TRAVEL INSPIRATION: NEW ZEALAND SOUTH ISLAND
We love indulging in our weekly travel features, and live vicariously through the photographers we feature who have travelled far and wide to share their travels with us! This afternoon we’re heading as far away from the cold Spring days of England to the warmer climes and varied landscapes of New Zealand, which contributor Lorraine visited earlier this year on honeymoon. They planned a once-in-a-lifetime trip taking in both the North and South Islands, staying in luxury hotels and boutique accommodation, travelling between towns by car and plane!
Destination: New Zealand
Travel Time: London to Christchurch, approx. 24+ hour flight (via Singapore)
Time of Visit: January/ February.
Since childhood I have wanted to go to New Zealand. This was only intensified after I watched ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ and saw so many stunning landscapes. My husband, Richard, and I share a love of the films to such an extent that we actually had a ‘Lord Of The Rings’ inspired wedding. So, it was only fitting that we chose New Zealand for our honeymoon. Having been on beachy holidays before together, we were so attracted by the option of doing extra special, taking in and exploring many different locations for our honeymoon. Richard had previously visited to New Zealand’s North Island, but that was over 10 years ago! We have both heard so many amazing things about the South Island, so couldn’t wait to go and experience all of the breath-taking scenery for ourselves.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed in a wide range of accommodation, and I mean wide. From an inexpensive old converted nursing home, to luxury 5 star hotels and apartments. We stayed 2 weeks in the South Island and 2 weeks in the North. As we travelled around each of the islands (staying from 1 – 3 nights in each location), we thought it best to spend more money on some nights than others. I found our hotels using a combination of booking.com and hotels.com, together with using reviews from Trip Advisor. For each place I booked, I of course mentioned that this was our honeymoon. I am so glad we did this! We got room upgrades as well as champagne, flowers and even some hot home cooked bread. If you are looking for a romantic hotel with a bit of luxury the Peppers Hotels chain will be perfect. We stayed in two Peppers hotels during our honeymoon. They specialise in luxury accommodation for couples, and I must say their hospitality is wonderful.
WHAT TO DO
The South Island is so varied. One morning we were on a glacier and that same evening we were on a beach!
In Christchurch I recommend taking a trip on the Gondola (or as we would call it cable car). There are some stunning views of the city, which although was devastated by the earthquake in 2011, is still a lovely quaint place.
As you drive up to Lake Tekapo, you will be left breathless. The stark pure blue of the lake is something I will remember forever. Tekapo itself is a small quiet town, being away from the city lights you can experience some spectacular stargazing. A short walk out of the town is where you will find Tekapo Hot Springs which I highly recommend.
One of the highlights of the trip was our day out to ‘Milford Sound’…wow, wow, wow. I never thought I would see so much beauty so close up. Yes, it was a rainy and drizzly day when we went, but it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm one bit. The drive itself through Fiordland National Park, was nothing short of magnificent. You literally drive through and in between ginormous mountains. We stopped our car so many times to take photos and to just cherish the scenery.
While visiting ‘Milford Sound’, we stayed in Te Anau. There was a lovely peaceful vibe in Te Anau, and yet again there is a gorgeous lake which our hotel overlooked. Here we took a boat trip to the Glow Worm Caves! I was completely overwhelmed by the experience. There is a little walk underground, before you are taken to a little boat where you are fully immersed in the darkness, so you can see the Glow Worms in their full glory, it is a site to behold!
Queenstown, how we loved Queenstown! Again, it was another amazing drive to the town. We stayed at a ‘Peppers’ hotel right on the lake. If you go to Queenstown, you simply have to go to Skyline. Skyline is a little adventure complex containing a Gondola, 2 track Luge (think go-carts but cooler), Mountain Biking and various rides. We had cocktails at The Stratosfare Bar, which has awe-inspiring views over the whole town, followed by a few rides down the mountain on the luge. Originally we bought tickets for just one Luge ride but we quickly paid for a couple more. A little gem of a place we were told about by other couple who had visited New Zealand on their honeymoon was The Onsen Hot Pools. We LOVED this place! It was a little bit of mountainside luxury. These romantic private hot pools have a retractable roof so you can bring the indoors outdoors. Finally in Queenstown, if you’re a Lord Of The Rings fan, the Paradise Safari tour is great fun. During the tour, you are driven around by your guide who takes you to some fabulous locations which were used for the film trilogy.
