Day 1 - Arrived Christchurch late afternoon after our long but excellent flights from UK with Emirates. Took the super shuttle to the Aalton Motel on Riccarton Road. Lovely welcome, settled into our studio, compact but well appointed, including kettle, toaster plus microwave, we then walked to Westfield shopping centre for a few essentials.
Day 2 - Met up with our friend from Australia who was to tour round with us, spent the day chatting, relaxing, recovering from jet lag, obtaining sim cards for our mobiles from Blah Blah (excellent service) walking by the river and around the city enjoying the warm sunshine. As our friend is a gluten free vegetarian all the restaurants and tea/coffee venues we used had suitable menus or were able to adapt. Dinner that evening was at Robbies Bar and Bistro.
Day 3 - Up early, visited the lovely botanical gardens in brilliant sunshine, walked to Moana Vale for lunch, took a punt along the river. Dinner at Winnie Bagoes.
Day 4 - Hire car delivered from Apex, excellent service, we went straight off to Akaroa. Walked round the town, had coffee "On The Green" before taking the harbour cruise, saw Hectors dolphins, penguins and seals, great trip and excellent value. Drove to Lyttleton took the gondola ride for the great views. Dinner at Trevinos.
Day 5 - Left Christchurch today to Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and Mt.Cook. Spectacular views and some short walks in the perfect sunny weather. Arrived Twizel for overnight at Mountain Chalet Motel, lovely little place, very roomy and good facilities with microwave and hot plates. Dinner at Shawty's.
Day 6 - Early start for Dunedin via Benmore and Aviemore Lakes. Stopped at Oamaru in brilliant sunshine, walked around this charming little down, lovely old buildings. On to the impressive Moeraki Boulders, walked along the windswept beach, a bit overcast by now. Arrived at Dunedin for our 3 night stay at The Garden Motel on George Street, a good 30 minute walk to the city centre but excellent and spacious unit with separate kitchen/dining area. Dinner at Barakah at the Octagon.
Day 7 - Bit overcast this morning so decided to visit Larnach Castle, then onto Glenfalloch Gardens just as the sun appeared. Lunch at the cafe at McAndrew Bay. We were collected at around 3.30 p.m. by Elm Tours for trip to the Otago Peninsula, first to The Albatross Centre,followed by the seals and sea-lions then the yellow eyed penguins. Dropped off at about 8.45pm after seeing this abundance of wildlife, taken many photos, it was a really wonderful and excellent value trip.
Day 8 - Weather forecast today was for rain so we decided to visit Olveston House which we all agreed was well worthwhile, then took a quick look at Baldwin Street reputedly the steepest residential street in the world, as we were booked on the Taieri Gorge Railway to Pukerangi in the afternoon and were lucky enough to get the last three tickets! Thankfully the rain stopped and we spent a pleasant afternoon watching the amazing scenery pass us by. Dinner at the Craft Bar (Octagon).
Day 9 - Hot and sunny today as we left Dunedin, we stopped at Kaka Point, Nugget Point, Purakaunui Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Marai Falls, Florence Hill Lookout/Tautuku Beach. Wilkie Walk and Lake. We spotted penguins in the undergrowth at Curio Bay. A really great day, fabulous scenery yet again. Arrived at The Coachmans Inn, Invercargill early evening for overnight stay. This was perhaps the least appealing of our motels, it needs a refurbishment but having said that it was very clean and tidy and apart from not having a hairdryer was well equipped. Rather disappointed that the restaurant was closed as this was one of the reasons we booked here, but were directed to Ziffs Restaurant a few miles away which was excellent.
Day 10 - Raining this morning so we didn't hang around to explore Invercargill, continued on to Te Anau stopping at Clifden Suspension Bridge en route arriving at 1pm at The Bella Vista Motel, much earlier than arranged, but were lucky enough to be able to check in for our 4 night stay. Unit was compact (small) no cooking facilities other than kettle and toaster, washing up to be done in bathroom washbasin, but very clean and tidy. We had a snack at The Olive Tree, did some shopping, walked around the town, by the lake and used the laundry facilities. Dinner at The Fat Duck.
Day 11 - Early start at 7.15 am for Milford Sound Cruise. We'd booked well ahead on the Mitre Peak tour and were not disappointed even though it was overcast to start with the sun arrived about half way through, it was an excellent trip. Unfortunately on our way back and just five minutes outside of Te Anau we had an accident in the car and needed assistance. Many people stopped to help but as it was the day of the earthquake and communication systems failure there was a delay in being able to summon an ambulance. After treatment at The Medical Centre we were able to return to our motel but this incident obviously changed a few of our plans. Feeling very sad this night as we watched the footage on t.v. of the earthquake. A rather subdued dinner at La Dolce Vita
Day 12 - We had booked to go to Doubtful Sound but this had to be cancelled due in part to my injuries and the need to sort out hire car. Apex didn't have anything for us so had to try elsewhere. There's only one car hire company in Te Anau and we got their last available vehicle, otherwise it would have been a bus trip to Queenstown. Real Journeys were very understanding and refunded in full the cost of the Doubtful Sound trip for all three of us. Dinner at La Toscana
Day 13 - Collected replacement hire car, had coffee at The Sandfly Cafe followed by visit to the small cinema to see the film Shadowlands. Afternoon trip to the Gloworm caves. Dinner at The Fat Duck.
