4 Must-do’s in stunning Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura is one of a few places in the world that can boast stunning nature on both land and sea. Just a little over 2 hours drive north of Christchurch on the South Island, this small coastal town is where the mountains meet the sea. The Kaikoura mountain ranges are the northern-most part of the Southern Alps and are such an impressive sight…snow-capped in winter and they frame the Kaikoura village to the Pacific Ocean. The scenery is simply awe-inspiring.

In addition, the Kaikoura coastal waters provide a unique habitat for marine life. Just 800 metres off the coast lies the submarine Kaikōura Canyon which provides a constant rich food chain for the local population of Sperm Whales, Dolphins, Seals, Albatross and Penguins. The waters are a protected marine sanctuary for the many who call Kaikoura home. Kaikoura is an absolute must visit for wildlife lovers and marine encounters!


Whale Fin, Kaikoura. Photo: Miles Holden

So it is easy to see why Kaikoura offers many compelling reasons for any tourist to visit this pretty amazing region. Its location is on the well-worn coastal path between Christchurch and Marlborough Sounds. The town caters well for the wide range of marine & land activities. There is a huge variety of accommodation options ranging from luxury lodges, glass pods set in the stunning landscape, motels & a very unique farm-stay. Lose yourself in the landscape, walks, marine activities and whale watching. The hard part is deciding on how to fit everything in!

Here are some of the key things to do:

Whale Watch:

Kaikoura is best known for their giant sperm whales. Whale watching cruises run all year. With a 95% chance of spotting a whale, it is an absolute must-do and a great way to meet the whales up close! Minimum age is 3 years and tour duration 3 hours.


Whale, Kaikoura

Swim with Dolphins/Seals:

Catch a tour to swim or watch the local resident Dusky Dolphins. It’s a fun activity that will hold special memories! Minimum age is 8 years for swimming or 3 years to watch. Tour duration is 3 hours. Alternatively, why not snorkel with wild NZ fur seals? Recently listed as one of the world’s ‘Top 10 Marine Encounters’ by Lonely Planet. Tours run daily over the summer months.


Dolphin Swim, Kaikoura. Photo: Miles Holden


Dolphin Watch, Kaikoura. Photo: Graeme Murray

Kayak with Seals:

Kayaking is a great way to explore the marine environment and be closer to the stars of the show, the local playful fur seals. You will also have chance encounters with dolphins, penguins and albatross. Discover the magnificent marine life of Kaikoura! Participate in a guided tour with a maximum of 8 persons. 3-hour duration.

Nature Walks:

There are a number of easy walks that deliver plenty of wildlife and natural wilderness. Firstly, walk the 3-hour Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. It’s a great way to observe seals & seabirds as well as enjoy the amazing views. The Ōhau Point Seal Colony is not-to-be-missed. Expect hundreds of Seals and their Pups. Finally, don’t forget the Ōhau waterfall walk. A great chance to enjoy the waterfall views as well as see Seal Pups sunning themselves on the rocks.


Kaikoura. Photo: Miles Holden

Other activities:

Kaikoura has plenty of alternative options once you have exhausted your marine wildlife activities. Catch the Coastal Pacific Train to Picton or Christchurch. If you love seafood, then feast on fresh crayfish from many of the local restaurants. You can enjoy some quad bike riding with amazing views, go fishing, visit the local Lavender Farm, catch a sheep-shearing session, meet the extraordinary Albatross seabirds up close or visit the Farmer’s Market to chat to the locals and enjoy the fresh produce.


Nins Bin, Kaikoura. Photo: Graeme Murray


Crayfish, Kaikoura. Photo: Graeme Murray








Make sure to add Kaikoura to your wish list for your next New Zealand holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one area not to be missed. Expect to enjoy a top New Zealand experience!

West Coast New Zealand

Experience Franz Josef Glacier & the West Coast, New Zealand

The Fox and Franz Josef Glacier are one of only two places in the world where you can view glaciers descending into temperate rainforest and close to the sea. The Glaciers are unique relics of the last ice age. Rivers of solid white, tumbling down ice-hewn rock valleys, they are beautiful and mighty… and are simply a must see.

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier. Photo by Fraser Clements

As part of the Westland Tai Poutini  National Park, the glacier region is a recognised World Heritage area for good reason. The park extends from the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, to the rugged and remote beaches of the wild West Coast, South Island New Zealand. It is an area of magnificent rugged vistas – snow-capped mountains, glaciers, forests, tussock grasslands, lakes, rivers, wetlands and beaches.

West Coast New Zealand

Westland National Park

The Glaciers and Westland National Park are just two of the main attractions on the wild west coast. Wedged between the towering Alps and the crashing sea is Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks/Paparoa National Park, Hokitika Gorge, and of course Haast which is surrounded by national parks and World Heritage areas. Simply breathtaking scenery.

