Departing Auckland, our first port of call was Tauranga, where we explored the downtown shops before embarking on a trip to Rotorua and the extensive Te Puia park, which features extensive geothermal features and the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Here we viewed the eruption of the famed Pohutu geyser, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and the country’s most active, before continuing on to see the colorful Government Gardens nearby. Our next stop was at Napier, known for its spectacular collection of Art Deco buildings, all built during the mid-1930s after a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake leveled the town in 1931.
The lovely, cosmopolitan capital city of Wellington followed next on our itinerary. Here, our guided tour included the Museum of New Zealand, the bustling waterfront area, government buildings, Old St. Paul’s Church, a ride on the Wellington Cable Car, the beautiful Botanic Garden and panoramas from Mount Victoria.
Fifth on our exploration of coastal New Zealand was the picturesque resort community of Akaroa, originally settled by French immigrants. Here, Di took an organized local tour, while I spent a day just wandering around to see and photograph the sights, which included the Akaroa Head Lighthouse, the Garden of Tane, historic cottages and St. Peter’s Church.
Both of us managed to visit the Giant’s House, the creation of artist Josie Martin, who describes it as a “sculpture and mosaic garden, and contemporary art gallery,” which hardly does the place justice. All I can say is that it is one of the most bizarre attractions I’ve ever seen in 48 years of being a professional tourist, so don’t even think about missing it if you find yourself in Akaroa.
Our next stop was the town of Port Chalmers, about a half-hour from the city of Dunedin. Here, Di found an onshore small-group excursion that featured the area’s flora and fauna, which she loved. I opted for a more standardized city tour, which made stops at the ornate Dunedin Railway Station, the Edwardian-era Olveston Historic Home and the expansive Dunedin Botanic Garden. Nearby also is a Cadbury Chocolate Factory, which I understand is scheduled for closure soon.
Oban, on Stewart Island, which was our final port stop in New Zealand, is yet another quaint seaside town. Di and I together embarked on a most enjoyable hiking tour from Harrold Bay out to “land’s end” at Ackers Point, at the entrance to Halfmoon Bay.
Although we had experienced pleasant weather for most of the trip, the best was yet to come, with glorious blue skies and bright sunshine greeting our full day of cruising through Fjordland National Park. This magnificent natural treasure encompasses three separate areas: Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound and, finally, Milford Sound, world-renowned for its incredible ocean fjords, comparable in some respects to the equally impressive fjords of Norway. Photographers like me had a field day capturing images of the awe-inspiring scenery that we passed throughout our visit. Then, two days crossing the Tasmanian Sea brought us to our first Australian port: Burnie, Tasmania.