South Island Journals

Autumn Adventures on New Zealand’s South Island

Best of IgoUgo

An April 2010 trip to South Island by midtownmjd

RD Tours Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand More Photos
Quote: From Nelson on the northern tip to Queenstown in the south, my 10-day tour of the island took me through some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

West Coast: Nelson to Karamea

Wilsons Abel Tasman

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Attraction | "Exploring Abel Tasman with THE Park Experts"

Wilsons Abel Tasman Photo, Nelson, New Zealand
Quote:
I know the exact moment when my first day of hiking at Abel Tasman National Park became an only-in-New-Zealand adventure: when my Wilsons guide, Whitey, made us try to catch a weka. If you’ve never seen a weka, it’s a flightless bird with about the same build as a turkey; when we came across one with a broken leg, Whitey became determined to bring it to the Department of Conservation for medical attention. And so began the great weka flap.We didn’t catch the poor, injured bird, but I did learn a lot about wekas—and about the park’s other fascinating plants and wildlife. Two days of hiking and kayaking Abel Tasman’s stunning coast with Whitey was also two days of a thoroughly enjoyable outd...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Wilsons Abel Tasman
265 High St.
Motueka, New Zealand
+64 3 528 2027

Wilsons Meadowbank Homestead

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Hotel | "More Home Than Hotel"

Wilsons Meadowbank Homestead Photo, Nelson, New Zealand
Quote:
Have I ever felt as at home anywhere as I did after two nights at the Meadowbank Homestead? Not likely.I was thrilled with my room, the Laura bedroom, and its connection to the daughter who once lived at Awaroa (books with tales of each of the rooms’ namesakes sit in the common area). The room’s twin beds were made up to be comfortable and warm, and the en-suite bathroom was modern and stocked with fresh towels and toiletries.Downstairs, the common area encourages conversation or relaxation with its overstuffed couches, gas fireplace, board games, and books. Pre-dinner snacks—delicious breads and spreads—are set out here for guests each day at 5:30pm, followed by dinner in the ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Wilsons Meadowbank Homestead
Awaroa Estuary
Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
+64 3 528 2027

Simply Wild

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Attraction | "Heli-Hiking the Heaphy Track with Simply Wild"

Simply Wild Photo, Nelson, New Zealand
Quote:
A half-day heli-hiking trip on the Heaphy Track with Rob Douglas of Simply Wild was, well, simply...wild. Our chartered chopper soared over green mountain ridges and swooped into Kahurangi National Park, where we landed and hiked a stretch of the Heaphy that took us from bush to beach in less than an hour.If you’re looking to walk diverse but well-maintained—and strikingly beautiful—terrain, the Heaphy Track delivers an incredible experience. This last stretch of the 50-mile seaside trail is shrouded in native palms and ferns until it opens onto a wide beach and the rowdy Tasman Sea. We walked...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Simply Wild

Nelson, New Zealand
+64 3 548 8500

The Last Resort

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Hotel | "Friendliest Hotel & Restaurant in the West"

The Last Resort Photo, Karamea, New Zealand
Quote:
There is a place on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island where everybody knows your name. At least, that’s how it feels within five minutes of arriving at the Last Resort, which just may be the friendliest place in the West. As the gateway to Kahurangi National Park and the Heaphy Track, Karamea attracts its share of tourists but is, at its heart, a small town, and the Last Resort is a hub.The resort’s centerpiece café and bar are lively and inviting, with its owners fostering a sense of community—besides hosting gatherings of local friends, they participate in a program that brings famous entertainers to perform in small towns. When I was there people were raving about two comedia...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

The Last Resort
71 Waverley St.
Karamea, New Zealand
+64 3 782 6617

Oparara Guided Tours

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Attraction | "A World of Wonder in the Honeycomb Hill Caves"

Oparara Guided Tours Photo, Karamea, New Zealand
Quote:
As phenomenally beautiful as Karamea and Kahurangi National Park are, there’s an even more otherworldly landscape hiding beneath: the cave system of the Oparara.The Oparara Trust runs these guided tours to the area in cooperation with the Department of Conservation, granting visitors access to unique features that can only be seen with a guide. I donned a hard hat and joined a group of three others for an afternoon tour through the Honeycomb Hill Caves—into the woods, down a padlocked trail, and into the slippery underworld of Oparara.We started with an easy 30- to 45-minute hike through brilliant green forest, and Bill, our fantastic guide, made sure we enjoyed this part of th...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Oparara Guided Tours
Market Cross
Karamea, New Zealand
+64 3 782 6652

