Travelling Milford Sound in winter

Its usual to think of the summer season as the best time to travel a country – well, except if you want to do winter sports. Travelling Milford Sound in New Zealand’s winter season requires a total change in mindset. Why? Well, from a statistics point of view, it rains in Milford Sound about 200 out of 365 per year. But what people don’t know, is that most of this rain occurs in the summer season – between October and March. The off season is between May and September when this photo was taken – just look at that cloudless sky!

Travelling Milford Sound in winter

Why is winter a good time for Milford Sound?

There are some very good reasons to visit Milford (or Doubtful Sound) in the winter season between May and August. There is less rain and wind (important for trampers) and generally more stable weather. This means that the fjord cruises can venture further out into the Tasman Sea.

Travelling Milford Sound in winter

Another good reason to visit Milford in winter, and probably most of New Zealand, is that you will have less travellers around. This means more space at the key locations and so much more personal attention wherever you’ll go. Very often there’s a better chance of getting a true authentic and in-depth New Zealand travel experience. And believe me, more and more travellers are looking for this.

What restrictions would you have in winter?

The slightly downside of travelling in New Zealand’s winter season is that obviously the temperatures are cooler – plus there are less daylight hours. The sun will go up at 7-8am and down from 5pm. This means that you will need to plan your day a bit more carefully. Also some of our boutique accommodations, such as B&B’s and lodges, are often closed during the winter.

How to get to Milford Sound in winter?

Another key issue that might put a few travellers off travelling in winter, is the road conditions. This is especially so in the far south of New Zealand where the roads are icy in the morning. You could drive to Milford Sound yourself, but I’d recommend that you join a local tour – one that provides transport from Te Anau.

Another very appealing reason for Travelling Milford Sound in winter, would have to be the very attractive accommodation tariffs. The off-season rates can pretty much guarantee you’ll get something really special.

Summary for travelling Milford Sound in winter

Even in the main winter months of July & August, you can still travel Milford Sound, as long as you are prepared. You will often have the local walks and tracks to yourself – with fewer travellers hitting our shores, you’ll get some special moments of tranquility.

Some accommodation and tour options are not available in winter, but for Milf0rd Sound (and Doubtful Sound) the cruises still operate. I guarantee you’ll get so much more deck space!

Happy winter travelling!

Top 10 New Zealand Honeymoon Destinations and Things to do

New Zealand Honeymoon destinations such as Rotorua and Queenstown, are heavily promoted.  But do Honeymooners know about the gorgeous and lesser known places in New Zealand? These Top 10 New Zealand honeymoon destinations and activities are for fun seeking, nature-loving Honeymooners.

 

Where to begin with your honeymoon in New Zealand?

As most international travellers begin their trip in Auckland and finish in Christchurch. We’ll start from North to South and add links for easy reference and information access.

To get a general idea on what you can do with a limited time on your hand…

view sample travel itineraries

1 – Waiheke Island near Auckland – for wine lovers

Just a short 50 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island is a gorgeous, relaxed gem surrounded by the bluest waters. It’s actually hard to imagine that New Zealand’s largest city is so close!

Friendly locals and remote empty beaches are a welcoming sight as you arrive at the ferry terminal. Now you can either rent a car locally for the day, or join a vineyard/scenic small group tour. Handy Hint: Take the 10am ferry ex Auckland harbour and back at 4pm from Waiheke ferry terminal.

2 – Hahei Beach Coromandel Peninsula – Kayaking & hiking

The question from our travellers is a this, “shall we go to the Bay of Island or the Coromandel Peninsula”? We have written another travel blog on this subject (link). The key advantage with the Coromandel is there is less driving and the scenery is just as lovely as the Bay of Islands.

You’ll get the same warm climate, the giant Kauri Trees and golden beaches on the eastern side of the peninsula. Hahei Beach is one of those top locations with beach access to the Cathedral Cove Walk and the glorious Kayaking from the Hahei Beach Village.

 

3 – Blackwater Rafting Waitomo Caves

Now this really is a “classic Kiwi” adventure. Established in the mid 1980’s (I did my first trip there in 1988) it’s now seen as one of the top adventure things to do in New Zealand. It’ll be easier for you to see the video to get a sense of the adventure – but it’s safe, fun and an activity that’s probably unique to New Zealand. Be warned, you’ll  get wet, but a shower and BBQ is provided after the tour. The tour takes about 4 hours. All you need is swimwear and a towel and the fun is guaranteed.

4 – Orakei Korako Flight + Walking excursion

The area between Rotorua and Taupo is the most geothermal active region in New Zealand. There are many “reserves” you can easily visit  – Waiotapu, Waimangu, Te Puia etc. With Orakei Korako you can combine a scenic flight from Rotorua over the area (in a fixed wing aircraft). Plus a guided walk thru the volcanic wonderland. The big ‘plus’ is that you’ll get away from all the truckloads of tourists at the other reserves. Have good walking shoes and a rain jacket (just in case).

