I have mentioned in a separate post (A Glance of Europe in Summer) that I've been fond of Switzerland since I was a kid and visiting it was my forever dream. However, many people told me that before going to Switzerland, it's best to go to New Zealand first - so that I can still be able to appreciate and enjoy New Zealand amazing scenery. That's what I did. I decided a trip to New Zealand with my close friends, three from Singapore and five from Melbourne - we met in Auckland in the North Island and travelled together to Christchurch in the South Island.
I didn't have time to plan this trip as I was very busy with my work, so a huge thank you to my dearest friend SK who has spent a lot of effort to plan the whole trip including making all the bookings.
We first landed in Auckland, got our hired car and spent a night in Auckland. We wanted to climb the Harbour Bridge, but unfortunately it was fully booked. We visited America's Cup Village and Sky Tower, an iconic landmark in Auckland. The Sky Tower is an observation and telecommunications tower. It is 328 metres (1,076 ft) tall, as measured from ground level to the top of the mast, making it the 23rd tallest tower in the world.
Honestly, I was not that impressed with Auckland. I had no big motivation to visit it again.
On the 2nd day, we drove to Rotorua and visited Agrodome to watch the 11 am farm show. I loved to see all those woolly sheeps :-) They were gorgeous! We continued our journey to Waitomo and were lucky enough to join the last Glow Worm Cave Tour in Waitomo Caves. We drove back to Rotorua and had KFC for dinner (haha!). We spent a night in Rotorua. It was summer but I remember waking up in the morning and welcomed by a 16 degree celcius kind of weather. I loved it!
Wellington was our next place to spend the night in but we made a few stops at Waiotapu, Lake Taupo, and Palmerston North, where we had Thai food for dinner. Waiotapu is an active geothermal area at the southern end of the Okataina Volcanic Centre, in New Zealand's Taupo Volcanic Zone. We enjoyed Artists' Palette and Lady Knox Geyser.
On the 4th day, we wanted to do 4WD-Seal Sightseeing tour - but it was fully booked! :-( We then rode a cable car from Lambton Quay to Botanic Garden where we can get a great view of the city. Te Papa Museum was our next stop and we saw The Lord Of The Ring statue (the special exhibition at that time). We had lunch at a restaurant in Cuba St, just opposite Hotel Bristol. Wellington was a lovely city. I really liked it! We went to the city centre, Lambton Harbour, Parliament House, Parliamentary Library, and St Paul's Cathedral. Oh - we also went shopping for All Blacks merchandise.
We returned our hired car just before we got into the Ferry that took us from the North Island to the South Island. Once arrived at night (at Picton), we picked up another hired car - and guess what - it was an automatic car! The three drivers in our car only drove manual car. So we had to practice before finally headed to our hotel in Kaikoura.
On the 5th day, we had to drive long way along the east coast to Christchurch then to Lake Tekapo - very breathtaking! I remember feeling very impressed with the view - blue lake and Lupins (Flower) everywhere in my favourite colour - purple and pink. Gorgeous! I think about it again perhaps the view in Lake Tekapo was one of my favourite sceneries in New Zealand.
We continued to drive to Lake Pukaki, very close to Lake Tekapo. Just as Lake Tekapo, the background of Lake Pukaki was Mount Cook. I still remember clearly it was a hot and bright day! Twizel was our next destination, where we spent a night in a very lovely little chalet.
We kept driving to the south heading to Dunedin - we passed the Courthouse, Railway Station, St Joseph's Cathedral, Municipal Chambers. We visited Cadbury Chocolate Factory and joined the tour around the factory, which I really enjoyed - I am both an engineer and a chocolate lover at the same time :-) At that time (December), the factory was busy making Easter Chocolates. We continued driving to Otago Peninsula and visited Larnach Castle. We wanted to join Albatross Tour - but we failed (for the third time during this trip!). We ended up just watching the birds. From Dunedin in south-east, we drove about 300 km to the west and reached Te Anau, where we spent a night.
On the 7th day, we woke up very early and drove to Milford Sound, a fiord in the south west of New Zealand's South Island. It is said to be New Zealand's most famous tourist destination. I can remember a lot of mosquitos - so if you go there, please make sure you put on the mosquito repellent. We took the cruise and it was a very enjoyable experience! Amazing waterfalls and very cute seals doing sun-bathing on the big rock. Visiting the underwater observatory and Mirror Lake were another thing we did.
From Milford Sound, we headed to Queenstown. I absolutely loved it! I just - somehow - fell in love with it the moment we drove in to the city. We rode the gondola and luge at Skyline Queenstown. Woohooo! What an amazing view from high above in the gondola and what an exciting ride in the luge.
We hopped in the city tour double decker bus heading to Arrowtown, a very charming village with nice houses and flowers everywhere then to the winery. We passed a bridge and saw people bungy-jumping from the bridge - I would never want to do that in my life! We said hello to kiwis at Kiwi Birdlife Park.
We continued the journey to Franz Josef with a quick stop at Lake Wanaka, another beaufitul lake. We spent a night at Franz Josef and early on the 9th day, we did the glacier walk at Fox Glacier, located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, about 26 km away from Franz Josef. It was a two hours walk - tiring walk - climbing up then walked on the glacier. We were very amazed that a considerably old Korean man managed to walk and climb with ease - while we were already short of breath. Regardless, it was still an unforgettable moment. The scenery was just breathtaking! Definitely something you need to do when you go to New Zealand. Unfortunately I did not have any photos as my camera stopped working because it was too cold.
On that same day right after the glacier walk, we drove along the west coat to Kumara then to the east heading to Christchurch, a total journey of about 400 km (what a long drive!). We saw sheeps everywhere, quite sure we saw more sheeps than human while we were there :-) We spent a night in Christchurch and before flying back home, we drove around the city. We visited Heritage Rose Garden in Botanic Gardens - it was stunning! - the flowers, the river, and the houses by the river. Simply gorgeous! I felt in peace and serenity. Then we drove up the hill to Sign of the Takahe to get the panoramic view of Christchurch city from above. The Sign of the Takahe is today a restaurant and function centre built in the style of an English Manor House, from the year 1948, and was named after the flightless native New Zealand bird, the Takahe.
Finally... it's time to say good-bye to New Zealand! What an amazing holidays and we covered quite a lot in 10 days, travelled from Auckland in the North Island all the way to Christchurch in the South Island, about 3,200 km drive! One of my best holidays, an unforgettable one. I will want to come back some day with my little family.