But Franz Josef Glacier village is definitely at the heart of it all. It is a pretty town alongside the fast flowing Waiho River. The village caters well for the wide range of adventure activities close by. Lose yourself in the rainforests, glaciers, waterfalls, and lakes. You are guaranteed plenty of excellent cafes, restaurants and activities. The hard part is deciding on how to fit everything in!

Here are some of the key things to do:

Heli Hike: 

An amazing experience as the only way to touch or hike the glacier is by a short scenic Helicopter flight up the glacier valley. Global warming has seen the glacier retreat and we were told it is likely that the Heli Hikes will only be possible for a further 5 years. Get great views from the helicopter over Westland National Park before you get your crampons on and explore the ice caves and admire the many crevasses which feature across the glacier. Minimum age is 8 years and tour duration 3-4 hours.

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast. Photo by Julian Apse

Glacier Valley & other local walks:

An alternative for those with younger family members, you can choose a self-guided or guided walk down the valley where the Franz Josef Glacier once stood. A great way to understand the history and retreat of the glacier. The guided walk has a minimum age of 6 years. There are many other fantastic walks in the region including a short 45-minute walk from town centre to the Tartare Tunnels. This is an old gold-mining tunnel with plenty of Glowworms!

West Coast New Zealand

Town activities:

For more action consider quad bike rides or skydive. For an awesome perspective of the area catch a scenic flight over the Glaciers & Westland National Park. Relax at the Glacier hot pools in the Rainforest and enjoy the many local restaurants and coffee shops in town. Say hello to the local Kiwi birds at the West Coast Wildlife Centre, and don’t forget a scenic boat/kayak tour or fishing charter.

Haast Pass Scenic Drive:

It took 90+ years to complete this spectacular 142 km stretch of road. The winding route from Wanaka to Haast is not to be reckoned with. The road hugs the towering Southern Alps… look the other way and be rewarded with stunning aquamarine glacial lakes. Wild shorelines and untamed natural wilderness. This dramatic landscape offers a bunch of fun adventure activities: hiking, trout fishing, jetboating – but be sure not to miss the thundering waters of the Gates of Haast.

West Coast New Zealand

Photo courtesy Tourism West Coast. Haast

Tranzalpine Train Journey:

One of the world’s great train journeys, the Tranzalpine traverses the spectacular Southern Alps and vast Canterbury Plains from coast to coast. The inland journey takes a little over 4 hours and runs daily between Christchurch and Greymouth. A nice way to sit back, relax and soak up the striking scenery as it passes by. A great way to begin your West Coast travels!

Tranzalpine Train Journeys through vast Canterbury Plains

Make sure to add Franz Josef Glacier & the West Coast to your wish list for your next New Zealand holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one area not to be missed. Expect to enjoy a top New Zealand experience!


How to make the most of your visit to Queenstown, NZ

Looking for a holiday destination with staggering beauty, crisp fresh air and plenty to do? Then look no further than Queenstown, a bucket list destination that does not disappoint. Well known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown boasts endless activities on offer as well as great food & wine venues. In addition to the vast array of town centre attractions, you can journey further afield for some fabulous day trips to Wanaka, Glenorchy, Arrowtown, and of course, the World Heritage Fiordland National Park. Yes, you can expect a resort town with a population that swells with plenty of tourists, but the town does deliver a fabulous base for the whole family to explore and enjoy.


Shotover Jet Queenstown

Queenstown sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu with the dramatic Southern Alps as the stunning background. With a permanent population of 30,000, it has a small-town charm with plenty on offer. Queenstown is New Zealand’s top year-round resort town. Expect picture perfect scenery and plenty of excellent cafes, restaurants and entertainment. The hard part is deciding on how to fit everything in!


Queenstown Bike Trail Adam Bryce

Here are some of the key things to do and consider:


With a huge variety of accommodations on offer you are spoilt for choice. If you decide to pay the extra to stay in town proper, then don’t bother with a hire car as you have a quick walk to everything. If you are out of the town centre, consider staying in lakeside accommodation. That way you have gorgeous views, as well as quick access to the lakeside walking trail or the water taxi, both of which are a far more pleasant way to get to town without fighting for a car park!

Town activities:

Queenstown is the adventure capital for good reason. Choose from a multitude of heart-racing activities such as: Bungy Jump, Sky Dive, Jet boat rides, Gondola and Luge racing, Hot Air Balloon rides, Zip Lining and White-water Rafting.


