Kaikoura

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!

Kaikoura

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.

Kaikoura

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.

Kaikoura

Dolphin Swim, Kaikoura. Photo: Miles Holden

Kaikoura

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

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.

Kaikoura

Nins Bin, Kaikoura. Photo: Graeme Murray

Kaikoura

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!

Queenstown

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.

Queenstown

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

Queenstown Bike Trail Adam Bryce

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

Accommodation: 

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.

Queenstown

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.

Queenstown

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.

Queenstown

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!

Queenstown

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!

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

Hiking:

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…