Below is our trip report for our wonderful trip to NZ. I apologize for the length but we had so many wonderful experiences. I hope you enjoy it. I posted an outline just in case you want to jump to a day that interests you.
Day 1 Blenheim
Day 2 Blenheim
Day 3 Blenheim - Christchurch
Day 5 FJ - Wanaka
Day 6 Wanaka
Day 7 Wanaka - Queenstown
Day 8 QTN
Day 9 QTN - Auckland
Day 10 Auckland
Day one: We arrived in Auckland from Tahiti. We were lucky enough to have a three night stop over which gave us some time to get over any jet lag. We immediately took a flight to Blenheim to start our South Island adventure. From the airplane we were introduce to the stunning beauty that is New Zealand. We picked up our car and drove through the vineyards to the B and B we were staying at for two nights. Our host welcomed us with open arms and this was just the beginning of our experience with the Kiwi’s wonderful hospitality. We had some dinner in Blenheim and starting making a plan for the bike ride we were going to take through the vineyards tomorrow.
Day two: It was a beautiful sunny day and we decided to bike around the vineyards and do some wine tasting. We spent the entire day pedaling from one vineyard to another with a stop for lunch in the middle. The scenery of vineyards between the green mountains and brown mountains was fabulous and all of the wineries were outstanding. I am a huge fan of Sav Blancs, but I was surprised how wonderful the Reislings and Pinot Gris were. We took a short nap before going to Havelock for dinner. We wanted to try the infamous green lip mussels and they were wonderful.
Day Three: Today we made our way down to Christchurch. It was an incredibly windy day so we were very happy we were not biking today. We admired the beautiful landscape on our way down to Kaikoura. We stopped at Ohau Seal Colony and did the small hike up to the Ohau waterfall. Since we were visiting at the end of November there were no seal pups in the pool unfortunately, but it was still a nice hike to a lovely waterfall. We stopped in Kaikoura for lunch. Nice small town on the coast to stop and explore for an hour. We then decided to drive to Point Kean and hike around the coast for about an hour. This is the first place where we got an up close and personal view of the lovely blue water of New Zealand. The color of the water throughout the whole trip was amazing. Driving down to Christchurch we stopped at two wineries before arriving at our B and B around 6:00 pm. After we settled in we decided to drive down to center city to see the earthquake recovery and to get some dinner. The destruction of the earthquake was incredible. It was incredibly moving talking to locals and hearing the stories about that day. There is such a spirit among the Christchurch locals to rebuild and move forward. Christchurch is a lovely city and I am sorry we only had one night there before we headed to the West Coast. They have lovely parks, hiking trails, and biking trails that if we had more time we could have spent a whole day exploring.
Day Four: The sun was out and we decided to take a small hike around our B and B before breakfast. During breakfast our hostess, who was born and raised in Christchurch, educated us on how Christchurch plans to rebuild. We could tell she was still very upset about the devastation that they earthquake caused, but she can see the future and the wonderful things they are doing to rebuild. After breakfast, we headed to Franz Josef via Arthur’s Pass. It is hard to describe how beautiful the drive is through Arthur’s Pass. The Majestic mountains, the crisp and pristine rivers/streams, the unique landscape. We stopped multiple times along the way to take in the beauty and stretch our legs. We arrived at Arthur’s Pass and got small bite to eat before hiking up to Devil’s Punchbowl. The hike is very much up hill, but they have installed steps along the way to make it easier. The waterfall was very impressive and worth the hike. We also hiked to the Bridal Veil Falls lookout and very much enjoyed the switchback hiking trail through the forrest. New Zealand hiking trails are well maintained and easy to find and follow. We left Arthur’s Pass and made our way down to Franz Josef. We stayed at a small motel in FJ and enjoyed a nice meal at the Thai restaurant. FJ reminds me very much like a small ski town in the US or Canada.
Day Five: We left FJ early in the morning and headed to Lake Matheson. It was a beautiful sunny day and very still. It would have been a perfect day to do a Glacier hike, but we were heading down to Wanaka and did not have the time. When we come back a glacier hike will be on our list. We had breakfast at the cafe at Lake Matheson which was delicious. After breakfast we hiked around the lake. The hike was beautiful. You go back and forth between the forrest and the lake’s edge. It was a beautiful sunny day and the streaks of sunlight that came through the trees made it even more spectacular. Having the lake with Mount Tasman in the background was one of the most beautiful sites we have ever seen. In my opinion this is a must see if you are in glacier country. Unfortunately we did not get a reflection picture. The day was very calm, but there was still some ripples in the lake. I think you will have to be very lucky to get the perfect conditions for the reflection. After lake Matheson we stopped at Fox Glacier to take a quick look at the Glacier. The Glacier was more impressive than we thought is was going to be. After the quick stop at Fox we started to make a way down to Wanaka via Haast Pass. We made multiple stops along the way. Roaring Billy’s Waterfall was quite spectacular. Especially walking on the dry river bed to the edge of the river to admire the spectacular blue water. The color of the water still amazes me. The milky blue water flowing through the rivers was something I never saw before. We stopped at thunder waterfall and the blue pools. Also spectacular. We also tried our first Whitebait Pattie along the way from a local food truck. The whitebait pattie was very interesting. Whitebait, egg, on a piece of bread. It was not my favorite thing that I ate in NZ but it was good. We had to try it. The drive through Haast Pass to Wanaka was the most spectacular drive we did in NZ. We absolutely enjoyed the scenery. We arrived in Wanaka around 6:00 pm and after some advice from our host at the B and B made a way down in to town for dinner. As soon as we started walking around Wanaka we knew this was going to be one of our favorite places.
