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& CENTRAL
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HOME AT FIRST's

New Zealand

          Miles of wild open spaces. High desert plateaus extending from the horizons. Virgin forests of giant prehistoric trees. Grassy plains. Jagged granite rising almost 2.5 miles above the ocean. Glaciers descending into the jungle. Parrots and penguins in the same rain forest. A wild ocean crashing into footprint-free beaches. Boom towns. Ghost towns. No towns. Clapboard false fronts. Dusty main streets at high noon. Cowboys and sheepmen trading stories at the general store and the post office. Country fairs where lumberjacks saw and chop, shearers slice wool, and horsewomen debate Western vs. English, while all covet the prize-winning pies. Wyoming? Montana? Alaska? Mexico? Argentina? Australia? Nope, pardner, it's New Zealand: last frontier of the West and first frontier of the East, so far down under we Yanks stage there before departing for Antarctica. Do you think the pioneer spirit of the Wild West has gone the way of the moa? Nope — it's alive and well exactly where the moa used to live.

In Part One we gallop through the North Island, stopping to gawk at prehistoric trees, Maori fishing villages, clapboard towns, artist colonies, geothermal playgrounds, until we reached the San Francisco of the South Pacific, Wellington, and the end of the island.

In Part Two we fly to the South Island and explore the water wonders and wine lands of Nelson and Marlborough country, then head for bloomin’ Christchurch with a short stop to spot the whales off the Kaikoura Coast. We take a great rail journey from coast to coast, crossing the Southern Alps and arriving in wild Westland, where we see glaciers, go fishing, and visit frontier towns along the Tasman Sea. Finally, we cross New Zealand’s highest road pass, driving from the coast through the rain forest to the alpine heights and down into the arid rain shadow of Wanaka in Central Otago on the eastern slope.

In Part Three we explore some of New Zealand’s most famous, most majestic, most remote, and most touristed country, home of the bungy, the kea, the jet boat, and the great treks. We go back a century in Arrowtown, go extreme in Queenstown, and can't believe our eyes in Fiordland.

Finally, Part Four takes us in either of two directions back to civilization at Christchurch. One direction leads to Scotland on the Pacific Coast. The other crosses the great New Zealand Outback by way of the highest point in Australasia. Along the way we see penguins and albatross, lots of rabbits and a few sheep. Come with us as our Wild Frontier itinerary leads back to Christchurch by way of Dunedin and Mackenzie Country.

 

PART THREE—
South & Southwest on

The South Island

ARROWTOWN
          Arrowtown is Queenstown's alter-ego, what Queenstown might have been, if left alone by developers. Perhaps Arrowtown, with its frontier storefronts, dusty streets and quaint shops, is not overrun because of the fame of its glamorous neighbor 15 miles away. Like many towns in Central Otago, Arrowtown was once a gold-mining center. Now its mining past is hinted at in its wild west appearance and rugged mountain borders. But there are good restaurants and three golf courses here (including
Millbrook, a championship course

Main Street, Arrowtown, New Zealand. Photo © Home At First.
Main Street, Arrowtown, New Zealand.
Photo © Home At First

designed by New Zealand’s pride, Sir Bob Charles),

 

which lend Arrowtown a slower, less frenetic pace than the frenzied Queenstown. But Arrowtown is small, and, presumably, boring to those who are looking for an adrenalin fix. Queenstown is for the tourism masses; Arrowtown is for those mass tourism misses.

-

QUEENSTOWN
          In a nation more and more obsessed with developing tourism Queenstown is

 

king. If Queenstown didn’t invent extreme sports,

Kawarau Bridge, near Queenstown: adventure tourism started here? NZ Tourism photo.
Kawarau Bridge, near Queenstown:
adventure tourism started here?

Photo © Home At First

eco-tourism, wilderness trekking, adventure travel, heli-skiing, and jet boating, it certainly takes pride in being credited with their successful commercial development. Local legends like A. J. Hackett — who first conceived that tourists would pay real money to jump off a bridge with a rubber band attached to their ankles at Queenstown’s Kawarau Bridge on November 12, 1988 — is credited with starting New Zealand’s adventure tourism craze. His company now offers three different bungy sites and two great arcing swing sites in the Queenstown region, each newer site promising a bigger squirt of adrenalin.

 

  

          Queenstown’s ambition to become a combination of Aspen, Orlando, and Vegas has brought the area a colorful mixture of kitsch, glitz, glamour, youthfulness, beautiful people, counter-culture athletes, groupies and wannabe’s. Predictably, legions of mainstream tourists have followed, most more interested in people-watching than in bungy-jumping. And Queenstown has welcomed the mainstream with two of New Zealand’s best golf courses (Jack's Point, and Kelvin Heights), a burgeoning wine district, a growing number of traditional non-adventure tours (sightseeing)

Wind-raised waves on Lake Wakatipu between Queenstown and the Southern Alps. Photo © Home At First.
Wind-raised waves on Lake Wakatipu
between Queenstown and the Southern Alps.

