New Zealand

Joanne Cowdery on 20 February 2005
Onboard with Singapore Airlines we soon discovered why we’d paid a little extra to fly with one of the most charming and courteous airlines. 12,500 miles later we’d reached our destination New Zealand….

North Island We explored the North Island by car and stayed in hotels and youth hostels. Some of the main highlights were Auckland - a vibrant South Pacific city, perched between lush hills and glistening harbours. We drove North and discovered the Bay of Islands - famous for its subtropical climate, beautiful bays and beaches. We took a day trip from here with a boat trip around the Bay of Islands. South of Auckland are the Waitomo caves. We tried Tumu-tumu toobing which is an underground river trip using an inner tube as your boat! The glowworms were so plentiful you could have been outside at night looking at the stars. In Rotorua we discovered steaming geysers, bubbling mud pools amid crystal-clear lakes and streams. Not forgetting the fascinating Maori culture. The main town of Napier is an Art Deco lover’s paradise. It’s art deco architecture, cleanliness, size and feel is very welcoming. From here a stunning drive inland will take you to beautiful Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Lake Taupo is very scenic and it’s worth a further drive to Huka Falls to see more than 220,000 litres of water tumble over the cliff face per second. The Huka Jet is worth a ride if you like the idea of travelling at 60mph sideways with the prow 6 inches from the riverbank. Not for the faint hearted. South Island On the east coast lies Christchurch New Zealand’s ‘Garden City’ which sprawls across the Canterbury Plains with the dramatic backdrop of the Southern Alps. Known as the English city outside England, its preserved gothic architecture is complemented by tree-lined avenues, colourful gardens and the meandering Avon River. We used Christchurch as a base, and had a day trip out from here aboard the TranzAlpine train. It is rated as one of the top scenic rail journeys in the world and we now understand why. The journey takes you through some of the most magnificent scenery in New Zealand, right from the East Coast, over the mountains and down to the West Coast port of Greymouth. From Christchurch we journeyed to Mount Cook National Park. Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer are readily accessible to travellers. We took a boat onto Lake Tasman where we explored the huge ice-face of New Zealand’s largest glacier, Tasman Glacier. We watched and listened to the ice melting before our eyes in this tranquil glacial lake. The grandeur of the area will leave an impression which is difficult to describe and impossible to forget! From here we headed South to the adrenaline rush centre of the universe, Queenstown! This is where the heart of the action is for bungee jumping, white water rafting and it’s backpackers paradise. That’s not really us, so apart from some white water rafting, we moved quickly on. We did stumble across a very picturesque town nearby – Arrowtown – which was a beautifully preserved colonial style town built during the gold rush of the mid 19th century. Another classic destination area in New Zealand is the ‘Sounds’ in the South Western corner – Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound to name the two main ones. Doubtful Sound is an overwhelming place, where you can feel the power of nature – the remoteness and the peace. It is known not only for its breathtaking scenery, but also for its abundant wildlife: bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and penguins. Doubtful Sound is well worth a visit. It rained like we’ve never seen before!, but nevertheless it was still a spectacular place. Milford Sound may be slightly prettier, but it’s much smaller and completely overrun by tourists. With our motorhome we could take our time, but Milford is a fair drive for a day trip. We toured up the West Coast – again what rain!!, visiting Mount Cook again but from the other side and some rainforest. We always imagined rainforest to be hot and humid; in New Zealand its forest is where it rains almost non stop. Overall we had a fantastic time. We only really skimmed the surface, there were so many places we just didn’t have time to visit. Maybe in a few years time……