Our last morning in Australia, we were out of the apartment well before dawn to catch our flight. We’ve gotten into the habit of putting the kids to bed in their travel clothes to save a few minutes in the morning. Saving those 5-10 minutes makes a big difference when we have to be up and out before 5am.
Compared to our other international flights so far, the flight from Sydney to Christchurch was a quick and easy 3 hour flight. After arriving, we picked up our rental car, stopped at a local phone shop for a New Zealand SIM card, and began our two and a half hour drive up to Kaikoura. 20 minutes into our drive, we were out of the “City” of Christchurch and on the New Zealand Highway heading north. New Zealand highways for the most part are one lane in each direction, occasionally dropping down to one lane all together in which the cards yield to each other while crossing over the one lane bridges. Driving on the open, uncrowded roads, surrounded by the mountains, we could feel the difference of being in New Zealand immediately.
When we shared with Southern World that we were interested in spending a night in a Treehouse while in New Zealand, Hapuku Lodge was the one they said we had to experience, and they were right. We were excited to spend our first night in the country in the small luxury lodge, just before they closed down for the season. The accommodations were stunning, and we enjoyed every minute in our two story family tree house. The girls were happy to have their own room, down the tree house steps from mom and dad, complete with fireplace and full bath along with so many amenities you don’t typically think of when hearing the words “tree house”. In addition to the deluxe accommodations, the resort offers wonderful food and beverage options. One of the many things we love about New Zealand in general is the effort all establishments make to source and feature products from the local surrounding farms.
We arrived at the Hapuku Lodge after dark enjoyed a fine meal and sound nights sleep up in the trees. The following morning, we awoke to 65 mph wind gusts and sideways rain and learned that the first storm of winter followed us into town. We still enjoyed every minute of our short stay, and spent the first few hours of our day sitting in the comfort of our tree house by the fire, listening to the howling winds and watching the weather move through.
We planned two nights in the Kaikoura area; the area is known for whale and dolphin viewing. While our touring options were a bit limited due to the weather, we were glad we had the extra night arranged. As a result of the winter storm, two of the highways/ main roads into town were shut down and no one was able to enter or leave town heading south. We spent our free afternoon walking the town’s mainstreet shopping, then found a local pub with a large fire for a light lunch and warm up. That night, we enjoyed family movie night in our apartment.
After our two nights in Kaikoura, the worst of the weather had passed, roads re-opened, and we began our drive south to Lake Tekapo. We were fortunate to have nice weather for the scenic drive and were very glad we didn’t have to navigate the steep, winding mountain passes in icy conditions. We arrived in Lake Tepako just before sunset and the girls had a good bit of fun playing outside our rented home in the freshly fallen snow. It was a great way to burn off some energy after a five-hour drive.
Lake Tekapo is famous for it’s night sky and stargazing. There are even restrictions around town limiting outdoor lights and light pollution. We’d have loved to experience one of the night sky activities the area is known for, however, the storms in the area that delivered the snow we had so much fun playing with was carried in by clouds. Every now and then, there would be a break in the clouds and we’d catch a glimpse of the amazing stars above. For the most part though, we enjoyed the beautiful mountain scenery and took full advantage of our time enjoying the snow. Now that we have seen the area, we know we’d love to return for a longer stay to allow time for the amazing stargazing.
Sunny skies greeted us when we arose the following morning. After breakfast, we all enjoyed a few hours outdoors getting our fill of sunshine. Eventually, we reached the point where we had fallen down enough times and had just the right of snow packed in our shoes that we were ready for some time to try and warm up indoors. We loaded up into the car and started our drive down to Arrowtown, our home base for the next two weeks.
In the tree house, the bathroom floor saw heated. We saw three sweets [suites] in the main lodge. We had a two-story tree house. We hada fireplace up stairs and down stairs. When we went outside, we coudl walk to the main lodge. I loved staying in the tree house.
Angela and I played in the snow. Before we left, we played on a playground that had a zip line and Angela and I both really liked. We had a lot of snowball fights. On the way to Lake Tekapo we stopped at a playground that had a hamster wheel for people and there was also a zip line that you could not sit on. You had to hold on to it and you could only hold on to it.
We got to stay in a two-story tree-house that had heated bathroom floors. We explored the main lodge and lodge suites. We got a three course dinner just for kids and huge breakfast. Then we had to leave for a two story apartment awhere we watched the Hobbit.
Then we went to Lake Tekapo where we had snowball fights and tried to build a snow man. We also went to a playground with a zip-line and another with a hamster wheel for people.
We’ve arranged for most of our family touring in New Zealand through Southern World. We like exploring new destinations by all methods of travel – cruising, touring, or on our own. The thing we like best about private custom tours is that we can collaborate with and design our experience exactly the way we want, under the expert guidance of a trusted local operator.
Southern World has contacts all over both islands of New Zealand. Under their knowlegable guidance we’ve coordinated several day tours as well as chosen cities to serve as our home base while we explore the amazing country.
There are several options for cruising around the perimeter of New Zealand – Large ship, small ship, expedition. The cruises are a great way to see the sections of the country you may like to return to at a later date. With as long as it takes to get to New Zealand from the States, we recommend also organizing some pre-or post touring to experience the local towns and villages while participating in some of the fun adventure activities available.
Taking a tour with a small group provides the opportunity to experience the sites of New Zealand with other like-minded travelers on popular pre-designed itineraries.