Experience New Zealand with Sam!
New Zealand. Wow! Where do I start?
Day 1 – Upon arrival at Perth airport the check-in process was so easy with Air New Zealand then off we went to the brand new Perth lounge. I’d upgrade to business class just to go in here again!
After a comfortable but sleepiness overnight on the new Dreamliner with Air New Zealand’s direct to Christchurch we arrived to collect our hire car & head straight off to the Christchurch Botanical Garden to have lunch at Curator’s House. This place looked like a gorgeous little cottage from the outside & inside so cosy! We had a tapas lunch served with our first of many New Zealand wines.
After lunch we headed to the Avon River for some punting. It was freezing but lucky enough our Kiwi guide gave us all blankets to get cozy while we spent an hour in this little boat looking at the botanical gardens from the river. I felt like I was in Venice (even though I’ve not been there…….yet!)
That afternoon we had a guided walk looking at the town of Christchurch & seeing the devastation that the earthquake had done, especially to the Cathedral. It was very emotional looking at the sites.
We also had some free time to go on the tram & do a little shopping before an Italian dinner at Francesca’s Italian Kitchen. This place seems to be the place to be as it was very full!
After such a long day we got to stay at the Crowne Plaza which was right in the centre of town & walking distance from everything!
Day 2 – It was a bright & early morning on Wednesday for our long, windy & scenic drive to Kaikoura to go whale watching. We were out on the water for approx. 2 hours in total & saw our first whale within the first 30 mins. When doing this tour, make sure you take seasick tablets even if you have your sea legs! A couple of us took them beforehand & felt find during the trip but majority of the passengers were unwell. In total we got to see about 3 whales, lots of different types of birds & seals. Just around the other side of the bay is a local pub call the Pier Hotel. They serve the best seafood chowder I’ve ever had!!
After lunch we went on a 2 hour drive to Hamner Springs & checked into Heritage Hotel. This place is fantastic for family’s & couples as you can get Garden View rooms which are separate to the hotel or a self-contained villa. That evening after dinner at The Tea Kiosk Café & Grill we got to go to the Thermal Pools & Spas. Wow! What a gorgeous place. Some of us became big kids & did a few trips on the kid’s slide (we had to test it out for our clients of course!) It was cold, so do this before getting in the thermal pools. We spent a good hour to two jumping between all the different temperature pools. Some with jets, some without. I think there was about 10 different types of pools there including the whirl pool. The thermal pools are open til late so it’s a nice wind down after a busy day.
Day 3 – Off to the Waimakariri River we went for the Alpine Jet ride. If you’re not a full on adrenaline junkie this is the jet ride for you! We did a few twists & turns but this tour is all about looking at the sites. Also seeing the fault line where the earthquake came through. We had a quick look before moving as the tour guide didn’t want to stick around too long in that particular spot. At the top of the river walls there is a Kiwi style BBQ lunch served at Rubicon Valley barn.
Rubicon Valley barn also does horseback riding & motorbike tours.
After lunch we headed to Tekapo where we had a stop at the Church of the Good Shepherd which overlooks the crystal clear Lake Tekapo before heading to the nicest hotel I think I’ve seen, Peppers Bluewater Resort. This beautiful hotel has a lake in the middle of it which all the rooms surround. They are self-contained & 2 story the ones we stayed in with their own balcony. Downstairs was the bedroom & bathroom where upstairs was a full kitchen & living room. They can also be set up as interconnecting to turn it into a 2 bedroom.
For dinner we went to the very popular Kohan Restaurant which serves Japanese food. There was lots of interesting meals on the menu but for a picky eater like me, I loved it all! Especially the few of the sunset of Lake Tekapo.
That evening we went on Mt John Twilight Tour which was star gazing. I thought I’d enjoy this more than I did, but it seems star gazing isn’t my thing! The hot chocolate & brownie were tasty though J
Day 4 – My favourite day out of the entire trip. We headed off today to do the Air Safaris’ Grand Traverse which was a scenic flight over Lake Tekapo, Aoraki Mount Cook, Mt Tasman, the Tasman and Murchison Glaciers as well as the beautiful turquoise glacial lakes of the Mackenzie Basin. There was still snow on all the mountains so now I can finally saw I’ve seen snow! This trip is well worth every cent! That afternoon we headed to The Hermitage Hotel in Mount Cook where our next trip took off from. This trip is not for the unfit at all. After a short bus ride from the hotel we came to the bottom of a mountain. We had to walk up through the windy bush track (no snakes in NZ thankfully!!) then over a hill, where we got the most spectacular view of the Glacier Lake before heading down a very steep/rocky gravel path to get to the zodiacs. I struggle to put how spectacular this place looked. It was breathless & so peaceful. I’ll let the photos do the talking which don’t do it justice! To think that only that morning one of the glaciers broke off & ended up at the other end of the lake. Each day the look of this lake changes due to the glaciers always breaking off & to think that in years to come the glacier won’t be there anymore for future generations to see.
After a magnificent day we headed back to Peppers for dinner in their restaurant before heading Tekapo Springs to another relaxing evening in the thermal pools.
Day 5 – What’s an educational without a flight delay! Unfortunately due to airline schedule changes Air New Zealand had to make our flight was delayed all day so we got to make the most of our time but heading to the Christchurch by going to the Antarctic Centre & having a VIP tour! We got to see the penguins swimming behind the seas, watch a 4D movie & just generally check-out the place before being able to head to the Commodore Hotel (very close to the airport) for a freshen up & dinner. That evening we got to fly home, but not before we got to check out the Air New Zealand lounge again!
Overall this was the best trip I’ve been on. Some of the other agents said New Zealand was the best place they have ever been on even after being in the industry for 20+ plus years. Apparently Canada is just New Zealand on steroids! I will be back to see you south island & next time I will bring the family with me!