In October 2022, Fiona – part of our Customer Services team in Australia – travelled to the South Island of New Zealand on our Cosmos ‘South Island Showcase’ tour.
Our South Island of New Zealand adventure began in Christchurch with a welcome drink and meeting our lovely Tour Director, Annalise. We got the low down on upcoming activities, met our fellow travellers, and had time to explore Christchurch. Our hotel, the Ibis, was centrally located and we can stroll across the street to Oxford Terrace (a strip of bars and restaurants along the Avon River) for ample dining opportunities.
On our first day of touring, we met Stephanie, our coach driver. She helps us all on the coach and hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to Akaroa we go! This charming seaside town is 2 hours from Christchurch and the drive is breath taking. As I am soon to learn, New Zealand’s South Island is full of scenery that will leave you in awe. We enjoyed a 2-hour cruise along Akaroa’s coast, packed with sightings of New Zealand-native Hector dolphins, fur seals, coastal birds and the volcanic sea cliffs. Little did we know that this was only the beginning of many scenic highlights!
The following day we boarded one of the world’s greatest train journeys – the TranzAlpine. We travelled through patchwork paddocks, along ancient river valleys, the Southern Alps, and past tranquil lakes and green plains. The viewing platform, while a little chilly, provided the perfect place to capture the amazing countryside.
After the TranzAlpine, we arrived at the small country town of Franz Josef which is the gateway to the 12-kilometre Franz Josef glacier. Our accommodation was the Aspen Court Motel with large rooms and kitchen facilities. The town centre is only a few minutes’ walk away so we decide on dinner at the local pub.
The next day began with a thrilling adventure – a helicopter ride to Franz Josef glacier! Flying above ice falls, snowfields, and crevasses, the view of the glacier from the air must be experienced. We were lucky enough to be able to touch down on a snow field to see the icy landscape at our feet (literally!) and take in sweeping views across the maritime glacier.
The weather in New Zealand can be quite fickle so we were lucky to have the advice of our Tour Director to guide us in taking our optional helicopter ride early in the day. The sudden turn in weather later in the day meant we would not have been able to take this excursion otherwise.
After our flight we enjoyed an easy, included walk to the glacier with a local guide who shared the interesting history of the glacier, the area and native plants along the way!
While on holiday you don’t normally wish for rain, however, it creates hundreds of temporary waterfalls that cover the steep mountain faces in Milford Sound. Our 2-hour cruise got us up close and personal to thundering waterfalls, lush rainforests and towering glacier-carved peaks. Milford Sound is a true wonder of nature!
The final stop on our amazing adventure is Queenstown, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and set against the dramatic Southern Alps. You have a great selection of optional excursions here: a KJet boat ride, a helicopter flight over the Remarkables, a cruise to a local country farm, or a leisurely bike ride to the Gibbston Valley winery.
On our final night, we were treated to an amazing farewell dinner at the Skyline’s Stratosphere Restaurant and Bar. You take a quick gondola up 480 metres for spectacular panoramic views of Queenstown and the surrounds.
As they say, all good things must come to an end. We bid farewell to the wonderful Annalise and Stephanie who, without their wealth of knowledge and experience, would not have brought the wonders of the South Island to life.