New Zealand and Australia
Whew! I just returned from a 14 day, 13 flight, 4 rental car spring time adventure trip to New Zealand and Australia! Keep in mind, their seasons are opposite of us in the USA. Travel is always amazing but it is always good to be home too. Many of you followed along on our journey via Facebook (thank you for following and for your lovely comments on our many photos) but for those of you who did not, read on to learn more.
We were very fortunate to stay at some amazing Virtuoso properties in NZ and honestly feel like we ate our way through the country. Food is fresh, organic, healthy and wine pairing options are amazing and more than plentiful. Our stay begun in Auckland with a quick overnight upon arrival before self-driving 4.5 hours the next day to the north island near Bay of Islands where we stayed at the amazing 6000 acre working sheep and cattle farm called Kauri Cliffs Lodge for 2 nights. Rooms at Kauri Cliffs Lodge are large, comfortable, textiles fresh, warm and comforting. Most rooms come with a fireplace and lovely deck where you can enjoy a morning coffee or evening glass of wine while you watch the sun rise or set over the Bay. Bathrooms are large, with a giant soaking tub (all with amazing views), single or double rain showers, heated floors and towel racks, double vanities and local amenities loaded with Manuka honey. Staff were uber helpful and accommodating to us as we ran into a few travel glitches health related (poor hubby was down and out most of the time here) and needed a little extra TLC. Kauri Cliffs Lodge offers amazing opportunities for golfers, those who enjoy spas and saunas, walking and hiking tours in the green fields or a special picnic on the beaches (Pink Beach was amazing) and in season special bird tours can be arranged as well. Nightly we enjoyed amazing “happy hour” canapes and drinks before attending a lovely 5* dining experience. The property is remote and quiet and peaceful and really allows for folks to unwind and recharge their batteries. An extra special thanks to Thomas Gueridon (Guest Relations Manager), James, Valeria (Sommelier), Jonathan, Michaela Kordsmeyer (Restaurant Manager) and Valerie and Simon who really made our stay extra special and went above and beyond the call of duty!
From the tip of the North island we flew to Napier where we rented another car and self-drove to Cape Kidnappers, a sister property to Kauri Cliffs, staying 2 nights. The Cape property is also a working cattle and sheep farm sitting high on a cliff overlooking Hawkes Bay. Rooms here are designed with the use of a lot of stone, wood, wools, metals giving a very country classic and rustic elegant feel. Views from all rooms over the rolling green fields of sheep down across Hawkes Bay are breathtaking. This is wine country as well and again we were spoiled with nightly “happy hour” canapes and drinks before an exquisite dining experience. This property is also rather remote but not so far from local vineyards or nearby Napier for local sight-seeing. Golf is a key focus at Cape Kidnappers as well as ATV tours, hiking, biking and heli tours. At the end of the Cape lies the largest Gannet Colony in NZ and we were fortunate to be able to get up close and personal with these strikingly beautiful birds. Surprisingly, much of the flora and fauna on property matched what we can grow in AZ. I was surprised to see this in a region so well known for being lush, green and a rich wine producing area. An extra special thanks to Kris Shepherd (Lodge Manager), Katy and Blaire for caring for us so warmly during our stay. We thoroughly enjoyed a property tour with Sebastian who was a wealth of knowledge and fun.
While in the area we toured and visited Clearview Winery for some wine tasting and additional photo opportunities. This is a locally grown wine rich with flavor but offers a crisp and delicate refreshing taste which can be enjoyed with or without food.
Following our time in the N. island, we flew to Blenheim where we once again rented a self-drive car and stayed at the charming Marlborough Lodge for 2 nights. This is a smaller boutique property in the heart of the Marlborough wine producing country. Fields are rich with vines and the landscape more of rolling fields and hills than cliffs and bays. We were met upon arrival by a lovely glass of local Sauvignon Blanc and our uber gracious host and GM, Mr. Peter White who was a wealth of knowledge about the area as well as the history of the property itself, which was once a convent (click here to read the full History). This boutique and charming property is eclectic, historical, modern and relaxed all in one location. Lush gardens and ponds surround the property and are free to be explored on foot or by bike. A lavender path lines the entrance of the Marlborough Lodge where you are met by staff at the stain glassed entry doors as you are welcomed in. Given that the property is small, you really have a chance to mix and mingle with the other guests on site which was a real treat. Rooms were large and well-appointed with lovely fabrics, soft colors, dynamic smelling roses and flowers from their garden and interesting and diverse artwork dons all of the walls of the lodge. Dinner is more relaxed and family style without missing any touches of elegance. Bravo to Peter, Ben, Jessica and Marie for making our stay so memorable and making us feel like party of the family.
While in the area we opted to take in the famous local museum called Omeka Aviation Heritage Center a great collection of WWI and WWII history and artifacts with a very experiential component to the Museum. If in the Marlborough area, it should not be missed. A few highlights from our brief visit there.
