The Mount Cook region has always been an important travel destination for international travellers to New Zealand. Previously, the only option was to stay at The Hermitage in the Mt Cook Village. Nowadays, there are other choices a short drive away to suit a variety of budgets.
On a recent research trip between Christchurch and Queenstown I visited a number of accommodations. Tekapo and Twizel offer a great base from which to explore the Mount Cook area. Lake Tekapo’s blue lake is legendary for its beauty, as is nearby Lake Pukaki.
Its a 3.5 hour drive from Christchurch to Tekapo Village and for a scenic route, I’d recommend, travelling via Darfield/Rakaia Gorge/Geraldine. Although there are two local resorts, Bluewater and Mantra, there are some special boutique options:
Lake Tekapo Lodge is a boutique lodge with lovely views over both the village and the lake. The lodge is Kiwi-owned and hosted by Alistair and Stephanie whose love of original artwork and rich decor is evident throughout with gilded mirrors, chandeliers and individually styled bedroom suites.
Three Rivers Lodge is a purpose built boutique B&B with two rooms and a family apartment. The lodge is located 1.5km or 2 minute drive from Tekapo village. The lodge rooms have magnificent uninterrupted views and the 2 bedroom self-contained apartment is fully equipped.
Chalet Tekapo has apartment-style, self-contained units located on the lake. This accommodation is an affordable option for those on a budget.
Lakeview Tekapo offers self-contained rooms attached to a residential home. This is similar to a B&B, except guests have their own small apartment.
Just 64 km away is stunning Lake Pukaki, with views over to New Zealand highest mountains, Mt. Cook & Mt. Tasman and there are a couple of properties I would stay any time!
Lakestone Lodge Pukaki – just opened in July 2016 and has views ‘to die for’. The local hosts Anna & Mike purpose build this stylish property with a focus on travellers wanting to experience some of New Zealand’s clearest skies!
Mount Cook Lakeside Retreat – now this is something VERY special. Location, space and privacy…this place has it all! I’d liken it to having your own luxury holiday house with private spa, except you can interact with your hosts if you wish.
Gourmet dining with the freshest local produce takes pride of place. It helps that the hosts Luke and Kaye Paardekooper, are wine connoisseurs and skilled cooks. Just wait’ll you see the wine cellar.
This property is so much more than a wine and food experience. If you’re interested in stargazing, you can opt to use the property’s very own observatory. This really is a special piece of paradise.
The next village travelling south is Twizel. This place was created in the 1960’s when a huge hydro/ channel system was built and it still supplies a big part of New Zealand renewable electricity. Accommodation options vary from local B&B’s to stylish lodges.
Aoraki B&B – small, locally run classic New Zealand B&B.
Heartland Lodge – located a few minutes outside town this B&B lodge has been long established and provides an excellent New Zealand style lodge.
Matuka Lodge – small upmarket lodge property outside the village with lovely appointed rooms.
Visitors to the Mount Cook Region really need to stay at least 2 nights to get the full ‘impact’ of this special place and it’s many treasures.
A hike in the Abel Tasman National Park is sure to chase the blues away and the Apple Tree Bay walk is perfect for time-short travellers.
Grab a backpack with a few supplies and extra clothing and start walking from Marehau. Very soon you’ll cross a bridge from where you’ll see White-faced Herons getting ready for take-off.
As is often the case on New Zealand bush walks, the scenery constantly changes. One minute you’re looking over the flats…
..then you’re meandering through dense native foliage, pass beautiful little grottoes like this.
The Apple Tree Bay walk is not that strenuous. There are plenty of opportunities to stop for a break and gaze at the views. Remember, there is always the option of returning by water taxi.
As the trail descends, your expectations will be rewarded with a golden beach and beautiful Adele Island beyond.
Adele Island is a beautiful predator-free island with many native New Zealand birds. It’s pristine status is a testament to the efforts of a privately funded project incorporating the Department of Conservation and volunteers. These volunteers are taking a well earned break for lunch.
Don’t know what this guy’s excuse is:
The Apple Tree Bay walk is a great ‘taster’. Kayaking is another popular way of getting a close encounter of this beautiful region. Either way, I guarantee you’ll return refreshed. Okay, one last look.
After visiting Perth and the Margaret River area in Western Australia, we had a quick 3-night stay in Sydney to check out hotels for our clients. With 4.3 million people, Sydney’s population equals the whole of New Zealand!
Sydney airport is only 10kms from the city and a 20 min drive. There are taxis and the efficient Sydney Airport Train Link. We decided to try out the Royale Limousine service that some of our clients use. After a midnight flight we just wanted to relax. It was a seamless transition.
We chose a hotel located in the central city so that we could be within walking distance to Sydney’s fantastic cafes and the subway stations. Most of the key hotels are located near the ferry terminal, the Sydney Harbour bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
What to do in Sydney
As Travel Agents, we’re always trying to walk in the shoes of our clients. It’s a neat idea to use the ferries to go over to Mainly or take the train from a central station. We started from Martins Place, took the “T4” train to “Bondi Junction” then bus number “333” to Bondi Beach. All up, 30 minutes.
