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Milford Sound, New Zealand – World’s Top Travel Destination
It all started with a special birthday
“So what do you want for your birthday?” I asked my lovely daughter Ketki. After all, it was his 21st birthday and a very special one for all of us. Having known Ketki for so long, I knew she would flash her 24 carrot smile and say in her loving tone, “I don’t need anything, Dad.. I’ve got it all” and that’s exactly what happened. You know… the hardest thing my wife Pratibha and I have ever experienced in our entire lives is finding the right birthday gift for someone. We have always struggled with it. But now the question was my own daughter’s 21st birthday present.
Fortunately, my son Kunal came to my rescue and suggested that we should sponsor Ketki on a holiday trip to New Zealand with his favorite friend. However, Pratibha is not comfortable letting Ketki go to a country she has never been to before, even with her friend, and says that Ketki should visit New Zealand with her brother Kunal. “Good as gold,” I said, but the matter was not over yet. Now it’s Kunal’s turn to express his opinion. “Why don’t we all go to New Zealand as a family, Dad and have lots of fun? This will be our surprise gift for Ketki on the 21st that she will enjoy the most.” Pratibha and I decided to take time to smell the roses. “Let’s go”, we both said excitedly.
Itineraries were planned, bookings were made, and there we were.. en route to beautiful New Zealand – a place we had never been before but we were all very excited for some unknown reason. We could have easily chosen another place like Singapore or Fiji to spend quality time as a family but apparently New Zealand was the destination chosen by him for us.
New Zealand is a country of diverse landscapes. The country greeted us with open arms and welcomed us as we drove south to Queenstown from Christchurch – New Zealand’s garden city. Melbourne, Australia has been awarded the title of “World’s Most Liveable City” several times but New Zealand really impressed us. It was different and unique. We find a close affinity with a country that is blessed with natural beauty. The air was 100% pure, crisp as anything and the freshness of the air added to our excitement levels. One thing we all noticed upon our arrival in New Zealand was the warmth in the hearts of the people and the extraordinary hospitality they literally showered upon us. The staff members at each gas station made me feel very special by filling my car with gas no matter what gas station we stopped at. It was the start of a real family holiday that we all looked forward to after immigrating to Australia.
What I would recommend to anyone traveling to New Zealand is to drive through this beautiful country as much as possible rather than taking the train or flying. The 300 mile stretch between Christchurch and Queenstown is an absolute driving treat for visitors. The Westland Mountains look stunning and the unique pink and purple flowers on both sides of the road are very attractive – you can’t ignore them.
There are many routes to reach Queenstown depending on the time you have, but we deliberately took the Lake Tekapo route. As soon as we reached this incredible lake, I knew we had made the best decision. A rich golden landscape surrounded by brightly colored lupines paved the way for our arrival at Lake Tekapo. This glacier-fed turquoise blue lake is a hive of activity for all things outdoorsy. Considered a Kiwi holiday hot spot, the lake offers scenic flights, walking trails, guided alpine climbing and walking, mountain biking, kayaking and more.
Queenstown – A delightful experience
The driving distance from Christchurch to Queenstown with stopovers is about 7 hours but absolutely worth it. Queenstown, in my opinion, is the best city in New Zealand. It seems that nature has showered more blessings on this small rural township than others. Surrounded by majestic mountains and nestled on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a South Island location surrounded by stunning scenery. This adrenaline/adventure capital of the southern hemisphere is a very popular stop on the traveler circuit, especially during the winter months of July and August when ski crews are in town.
New Zealand has always been a popular tourist attraction for Australians. But I think the sheer beauty of New Zealand was brought to the attention of a global audience by the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy – thanks to Peter Jackson. We had the good fortune to visit some of the shooting locations of this hugely popular movie along the way.
We went to New Zealand after winter, around Christmas – the best time to visit New Zealand. However, we can still feel the snow crowning the mountain peaks. Kunal said, the mountains looked very magical from the sky. Queenstown is one of the very few places in the world where in just a few days you can quench your thirst sky-diving and bungee jumping, enjoy mountain views, ancient forests, volcanic landscapes, river jets, cruises, stunning coastlines. , ride the Skyline Gondola for iconic views across Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu and more while spotting wildlife found nowhere else on earth. There is no shortage of things happening around the region with plenty of exciting events throughout the year.
