We completed our tour of the south island with another visit to Blenheim, in the north-east corner [location]. In the morning we quickly toured some of the local vineyards – and it seems there are dozens in this area, known as Marlborough. We found excellent wines at Cloudy Bay, Spy Valley, and Villa Maria. I understand that Villa Maria is readily available in the US. Read on!
We again crossed the Cook Strait on the ferry [photos added to the earlier album], this time on a sunny day with relatively smooth seas. We arrived at rush hour and crawled up the coastal road out of Wellington, making it as far as Wanganui for the night [location].
The next day we stopped at Waitamo Caves [location], with a nice lunch on the sunny deck of the Huhu restaurant – highly recommended. This limestone cave system, with its underground rivers, is famous for their glow worms. We took a brief tour of the main cave, which was fun (though I’ve seen more impressive caves). The best part was a boat ride, in the dark, on the underwater river. On the ceiling were tens of thousands of glow-worms, each a tiny speck of light. No photography was allowed in the caves so I have no pictures to share.
We stayed near the airport [location] to prepare for our flight to Fiji the next day, the winter solstice!
Final thoughts. I really enjoyed New Zealand. The scenery is spectacular, with a gorgeous view around every bend in the road. (And the roads do bend a lot! Even the major north-south road, State Highway 1, is narrow and twisty much of its length). The people are friendly and helpful. The Maori language and culture is interesting, and (compared to Australia) surprisingly present. And the country is extremely well set-up for tourism, from the extensive network of i-Sites to free maps and guidebooks to great road signage to well-run tourist sights to accessible parks and trails to clean and comfortable motels. The country is compact and you can see a lot in two weeks. We did! We drove 3700km in two weeks and saw a lot of the country:
There are excellent wines. The food, on the other hand, we found to be rather disappointing. I’m sure there is good food to be found, but we found little. Winter is a tough time to visit, as it was quite chilly; and, though it didn’t hamper us, roads do sometimes close due to snow. Summer might be a bit nicer, though some locations would be more crowded. Overall, I highly encourage a visit, any time of year!
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