Monday, 6 April 2015

2015 We have decided to return to New Zealand, Who wouldn't want to!.
This is a pictorial run though our trip with some information on how we did it for anyone who would like to follow.

Traveling the full length of New Zealand was going to take some time so we decided on 6 weeks with a 4 day stop over in Singapore on the return. We flew Singapore Air to reduce the number of stops.

We planned a route that would take us from Auckland to Tairua on the Coromandal peninsula. then on to Lake Taupo, Napier, Wellington to catch the ferry to the South Island. Blenheim, Kaikoura, Timaru and Queenstown. We flew back to Auckland to save time and spent the last 4 days in Clevedon just outside Auckland. In total we covered about 3800 Km (2361 miles).

We flew via Singapore air to Auckland with a brief stop over at Singapore. The flight was arranged via  travel agent  - Trailfinders, they are very efficient and managed to get the air fare below the online quote direct from Singapore  air.

For accommodation, once we had decided the approximate route we wanted to take, we booked Baches, a New Zealand holiday home, through the internet, picking places that gave us a moderate level of traveling each time. These holiday homes can be very good value with B&B as little as  $175 NZ a night. Some, Queenstown for example, were however a lot more.
Overall the entire holiday cost no more than traveling to the MED and staying in an hotel.

At Auckland we hired a car for the first section of the trip. With 4 adults and 4 suit cases + other soft hand baggage we selected a Toyota Corolla automatic as almost all cars in New Zealand are automatics it's very hard to hire a manual gear car. The luggage just fitted with little spare room.

Traffic in Auckland is busy and somewhat chaotic. You need to know where your going. We stayed the first night at a B&B we have been to before in Clevedon about 12 Km from the airport. The accommodation is spacious and comfortable AND we knew where it was!.

After a reasonable nights sleep we left the following morning for the short 1.5 hour drive to Tairua on the Coromandal. This is very scenic with good beaches and a number of natural attractions, Hot water beach where you can dig a hole in the sand for hot volcanic water to seep through like a private jacuzzi. Much of the Coromandal is heavily wooded with native forest making it an attractive place for walking and sight seeing. The beaches are, during the week, deserted although busy at the weekends and public holidays.

Easterly, the house we stayed in, had previously been an art gallery and had 2 acres of grounds, mostly native forest but cultivated to the front of the house with artistic surprises at every turn.

We occupied the lower floor but as the owners weren't there during our stay they gave permission to use their upper deck if we wanted to sun bathe.

We introduced Roy and Maire to the delights of shopping in New Zealand. Fillet steaks at £3 seems good value. excellent quality wines at £5 to £10 a bottle.

3 nights here and then we moved on to the Erie on the banks of lake Taupo. A pleasant 2 / 2.5 hour drive on almost traffic free roads. New Zealand is a drivers heaven. Most roads are standard style single lane roads only in the cities will you find multi lane high ways. A national speed limit of 60 MPH sounds slow but over a couple of hours we were averaging 50 to 55 MPH. You can't do that in the UK!

Lake Taupo   was really scenic and provided us with some excellent sunsets to photograph. The lake is bath warm at the edges and ideal for swimming. The fact that the apartment was on the lake side simply enhanced the experience. 

Although the apartment could sleep 6 it was crammed with antique furniture. Although we quickly got used to it it was rather an assault on our senses at first.

Taupo is a reasonably sized town with all the entertainment you might expect from such although we didn't paint the town red!

We took the opportunity to visit Rotorua, about 40 mins drive away. This is the famous bath house - Now a museum. Well worth a visit.

Our plan had been to try to slowly extend the length of the journeys and slowly escalate the scenic virtues. For the most part I think we managed this.

From Taupo we embarked on the 3 hour journey to Napier, the art deco capital of the world I would imagine. In the 1930's the town was devastated by a major earthquake. But not dismayed the town council set to to recreate the art deco glory that Napier had once been. many of these buildings are still standing. The bungalow we stayed in was a restored art deco home and very comfortable.