West Coast: Westport to Haast

Tauranga Bay Seal Colony

Attraction | "Barking and Breeding on the Tasman Sea"

Tauranga Bay Seal Colony Photo, Westport, New Zealand
Quote:
One of the most wonderful things about New Zealand is the accessibility of its natural riches, and the Tauranga Seal Colony is a perfect example. The Cape Foulwind walkway begins at a car park just south of Westport, and from there it’s a 10-minute stroll on a paved trail to the seal colony, a thriving breeding group of the kekeno, or New Zealand fur seal.Watching the seals is a lot of fun—listening to their shockingly loud barks is especially entertaining—but they do their best to blend into the rocks, so taking a good photograph is challenging. What is photogenic here is the Tasman Sea; Cape Foulwind’s lookout points afford wonderful views up and down the coast.Viewing...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Tauranga Bay Seal Colony
Tauranga Bay Road
Westport, New Zealand

Pancake Rocks

Attraction | "An Outdoor Show That’s Even Better in the Rain"

Pancake Rocks Photo, Punakaiki, New Zealand
Quote:
Paparoa National Park’s Pancake Rocks and Blowholes are worth a stop when driving down the West Coast. Accessed from Punakaiki, where there’s also an information center and a few eateries, the famous rocks and blowholes line a 20-minute loop through a small section of the park. The paved route is lined with native flora and informative signs, but the stars of the area are the stacked limestone formations and the steamy show they put on as the sea shoots up through their "blowholes."The formations are aesthetically fascinating even if you know nothing about how they got there, but the fact that they were formed 30 million years ago is even more impressive. Drizzly weather and strong winds e...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Pancake Rocks
Paparoa National Park
Punakaiki, New Zealand

Breakers

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Hotel | "Total Peace and Relaxation at a Boutique B&B"

Breakers Photo, Greymouth, New Zealand
Quote:
After several days of hiking capped with a day of nervous left-side driving, my plush room at the Breakers delivered all the Zen-filled comfort I didn’t know I needed. Filled with soothing colors and natural touches, overlooking green hills reaching to the pebble beaches of the Tasman Sea, it delivered comfort, style, and relaxation, perfectly.The Breakers offers boutique accommodations in four bedrooms: two in the main house and two in a garden annex. My room, Breakwater, is one of the two rooms on the second floor of the main house. I grabbed one of the homemade ginger cookies waiting for me and settled right onto the fluffy bed. And then the other bed. And then the leather chairs. And t...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Breakers
Nine Mile Creek, State Highway 6
Greymouth, New Zealand
+64 3 762 7743

Franz Josef Glacier Guides

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Attraction | "Better Landscape Than a Trip to the Moon"

Franz Josef Glacier Guides Photo, Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Quote:
Any apprehension I had about taking a heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier melted away the moment a staff member led my group into the "boot room" and outfitted us with a waterproof jacket, heavy socks, boots, and a fanny pack stuffed with crampons. First, Franz Josef Glacier Guides were obviously running a safe, well-oiled operation. Second, there’s nothing like strapping on a fanny pack to take your mind off any other task at hand.After the wardrobe change and a quick safety briefing, my group of six piled into a helicopter for a quick but thrilling ride to a makeshift, ice-packed helipad on Franz Josef. As the helicopter climbed, turned, and dipped, ice was everywhere around us; formations ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Franz Josef Glacier Guides
State Highway 6
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
+64 3 752 0763

Glacier Hot Pools

Attraction | "Perfect Post-Hike Non-Activity"

Glacier Hot Pools Photo, Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Quote:
Fed by the waters of Franz Josef Glacier and nestled in a native, temperate rainforest, the three main pools and three private pools at Glacier Hot Pools offer the perfect post-hike activity (or anti-activity) on the West Coast.The setting is lush and completely unique. The pools were built elsewhere and then installed here so as not to destroy the flora, and the result is amazing: plants are not only surviving, but thriving, and they provide a wonderful natural backdrop that enhances a feeling of relaxation.I settled in with only a few other guests at about 4:30pm; it seems that the pools fill up later (they’re open until 10pm, with last entry at 9pm) for soaks under th...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Glacier Hot Pools
Cron St.
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
0800 044 044

