Subject: New Zealand
My son and I just got back two weeks ago, and we tried both South and North Island. We were exhausted but indeed saw a lot of New Zealand. I prefer South Island. It is magnificent. You pick a perfect time of year to go. We started our trip on Nov. 11th, and it is a twenty four hour flight from Philadelphia stopping in Los Angeles with unbelievable layovers. For example, there was a nine hour layover from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, and the return was sixteen hours long. There are two must sees one is Fiordland National Park and the other is Mt. Aspiring National Park. They are unbelievably beautiful. My son also climbed Franz Joseph Glacier. I was not thrilled with the accommodations at Franz Joseph, as they were booked solid with bus tours, and we were treated like second class citizens. There are two trips from South Island we enjoyed very much. One is a power boat trip to the White Heron Sanctuary which takes you to a boardwalk rain forest to the white herons and spoonbill birds. I wish I had a macro lens, as I could not get a close view of the white herons and the spoonbills, but it is worthwhile. The other side trip was to a farm across Queenstown to a farm where you are treated to a sheep shearing and round up by the working collie of the sheep. There are flowers everywhere on this trip, and you are treated to tea and cakes before you take the steamboat back. On the return trip, they have a sweet lady who plays piano, and you sing along. It was a memorable and relaxing trip. Much to our disappointment, it drizzled the day we saw the Fiordland on the ferry, and it was really not condusive to picture-taking, but remember this is a rain forest atmosphere, and the clouds often loom over the fiords. Christchurch was my favorite place on the trip. The botanical gardens enjoy two days of sightseeing, and they have a sighseeing vehicle through the gardens. I am sure you will enjoy this. Be sure to take the tram up to Port Hills in Christchurch. I also did my shopping in a flea market arrangement on the other side of Cathedral Square. The North Island is pretty, but certainly does not compare to the South Island. Near Queenstown, there is the shot over jet boat on the Shotover River in Queenstown. I was too chicken, but my son loved it. I never did get to Doubtful Sound which Richard suggests but time was short. I also regret not being able to venture to Kaikora near Christchurch which is unbelievably beautiful with its turquoise waters and jutting boulders, but complete with a beautiful beach area.