Independent Coach Tour
Lisa Heyer (United States)
I have been waiting until I finished unpacking to write you about our adventure on the South Island. Annie and I both thank you profoundly for putting together such a perfect package that allowed us to enjoy our trip with very little stress and maximum enjoyment. Everything went perfectly -- really, perfectly! I will elaborate below, but here are some general points:
1. We were able to immerse ourselves in nature, which is exactly what we wanted.
2. The lodgings were great -- quite a range of styles, which we liked. Some were quirky, some elegant, some over-the-top hospitable.
3. The tours were well-chosen. (My favorite was the jet-boat; Annie's was definitely the blue penguins in Oamaru.)
4. The pace of our itinerary was fast, but necessarily so for us to see as much as we did in three short weeks. We didn't feel rushed because we were so excited to get to our next location.
5. The overall cost was very reasonable, given the quality of the accommodations and level of service. Thank you for helping to make us comfortable within our budget.
Some specific feedback:
The wilderness lodges at Arthur's Pass (my favorite place in the whole trip) and Lake Moeraki were highlights. We were pleased to meet the family who owns and runs the lodges and hear about the incredible conservation work they have done on the West Coast. The lodges were beautifully designed and extremely comfortable. The meals were excellent, and we enjoyed the optional activities provided each day. Five star, all around!!
The trip on the Alpine Train was beautiful, but if we were to do it again, we would probably drive as the train was crowded and noisy the first day, and on the second day, we went through, rather than over the pass, which we would have liked to experience. Better perhaps for those who don't want to drive.
Annie had an excellent birthday dinner at Rata in Queenstown, and enjoyed our tour to the Aspiring Wilderness. The Luxury Dairy B&B was very convenient, the host was gracious and the breakfast good. In general, Queenstown was a bit too busy and touristy for our taste, but we're glad we had some time to be there. And the dinner at Rata was excellent :)
The trip to Doubtful Sound out of Te Anau was a highlight. A long day, but worth every minute. We're sorry we didn't see Milford, but given our preference for the road less travelled, I think we made the right choice. The Cosy Kiwi B&B was our least favorite of the lodgings. I know you didn't have many choices at the late booking date, and it was perfectly fine -- just not quite as cosy or friendly as all the others.
Dunedin was another highlight -- the all day trip on the Otago Peninsula was spectacular, including the family of orcas that put on a show for us! We had a rather noisy but fun dinner in a restaurant near the university. The Camp Estate was a hoot -- such a beautiful setting and so elegant! We felt a little scruffy in our travel clothes, but were welcomed warmly regardless.
The Pen-y-Bryn in Oamaru was another unique experience! Amazing art collection and a Paris-trained chef! The blue penguins were wonderful.
And finally, although our three last nights in Christchurch were unplanned, we fell in love with this beautiful, but damaged city. We mostly just walked around and took pictures of the old, the new, and the under repair. The Heritage was excellent! We had a lovely suite that allowed us to regroup before heading home. We loved the building, especially the bar. The staff was incredibly friendly.
So, all in all, an excellent trip! Thank you again, Georgina, for planning so thoughtfully for us. We have passed along your name to several people we met along the way who will be returning to NZ, as we hope to do in the future.