Need help with your honeymoon planning? Use a local New Zealand travel expert to plan your NZ honeymoon –  for free!

5 – Abel Tasman region – romantic Vineyard Cottage stay

The Abel Tasman region and honeymoons are a perfect match for romance and for sheer intimacy. A vineyard cottage stay is such a wonderful way to celebrate your first time together as a couple.

Kina Beach Cottage Vineyard - another of the top 10 new zealand honeymoon destinations

Stay at least 2-3 nights, relax and enjoy this beautiful – and mostly sunny – Abel Tasman region. A fine example of a romantic setting can be found at places like the Kina Beach Vineyard Cottage. Conveniently located between Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park. Here, you can walk thru the vinegrape rows down the beach or just sit on your veranda amidst the privacy and scenery.

6 – Remote West Coast Beaches and rainforest

The West Coast of the South Island can rightly be called ‘Paradise’ It’s wild, lush and underpopulated – the perfect place to explore and find new experiences.

Punakaiki Beach views 2

Drive thru the Buller Gorge with lots of stopping options (e.g. swing bridges, walks, historic sights). Then the Cape Farewell Seal Colony (with Walk). Of course you’ll need to check out the iconic “Pancake Rocks” at Punakaiki (best to do at high tide). And if you’re after a great hosting experience and stunning views over the Tasman Sea. Consider a stay at The Breakers Boutique B & B. Plan on a 2-night stay. Helpful vacation sample: 14 days New Zealand honeymoon.

7 – Heli-hiking Fox Glacier – one of the Top 10 New Zealand honeymoon destinations

The glaciers in New Zealand are different in that they flow a lot faster than other glaciers throughout the world. It’s only about 25 kms from our highest peak – Mt. Cook, 3654 metres – to the Tasman Sea. In between you have (a) the high alpine country – glaciers with a lengh of 12 kms, (b) lush rainforest with stunning walks and (c) beach and lagoon walks along the sea. And you can do this all in one day!

Start with the Heli-hiking in the morning, it’s worth every penny as you get 2 x short helicopter flights and 2 hours walking on a safe part of the Fox Glacier with a local guide. Special ice equipment is provided. Bring your own sunglasses and a good jacket.

8 – Rob Roy Valley Walk – a magic valley near Wanaka

For those Honeymooners keen on one-day hikes, the Rob Roy Valley Walk is definitely a highlight walk. Stay in Wanaka for two nights and travel for about one hour up the West Matukituki Valley in your rental car or with a transport operator. The walk is about 5 hours return and crosses a classic NZ swing-bridge.  You’ll gain access to the hug “valley bowl”, a perfect place for lunch and meet the local “Kea” birds.

To get a general idea on what you can do with a limited time on your hand…

view sample travel itineraries

9 – Dart River Safaris – with Lord of the Rings From Queenstown

You’ll enjoy travelling to Glenorchy in your car – it’s a very scenic drive. From there, the Dart River Safari tour begins and takes you to a place actually called “Paradise”. This is an informative tour with stops on the way (learn interesting and funny facts about the filming for the Lord of the Rings in the area).

Next you’ll take a thrilling jetboat ride down the Dart River back to Glenorchy. I highly recommend this trip as you really get the best overview between the Fiordland and Mt. Aspiring National Parks.

10 – Dunedin – nature discovery with albatross and penguins

Nature tours don’t get much better the Elm Wildlife Tour on the Otago Peninsula! You’ll be collected from your accommodation in Dunedin. The first stop is at Tairoa Head (right at the end of the peninsula) to view the Southern Royal Albatross colony. It’s the only nesting site in the world close to a human settlement for these giant birds (up to 2.5 metres wing span!).

A guide will drive you onto a private farm property beach. You’ll take a 20 min walk to the nesting area of the Yellow-Eyed-Penguins. It’s one of the most incredible sights to see these birds returning from fishing in the evening and walking up the beach to their nests to feed their chicks. There are seals, sea lions and sometimes even sea elephants. You’ll be right in the middle of this gathering! Note, between mid August and 24 November it’s nesting time for the birds and access to the bird nests is not permitted.

Most travellers come to New Zealand to experience nature, wildlife and adventure activities. Honeymooners will find that these special locations – beautiful, romantic hideaways – are perfect for starting out a wonderful life together.

Happy travelling in the top 10 New Zealand honeymoon destinations!

