The Grange, a motel and B&B, was the perfect landing spot for a late-night arrival and a good introduction to Christchurch. The location is also ideal, as it is within walking distance of the Christchurch Art Museum, Canterbury Museum and Cathedral Square.
If you go, plan to spend at least one day visiting the Waipara region’s wineries, Suzanne and Gerry visited Waipara Springs and Pegasus Bay. This family-owned winery boasts an outstanding restaurant –voted number one for 7 of the past 10 years. If that’s not enough reason to visit, their truffiere should start producing truffles within a couple of years.
A morning’s drive brought the couple to beautiful Lake Tekapo, where they stayed at the Mackenzie Suites overlooking the lake. While the scenery was an attraction and there is an awesome hot springs complex here, the true goal was a night tour of Mt. John Observatory. Lucky to have a clear night (and warm parkas provided as part of the tour), the Gassmans got an amazing view of the Southern sky and enjoyed the experience of seeing stars without all the “light pollution” most of us have where we live.
Dunedin was the next stop. Unfortunately, the penguins of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony were not around for viewing during the daytime. (If you go, plan to visit in the evening when hundreds of these small funny birds frolic on the shore.) They did get to see albatrosses and their babies at the Royal Albatross Sanctuary. Suzanne said this was fascinating and a real learning experience. They also visited Larnach Castle & Gardens --the only castle in New Zealand.
The couple drove to Te Anau, a gateway to Milford Sound, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of New Zealand’s most visited attractions, this fjord is a spectacular natural wonder. Suzanne and Gerry were lucky enough to be there on a clear, dry day and so saw both of the waterfalls, as well as the many small rivulets which snake down the rocky mountains surrounding the lakes.
Next was Queenstown, home of outdoor activities and adventure sports. Our travelers were a bit weary by now, and The Rees was a good place to rest, especially while staying in a gorgeous suite that overlooked Lake Wakatipu with scenic snow-capped mountains as a backdrop.
Wineries feature here too, and the couple visited five of them with a boutique wine tour. The Otago region is New Zealand’s most scenic wine region and is best known for its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
A short flight landed in yet another wine region: Marlborough, world-famous for its Sauvignon Blanc. A visit to the Marlborough Museum, with an extensive exhibition that is an overview of the region’s wineries, is the best way to start a wine tour here. It’s hard to say how to proceed thereafter, as there are so many wineries to choose from. Suzanne and Gerry toured and had lunch at St. Clair Family Estate, in addition to visiting several other wineries in their two days in the region.
Another reason to visit is Makana Confections, where you can watch chocolates being made, try some samples and shop in the gift shop.
To the North Island! A short drive to Picton, where one catches the Interislander Ferry for an about 3-hour ride to Wellington. Suzanne agrees that it was well worth the fee to get the Plus pass and spend the journey in a comfortable, child-free area with food and drinks included.
North Island has its own bevvy of attractions, and they are calling…