Client Trip Report – New Zealand
Feedback on our trip to New Zealand – February 2014
Steve & Sona Dennis
Photo: Albatross – Stewart Island
- The overall trip was planned beautifully – there wasn’t a single glitch other than our own doing – more about that later.
- Everything went off without a hitch. Everything promised was delivered and DownUnder Adventure Company and Ian were incredibly responsive to our requests.
- The accommodations were varied, interesting, and very comfortable and gave us an appreciation of New Zealand, its culture, food and the daily lives of New Zealanders.
- We were very impressed with the conservation ethic we saw throughout the country.
- We were extremely impressed with the respect for and the integration of the native Maori people. The US and Australia have a lot to learn from the Kiwis.
- The sense of humor of the Kiwis was evident everywhere – we loved the banter about the Aussies.
- John, our driver in Auckland, is a treasure. He was fun, knowledgeable, has a great sense of humor and so very helpful.
Waiheke Island: The Boatshed was more than 5 stars. One of the best places we have stayed anywhere – not just New Zealand. Great food, accommodations, staff and so many little special touches. We hired a driver (Big Hair) for most of the day. She showed us around the Island, took us to her favorite winery (Casita Miro), showed us her favorite spots and left us off for a walk in the regional park (Whakanewha). It would be great for other visitors.
Photo: Oystercatcher family – Whakanewha
Coromandel Peninsula: 970 Lonely Bay Lodge is a beautiful B&B with great proprietors (Graeme and Rosemary). The chef (Jo) prepared delicious meals. We sat around with other guests and Graeme and Rosemary and told stories – great evening. The kayak trip was terrific – the seas were rough which made getting out from the beach and landing a bit challenging – just added to the fun.
Photo: Cathedral Cove after landing our kayaks
On the way back from kayaking, Steve hit the edge of a narrow one way bridge which exploded two tires. Two Kiwi ladies stopped immediately and drove Hope and Sona back to lodge while Steve and Sandy dealt with Hertz. So many people stopped just to see if they were ok – it was wonderful. The man whose driveway we were in had them move the car on to his property then went to check his cows. The most helpful supportive sweet people we have ever met in our travels.
Nelson/ Mapua: Fell in love with Bronte Country Estates immediately. We loved our stay here. Definitely a highlight.
Simply Wild trip on the Yonder Star to Abel Tasman was a highlight of the trip. Couldn’t have been more perfect,. Special thanks to Emma and Sue from Simply Wild and the crew of Grant and Wayne. It was worth every dime.
Emma (Simply Wild) was so wonderful Sona and I decided to hire her for ½ the following day to show us around. We had a terrific time with her – wineries, her family farm, the glass blowing shop, etc. Recommend her highly. Great way to see the area and learn about the local people.
Photo: Yonder Star our home for the day at Abel Tasman
Kaikoura: We decided to take the scenic route to Kaikoura through Picton where we had a nice lunch. The scenery was beautiful on the way to Picton. Hupuku Lodge was gorgeous and the staff was very accommodating and the food excellent. We loved it here.
The Whale watching was excellent – quite an operation. We saw several sperm whales, which were the highlight. We especially appreciated their strong conservation messaging.
Photo: Dusky Dolphins – Kaikorua
Christchurch: We knew about the earthquake 3 years ago but were unprepared for how extensive the damage is. We walked about town and went to Cathedral Square, the Cardboard Church and the 185 White Chair Memorial – all very moving.
The Classic Villa was the perfect location but just ok as a place to stay. It was fine for the night.
Photo: 185 Chairs – Memorial to the 185 people killed in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake
TranzAlpine train: Fantastic 4-hour train trip via train to Greymouth – comfortable, scenic and well narrated. A great way to travel. They did win the Dennis-Hale award for worst coffee on the trip.
Photo: TranzAlpine train – on the way to Greymouth
Franz Josef: On the way to Franz Josef we stopped at the little town of Hokitika – nice spot to roam around – cute shops.
The Westwood Lodge was very comfortable, casual and the owner Kaz was delightful. She had made dinner reservations at the Blue Ice in Franz Josef and arranged for the restaurant to pick us up so we could have wine without worrying about the drive back. A fun surprise – we were picked up by a Hummer Limo – too fun. One of our better dinners and a terrific evening.
