So this is the highlight of my working holiday – a true holiday with my family; one which did not require me to fuss about breakfast every morning and.. something which allowed me to feast like no tomorrow. Anyway, hope this itinerary will be useful as it seems like we didn’t spend a lot of money despite eating quite a lot of good food..
I changed the style of writing this time round to make it more like a story as I simply have too much to say 😛
Total Days: 11 Days + 11 Nights; left early morning on Day 12
Season: end of summer – mid to end Feb
Travel Party: 2 senior citizens with average walking ability + 2 not so young youths
Trip Difficulty: Easy, maximum walking of 1 hour per track
Per Person (NZD)
|Airfare – Singapore to New Zealand
(SIN-CHC & CHC-AKL-SIN)
|Accommodation (4 pax; usually double + 2 single)
Average: $58.04 per night per pax
|Car Rental – rentalcars.com (search engine)
11 days rental: $836.75
Petrol Total: $299.80
*This is a prepaid fuel system which allows me to lock down price of petrol. More info in post below.
|Food – budgeted $56/pax per day
Bfast: $6; Lunch: $20; Dinner: $30
Note: Without air tickets, the price is only NZD $1,647.08 and if you reduce the exchange rate, you could keep this trip under SGD $2,600! That’s if you’re not gonna do any souvenir shopping too =p
This itinerary was for a family trip consisting of 2 senior citizens (visited NZ 17 years ago), 1 not very young young adult (never visited NZ) and myself who has been in NZ for 34 weeks. While planning for this trip, the only requests I had was not to change accommodation every single night and that visits to breweries and wineries was highly requested. I had to look for easy walking tracks no more than 1 hour as I did not want my parents to walk for too long.
I wanted to highlight this as there was a major misinformation on Air New Zealand’s website. If you search their website for their baggage allowance for flights from Christchurch to Singapore, it will be indicated as 2 bags. However, while booking the return tickets to and from Singapore, it was indicated as 1 bag and.. no one checked until.. they arrived in New Zealand. I had friends returning to Singapore from Christchurch and they had successfully traveled with 2 bags and I called up Air New Zealand and asked them about it, appealed and spoke to the manager. The whole ordeal including the wait was about 45 mins but they were firm on the ‘1 bag’ policy as the ‘2 bags’ policy was only eligible for flights departing New Zealand. If we had booked from the Singapore website for a return trip, we will only be allowed to have 1 x 23kg bag. No appeals, no discussions. I ended up paying $105 SGD to have one more extra bag. Sighs.
They visited NZ in mid to end Feb and to be honest, I wouldn’t propose this timing as it is the end of summer and usually when the seasons are transitioning, the weather is crappy and we faced quite a bit of rainfall and cloudy days. Furthermore, we had quite a number of cold and windy days (with the rain) and the temperature at Tekapo even dropped to 4 degrees while we were there. My friend’s family who visited one week earlier than us had been blessed with blue skies and good weather. Then again, global warming has made the weather inconsistent and seasons unreliable (2019: there were several rounds of bad rain+flooding in December which should have been a hot summer and the temperature was not warming up fast enough for November). I believe that autumn (end March to April) should be a better season to visit; assuming that you could catch the autumn foliage.
Choosing the Cities/Towns and Attractions
Having only 12 days to play around, I decided to drop North Island as nobody wanted a tiring and chiong itinerary. With them flying in and out of Christchurch, I couldn’t steer too much away from the usual must-go attractions like Tekapo, Wanaka and Queenstown. I decided to add in West Coast as I have not visited before (despite my 7.5 months stay). I dropped Dunedin as I didn’t think they would be keen on a university town and dropped the Southern parts like Invercargill and Bluff as my friends said there was nothing much. I wasn’t a fan of backtracking so I did my itinerary in a neat loop; starting and ending at Christchurch (in case I had to leave my luggage behind). Furthermore, it is cheaper to drop off your rental car at the same location.
I decided to go the anti-clockwise route, starting off with the west coast and then going down to wanaka & queenstown and going back up to Tekapo and back to Christchurch to close the loop. On hindsight, it was a good route as we started off with crappy weather at the west coast and ended off with the ‘wow’ views of Queenstown and Tekapo. The final 3 nights stay at Christchurch was kind of to fulfil my mum’s comments of not wanting to switch accommodation every night and also to create a last pitstop for some shopping and figuring out how to repack my luggage into theirs.
