New Zealand Highlights

Thanks to our travel consultant Karen Waldman for highlighting a past trip to New Zealand for us. – Tim

Some friends are planning a trip to New Zealand and recently asked me about my NZ recollections. Brent and I travelled to New Zealand as one of our first trips as a married couple, before kids, and it still stands out. The scenery, outdoor activities, and slower pace drew me in and created memories of one of my top trips of all time. The scenery alone is worth a long stay in New Zealand, but we threw in some  adventure too. Here are some of my favorites.

Fiordland – Our day trip to Milford Sound was a highlight for us. The waterfalls, the misty haze, the steep mountains, the boats, the seals, the quiet – it was all so beautiful to behold. We stopped at an underwater observatory, hoping to see my favorite little sea horses, but I guess they were on vacation too. Clients have said that staying overnight in the sound is a wonderful experience as well.

Hiking and scenery – We stayed in the cute town of Te Anau.  If you want some nice wool clothes, wow. Plenty of great shopping here! But we were here mainly as a gateway to Fiordland, and as a base for day hikes. We loved all the hanging swing bridges on the trails. At one place, we even had to rent (cheap) a little rowboat to cross the little river to get to our destined hiking trail.

Sheep & cows – We saw sheep almost immediately after arriving and we thought that was funny and stereotypical. At one point we had to follow a herd (is that what you call them?!) down the highway, as they were led by a guy on a tractor. On another occasion, we stumbled onto a seemingly deserted apartment hotel, on farmland on a “mountain” pass. It was late and dark, so we stayed. What a treat to wake up to cows just beyond our kitchen patio door, then to receive fresh milk from the farmer. Coming from farming backgrounds, this was so special to us.

Slower pace – If possible, we like to travel during shoulder season, mostly because we like to avoid crowds and pretend we are locals. For this trip we went in May and it was a great choice for us. The weather was on the cool side, though we never needed more than a sweatshirt and jeans and the occasional rain jacket. It was nice to have tour guides who were laid-back with fewer guests and it was nice to have a good selection of available places to stay. May is probably a bit chilly for many people, so if shoulder season appeals to you, late March into April may be a better choice.

Glaciers – If you’ve been to Alaska, you’ve seen glaciers. The ones in New Zealand are very similar to the inland glaciers in Alaska (different from the ones you see on the cruise ships). Whether in Alaska or New Zealand, amazing!

Cave Rafting – This was so fun! We went with a company in Greymouth and the trip did not disappoint. We donned thick wetsuits and hard hats with lanterns, then trekked through the forest to a cave opening. Oh, and we had to carry inner tubes with us, for tubing the water within the dark cave. The bonus was seeing glow worms when we turned off the headlamps.

Sea Kayaking – Again, if you’ve been to Alaska, the kayaking here is very similar. It’s chilly in the water in Abel Tasman National Park, so we wore wet suits. We saw more beautiful scenery and animals than you can imagine. Many types of birds, forested hills, inviting island beaches. One of the seals joined us and gave us quite a performance. The people really seem to enjoy their tea breaks here, and during kayaking was no exception. We were also treated to a beach cookout, with marinated lamb (did I mention there are tons of sheep here?).

And this was just the South Island! Like I said, one of the best trips we’ve ever taken.

Karen Waldman

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