What a beautiful country New Zealand is. We travelled from the other side of the world (England), and it was well worth every hour spent on planes and in airports waiting for connections. We mainly travelled by car and found driving conditions very easy. We were there for thee weeks and determined to see as much of the country as we could.
We started out in Auckland, where we had just one evening and one full day in Auckland. On our first evening, we headed straight to the Sky Tower, which at 328 meters high is the southern hemisphere’s tallest structure, with amazing views from the top. The next day we walked though Myers Park, where the Sky Tower could be seen in the distance. We visited Khartoum Place where there is a memorial to New Zealand women’s suffrage. It was installed in 1993 to mark the centenary of their suffrage. We also took a short ferry ride to the lovely suburb of Devonport with it’s well preserved Victorian and Edwardian building and many beautiful beaches.
Heading north from Auckland we visited the Waitangi treaty grounds which overlook the Bay of Islands. It was here that 43 Maori chiefs signed the treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown in 1840. We spent some time cruising around the Bay of Islands with it’s 150 undeveloped islands, sailing through the hole in the rock at Piercy island.
Travelling further north, on a coach tour, we drove along 90-mile beach. This is a bit of a misnomer as it is actually more like 90k. There are lovely long stretches of sand that we had to ourselves and some sand dunes where people braver than us tried their hand at sand tobogganing.
And further north still, at the top of North Island we visited Cape Reinga, with its lighthouse. It is here that the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. In the picture though you can see the different colours of the two seas.
We then headed south again, to Waitomo south of Auckland where we visited the Glowworm Cave. The pinpricks of light in the picture are the glowworms. There are several caves in Waitomo with many different activities for people with a sense of adventure.
Heading further south, we stopped at Taupo on the shore of Lake Taupo, and walked along the Huka Falls walkway which, unsurprisingly took us to the Huka Falls with its beautiful turquoise water. This is where New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato, slams into a narrow chasm.
We also spent some time in the Tongariro National Park where we walked from Whakapapa village to the Taranaki Falls. There are many beautiful routes of varying lengths in this national park
And then on to Wellington where we spent a day visiting and a half visiting the Te Papa museum, learning a lot about Kiwi culture; taking a ride on the Wellington Cable Car, then walking through the Botanical Gardens where we were lucky enough to hit on a rehearsal for a Shakespeare play! We also explored the harbour area and had a guided tour of some of the outskirts of the city, including Mt Victoria lookout point.
And so on to South Island. We took the ferry across the Cook straight between North and South Island, and as we got closer to South Island, we saw the beautiful coastline.
We headed down the east coast road to Kaikoura, an absolutely beautiful drive. This road had recently re-opened following the earthquake of November 2016 that destroyed part of the road
Kaikoura is a lovely peninsular town, with picturesque walks around the headland. The town was hit by the earthquake resulting in a change to the coastline. The rocks in the first photo weren’t visible prior to the earthquake. The full-day that we spent in Kaikoura was the only day we were affected by bad weather. We were due to take a boat trip to watch albatrosses, but unfortunately, the weather was too bad, and after 10 minutes of sailing we had to turn back to shore. We will have to return to Kaikoura!
From Kaikoura, we continued down the east coast, to Christchurch. We didn’t spend much time in Christchurch, arriving quite late in the day, and catching the TranzAlpine railway which runs from Christchurch to Greymouth on the west coast, via Arthur’s pass. There were some spectacular views while crossing the pass, including this one of Lake Sarah in Cass.
Franz Josef was our next stop, where we visited the famous glacier. We were able to walk quite close to the glacier, passing signs showing where the glacier reached years ago, an indication of how rapidly it’s receding, a stark reminder of the effects of climate change.
Then on to Lake Matheson , a peaceful place, famous for it’s reflected views of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman
Next we spent a pleasant night in Wanaka, on the shore of Lake Wanaka, walking up to a beautiful viewpoint at the top of Mt. Iron the next morning
Then back to the east coast to Oamaru, which is hailed as New Zealand’s, town. It has a quirky, back in time feeling with it’s Victorian buildings and slow pace of life. It is also home to a colony of blue penguins (the smallest penguins in the world), and we watched them come ashore as dusk fell.
And on to the Otago peninsula where we stayed for two days in a lovely cottage with a great view over to Pudding Island, so-called because of the shape. There is so much of beauty on the peninsula, including the almost deserted Allan’s beach, home to some Hooker’s sea lions.
At the very tip of the peninsula, there is the albatross centre where there are nesting Northern Royal albatrosses. These birds are so graceful in flight but very inelegant when coming into land!
There is also a blue penguin colony that we were very lucky to see coming on to land. Close by is Penguin Place, a protected home for yellow-eyed penguins, which are the worlds rarest penguins
Travelling back over on the west of the island, we spent two days at Te Anau, which is the main gateway to Milford Sound. On the advice of our host in Te Anau, we made an early start to travel up to Milford Sound which meant that we reached the aptly named Mirror Lakes just after sunrise, thus avoiding any other tourists! It was well worth the early start.
As we got closer to Milford Sound the mist and clouds set in, which made our boat trip around the sound and it’s many waterfalls quite atmospheric, and I’m sure just as beautiful as it would have been on a bright, sunny day.
Our final stop was Queenstown, a bustling, activity focussed place in a lovely setting on the shore of Lake Wakatipu.
We spent 3 wonderful weeks in this beautiful country, where the people are so helpful and friendly. Whether you are adventure seekers, backpackers, hikers, or like to take things easy in beautiful surroundings, New Zealand has lots to offer. And we will almost certainly be back again!
This article and photos were provided by Hazel Wright.
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