New Zealand, South Island.

Reference: New Zealand

Title: Motoring round South Island, New Zealand.

Length: 700 words.

Publishing rights available: All rights.

Travel operator: Air New Zealand.

Copyright: Derrick Grover.

Motoring round South Island.

We had decided to start our tour of South Island from Christchurch. Air New Zealand provides a network of interconnecting flights to numerous places of interest, and a 10% reduction was available on their "Visit New Zealand Fares" scheme if booked beforehand (or 20% in their winter). Our flight from Rotorua in North Island had taken about two hours.

River Avon, Christchurch

The reasonably priced Windsor Hotel in Christchurch was popular with tourists. Dinner could be taken in a restaurant overlooking the River Avon and you could drink your own wine without paying corkage. In other respects the city is well described as being like a piece of England, albeit a gentler England than has survived today. There is punting on the River Avon as it winds through the Botanic gardens with that serene quality that reminds one of a bygone era. Alternatively a tour of the City can be made by tram on a tourist ticket.

We expected to stay in Dunedin but our visit coincided with the annual festival and accommodation was impossible to find. Had I known I could have used the web site and email facilities to book bed and breakfast in advance. Instead we had to drive on to a small town on our route to Milford Sound. This nevertheless gave us an early start to reach Te Anau in time to swim in the motel pool and walk alongside the lake. It is a good base for a day visit to Milford Sound along a winding alpine country road with varying views of hills, rushing streams and mountains. The entry to the fiords is through a steep and narrow tunnel in the rocks. I was wary of meeting a bus coming the other way and was thankful to be following a large van.

. Sight seeing vessels ply the Sound past Mitre Peak which climbs steeply out of the water then on to the seal colony before reaching the Tasman Sea. Alternatively trekkers can take the guided walk from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound, but this is a six-day event. Details can be found on the web site

The journey from Te Anau to Queenstown was a comfortable journey in half a day. We were pleased to find a motel with a balcony overlooking the delightful Lake Wakatipu. The panoramic views were extensive - a place to photograph using a telephoto lens. Steamship and speedboats cruise the lake. There are numerous adventure activities including jetboating and whitewater rafting. If you fancy it, bungy jumping is organised from the Kawarau Bridge about 20 Kms north.#

Lake Wakatipu

Our journey continued up route 6 alongside the sea. I had not expected to walk on ice in the summer but the road rises to Fox glacier in Westland National Park. Nearby the Minnehaha walk through the beautiful rain forest provided another opportunity to stretch our legs. Further north the Franz Josef tourist office offers guided tours up the glacier. These were for climbers only but the casual visitor to its base needs only to negotiate the stepping stones over the occasional stream of ice cold water. Stout shoes are recommended.

Mount Cook could be seen from the park. A cloud hung over the peak so we waited for it to clear. Eventually we realised that it was the wind blowing up the mountainside that cooled sufficiently to produce more vapour that maintained the cloud.

Greymouth further up the coast is the terminus for the TranzAlpine train back to Christchurch on a four-hour trip. It is declared to be one of the world's most spectacular journeys. We were visiting friends in Nelson, however, and so continued along the coast road with its views of the Tasman Sea on our left and mountainous scenery on our right. The pancake rocks and another seal colony caught our attention. At one stop we fed a flock of Weka birds but otherwise it is the less interesting part of the trip.

We handed back our car at Picton, conveniently close to the ferry for Wellington. Our tour had taken 9 days. With more time available we would have stayed longer in Queenstown and Te Anau, and perhaps an extra day in Dunedin and Christchurch.

View some photographs supporting this article here.

Christchurch river/tram /University, Lake Te anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, Glaciers,etc.

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