Author Topic: A trip to the magical Down Under: ZCN's trip report to Australia and New Zealand  (Read 12233 times)

Offline mgoldhammer18

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Beautiful pictures of milford sound.  If you want to be blown away by scenery, take the time to go to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos and visit chalk sound, purely breathtaking

Offline AJK

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Beautiful pictures of milford sound.  If you want to be blown away by scenery, take the time to go to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos and visit chalk sound, purely breathtaking

I had never heard of Chalk Sound, but after googling it, it's very pretty and tropical, I don't think it comes close to the majesty that is Milford Sound.

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Offline Ergel

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4 days here https://www.vrbo.com/460050 would be awesome but for sure a totally different experience than Milford sound
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Offline ZCN

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After finishing up with Milford sound we headed back to Queenstown which was where we would be staying for that night. Based on reviews from people on DDF we chose to stay at Scenic Suites Queenstown. We had used an Orbitz deal and paid about $20 for our stay.

While the hotel looks nice and modern from the outside the rooms did not have any air-conditioning which was annoying. In the end we just opened some windows and ignored the street noise.
As I was using the computer to plan ahead for our activities for the next day I suddenly felt my bed moving, almost like someone had jumped onto my bed. For a second I thought my wife had actually jumped onto the bed but after a few seconds I realized what was going on: an earthquake! It only lasted for about 10 seconds and did not get too strong but it was amazing to experience. The next day I checked the US geographical society's website and in fact there was a moderate earthquake reported near Queenstown.

The next day we headed out for our first activity, jet boating. We had wanted to go on the Shotover Jet boat which is the best experience, however it was over $125 per ticket which we thought was too expensive. In the end we ended up using a great website called bookme.co.nz which has great deals on stuff to do all over NZ. I highly recommend using this site, as it will save you some serious cash. They mainly have good deals starting 1 month out, with better deals coming closer to the date you want to go on an activity.

We ended up getting a deal on a place called Goldfields Jet which was about a 30 minute drive out of Queenstown but cost $75 each for the ride. They only had one ride for the day and they actually ended up waiting a few minutes for us to come. The ride was great and really something unique that everyone should do.

After doing the jet boating we headed back to Queenstown to do the Skyline Gondola. Along the way, we stopped off at a bungee jumping place, and we were able to watch for no charge as people jumped off a bridge and into a deep canyon. It was fascinating to watch people jump off, and amazingly there were some young children who looked no older than 10 years old jumping off as well. New Zealanders are really into their adventure sports….

We got to the Skyline gondola and took the ski lift up to the main area on top. We first went onto the observation deck to grab some stunning photos of Queenstown. I don't think there is a better place to go to get pictures of Queenstown as you can see virtually the entire area.
Afterwards we spent 40 minutes or so doing the luge which was really cool and amazing. We each did 2 rides on it, which seemed like enough, although you can definitely do more. The luge is pricey though - $5 NZD per ride.
Initially we had only budgeted an hour or two for the ski ride, however it became clear that this place has tons to do and you can really spend an entire day there. They have bungee jumping on site, and they also have helicopter tours which take off and land from there as well. They also have windsurfing and we spent a good amount of time watching people take off from a hill and soar all over Queenstown, which looked amazing.

Note that when you go to the luge you take another small lift up to the luge area and on the way up there is an automated camera that takes a picture of you. The camera has a great vantage point overlapping Queenstown and I would highly recommend buying the picture.

After spending about four hours at the ski lodge we headed out to Franz Josef glacier where we were spending the night. It was a gorgeous drive through the beauty of New Zealand, and we even stumbled onto some kosher packaged salmon in a random grocery store in Wanaka! (The name of the store is New World Wanaka for those interested)

As we drove alongside the western coast of New Zealand we had high hopes for some additional great scenery. However, we were very disappointed that there was not much visible from the road. We had high expectations as we thought the roads would be like the Pacific Coast highway which offers stunning views from the actual road. However, while the road goes right near the water very little is actually visible from the road. For that matter we didn't see many areas to pull over to get good views of the water. We basically drove straight along the coast for a few hours, with a couple of stops at notable landmarks. I would not recommend taking the coastal route to Christchurch unless you plan on doing a decent amount of hiking.

Unfortunately because of our late departure from the Skyline Gondola, we were still an hour away from Franz Josef when darkness hit. Let me tell you – driving on these roads in the dark is not fun and I would strongly recommend getting to your destination before darkness hits. Besides for the fact that there are no lights and the nearest (small) town can be 45 minutes away, there is also almost no traffic. If you get stuck or break down, there is a decent chance that you are spending the night there. In addition, most of the stores in towns that you pass close early so there is not much available past 8 o'clock.

Thankfully, we made it safely to the Bella Vista Franz Josef. Because it was 10 o'clock by the time we arrived there was a note on the office door telling us which room was ours as well as how to get in. The room was very simple – in these areas there ain’t no 5 star hotels – but we had everything we needed for the night.

The next day we headed out towards Franz Joseph glacier. We had origanlly been thinking of doing a Heli Hike, but at this point in our trip we were quite over budget and could not swing the significant extra cash for the ride. We ended up driving to the Glacier and walking for about 30 minutes and were able to get a somewhat decent view of a glacier. The view was not great though, and I would recommend the helicopter tour to see much more.

