#New Zealand - Paradise on Earth

Tripoto

Shimmery Blue waters - Church of Good Shepherd

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

View from Copthorne Hotel

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Views from the Great New Zealand Rail Adventure

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Garden Near Copthorne

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Mt Cook - View outside Hermitage Hotel

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Sunset so Alive !!

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Enroute - Almost anywhere in NZ :

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Stunning Lake Tekapo

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Inching closer to the Falls

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Cherry Blossoms :)

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Along the Pacific Coast to Kaikoura

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Franz Joseph Glacier

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Yummy Hot Chocolate

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

View

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

The Moon

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Nature -Cherry Blossoms & 'Kea' Bird

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

L-R - Chasm Walk , Mirror Lakes

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Helicopter views

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti

Sperm Whale - We spotted 6 of these

Photo of #New Zealand - Paradise on Earth by Preeti
We went to South Island of New Zealand in September 2011 on our honeymoon. 
 
South Island of New Zealand has the best of the whole worlds scenery in one accessible place. From the breathtaking Alpine scenery to glimpses of the Pacific coast, Huge shimmery blue lakes, Glaciers, Glacier hot pools, Gorgeous stretches of grasslands, Wine growing regions, once in a lifetime Whale watching encounters..Its all here !! 
 
Add to that, its the place for adventure seekers - Bungee jumping, Sky diving, hang gliding, hiking kayaking and many more activities …!!
Our ten day trip covered the South Island- #Christchurch -#Mt Cook- #Queenstown-#Milford Sound- #Franz Joseph- #Greymouth-Christchurch- #Kaikoura (Whale watching) & back to Christchurch .

 We booked coach transfers with Kiwiway Vacations, excellent service .
 
#Christchurch
 
We reached Christchurch in the afternoon and checked into Lilac Rose Boutique Bed & Breakfast located at a convenient 10 min drive from the airport. The Lilac Rose is a charming 100-year-old villa that has been completely restored to offer luxury bed and breakfast accommodation. It was our first experience at a BnB..& what a lovely one. Our hosts Pam & Denis were warm & welcoming. I am usually petrified of dogs but their Abby is damn cute. It was wonderful interacting with few other guests travelling with the teams for the Rugby World Cup. 
We stayed at the attic room, a comfortable sloping roof room, heater equipped bed, with a separate bathroom on the same floor. The host ensured complete privacy. Carrying heavy luggage up the narrow stairs may be a factor to tilt the scale in favour of rooms on the lower floor.
The flaming orange sunset view from out attic room window was just wow.. !!  
 
Don’t miss the homemade breakfast here, especially the absolutely delicious rhubarb crumble made by Pam.You also have the option of mulberry room on the lower floor which is a bigger room  & with a bath tub facility. It wasn’t available for the night we stayed in the beginning, but we did stay there at the end of our trip. The gorgeous flowering trees of the neighbourhood made the evening stroll a lovely experience. They do take gardening seriously here !! 
#Christchurch to #Mt Cook
Early next morning Denis dropped us to the coach terminal. Since it wasn’t peak tourist season, the coach was more or less empty and comfortable. Over next 5 hours the glory of NZ was everywhere. All that one has heard about it came to life. Stretches of Grasslands with stunning mountains beyond- Check, sheep rearing - Check, deer rearing - Check, never seen before huge blue-green lakes - Check, sparse population-Check. Those long stretches of roads , such a soothing feeling for someone used to the traffic packed  lanes in everyday life. 

Speaking of population, I’m reminded of this anecdote shared by our coach driver. The coach drivers give tid bits of information along the way, I think partly its to help them stay awake driving through miles & miles of open road. During one such drive, while passing through a village he said  ‘the number of students in this village school has increased by 40% this yr; it has gone to 7 students from 5 ! That should give you an impression of the population here. 

Self-drive is highly recommended for the flexibility it offers, though coach is comfortable too & provides adequate rest. We travelled across Canterbury plains before arriving at gorgeous blue green Lake Tekapo & then visited church of Good Shepherd. Sitting in the church, watching the serene water out was so peaceful .It was windy and cold out, just about managed to click few pictures. 