Day trip to Arthur’s Pass from Christchurch

At Guest NZ we very much believe in staying several nights at one location – moving daily, can be quite exhausting. Plus, you get to see so much more in the way of day trips, A day trip to Arthur’s Pass from Christchurch, is a relaxing way to explore New Zealand’s Southern Alps mountain area. There are a number of ways to do this.

Visiting Arthur’s Pass by train

An excellent option is to use the TranzAlpine train journey from Christchurch, through to the Arthur’s Pass railway station. This is a stunning scenic ride, passing along the Canterbury Plains and travelling up the Waimakariri Gorge. Believe me, nothing can prepare you for the visual impact, once you enter the Southern Alps. The ride only takes about 2.5 hours, so that leaves you plenty of time in the afternoon to explore.

Day trip to Arthur's Pass from Christchurch

Visiting Arthur’s Pass with a Tour Company

A convenient way to complete the trip back to Christchurch is using a local day tour operator such as Hassle Free Tours. These guys provide the full service. This includes pick-up from your hotel, train tickets, meeting again in Arthur’s Pass, plus a 4WD trip and a jetboat ride. If it sounds like a lot of bang for your buck, it is! You’ll also get an interesting commentary from the tour driver about the area, it’s national park and history.

Day trip to Arthur's Pass from Christchurch

What to see on the day trip to Arthur’s Pass from Christchurch

Well the first thing that comes to mind, is the scenery. It’s such a beautiful region with landscape that changes frequently as you pass through it. Think of lush green pastures, to barren hills, then onto snow-capped mountains.

Day trip to Arthur's Pass from Christchurch

Must stop at Castle Hill Caves

The Castle Hill Caves is a recognised caving system. But, I would urge you to be careful – only explore inside if you well equipped and have some caving experience.

Day trip to Arthur's Pass from Christchurch

This is a spectacular scenic region, especially on a sunny day. I had an excellent day travelling this area in in late June, which is officially our winter.  A stop at Castle Hill Rocks is a must-do – it really is a magic place.

Day trip to Arthur's Pass from Christchurch

Summary

So, if you are staying in Christchurch, give yourself plenty of time to explore the wonderful New Zealand landscape with a day trip to Arthurs Pass from Christchurch. Your photos will capture the most incredible scenery.

Happy travelling!

Travelling Dunedin to Lake Tekapo

New Zealand has a variety of scenic drives and these highlight help to create the diversity of the country – especially if you’re travelling Dunedin to Lake Tekapo. This trip begins at sea level and finishes on a high country plateau, with NZ’s highest mountains in sight.

Stops en-route travelling Dunedin to Tekapo

Dunedin is a major New Zealand city and a learning centre for many students. It has a youthful vibrancy, yet an incredibly charming old world feel with it’s beautiful historic buildings.  As you head north and enter the coastal Otago landscape, the whole view changes very quickly.  The drive continues with the Pacific Ocean on your right and that most classic of New Zealand scenes, mobs of sheep.

Travelling Dunedin to Lake Tekapo

Travelling Dunedin to Lake Tekapo – Fleurs Place and Moearki Boulders

After a 45 minute drive the first sign for the fishing village Moeraki comes into sight. Now, its important to note that the actual village is  NOT where the same-named famous boulders are located – In fact, they’re 5 minutes away following highway SH1.

Travelling Dunedin to Lake Tekapo

It’s became a famous stopping point for ‘Fleurs Place’ restaurant, where  ‘the fish jumps on your place’ is their famous slogan. This is a valid claim, as the fish supplier is right next door at the pier.

Fleurs Place

Historic Oamaru with old town district

If you travel north for another 45 minutes, you’ll reach the historic township of Oamaru. The history of Oamaru dates right back to when its port served agricultural exports. You’ll quickly find out that Oamaru is famous for its white limestone – this was used to construct buildings throughout New Zealand – prime examples being Christchurch Cathedral and the Parliament building in Wellington.

Travelling Dunedin to Lake Tekapo

A highlight for today’s travellers, is the incredibly unique historical part of the city. Take a wander down the streets and alleyways and you’ll come across beautifully restored historic buildings.  These buildings now house modern day arts and crafts shops, bakeries and even a whiskey shop!

Now the ‘Steampunk‘ gallery is pretty unusual for Southland. Everyone wants to visit this place to see its pieces of steampunk art and glass room.

 

Power stations along the Waitaki River

When travelling up the Waitaki Valley, you’ll follow New Zealand key hydro power project. From Lake Tekapo, through to Lake Benmore, the waters flow through man-made channels, via hydro power stations – these feed the generators along the way. Its an impressive force of power and definitely worth a stop.

Maori Rock Paintings when travelling Dunedin to Lake Tekapo

Polynesian seafarers were the first to settle Aotearoa (New Zealand) about 800 years ago. Even as far down as Stewart Island, these examples of stone-age cultures leaving their stories behind in rock paintings. Some of those rock paintings are clearly seen right next to the main road between Oamaru and Omarama. The carpark is well sign posted and worth a brief stop.

