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06 March 2016 @ 10:03 pm
I'm counting the steps to the door of your heart...  
Like many places in Australia, New Zealand has long been on my "I'll Get Around To It" agenda. Prior to starting my Bucket List in 2012, I just assumed local-ish trips were imminent because the destination was so close. But having a list has really honed my eye for flight and holiday specials, limiting it to my must-see destinations.

Last September, Jetstar finally sealed a long-anticipated trip to the South Island by offering $175 return flights. Sold! I booked a return trip to Christchurch with one week to explore the lower half of New Zealand. Car hire and the first night's accommodation were booked almost immediately, but the rest of the trip didn't fall into place until earlier this year.

Following recommendations and my own research, our itinerary looked like this:

- Christchurch
- Dunedin
- Queenstown
- Milford Sound
- Mount Cook
- Lake Tekapo
- Akaroa
- Christchurch

I knew it was a lot to cram in to six days but we only seem to travel in one of two ways:

- Lazy holiday (doing as little as possible in as serene a setting as possible)
- Intense holiday (doing so many things that people wonder if it counts as a vacation at all)

While we prefer leaving in the morning, flight prices meant a less than ideal departure time of early evening, arriving in Christchurch at a ghastly post-midnight hour. We left late Saturday afternoon, enjoying a farewell beverage (well, two) before boarding:



Despite our ridiculous arrival time, it took at least an hour to clear immigration, customs, buy an NZ sim card, and pick up our rental car (James the pearl white Yaris). This was made easier by the fact that when we disembarked, we were greeted with wallpapered sheep landscapes, scored by a chorus of bleating.

We didn't check into our Christchurch CBD accommodation (BreakFree on Cashel) until close to 2am, and took even longer to get to sleep. With an early start to make the most of our first full day, I think we managed a shaky three hours.

SUNDAY
The devastation of the Christchurch CBD was a sombre way to start our trip. We only spent a few hours checking out Ma href="http://restart.org.nz/" target="_blank">Restart Mall</a> (aka Container City), the cathedral, and Cardboard Cathedral, before hitting the road.

The drive to Dunedin was long (5 hours) but the day was sunny and the sights were lovely, especially the last hour. The road followed the ocean, then wound up through hills and making a spectacular entrance over the uppermost peak to reveal the city laid out below.

We made our way to Larnach Castle, eager to explore the grounds prior to dinner in the castle itself. Our late-ish arrival meant there weren't many other tourists around and we had these spectacular views mostly to ourselves:

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Our three-course feast (served in the Music Room as the group was too large for the Dining Room) was pre-selected and consisted of the following:

Roast pork belly / grilled haloumi salad
Seared beef / duck breast with dauphinoise potato
Banoffee cheesecake / chocolate frangipane tart
Shortbread / coffee / tea

While the first two courses were delicious, dessert was a bit of a letdown. That said, the house whiskey and bubbles we had with our dinner went down an absolute treat. As did our self-sourced pre-dinner in-room champers and cheese plate.

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We conversed with a lovely lady from Honolulu (Jan), her husband (Steve), her sister, and her husband as well as a far less interesting couple from Australia. We were definitely the more lively end as the rest of the table barely conversed outside of their pairs.

We had heard amazing things about the picturesque South Island of New Zealand, but we couldn't see how our other destinations could possibly live up to the ridiculously pretty standard set by Dunedin.
 
 
Current Location: New Zealand, Dunedin
Current Mood: energeticenergetic
Current Music: Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over