I booked via Rentalcars.com, which had been acquired by booking.com back in 2018. In recent months, I feel that they have been stepping up their outreach and promotions. Rentalcars is not a car rental company and does not own any cars. It is just a pricing aggregator (or perhaps search engine) + insurance provider (by rentalcover.com) and they will list out the prices from all the various websites, acting as a booking agent. After extensive amount of research, I realised that my car daily rate would be cheaper if I booked from ezi car rental directly but if I wanted $0 insurance excess (which was necessary for a unconfident driver like me), the pricing would be $34 cheaper. Furthermore, I could get a 6% cashback via ShopBack worth $59 if I booked via rentalcars.
The catch: having a car insurance by a 3rd party (not the rental company) may result in you having to pay upfront for the damages and then filing for claims afterwards. It is definitely more troublesome (should *touchwood* an accident happen) but I guess you got to decide for yourself if it’s worth the $93 savings.
Choice of Car
The main concern I had back then was pricing and boot space. Toyota had been an almost confirmed brand choice as it is a reliable brand (70% cars of rental companies fleet) plus my friends Toyota cars had been highly reliable (even the older ones). Whereas Honda had been crappy for me.
We had to go for a hatchback model as I have a lot of luggage (from my 34 weeks) and my family had to bring smaller luggage because we were afraid that it couldn’t fit into the boot space. In the end, we managed to squeeze 2 x 25″, 2 x 24″, 1 x 120L wheeled duffle, 1 x cabin duffel into the boot plus 4 backpacks, 1 box of food, many bags of snacks into the boot or middle seat (we had 4 pax so we could use the middle for storage).
I chose the 2WD instead of the 4WD as it was cheaper and more fuel efficient with a 2.0L engine (not a 2.5L). It wasn’t going to snow and we were not planning to go into the forest/muddy terrain and it seems that 2WD was pretty decent with the rocks and gravel roads that we had to travel occasionally.
On hindsight, our Toyota RAV4 was a good car and we were really lucky to be given a less than one year old car with only 13k mileage. The 2.0L engine does seem a little weak when it comes to driving up hills and slopes and you may have to step harder on the accelerator but apart from that, it was a very value-for-money option. Being a new model, the car was equipped with bluetooth audio connectivity + in-built GPS + noisy sensors which alerts you on incoming front/back humans/cars and when you don’t put on your seat belts (even for those behind).
The booking of accommodation took me longer than expected. I’m not sure if it’s better that everyone else had no opinions but I kind of had the full autonomy for the booking. No one gave me a budget and I was pretty much on my own. Assuming that if I was traveling with friends, we would usually have to get everyone’s agreement before booking but with family, they just trusted me or perhaps can’t be bothered with it. Hostels (and holiday parks) were totally out of the question as there’s no way my parents would want to use shared bathrooms. In the end, I was toggling between booking.com and airBnB. I used booking.com predominantly as I was able to earn ShopBack cashback (rebates) up to 12%. I have previously swore my loyalty to hotels.com because of their stay 10 free 1 loyalty program but after extensive comparison, the prices on booking.com tend to be slightly cheaper and more transparent. Hotels.com tend to cheat me with the before tax prices which escalates after I select the room.
I also made used of the free cancellation policy for most of my bookings and did re-bookings a couple of time when I noticed that there were cheaper accommodations appearing as time goes by. I highly suspect this was due to the COV19 travel ban which resulted in more cancellations. To be honest, I was rather anxious at that timing as well; I was afraid that NZ will suddenly ban flights from SG and we will be stuck with a lot of not refundable bookings.
When I first started budgeting, I had set aside $50/night per pax ($200/night per room) for accommodation. There were several preferences I wanted – having two bedrooms (snoring issues) and 3 beds in total (so I can have my own bed). The rooms needed to come with kitchen facilities so breakfast can be prepared.
Sadly, I exceeded the budget (it was $58/night per pax) but there were several factors that resulted in the increased pricing. Firstly, it was the Queenstown accommodation; where I chose to stay right in the heart of town. I knew there were cheaper accommodations at Frankton (15 mins drive) but I know how troublesome it was to find free parking in Queenstown main area. To safe on the agony of parking, staying in town was the best bet. Our motel wasn’t the best but the location had been superb. We could walk to all or dining places which were all near the lakefront. On hindsight, I would have chosen that motel again (Note: it was the cheapest accommodation available in town).