Luge Ride Queenstown Julian Apse

Take in the Scenery:

For those of us that prefer to embrace the great outdoors, then consider:  Horse Riding, Hiking, Winery Tours, Bike Tours and don’t forget a scenic flight of the Southern Alps.


Over the Top Helicopters Queenstown

Scenic Drives:

There are some magical short drives from Queenstown. One of the top scenic drives is the 45-minute trip to the historical settlement of Glenorchy. This town is the starting point of many tramping trails as well as being famously featured in the Lord of the Rings films. Another great drive is to Wanaka, a pretty lakeside town at the end of the Haast Pass, and make sure to stop en-route at Cardrona to enjoy a long lunch at the historic Cardrona Hotel.


Cardrona Hotel

Arrowtown Day Trip:

Drive 20 minutes to picturesque Arrowtown and explore the historic Chinese settlement and the main street shops. Then do the 15km bike ride from Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley winery region through the gorgeous countryside on riverside bike trails. Collect hire bikes in Arrowtown and catch a shuttle bus from Gibbston Valley back to your starting point. Choose between standard or electric bikes. The Kawarau River Bungy is also en-route so why not include a bungy jump in your day!


Arrowtown Miles Holden

Make sure to add the Queenstown to your wish list for your next New Zealand holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one area not to be missed. Expect to enjoy a top New Zealand experience!

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park NZ: Key things to see & do

When I think of a holiday to New Zealand, I am not picturing a city escape (sorry Auckland), but rather…spending my time enjoying such stunning natural surrounds as found in the Abel Tasman National Park. Situated on the northern tip of the South Island, this region enjoys a mild climate, plenty of golden sand beaches, turquoise waters, lush native bush, and easy access from both the North Island Ferry Terminal and nearby Nelson Airport.

No Ubers or Didi to be found here…. instead picture a water taxi and a beach picnic. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Abel Tasman National Park

Split Apple Rock Beach in Abel Tasman, South Island New Zealand

At 22,000 hectares the Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national park. It is also the only coastal national park. The Māori people lived along this coast for over 500 years, gathering food from the sea and forest. Today, we can walk in their footsteps and experience the breathtaking beauty of this much-loved park.

Abel Tasman National Park

Nelson, New Zealand Close-Up of Iconic Papa and Rangi Sculpture at Arts Unique, next to the entrance to the Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one of New Zealand’s 9 great walks. The Track hugs the gorgeous coastline, and rewards walkers with magnificent views. Soak up this iconic track by doing a half-day, full day or 3-5 day walk on this 60km coastline stretch.  If a walking adventure is not your thing, then take to the water on a kayak to explore the multitude of bays, inlets and picturesque beach stretches that make it the premier kayaking destination it is. For those of us that like to take it easy, then the water taxi is definetly the way to go. There are 6 coastal points the water taxi can drop you off or collect you after a day exploring the bays or walking part of the track.

Abel Tasman National Park

Fresh River Stream at Wanui Falls in the Mountains of Abel Tasman National Park

Further afield, combine your Abel Tasman visit with some great places close by such as Nelson, an artistic paradise, and of course the Marlborough wine region, NZ’s flagship wine destination. Perhaps stay in a cottage on a vineyard for a few days R&R after your coastal walk?

Here are some of the key things to do:

Abel Tasman Coastal Track:  The highlights include the golden sand beaches, Cleopatra’s pool which is a natural rock pool with a moss-lined water slide. Walk the 47m suspension bridge with views of the beautiful inlet to Falls River. The Coastal Track has tent-camping sites and Department of Conservation huts dotted regularly along its entire length. Bookings are essential for overnight stays. You can choose to walk independently or with a tour provider who can offer a combination of walking and kayaking. For more information please click here

Abel Tasman National Park

A Swinging Rope Bridge in the Abel Tasman National Park

Kayak: You can rent your own kayak and explore under your own steam. Alternatively, book a guided trip which allows you to tap into the knowledge of an experienced local guide and expert kayak instructor. Make sure to visit the seal sanctuary and Split Apple Rock.

Abel Tasman National Park

Kayaking Split Apple Rock

Water Taxi: The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one-way, so for those of us that don’t like back-tracking a water taxi is a perfect way to enjoy the Abel Tasman from a different perspective and return to your starting point. If you are short on time, the water taxi is a great option to get out to a bay for a shorter walk, swim at a secluded beach, enjoy a picnic lunch and back again in a day.

Abel Tasman National Park

Kayak in crystal clear waters, in Abel Tasman National Park

Make sure to add the Abel Tasman National Park region to your wish list for your next New Zealand holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one area not to be missed. Expect to enjoy a top New Zealand experience!

