My wife and I collectively over the past 45 - 50 years have traveled widely, visiting more than 30 countries. With that as a backdrop, I can honestly say that our 3 week vacation to New Zealand was the most enjoyable vacation we have ever taken. There were three reasons why that was the case. First, New Zealand's natural beauty is simply amazing. Second, our travel agent with this company did a fabulous job in developing our 21 day itinerary and in recommending superb lodges and retreats for us to stay at, with every accommodation being exactly what we hoped they would be and much more. There was not a single place on our travel agent's final itinerary that we would not go back to again in a heartbeat. And finally, we loved the people that we met throughout New Zealand, both the folks who were running the lodges we stayed at and other vacationers that we met as we moved from place to place.
This will be a long list since we loved every part of our journey: starting at the lodge near Rotorua (the food was fantastic, the rooms gorgeous and the couple running the lodge incredibly warm and welcoming; on the South Island, the stunning beauty and Zen ambiance of the retreat overlooking a bay next to Abel Tasman National Park. This place reminded me of a gorgeous house that you might find perched up high along the cliffs of the Big Sur in California; moving on, we next stayed at the retreat overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and a large inlet and bay when the remnants of a cyclone blew through the north end of the South Island and washed out the only mountainous road in or out that region of the South Island that Westhaven was in. Fortunately for us, since we couldn't get out and continue on our way from Westhaven, it also meant that the next wave of guests couldn't get in to Westhaven, so we were "marooned" at this gorgeous luxury lodge for an extra day with other guests who really enjoyed spending time together and dined altogether. I need to also note that the family who owns and runs Westhaven could not have been nicer or more supportive and accommodating in helping us implement the Plan B for leaving that part of the island that our travel agent had developed in light of the road washouts. The family that run Westhaven were superb in all regards and made it a bit sad to finally depart and leave their warm hospitality behind; We then went on to the wilderness lodge along the western coast of the South Island and immensely enjoyed the stay at this fabulous Lodge. In particular, this lodge was adjacent to a stunning trail through a tropical rainforest that wound its way down to the ocean, a hike that was one of the highlights of the trip. The Lodge owners also played an important role in blocking logging of the ancient 700+ year old massive trees in this area and in securing a World Heritage Site protective designation for the ancient forests. We then moved on to the lodge near Te Anu and found it to be one of the best experiences of our whole vacation. The lodge itself is beautiful itself with fabulous mountain and lake vistas in front of it and it is nestled adjacent to Fiordland National Park so it was an excellent launch point for day hikes into the park. We also took the best pictures of the entire trip at the Lodge, given the sunsets and early morning pictures that we took of the cloud covered mountains. Next we had surprisingly decent weather during our overnight cruise into Doubtful Sound which allowed us to take photos without the usual rain. And finally, we finished off our trip at an incomparable lodge 25 miles north of Queenstown. The hospitality offered guests at the lodge was world class, the 5 course gourmet meal for dinner exquisite and the lodge and lodging as fine as any we have ever stayed at. Definitely would go back there again.
Having been there now, we would probably skip spending any time on the North Island and just concentrate on the areas and lodges that we came to love on the South Island. Also, the jury is still out on whether a day cruise into Doubtful Sound would have been sufficient instead of an overnight cruise. Other than that, everything that we did we would recommend to others and seriously consider doing again.
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