If you’re a first-time visitor, a really smart way to explore Sydney, is to join a half day tour with a local tourism operator. We used Australia Luxury Escapes as they cater for small groups. We shared an air-conditioned mini-bus with just one other family.
Our first stop was at The Rocks to view Sydney Harbour Bridge, the suburb of Potts Point with elegant Art Deco architecture and romantic terrace houses. Next was the Botanical Gardens and close by, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, an exposed sandstone rock cut in the shape of a chair and the best look-out point to view the harbour.
By joining this tour, we gained some idea of the city’s layout and received vital local information which came in very handy in the days to follow. Lunch at Sydney’s Yacht Club at Rushcutters Bay was an event.
People living within 5kms of the club do not have access unless they have a membership, but the rest of us do. However you will need to produce some form of identity such as a Driver licence or passport.
The last stop on this tour was Bondi Beach and although we’d visited the day before, its beauty still provided an impact. It totally lives up to its name as one of the most beautiful surfing beaches in the world!
Surfer dudes love Bondi Beach. It has a cool beach vibe with quaint cafes and side streets with interesting shops, such as Russkis Deli which offers food from around the world. The public swimming pool on the Bronte Coastal Walk sits right next to the ocean and on the other side, is a superb restaurant.
Some might say the ultimate Sydney experience is climbing and walking the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But if you’re sensitive to heights, just admire it from the harbour side. Its a magnificent structure.
So much to do, so little time. You really have to sort through the wishlist carefully.
The beautiful town of Denmark Western Australia, won my heart. It’s lush forest provides the perfect setting for intimacy and the scenery was stunning. We took the Scotsdale Scenic Drive through the Williams Bay National Park and drove to The Greens Pool, a popular snorkelling spot.
From The Green Pools, we took a short walk to Elephant Rocks area. These rock formations really do look like elephants retreating into the water.
Denmark has a great choice of secluded cottage and villa accommodation so if you like immersing yourself in natural surroundings, I’d definitely have a 2-nighter here. It was recommended that we lunch at the The Lake House winery restaurant.Michael’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets when our platter arrived. It was chock-full of artisan treats. Best platter ever!
We took a while over our coffee, basking in the sun and enjoying the tranquil views…
Saying goodbye to The Lake House was hard…
But we’re still working as we’re travelling so it was time to return to Albany. And you know what, the treats kept coming. Arrived back at our suite in the late afternoon to delicious homemade baking.
Don’t you just love generous hosts!
The bushland scenery in the Margaret River Region is lush and beautiful and the road on the way to Albany is incredibly picturesque with red soil contrasting with the greenery. For the next few days we’ll be experiencing Albany highlights Western Australia!
After travelling through Augusta, Premberton and Denmark, we finally arrived at Albany, our base for the next 4 days. Albany is the oldest permanently settled city in Western Australia and is well known for the migrating whales that come here at certain times of the year. We’re staying at The Beach House at Bayside, a traditional boutique family-owned hotel with old-fashioned values, terrific personalised service and a great brekkie!
One of the star attractions of Albany is the Whaler’s station. We joined a tour to get the full overview of the station’s history. Thankfully, the last whale was taken at Albany in 1978. What remains is an historical account of those times. Here’s the original whaling boat, the conditions of which were pretty basic!
On this tour, you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck. First we were taken back in time to the audible sights and sounds of the processing factory. It was a grisly business. There was a terrific 3-D presentation (glasses supplied) and 3 large oil tanks had been converted into theatres displaying slideshows and actual film footage. But what about those massive whale skeletons!
Our next stop was at The Gap which is situated in the Torndirrip National Park, 10kms from Albany. The Gap is a a 24-metre drop to the sea, and the Natural Bridge. Here you can see the awesome power of the sea and sensational views of the Southern Ocean.
A new universally accessible viewing platform allows visitors to stand 40 metres directly above the surging seas and I’m proud to report that out of the two of us, I was the only one prepared to go right to the edge.
So worth it!
The scenery and rock formation is stunning.
The National Anzac Centre is a sobering experience but I would not have missed it for the world. It is a state-of-the-art interpretative museum overlooking King George Sound. With the clever use of individual audio technology, you can actually walk through the personal experiences of various soldiers. Respect is given to all the soldiers of this war.
When you first walk in, there’s a continuous reel of actual footage showing soldiers marching through a street. The sound of their boots is like a slow beating heart and it’s haunting. The lighting within the museum is subdued and photos were difficult to get (no flashes allowed) but I was able to get one of this beautiful sculpture of a soldier and his dependable horse.
Back to Albany in time to catch the late afternoon sun. It may be winter here but I’m loving these mild temperatures and of course those beautiful white-sandy beaches Australia is famous for.