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park New Zealand: An insider’s guide

Tongariro National Park is a 4.5-hour drive south of Auckland. It is located deep in the centre of the North Island New Zealand. Why bother to go there? Tongariro National Park is part of the North Island’s Central Plateau and is New Zealand’s oldest national park and a dual World Heritage area. This status recognizes the park’s important Maori culture and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features.

The park has three active volcanoes: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in “The Lord of the Rings” films) and Ruapehu with its ski slopes. All three volcanoes are very much alive, with Mount Tongariro erupting as recently as August 2012.

Expect a diverse landscape of steaming craters, old lava flows and thermal lakes. The mountains of this national park have deep spiritual significance for the Maori people. The lower slopes of the mountains are blanketed with forest where alpine herbs, tussocks and low-growing shrubs provide a habitat for many native birds. In summer, at Whakapapa, you can catch scenic chairlift rides and do a guided hike to Ruapehu’s Crater Lake.


Tongariro National Park

Active volcano cone of Mount Ngauruhoe as seen from Mount Tongariro in Tongariro National Park, North Island of New Zealand”

So, for all you outdoor nature buffs out there, make sure Tongariro National Park is on your hit-list. It’s just south of Great Lake Taupo and Rotorua. A must-do is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and for those not game for a full day-hike there are shorter walks to enjoy. Plenty of activities on offer and some great lodges to stay in make this a perfect 2+ night stay.  Expect to enjoy a top New Zealand experience!

Here are some of the key things to do:

Tongariro Alpine Crossing:

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is regarded as the best one-day hike in New Zealand and is considered to be in the top 10 one day hikes in the world! Allow 7-8 hours and expect to see spectacular volcanic terrain sights as well as cold mountain springs, possible lava flows, an active crater, steam vents, emerald coloured lakes and magnificent views. This is a must-see and a truly memorable experience. The freedom hiking season runs from October to May

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Taranaki Falls:

Take a 2-hour return walk from within the Tongariro National Park through beech forest to view one of the most impressive and beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand

Tongariro National Park

Taranaki Fall at Tongariro National park, New Zealand

White-water Rafting:

Have some fun with either a half or full-day white-water rafting adventure on Tongariro River. Expect lots of laughs and crystal-clear waters surrounded by native bush. Fun for the whole family!

Tongariro National Park


Turangi is the trout fly-fishing capital of New Zealand and only 10 minutes’ drive from Tongariro National Park. Turangi offers a unique experience for all fisherman, beginner or seasoned. Visit the feisty Tongariro rivers and fight your own brown or rainbow trout during their annual migration or test your skills in the smaller local wild streams or on Lake Taupo itself

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park is a must-visit destination for those of us that enjoy pristine nature and the great outdoors. Ask us to include Tongariro National Park in your New Zealand holiday itinerary…

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands North Island NZ: Top 5 things to do

The Bay of Islands is a 3-hour drive north of Auckland in the North Island, New Zealand.  It is a top New Zealand holiday destination and stunningly scenic! Being an archipelago, it is known for all things aquatic…with over 140 islands to explore there is a wide range of marine and nature-based activities to choose from.

The Bay of Islands is also the home to Waitangi, the birthplace of New Zealand. The Bay of Islands is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British and the indigenous Maori people in 1840.

So, for all you marine & history buffs out there, make sure the Bay of Islands is on your hit-list. It’s a great first stop on your North Island drive circuit. Apart from Waitangi & the archipelago there are some great towns to explore in their own right. Kerikeri has a horticultural and vineyard bent, and Paihia is the main hub and gateway to the Bay of Islands. Across the Bay from Paihia is the attractive seaside town of Russell which has many bars and restaurants along its foreshore. A great place to relax and watch the sun set! This region has so many activities on offer you can easily spend 3+ nights. Expect many iconic New Zealand experiences!

Bay of islands

Russell, Bay of Islands

Here are some of the key things to do:

Boat Tour: 

Make sure to explore the Bay of Islands archipelago by taking a cruise. Explore all the highlights which will include the Hole-in-the-Rock and Urupukapuka Island. Enjoy beautiful scenery, pristine beaches and most likely some dolphins showing off! A great day out.

Bay of Islands

Bay cruise Bay of Islands

Waitangi Treaty Grounds:

Walk in the footsteps of the people who changed history. Discover the momentous events that shaped New Zealand at the Museum of Waitangi. Enjoy a guided tour and witness spellbinding cultural performances to learn more about Maori culture. It’s fascinating!

Bay of Islands

Meeting House, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Rainbow Falls:

A waterfall near Kerikeri. A 27-metre spectacular drop with only a 5-minute trek to view makes it a must-see!

