Published: August 9th 2007March 18th 2007
Getting to the South Island was a like stepping back in time. Insisting that you arrive at the ferry terminal at 7:00am, an 1 hr before boarding, we did just that, and then proceeded to sit in the car with nothing to do until the 8:00 boarding began at 8:15am. All this time the loading area could only hold approx 25 vehicles, meaning the rest of the vehicles were required to wait in line and even worse, sit in the right hand turning lane for a good 30 minutes without being able to turn into the ferry terminal. Excited to begin the boarding process, I put the pedal to the metal which was quickly answered with a slamming of the brakes - by this time the breakfast muffin had worn off and the patience was wearing thin. The ferry was basically loaded one car at a time, as each car was required to drive down a land and then turn around back up and back up again and then drive forward - yes this ferry only loaded on and off at the front of the ferry - like the 1950's version of water transportation. Once parked we headed upstairs to then
At the entrance to Abel Tasman National Park
see what resembled 70's furniture and decor and a lack of windows along the side - not a bad deal for $220! So for all those people that complain about BC Ferries, which I was one, they are the most efficient service company we have ever used - Greece proofed this and Blue Bridge was the icing on the cake! Thailand is a different story - but at least you have sunshine, beautiful bodes and heaps of smiling faces.
Having arrived on South Island soil, specifically Marlborough, our main goal was to take advantage of New Zealand’s largest and premier wine region. We stopped off at Cloudy Bay to swig back a few fee samplers and grab a bottle for the road. The wineries in NZ are young in comparison to many of the other wine regions around the world. The people at the wineries are extremely friendly and there is no pretentiousness, no massive million dollar estates, and no building that was a futuristic experiment. Very much the opposite of some of the wineries we visited in Napa Valley, Stellenbosch, or Chile. We stayed (2) nights in Nelson, a nice wee beach town, and used this as our
A Hidden Gem
Abel Tasman National Park - view from the Coastal Track
base for Abel Tasman National Park.
One of the highlights of our NZ tour was our day excursion to Abel Tasman National Park. It is NZ's smallest national park, but it is packed with a punch. We had absolutely stunning weather which allowed us to enjoy the views and coastal trails that it so well known for. We took the Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle from Kaiteriteri beach all the way up to Totaruni Beach and then got dropped off at Bark Bay. From Bark Bay we did a (2 1/2hr) coastal track to Torrent Bay. The views of the emerald water and those of the white and golden sandy beaches were awesome. The best way to see everything is definitely to camp and spend a few days kayaking around the coast and into the inlets, of which we did not do!
From Nelson we headed southeast to Christchurch and spent a night resting after a long day of driving. The drive itself was very scenic, but again if you have been to Scotland or England, rolling hills get boring after about (5)mins. From Christchurch we drove to Queenstown, one of NZ's premier holiday destinations. Another of our highlights
of NZ was definitely the drive from Christchurch to Queenstown. We stopped at the much overrated Lake Tekapo and laid our eyes on the Church of the Good Sheppard for a few minutes before continuing on. The fact is mountains or hills really aren't that impressive unless they have snow on them and thus Lake Tekapo and the surrounding mountains/hills did nothing for us. Continuing on to Mt. Cook and lake Pukaki was a different story. Lake Pukaki is absolutely incredible, pictures do not capture the presence of the amazing color of the water and Mt. Cook in the background. The Mt. Cook National Park is really worth going to was our only true "Mt" viewing that we saw in NZ. At 12,216ft Mt. Cook commands presence and it is beautiful.
Arriving in Queenstown after being awe-struck by Mt. Cook, our first impressions were a wee bit of disappointment. Queenstown is nice, and the Remarkables Ranges provide the background for Lake Wakatipu is an added touch - but to really appreciate the scenery and surroundings one would have to visit it in winter. The dull brown color or the Remarkables doesn't do much in the summer. The town of
Queenstown is the Adventure Capital of NZ if not the world and but we passed on the tours/activities as we just could not stomach the costs, knowing that we can do all the outdoor activities back home. Queenstown is very small and compact in comparison to its reputation. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit any of the ski "resorts" of the surrounding area as they were closed. Must admit, we found this extremely disturbing, especially given the fact that we read many pamphlets mention that compared this region to Whistler, Bariloche and Vail. Fact - this area, at least in summer doesn't belong on the same page as Whistler as far as a "resort" definition is concerned. We got very lucky with the weather in Queenstown and the last night we were in town, the mountains got a dusting of snow - although nothing to write home about.
From Queenstown we drove to Te Anau where we stayed the night after driving to Milford Sound. Milford Sound, and more precisely Mitre Peak is the most photographed landscape in New Zealand. Again, we had fantastic weather and were able to keep dry for our (2 1/2) hr
cruise through Milford Sound. Milford Sound averages about (7) metres of rain per annum, and rain in the region is only defined as "rain" when it’s bouncing off the ground a metre high! However, we agreed that the highlight of Milford Sound was not the cruise but the drive through the Fiord land on route to Milford Sound. The Fiords were amazing, the rugged mountain ranges came right down to the road - felt very much like BC. We did the 3:45pm sailing, the last of the day which meant we were the only boat in the sound - fantastic and very peaceful. The morning we left Te Anua we were counting our lucky stars as the temperature had dropped to (4) degrees and the highway to Milford Sound was closed due to snow - we were lucky to get there in nice weather the day before.
From Milford Sound we drove to Dunedin via the Southern Scenic route which takes you along the Catlins Coastline and Forest. For about (10) minutes of the drive the views of the coastline are awesome and the beaches are absolutely beautiful. Although not sure about the water temperature. Dunedin is
actually means "Edinburgh" in Gallic, and it is very Scottish in every sense. Dunedin has a good student population and has some good ethnic food, of which we enjoyed some Thai! The Tomahawk and St. Kilda beaches are beautiful and very scenic. We also drove out to Otiga Peninsula which is well worth the drive. This area is just north of Dunedin and is a big nature reserve.
To finish things off we drove to Christchurch were we stayed (3) nights and were able to take in a much anticipated Super 14s rugby game - the Christchurch Crusaders vs the Blue Bulls from South Africa. The game was full of excitement with the home team winning 33 -10. The stadium wasn't completely sold out but it was a very full stadium which made for a good atmosphere.. It was a great experience and we feel our NZ tour is complete having taken in a rugby game.
Our tour of NZ was informative and interesting to say the least. Miraculously we drove 5,100kms during our (16) car rental - some of them good kms some of them bad! What we take away from NZ is the fact
On the way to Abel Tasman National Park
that Kiwis are an extremely friendly bunch of people and enjoy their sailing, rugby and adventure sports.
We are now off to the Gold Coast of Australia for a quick visit to see if we can get out to the Great Barrier Reef, before heading to Hawaii for a much needed dose of warm temperatures.
There are more photos below