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Queenstown, Milford Sound, Invercargill – Sojourn in South Island New Zealand

December 16, 2010

Our flight from Auckland to Christchurch, Christchurch to the southern most tip of South Island (Invercargill) was uneventful with the exception of a painfully cheesy, kiwi-ish in-flight aircraft safety video featuring nude flight attendants covered in body paint.

I’ll do you the favor of reviewing our Christchurch accommodation in a future post.

Hotel Quest Invercargill – ☆☆☆☆

Darryl dropped me off at our little Hotel Quest Invercargill and drove off into the distance to attend his meeting. I checked into a spacious room with high, almost cathedral spaced ceilings. Nothing fancy, but the apartment style quarters were equipped with convenient kitchenette and large bathroom. A large window looked out over the main street and before long Invercargill’s annual “American Auto Parade” had completely engulfed the streets of this small city. I sat in the window sill watching oversized US flags pridefully evinced out open convertible tops of mostly classic Fords, Chevys, and Caddys. I even witnessed a first generation Escalade being paraded by some dignified, jolly ol’ upper class kiwi owner. An unexpected spectacle like absolutely no other.

(Photos of accommodation can viewed in slide show below).

Beach near Invercargill

The next day Darryl and I visited a nearby beach location famous for having been motored on by Burt Munro and featured in The World’s Fastest Indian. The rolling sand dunes opened up to a sprawling white sand beach packed solid enough to drive our rental car along for miles.

Soon enough we were experiencing the awe-inspiring drive to Queenstown. Although we had driven from Christchurch to Queenstown a time or two before, coming in from this opposite direction was completely different. Now that I’ve experienced both road trips, I’d have to say that the drive from Christchurch to Queenstown is profoundly more visually impressive than that of Invercargill to Queenstown.

Desolate country roads of flourishing vegetation gradually lead into sparsely vegetated, arid landscapes. Occasional clearings abruptly widen visual perspective. At one highly memorable point, a massive circular lake casted mirror images of towering mountain ranges beyond. These sights are what inspire me to give thanks for my God-given 20/20 eye sight. Do yourself the ultimate favor and make South Island New Zealand a must-see on the brimming vertex of your proverbial Bucket List. You will not regret it.

St. Moritz – Queenstown – ☆☆☆☆☆

The St. Moritz Hotel was located up a steep street off the main road we had come in on. It was a little tricky to find, but once we had arrived, we were more than happy with this chosen accommodation. A chic, contemporary mountain, ski lodge theme greeted us as we made our way through the lobby. Cow hide pillows and floor coverings complimented sizable hearths and walls accented with earthy, intricate river rock stone work detail throughout.

Our room and bathroom were relatively spacious with very modern, up to date furnishings and fixtures. Our lake-view balcony offered immaculate sunset observances of the hills and mountains opposite Lake Wakatipu. Sunset was a particularly exquisite time to appreciate the ever so beautiful body of water and towering mountains. 

Dining at the St. Moritz’s restaurant is rather expensive, but worth the panoramic views that accompany a window side table. Most nights we dined at Bombay Palace and Freiya’s in town. Both very good Indian food choices. Most other restaurants in New Zealand offer gluten-free menu options, but not all that many vegetarian choices.

The concierge service was very helpful and arranged a flight for us aboard a cessna caravan en route to New Zealand’s famed Milford Sound. Milford is not easily accessible and hotels are hard to come by in the area, so the flight was our most cost-effective and least time-consuming option. After disembarking the small aircraft, we made our way to a boat that steadily motored through the Milford channel displaying towering rock faces littered with waterfalls and the occasional fur seal. According to most locals, Milford isn’t as impressive as Doubtful Sound, but beautiful none the less. The aerial scenery experienced on the flight was well worth the 500.00 NZD per person.

When you’re back in Queenstown, take a stroll/jog along Lake Wakatipu. A path will lead you to a protruding point dense with towering forestry on one side and the tranquil lake on the other.