Waipoua Forest:

This is a highlight for nature lovers. 2 hours to the west of Paihia, it is well worth the trip. Waipoua Forest is the largest tract of native forest remaining in New Zealand. Plenty of short or longer walks which wind through stands of tall Kauri, Rimu & northern Rata towering trees.

Bay of Islands

Waipoua Forest, Northland

Action Options:

For more action you are spoilt for choice. The main contenders are swimming with dolphins, kayaking and diving. Other options include: Sailing, fishing, cycling, parasailing and of course, golf.

Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is a must-visit destination with beautiful coastlines and famous for its beaches, boating & ocean activities. Ask us to include the Bay of Islands in your New Zealand holiday itinerary…

New Zealand attraction

Rotorua: a major New Zealand attraction

Why visit? New Zealand and the North Island is such a scenic place to visit. People are friendly and have a fun sense of humor. Count on great coffee, fresh local food & wine. Enjoy the feeling of having the road all to yourself, to be able to see the horizon and enjoy the views, to breathe crisp clean air, to wake up to the sound of birds …

Sounds good doesn’t it? Tick that box and plan your NZ visit! Once decided, make sure your NZ dream trip includes a stop at Rotorua. Rotorua is a heavyweight New Zealand attraction. It is one of the most visited places in New Zealand for good reason. It is in the very heart of the North Island and is a 3-hour drive south-east of Auckland. It is the centre of Maori culture as well as the main geothermal hub (think bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers & natural hot springs). Rotorua has so many activities on offer you can easily spend 3+ nights. Rotorua delivers many iconic New Zealand experiences!

Based around Lake Rotorua, the town offers many beautiful sparkling lakes and stunning lush forests. An outdoor paradise with endless hours of fun to be had riding Rotorua’s world-class mountain bike trails, exploring the thermal parks, visiting the living Maori Village, or doing some lake trekking. It is definitely a premier destination with many must-do experiences to enjoy! Here are some of the key things to do:

New Zealand attraction

Whakarewarewa Thermal area, Rotorua, New Zealand. Pohutu Geyser.

Thermal Parks:

You are spoilt for choice! Visit Waiotapu thermal wonderland, Orakei Korako Geothermal Park or Te Puia with the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, Pohutu. Explore a volcanic world of gushing geysers, hot springs, and bubbling mud pools at your own pace. Very impressive!

New Zealand attraction

Te Puia Rotorua

Maori Culture: 

Make sure to visit the NZ arts & crafts institute at Te Puia. You can learn about the traditional arts of wood carving and weaving. Experience Whakarewarewa, Rotorua’s Living Maori Village. Consider an evening Hangi & Concert at Tamaki Maori Village.

New Zealand attraction



This is a highlight. Only 1 hour from Rotorua, make sure to do the 2-hour movie set tour and experience the magic! A major movie set location for the Lord of the Rings Film trilogy. Make sure to watch the films before you visit!

New Zealand attraction

Redwoods Treewalk Rotorua

New Zealand attraction

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Action Options:

For more action the premier choice is Mountain biking, or the Treetop walk through the Redwoods Forest. Other options aplenty include: Rainforest Canopy Tours, White-water rafting, Skyline Gondola & Luge rides, horse-rides and the completely original Ogo ride. Visit Lake Tarawera, only a 20-minute drive which is so beautiful and serene (make sure to pack swimming gear, food & drinks). Consider doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the best one-day hikes in NZ. It is a little further afield at 2 hours from Rotorua, and features Mount Ngauruhoe (otherwise known as Mount Doom for Lord of the Rings fans).

Rotorua is a premier must-visit destination with magnificent landscapes and experiences to enjoy. Ask us to include Rotorua in your New Zealand holiday itinerary…

new zealand attractions

Fiordland: A must-see for your NZ Holiday!

If you are looking for awesome New Zealand attractions then look no further than Fiordland, the World Heritage listed National Park on the South Island. Fiordland is a great wilderness region, with spectacular mountains and waterfalls. It is a collection of huge glacier carved valleys that have been flooded by the sea. Home to both Milford and Doubtful Sounds, as well as the lakeside towns of Te Anau and Manapouri, it is simply not-to-be-missed when it comes to your holiday planning!

Te Anau is an easy 2-hour drive from Queenstown Airport, and is the gateway to the very impressive Fiordland National Park.  Located on the southern shore of Lake Te Anau, this bustling township is the jump off point for both Milford and Doubtful Sounds.  To get to Milford Sound you can either drive yourself (allow 2-3 hours for this top scenic drive) or take a guided tour bus for a relaxing day trip including a cruise on the majestic fiord.  Alongside Doubtful Sound and the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves, these three attractions are the main focus of tourism in this area.  Fiordland National Park is also a haven for Trampers (hikers) and kayakers.  Accommodation ranges from holiday parks, to B&B’s and hotels.

