Yes, Christchurch is slowly recovering and yes, it still is the perfect base for visiting Hanmer, Kaikoura and the beautiful fishing town of AKAROA. This blog is about a great small group day tour to Akaroa:
Discovery Day Tour to Akaroa:
Leaving central Christchurch, we travelled the scenic route to Akaroa, over the Port Hills, via Sign of the Kiwi, Governors Bay, through Gebbies Pass, alongside Lake Forsyth. First stop at Little River at the iconic Little River Store, café and gallery. The abundance of food on display will have you ordering probably more than you need. And even though there’s a bit of a queue at times, the service is fast!
The next stop was at a forest reserve area with a giant Mitai (Black Pine) tree. The guide talked about New Zealand unique nature, forest and birdlife- a great way for travellers to be introduced to the delights of New Zealand nature. Then, a relaxing ride down the curvy road into the bays before reaching the village of Akaroa.
Lots of French history attached to this pretty little village. Akaroa is also the starting point for the Black Cat Wildlife Cruise where you can also opt to swim with the Dolphins. On a calm day it’s a pure oxygen experience for nature lovers, especially if your swimming mates have fins!.
These playful dolphins leap in the air right next to the vessel. You’ll pass seals sunbathing on the rocks and view the numerous sea birds cruising the skies. There’s also a lot of history in respect of the Maoris and the early explorers of New Zealand in the 1800′s.
After the cruise we made our way back towards Christchurch with a stop at Barry’s Bay Cheese factory for a cheese tasting and even though some people prefer to keep their wallets firmly in their pockets, I’m not one of them…not when it comes to cheese. This was our choice:
A day tour into Akaroa with a local operator – with small group numbers – for a great relaxing exploration of Canterbury and Banks Peninsula.
New Zealand Honeymoon destinations like Rotorua and Queenstown are heavily promoted and well documented in other travel blogs, but do Honeymooners know about the gorgeous and lesser known places in New Zealand? These Top 10 New Zealand honeymoon destinations and activities are for fun seeking, nature-loving Honeymooners.
Where to begin?:
As most international travellers begin their trip in Auckland and finish in Christchurch, we’ll start from North to South and add links for easy reference and information access.
1 – Waiheke Island off the coast of Auckland – for wine lovers
Only a short 50 minutes ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island is a gorgeous, relaxed gem surrounded by the bluest waters. It’s actually hard to imagine that New Zealand’s largest city is so close!
Friendly locals and remote, empty beaches welcome as you arrive at the ferry terminal. You can either rent a car locally for the day or join a vineyard/scenic small group tour. Handy Hint: Take the 10am ferry ex Auckland harbour and back at 4pm from Waiheke ferry terminal. Read more.
2 – Hahei Beach Coromandel Peninsula – Kayaking and hiking
The question from our travellers is a this, ”shall we go to the Bay of Island or the Coromandel Peninsula” ?We have written another travel blog on this subject (link). The key advantage with the Coromandel is there is less driving and the scenery is just as lovely as the Bay of Islands. Read more.
You’ll get the same warm climate, the giant Kauri Trees and golden beaches on the eastern side of the peninsula. Hahei Beach is one of those top locations with beach access to the Cathedral Cove Walk and the glorious Kayaking from the Hahei Beach Village.
3 – Blackwater Rafting Waitomo Caves
Now this really is a ”classic Kiwi” adventure. Established in the mid 1980′s (I did my first trip there in 1988) it’s now seen as one of the top adventure things to do in New Zealand. It’ll be easier for you to see the video to get a sense of the adventure - but it’s safe, fun and an activity that’s probably unique to New Zealand. Be warned, you’ll get wet, but a shower and BBQ is provided after the tour. The tour takes about 4 hours. All you need is swimwear and a towel and the fun is guaranteed. Read more.
4 – Orakei Korako Flight + Walking excursion
The area between Rotorua and Taupo is the most geothermal active region in New Zealand. There are many ”reserves” you can easily visit - Waiotapu, Waimangu, Te Puia etc. With Orakei Korako you can combine a scenic flight from Rotorua over the area (in a fixed wing aircraft) plus a guided walk thru the volcanic wonderland. The big ‘plus’ is that you’ll get away from all the truckloads of tourists at the other reserves. Have good walking shoes and a rain jacket (just in case). Read more.