Our night in tekapo was the most expensive one of it all at $368 but I couldn’t do without it. I was hoping to go for a stargazing session (sadly it could not happen for our trip as it was cloudy) and I was wondering how awesome it could be to wake up to the beautiful and majestic Lake Tekapo. Initially, I had a booking of a private house which was 5-mins drive from the town centre but few weeks prior, I discovered an accommodation availability right smack at the town centre, behind the new and beautiful YHA. Tekapo is really annoying as some fancy apartments require a minimum of 2-nights booking and some will relax this min. nights requirement nearer to the dates. I was happy that I could pay just $22 more to get an upgrade to town centre. However, due to the rash booking from the excitement of finding a rare gem, I didn’t realise that the room we booked did not have a sofa. Furthermore, the TV was only available in the double bed room and we had a boring evening while waiting out from the rain. 4 of us were at the dining table staring at our own phones and me at my laptop. It was a funny memory but looking back, it was legit the only accommodation which did not have a sofa and a common room TV.
[Day 1, Saturday @ Christchurch]
Morning: collected the car keys from ezi car rental booth at the airport. Had to walk 5 mins to our car at the car rental carpark nearest to the airport. Checked the car’s condition before we departed. It was a pleasant surprise to receive a <1 year old car and I was thankful that the colour was normal (white) and not some ugly colour.
Car was in good condition and we were off for a good start! Weather was looking gloomy as per the weather forecast and there was the occasional drizzle. As checked-in was only after 2pm, we went to Addington Coffee Co-op for coffee and breakfast. Then, we proceeded to the Saturday market which was located at the park near Westfield. Then, we went for grocery shopping at Pak n Save in Westfield Riccarton, where we bought ingredients for dinner – beef and corn. Finally, it was 2pm and we checked-in to our accommodation at Aalton Motel which had been chosen due to its proximity to Hagley Park. There was a fireworks festival happening that evening and I wanted an accommodation where we could walk to the park. Lunch was Burgerfuel take-out and ohmygosh the beer battered fries were so delicious! Do give burgerfuel a try when you are in New Zealand. I have a friend who rates it better than Fergburger.
[Day 2, Sunday @ Christchurch > Castle Hill > Arthur Pass > Punakaki > Hokitika]
We set off early, at about 9am+ and the first drive was to Castle Hill to see the rocks which had been featured in Chronicles of Narnia. To be honest, I felt the limestone rocks looked pretty average and if not for the filming location label, it probably wouldn’t be famous. Before reaching Castle Hill, you will get to go pass the town of Springfield which has a huge pink donut for photo-taking purpose. We didn’t stop for a photo as no one in my car was interested, plus the skies were so gloomy and the photos won’t turn out nice anyway.
After Castle Hill, I had scheduled visits to two waterfalls – Avalanche Creek and Devils Punchbowl. Sadly, it was still pouring when we drove pass and the folks were not really keen on trekking in the rain so we decided to give this place a miss and we continued driving till Greymouth. We ended up eating KFC for lunch as we was the most straightforward option. If you do have a chance to try KFC, please only order ‘wicked wings’ and not the secret recipe chicken as it is not nice at all, unless you try the spicy flavour (which is only available during winter season).
After lunch, we went to Punakaki Pancake Rocks. It was my second visit here and it was still raining when we visited. The previous time, I visited on low tide and the waters were not as strong but this time round, with the wind and higher tide, the waters look more magnificent, crashing in to the rocks. It wasn’t a difficult track. I think it was about 20-30 mins and most parts were flat and wheelchair friendly so it is definitely senior citizen-friendly.
Headed back to Greymouth and dined at Monteith’s Brewery. It was nice to have a beer addict with us who spare no expenses in trying out all the beers. Fun Fact, if you’re undecided on the beer choices, you can always request for a tasting or tell the staff your preference and they will be more than willing to assist! We didn’t go for the brewery tour but we did have dinner there and the food was really delicious!
After dinner, we checked in at Amberlea Cottages which was a lovely unit at Hokitika. After the sky turned dark, we visited the Glow Worm Dell which was super damn bloody cool. Firstly, it was a free attraction and it only takes about 3 mins to walk till the end. Glow Worms are really amazing cause they are light blue in colour and they will just sparkle. Staring at them reminds me of the night sky and it was really beautiful. Sadly, my iPhone was not good enough to capture the beautiful view. There’s another other free glow worm viewing area at Fox Glacier and Franz Josef so do consider visiting them. Alternatively, you can opt for a paid experience at Te Anau or Waitomo or Charleston.
