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October 2016

New Zealand

A Month in New Zealand continued, Te Anau, Fiordland,

4 days 3 nights in Te Anau, Fiordland, New Zealand  Pictures and top travel tips

We arrive in Te Anau as the sun begins to fall in the sky and casts a shimmering glitter over Lake Te Anau. Checking into our motel we are less than impressed (Parkland Motel), but having left it late to book this is virtually all that is left as it is high season with virtually everywhere fully booked. On that count I guess we are lucky to have found accommodation, but this place, although clean and well located, is seriously dated and overpriced and on reflection would count as the worst value of the entire trip.

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Top Tip For accommodation, Te Anau for Fiordland, book as far in advance as you can.

Ok, so putting that aside, Te Anau itself is a nice small town with a good range of amenities, including some good cafes, bars, restaurants and a good supermarket. For my recommendations see links to bottom of this post.

After checking in we head into the small town in search of information and tickets for Doubtful and Milford Sounds. Arriving at the i-Site (You will find these centers in most tourist destinations in New Zealand, a great place to get both information and book tickets for trips and attractions.

With the aid of the very friendly and helpful advisor Laura Needs we settle on a dual package deal covering Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound and receive a discount for the double booking. If you are using this i-Site to book and purchase tickets see if Laura Needs is around as she is a fantastic advisor, with great patience and care in the way she deals with all visitors. Following Laura’s advice, we booked the Real Journeys tour for Doubtful Sound and Southern Discoveries for the Milford Sound trip and I can highly recommend both, although the Doubtful sound trip was definitely the better of the two, but hardly surprising as it cost a lot more money. The main difference between the packages and tours, Doubtful Sound is virtually an all-day experience on the water, whilst Milford Sound is about one and three quarter hours on the water. If I had to book again personally I would probably just book Doubtful Sound and give Milford boat trip a miss, but still do a road trip from Te Anau to the Milford Sound terminal as it involves some of the most breath-taking scenery in New Zealand.

 

Trip 1 Doubtful Sound

We are up at the crack of dawn and on the road by 7am. The itinerary starts at the pickup point at Lake Manapouri. Even though the boat does not leave until 830am and the distance from Te Anau to   Manapouri is a mere 22 kilometres we are keen not to take any chances, given that we are unfamiliar with the route, or road. We needn’t have worried as the road is easy and straight, although heavy with early morning misty fog. There is also a good café on site serving decent coffee and sandwiches. We also managed to snatch an hour of the Paul Henry show as we readied ourselves for the day.

The Doubtful Sound tour consists of two parts, with the first boat taking us out onto Lake Manapouri as the sun began to rise and clouds gently broke and cleared. This is followed by a trip across New Zealand’s most expensive road leading up and over Wilmot Pass, it also stopped along the way providing the perfect opportunity to view and gasp at the first sight of Doubtful Sound glistening far below. It has to be said that all staff on this trip were first rate, extremely helpful, knowledgeable and in parts funny, in particular our bus driver who took us on the Wilmot Pass stretch of the journey and kept everyone amused and laughing with his repartee. Equally, the compere/local expert, on the Doubtful Sound cruise gave a knowledgeable and enthusiastic commentary throughout the trip.

I would have to say the highlight of this trip for me, and one of the most memorable of my many travels, was when the captain announced a request for 5 minutes of silence, when the boats engines were cut and all passengers and crew just sat, or stood, still and quiet. Rarely have I ever experienced such, sheer calm, uninterrupted and beautiful silence.

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Lake Manapouri Fiordland New Zealand

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New Zealand

A Month In New Zealand- Christchurch-Dunedin-Te Anaua

A picture od Dunedin Town House with the setting sun creating a halo aeffcet behing the clock tower

New Zealand road trip, Christchurch to Dunedin and 1 night stopover then Dunedin to Te Anau-Fiordland via Invercargill

Leaving Christchurch we head out onto the open road heading south for Dunedin and our first real taste of life on the road in New Zealand. As we set off for Dunedin little did we know we were but a day away from discovering Paul Henry. Looking back I know realise how fortunate we were to have made this discovery so early on in our trip, but more on that later.

Driving in New Zealand New Zealand drives on the left, great for us as we are visiting from the UK where we also drive on the left, but challenging for anyone not used to driving on this side of the road. Don’t just take my word for it though, as a couple of days after we departed Christchurch a Chinese driver caused a very serious accident by driving on the wrong side of the road at high speed around a blind corner, causing serious injury to New Zealander. In fact, of all the bad driving we experience in our month long travel I can guarantee that at least 80% was the result of very poor road driving skills displayed by visitors from mainland China.

Don’t expect motorways, or dual carriageways although there are a few duals c’s, instead most routes consist of 2 lane highways with passing lanes every 4 kilometres or so. That said driving in New Zealand is a pretty pleasant and relatively stress free experience, due in no small part to low traffic levels. In fact, the only time in our entire trip that we encountered any form of road traffic delay was in and around Auckland, but again, nothing when compared to a pretty typical UK road.

Driving time from Christchurch to Dunedin is about four and a half hours, but allowing for a more leisurely drive, with a few stops along the way, give it five and a half. The other great thing we discovered about New Zealand is that virtually everywhere you stop they will have real coffee, made fresh, with a proper coffee matchine. A real plus, if like me, you like your coffee fresh and strong.