5 – Abel Tasman Region – Vineyard Cottage stay
The Abel Tasman region and honeymoons are a perfect match for romance and for sheer intimacy, a vineyard cottage stay is such a wonderful way to celebrate your first time together as a couple. Read more.
Stay at least 2-3 nights, relax and enjoy this beautiful – and mostly sunny – Abel Tasman region. A fine example of a romantic setting can be found at places like the Kina Beach Vineyard Cottage, conveniently located between Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park. Here, you can walk thru the vinegrape rows down the beach or just sit on your veranda amidst the privacy and scenery. Read more.
6 – Remote West Coast Beaches and rainforest
The West Coast of the South Island can rightly be called ‘Paradise’ It’s wild, lush and underpopulated - the perfect place to explore and find new experiences.
Take the drive thru the Buller Gorge with lots of stopping options (e.g. swing bridges, walks, historic sights). Then the Cape Farewell Seal Colony (with Walk). Of course you’ll need to check out the iconic ”Pancake Rocks” at Punakaiki (best to do at high tide). And if you’re after a great hosting experience and stunning views over the Tasman sea, consider a stay at The Breakers Boutique B & B. Plan on a 2-night stay.
7 – Heli-hiking Fox Glacier
The glaciers in New Zealand are different in that they flow a lot faster than other glaciers throughout the world. It’s only about 25 kms from our highest peak – Mt. Cook, 3654 metres – to the Tasman Sea. In between you have (a) the high alpine country – glaciers with a lengh of 12 kms, (b) lush rainforest with stunning walks and (c) beach and lagoon walks along the sea. And you can do this all in one day!
Start with the Heli-hiking in the morning, it’s worth every penny as you get 2 x short helicopter flights and 2 hours walking on a safe part of the Fox Glacier with a local guide. Special ice equipment is provided. Bring your own sunglasses and a good jacket. Read more.
8 – Rob Roy Valley Walk
For those Honeymooners keen on one-day hikes, the Rob Roy Valley Walk is definitely a highlight walk. Stay in Wanaka for two nights and travel for about one hour up the West Matukituki Valley in your rental car or with a transport operator. The walk is about 5 hours return and crosses a classic NZ swing-bridge. You’ll gain access to the hug “valley bowl”, a perfect place for lunch and meet the local “Kea” birds.
9 – Dart River Safaris – with Lord of the Rings From Queenstown
You’ll enjoy travelling to Glenorchy in your car - it’s a very scenic drive. From there, the Dart River Safari tour begins and takes you to a place actually called “Paradise”. This is an informative tour with stops on the way (learn interesting and funny facts about the filming for the Lord of the Rings in the area).
Next you’ll take a thrilling jetboat ride in a jetboat down the Dart River back to Glenorchy. I highly recommend this trip as you really get the best overview between the Fiordland and Mt. Aspiring National Parks. Read more.
10 - Dunedin – nature discovery
Nature tours don’t get much better the Elm Wildlife Tour on the Otago Peninsula! You’ll be collected from your accommodation in Dunedin. The first stop is at Tairoa Head (right at the end of the peninsula) to view the Southern Royal Albatross colony. It’s the only nesting site in the world close to a human settlement for these giant birds (up to 2.5 metres wing span!).
A guide will drive you onto a private farm property beach. You’ll then take a 20 min walk to the nesting area of the Yellow-Eyed-Penguins. It’s one of the most incredible sights to see these birds returning from fishing in the evening and walking up the beach to their nests to feed their chicks. Also, there are seals, sea lions and sometimes even sea elephants. You’ll be right in the middle of this gathering! Note, between mid August and 24 November it’s nesting time for the birds and access to the bird nests are not permitted. Read more.
Most travellers come to New Zealand to experience nature, wildlife and adventure activities. Honeymooners will find that these special locations - beautiful, romantic hideaways – are perfect for starting out a wonderful life together. Enjoy our Top 10 New Zealand honeymoon destinations and things to do!