[Day 3, Monday @ Hokitika > Franz Josef > Fox Glacier]
It was still drizzling when we had to depart in the morning. We visited the Hokitika Beach front to take a photo of the Hokitika Beach sign which was made out of branches. We headed to the Hokitika Gorge to see the supposed turquoise waters but.. due to the rain, the waters were grey in colour. We had to walk across two suspension bridges and I think it was a 30-40min walk return trip. To be honest, the view was pretty sad because of the gloomy weather but it was a good workout anyway. After that, we proceeded with the drive to Franz Josef and the sky started clearing up and the rain become a drizzle and it stopped raining once in a while. I headed over to the heli-hike counter to register for the 2pm heli-hike but the staff told us that all trips had been canceled from morning but they still told us to go back again at 1:55pm to hear the pilot’s decision on whether to fly or not. We had lunch at Snakebite Brewery where I had Asian Food, $24 for Nasi Goreng. Sadly at 2pm, the decision was a no-go for Heli-hike as the clouds were too thick. Apparently on a good weather day, you could see Mt. Cook from Franz Josef town but all we saw that day were.. clouds. We went to the Franz Josef’s Foursquare (the only grocery in that area), bought some marinated chicken drumsticks and headed off. On our way to our accommodation in Fox Glacier, we stopped by Franz Josef’s glacier and did a short walk (30-40 mins) and had a bit of glacier view from the valleys. As it was raining, a section of the track was closed and we couldn’t walk further to the Sentinel Rocks. If you get to walk all the way down, there may be chance that you can see melting pieces of the glacier ice by the river stream. My friends had a chance to pick one up last week when she walked down to the stream; on a good weather day. We checked into our accommodation, Mt Cook View Motel, for the night and we cooked dinner. It was a little upsetting as I booked the motel as there was a possibility to see Mt. Cook from the windows but.. due to the bad weather, we could only see clouds. It would have been a good spot for star gazing should the weather be clear but.. I guess we were just not lucky enough.
[Day 4, Tuesday @ Fox Glacier > Haast > Wanaka]
This was one of the longest drive in our trip. We skipped visiting Peak View Point and Lake Matheson (nothing to see with bad weather anyway) and wet straight to the Blue Pools Track at Makarora. As it was a long drive, we did have a coffee stop at Spiker Cafe (Haast) before continuing the journey. Upon reaching the Blue Pools Carpark, I was pretty shocked as the carpark was full! It was the first time in our trip where we chanced upon a full carpark and this was despite the somewhat gloomy and occasional drizzling weather. The blue pools looked more greenish than blue; but at least it wasn’t as grey as the waters at Hokitika Gorge. Phew! While we were walking, the rain came again and.. gosh it’s really annoying to walk in the rain. Just a tip: The people here don’t really use umbrella and they just put on a waterproof jacket or raincoat with hoodie. It would be good to wear waterproof hiking shoes as well. Thanks to my shoes, my feet was kept rather dry despite all that rain and wet ground. Note: If you have time and not starving, you can consider visiting Thunder Creek Falls and Fantail Falls which will be along the way as well. After we crossed over the mountains to the other side, we were greeted with blue skies when we drove into the Lake Hawea. It was my first time seeing the other side of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea; and gosh the view was fantastic and perhaps it was made better due to the amazing blue sky. As we did not have lunch, we had afternoon tea at Hook Wanaka, located at Albert Town. It was a salmon fishing place but we just paid for our salmon platter. It was pretty pricey and the portions got smaller than my previous visit but my family still enjoyed it. After that, we checked into this amazing accommodation at Panorama Court which had views of Lake Wanaka from our balcony! I rate it as the accommodation with the best view this trip and it was so comfortable to sit at the balcony, having a drink and enjoy the beautiful view. Being able to sit down and relax is one of best things you can have in a vacation! For dinner, we ate at Kika, a highly rated and personally recommended restaurant by a friend or perhaps ex-boss. It definitely lived up to its expectations of serving fine-dining dishes, but in a sharing style. It’s kind of funny cause the westerners have started to eat in like the asian style of ordering large dishes to share. It was so delicious that we ordered more food and ended up being really full! It was our most expensive meal of the trip which cost $58 per person. To digest our food, we visited the not-so-lonely That Wanaka Tree and took urm.. photos that everyone takes. After that, we visited the newly opened New World which had an extensive wine collection.
