In October, Neela – part of our Customer Services team in New Zealand – travelled to the South Island of New Zealand for the first time on our Cosmos ‘South Island Showcase’ tour.
This tour is fantastic and has a wide variety of beautiful scenery along the way! It is a must do if you have never been to this part of the country for a true showcase of New Zealand’s South Island talent.
Our tour group had a total of 23 people, with five from New Zealand and the rest from Australia. We began our tour in Christchurch, the Garden City of New Zealand. We stayed at the Ibis hotel which is centrally located and very close to the city centre. I loved exploring the Riverside Markets with a great atmosphere and plenty of delicious cuisines to choose from, including Indian, Mexican, Greek, Malaysian and more!
From Christchurch we travelled to charming Akaroa on a stunning day. Akaroa is the Canterbury region’s oldest town with French roots thanks to being founded by French settlers in 1840. The journey from Christchurch to Akaroa was around 1.5 hours and here we enjoyed a lovely 2-hour cruise with beautiful sights, including dolphins and seals! There was tea and coffee onboard to enjoy but I would recommend bringing some snacks in case you get a bit peckish.
It wouldn’t be a trip to the South Island without a journey on the TranzAlpine train! The Christchurch to Greymouth route is a 4-hour journey with some of the South Island’s most spectacular scenery along the way. The train has a café where you can purchase snacks, sandwiches, juices and hot beverages. However, if you want to take your own snacks you are most welcome to.
The absolute highlight was the Franz Josef Glacier scenic walk, followed by a helicopter ride to the glacier itself! For those who opted to do the helicopter excursion, we were split into two groups. Our group went up in two helicopters and due to the fast-changing weather, only one of the helicopters was able to land on the glacier (luckily it was my one) while the other ended up circling above for a bird’s eye view instead. I found it so beautiful and surreal being on the top of the glacier.
It was lovely to have one night in Wanaka, a very quaint town. We did arrive late afternoon so we didn’t have much time here. We stayed at the Wanaka Hotel which was conveniently only walking distance to restaurants and shops. After we had checked in, our tour group went for a walk along the water and (of course) to see that Wanaka tree. This willow tree sits on its lonesome in Lake Wanaka and even has its own hashtag #ThatWanakaTree!
A popular part of New Zealand’s South Island talent is embarking on a day trip to Milford Sound. We started out early to drive from Te Anau via a quick photo stop at Mirror Lake. This cruise was around 1 hour 45 minutes. It was a bit of a grey day but a neat way to explore this part of the country. A bonus was that it had recently rained, so we saw a spectacular array of waterfalls along the way!
I was so glad that this South Island tour finished in the Adventure Capital of the World, Queenstown. Queenstown is a must-do city with picturesque views, so it was nice to sit back, relax and take it all in from our accommodation! We stayed at Blue Peaks Lodge which was no more than 10 minutes walk to the city centre. It is located at the top of a hill so some of tour group easily caught an Uber to/from the motel.
We had one full day in Queenstown where we could choose from any of the excursions offered or use it as free time to explore at our own pace. I took advantage of the KJet, a thrilling ride on the iconic Shotover River. There were 5 of us that chose this excursion, and we all loved it!
The Skyline Gondola was an optional excursion, however our Tour Director ended up changing this to an included farewell dinner excursion which was the cherry on top of our 9-day journey. Dinner was an incredibly generous and delicious buffet which was great to enjoy with our new friends.
Overall, it was a brilliant tour that showcased some fantastic places. I do admit that photos don’t do the scenery justice so you will just have to do this tour for yourself!