After drinking our weight in wine in Marlborough, New Zealand, we stopped off in Kaikoura for whale watching. Conditions were a bit spotty, rain was expected and they warned us that high waves may cause sea sickness. In fact, they cancelled all whale excursions after ours but we were not deterred.
After all the hype of sea sickness warnings, the ride was not bad — none of us felt sick. More importantly, using sonar they found 2 whales that put on a show for us as they glided across the top of the water and gently dove to expose its tail fin.
On our way back to the bay, we were joined by a group of Dusky Dolphins that put on an aerial display for us. They were twisting, jumping and doing somersaults.
After whale watching, we made our way to Christchurch, a city that’s steadily rising from the ruins of the 2011 earthquake.
Here we had one of the best meals we experienced in New Zealand at a funky, yet intimate restaurant called Twenty Seven Steps — aptly named because you must walk 27 stair steps to get to the dining area. I had Grouper that rivaled any I’ve ever eaten. If you make it to Christchurch — I highly recommend this restaurant.
The next day, we boarded the TranzAlpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth.
The train takes you on a scenic journey from East to West, ending in Greymouth.
Along this journey, we caught epic vistas, traveled the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River, traversed the Southern Alps, and saw miles of native beech forest.
The TranzAlpine is one of the world’s great train journeys covering 139 miles one-way, taking just under 5 hours.
In Greymonth, we rented a car and headed towards Franz Josef Glacier. Along the way, we stopped off at Hokitika Gorge. Starting at a swinging bridge, the walk down to the gorge is really short and well maintained.
Once you cross the bridge, it’s a short walk before you are rewarded with incredible views of spectacular Hokitika Gorge.
Franz Josef Glacier
The next day we drove to Franz Josef Glacier, a 7.5 mile long glacier. Since 2008, the glacier has been retreating at a rapid rate. Due to global warning, scientists expect that Franz Josef Glacier will lose 38% of its mass by the year 2100.
On our way up, we saw beautiful glacier ponds sporting beautiful hues of blue and emerald.
After Franz Josef, we headed towards Queenstown, stopping off for lunch and shopping in Wanaka. A popular ski and summer resort town, Wanaka is built around beautiful Wanaka Lake. It was a short stop, I wish we had spent more time there — it was a cool town.
Our next blog will take us to Queenstown — one of the most beautiful cities in New Zealand. Here we took an exhilarating jet boat ride that took us at speeds of 50 mph within inches of massive rock cliffs. We also enjoyed beautiful Milford Sound by boat and took a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier — it was one of the highlights of our trip!
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I’ll leave you with a picture of some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. It was during our stop over in Wanaka — the ice cream shop was Black Peak — be sure to stop in there if you get to this area.