[Day 5, Wednesday @ Wanaka > Queenstown]
After bidding farewell to the lovely and beautiful motel, we headed to the Wanaka Town and I had my favourite cup of hot chocolate at Patagonia. We were just passing time, waiting for the wine tasting at Rippon Vineyard. Please note that you have to make a booking in advance for the wine tasting at Rippon. They have limited slots available (at the hour) from 11:00 and they strictly do not entertain walk-ins. The best part about Rippon is not the wine.. it was the amazing scenery that you can see when you’re there. The cellar host is very knowledgeable and I did enjoy the session even though it was my second visit. However, I’m not a fan of their wines (I mean wines are very subjective) but my family bought a bottle to their liking. After Rippon, we took the beautiful and scenic high altitude alpine drive up the Crown Range Road which brought us to Queenstown in less than an hour. Our first stop for Queenstown was the Amisfield Winery. Amisfield’s 2016 Pinot Noir was really nice (I could be biased as I worked for the vineyard) but my brother who has a bit more wine knowledge than the average people was willing to part with $60NZD for a bottle. In New Zealand, you can buy a bottle of Pinot Noir from $12 and the average price is about $30-40 so the fact that you are willing to pay a premium for this bottle, means it is really amazing. Please note that the tasting cost $10 for 5 samplings but this can be offset with any purchase. We headed over to Arrowtown after that and we had pies for lunch at ABC (Arrowtown Bakery Cafe). It was delicious but.. my favourite pie of it all still remains as the Fairlie Bakehouse pie. After lunch, we did a bit of walking around the township plus the mining heritage trail to learn more about the lives of the chinese miners back in the day. Once we were done, we drove to our accommodation at Queenstown, Amber Lodge, which was a very value-for-money prime positioned accommodation in Queenstown. We walked around the town (very small to be honest) and bought Fergburger for dinner. I highly recommend having ‘The Big Al’, this massive value-for-money burger because it looks good in photos and it’s a messy fun and huge accomplishment to finish it. It’s good for sharing so please don’t attempt to finish it on your own. Using Fergburger’s receipt, you can get a 10% discount off Mrs Ferg ice cream. The pistachio flavour from Mrs Ferg is like the best thing ever. It gets sold out rather often so do remember to check out the other outlet near the waterfront in case it is sold out at the main outlet (beside Fergburger).
[Day 6, Thursday @ Queenstown, Glenorchy & Paradise]
Unlike all my other accommodations where I only stayed for a night, I booked for 2 nights in Queenstown. I wanted to have a full day side aside for Milford Sound as it’s kind of like the must-visit attractions in South Island. While it is possible to drive on your own to Milford Sound, I highly recommend taking the coach from Queenstown as the drive is really long (4 hours each way). The drive has splendid views and it would be better to enjoy the scenery as a passenger, rather than keeping your eyes on the road. There are many scenic drop-off points along the way so if you’re on a coach, you won’t have the trouble of finding parking.
That being said, I did not manage to visit Milford Sound with in this trip as the roads were closed due to the flooding in early Feb 2020. Sad to say, New Zealand gets plagued by bad weather rather frequently (was this the third closure since I arrived?) and you just got to pray hard that the weather works in your favour when you are here.
Fret not, I do have a backup plan if you fail to make it to Milford Sound and that would be to visit Glenorchy and Paradise. The drive up to Glenorchy is a rather winding road but as long as you stick to the rules and drive slowly, you will be able to make it there! The photo point of Glenorchy would be the red wharf, where you will enjoy beautiful views of the mouth of Lake Wakatipu (the same lake you see in Queenstown). If you’re on a comfortable high wheels vehicle (ideally 4WD), do spend the next 2 to 3 hours on a drive up to Paradise. Follow the road signs and you will be rewarded with.. a view of the lifetime. We drove pass a lot of ‘Lord of the Rings’ filming locations (as indicated by our GPS) and we felt like stopping every 10 mins because the views were too amazing. Depending on the rainfall, you will have to cross about 5 streams before reaching the end – Chinaman’s Bluff. It is also the starting point for the Dart Track (from 3 hours; expert level). After the beautiful exploration of ‘Paradise’, we proceeded to Pak n Save back at Frankton as there was a ‘Thrifty Thursday’ promotion going on. We had dinner at Jervois Steakhouse (https://jervoissteakhouse.co.nz/) , an upmarket beef steakhouse. I secured the booking via ‘first table’ whereby we would be entitled 50% off our bill. I had to pay $10 for the booking and stayed up till 12am one week prior, in order to be the first person that book the table. Without the discount, the meal would probably have been our most expensive one. The selection of beef was amazing and their medium-rare cooking was perfect. I think we would have probably rated it as our best meal this trip!