Checked out the glacier (we have seen many before) and continued to Lake Matheson for a nice walk.
Photo: View from Westwood Lodge – Franz Josef
Lake Moeraki: On to the Wilderness Lodge at Lake Moeraki. The hosts Anne and Gerry met us and we had an instant connection. The rooms were comfortable, right on the river. We went on several great walks with Gerry including a fun night adventure to see the glowworms. We learned a lot about the ancient forests of New Zealand through Gerry’s great interpretive skills. Delightful place with wonderful people.
Photo: Ancient podocarpus forest – on walk to Monro Beach
Wanaka: Off to Wanaka and Riverrun. Can’t say enough wonderful things about Meg and Riverrun. One of the top 3 places we stayed for food, ambiance and comfort. Our conversations with Meg were enlightening. She is a delight.
The jet boat was a hoot – what fun. We were surprised that in the entre day we didn’t see another soul on the river except for our two jet boats. Gorgeous scenery – good laughs and a very fun guide (Brent).
Photo: One of the amazing views on the jet boat trip on the Matukituki River
Te-Anau: Stopped at Arrowtown on the way to Te-Anau. Cute but touristy.
The Fordland Lodge was nice – big and comfortable. They treated us very well. Not intimate like Boatshed, Riverrun or Bronte but very nice.
Doubtful Sound: Real Journeys is a great operation – very efficient. Although the weather wasn’t ideal we had a blast. Good food, terrific naturalist on board (Carol) and spectacular scenery.
Photo: Fiordland Navigator – Doubtful Sound
Queenstown. Eichardt’s luxury apartments were superb. They have great staff, good food and could not have been more accommodating. Of the non owner-operated accommodations this was by far our favorite. The location was perfect.
The wine tour was good. We cut the number of wineries down from 5 to 3. Instead we spent more time just seeing the area. We would have loved a working sheep ranch instead of a couple of wineries – maybe because we live in wine country in the States. Our tour guide Karen was delightful – we really enjoyed her company. The lunch at Northburn Sheep Station was great. We also really enjoyed poking around Queenstown.
Photo: Lunch at Northburn Station winery.
Stewart Island: We decided to ditch our car and Eichardt’s arranged a driver to take us to Bluff. Good decision. The driver was a retired sheep farmer and he spent the 2+ hour trip telling us about sheep, ranching and talking politics. It was worth the money just for the conversation.
Nice ferry ride to Stewart Island and then got met by Greenvale B&B owner Wendy Hallett. Another person we formed an instant connection with – what a character. She and her brother Peter made our stay delightful. We were in her home and she made us feel like family.
Ulva Island with Ulva Goodwillie was magical. She is an incredible woman, a great interpreter and so knowledgeable on the local history and wildlife. Her passion is infectious – we could have spent days with her.
Sorry to leave Ulva we headed out with Aurora Charters (Ty & Matt Jones) for a pelagic bird watching trip. Awesome. They are both so great to be with and we saw everything we hoped to see.
The evening we went on the Kiwi walk (postponed from the night before). We were glad we went but the guide was just going through the motions of someone who did this night after night. At least we got to see a couple of Kiwis! Stewart Island may not be for everyone but it was a trip highlight for us wildlife lovers. We would go back – anytime.
Photo: Stewart Island Robin Photo: Fiordland Crested Penguin
The charter flight back to Queenstown, while a bit bumpy, was fun and efficient.
Photo: Approaching Queenstown
Auckland: The Sofitel in Auckland was a perfect way to end the trip. A great location and very comfortable. We went to the Maritime Museum in the morning, which was very nice. John Mangu picked us up early and joined us at the Auckland Zoo. A good friend of ours is a Director there and arranged for a behind the scenes tour. John got to hold a Tuatara (lizard-like animal). John’s comment of ‘you don’t get to do that everyday mate’ was priceless. We loved being with him.
Photo: Kea – Auckland Zoo
We agree with the quote from Hope and Sandy Hale…
“All in all, it was one of our best trips ever. You put together a memorable month. When we encounter friends considering a trip to New Zealand, we definitely will send them your way.”
Photo: Sunset – Stewart Island.