If you like puzzles and tricks of the mind ‘Puzzling World’ in Wanaka has plenty to keep you occupied. The mind bending illusion rooms will (if you are anything like me) leave you rather dizzy!
Yet another incredible drive to Franz Joseph. In Franz Joseph, Richard went on his first ever helicopter ride and what a way to do it! If you go to Franz Joseph you simply have to do a helicopter trip on top of the Glacier. We had a 20 minute stop on the Glacier but could have stayed up there all day. Not only was the site amazing beyond words but the smell of pure clear air was so fresh and bracing. Also, Franz Joseph is home to the Glacier hot pools, which are nestled around a luxurious rain forest. This the perfect way to relax after a day exploring the glacier.
On the way up to Nelson we took a little diversion to visit the Pancake Rocks & Blowholes. Just a 20 minute scenic walk from the road you can see the natural pancake-looking limestone formations.
Abel Tasman national park is home to lush beaches and beautiful clear waters. We took a water taxi to a location for the start of our lagoon hike. This was the most incredible hike I have ever been on, the views were just amazing! During the hike we knew that a spectacular secluded beach was waiting for us at the end. One thing to be aware of, although the beaches are incredibly tempting, they are home to a number of jellyfish, which did put us off going for a dive!
The South Island not only lived up to my expectation but far exceeded them. One word, WOW!
WHAT TO EAT
South Island: If you tell people you’re going to New Zealand, anyone that has been there before will inevitably tell you to visit Fergburger. Fergburger is based in Queenstown and specialises in gourmet hamburgers. Everytime we passed the restaurant there were queues of people outside. Once we tried the burgers for ourselves we could see why, yum yum yum. The staff are lovely too, whilst in the queue speaking with a waitress I mentioned I was on my honeymoon, we were then provided with free beer, yay!
I ate the best pie I have ever eaten during my stay in Te Anau. ‘Miles Better Pies and Much More’, provided home cooked pies in a vast variety of flavours. I wish they had a shop over here!
On the way to Wanaka, we stopped off in the picturesque gold rush town of Arrowtown. It was here we found ‘Patagonia Chocolates’ a quaint little chocolate and cake shop. I was served the most amazing cheesecake with warm hot chocolate sauce. They even provided me with a cute little bag so I could take my leftovers with me (it was too nice to leave).
HOW TO GET AROUND
I do highly recommend to hiring a car. New Zealand is such a magnificent and vast country, to explore it and see it at its best a car is vital. In the towns and cities you can get by without a car but New Zealand doesn’t offer a comprehensive passenger train network.
WHAT TO PACK
Pack for all weathers! Particularly if you are visiting both North and South Islands. We went in January/ February which is their summer, but we still needed jumpers and coats especially when on Milford Sounds. Also, Abel Tasman and The Bay Of Islands is hot hot hot, so bring a swimming costume. If you are going to New Zealand you will likely be doing a lot of walking so bring a good sturdy pair of hiking boots.
TOP TRAVEL TIPS
If you use a debit card, when asked if you would like to pay in pound or dollars, always pay in the local currency as you will save money on the currency conversion.
It is worth remembering that New Zealand sits under a hole in the Ozone layer, so you must wear sun cream, even when it doesn’t feel very hot.
WOULD YOU VISIT AGAIN?
I think about going back every day! It truly was the best experience of my life. Richard and I will definitely go back in the future. Next time in addition to revisiting many of our honeymoon locations, we will visit Doubtful Sound, a naturally imposing fiord in the South Island!