[Day 7, Friday @ Queenstown > Clyde > Twizel]
Today was more of a traveling day as we moved from Queenstown to Twizel. Leaving Queenstown, we stopped at the AJ Bungy Jumping Bridge at Kawarau Gorge. We also stopped at the Gibbston Valley to do some wine and cheese tasting. Then, we went to Peregrine Wines, a vineyard which had been recommended by a staff at Wanaka’s New World. The tasting was free of charge and we ended up buying a bottle. As it was nearing lunchtime and I knew there was nothing nice to eat in Cromwell, I initiated a detour to Clyde – a small and somewhat historical quaint town – where I spent almost 3 months in. We had lunch at Paulina’s Restaurant. After lunch, we headed off for the long drive to Twizel, stopping at the famous Lindis Pass View Point which I couldn’t really figure out its beauty. As my family is a huge fan of salmon (the food), we stopped by High Country Salmon for some salmon feeding, plus purchasing salmon for dinner. We bought a huge slab of salmon for grilling and also a box of sashimi. We stayed in a holiday home, Rejuvenate on Rata, which was a lovely house in a very quiet neighbourhood. It was also dark enough that night and I could photograph the stars too! It was a pity the clouds came out too early and I couldn’t capture the milky way.
[Day 8, Saturday @ Twizel > Mt. Cook > Tekapo]
As per the weather forecast, we were greeted with rain and thick clouds. The good fortune of our perfect Queenstown weather seemed to fade away. I couldn’t really shift the itinerary around so we continued with our plans to visit Mt. Cook. We dropped the folks off at the Hermitage Hotel while we went to report for our Heli-Hike adventure at the Mt. Cook airport. As expected, the flight at 12pm was canceled and the 2pm one was highly likely to be canceled as well. We went back to pick them up and went to the Hooker Valley Track. There were many cars at the carpark despite the bad weather. We didn’t bother walking till the end as the rain stayed and became heavy at occasional times and we came to the conclusion that the view would be terrible even if we reached the end. You might not even get to see Mt. Cook at the end. After giving up, we had sashimi lunch at the Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon, at Lake Pukaki, a very photogenic turquoise blue lake which is less popular than Lake Tekapo. It was raining when we arrived at Tekapo. We checked in to our accommodation, Lake Tekapo Village Motel, the most expensive (yet smallest) accommodation in our entire trip. It cost us $368/night but we did not even get any lake views from our room. The only good thing about the accommodation was that it is the cheapest accommodation (apart from YHA) that was situated in town center. As it was raining, we went over to the Dark Sky Project which was indoor, to have a cup of coffee and scone while my bro tried the draft beer which was not bad! We had Japanese food at Kohan Japanese Restaurant for dinner (had to go really early as we could not secure a reservation) and the food was pretty decent. After dinner, the rain stopped and we went to the famous Church of the Good Shepherd and dog statue. It was really amazing to see the mountains from afar with their newly minted snow-caps, probably fresh from the rain. By end Feb, the Lupin flowers have all withered and dried. You will still be able to see one or two stalks around but without that endless flower field, it is not impressive at all. Sadly, there were still a lot of clouds that night and we did not go for the stargazing tour as it wouldn’t be good anyway. Another attraction we ‘saved’ money on.
[Day 9, Sunday @ Tekapo > Fairlie > Christchurch]
We were greeted with blue skies when we awake the next day. It was a perfect day for heli-hiking but it was too much of a hassle to arrange things around so it was consensus that we skipped the activity. We headed up to Mt. John ($8/car) for the spectacular views of the two lakes. As the weather was really good, a lot of time was spent photo taking while I enjoyed my coffee in the Astro Cafe, for the third time. After that we proceeded for a short drive (basically you turn right after going down the mountain) and it is a beautiful drive where you can capture more images of the lake and snow mountains. We then proceeded to Fairlie, where we had pies for lunch at the Fairlie Bakehouse. It is still my most favourite pie in New Zealand as they are very generous with their pie filling. The sad thing was that I noticed that the pricing had went up by $0.50 as compared to last year. We then had a second stopover at Farm Barn Cafe as I wanted to see the goat. After that it was a long drive back to Christchurch city. We had my favourite Chinese restaurant for dinner, Shanghai Bistro, and it was alarmingly empty on a Sunday night. In all my previous visits, the restaurant had always been packed and reservations was necessary but right now.. I’m not sure if COV-19 was the main reason for the drop in sales.
