball cap
  • Kiwi Xmas decoration
  • Kiwi wall hanging
  • lots of varieties of local chocolate
  • winter jacket for Marilyn

 

 

What did we not do that is on the agenda for next time:

  • Bay of Islands (area north of Auckland that has some scenic boat rides including Hole in the Rock at Cape Brett as well as historic places Russell, Paihia, and Waitangi where the Treaty with the UK was signed)
  • other areas on the north end of the north island include Cape Reinga, Hokianga Harbor, and Tane Mahuta (site of the humongous Kauri tree)
  • Rangitoto (good nature hikes) and Waiheke Islands (several wineries) off the coast of Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf
  • Hawkes Bay (wine region) and Cape Kidnappers (gannet colony)
  • Waitomo Caves (glow worms) and Otorohanga Kiwi House and Bird Park
  • New Plymouth (Len Lye Gallery)
  • Tongariro Crossing (eight-hour volcano walk)
  • Martinborough (wine region near Wellington)
  • Pinnacles (rock formations)
  • Nelson region and Abel Tasman National Park (wilderness reserve with beautiful beaches, trails, marine life, and good kayaking)
  • Marlborough (wine region)
  • Kapiti Island (bird sanctuary near Wellington)
  • Inter-Island ferry between Wellington and Picton
  • Punakaiki (pancake rocks)
  • Curio Bay (view the penguins)
  • Milford Sound (spectacular fiord with towering peaks, rainforest, waterfalls, and marine life)
  • Dunedin (University town, first settlement in the country, Scottish Larnach castle, Royal Albatross Colony, rare yellow-eyed penguins, Speights Brewery)
  • Stewart Island (off the tip of the south island, good place to spot Kiwi in the wild)
  • bungee jump at Kawarau Bridge just outside of Queenstown
  • Mount Cook area (hikes including Hooker Valley and Tasman Glacier)
  • Omarama (glider ride)
  • Kaikoura (whale watching)
  • Hammer Springs (hot pools)
  • Oamaru (cheese)
  • tramp (their word for trekking/hiking) some of the multi-day trails (Milford Track, Routeburn Track, Heaphy Track, Kepler Track)

 

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