Day 14 - Beautiful bright and sunny morning, we checked out and headed for Wanaka via Queenstown, unfortunately we encountered a bit of roadwork delay which took up time, went on the gondola ride, great views, had coffee at the cafe taking in the scenery. We decided against our planned shot over jet boat ride due to inuries and continued on our way via Arrowtown - lovely place to wander around for a while. Checked in for overnight at the Archway Motel. Newly decorated, great facilities including hotplates and microwave. Dinner at Thai Siam.
Day 15 - Overcast so didn't spend too much time around the lake which was a shame. We continued to Lake Hawea, stopped at Lake Wanaka lookout, The Blue Pools, Cameron Flat, Fantail Falls, Gates of Haast, Thunder Creek Falls and Forest, Ship Creek, Knight's Point and Lake Paringa. Then the shortish walk to Fox Glacier, on to Lake Mathieson and finally view of Franz Josef Glacier. A full day, another packed with lovely sights and scenery. Arrived late at The Bella Vista, Franz Josef for overnight stay. Again a compact but clean and basic unit. Dinner at Alice Mays.
Day 16 - Left Franz Josef around 9 a.m., could have stayed longer. Hot and sunny to start, stopped at Ross, old goldmining town and lake, had a wander round. It became overcast and eventually rained quite hard so didn't stop at Pancake Rocks. Continued on through Buller Gorge - fantastic views again. Stopped for afternoon tea at Murchison, checked in at The Equestrian Lodge Motel, Motueka around 6.30pm to a really lovely welcome, here for 4 nights. Fantastic facilities, including swimming pool and lovely garden, this has to be the best place we stayed, the spacious units had full cooking facilities, appeared to have been very recently refurbished and had a new feel to them, Dinner at The Moorings.
Day 17 - Beautiful sunny day anxious to get out and about but first of all needed to shop for extra memory card for friend's camera! Drove to Katateriteri, had a walk around before boarding the Abel Tasman Water Taxi (Sea Shuttle) for the afternoon. Fantastic views and trip. We had an hour on Anchorage Beach before catching the next boat back. Dinner, self cooked!!!
Day 19 - To Nelson. Drizzly to start so shopping seemed good option today. Crepes at The Creperie, they also do gluten free. Called at Richmond on the way back where we found a couple of good and original craft/gift shops. Dinner, again self cooked. Motueka not proving that great for gluten free/vegetarian.
Day 20 - Checked out and set off to Picton via Havelock, "Mussel Capital of the World" apparently, stopped at lookout over bay, Moerui. Arrived Broadway Motel at noon and were able to check in, again good accommodation, excellent facilities. Walked to harbour for boat trip on the Queen Charlotte Sound. Many stops along way, excellent views a really lovely afternoon and great value for money. Dinner at Cortado.
also Chocolate Factory, many samples along the way! Stopped at Kekerengu and Ohau Point to see the seal colony, again many seals to observe and photograph. Checked in at The Admiral Court motel for overnight. We'd been upgraded to a very spacious two bedroomed unit which we discovered on arrival, if we'd known sooner all three of us could have used it and cancelled the studio for our friend. Again lovely motel and in a quiet place in town. Dinner at The Green Dolphin
Day 22 - Whale Watch was booked well in advance, weather kind, dry, a little windy but we were advised it was going to be a bit rough, told there was 1.5 metre swell (looked a lot more than that to me) and it sure was a bouncy and most enjoyable ride, none of us were seasick but we saw about 5 people who were, what a shame. We were lucky enough to see three sperm whales, how fantastic was that. We sailed on to calmer waters where there were dozens of dusky dolphins leaping out of the water as if putting on a show. Again excellent value for money certainly this trip is one of many highlights. We arrived back about 1.15pm. Called back at The Admiral Court to check out as they were fully booked and couldn't extend our stay for another night, then checked in at The Bella Vista, another compact studio but this one boasted a microwave and kitchen sink. Went along the coast in the afternoon for walk and to observe the seals. We were due to return to Christchurch that day for overnight stay but decided to have another day in Kaikoura and drive back the following day straight to the airport. Our cancelled accommodation would be taken up by rescue workers we were told. Dinner at Robbies Bar and Bistro.
Day 23 - Checked out for 3 hour drive to Christchurch Airport for our flights home.
All our accommodation was very good, we chose motels because we wanted the option to self-cater if necessary, mainly because of the dietary requirements of our friend. It turned out that apart from a couple of times in Moteuka the only meal preparation we did was breakfast - which required very little effort or cooking facilities.
We had the most fantastic holiday, the ever changing and spectacular scenery, many boat trips, abundant wildlife and the friendliness of the local people will ensure we have happy memories for a long time to come amongst the sad ones of the loss in Christchurch.