Here are some of the key things to do:

new zealand attractions

Photography by Rob Suisted

Milford Sound:

You can do a 2 hour or an overnight cruise to enjoy the views of Mitre Peak and the stunning fiords. The overnight cruise allows time for some kayaking, as well as star gazing in the evening. The actual drive to Milford Sound is also spectacular, and consider taking a bus tour or scenic flight to really soak up the magnificent alpine scenery without the worry of driving yourself.

Doubtful Sound:

Is the deepest Fiord and a haven for wildlife with resident bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and penguins. A day trip is possible with an 8-hour cruise, or again an overnight cruise is a great option. The departure point for the cruise is Manapouri, which is a 20-minute drive from Te Anau.

Te Anau Glowworm Caves:

Enjoy a 2-hour cruise across Lake Te Anau to explore the underground world and grottos of the Glow-worm Caves. Great family fun!

new zealand attractions


Fiordland National Park features three world-class Great Walk tracks with stunning scenery: the Kepler Track (4 days), Milford Track (4 days) and Routeburn Track (3 days). There are also many short walks to enjoy, and of course you can experience a guided walk as an alternative.

Make sure to plan some days around Te Anau and Fiordland. It offers breath-taking scenery, wildlife, cruises, kayaking and some great walks. It is easily accessed from Queenstown, and really is a stunning destination that does deliver on a great outdoor experience! Ask us to include Fiordland in your New Zealand holiday itinerary…

Lake Tekapo

A guide to Lake Tekapo South Island, New Zealand

Thinking of a New Zealand road trip? It is definitely the best way to see New Zealand. You have the freedom to take your time, stop and explore, and enjoy the magnificent views from every turn. Make sure to include picturesque Lake Tekapo on your road trip. It ticks all the boxes for views, and is on the main highway halfway between Christchurch and Queenstown on the South Island.

Lake Tekapo:

The Lake itself is a gorgeous turquoise colour, and is framed by a cluster of New Zealand’s highest peaks which provide a beautiful backdrop with amazing views. Lake Tekapo is close to Aoraki/Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. The village itself is also a UNESCO dark sky reserve, so it is the perfect spot for some stargazing.  This is a fantastic location with plenty of eye candy for every budding photographer. There is plenty to do!

Here are some of the things to do in or around Lake Tekapo:


Take a 50-minute spectacular scenic flight which covers the most amazing views of Mount Cook & the Southern Alps, Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers, Lakes, remote sheep stations etc. Breathtaking scenery from your own window seat!

Lake Tekapo


Cowans Observatory offers a nightly astronomy session which will introduce you to the various highlights of the Southern night sky. Great for families. Tour duration 80 minutes and minimum child age is 5 years.

Tekapo Springs:

Tekapo Springs is all about family fun! It is based in a stunning setting at Mt John in Lake Tekapo. Think of a relaxing soak in the pools, an indulgent treatment at the day spa, fun on the ice skating rink or an adrenaline filled ride down the tubing park!

Lake Tekapo

Hooker Valley Mount Cook National Park

Scenic Drive Lake Tekapo-Lake Pukaki-Mount Cook:

This drive has impressive scenery. Set out for a leisurely 1:15 hour drive along the length of Lake Pukaki. The turquoise lake is surrounded by the peaks of the Southern Alps and ends at Mount Cook Village. Plenty to do!  

Other Attractions:

Walking Tracks through the Mackenzie Basin and explore the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Lake Tekapo is a great stop for 2 nights, and is only a quick trip from either Christchurch or Queenstown. It really is a beautiful region that does deliver the alpine experience in pristine surrounds. Include Lake Tekapo on your bucket list. Ask us to book & plan your trip to ensure your New Zealand Holiday is your best ever!

New Zealand

New Zealand: A Feast for the Senses

New Zealand By Paula Taylor

In 2007, my family and I took a vacation to the North lsland of New Zealand. When friends told me the South Island was even more beautiful I couldn’t believe it. Last Christmas, we had the good fortune to verify this for ourselves on our sixteen-day journey of a lifetime.


[Note: Since our visit. the tragic earthquake has hit Christchurch and it is difficult to say when reconstruction will be completed. I will still include some highlights and let you determine if they are still possible.]

I felt that two days in Christchurch was plenty -a day in the city and a day driving up the Pacific coast to Kaikoura. Other recommendations for day trips might be to the nearby wine country or the beach. The highlight of our time in Christchurch was a visit to the wonderful botanical gardens. Here, my boys enjoyed climbing the enormous trees (some over 40m tall) and tossing a rugby ball on the manicured lawns, while my husband and I strolled through the amazing rose garden and walking paths.