Merino wool in Omarama

After travelling through the Otago sheep farming heartland you’ll reach the little settlement of Omarama. Many travellers need to stop here to fuel both their vehicles and themselves.  Take the opportunity to check out the local wool shop ‘The Wrinkly Rams’. You can see shearing shows and buy local pure wool products. There’s also a very large cafe here.

Stunnings blues on Lake Pukaki and Tekapo

On a clear day, you’ll find the next piece of road to be one of the most scenic in New Zealand. You’ll see this, as you head north from Omarama towards Mt. Cook. At Lake Pukaki, park your vehicle, switch of the engine and gaze at the stunning sight ahead of you. With the Southern Alps in the background, its breathtaking! I guarantee you’ll take so many photos and capture special memories of a lifetime.

Stay at Lake Tekapo (and try stargazing), the settlement of Twizel, or right in the Mount Cook National Park at the Mt. Cook Village.

Happy travelling and contact us for any further information.

Staying in Glenorchy near Queenstown

Every traveller to New Zealand reads and hears about Queenstown, so they probably wouldn’t consider staying in Glenorchy. But just how many international travellers really know about Glenorchy? Its only a 45 minute drive from busy Queenstown. What I can state categorically, is that the Glenorchy area is the most blissful and tranquil area in the upper Lake Wakatipu region.

Staying in Glenorchy near Queenstown

The road to Glenorchy

Key reasons for staying in Glenorchy:

So why would you stay in Glenorchy?

  • Firstly, if you want to immerse yourself in a much less ‘touristy’ part of New Zealand, its a great choice.  And if you stay overnight, you’ll really love the peaceful solitude – especially after all the day trippers have returned to Queenstown.
  • Visiting the local pub or the cafe, checking the local ‘General Store’ and walking the ‘Lagoon Walk’, are highlights.  You’ll really get the authenticity of this place if you’re travelling outside the peak travel seasons (between April / May and September/ October).
  • The Glenorchy area is starting point for key walks and hikes, such as the Routeburn Track and the Rees Dart Track. There are some fantastic choices for day walks as well. The Dart River Safari tour and Horse trekking options are also key attractions.

 

Views from Camp Glenorchy

 

Accommodation options in the Glenorchy region

Camp Glenorchy

When I travelled recently to Glenorchy in June 2018, I stayed at the newly established ‘Camp Glenorchy‘. Camp Glenorchy is a huge complex which opened in March 2018 and is New Zealand’s first Net Zero Energy accommodation provider. Its unique and amazing!

With conservation and smart energy planning at the forefront, Camp Glenorchy operates under the philosophy “Living Building Challenge’. This involves the most advanced environmental building design certification in the world!

I stayed in the ‘Manuka Cottage’ and immediately felt the harmonious pairing of materials and ambience. No surprises here though – only chemical free building materials are used – many of which have recycled origins.

 

The main building contains the small reception, a functional kitchen and very spacious lounge area. The polished concrete floors store the day sun.  The atmosphere is calming with beautiful music playing in the the background. Large maps of the area invite the traveller to step into their explorer mode.

At the moment, guests prepare their own breakfast. However, in the near future, Camp Glenorchy will provide a breakfast option at an additional cost.

Kinloch

For travellers wanting an even more remote location, another option is Kinloch Lodge. Now this accommodation is a little more basic but very comfortable.  The lodge rooms cater more for the backpacker market. For those requiring a more comfortable option, there are also eco cabins.  I have seen the eco cabins and can recommend them, especially in Autumn when the camping ground below, is not as busy.

Blanket Bay

Blanket Bay Lodge is one of New Zealand’s exclusive properties and is located on the lake itself. Guests staying here enjoy the utmost privacy and a premier level of luxury.

What to do in the Glenorchy region ?

Everyone is different and we all have varying ideas on how to spend their time in this pristine area. Some get active, others just seek peace and rest. Here is a list of options on what to do in the Glenorchy area: hiking, day walks, horse riding tours, Dart River Safaris, Lord of the Ring Tours, Farm Tours, Kayaking, Fishing, Photography, Arts & Crafts, Scenic flights etc.

Summary about staying in Glenorchy

Glenorchy is a place for travellers wanting to get away from the frantic energy of Queenstown. Now, it is busy during the day time with hordes from Queenstown visiting, but is more relaxed from the late afternoon. Travellers have shorter access to some of New Zealand’s key hiking highlights and stunning scenery. One key advice – do make time.  Any stay under 2 nights is not really worth it. Make sure you get to immerse yourself in the untouched paradise that is Glenorchy.

Happy travelling and contact us if you have any questions!

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