This is our approximate route through the north and south islands:
My first impressions held up throughout our journey, the people in New Zealand are so genuine and kind. Any time we needed assistance with something people were more than happy to help out and the courteous behaviour of drivers was refreshing.
Perhaps it's because I'm accustomed to this wide brown land of ours but everything in NZ seems to be so green and fertile!
So here is a breakdown of my favourite things in the places we visited.
A huge amount of heritage buildings throughout the city providing architectural interest, including a great number of old theatres.
Waitomo glow worm caves was magical! We all walked through a very accessible pathway through the caverns and were given some great info by our guide. The end of the tour saw us step down into a boat where we were silently punted around a water filled cavern below constellations of glowing larvae!!
Deep in this picturesque rural landscape lies the Hobbiton film set as used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Hobbit films. The sheep farming family who own the land the set was built on have negotiated with the film company to run guided tours through the property. Anyone who has seen the films or read the books must visit this location. There has been an incredible amount of work put into the village to make it look inhabited by Hobbits, and you can just about imagine that you've stumbled upon the hobbit homes just after the owner has gone for a bite to eat at the Green Dragon Inn. The tour includes a free on tap beer or ginger beer at the Inn which is an enchanting place to be.
Geology in action! One of the first things you notice is of course the smell, the sulphury stink gets easier to bear as you become accustomed but my sinuses were suffering by the end of a day here.
It was almost like living in a Flintstones cartoon, minus the stone cars and dinosaurs of course. Steam poured out from cracks in the earth, bubbling mud pools dotted the landscape and combined with the tropical vegetation it felt as though we had stepped back in time to the prehistoric era.
Bathed in outdoor Thermal pools that looked like giant Midori cocktails.
home to some seriously cool cafes and shops, loads of antique shops too.
Best shop in town was Gathered, a shop on Tennyson Street owned and operated by Nikki Gabriel a talented textile artist and designer. I purchased a pair of wonderful chunky reclaimed Rimu knitting needles and knitting pattern here. Find Nikki online here.
The botanic gardens were beautiful and the cable car to/from the city a great way to get an overview of this fantastic little city. I like to think of it as a mini Melbourne.
A quiet little place of great beauty on the edge of Queen Charlotte sound recommended to us by new friends we met on the ferry over. I can't think of a better place to wake up in :)
Best camp site for travellers with kids EVER! We parked under a 100+ year old chestnut tree and had dinner made for us in a mobile wood fired pizza oven.
Westprt Seal colony
We watched a colony of fur seals (New Z(S)ealand's namesake) with mamas feeding their babies on the rocks.
A trip to the Monteith's brewery included free tastings of their wonderful brews.
The food here was outstanding and quite inexpensive to boot.
EPIC. was like driving into a scene from Lord of the Rings.
So utterly devasted. The city that is not me. I had no idea of the extent of the damage caused by the earthquake in 2011. The biggest shock for me was that so little appears to have been rebuilt.
Seeing all the empty businesses and apartments I wonder where all of those people went. Very sad.
So that's my quick roundup. We didn't get anywhere near the glaciers this trip but are determined to come back and see more. I LOVE New Zealand and will never make silly sheep jokes again, as far as I'm concerned they are some lucky sheep.