The speed limits on most long distance roads is 100kph, which at about 60 miles an hour,  which is lower than the UK max.

All in all follow these top 4 Top tips and you should enjoy a stress free driving experience.

Top 4 driving tips: (1) Check you’re hire car, or van, thoroughly for any and all faults prior to setting off from collection (don’t assume it will be fine) including looking under the car for any signs of damage to underside, wheels, or bodywork,  (2) Drive on the left (3) Obey local speed limits. (4) Check your fuel and fill your tank prior to departing on any long road journeys, as the next petrol station may be a lot further away than you think.

Top Tip Do not be tempted to break the 100k speed limit in New Zealand, the Police here are vigilant with many Police cars stationed along all major routes, usually hidden waiting to catch anyone tempted to break the limit. You are here to relax and enjoy and that should extend to a leisurely and laid back approach to driving and low speeds. The only other thing to watch out for is in a lot of the more remote and rural parts of New Zealand many locals seem to have a dislike for turning on their lights in the dark, which led to one or two hairy encounters for us along the way.

 Dunedin

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St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin, New Zealand

Although the primary interest for most tourists visiting New Zealand is the landscape and the great outdoors, some of it towns and cites are well worth a day or two of any visitors time, Dunedin is, to my mind, one of those place. It is also the gateway to the Otago Peninsula and on to the stunning coastline of Invercargill.

Dunedin is a charming city with strong links and connections to Scotland and indeed much of its architecture would not look out of place in Edinburgh, whilst the Gaelic transliteration of the name Dunedin is Edinburgh. Equally, a lot of the architectural colour would not look out of place in parts of the USA and much of it reminded me of San Francisco.

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Staircase detail Museum Modern Art Dunedin

Another architectural gem of note, the train station is a must see and following that if you continue along to the end of the street there is also a charming Japanese garden. The Toitū Otago Settlers Museum Dunedin is another place worthy of a visit, as is the museum of art, for the buildings architecture if nothing else. I loved the lines of the staircase pictured above.

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The Old Railway station Dunedin New Zealand

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New Zealand

A Month in New Zealand Travel Stories and Top Travel Tips

Botanic Garden Christchurch New Zealand

Travel-Wise Travel-Well Travel-There with DK-Travelpix

 

A Month In New Zealand 

DK Travel pics visited New Zealand earlier this year and over the next few weeks will be posting a series of picture posts and top travel tips documenting all the places we visited, but in the meantime and to get things off to a flying start here are my first top travel tips for anyone planning a trip to one of the most beautiful places on earth. or, to quote Paul Henry, welcome to another day in Paradise. Who’s Paul Henry I hear you ask? More on that later.

First Stop Christchurch

Although I had, like everyone else, heard on the news about the tragic earthquake that hit Christchurch on February 22nd 2011 nothing quite prepares you for the sight of the devastation left behind, particularly if, like me, it’s the first time you have ever been to an earthquake hit place. Some 5 years on the pace of the rebuild is slow, with many factions apparently fighting over what to keep and what to lose along with slow fund releases by the insurances companies involved, further hampering the rebuild. In its place there is an evident strong resilience amongst local people to invent and overcome as witnessed by the fabulous cardboard cathedral erected as a replacement for the famous Christchurch cathedral, which is in a state of propped up ruin. The use of converted shipping containers is, to my mind, another fantastically creative innovation which has seen shops, restaurants and bars pop up, and in so doing help to revitalise city life. The Botanic gardens, located on the edge of town, provides a green oasis in which to while away sometime and is a must see. All in all despite the devastation wreaked by the earthquake no visit to New Zealand would be complete without at least a one day visit to Christchurch.

As if to emphasise the true resilience of the locals we heard reports of another reasonably big earthquake about a week after we had left Christchurch, occurring on a holiday and a warm sunny day many on their way to the beach for the day carried on regardless!

 

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A forlorn spectacle hanging in the balance The Famous and Original Christchurch cathedral resembles something more akin to a disemboweled alien creature.

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Symbols of destruction and renewal archway to Bridge of Remembrance. Currently undergoing reconstruction and closed to the public.

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Tip 1 Vehicle rental

Whether you are planning on hiring a car or camper van it is essential to book your vehicle as early as possible as there is a limited number to go round, the later you leave it the narrower the choice available. We toyed with the idea of a camper van but after speaking to many who had, and given that we planned on being on the road for 30 days, in the end we opted for car hire as this allowed for greater freedom and flexibility of accommodation choice. Many fellow travellers told us that in their experience a van was great fun for the first week but after that cabin fever tended to set in. All in all a camper van is really not necessary as New Zealand is very well set up for road travel with lots of motels and hotels to choose from in all locations. Bear in mind though that these can fill up quite rapidly in peak season, again forward planning is essential. I did my research using Booking.Com saving a shortlist for each place into my next trip folder and then booked a few days prior to arrival in each destination. We pretty much got the places that were  first choices on our list except for Milford Sound area where we ended up in a pretty second rate motel. That’s not to say there was anything particularly wrong with it apart from being a little dated and overpriced in comparison to other places we had stayed at along the way.

Top Tip When arranging to hire a vehicle try you’re very best to secure a diesel car, or van, as diesel is half the price of petrol on both islands this will save a small fortune when you think about driving for a month.

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