Be sure to take the scenic drive to Arrowtown. After a quick stop at The Shed Ice Cream Parlour, drive north-east toward Lake Wanaka and you will find an array of ravishing wineries to choose from for tastings and dining. Drive an additional 40 minutes or so and you will reach the little town of Lake Wanaka.

We had taken a helicopter tour over Lake Wanaka in 2004 for our honeymoon, and after weighing up that experience against our more recent tour of Milford Sound, we’ve concluded that the Wanaka trip was more to our liking. Our Wanaka helicopter guide had given us a scenic tour of landscapes utilized for scenes from LOTR, and landing on the hill overlooking Rivendale was overwhelmingly spectacular. This is my utmost recommendation to you.

Our 2004 trip

Well… Bob’s your uncle. That’s about all I have for you at the moment. Should you have any inquiries regarding your visit to North or South Island New Zealand, please let me know. Either myself or my NZ born husband will do our best to produce some recommendations for you!  Also, if you have a favorite place/thing to do in New Zealand, please do share. I’d love to hear your thoughts for our future visits.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2010 8:15 pm

    Wow, This place is awesome !
    Keep posting your more pic and updates.
    I would like to follow up next time.

  2. December 19, 2010 10:25 am

    Heather:

    absolutely GORGEOUS photography! Well done.

  3. December 20, 2010 6:44 pm

    How many different seasons did you experience on this trip? There’s at least one shot of snow, then Darryl in short sleeves on the beach. I wonder how warm the summers get in New Zealand. I also wonder what else the airlines might try to get passengers to watch the safety video.

    Great narrative and stunning photos, as always. I especially liked the waterfall and seal pictures. And “Bob’s your uncle” — is that a NZ saying?

    Where to next?

    • December 20, 2010 9:05 pm

      Thanks! I’m so glad you appreciate my blog entry!

      This particular trip was back in April and we were only there for about a week (just got back from a europe/NYC trip & I’ll cover that soon).

      One moment you can be at a sunny NZ beach, then hop a plane and be taking aerial shots of the snow covered mountain ranges. It’s such an amazingly beautiful country! Probably my second favorite destination almost equal to my number 1 South Africa.

      I’ve been to NZ in the summer a couple of times for Christmas. Summers (Nov-Feb) are generally anywhere from 70 to 95 degrees fahrenheit depending on location.

      With reference to “Bob’s your uncle”: The kiwi’s do have some very strange lingo happening over there. It took me quite a few years to understand my husband and his random “Whats the story hoary” type sayings! I still occasionally learn a new and mind boggling one… and as an American I’ve gotten used to being referred to as ‘Yank’ during my visits!

  4. December 21, 2010 2:17 pm

    beautiful pictures!! your blog is great!

  5. December 26, 2010 2:59 pm

    Oh my… stunning! I’ve heard great things about New Zealand’s south island – some friends basically told me it was a new jaw-dropping scene around every corner – and that’s very much the picture you paint here! It’s definitely jumped up my list of places to visit… and made me feel awfully trapped in urban London! The first photo especially, I can just imagine standing there.

    • December 26, 2010 9:44 pm

      Definitely take time to visit South Island… Its even more spectacular than these mediocre photos portray 🙂 I hope you’ll be able to make the trip soon!

  6. May 4, 2011 10:45 am

    Hi Heather – New Zealand must be one of the most beautiful places on Earth – especially Fiordland…

    • May 4, 2011 12:18 pm

      Indeed south island is an awe-inspiring destination. The drive from
      Christchurch to Queenstown is the most scenic I’ve taken to date. Fiordland is beautiful as well. Thanks for reading!

  7. August 24, 2012 10:14 pm

    I worked at a lodge in the Sounds and got to travel around the South Island a bit. Love the post, thanks for the walk down memory lane and the tips! (I’m heading back there in a week! Yay!)

    • August 25, 2012 10:29 am

      How fun, the south island is one of my favorite places on earth. You’re blessed to have the opportunity to spend so much time there!

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