By chance we came across the New Zealand In Depth and it immediately seemed to ‘tick the right boxes’. We met Paul in Buxton, discussed options and budgets and soon had a draft itinerary, which, after a few amendments, resulted in us confirming the trip – two weeks on North Island and four on South, with an outward two day stopover in San Francisco. Our first visit to the US and it was excellent - Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Cable Cars, Clam Chowder et al.
Air New Zealand to Auckland, a vibrant city with Chinese New Year celebrations, Volvo International Yacht Race and Alan even did the Sky Walk! During our stay the mix of accommodation was ideal, from luxury lodges, B&B’s, apartments and boutique hotels and the hosts were all splendid, nothing being too much trouble.
North Island treats included Coromandel Peninsular and Kuaotunu Bay Lodge, Karangahake Gorge, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, lovely art deco Napier ( we stayed at the Crown Hotel with the NZ cricket team) baby kiwis being fed at Pukaha Mount Bruce, Te papa and Zealandia in Wellington and much, much more.
A short flight to Blenheim on South Island, where we enjoyed walking part of the Queen Charlotte Track ( Charlotte would be a good name for a royal baby !), a quite superb day eco tour of Farewell Spit, the Buller Gorge Swingbridge, Pupu Hydro Walkway.
The heli trip at Fox Glacier was spectacular, and nearby Lake Matheson and the totally unspoilt Gillespies Beach, are beautiful in different ways. Wanaka was lovely, as was the trek up to Rob Roy Glacier, although the cloud descended as we reached the top viewpoint. On to Queenstown, via the unique and quaint Arrowtown, and Queenstown Country Lodge, probably our favourite stay of all. John and Amanda were fabulous hosts and as cricket lovers (ask John about Geoff Boycott) we watched NZ beat South Africa, with a six off the penultimate ball of the World Cup semi final. The NZ reserves of Pinot Noir took a dent that night !
We loved Queenstown, particularly the gondola ride up and the Ziptrek Eco Tour down. On to Te Anau and two totally different cruises, the first on a beautiful day on Milford Sound, where we caught the first cruise, before the coaches arrived and the second, an overnight cruise on the 6 cabin MV Southern Secret, where we had most of the 17meters pa of rain that falls in Fiordland, on the first day – this did however make the waterfalls spectacular.
The Catlins were one of our favourite places being totally unspoilt with few tourists – sea lions at Cannibal Bay, yellow eyed penguins at Roaring Bay were experiences we will never forget from our base at Mohua Park.
Chilling out at Akaroa was the perfect end to our stay and we will remember the hectors dolphins on the catamaran trip for a long time. Paul's recommendations for restaurants were excellent, highlights being The Bunker, Queenstown and Ortega Fish Shack in Wellington.
The food, the people, the ever changing spectacular scenery, the climate all made this a truly fantastic ‘holiday of a lifetime’.
Thank you Paul and all at NZID both here and in Auckland,
Alan and Eileen Crowest