Virginia Beach, Virginia Travel Agent
Adventure In New Zealand "Land Of The Long Cloud"
New Zealand has always been on my bucket list, and finally that adventure has come true. My husband and I arrived in Auckland in conjunction with a Travel Leader International Summit.We stayed at The Langham Hotel a short distance to the Auckland waterfront district. The next few days we explored the city including the Auckland University area, downtown and the New Zealand War Memorial Museum.The Museum had a great exhibit on the Orakei Maori Tribe. The Maori people settled New Zealand some 400 years before contact with Europeans.
We had several outings the next two days including a visit to the town of Matamata the site of Hobbiton, the home of the Hobbits The Lord of the Rings fame.The village is in perfect condition just like in the movies down to the Green Dragon Inn. We also had a great experience visiting the Waitomo Glow-Worms Caves. The caves were full of stalactities and stalagmites and a boat trip into the Glow-Worm grotto.
The following day we flew to the South Island and landed at Christchurch.The city is still recovering from earthquake damage it experienced in 2011. We stayed at the Heritage Hotel in the heart of the downtown. As the city is rebuilding, there are many activities to enjoy including a visit to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, city tours by foot or tour bus and Punting on the Avon. Punting is done on a small boat with a guide pushing the boat along the Avon River in the gardens. The evening was a fun Tramway Dinner Tour. The Tram is a 36 seater colonial dining tram offering great food and service as you experience a sightseeing tour showcasing the inner city.
Our adventure continued driving west across the Arthur's Pass National Park through our first mountain range. The natural beauty was breathtaking including extraordinary rock formations and water falls. Stopping for lunch at Greymouth on the west coast, we continued south along the coast heading for Franz Josef and the Southern Alps. The mountains continued to get larger and taller as the drive followed ancient glacier river beds. By late afternoon we arrived at Franz Josef Township, home to Glacier Country.
We stayed the night at the Te Waonui Forest Retreat, an excellent resort tucked into the local rain forest. The service and cuisine were excellent with very comfortable rooms and common spaces. The next morning we reported into The Helicopter Line for a flight over the two glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Unfortunately the weather changed and the flight was cancelled. On the west coast this is always a possibility when trying to visit the glaciers.We hit the road and headed for Queenstown passing through mountain passes including a stop at the Thunder Creek Falls. Natural beauty reigned as we closed in on Queenstown. The roadside was covered with wineries reaching up the hillsides with a promise of good wine tasting in our near future. We checked in at the Crowne Plaza Queenstown which overlooked Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountain range.
Queenstown is a small resort town with many restaurants, bars and shops. But the real reason people come to Queenstown are the exciting and fun activities for all ages. The area is home to the original Bungee Jumping Bridge and that is just the beginning of fun things to do. The next morning we visited the NZONE Sky Diving center just outside of town. If that is your sport, then this is the outfit you want to work with. The staff are very professional and organized. With large lakes on one side a mountains on the other, this is a great location for skydiving. That afternoon we traveled to the Shotover Jet Boat Ride. Shotover Jet are the most exciting jet boat ride and the only company permitted to operate in the spectacular Shotover River Canyons. We did it and had a thrill of a ride. For dinner we took the Skyline Gondola Ride and had dinner overlooking Queenstown.
With an early rise we joined a tour bus heading for the spectacular Milford Sound, a part of the Fiordland National Park. The drive included a stop at the town Te Anau overlooking a beautiful lake and mountain view.From here we entered mountain passes and great vistas as we make our way to Milford Sound. The drive even included a one lane mountain tunnel opening up to wonderful scenery. At Milford Sound we boarded a small ship and headed into the Sound. With lunch included we wondered at the mountains that towered straight up from Milford Sounds shores. Waterfalls were always in view as we made our way to the sea, turned around and repeated the scenery from the oppose direction including a close-up stop at a waterfall just feet from the ship. After docking, we walked over to the local landing field, boarded a helicopter and flew over the mountains heading back to Queenstown.The pilot decided we could make a landing on top of a snow covered mountain for a photo stop and admire the view. In only 45 minutes including a stop we returned to Queenstown instead of a 4 hour bus ride. What a day and what an adventure.