The Itinerary & Trip
Day 1 - Auckland Airport to Waitomo, 180km
Picked up the car from Thrifty at the airport then drove to Waitomo which is famous for glow worm caves and the spectacular Marokopa Falls about half an hour's drive. We stayed in a chalet at a caravan park. Nice and quiet. Big supermarket a half an hour's drive.
The glow worm caves were OK. Enormous limestone caverns deep underground, and then a boat trip to see the glow worms. We felt the price was steep for the experience. It was the first time we saw, also, the impact of tourists from China to New Zealand because there was a Mandarin guide and also payment was possible via WeChat and Alipay.
Weather: Threatened rain.
Photo: Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park
Day 2: Waitomo to Rotorua, 141km
Poured with rain on the way following a cyclone in Australia. My friend told me driving in New Zealand is like driving in North Wales. Narrow roads and green. He was right. There are very few motorways in New Zealand with the roads often being two lanes with few passing lanes. The scenery is spectacular.
Rotorua is famous for hot springs and did the geysers. Impressive but the rain was lashing down and so it was in, scurry to find the geyser, out and to the airport. But that was the day after. We went to a working farm named Agridome. That's well worth going. Cows, Alpaca, sheep, pigs, kiwi fruit, deer, and more. You can't simply wander around but have to join a group. You sit in a trailer that's pulled by a tractor. Thought it was fun,
Photo: Kiwi and Hot Mud
Day 3&4: Christchurch to Akaroa Criterion Motel, 86km
When we landed at Christchurch, the weather was heavy rain and gusting winds. We picked up our car from [shall remain nameless] and experienced standard service. I went for the max insurance possible for both rentals. If the weather had been nicer, I'm sure the drive would have been great and the scenery something else. As it was, the weather made the journey harder. Mostly flat, our destination lay on the other side of a big hill range and we started in a valley and then did a bit of an Alpine climb. The road was windy, narrow and wet plus big winds and mist.
We finally got to Akaroa; a small village on a bay. Cruise ships visit here. Nice place to relax for a bit and there are shops and restaurants. The motel was nice. There's a quirk about motels in the motels we stayed in; free milk. We weren't able to go on a boat to see the dolphins because all tours had been cancelled due to the weather. So we ate instead:)
Photos: The Milk of the Free and the Tourist Centre
Day 5&6: Wanaka via Lake Tekapo, 282km + 201km
Big drive day in, again, poor weather until about two hours from Wanaka. Think if you want to maximise a holiday, seeing as many places as possible and driving is the best. I don't mind the driving. The most I've done is a 750km monster drive in Germany but the roads are faster.
Lake Tekapo is a huge, picturesque lake. Biting wind and some rain, about 9 degrees C meant we didn't faff about. First, cafe for some famed smoked salmon, then a brisk, soggy walk, and back into the car for another 200km. Easy drive.
Wanaka is an amazing place. Beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. We stayed in the best place by far: Golfcourse Road Chalets. Your own house overlooking a golf course with a mountain backdrop. Five minutes to the town centre, fifteen if walking. The town has free parking everywhere.
Photo: Lake Tekapo
Photos: Wanaka. Helicopter up to a glacier.
Day 7: Wanaka to Queenstown, 67km
A drive along country roads through valleys and over a steep hill. I'd gone for a 1.2 litre and should have hired something with a bit more oomph like a 2.4 litre. The car did OK, but having that extra power to get over the hills would have been better.
I was expecting Queenstown to be bigger. We did the cable car, avoided the luge track and paragliding. Nice dinner by the lake, watching an old ferry come and go. For some reason, I suggested we do parasailing. Bad mistake. Bad, bad. Terrifying.
Photos: The Drive and Boat on the Lake
Day 8: Queenstown to Dunedin, 282km
The GPS decided to have some fun so we went on a weird route to Dunedin. Turning off from perfectly good roads to go down back lanes. I'd changed the settings so the route would be along normal roads, but it didn't work. Still, despite that, it was nice. You become so reliant on GPS, that when you ignore it and drive your own way, you can almost here the device scream in pain. Haha.
We drove past a 'tramping' field. On the fence next to the entrance were a line of upturned boots. You could borrow your size and go tramping (walking) and return them afterwards. On the road to Dunedin, there was a fence of bras to raise awareness of breast cancer. We stopped, took photos, donated, went on our way.
We had three or four hours to kill in Dunedin, so drove to the headland to try and catch a glimpse of penguins, albatross, and seals. Saw a seal but not the other two. Have to go on a guided tour and the best time is at dusk. After that, we drove to the world's steepest street. As you do.
Quite liked what I saw of Dunedin. We then took a flight to Auckland and flew back to Hong Kong.
Photos: Bras, Birds and the Steepest Street