Day Six: Another beautiful sunny day in NZ. We have been soooooo lucky with the weather. After breakfast we decided to rent bikes and bike around the lake. This was our favorite day of the whole trip. We rented very nice mountain bikes and decided to bike to Albert Town along the lake and river. The very nice woman that we rented the bikes from recommended this beautiful bike ride. The ride was not very hard, but it was not as easy as biking on a paved road. I am not much of a mountain biker, but it was easy enough for me. There are some parts of the trail that are very narrow and goes up and down a bit but we did not have a hard time navigating. Luckily for us there were not too many people riding that day. If there were a lot of bikers on the trail it may have been a little bit more challenging. Along the way we stopped to watch people fishing in the river and admire the beautiful turquoise blue water. The color of the water was different from the milky blue water from the rivers along Haast pass. Absolutely beautiful. Once we arrived in Albert Town we made our way back to Wanaka via the paved roads. When we arrive back in Wanaka we bike along the other side of the lake to Rippon Vineyard. We parked our bikes at the bottom of the hill and walked up to the tasting room. When we arrive at the tasting room we admired the most beautiful view we have ever seen from a tasting room. The tasting room overlooked grape vines below and the Lake and mountains in the background. The wine was fabulous and we bought a bottle of Reisling and sat at a picnic table, enjoyed the wine and the view. It was an absolutely perfect day. That evening we ate in town and relaxed.
Day Seven: After a wonderful breakfast from our host we made our way to Queenstown via Crown Range. We stopped to look at the Bungy Jumping platform over the river. I would never do that, but my friend that I was with was contemplating it. In the end she did not do it. We stopped at a few wineries before heading to Arrowtown. Arrowtown was a cute little town that we walked around for about an hour. We arrived in Queenstown around 4:30 pm where our hostess met us and gave us some advice on where to eat. We walked down to QTN and enjoyed the city and had some dinner.
Day Eight: After breakfast we made our way to Glenorchy and the Routeburn Trail. Enjoyed the drive out the Glenorchy. The huge mountains around this immense lake was stunning. We finally arrived a the start of the Routeburn Trail and decided to hike about 1.5 hours along the Trail. This hike was stunning. We did not hike all the way to the Falls Hut so maybe next time. We did watch a group canyoning and that looked really fun. I found it fascinating how different the vegetation is from glacier (rain forest) area to Wanaka/Glenorchy area. After the hike we stopped in Glenorchy for a late lunch. We admired the river and watched a few school age children swim. Too cold for me. We made our way back to Queenstown and enjoyed a Fergburger for dinner. That is one big burger.
Day Nine: After breakfast we made our way to the gondola and enjoyed the view of Queenstown from the top. We did ride the luge twice and had a lot of fun. After the gondola we made our way to the airport to catch a flight to Auckland. Once we arrived in Auckland we walked around the marina and had a fabulous meal at Soul Bar This was the best meal we had in NZ.
Day Ten: We took a morning ferry to Waiheke Island. We rented a car and explored the island and stopped at a few wineries. Unfortunately in the morning it was raining, but by the afternoon the sun was out. Many of the wineries were beautiful and there were a lot of people on the island because it was a Saturday. We made our way back to Auckland and enjoyed dinner.
Day Eleven: In the morning we took our last walk around Auckland. I really enjoyed the city. I felt safe and there was a lot of restaurants and cafes all around the downtown area. We made our way to the airport for our long journey back to the East Coast of the US.
Our expectations were huge and New Zealand met and exceeded all of our expectations. The beauty of this wonderful place is nothing we have ever seen. The people were so friendly and kind. We did not have one bad experience. Before I left I thought this was going to be the only time I would be going to New Zealand since it is so far. The second day in NZ I knew I would be coming back one day. I wish I could come back next year, but it will have to wait.
I want to Thank all of the Trip Advisor contributors that have helped me plan this amazing trip. Without your input I would not have been able to plan a busy trip but not too busy. Thanks.