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Adventure Travel & Scenery in New Zealand

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Where can you rub noses with a Maori tribesman, enjoy spectacular scenery from an alpine train, cruise through scenes from Lord of the Rings, bungee jump from a bridge (or a tower) and hike on a glacier?  Why New Zealand of course!  Add to that bubbling geysers, world class sailing, four wheel drive excursions, hot air ballooning, kayaking in Abel Tasman and The Milford Trek and you’ll have an idea of some of the adventures available in this part of the world.

But it’s not just adventure travelers that are happy in New Zealand.  You’ll also find luxury lodges with glorious views, miles of pristine beach, wineries, open countryside with more sheep than people, charming villages and modern cities.  Accommodations are equally diverse with everything from camper vans to farmhouse stays and simple motels to elegant lodges and hotels.  Plus you can explore by car, train, helicopter, boat or bus and be free as the wind or TLC’d by a guide… There is truly something for everyone in New Zealand!

On one recent trip, we spent most of our vacation time on the South Island starting in Christchurch with a visit to the Antarctic Center and punting on the Avon River.  The next day was the TranzAlpine train through the Canterbury Plains and over spectacular Arthurs Pass and the mountains known as the Southern Alps.  This is a train trip everyone should include in their itinerary.

In Greymouth, we picked up a car and made the scenic drive to Franz Josef where we spent the night.  In the morning, after discussions of strenuous climbs and leaps over crevasses, we chose to hike the slighlty less daunting Fox Glacier.  This proved just the right challenge for our mixed age group.  No specialized gear was required and climbing boots were provided along with a personable and knowledgeble guide.  There were a few tricky spots but overall it was a great experience and the views at the top, with pictures to commemorate the accomplishment, were well worthwhile! 

The next day’s drive took us along the coastline and over the mountains to Wanaka, which is a lovely little town.  We would have enjoyed a day to simply relax, but we had a date with a Queen… or Queenstown that is… The highlight of our New Zealand vacation! 

Queenstown is surrounded by dramatic mountains and sits on the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu.  The town itself is charming with lots of shops and open air restaurants, a Kiwi Museum, bicycle and walking paths around the lake and a gondola ride to the top of the mountain.  There you can visit the museum, snap some gorgeous pictures or be a bit more adventurous and literally jump off the edge of the mountain top in a tandem paraglider!  Those that prefer to remain earthbound can head for the luge track, with wheeled cars for fair weather fun, or the view restaurant where you can sip and sup.

Near Queenstown you’ll find many other adventures including a 4 wheel drive excursion into Skippers Canyon where early New Zealanders mined for gold, the Dart River Safari which takes you up river into spectacular Lord of the Rings scenery, a working sheep station at the far end of the lake, and for thrill seekers, bungee jumping and the shotover jet.  Yet another “must do” near Queenstown is Milford Sound with its dramatic fjords and waterfalls.  A day excursion by bus or plane is easily arranged or you can consider a night on the lake or in Te Anau for a more leisurely experience.

Depending on vacation time and budget, you can complete your South Island vacation with a side trip to Dunedin, known as the most Scottiish city outside of Scotland or a stop near Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo before heading on to the North Island of New Zealand or, sadly, home.  More to see another day!

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