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Travel Experience – New Zealand
By Jacinta Anderson
Jetting off with Air New Zealand in late May, I arrived in Christchurch for the first night of an 8-day Grand Pacific Tour of the South Island. I had not visited this part of New Zealand before so was looking forward to the scenery and beauty that I had heard about from so many clients. Not only that, I was about to experience Grand Pacific’s ‘Ultimate’ coach which offers a small group experience with only 20 ‘business class’ style seats.
After an early start, we made our way to the Christchurch Railway Station where we boarded the Tranz-Alpine Railway for our journey across to Arthur’s Pass and our first snowfall of the trip – a truly memorable experience. Most touring companies include it or you can arrange it in conjunction with independent travel when travelling between Christchurch and Greymouth.
We had a brief photo stop at Arthur’s Pass to view the amazing engineering feat and met a friendly Kea bird while we were there. Boarding our beautiful Grand Pacific coach, we headed south towards the lovely seaside town of Hokitika en-route to our overnight stay at Franz Josef. Due to the weather, we were unable to visit the Glacier, however there were many options for experiencing the area, including helicopter flights, Heli-Hike, ATV Quad bikes or, for more adventurous, skydiving!
From Franz Josef we travelled via Haast where we visited a local salmon farm. Whilst in this area, a must do is the Haast River Safari, a one hour journey in a purpose built all-weather jet boat. On the tour you will learn about the remarkable glacial valley and its stunning rainforests.
We arrived in Queenstown late afternoon for our 2-night stay at the Mercure Queenstown, with its magnificent views overlooking the lake. This hotel is a great option not too far from the city.
The next morning we went on a modified tour with views of Skippers Canyon and visited the snow resort of Coronet Peak. This was followed by a boat ride on the Shotover Jet, which was so much fun. Later in the afternoon we boarded the TSS Earnslaw for a cool but spectacular cruise across Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Homestead, where we enjoyed a scrumptious dinner and sheep sheering show, and learned about the homestead and the area.
From Queenstown, we headed to Te Anau for our overnight stay. Taking in the Real Journeys Glow Worm Cave was a highlight.
Heading east the next day we found our way to Dunedin and enjoyed an afternoon tea and exploration of Larnach Castle, where the views were amazing. If you love your beer, another must do in Dunedin is a visit to the Speights Brewery.
From Dunedin we headed north to Christchurch for our last night, but not before stopping in the gorgeous town of Oamaru. We arrived in Christchurch around lunchtime and had some free time to jump on the Christchurch Tram and enjoy all that this lovely city has to offer.
Whether you choose independent travel or prefer the comforts of an amazing Ultimate coach, or anything in between, New Zealand offers a wonderful variety of things to do and see.