Napier is in the heart of the North island wine growing region and there are many small and not so small wineries that will welcome you at their cellar door.

 Possibly the most famous is one of the first vineyards in New Zealand, The Mission. This winery is a delight, as is their wine,  Built in 1851 by a group of Monks it has been under their control every since. The Mission Restaurant  is worth the visit alone. With first class dining at reasonable prices. Worth a visit to look or eat.

 3 days in Napier saw us preparing for the longer journey to Wellington. 4 hours and an apartment in the middle of Wellington. As cities go a fairly small one with plenty to see. Heavy traffic and a thriving night life if that is what you want. The panoramic views are from the top of mount Victoria.

Wellington is the gateway to the Interislander ferry to travel across the Cook strait to the South island.

The journey time  is 3 hours but for 2 hours you are in the Queen Charlotte sound and in sheltered tranquil waters. More than can often be said for the Cook strait.

Only 12 miles wide at its closest point the Cook strait is one of the roughest waters in the world. Fortunately for us we crossed on a very calm day.

The passage through Queen Charlotte sound  is very serene and pretty. High rocks either side, islands and heavily timbered slopes all help to impart a sense of mystery.   

Safely docked at Picton we only had a 20 minute drive to Eliza's Cottage Blenheim. An excellent stay, Fresh baked bread every morning, a garden full of ripe fruit - lemons, nectarines and situated in the middle of a vineyard growing grapes for Wither hills winery. So we had to visit, of course.

5 days , paradise. BUT if we are going to make progress we need to press on.

The trip to Queenstown was split into two legs, 2.5 hours to Kaikura just North of Christchurch. The drive is beautiful sandwiched between mountains on your right and the ocean on your left, it is hard to know where to look next.

Whilst we were in Kaikoura it rained quite hard over night. Because the mountains are so high it falls as snow on the mountain tops even in Summer.

Then  3 hours to Timaru just south of Christchurch. We didn't go into Christchurch as we were told it is still devastated by the effects of the Earthquake.

 The owners of the B&B recommended we take highway 8 through the middle of the mountain range so we could catch a sight of Mount cook. The highest mountain in new Zealand, not to mention some of the most beautiful lakes you have ever seen.

The drive to Queenstown was the longest around 4.5 hours but through such seriously beautiful scenery you almost forgot the time.

Queenstown is a rather special place. Totally committed to tourism it is a 365 day tourist resort.  In summer people are attracted by the lake and scenery and night life and in winter by the skiing. 

All tastes are catered for here from young thrill seekers who want to bungy jump to more pedestrian pursuits such as the original steamer that still plies the lake. 

Lots of places to eat and drink as well a a pleasant hum about the place. it is a Meca for backpackers from all over the world who seem to, thankfully, be able to enjoy themselves without loud shouting or drunkenness and violence , 

7 days passed in a flash. Our apartment, pictured above, was by the side of the lake. Every morning dawn was a delight to see what different hues it brought to the mountains and the lake. Dusk was the same on the other side of the lake. In these circumstances it is hard to point your camera and not get a good photograph.

End of the tip almost and we flew Air New Zealand from Queenstown back to Auckland leaving our trusty car in Queenstown.

The next 4 days we spent in the B&B in Clevedon which we had started from. Touring Auckland and the surrounds and enjoying the local beaches, of which there are many. Some of the beach side properties here would fetch a handsome price in the UK but here they average around £500,000, still a lot but then again you get a lot for you money.


We went for a short walk and got ambushed by a herd of bullocks being driven to a new pasture. As the farmer said to us "I bet that made you day".

The top of One tree hill in Auckland.

Finally the last section. 4 nights in Singapore. We stayed in the Marina Mandarin hotel which is very central so we had easy access to the city sights. Just down the road from Raffels bar.


This place wasn't advertising the right things!

The garden on the bay.


Eating out on the cheap. meal for 2 £7!

Celebrating Chinese New year in the shopping mall.

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