As a day trip from Christchurch, we took a beautiful 2.5 hour drive through wine country and rolling hills to Kaikoura. It is a small but hip village with a main street full of restaurants and shops and a rocky beach (no sand). Here, we did the seal swim encounter, which turned out to be the highlight of my trip in New Zealand. In total, it took about three hours: we donned wetsuits, rode a bus to the beach where we boarded our small boat, and rode for approximately ten minutes (within sight of the beach). We stopped at a rocky outcropping and snorkeled with seals — magnificent. We spotted dozens of seals, both in the water and on dry land. In several instances, we came within a meter of them. The rule was not to touch the seals (it was ok for them to bump into you), nor to do anything that might scare or threaten them. Time in the water was about one hour, which was plenty as the water was very cold. even with full wetsuits. There are also whale watching tours and dolphin/albatross encounters out of Kaikoura a highly recommended day trip.


As it was time to move to the next stop on our tour, we took the morning train from Christchurch to Greymouth. The weather was rainy, so it was not as scenic as expected, but we still enjoyed the beautiful views. The dining car had a good menu, so we had plenty to eat and drink along the way. The four-hour trip was a little long, but enjoyable. Arriving in Greymouth and renting a car took longer than expected – the car rental desks were very slow. We asked about restaurants and were given the option of a couple of restaurants in Greymouth, or driving forty minutes to Hokitika. We chose the latter and discovered Hokitika to be a small artisan town with several nice cafes. Hokitika is known for its hand­blown glass and jade, so we browsed some of the shops before continuing our drive to Franz Josef.


After a full day of travel, we arrived at Westwood Lodge, a beautiful B&B. The rooms were very large and nicely appointed. The only complaint was the shower, which was not enclosed, so it was not very warm. After our all our day hikes, a warm bath would have been welcomed. The grounds at Westwood Lodge were stunning, with a view of the glacier from our room. The staff was friendly, the breakfasts were delicious, and it was fun chatting with other guests while we dined in the lodge. The weather didn’t cooperate, so our helicopter ride and hike to the top of the glacier was cancelled. I recommend booking the helicopter tour early in the stay so you can have alternate options for later dates. The cool, wet weather didn’t dampen our spirits, though. We thoroughly enjoyed hiking on the stunningly beautiful trails and were thankful we brought waterproof hiking boots and jackets. Connecting with nature on such a grand scale was the perfect way to spend Christmas day.

The next part of our journey was a drive along the western coast from Franz Josef to Queenstown. The torrential rain hampered our view, so our drive was a little nerve ­racking. It was cool to see the waterfalls spouting from the hillsides (even along the roadways onto the roads!). The wide rivers, which are usually dry except for a narrow stream in the middle, became wild rapids and a force of nature. This drive has the reputation as being one of the most amazing in New Zealand (a good excuse to return one day).


Our outstanding apartment at The Rees made a very luxurious base for our six-day stay in Queenstown. The apartment, which overlooked the Remarkables Mountains and Lake Wakatipu, was only a 30-minute walk into the town center, so we enjoyed walking on the trail along the lake to go for breakfast each morning. The first two days were rainy, so not many adventure activities were available. On a recommendation from a friend, we ate at Winnies Pizza which offered far more than just pizza and had a great party atmosphere. Due to the rain, we went to the cinema next to Winnies – a good rainy-day activity.

New Zealand

The next day, the rain started to clear, so we took a short trip to nearby Gibbston Winery. We did their short wine cave tour and had an exquisite lunch. We noticed there were shuttle buses advertising winery tours, which would have been a good way to visit the dozen or so wineries in the Gibbston Valley without having to drive. In the afternoon, we went into the town center, played disc golf at the Queenstown Gardens and browsed the shops. We ate dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Minarni, which was delicious. It is very popular, so reservations are recommended.

The weather cleared for the remainder of our stay, so we participated in many more adventure activities such as the Shotover Jetboat ride, one of the most popular tours in Queenstown. There is a shuttle bus for pickup and drop off and the 25-minute boat ride is a thrill a minute – especially the 360 spins. The next day we slowed the pace and did a half-day tour with Dart Stables near the small village of Glenorchy. The beginner level horseback ride took 90-min and covered areas where movie such as the Lord of the Rings, Wolverine, Caspian and Lovely Bones were filmed. Our guide pointed out locations for various scenes which will make it fun to re-watch these movies.