After leaving Franz Joseph glacier we headed for the long drive to Christchurch through Arthur’s pass. The scenery through the pass was stunning and we had some gorgeous views on the way.

As I had mentioned before we were able to consistently travel 20 km above the speed limit without any issues. On our way to Christchurch however that changed. I was driving about 135 km in a 100 km zone when I noticed in the distance a car that seemed to stop on the road ahead of us. Thankfully I slowed down a little bit as it was a cop who clocked me at 128. He wasn’t particularly friendly, and did say had I been going a little faster he would have arrested me and towed my car. After pulling me over he administered a breathalyzer test, which was a first for me. Apparently, anytime you get stopped in New Zealand they will administer a breathalyzer test to make sure you are not intoxicated.
I ended up getting a nice ticket which I'm still trying to work out

We then headed to the International Antarctic Centre, which is a museum that is all about Antarctica. We had brought tickets from bookme.nz at a nice discount and I was a bit worried because our ticket said we had to be there by 3PM, and we arrived at 4PM. The ticket person pointed this out to us, and after we apologized she let us in. The museum is not that large and there are 2 main attractions: The Antarctic storm, where you go into a room that gets down to 24 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of 0. There is also the Hagglund Ride, which is a vehicle they use to drive around in Antarctica. It’s sort of like a hummer. I should note our tickets covered all the attractions.

We first did the Antarctic storm, and we were given coats for the experience. We went into a room filled with snow and ice, and the temperature began to drop and the “winds” began to howl. It didn’t get quite as cold as they said it would, but it was cold enough. Overall, it was a cool experience, but nothing amazing.
We then went to the Hagglund ride. This was undoubtedly the highlight of the museum, and made the visit well worth it. We were driven around an empty lot that serves as kind of a practice driving course, and we climbed hills, made sharp turns, and went through water. While we were doing this, our driver explained to us all about the vehicle. In addition, the ride was pretty bumpy, which made it fun.
The best part was at the end when we climbed this crazy steep hill that was about 20 feet high, and then sped down the other side into a lake. Going up the hill I thought there was no way we would make it down safely. Suffice to say it was a thrilling experience. Overall I do recommend the museum, and it has a great location, located just a few minutes away from the airport.

We checked into our flight for Air New Zealand in Christchurch airport. After checking in we returned our rental car at a local hotel which is a drop off point for after hours returns for the car rental company – we used a company called GO based on reviews on DDF.
After going through security which took a total of three minutes we went to Air New Zealand lounge on account of our United club membership that we have.

About 20 minutes before boarding I realized that I had left my glasses in the rental car. I made a quick phone call to the hotel where I had dropped off the rental car and they said they would send a driver over in a few minutes to drop off my glasses. I went outside to meet the driver, and thanked him profusely for dropping off my glasses. At this point it was about 15 minutes before departure, however I got through security in about one minute and shortly afterwards they announced boarding for our flight. This illustrated the beauty of flying in other parts of the world outside of the US. Where else can you clear security in two minutes and then have your flight board 10 minutes before departure with an on time departure? Air New Zealand is able to board so close to departure time and still leave on time because they use both the front and back of the plane, as well as just the simple fact that everything is more efficient in New Zealand. Even though we boarded with 10 minutes before departure we were all set to go on time with a fully loaded A320.

We were able to secure sky couch seats on the long-haul flights from Oakland to LAX using a trick that I discovered. One thing I should mention: When traveling in coach on a plane that has 3 seats together, my wife and I have a trick where one of us requests the window seat, while the other requests the aisle. This increases the chance that the middle seat will remain empty, which adds room for both of us. However, ANZ is really smart, and they refused to allow us to have seats that were not next to each other. In the end, I had to call United and split the reservation, upon which I was then able to separately request a window and aisle seat. Thankfully, this paid off as we had the middle seat open. Given that we were flying ANZ’s 777-300 with 10 across seating the extra room was definitely appreciated.
Overall the fight was manageable and there was nothing spectacular about the flight or the service.

And with that our trip to New Zealand came to an end.

Offline AJK

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Awesome. Thanks for finishing.

I, too, had an interesting run in with the NZ cops, but was able to talk myself out of anything :P

Never heard of International Antarctic Centre. but sounds like a blast.

So was the skycouch trick the ol' "aisle and window shtick" (something I've successfully used for years I must say) or was it something else?

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Offline ZCN

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Awesome. Thanks for finishing.

I, too, had an interesting run in with the NZ cops, but was able to talk myself out of anything :P

Never heard of International Antarctic Centre. but sounds like a blast.

So was the skycouch trick the ol' "aisle and window shtick" (something I've successfully used for years I must say) or was it something else?

Somethin else:)

Offline Yehoshua

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Great TR. Thanks for sharing!

Offline AJK

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Somethin else:)

Well, I certainly know you know to PM me.
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Offline Ergel

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Well, I certainly know you know to PM me.
AJK requires shtick for flying in coach? Color me confused
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Offline AJK

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Offline Yaalili

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Great ending thanks for the TR.

Offline D93

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Offline IsraelGuy

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