Map of New Zealand showing places that we visited in March/April 2011
Huguette and I have been back from a wonderful trip to New Zealand for almost three weeks. It's time to start putting stuff on Flickr!
I would rank this trip as one of the best prepared that we have ever done. Because we are both retired, we had the time to study the information at hand - mostly online - and pick the itinerary that suited us the best. We also booked everything (flights, car rental, ferry, accommodation, etc.) online months ahead. We were particularly careful in choosing our lodgings in terms of location, services, price, etc. This paid off as we were never disappointed, not even once, with our choices!
This map shows the places that we visited during the trip. The way it worked is that every 2 or 3 days, we drove from one place to the next, which gave us plenty of time to discover the area surrounding each location and to rest as needed. Even though this was one of the longest trips that we have ever taken - close to five weeks in all - it was also one of the least tiring. In all we drove about 2600 km in ten segments (not counting the Wellington to Picton segment on the ferry). So, that's about 260 km per segment. At 75 km/hour on average, that's about 3.5 hours drive (plus stops) each time we changed places. Quite feasible, especially in New Zealand where the traffic is never heavy and the roads are great. Driving in New Zealand is a real pleasure!
The country is spectacular in terms of scenery, geology, wildlife, vegetation and even culture (the Maori culture is very prominent even though you can feel that it is intended mostly for the tourists). Needless to say that Huguette and I took lots and lots of photos and videos, almost 3000 between us. But don't worry; less than 5% of these are Flickrable!
Very quickly, here's a brief (very brief!) overview of what we did in each of the 12 places marked on the map:
• Auckland: arrived from Canada March 17, 2011. Visit the city, New Zealand's largest;
• Paihia: visit the Bay of Islands region and the country's most important Maori cultural centre;
• Rotorua: visit the geothermal features, amongst the most spectacular in the world;
• Napier: this city was destroyed in 1931 by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and rebuilt afterwards in Art Deco. Today, Napier's architecture is considered one of the finest Art Deco collections in the world;
• Wellington: visit the city, New Zealand's third largest, and Te Papa Tongarewa, the largest museum in New Zealand and one of the most modern natural history and cultural museums in the world;
• Picton: do a cruise on Queen Charlotte Sound and visit a couple of wineries in the famous Marlborough region;
• Westport: explore the rugged northwest coast of the South Island, the Karamea area and the Oparara Arch. See the famous Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki;
• Franz Josef: see the two most famous New Zealand glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox;
• Wanaka: explore Mount Aspiring National Park;
• Te Anau: drive to spectacular Milford Sound, do a cruise in the fjords, and hike a portion of the Kepler Track in Fiordland National Park;
• Dunedin: enjoy staying at the Larnach Castle on Otago Peninsula and visit the spectacular gardens surrounding the castle; visit wildlife sanctuaries on the Peninsula (seals, penguins, albatrosses, etc.);
• Akaroa: 25 km from the February 23, 2011 Christchurch earthquake epicentre near Lyttelton; visit Banks Peninsula by joining the famous Mail run.
Of course, the list of things that we did not see and do in the five weeks that we spent in New Zealand is much longer than the above. I should note that one thing that we thought we wanted to do but ended up not doing was to visit some of the Lord of the Rings movie sets. After reading the reviews about those sites (and they're all over New Zealand) we decided to skip them because they are said to be largely dismantled with an overpriced admission fee.
Then, on April 15, we flew from Christchurch to Auckland to catch our Air New Zealand flight to San Francisco where we stayed three days in the Fisherman's Wharf district.
The photographs in this set give an overview of our travels across New Zealand and the few days we spent in San Francisco. We will appreciate your comments. Enjoy!