Then we continued to Mt Cook National Park where Mt Cook stands highest. Awarded 'World Heritage' status in recognition of its qualities and rare beauty, the Park covers an area of nearly 7,000 hectares of majestic alpine scenery with more than one third being in permanent snow and glacial ice.
We stayed at Hermitage Hotel -nice hotel, comfortable rooms with a view of the snow clad mountains. The hotel had a small movie theatre showcasing documentaries & also a museum showcasing the history of the Mt Cook region through transport .The theatre has a digital dome planetarium. We watched an interesting piece on Sir Edmund Hillary, the first climber to have to have reached the summit of Mt Everest at Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. So there’s always something interesting to do incase the weather doesn’t allow you to step out to enjoy a hike.
After spending two days at Mt Cook we took the coach to Queenstown
 
Mt Cook to #Queenstown
 
It was a 3-hour drive following the shores of Lake Pukaki to the small town of Twizel. The route then turned south through the Mackenzie basin and the junction town of Omarama. Then it went over the Lindis Pass to the old gold workings near Tarras and the township of Cromwell. The narrow and rocky Kawarau Gorge led us to the "Alpine Resort" of Queenstown.
Queenstown, nestled among glacier rounded hills and dramatic rugged mountain peaks, is one of New Zealand's major resort centres. The town is compact and everything in the town centre is within easy walking distance. Queenstown's nightlife is vibrant with many choices for dining, a quiet drink or nightclub scene. 
 
We spent about 4 days at Queenstown staying at Copthorne Lakefront Resort. Our room had a lovely view of the hotel lawn overlooking the lake and the mountains beyond. Queenstown has loads of adventure activities, as one would know seeing the loads of leaflets in any hotel. 
 
We wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride, but unfortunately weather didn’t help us. There were quite a few good eateries in the market area, memorable being Bombay Palace- Indian Cuisine. Don’t miss the kiwi-flavored wine at any wine shop in Queenstown Centre; it was lovely. I still haven’t found it again elsewhere.
 
We shopped around for souvenirs like Koru shaped glass & candies in the cutest little candy shop ‘Remarkable sweets’ at Beach St. The koru is a spiral shape based on the shape of a new unfurlingsilver fern and symbolizing new life, growth, strength and peace. The circular shape of the koru helps to convey the idea of perpetual movement while the inner coil suggests a return to the point of origin.
One day a walk around the lake behind Copthorne led us to a beautiful garden, green with fountains and bridges overlooking another lake on the other side. Picture perfect !! 
 
There was a cute eatery at the end of the garden towards the lakeside with yummy muffins. (If only I could remember the name !!) Do keep a day to just explore around on foot.
One day a walk around the lake behind Copthorne led us to a beautiful garden, green with fountains and bridges overlooking another lake on the other side. Picture perfect !! 
 
There was a cute eatery at the end of the garden towards the lakeside with yummy muffins. (If only I could remember the name !!) Do keep a day to just explore around on foot.
#Milford Sound
 
 
The next day we went to Milford Sound. The drive is scenic from Lake Wakatipu to Lumsden, and onward to lake Te Anau. The scenery changed dramatically from grasslands to glacier valleys as we entered the Eglington valley and travelled through the breath taking man made Homer Tunnel to reach Milford Sound. 
Couple of stops on the way is worth taking time out for
                                                                                      
~  Chasm Walk
It is off the Milford Road, about halfway between Milford Sound and the Homer Tunnel. We walked through the woods enjoying the freshness around us & got a nice view of waterfalls and holes bored in rock by the water. Also spotted the green bird ‘Kea’ with gorgeous bright red feathers underneath its wings.
 
~  Mirror lakes
These are a small series of lakes with the dark teal water that on a still day will give a perfect reflection of the hills behind. There is a fully  accessible boardwalk and viewing platforms.                           
At Milford Sound, we went on a scenic cruise on the fiord, dominated by Mitre Peak, fur seals resting on the rocks along and the cascading Bowen Falls. It was fantastic meeting a couple from U.S celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary exploring New Zealand. It was cold outside but that didn’t stop us from going up to feel the drops of gushing water once the cruise inched closer to Bowen Falls.
 
 A day to Milford Sound, is far more than the time spent on the water .In fact,I felt that Milford could’ve been skipped, but I may be biased due to motion sickness which increased along those beautiful but winding ways.
 
#Queenstown – #Franz Joseph
 
A long drive to awaited us the next morning. Along Lake Wanaka to the Haast Pass, gateway to World Heritage Westland National Park. Continuing up the West Coast past spectacular mountain ranges, native forests and lakes to the glacier region of Franz Josef – A UNESCO World Heritage Area.
 

The town of Franz Joseph Glacier is small and compact, with most of the activity in the main street. It has a population of around 350 people. The Franz Joseph & neighbouring Fox Glaciers are unique in a couple of ways. First they are two of the most accessible Glaciers in the world being less than six kilometers from the coast and main road. They are two, of only three glaciers world wide that that effectively reach sea level and descend through temperate rainforest.