While in the Marlborough region, on our final day we enjoyed a beautiful and educational Marlborough Tours green mussel cruise tour on Pelorus Sound and Kenepuru Sound and learned all about the farming and harvesting of the famous NZ green mussels. We of course were able to enjoy them fresh out of the water, steamed and with a lovely glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc. The photos below highlight a few of the images we captured during our cruise and the waters are indeed as teal green as you see below. I must say this was one of the highlights of our trip, very relaxing and so different for an AZ girl. If you are in the area, don't miss this!
Our last and final stop in NZ was in the southernmost part of the South island in Queenstown. Unfortunately, due to a last minute flight change we had to take 3 flights on this day from Blenheim to Queenstown but indeed it was work every flight segment. Majestic and picturesque barely touches the surface in trying to describe the landscape. As we flew the last leg into Queenstown we were greeted with stunning snowcapped mountain vistas and the bluest of blue waters in the Milford Sounds. Our stay here culminated in the 3rd and last of the sisters properties (Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers) called Matakauri. This breath taking Matakauri Lodge property sits directly on Lake Wakatipu and is about a 20 minute drive outside Queenstown. The Remarkables, a mountain range and ski field in Otago in the South Island of New Zealand stands tall in the view of the Lodge. The snowcapped mountain views and lake directly in front of the Lodge were my dream come true. The air was so fresh, waters changing constantly with the weather and we even encountered a small snow storm on the tops of the Remarkables our last night. Rooms here are fresh, fabrics elegant and comfortable with a splash of color, gas fireplaces adorn each room and they all come with a small outside patio where you can enjoy the views day and night. The bathroom tub here overlooked the entire Lake and the double rain shower heads make for a magical experience. The sitting area is peaceful and so welcoming. It is the kind of property where you never really want to leave your room as views and lighting are constantly in motion. As with the other two properties, nightly we enjoyed amazing “happy hour” canapes and drinks before attending a lovely 5* dining experience overlooking the Lake. The property is remote and private, tranquil and peaceful. Hiking and biking trails are plentiful and boats and heli tours can be chartered for sightseeing on Lake Wakatipu or Milford Sound. Big thanks to our lovely host and Front Office Manager -Stephanie, Assistant Lodge Manager -Joanne Tickner, Lodge Manager -Emanuel Grosch and the charming Amandine who greeted us and took such good care of us so dearly each night for canapes and dinner. You all looked after us with such care and we thank you. I did not want to leave!
While in the area we enjoyed a private half-day tour (hosted by the amazing Penny from Abercrombie & Kent Australia Pty. Ltd, a supplier CCV uses throughout the world for our many clients) of the local area. As part of our morning tour, we took the Skyline Gondola 450 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob's Peak where we had simply stunning views below and around. These photos below don’t quite do justice to the beauty here but please know none of the photos have been touched up and what you are seeing is indeed the exact colors we saw.
Following this was a private wine tour at the Gibbston vineyard with our adorable French host, Claire (from the Provence region in France) and afterwards we enjoyed a lovely 2 course lunch at the vineyard with wines paired to our meals. As mentioned, we really did eat our way through this trip!
Last and not least our final two days were spent in Sydney. It’s hard for me to be in cities like Sydney and not do some hotel site inspections……but I promised my family (travel partners) to only do one site tour here since we really only had one full day here. Not to be missed when staying in Sydney is the Park Hyatt Sydney which is the only hotel that has full views of the Sydney Opera House and the famous Bridge (see photos below). The rooms are sleek, modern, and all rooms come equipped with either a Romeo or Juliet balcony (or both), large elegant bathrooms and ample sitting space in each bedroom. The halls are decorated with modern artwork from local artists in Sydney. The hotel does all possible to bring guests a true and authentic Sydney feel allowing guests to experience a real sense of place.
Sydney itself is a great bustling city with so much to see and do. It has been 16 years since I was here last and the city has really grown. Gourmet dining, all kinds of shopping and tours can be experienced in the greater Sydney area. Lunch and dinner cruises, harbor cruises, speed boating, sailing, the famous Sydney Bridge walk (which we did not have time to do), the world famous Sydney Zoo, Botanical Garden’s tours, Blue Mountains tours, etc. We offer some great combo packages for Australia and New Zealand and can customize anything you like to fit budgets, dreams, wishes and time frame.
This was a dream trip with so many amazing sights and places to stay...but what will forever remain in our hearts is the people we met and how they made us feel! Those memories last a lifetime and are indeed priceless!
At Critics Choice Vacations, we strive to make your travel experience positive and stress free from start to finish and we want you to feel completely cared for. Call or email for details on an adventure to Australia or New Zealand...or anywhere in the world for that matter. We sell the world and look forward to creating YOUR style of vacation!