South Island, New Zealand

Recently I had the chance to travel with a small group of travel agents to Christchurch for a tour of the South Island of New Zealand and had a wonderful experience. Even though the Air New Zealand flights were quite full, the service, on-board facilities and meals were excellent.
Got off to an early start the next morning and boarded the Tranz Alpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth on the West Coast. The 4 hour journey through the snow capped Southern Alps provided us fantastic views as the train went through the many tunnels at Arthur’s Pass. The staff on board was mostly friendly and helpful.
After arriving in Greymouth, we drove down to Franz Josef and visited the Hukawai Glacier Centre. The Glacier Hot Pools in Franz Josef was certainly the place to be at the end of the day to relax. I would love to return for a longer visit. The next day we experienced a glacier walk on Fox Glacier, a great eco-adventure and a definite must, this was the highlight of the trip, even though I am not the best with heights. I survived the walk along the track through the rainforest which winds down to the edge of the ice. We then climbed the ice steps (cut by the guides each day) up onto the middle of the glacier for some spectacular views. We were on the ice for about 30 minutes before making our way down a different track. The sun shone brightly and it was fabulous.
Next port of call was Queenstown which is known as an ‘Adventure City’ and we tried several adventures. Dart River Safaris was the first. After a 30 minute walk through the Heritage Trail we travelled along the Dart River in a Jet Boat enjoying lots of spins and the views were great with stunning scenery as seen on "The Lord of the Rings" movie. One of our group did a bungy jump and said it was a real adrenalin rush - I left that up to her. I did do the Shotover Jet Boat Ride however and oh my goodness, the speed, the thrills & the 360 degree spins in those narrow canyons - it was certainly an experience I won't forget.
Next we travelled on the Skyline Gondola, with gorgeous views of Queenstown. I even kept my eyes open and managed to enjoy the restaurant overlooking the town. We then headed off to Milford Sound to enjoy a cruise, but didn't make it. About 35kms from our destination our access was blocked due to SNOW, in May! It was a spectacular scene but the decision was made to turn around as we knew we would not get through. It was a shame to miss as I had heard so much about it.
Dunedin was next and we enjoyed a Gourmet Walk tour including a Scottish Bar where I tried haggis for the first time, unusual taste. We visited Larnach Castle, built in 1871, the only one in the country, the gardens and the architecture were beautiful. Certainly worth a visit and you can stay there as a treat. For all the beer drinkers, you must take the Speight's Brewery Tour, a variety of beers to taste and even I did the taste test. Not bad for someone who doesn't drink beer!
Next we travelled from Dunedin to Christchurch via Oamaru and walked around the Historic Precinct with its lovely Whitestone architecture, before heading off to the Penguin Colony. Accommodation throughout was of a very good standard, comfortable, clean, well located and with great views, I am happy to assist with recommendations.
Another visit to NZ is a must!

Denise – October 2012