If you’re driving from Nelson to Picton or Blenheim, plan a two-hour stop at the beautiful Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, about 60 mins drive from Nelson. You’ll be getting more than just a breath of fresh air, believe me. We’re talking waterfalls, stunning native plants, mosses and Fantail birds.
We started from the car park and headed for the Tawa Loop Walk first. This is an easy and well defined walk and please, leave your jandals and ballet flats in the car and wear sensible walking shoes.
There are many healthy Tawa trees here, the fruit of which resemble large olives. But in Michael’s opinion, they look like possum poo… let’s go with the olives shall we. The birds act as couriers for this fruit by digesting them whole and spreading the kernels far and wide with a dollop of fertiliser for good measure! By the way, the most beautiful New Zealand Silver Tree Fern is well established here.
We headed into the track leading to the Waterfall Walk which branches off along the Pelorus River. Here, the walk gets a little more rugged with stepping stones and upended roots providing access. On the “Waterfall track” we stopped at two smallish, but very picturesque waterfalls; a natural grotto with lush green growth of ferns and lichens. Ahh, the sound of pure water cascading down to the pool below.
The fantails flit around, eating the insects stirred up by our shoes. A word of caution, the local wasps are not far away either. They don’t bother us but we are aware of them. Thankfully, they’re keener on tasting the local “honey dew” on the tree trucks.
Michael spotted some “Wax Moss” which we’ve not seen for quite a while. And yes, it’s just like running your hand over the surface of a candle. This is my favourite photo from the walk. Just goes to show you it’s not all green around here.
Across the other side of the road from the carpark, are some more loop walks. One of them – about 10 min walk from the road – leads to a rather large suspension bridge. Worth seeing and experiencing first hand. It’s a “first-class” structure, so even inexperienced walkers should give this one a go….just follow the guy in the red tea-shirt.
Fly-Cruise-Fly Queenstown to Milford Sound
Travelling from Queenstown to Milford Sound may look like a straight line on a map, but don’t be fooled. You’re looking at about 600 kms return or 10 hours sitting in a bus or rental car! Travellers often select the fly-cruise-fly option with a trusted local operator such as Real Journeys. From Queenstown, the return trip takes about 4.5 hours, so if you start in the morning you’ll be back in Queenstown around lunchtime. This flight passes over some of the most stunning scenery in New Zealand, so from that point of view alone, it’s worth it.
The key challenge with all flight options ex Queenstown is the changeable weather. Conditions such as as fog, heavy rain or strong winds,can prevent the flight at any stage of the journey. Generally the flight operators expect that passengers will check weather conditions on the morning of departure. By the way, Queenstown can be totally different to the weather in Milford Sound. It’s all due to the Southern Alps running between Milford and Queenstown.
Once you’ve landed at Milford Sound Airfield you’ll be transferred to the wharf terminal and taken on a 2-hour boat, an example of this being the Milford Mariner, a nature cruise we recommend due to smaller passenger numbers and a wildlife guide on-board. And for an added level of excitement, a helicopter is an even better flight option.
Coach-Cruise-Fly – Getting from Queenstown to Milford Sound
Coach–cruise–fly will offer you the best of both worlds - a flight into Milford and back via the Fiordland National Park road (view road map) – regarded as one of the must stunning scenic drives on planet earth! It’s a full day and includes 5-6 hour journey by coach from Queenstown to Milford Sound (with stops in between). After the cruise you’ll fly back. If the weather conditions deteriorate during the day, the operator will provide a full a coach trip all the way back to Queenstown.
Coach-Cruise-Coach (or rental car) – Getting from Queenstown to Milford Sound
The least costly and most time-consuming travel option for a day trip between Queenstown and Milford Sound is Coach-Cruise-Coach. You’ll be on the road (and the cruise boat) for 12 hours. It’s a very long day. The advantage with the coach option is that you can kick back, relax and enjoy great local commentary by a friendly driver-guide, plus some stunning views as the seats and window views are specifically designed to make the ride as enjoyable as possible. There are toilet and scenic stops on the way where you get to breathe pure oxygen, touch the wet moss, walk past waterfalls and see those cheeky kea birds! A word of caution - not all operators are created equal - choose a reliable local operator with modern coaches and prompt service.
