Between Christmas and New Year I visited Te Anau, Milford Sound and Queenstown for the first time after hearing from many overseas residents on Contiki how beautiful the south of the south island of New Zealand is.
Air New Zealand delivered me safely to Queenstown via Christchurch where there were thankfully no earthquakes in the 40 minutes I was on the ground there. I picked up a Jucy rental car and took off towards Te Anau stopping to take plenty of photos along the way.
My accommodation for two nights in Te Anau was at Fiordland Hotel which was reasonably priced at $120 per night, but there was no air conditioning and the sliding door in the room didn’t work so it was very hot. My other gripes were that the spa pools were cold (but they were clean) and the lack of Sky TV, but the hotel did otherwise meet expectations.
I did a day trip to Milford Sound – an absolutely beautiful 2 hour drive which should be done at leisure stopping to see fields of wild flowers. untouched lakes and snow capped mountains.
A number of cruise companies run a variety of cruises in Milford Sound throughout the day but being price orientated I did no research and just opted for Jucy Cruize who have a 2 for 1 deal on presentation of a Jucy keyring. It really is a unique part of New Zealand and is highly positioned on AA’s 101 New Zealand Must Do’s. I felt very lucky to be there on a nice day given the massive volumes of rain the region experiences each year.
Returning to Queenstown, I spent three nights at Kawarau Hotel, managed by Hilton which has been open only around seven months. The last afternoon of 2011 was spent watching The Otago Volts take on the Wellington Firebirds at what must be the most picturesque cricket venue in the world.
On New Years Eve the Wakatipu Grill put on a $130 set menu, at the end of which guests were invited to board a Million Dollar Cruise boat and sail into Queenstown to watch the fireworks at midnight. Our cruise hosts Wayne and Betty were lovely and hugely enthusiastic, it was a great way to see in 2012.
On New Years Day I did the touristy thing and joined the crowds visiting the Queenstown Gondola and Luge, and then visited the Below Zero Ice Bar and took a leisurely stroll around Queenstown in the sun. I ended the day relaxing with the door open at the Onsen Hot Pools overlooking Shotover Canyon.
On my final day I drove the 15km to Arrowtown and strolled the historic old street in the sun, snacked on goods from the Arrowtown Bakery, visited the old Gaol and checked out the ruins of the Chinese Gold Miners settlement.
I loved seeing the bottom of the South Island and cannot believe it took me 26 years to get there. It is the most beautiful part of New Zealand I have seen and anyone would be left breathless by the scenery. Have a camera with full batteries and an empty memory card handy as soon as you step off the plane.