In this travel diary gorgeous Richa Pandey shares her experience travelling to equally gorgeous New Zealand! Exciting water adventures, locations that have been movie makers' favourite haunts for years and a city that refuses to slow down on its spirit inspite of a natural tragedy! It is a great read of a great place!
Over to Richa........
Nature has always fascinated me and this is why a visit to New Zealand was always on top of my bucket list. New Zealand is not only a treasure trough for nature lovers but also a great destination for adventure enthusiasts. It is very close to Australia just about three hours by flight from there. It is divided into two parts South Island and North Island. My trip was short so I only got a chance to visit South Island but I will be making a plan to discover the North Island beauty of New Zealand real soon! In the meantime it is time for me to revel in and revisit my trip to South and share it with you all!
From the Ashes, like Phoenix- Christ Church
Christchurch was our first destination as that is where we landed in New Zealand and we chose to stay at Ibis hotel here. Christchurch is not only a beautiful city but also has a very interesting history. Entire Christchurch is strewn with container malls, beautiful gardens and scenic lakes.
Before I proceed further let me tell you that this city had everything that abundance stands for before 2011. But the city took a heavy hit in an earthquake that occurred here on 22nd February 2011. Christchurch's central city and eastern suburbs were badly affected with damage to buildings and infrastructure. The damage was severe because of the location and shallowness of the earthquake. But today the city is not only back on its feet but thriving to a point that the scars of earthquake have completely faded! I really salute the indomitable spirit of this city which resonates with Shakespeare’s theory of “The show must go on”. In Christchurch we first took tram to look the city closely and then we visited all the beautiful gardens of the city. Believe me they are so striking that you feel that every garden is like a masterpiece painted on a canvas.
Our Recommendation: Soak in the beautiful city of Christchurch though a 3 hour city tour on an open-top double decker bus.
Punting and cycle tour of the city
After our dates with the gardens we were all very tired and wanted to take some rest. It was then that we did punting which is like gondola ride in the lake where you are able to see the stones on the lake bed through the beautiful crystal clear waters. Revelers are provided with blankets so that they can sit comfortably and enjoy the lake view. Our punting man was very interesting and knowledgeable as he narrated us the history of christchurch and also sang a beautiful local song. After this amazing punting ride we had hot coffee in an old cafe which was very close to the punting place. In the cafe I saw some people hiring bicycle for city tour and I also decided to hire one to take a long ride. I can’t tell how much I enjoyed that ride. While riding a bicycle in the city and garden you can actually get to whiff the city soul. We also visited Christchurch Gandola where we enjoyed the picturesque location of nature and captured amazing pictures.
Our Recommendation: We highly recommend that 3 day South Island tour from Chirstchurch. This is one scenic tour you will thank us from recommending!
Top hotels to stay at in Christchurch
There are many other options to suit your budget.
A train you don’t want to miss!
We took a train to the Greymouth the next morning . Personally I recommend taking this train because this is an amazingly picturesque train route I have ever seen. They have their own pantry so that tourists can enjoy lovely journey with great coffee and yummy cakes. The train does short stoppages so that travellers can get down from the train and take photos. They also have one open air bogie where you can feel the strong wind and indulge in the pure beauty of the nature without window glasses.
From Greymouth we hired a car for Franz Josef. On the way it started raining and we got a chance to see dozen of rainbows. The spectacular view of three rainbows splashed across the skies, all at one time is a memory that has been etched on my heart forever! Our next stop over place was Franz Josef which is a small town with absolutely splendid locations. We stayed in a motel here.
Lake Wanaka and over to adventurous Queenstown
Next morning we visited Lake Wanaka and on the way to Queenstown we also gave lift to Drek who was a student from France. By evening we reached Queenstown which is located around Lake Wakatipu. All the major Hotels, Restaurant, shops are on Queenstown Bay of Lake Wakatipu. The dining experice of Queenstown is never to be missed.The best views of the magnificent mountain ‘The Remarkables’ can be seen from every corner of Lake Wakatipu. Adventure sports and skiing are the major attractions of Queenstown. This City is really an ultimate destination for sport lovers.
Checkout: Air, Helicopter and Balloon tours of Lake Wanaka. Never to be missed! You must also try Catamaran cruise of Lake Wakatipu and Mt Nicholas High country. Alternatively you can opt for a take a half day walking tour along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to immerse yourself in some of the spectacular landscape.
In winters, Queenstown is fully covered with snow where you can enjoy backcountry skiing and the country’s highest vertical drops. Summer brings paragliding, mountain biking and bungee-jumping for those who love that adrenaline rush. I am not very adventurous but I did try Shot overjet, skiing and boat ride in the lake with “The Remarkables” mountains in the backdrop.
Our Note: There are Remarkables Discovery Helicopter tours also available from Queenstown
Shot overjet is a very thrilling and exciting experience. They take these high speed boats through the rocks and u can feel cold water on your face and hands. It is like a roller coaster ride but in the river. We were shouting like a bunch of crazies. Skiing was also a great experience and believe me it was not a child’s play for me. It looks so simple but as I took to it I realized I needed that initial training. You can hire skiing boots, clothes, rods and boards very easily. They have travelators in the snow so the beginners can go up and can come skiing all the way down. They also run small training lessons for children and for the beginners as well. Since I was super over confident I decided to skip the training session and went up by the travelator. But while coming down on my ski I lost my control and fell taking along more than one person on the way!! How embarrassing….just don’t ask! It became more embarrassing when I observed that the New zealanders are blessed with great skiing skills and even small children were doing it effortlessly while laughing on my struggle with it!
Movies paradise with 99% pure water!
Next morning we went on a pleasant boat ride in the main lake of Queenstown. We also tried our hands on driving that boat under the supervision of our captain. Many movies have been shot in the mountains of Queenstown, the most famous being Lord of the rings. One more remarkable bollywood blockbuster shot here was Kaho Na Pyar Hai. While we were enjoying the boat ride, the Captain stopped the boat in the middle of the lake and fetched a bucket of lake water which he asked us to drink. The lake water here has a purity of 99 percent according to the lab reports
After that we went to Bob’s Peak. This is yet another place with exotic locations where you can go by gondola and take ride back by a luge which was a mind blowing experience. On the Peak you can enjoy fine dining in Skyline Bar / Restaurant which is amongst the ten exclusive restaurants with unique location in the world. They also run major cultural performance and have many souvenir shops.
Top Recommendations of Hotels to Stay at Queenstown
There are other options to stay as well depending on your budget.
There is no doubt that New Zealand is a must go place to enjoy your vacation with family and friends. So book your tickets and make your dream vacation come true. There are many flights which can take you to Major International Airports in New Zealand. There are seven International Airports in New Zealand out of which Christchurch and Auckland are the long distance International Airports that are well connected with the world. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and book your flight tickets to this gorgeous destination. Checkout our collection of awesome tours and activities in South Island handpicked by our experts just for you. Book now to save BIG!