New Zealand is a tourist-friendly country, at least the South Island seems to be very well set up to entertain visitors. From the moment we landed in Christchurch the people were hospitable, and seemed genuinely interested in our having a good time. I have never met a customs agent who asked me what I was going to see and then tell me what not to miss before. She was actually chatty, instead the usual stern and suspicious types that I’ve come across many times.
Getting around the island is easy, especially if you drive are plenty of car rental and camper rental places right outside the airport, and every town had places for camping. All the parks and camping areas we stopped in had clean toilets, complete with toilet paper. Check out these New Zealand road trip itineraries for some ideas of what you can do.
The food is typically British with many ethnic possibilities. Going to milk bars that hosted fresh fish n’ chips were our favorite places to eat. Almost all the food was at least pretty good, and some were down-right delicious like the Blue Ice Restaurant.
Our absolute favorite spot was Dunedin, and we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived there. Other than Christchurch, most of the towns and villages we had stopped were small and not necessarily very quaint. Dunedin, established in 1852 by Scottish immigrants, is a little city on the eastern coast that has a lot of personality. The architecture is very colonial, and in the center of town is the Octagon which features a prominent statue of Robert Burns (the poet), a majestic cathedral, and many shops and cafes. It was a great place to hang out during the evenings and people watch.
Of course the huge draw to New Zealand, especially the South Island is the gorgeous scenery and the wildlife, and in our opinion, it did not disappoint. Our favorite of the abundant bird population was the Pukeko, a beautiful blue land bird with the fluffiest chicks, but really at every turn there was some type of animal or bird to observe.
If there is one thing that we wish is that we would have liked to have even more time on South Island. There is so much to do and see and the island is much larger than it looks on the map. I suggest that the minimum time allotted for this gem is three weeks.
Have you been to New Zealand?