Review: South Island
New Zealand...now on to the South Island!
92 people found this review helpful
I was on a coach trip of New Zealand and had just arrived in Picton after the tour of the North Island. The ferry journey was breath taking and I had spent the whole time on deck braving the cool breeze so that I didn't miss a moment of the views. Now I was back on the coach and heading through the farmlands of Canterbury Plains before climbing up into the Main Divide and across the Southern Alps. Some of the group took an optional trip on the Trans Alpine railway but I didn't do this. We met up again at the Franz Josef Glacier (which as Glaciers go wasn't that impressive, but the mountainous backdrops were lovely). A mid morning stop at a little town called Hokitika was mainly for a visit to a jade factory but the real highlight was finding an exhibition of driftwood sculptures on the beach. They were very unusual and very cleverly designed. We stayed overnight at Fox Glacier at The Heartland Hotel and it was like being in a Swiss ski resort surrounded by mountains and (unfortunately) low clouds. The next day we drove through the Haast Pass but the promised views were hidden by the rain and low cloud. However by the time we arrived at Queenstown the sun was out again and our hotel The Copthorne Hotel and Apartments was superb. I had a great big balcony and the views from it made me reluctant to leave the room! At different times of day the lake and the backdrop of mountains changed under the different lights. The next day I went off to explore Queenstown. It is a fabulous town, clean, friendly and beautiful. I took the Gondola up to the top of the mountain and had a sandwich lunch as I looked out over the city below. I watched bungy jumpers waiting nervously for their turn and felt my stomach fall along with them when they did jump! I walked the 9.4 kms around the lake to the Kawarau Falls, from different parts of the lake the town looks different and it provided a great photo opportunity. (The falls themselves were not at all impressive but the walk there, and the return, were well worth it!).
Another early morning start and today we went to The Fjordland National Park. The scenery was very alpine and impressive. We boarded a boat at Milford Sound and had a wonderful cruise amongst the mountains. The sun stayed out and by now I was rapidly filling my memory card. New Zealand is just SO photogenic! After the boat trip we spent the night at Te Anau. Our hotel looked like a film set, it was called The Village Inn and each of the blocks is made out to look like a part of a wild west town. Very novel and the rooms were comfortable. Our next stop was Dunedin. If you like Edinburgh you will love Dunedin. It looks just like a Scottish town (it even has a statue of Robbie Burns in the square) and I wasn't greatly impressed but I was very taken with Larnach Castle. (Not a real castle but built as a folly). However the views from there are incredible, the history of the place like a Victorian soap opera and the gardens beautiful. Well worth a visit. To emphasise the Scottish theme we were treated to a "Haggis Ceremony" at the hotel that evening!
The stay in Dunedin was pleasantly short and our next destination was Lake Ohau Lodge, near Mount Cook. En route we passed Koekohe Beach where we saw the Moeraki Boulders. These are huge boulders just lying on the beach. Some have burst open and the whole scene looks like something out of an aliens film! (Supposedly they are caused by volcanic eruptions in the past but they are certainly a strange site.) We then went to Mount Cook. Again some of the group had arranged flights over or onto Mount Cook but I was happy to spend the time walking around the national park and seeing the mountain from there. Once again the views were stunning. The Lake Ohau Lodge was a group of cabins which were very basic but it's situation more than made up for their austerity. Right by a lake and surrounded by mountains, once the sun went down you felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. In fact there were so many stars visible in the sky that I left my curtains open all night and felt like I really was sleeping under the stars!
Now I was about to leave the group tour. I was dropped off in Christchurch and had booked my own hotel overnight. Christchurch had suffered awful earthquake damage a few years ago and I was shocked at how much damage there still is. Buildings that have partly fallen down are still standing and even my hotel had a section of it that seemed to be held together by yellow tape! But despite the damage the people of the town have an amazing spirit. They have rebuilt their shopping centre using brightly painted containers and there is such a feeling of comradeship and hope that you can't help but be moved. Everyone I met was very philosophical about it and was looking to the future with great positivity. I would recommend anyone visiting the South Island not to rule out Christchurch, it is a sight to behold and is quite inspirational. So then I left New Zealand with a very full memory card and very fond memories.
92 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.