Monday, September 13, 2010

New Zealand Highlights 24AUG-08SEP10

North Island
  • Nothing is expensive; it’s just more or less “dear”
  • Sheep grazing on still-slumbering wineries
  • Gumboots (galoshes) at Kathmandu outfitters
 South Island
  • Views of snow-capped peaks of the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges at the same time as the eastern South Pacific coastline
  • Drinking a wine (Montana Pinot Noir ‘08) from a winery we passed on the way to Kaikoura
  • Excellent iSite assistance
  • Close encounters with fur seal pups just north of Kaikoura
  • The term “cheeky” to describe the kea (southern wild parrot) and a certain type of people
  • 100kph speed limit through the mountains when it should have been 85 max but frequent blatant signage reminding drivers not to speed, stay to the left, don‘t drink & drive, etc. (e.g. photo of body in morgue with toe tag = speeding ticket); otherwise no billboards, no mile markers
  • Countless one lane bridges
  • Views of snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps at the same time as the western South Pacific coastline
  • Lambing season: playful newborns everywhere
  • Perfectly juicy, crisp, sweet & tart NZ Braeburn apples
  • Deer farm
  • Gold kiwi fruit for breakfast
  • Screw-top local wines - pinot noirs & chardonnays in particular were very good
  • Snow flurries on the way to/from Milford Sound
  • Walking/hiking in NZ is called tramping
  • Weather is “fine” not sunny, warm, etc.


If I was planning to come back to NZ on vacation or was recommending a visit to family & friends, unless they had 3-4 weeks to travel, I would just fly directly to the South Island and spend a minimum of two weeks touring the island. I would do a circular route comparable to ours but spend more time in each place with a less aggressive driving schedule each day. While we rented a compact car, if you are self-sufficient and don’t mind driving a larger vehicle I would consider renting a camper van so you have the option to sleep & cook at virtually any location. Total cost for our compact car was US$268 for 12 24-hour periods and gas was US$229. I would allow more time for walks (tramps). Expect to spend $$$ on sightseeing activities but it’s worth it. Pick a time of year when weather is a bit warmer but beware sandflies. Go when wineries & orchards are in season. We ate well in NZ and finally drank some good beer but still more wine. In fact, you could dedicate an entire trip to visiting the microbreweries & wineries here. The New Zealand dollar was 0.71 to 1 U.S. dollar so everything was over 25% off. Note that none of the accommodations we stayed in had central heat. They either had space heaters or wall units that, with a couple of exceptions, were not controlled by thermostats but by timers (30 or 60 minutes). So we constantly had to get up in the middle of the night to turn the heat on. At a couple of places they also had hot water bottles to put under your sheets. Bottom line, we loved New Zealand despite the cool, damp weather!

If you're interested in our exact expenditures for food, accommodations (mostly at YHA's), transport & miscellaneous, just let me know. We keep a detailed spreadsheet of all of our expenses so we can keep an eye on our overall trip costs as the weeks turn into months...

North Island photos

South Island photos

Milford Sound photos

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