Sunday, May 23, 2010


My last day finally arrived. As much as I was looking forward to seeing all my friends and family, I was quite sad that the trip was all over ☹ However, I am not done yet, I am going to write a travel book about the top 100 best spots to visit and things to do in NZ. So stayed tuned…

Central Park Motel

Central Park Motor Lodge is a modern motel style accommodation situated near Christchurch city on the edge of Hagley Park. The motel is walking distance to the Botanic Gardens, Christchurch Museum, The Arts Centre, Galleries and several other facilities. Its prime location also meant that it was only a 10 minutes drive to the International Airport, which was very handy as my flight was at 6am.

The motel features 14 very spacious self-contained and well-appointed units. Kathy and Harry were great hosts and made my last night in New Zealand very memorable. Kathy showed me to my room and provided me with maps and information on Christchurch.

My one bedroom unit featured a large open plan living, dining and kitchen area with a single bed, a private bathroom and a queen sized bed in the Master bedroom. The room was very modern, with stylish furnishings and a very large TV.

The best part of all was that they offer free internet, which is a luxury I rarely came across on my 3 month tour.

For more information please visit their website at:

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand is an international and domestic airline group which provides air passenger and cargo transport services within New Zealand, as well as to and from Australia, the South West Pacific, Asia, North America and the United Kingdom.

It was an early rise for me, waking up at 2.30am and picked up by the airport shuttle at 3.30am. I had a good flight with Air New Zealand apart from the fact that they are not very lenient with their extra baggage. However the service was very friendly and helpful.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Hanmer Springs Village is New Zealand's premier alpine spa destination. Located in the South Island of New Zealand, Hanmer Springs is best known for the award-winning Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa, where visitors enjoy pampering and relaxation amongst beautiful alpine vistas.

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa is the natural place to unwind - a world class spa experience set in a unique alpine environment. Just a 90 minute drive from Christchurch, Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa offers the ultimate in relaxation.

Cheltenham House B&B

A boutique Bed and Breakfast in the heart of Hanmer Springs, Cheltenham House provides a mix of comfort and traditional elegance in a warm atmosphere. Ideally located on a quiet street in the centre of Hanmer Springs, the thermal pools, restaurants, shops, and forest park activities are all within 200-metres of Cheltenham House.

Cheltenham House Bed & Breakfast is surrounded by extensive gardens that feature azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons with silver birches lending year-round structure. The gardens are beautiful and can be seen from most rooms in the house.

We were invited to meet in the billiard room for an informal drink before dinner. Evening drinks has been a defining feature of Cheltenham House Bed & Breakfast since we began in 1997.

There are four spacious suites in the house and two cottages in the garden. Each suite has been designed to combine the charm of old-world elegance with all the modern-day conveniences. Our room featured two queen sized beds a private bathroom, a large flat screen TV and coffee and tea making facilities.

In the morning before heading to Christchurch we enjoyed a continental breakfast of fruit, muesli, yogurt and toast.

Our hosts were lovely and really made us feel welcome.

For more information please visit their website at:

Thursday, May 20, 2010


The drive along the Kaikoura coast line is just stunning. We stopped off to visit the seals along the way.

Maori Tours

Due to unforeseen circumstance we didn't get to do this but it has been voted one of the best cultural activities in NZ.

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Off the coastline of Kaikoura is a marine environment so rich in nutrients that it attracts some of the most magnificent creatures, including the Giant Sperm Whale that can grow up to 20 metres and weighs over 50 tons. These whales can be seen all year round making Kaikoura a Mecca for whale watching.

Offering visitors an exciting up-close encounter with the Giant Sperm Whale, Whale Watch Kaikoura is committed to providing not only a quality experience, but ensuring the long term sustainability of Kaikoura’s natural resources.

After having some lunch in the café on-site we all huddled in the briefing room to watch an interesting and educational video on Sperm Whales followed by a safety brief. After we were well informed of the dangers with whale watching we boarded the modern catamaran. This state-of-the-art vessel is equipped with engines that minimise underwater noise pollution, comfortable indoor seating and large outside decks, which are great for viewing and photo opportunities.

On our journey out to the whales Megan provided us with a very informative commentary on what makes the area such a perfect spot for whale spotting. In the background a large plasma screen displayed award-winning marine wildlife animations. She also informed us on the names of the whales that live near Kaikoura at various times of the year, which brought a more personal touch to the tour.

Once we were thought to be in the right area our captain Jamie listened out for the whales using a hydrophone. Then we were off again, until eventually we saw the plume of spray jet up several metres.

