Epilogue: Heading Home

Words by Andy | Photos by Chris

Epilogue: Heading home

Our final morning in Queenstown was spent down by Lake Wakatipu, first with brunch on Steamer Wharf, then a gentle walk through the Sunday markets that were timed perfectly for our visit. Lots of locally produced goods can be found there including hand spun and knitted beanies and scarves, greenstone jewellery and artworks. The singers towards the back of the market created a happy and relaxed mood, not quite as unique as Queenstown’s singing dog but it’s important to give credit to all forms of talent.

The lake surface was calm. Every now and then someone would walk by and skim stones on the surface with surprising prowess. All at once it seemed every available water activity fired into action: the steam boat chugged away from its mooring, the parasail boat meandered away from us, it’s yellow smiley-face parachute billowing in the breeze, becoming full in readiness to lift its excited passenger. Two jet boats powered away from their dock and three little shark craft waggled into the deep centre of the lake. These are a unique experience, one we didn’t ride this time, but enjoyed watching as they sped around the lake in sweeping motions before plunging beneath the surface and shooting vertically out of the water, like a scene from Jaws. Ducks swam about and dogs jumped in and out of the water as the morning sun shone brightly over the scene.

Time to move on, and we headed to the airport with one final wrong turn, taking us too far out of town, despite knowing exactly where the airport was. Maybe is was a subconscious attempt to do one final lap of this impossibly beautiful place in an equally magnificent country. Flying out, seeing those great peaks fall below us either side of the plane cemented the great joy I felt having finally reached this destination after so many thwarted attempts to get here. I tried not to think too hard about the premise of Manifest as plane made its bumpy journey towards Melbourne, a little bit like a rocky four-wheel-drive journey. It was still less bumpy than our trip to the Great Barrier Reef. My angry foot was screaming for some TLC by the time we landed: I’d had to take my shoes off to get through security in Queenstown, which was odd, and made my foot a bit crabby from the start. Walking from one end of Tullamarine airport to the other to get our domestic flight didn’t help much, and I was really glad to spot the lady driving the whoop-whoop transporter who was only too happy to transport me to the farthest gate, form where our plane was scheduled to fly.


Our boys didn’t completely ignore us when we got home. Our house sitter, Paula, did a great job looking after them and the house for us. She even washed the sheets and remade our bed – heaven!


We’ve got some great memories from the places we’ve seen and the things we’ve done in New Zealand, from Auckland, down through Rotorua, Taupō and Wellington on the North Island, then from Christchurch to Greymouth on the TranzAlpine on to Fox Glacier and Queenstown on the South Island. Here are some of our highlights from the trip. We’ll definitely be back and look forward to sharing more happy travels.

Air New Zealand - we're soaring!

Air New Zealand were great to fly with. The direct flight from Adelaide was awesome – it would have been great to come back direct from Queenstown, but a change in Melbourne it had to be.

North Island

Auckland is a beautiful city I look forward to spending more time in. Inactive volcanoes, a waterside precint and lush gardens are just the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure.

Hobbiton is a must-see… all those cute little Hobbit holes in the hillsides, a functioning Green Dragon Inn and more immersive displays in the pipeline. A great day out!

Rotorua is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for most of my life, and it didn’t disappoint with it’s bubbling ponds, boiling mud and the Polyneian cultural experience at Te Puia

Spending a couple of hours Rail Cruising was a really unique and fun experience, clicketty-clacking along the old Rotorua branch line with lots of grand scenery.

Just a short drive north of Rotorua is Okere Falls, with rushing water like I’d never seen before.

Taupō is about an hour south of Rotorua and has plenty of beautiful natural features to explore as well, including its massive lake with a hot beach where. if you dig your feet into the sand, you strike warm water.

Craters of the Moon was a couple of hours well spent, wandering through recently active craters with more bubbles and steam.

Huka Falls is about ten minutes out of Taupō.. more rushing water that has to be seen!

One of the best treats we gave ourselves was several hours at Wairakei Terraces with the thermal pools of varying temperature from “this is soothing” to “I think the meat is about to fall off the bones”.

Wellington is another place we’d like to get back to and really have a good look around. It feels like a compact version of Sydney and is where New Zealand’s parliament sits.

South Island

The South Island is a completely different world. Where the North Island’s activity is due to the Australian tectonic plate being pushed underneath the Pacific plate, the same plate is being pushed upwards by its counterpart on the South Island, forming the alpine terrain, with glacial activity carving out canyons and forming rivers and lakes. Everywhere you turn is another opportunity to gasp at untainted natural beauty.

Christchurch was our landing point and is slowly but steadily rebuilding after the devastating earthquake of 2011, and the Botanic Gardens, set alongside the Avon River are splendid.

If your get a chance to hop onto the TranzAlpine Train, it’s a brilliant way to get from Christchurch to Greymouth, on the other side of the alps, where the the scenery dramatically changes in comparison to the Caterbury Plains.

Elizabeth Point is just south of Greymouth and offers a really interesting beach-scape to explore on the Tasman coast.

Karangarua is just one of the picturesque spots we drove through on the way to Fox Glacier.

On the road, Franz Joseph Glacier is a small teaser for what lies waiting down the road.

Fox Glacier was in clear view and ready for its close-up by the time we arrived.

Back on the road to Queenstown there are lots of lookouts to stop by, and Fantail Falls was a welcome break on the way.

Queenstown is picture perfect, set beneath The Remarkables mountain range and around Lake Wakatipu.

Activities abound in Queenstown, regardless of how much adrenaline you want to expend. We chose the low end of the scale to soak in our surroundings.

On the way to Milford Sound our guide from Cheeky Kiwi Travel  paused for us to take advantage of the perfect conditions to photograph Mirror Lakes.

Just down the road from Mirror Lakes is the photogenic Lake Gunn.

Milford Sound is idyllic, with its towering cliff faces, taller than any sky-scraper at about 1.6km high. We were like ants in a giant’s playground. 

Exiting Milford Sound we hopped off the bus to walk across an old swinging bridge over the Tūtoko River for another photo opportunity: Mount Tūtoko, the tallest peak in Fiordlands National Park. 

Our last full day in New Zealand was spent paddling down the Dart River, with Dart River Adventures, who run the Funyaks activity out of Glenorchy. Not a bad way to end a great trip, on another picture perfect day in another slice of paradise.

We’re home now, back in our cosy Adelaide home with our boys, grateful for the adventure we’ve just had and looking forward to our next.

For anyone wanting to know if we preferred the north or south island? It’s really like comparing apples to centipedes. There’s no comparison, and both islands have a lot to offer. I loved the geothermal features on the north as much as I loved the glacier-carved landscapes of the south. Perhaps the single factor that might elevate the North Island experience for me was the exposure to Polynesian culture, which wasn’t present on the South Island, but this in no way detracts from the natural beauty.

Thanks for travelling with us!


  • Jan Akeroyd

    Hi Chris and Andy,
    I have so enjoyed following your NZ adventure. I am so pleased the trip was a success and you had good weather. Maybe next time you come we will be able to meet up. I know that Murray was so happy to spend time with you both. Kind regards Jan 😊

    • Andy Le Roy

      Hi Jan – glad you enjoyed travelling along with us! Hopefully our next visit won’t be too far away 🙂

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