Beautiful New Zealand - Part II

The last part of our New Zealand trip was spent in Queenstown, the "Adventure Capital of the World." James' mom flew all the way from Taiwan and joined us. Queenstown is an incredibly beautiful town with mountains surrounding the crystal blue Lake Wakatipu. The mountains are snow-capped during the winter but are still beautiful and magnificent in the summer.

We met up with our friends David and Kathy and their three kids from the Bay Area for some Queenstown adventures. We rode the Skyline Gondola, raced on the luge, hiked and BBQ'd. James also experienced the Shotover Jet, a twisting and turning ride through the narrow canyons of the Shotover river. Next time, we'll come back for some paragliding, bungee jumping and bungee swinging.

From Queenstown, we took a day trip flying to Milford Sound. Milford sound is a fjord within the Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. We flew on a 14 seater Cessna 208 Caravan and survived. The beautiful weather that day enabled the pilot to get extremely close to some mountains for some spectacular views.

Views from the cruise on Milford Sound:

We also visited Arrowtown, a historic gold mining town about 30 minutes drive from Queenstown. Many Chinese immigrants came to Arrowtown in the late 1800s in hopes of finding gold. We walked around the Chinese settlement where the miners had built small huts as their homes.

We had a fantastic time in New Zealand and had a hard time leaving this beautiful country. Two flights and twelve hours later, we arrived in Singapore for the next part of our journey.

Beautiful New Zealand - Part I

We spent over three weeks in the South Island of New Zealand. It is a beautiful country and we can't wait to go back. We mostly followed the itinerary posted earlier, though we ended up skipping the glaciers on the west coast and went straight from Hokitika to Queenstown. (Our baby needed some downtime!)

The trip started in Wellington where we met up with friend Sam and his family who reside there. They took excellent care of us providing home cooked meals and toys for Jackson.

Sam cooking a delicious meal

From Wellington, we took the Interislander ferry to Picton in the South Island. The journey was about three hours, passing through the Cook Strait. The ferry was so baby friendly that families can have their own private room with a full crib, changing area and bathroom. Awesome!

Instead of renting a car to get around the island, we opted to take the Intercity buses. They were extremely comfortable, cheap and reliable. Plus, no driving for us and no crying baby in the backseat. First stop on the bus from Picton was Nelson, a place that has New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours. We toured the Abel Tasman national park via a cruise along the coast and hiked in the park.

At one point on the hike, we had to scramble over rocks to get across the rising tide. That was quite an adventure with baby strapped on my back!

Nelson itself is a lovely town with a great selection of restaurants. Our friend Naval recommended a place called Hopgoods. It was so delicious that we went there two nights in a row. Everything is locally sourced and reminded us of restaurants in Sonoma/Napa back home.

After a couple of days in Nelson, we took the bus to Kaikoura on the east coast. Kaikoura is famous for crayfish (the Maori name Kaikoura means 'meal of crayfish') and whale watching. The latter we couldn't do because babies were not allowed on the boats. But I did try the famous crayfish (like a spiny lobster) at a roadside shack.

On the way to the shack, we spotted a seal sunbathing on the coast. He acted a lot like a cat, scratching his back on the rocks and stretching out. Very cute.

From Kaikoura, we traveled to Blenheim via bus and hopped on the TranzCoastal train to Christchurch. We stayed overnight in Christchurch and took the TranzAlpine train through Arthur's Pass to Greymouth on the west coast. The TranzAlpine train was very scenic passing through beautiful landscapes of the South Island. We even spotted a black swan!

We took the bus from Greymouth to a small town called Hokitika that was once the center of gold mining. We spent several days in this town unwinding from being on the road and staying in our little cabin by the ocean.

James' high school classmate Celine lives in Hokitika with her husband and daughter. Celine and her husband built their own house from scratch! It is a solar powered home and they collect rain water for daily use. They also grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables along with farming sheep, chickens and more. Who knew chickens laid an egg every day?! Needless to say, we were in awe.

After a relaxing time in Hokitika, the thought of spending hours on the road visiting glaciers on the west coast seemed a bit daunting. We decided to change course and fly to Queenstown, where we spent the rest of our time in New Zealand.