People go to Queenstown not to hang around the town itself but to explore the surrounding area. Many of the shops in town are souvenir shops, but even more of them are glorified concierge desks where you can book activities like boat tours and sightseeing flights. Oh, and skydiving. (I went skydiving!)
Below are 42 photos of the scenery on the way from Fox Glacier to Queenstown, including a stretch of road delightfully lined with purple wildflowers; an unbelievably precipitous stretch of road; gorgeous mountains by the lakes; and a genius construction traffic light.
Then there are also a few (15) photos in Queenstown itself, including photos of birds, flowers, and signs.
I’m not a rock climber, hiker, trekker, or mountaineer, but I love mountains. The silence, the trees, the mist and clouds, the twisting, rushing rivers in valleys full of rocks… it’s all more magic than a harsh, empty, burning bright beach could ever be.
New Zealand is full of mountains, and some have snow or ice on them all year. We didn’t walk on or fly over any of the glaciers on the South Island, but I was happy we had the chance to stroll up near one of them.
Kumara is a town of approximately 300 people, yet it has a hotel with a remarkably good restaurant… From there we visited Hokitika, a town with about ten times the population. It had a lot of shops selling New Zealand greenstone (jade).
In honor of the holiday season, someone put some extra letters in front of the “Hokitika” sign so that it said: “Ho-Ho-Hokitika”. Among the 25 photos below, sadly, I do not have a photo of that.
The visit to Christchurch was emotionally draining. I’d never seen the effects of a natural disaster up close the way I did there.
Earlier this year I was worried that Hurricane Irma would hammer my hometown (Atlanta, Georgia). It did a lot of damage elsewhere, but unlike Opal, it mostly left my parents’ city alone. Hurricane Andrew was bad, as was Katrina, but Atlanta just isn’t close enough to the coast to ever get the worst of those storms.
Probably the closest I’ve personally come to experiencing a natural disaster was at the Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where I and my 8-year-old classmates nervously rode out the deadliest of the dozens of tornadoes that struck the region while were on a field trip. That night, us kids had fun playing with our flashlights because our hotel had no power. The next day I remember seeing buildings with their walls ripped away leaving raw gaps in the architecture like the gaps in a child’s smile, but a lot less cute. What force could do that? I didn’t know it then, but twenty people had died.
When in 2011 Christchurch was struck by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake on 22 February, it left 185 people dead and thousands injured.
The Quake City museum in Christchurch is an educational tourist attraction, but it’s hard to call it entertaining. I’m pretty sure going to the museum was the right thing to do, but it colored my experience for the rest of my brief stay in the city. Everywhere I looked, there was rubble, construction, graffiti, and a sense that everyone who hadn’t just up and left was making an effort to stand strong. It was a painful object lesson in the fragility of normalcy.
We flew from a small airport in Blenheim on the South Island back to Wellington on the North Island, then got a plane from Wellington to Christchurch on the South Island. I had fun looking out the windows. Plus I saw Gandalf in the Wellington airport…
We took a giant ferry for about three hours from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island. We almost got stranded in Picton, but found a shuttle driver to take us to the Marlborough Vintners Hotel, a good base of operations for wine tours.
Below are 5 photos from the ferry and 16 from Marlborough wine country.
The folks at The Marlborough Vintners Hotel, a lovely place to stay, are no fools. The people who pass through Blenheim care about one thing: wine. The shelf of DVDs at the front desk therefore includes the 2008 movie Bottle Shock, which I watched with my mother-in-law (who had seen it before). I mean, what else were we going to do with the rest of the afternoon, after the wine tour we went on?
It was a delight to see Alan Rickman play a British wine snob in this movie, a storyteller’s take on the watershed 1976 Paris Wine Tasting event that brought California wines to the attention of the world.