On New Year’s Eve we drove 45-minutes through rolling hills to Cardrona Adventure Park, an adrenaline-filled place perfect for doing “guy stuff.” In retrospect, l would have stayed back in Queenstown and spent the day hiking or shopping while my husband and teenage boys enjoyed the adventure park. At the park we rode monster trucks and did a one-hour quad bike ride through beautiful countryside. My teenage boys said riding the quad bikes was the highlight of their trip to New Zealand, although they said the monster truck ride was not worth the money. We had a lovely discovery as we left the park and stopped at the historic Cardrona Hotel for lunch. The outside of the hotel looks small and not especially inviting, but when we stepped inside, we discovered a huge garden in the back with picnic tables and lovely landscaping. A small band began to play bluegrass music, so we thoroughly enjoyed relaxing in the lovely garden, eating wholesome food, and listening to good music.

Back in Queenstown. we had reservations at Flame Grill for our New Year’s Eve dinner. The restaurant is known for its BBQ ribs and in no time, my boys were elbow-deep in BBQ sauce. At the end of the meal, the pile of rib bones reminded me of something out of a Flinstones cartoon. We strolled along the beachfront in downtown Queenstown, which was set up for a big New Year’s party with two stages for bands. We had dessert at Patagonia, a well-known local ice cream shop which uses only local ingredients – the best tasting ice cream we’ve had in a long time. There was a fireworks show at midnight in downtown Queenstown, but we opted to stay home after our long day.

For our final full day in Queenstown, we took the Skyline Gondola to the mountaintop overlooking Queenstown – the view of the town and the enormous Lake Wakatipu was stunning. We chose to do the street luge, which was our third time to do it (the other locations were in Rotorua and Singapore). This was our favorite of the three. Although we only spent three hours here, it is definitely possible to spend the whole day (and of lot of money) doing other activities such as bungy jumping, paragliding, and mountain biking. We ate dinner at a local favorite sandwich shop called Jimmy Barr’s, which is another good place if you have a big appetite.

New Zealand


Just when we thought it was impossible to match the beauty we had seen so far on our trip we drove to Fiordland and Milford Sound. The small town of Te Anau, while not particularly exciting, is basically the ”base camp” for activities in Milford Sound (it is the closest city with decent accommodations and dining). One activity that can be done from Te Anau is a visit to the glow worm caves. Real Journeys offers trip that includes a 30-minute boat ride across Lake Te Anau to the caves. The tour of the cave takes another 30 minutes and includes a wonderful cave hike and a pitch-black ride on a small boat to see the glow worms. As I sat in silence and total darkness, staring up at the small dots of light from the glow worms, I imagined I was in deep space. It was a very serene experience.

It takes about two hours (one way) to drive f om Te Anau to Milford Sound – something to consider when planning activities. Fortunately, it was only a one-hour drive to many of the hiking trails outside of Milford Sound. We did a 3-hour hike on the Key Summit trail, which was well ­marked and stunning in its scenery. The next day, we woke before sunrise to drive into Milford Sound for a kayak trip. Getting into all the gear and receiving instructions took quite some time, but it was worth it to be on the calm morning water and glimpse such astounding sights as Mitre Peak and Stirling Falls. We had the treat of getting up close to the Bowman Waterfall ( 150111 high) as well as paddling to within five meters of a seal sunning herself on the rocky shore. On our final day at Milford Sound, we started on a more advanced 4-hour hike, but the water in the creeks was too high and we had to turn around. We “settled” for a nature hike around Gunn Lake, a lush, moss-covered forest trail with ancient trees.

As we drove every day from Te Anau to Milford Sound, I wondered if it would have been better to stay in Queenstown and spend the money to take the short helicopter flights to Milford Sound. Some friends did the overnight stay on a cruise boat in Milford Sound and they had a wonderful time. That might be another option to avoid having to drive so much each day going back and forth. No matter how you plan your trip to the South Island, Milford Sound is not to be missed. For us, it was the icing on the cake and the perfect way to finish our idyllic vacation.

As I described to friends upon my return to Shanghai, experiencing such clean air and seeing the vibrant colors was like living in High Definition. My son described it like when you clean your eyeglasses and you realize you can see everything so much better! This rejuvenating vacation was a feast for all of my senses … and my soul.



  • Blue Ice (only 12 tables – make reservations)
  • Breezes


  • Winnie’s Pizza
  • Manami (Japanese)
  • Flame Grill
  • Vudu Cafe (breakfast and lunch)
  • Fergburger (famous hamburger joint)
  • Jimmy Barr’s (sandwiches)
  • Patagonia (ice cream)


September and October are the best times 10 book a Christmas trip to New- Zealand since it is peak tourist season. My trip was arranged with the help of Vicki Baensch at Australia Expat Travel. Visit the website

Paula Taylor is the former editor of the Courier magazine. She repatriated in June and is now breathing the clean air and enjoying the blue skies of Texas.