We stayed in an AirBnB for 3 nights. It was $163/night and there were 3 bedrooms so I was really happy with having my own room! It was located at Philipstown, the eastern side of city center but Christchurch is pretty convenient so we weren’t too picky about the location since we could drive.
[Day 10, Monday @ Akaroa]
Today’s itinerary was really fluid. It was a choice between Kaikoura and Akaroa. If we were to visit Kaikoura, it would have been a 2-hour drive along some really winding roads (but some people feel it is okay) and we would have 95% chance of seeing sperm whales on their whale watching tour. We would also visit Pegasus Bay, a highly rated vineyard with a must-try Riesling. However, I wasn’t too confident that the folks could deal with the seasickness and whether it was worth the 4-hour drive assuming we couldn’t see anything. As a result we went ahead with Akaroa. Akaroa is like this french town with a lot of french architecture but the highlight is the drive there. You will get to see the beautiful peninsular which is hilly with a lot of bays and banks. We had fish and chips and green-lipped mussels for lunch at ‘Akaroa Fish & Chips‘. We walked a little around the township and then visited the Akaroa Lighthouse, which was not exactly functional, just an icon. On your drive there, don’t forget to stop by the lookout point at Hilltop Tavern. You an end off with an ice cream at ‘Little River Cafe & Store’ before your drive back to Christchurch. Also, please note that there are restaurants that close on Mondays so if you’re traveling on a Monday, your options would be slightly limited.
Also, we dropped by this wine shop called Vino Fino and they are known to sell wines at prices cheaper than the vineyards, and possibly supermarkets. Don’t forget to drop by this place if you know what you want as there are no tastings available. After that, we went to take photos at the Cardboard Cathedral and walked past the 185 empty chairs art installation which was a tribute to the people who lost their lives in the 2011 earthquake.
For dinner, I found a brewery/pub, Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn, which had a large collection of tap beers! The food was delicious and it was my first time trying sour beer. It was very refreshing and eyeopener for me. My bro loved the beers and ended up drinking quite a number of glasses. We are all big fans of draft beers.
[Day 11, Tuesday @ Christchurch]
It was our final full day here in Christchurch and.. there was absolutely no plan at all. We started off with a visit to the Canterbury Museum which we spent over an hour looking through the exhibits. It was pretty nice to see that there were a bit of changes in the guest exhibits since my last visit 7 months ago. We had lunch at a pretty average tasting thai restaurant, Golden Lotus and then I brought them to Dressmart, thinking that they wanted to buy some discounted branded items. We ended up eating New Zealand nature ice cream over there. We also stopped by the Sunson Asian Mart (the main branch at upper riccarton) to buy some healthcare products like fish oil as the prices are really reasonable there. As it was a gloomy day, we didn’t feel like doing anything else and we ended up back in our accommodation to nua till dinner time. Nobody wanted to cook on the last night so.. I brought them to the korean bbq restaurant, Ye-Chon Korean BBQ and Restaurant, which I’ve always wanted to try but never had the chance to. It was delicious and the price was pretty reasonable given the quality of meat that we were served.
[Day 12, Wednesday]
Checked out early in the morning and evacuated our accommodation at 5am. Sent them off on their return flight back to Singapore while I remained on in New Zealand for a direction-less future.
Thanks for reading through till the end! I hope to get some pictures of my trip up on this post in the near future. Good luck with your planning and I hope you realise that New Zealand ain’t that expensive if you manage to do some planning and not visit the paid attractions.
In this itinerary, we did not have time to venture down to Invercargill, Bluff and Dunedin and drive up the west coast via Oamaru. The east coast of South Island, Kaikoura, and the Abel Tasman region had also been missed out as well. To be honest, if you truly want to explore New Zealand, I think you need to set aside 4 to 6 weeks for a full journey of the North and South Island but if you only have 12 days to spare, I think my itinerary is pretty decent.
Good luck planning and feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!