Peter and Anne Sharpe, South Island Hightlights Tour, Travelled 02 February 2014
—We had an excellent time, and really appreciated not having to worry about the accommodations, directions, plan, etc.
Thanks for the follow up note. Overall the trip went very smoothly, and we were very happy with the plan and accommodations and most of the activities (more on that later). The Tiger Moths was probably the highlight of the trip (at least for me). Couldn’t have asked for a better day, and the whole feel of the “vintage” aspect was excellent.
Auckland was exactly what I wanted – one night in a nice hotel, perfect weather, and got a nice feel for the town. The hotel staff was super friendly, and my wife says the king-size bed was the most comfortable of the whole trip.
Christchurch – The hotel was very nice, large rooms, and great location…… pre-earthquake. The hotel still has no food/beverage service, and Downtown Christchurch is very depressing, lots of chain link fence, crumbling or torn down buildings, and not many things open (especially in the evening). The town has a long way to go for recovery. I would think that unless people need to fly out of the airport, you would guide them away from Christchurch especially if time was limited. We were disappointed that we had two nights there, rather than one night somewhere else (but also recognize there was nothing we could really do about it considering my flight plan).
Mt Cook was fabulous – Hermitage had an awesome room with a great view. Activities were excellent, and food/beverage service was good. Mountaineering café was a great dinner choice.
Queenstown was beautiful, and the Novotel was a great choice. Location was great, and the room was very nice with a balcony, and they had nice drink specials in the bar. Not sure why the other hotels rate higher in Tripadvisor, but we thought the Novotel was perfect – thanks for insisting!!
Franz Josef was ok, but we only did the Glacier Hot Pools – which were kind of disappointing. They were not natural pools, but fancy concrete hot tubs set in a garden. Not exactly what we were expecting, and unfortunately we skipped walking to Lake Matheson because we didn’t think we had time to get to the Hot Pools before they closed. However, the Westwood Lodge was fantastic – just right for the glacier/mountain feel. The host (owner?), Kaz, was very engaging, and even though the lodge was full it felt like we were the only ones there. Rooms were huge! Dinner in FJ was also good (can’t think of the name of the restaurant right now), with free wifi (as it turns out we had plenty of wifi connectivity all week, and never had to pay).
The train ride back was a nice end to the South Island tour.
We had an excellent time, and really appreciated not having to worry about the accommodations, directions, plan, etc. The phone came in handy a few times, and the Kruse was a nice touch (but it could get annoying when it didn’t agree with the road itinerary). We even got a free upgrade from a Ford Focus to a brand new (and very nice) Ford Territory SUV !! Travel time between sites took longer than expected, which stressed me a little (and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road may have slowed us down also !). We found the New Zealanders to be extremely welcoming and friendly, and the food portions in all the restaurants was absolutely huge (although we are somewhat used to that in America, I have been living in China for two years, so really enjoyed the meals in NZ).
I am working on Tripadvisor reports for the trip, and will gladly recommend New Zealand Fine Touring to anyone who asks!
—Peter & Ann Sharpe, USA
2 February 2014