With cameras in hand, everyone ran out to the viewing decks with an excitement that is kept for truly wonderful moments. We all marvelled at the humongous sperm whale only 50 metres away, little did we know the best was still to come.

After watching the whale float on the surface for about 10 minutes before diving deep into the undersea canyon, we were off again searching for more whales. When I saw captain Jamie’s feet tapping with excitement and a large grin across Megan’s face I knew we were in for something special.

Anticipation building I was extremely excited for what ever awaited us. Without telling us what it was we were about to see, the cabin crew opened the doors and everyone rushed out onto the viewing deck. Every eye watching the surface, we all let out sighs of excitement as we saw the world’s largest dolphin, the Orca, come up for air. What a great ending to the tour!

A trip out to see the giants of the deep up close is a wonderful adventure for young and old alike. Whale Watch Tours have a 95% success rate. For more information please visit their website at:

Waterfront apartment

Located on Kaikoura’s pacific waterfront, Waterfront Apartments offer luxury one and two bedroom apartments with stunning sea and mountain views. These self-contained apartments

Mandy the owner and operator of Waterfront Apartments checked us in to a well-appointed spacious and modern 2 bedroom room. Mandy was a great host, extremely friendly and helpful. She organised the Whale Watch Tour as well as the dolphin encounter as we didn’t have anything planned for Kaikoura.

Our two bedroom unit featured a full kitchen, laundry facilities, 40 plus channels on Sky Digital, Wireless broadband, a private balcony and a luxurious spa bath. The room was very sleek, stylish and spacious offering magnificent views of the ocean.

Only a 10 minute stroll to the centre of town, this a fabulous place to stay while exploring all that Kaikoura has to offer.

For more information on rates and rooms please visit their website at:

Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura

By far the coolest, most majestic, awe-inspiring, gob smacking activity I have participated in during the whole three months in New Zealand. What a way to end my trip.

Not only is Kaikoura a Mecca for whale watching, it is a very popular destination for other marine wildlife including DOLPHINS. Dolphin Encounter tour is a viewing or swimming tour with the flamboyant and very sociable dusky dolphins.

The Waterfront Apartments is only 100 metres away from the Dolphin Encounter, which was great as it was an early rise for my dolphin swim. After we were given a wetsuit and our snorkel gear, we watched a safety brief before boarding the bus. The 5 minutes bus ride transported us to the modern catamaran, which has a cruise speed of about 22 knots and is specially designed for dolphin viewing.

Our narrator and host Malaina was such a character. She had us in fits of laughter from the get go. Her passion and vast knowledge for Kaikoura’s marine life was incredible.

After traveling for about 45 minutes and only encountering a pod of 4 dolphins, whom were not very interested in us at all, we thought that the chances of us swimming with dolphins were slim to none. As our spirits started to dim, Malaina told us to put the rest of our snorkel gear on as they had received word from Wings over Wales that there was a very large pod of dolphins.

As far as the eye could see, was a dark shadow in the ocean, white splashes on the surface and dolphin fins rising through the water. Jumping up and down with a huge smile on my face I couldn’t help but scream with excitement. There was honestly over 500 dolphins swimming towards our boat at great speeds- that was the first time I was nervous.

We all sat on the back of the boat eagerly waiting for the captain to signal that the propellers were off and it was safe for us to enter the water. As soon as the horn went off we all gently glided off the back of the boat.

It was honestly the most amazing experience to be surrounded by hundreds of these majestic creatures. Singing like crazy, I know I sounded like a complete dork to the observers on the boat, but the dolphins seemed to be enjoying my song. They came within millimeters, dancing with me and doing 360 degree turns as I tried to keep to the one tune. Everywhere I looked there was a dolphin. It was just incredible.

As if things couldn’t get much better, when I was resting on the back of the boat (it is really tiring trying to keep up with the dolphins) I saw two seals playing amongst the pod. I quickly put my mask and snorkel back on and dived into the water. They are just as playful as the dolphins just much faster and harder to keep up with.

When the horn sounded for us to board the boat, we all sighed with disappointment. However on board the vessel warm showers, hot chocolate and yummy biscuits awaited us. What an adventure!

For more information please visit their website at:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Marlborough Chateau

Modern, luxurious and ultra sleek, Marlborough’s premier boutique accommodation is centrally located overlooking Seymour Square Gardens just a short stroll from Belenheim’s town centre.

Beautifully designed to meet the every need of its corporate and traveling guests Chateau Marlborough’s striking architecture epitomises its reputation for quality and attentive service from its dedicated staff.