You can also do this day tour to Milford Sound with your own rental car. Keep in mind the 600 kms drive (this is a lot in New Zealand as we don’t have German autobahns, but very good country roads). In the Fiordland region you need to calculate on 60km per hour, so 600 kms will take about 10 hours driving (not included scenic stops and walks etc.) For some less experienced drivers we definitely recommend the coach option as there is also a long tunnel (the Homer Tunnel) just before you reach Milford Sound.
Overnight cruise in Milford Sound
If you really want to do things differently, consider the Milford Sound Overnight Cruise, departing late afternoon from Milford Sound Wharf. And if you have enough time to travel from Queenstown to Milford, do some walks in between and board the vessel around 4pm. There is plenty of car parking as well.
Talk a small bag for the night (and don’t forget your rain jacket!). Dinner and breakfast is provided on-board and you can choose to have your own cabin with ensuite bathroom. There are also some bunks with shared bathroom facilities. Although it’s less costly, it is definitely noisier. After breakfast, you’ll arrive back at the wharf and off you go to new adventures! You can also combine the Overnighter with a flight from Queenstown (subject to weather conditions). My recommendation: if you prefer a more quiet, leisurely accommodation experience go for the Milford Mariner ship. If you’re young and out there for party time, choose the Milford Wanderer (which has mostly bunks and suits those on a more limited budget.)
Stay 1-2 nights in Te Anau & explore Milford Sound from there:
Personally, I prefer this option as it allows more time for the Te Anau + Fiordland area. Stay for a couple of nights in Te Anau and make this your base. The small Te Anau village it’s more the “true New Zealand”. It has a lovely lake fronting your doorstep and the Te Anau Caves nearby with stunning short walks, such as the Rainbow Reach/ Kepler Track on which parts of the Lord of the Rings were filmed.
Drive yourself into Milford Sound, do the cruise (again I’d recommend the “Nature Cruise”) and have plenty of time in between for walks, photo stops and maybe just a little detour into the Hollyford Valley. Lake Marian is a gorgeous walk and further down a Kiwi-classic “Gunn’s Camp”. If you’re sick of driving, join a day tour with a good local operator such as “Trips and Tramps”. These guys “really know their stuff” and will get you to the right places at the right time! Talking about timing… one piece of advice, if you’re travelling with your rental car, avoid starting between 8-10am. Everyone will be on the road then. Instead, travel at 7am or after 10am and you’ll get the road almost to yourself. Whatever you choose dear traveller, you’ll get to enjoy one of the most beautiful and remote scenic spots on planet Earth – guaranteed!
Hopefully we have answered your question getting from Queenstown to Milford Sound!
It’s not unusual to find some of New Zealand’s specialised businesses tucked away in lovely country towns like Greytown (only 20 mins drive from Martinborough). The Retro Room owned by Julie and Merv Saunders, restore art deco furniture using the original high quality frames and re-upholstering them in beautiful, colourful fabrics:
Some of my generation recall how we thought these chairs were so terribly old-fashioned after we’d moved on to monochrome blacks and greys. I can remember actually taking beautiful chairs like these to the dump. What a fool! They’re all the rage now and I want them back!
Merv’s a very approachable bloke and we had a great conversation about how people have lost the eye for quality and everything has become so ‘cheap’ and disposable. Feast your eyes upon these Venetian mirrors – sure beats the heck out of the three-ducks-in-a-row:
Of course Greytown is not just about finding a unique piece of furniture but also about beautiful restored heritage buildings…
…and Marilyn Monroe. Yep, that girl sure gets around and what man would refuse a chance to pose for a photo. So after a lot of mucking around with Michael trying different posses and ignoring pedestrians around him, this is the truly amazing result:
Moving along nicely, the second interior-related business we visited was Country Traders.
If you’re looking for special antique furniture and fittings, you could spend a long time in this shop. Go on, check it out:
We bypassed a rather chaotic café with fabulous homemade cakes, in favour of a tidier café with a great street appearance. It was not a wise choice but you live and learn. I have a special affection for Greytown. To me it represents rural kinship, a slower pace and a kinder world. It’s definitely worth a visit.