Franz Josef Country Retreat

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Hotel | "Warm and Welcoming Haven on the West Coast"

Franz Josef Country Retreat Photo, Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Quote:
If there’s a room that’s more comfortable, more romantic, or more beautiful than the Wallace room at Franz Josef Country Retreat, I would like to book it indefinitely.Owners Marie and Glenn Coburn have truly succeeded in creating luxurious accommodations that make guests feel as though they’re staying at a friend’s well-appointed country plantation amid green hills and mirror lakes. Wallace—all 12 guest rooms are named after Franz Josef pioneer families—welcomed me with open arms and every modern amenity I could need. A perfect place to unwind after a day of outdoor activities, the room’s centerpiece is a four-poster queen bed adorned with red-feather pillows and red organza dr...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Franz Josef Country Retreat
State Highway 6 at Lake Mapourika
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
+64 3 752 0012

Haast River Safari

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Attraction | "A Thrilling Ride Through Spectacular Scenery"

Haast River Safari Photo, New Zealand, South Pacific
Quote:
Looking for a hidden gem on New Zealand’s South Island tourist route? The crystal-clear Haast River is overlooked by many visitors, and not only is it worth a stop for its beauty, it’s worth a stop for a fantastic jet-boat trip into one of the loveliest landscapes on the West Coast.Haast River Safari runs one-way and round-trip outings on its fleet of four enclosed jet boats, which are suitable for all ages and all weather conditions. I joined a tour group, donned a life jacket, and embarked on a 1.5-hour, round-trip adventure with ultra-personable driver and guide Vicki at the helm.Right away, I was completely surprised by both the stunning valley views and the extreme 360-deg...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Haast River Safari
State Highway 6
New Zealand, South Pacific
+64 3 750 0101

Queenstown and Central Otago

Sofitel Queenstown

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Hotel | "Chic Retreat with a Perfect Location"

Sofitel Queenstown Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
There are many reasons I like Sofitel—its always-chic furnishings, luxury spas, and eco-friendly policies being chief among them—but the Sofitel Queenstown offers at least three more: location, location, location. It’s in the heart of downtown, so anywhere you could want to go is within a few minutes’ walk, and there are stunning views of the city and its postcard-perfect surrounds from nearly every window.The best part of my room, which was located on the sixth floor (the highest), was its small balcony overlooking downtown and Lake Wakatipu. I found myself slipping out there morning, noon, and night to see how the light was hitting the mountains at each moment.Inside, there w...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Sofitel Queenstown
8 Duke St.
Queenstown, New Zealand
+64 3 450 0045

RD Tours

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Attraction | "RD Tours Helps Travelers Fall for Queenstown"

RD Tours Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
A perfect day in Queenstown might include a drive to view the Southern Alps from Coronet Peak; a tour of historic Arrowtown, ablaze with autumn colors; a close-up view of bungy jumping at Kawarau Bridge; a jaunt through wine country to sample cheese at the Gibbston Valley Cheesery; and a stop at lookout points over Lake Hayes and Queenstown.You might even fit this perfect day into a morning if you call RD Tours.The company specializes in showing visitors unique, rural South Island sights (RD stands for Rural Discovery), and in four hours, RD’s director showed me the best of the Queenstown region on the company’s half-day local area tour—and the best of Central Otago is quite en...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

RD Tours

Queenstown, New Zealand
0800 73 86 87

Kawarau Jet Boat

Attraction | "The Thinking Traveler’s Thrill Ride: Wet, Wild & Educational"

Kawarau Jet Boat Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
I arrived at the Queenstown pier ready for a boat ride. I only started suspecting a thrill ride when I was handed a giant, waterproof coat fit for a Dark Lord’s wardrobe. Sure enough, as my jet boat flew over Lake Wakatipu toward the Kawarau and Shotover rivers, I found myself using all of my might to stay in the boat. And just like that, I was off on a genuine Queenstown adventure.The jet boat is a Kiwi invention, and once it gets going, it needs only three inches of water to operate—perfect for the shallow, braided rivers of Queenstown. Our white-knuckle brushes with mid-river rocks, hanging tree limbs, and bridge piles were thrilling—until our first 360-degree turn, which dwarfed...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Kawarau Jet Boat
Main Town Pier, Marine Parade
Queenstown, New Zealand
+64 3 442 6142