Milford Sound is a fjord (a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, formed in a valley carved by glacial activity) 6 hours one-way from Queenstown. It is right in the middle of a rain forest. The journey to Milford Sound is as spectacular as the destination. You can also visit Milford Sound by car, but I recommend taking a cruise like the one shown above.
Famous English story writer, poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling described Milford Sound as “the eighth wonder of the world”. Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the Ice Age, thanks to an incredible phenomenon of nature. This gorgeous sound looks amazingly breathtaking in any weather … beauty that cannot be expressed in words. The fjord’s towering cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters and remind you of mighty ancient warriors guarding you from all sides. From the cruise the mountain peaks seem to touch the sky and waterfalls, some as high as 3000 feet cascade down. It often rains in Milford Sound and these waterfalls multiply with great effect during the rains.
Judged in an international travel survey as “the world’s top travel destination”, Milford Sound has been hailed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. The stunning scenery, crisp and fresh air and majestic beauty of nature throughout the journey gives you a guaranteed “wow” experience. You get a real taste of the rough waters of the vast ocean as the cruise enters the sea and makes a “U” turn that brings you back to the source of the voyage. That’s when you realize how difficult it must be for fishermen to risk their lives to sail the seas every day to make a living.
Bay of Islands
After our life experience in the South Island, I must admit, we were a little biased about it. We weren’t even sure if the North Island would live up to our expectations. Even if internet technology nowadays provides great information and pictures of places, there is no substitute for experiencing nature itself. The North Island did not disappoint us.
The Bay of Islands is the northwestern region of the North Island of New Zealand not far from the northern tip of the country. We were lucky enough to get a hotel booking in Paihia, a bustling seaside town known as the “Jewel of the Bay of Islands”. The South Island is more about the majestic beauty of nature and the North Island is about enjoying activities and adventures. Both the islands are very different from each other and maintain their uniqueness in all respects.
One of the “must do” tours of the Bay of Islands is the “Hole in the Rock” tour. Piercy Island (often called “The Hole in the Rock”) is located on the north coast of the North Island. This 60 feet long and 60 feet high crater was created by wind and waves over centuries making it one of the most naturally beautiful sites in New Zealand. This half-day jet boat trip offers a unique opportunity to see dolphins and experience the silence in the middle of the ocean. When we visited this place the water was calm and our jet boat passed through the crater allowing us to see the rock texture inside the crater.
If you really want to experience the beauty of the Bay of Islands, you must visit the northernmost tip of New Zealand where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet at Cape Ringa. When the turquoise blue waters of these two oceans mix with each other they create a unique color canvas that is soothing. So how far are you from NZ?
Ninety Mile Beach
Ninety Mile Beach is a narrow strip of sand stretching along the west coast of the North Island. This beach is officially a highway, but is only suitable for 4WD vehicles. Car rental companies will not allow their cars in Bali for safety reasons while private cars are not covered by insurance Beach activities range from surf casting and swimming to body boarding (tobogganing) on the sand dunes. Both Kunal and Ketki enjoyed it.
The name Ninety Mile Beach is a little misleading because it’s actually only 55 miles long. When missionaries traveled on horseback a horse could travel 30 miles a day before needing to rest. It took three days to travel the beach thus earning its name, but the missionaries did not take into account the slow pace of the horses on the sand, thus thinking they had traveled 90 miles when in fact they had only traveled 55. As seen in the background of the photo above, the rock from this beach looks beautiful.
Another interesting place in this region is Puketi Forest. It is an ancient kauri forest located in Northland near Kerry Kerry. Together with Omahuta Forest it forms one of the largest contiguous areas of native forest in Northland. The tour guide informed us that it has 15,000 hectares of kauri, podocarp and hardwood trees and a rich diversity of plants with hundreds of documented species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.
The massive tree trunks, some as large as 12 feet in diameter, blew my mind. I have never seen such a big tree trunk. A shop in Paihia features a spiral staircase and a large sitting bench carved into the trunk of such a giant tree.
Nothing can be as fulfilling as experiencing Mother Nature in person. I can only hope, though, that this report has given you 100% pure New Zealand insight. I encourage you to post your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn. If you or your friends want to share your experiences of Mother Nature with like-minded people around the world, send your articles (up to 800 words) to [email protected] Hello!!!
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