We stayed at Te Waonui Forest Retreat. There are more budget friendly options available. We went for a scenic helicopter ride at Franz Joseph Glacier the next morning. The snake like winding roads beneath us made for a breath taking view & then landing on white sheet of snow Spectacular!! It is recommended to spend two days here as weather can play a spoilsport to your helicopter plans.

Advance booking is preferable for the flights & don’t miss the hot chocolate at the café next to Alpine Adventure Centre from where helicopter flights depart.
 
Since we had the rest of the day at leisure we went to the nearby West Coast Wild Life Centre (Home to a breeding programme for the rare Haast Tokoeka and Rowi kiwi). There are also interactive and highly informative displays on the flora, fauna and geological features of this glacial region. We viewed the elusive flightless Kiwi bird in a natural walk-through dark setting.
 
Early evening we went to experience another draw of the glacier region- Man made glacier hot pools surrounded in a lush rainforest setting. You have the option of public (like a swimming pool) or a private pool. It sure was so relaxing just soaking in the hot glacial pool since it was chilly around. The day ended with a delicious 7-course meal at Te Waonui.
#Franz Josef- #Greymouth-#Tranz alpine
 
The last leg of the trip, we departed the glacier region & travelled further north along the rugged West coast to Greymouth. With the beautiful countryside with the rugged Tasman Sea to the west & the stunning Southern Alps to the east, 4 hrs just flew by. Do look around the hand blown glass outlets along the way to get some fabulous pieces.
 
At Greymouth we boarded the Tranz Alpine train to Christchurch. The Tranz Alpine is described as "The Great New Zealand Rail Adventure" and is rated as one of the top six scenic train journeys in the world.  Once the journey starts, we realized why. This is what the route sounds like ‘Ascend through lush beech forests past the beautiful Lake Brunner via the alpine village of Arthurs Pass situated 737 metres above sea level, before crossing the spectacular Southern Alps.  The Tranz Alpine then winds its way over massive viaducts, through spectacular river gorges and the stunning Waimakariri River valley before arriving in Christchurch.’
Yep, you read that right forests, lakes, villages, Alps, river gorges, valley add to that a viewing gallery to appreciate all this. Obviously, we hardly sat on our allocated seats.
 
The train journey was the perfect ode to the last 9 days spent exploring the gorgeousness south island had to offer.
 
Christchurch – #Kaikoura (where the mountains meet the sea)
 
We reached C’church station in the evening around 5 & realized with all the shopping we had done over last few days (souvenirs, glass show pieces, korus, woolens) we needed another suitcase to pack it all. We hurried to a mall & reached outside a luggage shop at dot 6 & we were greeted by ‘ Sorry, We are truly closed’ Yes, most malls & shops at Christchurch close around 6. Luckily we found a supermarket that stretched its working hours to 7 pm & found a suitcase.
 
The last day of trip, we headed to Kaikoura for a whale-watching trip.
drive to Kaikoura was a pleasant 2.5-hour drive across the Canterbury plains crossing agricultural land and crossing several of New Zealand's famed braided rivers. The scenery then changes as you enter the Waipara Valley wine growing regions. The final section of the drive is through some windy hill country before reaching the coast 18 km from Kaikoura. The road then hugs the coast offering several great spots for seal viewing as they sun themselves on the rocks. It’s a photographers dream to look at the majestic ocean hugging the shoreline.
Whale watching is one of the great wildlife experiences. Whale Watch Kaikoura operates all through the year with its modern fleet of purpose built catamarans. The Giant Sperm Whale lives in these waters and can be viewed throughout the year. Subject to weather the tours are scheduled at 7:15 am, 10 am, and 12:45 daily. We went for a 10 am tour & as the captain told us crossed the horizon multiple times. Recommended to have seasickness medicines beforehand. Seeing a variety of birds fly around the ocean sure eased the journey, the albatross was beautiful.
Finally the moment we were all waiting for happened, the seeker had spotted some whales. We all rushed out, though it was cold & rainy, cold numb hands clutching the camera trying to balance, we saw them … SIX MAGNIFICIENT GIANT SPERM WHALES passing nearby!! What a moment ! yes ,they spouted the water just like we’ve seen in movies, yes they were huge!! It’s that moment where you smile in awe of Mother Nature, when you feel so insignificantly small it’s a moment that I’ll cherish always !


Note to self - you should plan something this spectacular for your last day of any vacation. To end the trip with the same vibe as the first day when the beauty of Christchurch gardens & pretty flowers adorning the houses each better than the other delighted us beyond words was a big high.
 
We returned to Christchurch with a stop en route at North Canterbury vineyard for some wine tasting.Next morning after another delicious breakfast made by Pam, we left for home having been to the paradise on Earth.
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