Photo © Home At First

and soft-adventure activities horseback riding,

 

 

day-hiking, fly-fishing, skiing), and a wide

The venerable SS Earnslaw steam-powered lake ship at her Queenstown moorings. Photo © Home At First.
The venerable SS Earnslaw steam-powered
lake ship at her Queenstown moorings.

Photo © Home At First

range of non-trendy mainstream restaurants including many of the international chains.
         If development in Queenstown could have been done better, it could also have been much worse. The saving grace is the setting of the place — the mountains, the lakes, the canyons, and the rivers collide harmoniously at Queenstown. No matter which spoke of the wheel you follow outward from the Queenstown hub, the scenery will be magic.

-

FIORDLAND
          Let’s create a rule of thumb for travel in New Zealand: when you tire of a location, drive two hours and expect to find something completely new. Nowhere is the change more dramatic than the change from Central Otago (Queenstown) to the region immediately to the south and west, Fiordland. If Central Otago has the arid, painted desert qualities of browns, golds, and umbers with starkly contrasting azures and turquoise from Lakes Wakatipu and Hayes, Fiordland is colored with the greens of life, the whites of cloud and snow, and the grays of mist and granite. Watch it happen two hours after turning south on Highway 6 from Queenstown to Lumsford, then west on Route 94 to Te Anau and north toward
Milford.
          Fiordland is a haven for anomalies. Fiordland is invaded by great, deep fingers of two oceans — the Tasman and the Southern Ocean — reaching far into the Southern Alps. The shoreline of these deep, clean, still


Fiordland: the whites of
cloud and snow, and the
grays of mist and granite.

Photo © Home At First

fiords is plush with dense temperate rain forest, thick with

 

 

mossy trees and giant fern fronds — that very symbol of

Giant tree ferns and other remarkable flora and fauna draw thousands of hikers from around the world to the unique temperate rain forest of Fiordland. Photo © Home At First.
Giant tree ferns and other
remarkable flora and
 fauna draw thousands
of hikers to the rain
forests of Fiordland.

Photo © Home At First

New Zealand. The great black forests climb the precipitous heights of the snowcapped Southern Alps, almost to the edges of the permanent snowline. The habitat of penguins overlaps that of mountain parrots in this part of paradise.
        Where the glaciers of antiquity retracted from lower levels, deep valleys, rills, and clefts remain now carpeted with jungle, convoluted as the folds of cauliflower. It is through this unique environment that the greatest names in New Zealand wilderness treks traverse, climb, and descend. Caples. Hollyford. Kepler. Greenstone. Routeburn. Milford. Thousands come to this far southwestern corner of New Zealand to walk the walk so they can talk the talk at home.
 
        Meanwhile, tens of thousands of the less well shod cruise or overfly the fiords, especially Milford Sound, still one of the great pilgrimage points of New Zealand tourism. Visitors expect encounters with seals, penguins, and other exotic fauna and flora in this special environment. These organized encounters in the pristine sounds of Fiordland were the first great successes of what has become that

 

major growth genre "eco-tourism". And the Milford Sound

eco-tourism experience, like Coca-Cola, has inspired

 

many envious imitations, but none have quite the cachet of the original.
        Fiordland’s unique ecology provides a special tonic for the hearts and spirits of visitors. Fortunately, its few towns — notably Te Anau and Manapouri — cheerfully dispense practical and efficient food and shelter to guests without feeling the need to add to the attractions of Fiordland with touristic kitsch, glitz, and too many Maori-inspired greenstone jade craft shops. Bless them, they understand that more isn’t always better
.

Milford Sound: brightest star of
New Zealand's eco-tourism show.

Photo © Home At First

Milford Sound: brightest star of New Zealand's eco-tourism show. Photo © Home At First.

 

 

TRAVEL ADVISORY: LOOK FOR SPECIAL LOCAL EVENTS.

A & P (Agricultural & Pastoral) shows give you glimpses of New Zealanders at play, performing for themselves -- not for tourists. Photo © Home At First.

        At each of your Home At First New Zealand Lodgings ask your hosts if there are happenings of local interest ongoing during your visit. Look for "A & P Shows" — local New Zealand summer festivals that are combinations of country fairs, lumberjack meets and equestrian events. Look for plays, auctions, regattas, parades, and sporting events, events that will let you see the Kiwis at play. You may be the only strange faces in the crowd, and you will feel privileged to be there.

A & P (Agricultural & Pastoral)
shows give you glimpses of New
Zealanders at play, performing
for themselves -- not for tourists.

Photo © Home At First

 

— End of Part Three —

Exploration and discovery are what happens
during a visit to Home At First's New Zealand. Looking for new frontiers?
Lost worlds? New possibilities? Surprises? Geologic wonders?
Learn more about travel with
Home At First to NEW ZEALAND.
Visit more Wild Frontiers at: PART 1    PART 2    PART 4.

ASK TO SPEAK WITH A HOME AT FIRST "NEW ZEALAND SPECIALIST"
TRAVEL CONSULTANT CERTIFIED BY THE NEW ZEALAND TOURISM BOARD.

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