Kiwi & Birdlife Park

Attraction | "Get Your Kiwi Sightings Here"

Kiwi & Birdlife Park Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
On my first trip to New Zealand, I left without seeing a kiwi bird. This time, I vowed, I was going to see one—and what better place than Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park, which features a nocturnal house and regular kiwi feedings?I saw my kiwi. It was for about eight seconds, and it was in the dark, and the bird was behind glass—but I saw him. It was lucky timing, because I’d arrived just in time for the tail end (and that’s literally what I saw) of the day’s last kiwi feeding at 4:30pm. (Look up times before you go!) But that was just the beginning of a very pleasant wander around the bird park.I’d learned a lot about New Zealand’s native birds in my time there, and I was exci...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Kiwi & Birdlife Park
Brecon Street
Queenstown, New Zealand
+64 (3) 442-8059

Fergburger

Restaurant | "No Longer a Dive, But Lives Up to the Hype"

Fergburger Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
I couldn’t have had my Fergburger sandwich in my hand for more than three seconds before I realized what all the buzz was about: I was holding the biggest, most delicious chicken sandwich I’ve ever tasted.I’d strayed away from the hamburgers on a tip and ordered the Bombay Chicken (NZ$12)—an excellent choice, it turns out. It was creamy; flavorful; and very, very messy. It was so good, though, that I didn’t mind being slathered in sweet Bombay sauce at all if it meant I got the sandwich to my mouth that much more quickly. So I went wild.I’d expected good food, but I was surprised at how much I liked the atmosphere. At first glance, the restaurant looked crowded and loud—and I d...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Fergburger
42 Shotover St.
Queenstown, New Zealand
+64 3 441 1232

Vudu Cafe

Restaurant | "Perfect Place for a Solo Traveler"

Vudu Cafe Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
Vudu Café is the type of place I’d love to have in my neighborhood—the kind of place that’s perfect for a solo traveler to relax and enjoy a good meal. It’s cozy—there are eight tables inside, plus a few extras outside—with candles, good music, and a heaving magazine rack. The vibe is casual and unrushed, and I felt like I could sit at my window table as long as I liked.It was hard to pass up the NZ$15 spaghetti Bolognese special (which included a glass of wine), but I had my eye on a chicken-and-cashew noodle bowl for NZ$18. It was tasty, hearty, and just the right size.Vudu serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and keeps the counter stocked with pastries if you’re on the go. T...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Vudu Cafe
23 Beach St.
Queenstown, New Zealand
+64 3 442 5357

Kappa Sushi

Restaurant | "Great Local Favorite for Japanese Food"

Quote:
I’m thankful that Kappa Sushi was recommended to me, because I probably wouldn’t have noticed it on my own, and it is a fantastic choice for Japanese food in Queenstown. I headed up to its small, second-floor dining room for lunch and was met by a few tables of locals slurping miso. I joined them, and followed my soup with a heaping bowl of teriyaki chicken and rice—all for NZ$10. The tempura one table over looked fantastic as well.

Service was quick and friendly, and there’s an outdoor deck overlooking the street that would be lovely on a nice day.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Kappa Sushi
36 The Mall
Queenstown, New Zealand
+64 3 441 1423

Christchurch and Canterbury

161 The Hereford

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Quiet Suites in the Heart of the City"

161 The Hereford Photo, Christchurch, New Zealand
Quote:
Staying at 161 The Hereford combines the best of apartment living with the best of a hotel stay, in one pretty package in the heart of Christchurch.The property charmed me from the beginning; every employee I came across couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful. Reception is open from 8am to 6pm, but the duty manager lives on site and is available 24 hours a day if needed. During overnight hours, your room key card also swipes you into the building. The building doesn’t have its own restaurant, but an in-room breakfast can be provided on request and VIP deals are available at four nearby restaurants. There’s also a casual café—Café d’Fafo—a few doors down, serving an excellent breakfast, b...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