The fully equipped, modern fitness centre gives guests the chance to exercise without having to leave the premises. The centre features flat screen TVs and a CD stereo system to entertain guests while they are working out. There is also a pool to take a refreshing dip after a strenuous work out.

The Chateau offers guests the option of dining at the in-house Quench café, wine, bar and restaurant, where a delicious and varied menu is available. Quench is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or you can order room service to your suite.

With 45 well-appointed Suites and Apartments Chateau Marlborough offers guests 5 star accommodation, providing the highest level of comfort along with modern amenities.

Our luxury suite featured its own kitchenette (toaster, kettle, fridge, bowls and plates etc.) and separate bathroom. I very much enjoyed the comfort of a Super King bed, heater, a large LCD TV and separate leather lounge chairs that were very comfortable.

For more information on rates and rooms please visit their website at:


Stagland’s Wildlife Reserve (on the way to Welington)

Staglands Wildlife Reserve offers a unique and fun experience for people of all ages to feed and freely interact with native wildlife in the most majestic environment. Located an hours drive from Wellington in the beautiful Akatarawa Valley in Upper Hutt, Staglands is a hidden treasure.

Sarah the owner and Sarah the manager took us on a wonderful tour around the premises where we were able to come face to face with friendly animals, native birds and other magnificent wildlife.

First we walked through the forest wetlands, which has been extensively vegetated and provides shelter and breeding sites for a range of native and introduced waterfowl.

From here we visited the Barn, which is available during the day for all park visitors to use as a picnic or BBQ area (BBQ facilities provided free of charge). It can also be hired as a venue for special events and functions.

As we walked into the deer park the first thing I noticed was the grand rolling hills overlooking Staglands and the watchful gaze of the fallow deer roaming the hills. We were greeted by a herd of friendly goats and a lovely old ram called Hector.

Next we visited the stables where I was able to hop in and hold one of the wee little wabbits. We also stopped to see the young chicks being reared under a heat lamp in the brooder.

To get to the Old Bush Settlement we crossed the river via an awesome swing bridge. The Old Bush Settlement is a nostalgic recreation of an abandoned Akatarawa bush settlement and gives a unique view of the life led by the pioneers during the early settlement of New Zealand.

I could honestly go on forever; there is so much to do at Staglands. I haven’t even mentioned the blue duck breeding program, the donkey rides, the bush railway (cart ride), the flying fox and children’s area, the aviaries, the secret garden and the trout fish ponds.

After our tour we had a delectable homemade lunch at the Staglands Café. The café is fully licensed and features a cozy interior with impressive wooden trusses, beams and posts with a large open fire.

For more information please visit their website at:

YHA Wellington Backpackers

This modern, bright and fun YHA hostel has a wide range of comfortable backpacker accommodation from their spacious 4-share ensuite rooms to their deluxe private ensuite rooms.

With a 5-star qualmark rating it hardly felt like a backpackers but more like a hotel or a ‘flash’packers. The YHA Wellington boasts two large and well-equipped kitchens, many spacious and comfortable lounge areas and a TV lounge with a projector and free movie hire.

Centrally located just off Courtenay place, it is located close to the waterfront, Te Papa museum, Embassy Cinema and many cafés, bars and restaurants. There is also a New World directly across the road, which was extremely handy. For those who are really on a budget there is always affordable meal nights and free bagel breakfast on Mondays.

Our room was quite spacious and featured a modern clean private bathroom. There was also an alarm clock on the bedside table and tea/coffee making facilities.

An ensuite room rate starts from $90. For more information please visit their website at:

Bluebridge Ferry

I can’t believe the time has come to head back to the South Island via the Bluebridge Ferry. With stunning scenery, friendly service, free big screen movies and a choice of up to four return sailings a day (except Christmas Day) between Wellington and Picton – there’s no better way for you and your vehicle to cross Cook Strait.

Launched in 2003, Bluebridge sails every day between New Zealand’s North and South Islands. With a journey time of three hours and 20 minutes, the Bluebridge experience offers friendly ‘Kiwi’ hospitality amidst stunning New Zealand scenery.

Currently operating two sister ships, the Santa Regina and the Monte Stello, the Bluebridge service offers a relaxed journey with a maximum of up to 370 people and around 150 cars per sailing.

The Bluebridge service provides a very comfortable environment for passengers in their relaxing lounge areas, where we watched a free big screen movie and I caught some zzzzz's. There is also comfortable seating in the lounge bar where guests can enjoy a New Zealand wine or beer with a scrumptious snack.

Work stations provided space for me to unpack my laptop and catch up on some business while en-route.

For more information please visit their website at: