This was a wonderful introduction to a great variety of sites on the South Island of New Zealand! We really appreciated the attention to detail that Shelley put into designing this for us. It was challenging to try to see and do as much as we did, but we would not have cut anything out. We certainly have some great ideas where to visit and spend more time when we return!
We were very pleased with the accommodations selected. All were wonderful and each had a different character. We hesitate to choose a favorite as they all had unique charms. The only one that had any negatives to speak of was the boutique hotel in Queenstown. Although very unique and striking, it was a bit noisy as it was on a busy street and the parking was problematic for us. Since this was more of a city experience than any of the others, this has to be taken into consideration. Our accommodation in Christchurch was in the city center, but was more of a Bed and Breakfast experience and very quiet. Everyone was very hospitable and helpful, the smaller B & B type lodgings had a more personal touch as can be expected. When we return, this is the type of lodging we will select.
One of us was the driver and the other the navigator. The driver was new to driving on the left, but had little difficulty getting used to it with the nice Toyota Corolla (with trunk, not hatchback, which was nice) and reminders to keep left. We did not fully anticipate that driving the roads would take as much time as it did. This was partly due to unfamiliarity at first but just to reiterate that the roads are mostly two lane and only when they were straight were we able to go the speed limit comfortably. On the plus side, the scenery is fantastic. The stretch to Picton had road construction and a diversion of traffic from the coastal highway. We were a bit nervous about the time to get from Queenstown to Milford Sound as we saw warnings that it could be very slow going. We had no problem on the day we traveled, but it is worth a warning regarding the potential slowness if you have a particular deadline (as we did). The New Zealand drivers are very courteous, no problem there. We did have our front end bumper scratched at some point, probably by a fellow tourist in a parking lot.
The navigator found the GPS in the car to be very useful. The directions in the book were helpful, but could have been more helpful if distances (a bit more detail) were given. The pre-planned activities were all well chosen and except for the flyover of Mount Cook (which was cancelled due to weather) we had good weather for all. Good food also, everywhere we went, with a lovely New Zealand twist on things.
Thanks to Shelley and Discover New Zealand for their assistance in planning a great experience for us in New Zealand. As we watch the snow falling back here in the states, we dream of: Delightful walks around the Arboretum and downtown in Christchurch. Enyouing the great breakfast at our wonderful lodgings. Walking the forest track around the town of Hanmer Springs. Soaking in the variety of hot springs at Hanmer Hot Springs as rain clouds gathered above us. Wonderful home cooked dinner enjoying the company and view across Okiwa Bay to the rest of Queen Charlotte Sound. Walking the Queen Charlotte Sound track, listening to the birds, watching the activity on the water. Eating green mussels for the first time in Havelock. Admiring the spiffy town of Nelson. Marveling at the view and surroundings at our lodge on the top of the hill. Kayaking in the beautiful, warm water at Abel Tasman, admiring the rocks and seals. Walking a beautiful nature trail in Arthur's Pass, learning about the native flora and fauna. Admiring the outstanding features of the western coastland such as the unique Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki. Helicoptering to the glacier, drinking glacier water, hiking with crampons. Walking to the viewpoint over Okarito lagoon, enjoying the fabulous view. Walks around Queenstown, on the lakes, on the stream at Arrowtown Admiring incredible beauty of the Milford Sound area. Viewing waterfalls and other sights in Milford Sound; experiencing the swells of the Tasman sea Kayaking from the boat in Milford Sound. Early rise on boat in Milford Sound to enjoy quiet and sunrise. Peaceful views and walks around Te Anau. Driving up the Otago peninsula to the Larnach castle, marveling at the views in every direction and the twisty, barely two lane, road. Relaxing while taking in the views from our perfect room at the Camp Estate of Larnach Castle. Admiring the amazing renovated Castle, one of a kind in New Zealand. Enjoying the wonderful gardens and grounds of the castle. Enjoying a fine dinner at the castle with interesting company. A morning visit to Dunedin, visiting the University just after graduation with picture taking of grads and proud parents. Immersed in the wildlife experiences and viewing of the Otago peninsula. First from the boat, then from land (the albatross nesting) and finally the nature preserve where we saw seals up close and the yellow eyed penguins coming back from gathering food to their nests. Wonderful, hospitable, people, rightly proud of their country!