161 The Hereford
161 Hereford St.
Christchurch, New Zealand
+64 3 968 9101

Unlimited New Zealand: The Hiking Guys

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Day Trip: TranzAlpine Train & Arthur’s Pass National Park"

Unlimited New Zealand: The Hiking Guys Photo, Christchurch, New Zealand
Quote:
I learned a lesson during my eight hours on Unlimited New Zealand’s TranzAlpine Train & Arthur’s Pass Guided Walk excursion: I learned the mark of a truly great hiking tour. I hope you’re spared this same lesson when you find yourself at Arthur’s Pass, but here it is, the mark of a great tour: it’s raining heavily, you’re slip-sliding atop boulders, and still you think, "Wow! This is the life!"The quiet beauty of Arthur’s Pass National Park inspires that reaction, as does the experienced guiding of Unlimited New Zealand founder and guide Andrew Wells. So even in the rain, even with clouds contending with my views from the train and trails, I had a singularly wonderful time....Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Unlimited New Zealand: The Hiking Guys

Christchurch, New Zealand
+64 3 960 9119

Canterbury Museum

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Attraction | "One of New Zealand’s Most Interesting Museums"

Canterbury Museum Photo, Christchurch, New Zealand
Quote:
Every once in a while, you duck into a museum for a few minutes and emerge hours later; that was the Canterbury Museum experience for me in a nutshell. I expected to learn a few things about the city of Christchurch, but I was amazed at the breadth of the exhibits and at how many of them completely captivated me.The museum starts with the early history of nature and man in New Zealand: moas, glowworms, cave wetas, Maori hunters. There’s a wealth of Maori artifacts and stories I’d never heard before—for example, an account of a Maori regiment in World War II. There are also exhibits on settlers from other places and former boom industries like whaling.And then came an une...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Canterbury Museum
Rolleston Avenue
Christchurch, New Zealand 8001
+64 (0)3 366 5000

Arts Centre

Attraction | "A Gorgeous Gothic Discovery"

Arts Centre Photo, Christchurch, New Zealand
Quote:
When I first reached the Arts Centre on an early-morning walk, I was disappointed to learn that I was too early for its celebrated weekend market—until I started wandering around the Arts Centre. It makes for exciting exploring in its own right.The gorgeous Gothic campus is unique in that everything is completely accessible. Many of the rooms have been turned into crafts shops, and there is public art and statues throughout. I loved seeing wings named Biology and Physics still in use, if not in the same way as they once were, with cafes, bars, and restaurants. There’s also the Dux de Lux microbrewery, an observation tower that opens to the public on Friday nights, an information center, an...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Arts Centre
Worcester Boulevard
Christchurch, New Zealand
+64 3 363 2836?

Twisted Hop

Attraction | "An English Brewery Charms in International Christchurch"

Twisted Hop Photo, Christchurch, New Zealand
Quote:
As the second-largest city in New Zealand, Christchurch has a thriving nightlife scene, and you could do no better than the Twisted Hop for a beer in a festive environment crowded with locals.Located in the trendy Lichfield Lanes district, the Twisted Hop brews English-style beer on site and has a huge selection of draught and bottled beer from around the world. Add a cozy, wood-paneled interior and a giant, artsy courtyard out front and you have the perfect place for a drink. There’s food and wine, too, and I had a boysenberry cider that was excellent.I happened to be there on St. George’s Day, so traditionally attired Morris dancers were out in full force. (And yes, it was th...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2010

Twisted Hop
6 Poplar St., Lichfield Lanes
Christchurch, New Zealand
+64 3 962 3688

Getting There and Around

Air New Zealand Turboprop Photo, Auckland, New Zealand
Quote:
Like every traveler, I have a mental list of dream destinations, dream vacations, and dream accommodations. But I’d trade them all in for my airline dream to come true: that Air New Zealand would start flying from New York to, say, Boston, or between any other US cities that I frequent.Alas, I’m limited to flying Air New Zealand less frequently than I would like—but when I do, it’s consistently one of the best travel experiences around. Others agree: in its 2010 World Airline Awards, SKYTRAX just named the airline the best in the Australia/Pacific region and fifth-best in the world. This fresh off an Airline of the Year award from Air Transport World and, out of the UK, a Which? Award for ...Read More