Hi Paul - we are now back from our NZ trip and I wanted to write and say how much we enjoyed it. Thank you for all your help and all the arrangements you made worked perfectly and we followed loads of your excellent recommendations. We had a fantastic time. If you want to use those first few sentences as a testimonial then please do.
We were blessed with blue skies throughout - even on Milford Sound which all the crew kept saying was very unusual! We enjoyed the drive to Te Anau and the Blue Ridge B&B there was lovely. It’s a 5-10 mins walk away from the town centre which might not suit some but this didn’t worry us and Rebecca was so helpful in booking the glow-worm caves trip, which we would thoroughly recommend. Rebecca also put us in touch with Steve who took us over the lake in his water taxi so we had a lovely couple of hours walk back round and into town. The drive to Milford Sound was a highlight and on our trip we had a pod of three dolphins follow our boat for over half an hour which was one of the trip’s absolute highlights for me and then we saw blue tuna jumping which had the naturist crew member on board really excited because he’d never seen this on the Sound before. In the evenings the Fiordland film was well worth seeing as you recommended, the Fat Duck was v good, we had v good pizza at the popular Paradiso and the Redcliff was excellent for our last supper in Te Anau.
The Queenstown Hilton was lovely for a couple of nights and we really enjoyed our stay. If we’d been staying any longer however we’d have preferred to be in town. The free hotel shuttle buses were not that frequent and you had to think ahead and book if you wanted to have a chance of getting on the popular ones. The water taxi was great fun but at $10 per person each way the cost would soon mount up. We couldn’t get over how much Queenstown had changed (but it was 28 years since we were last there!) and having done the Shotover last time around, we thoroughly enjoyed the Wilderness Safari you recommended on the River Dart - another highlight. We couldn’t get into Fergburger (endless queues) but we would recommend the Public Kitchen & Bar on Steamer Wharf as long as you enjoy the sharing dishes concept (larger than tapas but same philosophy) and we stumbled on The Cow (next door to Rata) which is great for pizza and served the best spag bol I have had in my life. You suggested a visit to Arrowtown and this was well worth the visit and we had the good fortune to see it with blue skies and glorious autumn colours. The museum there is excellent and I had a hard job dragging Duncan away.
We got the best of both worlds in Lake Tekapo in that we walked over to the church to enjoy the fantastic night skies (after a nice meal at the Reflections restaurant) and then drove up to the Mount John Observatory the morning after for breathtaking sunny morning views. Lake Tekapo Village Motel at Lake Tekapo was fine in that it was clean and warm but it couldn’t help but be a bit of a letdown after the Hilton! OK for one night though.
The Settlers motel at Hanmer Springs was really lovely and so were the pools and the expensive but brilliant meal at No. 31. Really enjoyed that!
We enjoyed all the driving (so relaxing compared to the UK) and took the scenic route you recommended into Christchurch. It was interesting to wander around Christchurch for an hour and have lunch at the pop-up container city but thank you for steering us away from spending a weekend here as our time was much better spent elsewhere. Thanks for flagging the Queen Charlotte Drive into Picton which was spectacular and the Harbour View motel in Picton was again fine for one night with nice harbour views. We couldn’t get into Cafe Cortado but had a really nice meal at Le Cafe.
We had a good time with family in Wellington and would thoroughly recommend the Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa. The Heritage in Auckland was a lovely way to end the holiday as you suggested and an excellent location. We got a good feel for the city by taking the Hop On/Off bus and we got taken out to the Botswana Butchery in the Old Ferry Building which was fantastic (especially as we weren’t paying!)
Thanks again for all your help Paul
Susan and Duncan Wilkinson