Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cruising Around New Zealand

Many thanks to fellow-traveler Karen Robbins, my guest blogger for today. Unlike me, Karen has actually been to New Zealand! Read about her adventure, then stop by and visit her blog at

Green fields spotted with white lambs. Rocky coastal areas with albatross, soaring above. Towns reminiscent of Scottish heritage. Dramatic cliffs rising
from the sea protecting harbors of quiet waters and lush green foliage. A city vibrant with the enthusiasm of a great sailing event. These are the things I remember most from our visit to New Zealand.

Our trip to New Zealand, the land of the Kiwi, was back in 2000. It was a Millennium Cruise that began in Auckland in January—the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere. The first round eliminations for the Americas Cup were being conducted and we enjoyed watching the activity as the large sailboats came into the harbor after the races and crews rushed to get them out of the water and cover the keels least someone should copy their secret design.

We stayed one night in Auckland before boarding a Princess Cruise ship to begin our cruise down the east coast of New Zealand and over to Australia. It was a wonderful way to get an introduction to the country.

Our first stop was in the Bay of Islands to the north of Auckland. We anchored in the middle of them and took an excursion in a smaller boat around several interesting natural formations and explored a bit of Urupukapuka Island where Zane Gray is said to have stayed when he came to fish in the area. Serene and exotic, I can imagine he was inspired whether the fish were biting or not.

The Maoris named our next stop Tauranga which means “resting place for canoes.” This was one of the first places the Maoris arrived in New Zealand. In 1769, Captain Cook arrived. His reception here was a little calmer than some of the other places he explored. We had a full day as we explored the Roturura Lake countryside with stops to see some of the wildlife represented at a farm/zoo. The elusive kiwi bird was only a stuffed specimen since the kiwi are entirely night creatures and very shy. At the sheep farm, we watched a demonstration of sheep dogs at work and farmers sheering wool.

At a Maori Village, we were immersed in their culture as we participated in a meal that had been cooked in a fire pit (or so we were told). Pork, sweet potatoes, and all sorts of local produce were arranged in pots at a buffet-style lunch. The Maoris have a strange custom that the men perform. To make themselves look fierce and scare enemies away, they stick their tongues out. We tried not to giggle.

The town of Napier is known for their wool production. Wool was the number one industry in New Zealand for a long time but has since been replaced by tourism. At a nearby sheep farm and processing plane, we watched the sheering, cleaning, dyeing and processing of the sheep skins.
Our last stop on the north island of New Zealand was Wellington, the capital of the country and the birthplace of writer, Katherine Mansfield, who seemed from the literature we read to be a kind of Virginia Wolf personality. She lived from 1888 – 1923. Large red pom-pom type blooms graced tree branches throughout the city’s gardens. They called it the New Zealand Christmas tree because it always blooms around that time of year.

Christchurch, about a third of the way down the east coast of the south island is described as the most English city outside England. Its gardens, 19th century architecture, and antique trams give the city a quaint feeling of Victorian England. The port town of Littleton was easily explored on foot and the harbor area we toured by boat, gave us pastoral scenes of green hills dotted with sheep. Christchurch is also one of the places from which Antarctic exploration teams leave for their tours of duty.

Originally a Presbyterian Scottish settlement, Dunedin, the city located at the head of the Otago harbor maintains its Scottish ambience. While the city is a delight to explore, I found the harbor even more so. It abounds with wildlife. We saw seals, little blue penguins, cormorants, terns, and the big attraction, the albatross. These birds were amazing with a huge wing span that made them look like small jet planes in the air. We were not allowed near the nesting area but from our perch on the sight-seeing boat, we could see a ranger sitting next to one of the large birds. The ranger was probably about six feet tall but sitting, he was smaller than the albatross.

The southernmost part of New Zealand was the most spectacular of the coast line that we saw. We spent a day cruising through Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound, and into Milford Sound, the most spectacular of the fjords. When we stopped to pick up some passengers who had done an overland/overnight excursion, we could see in the distance snow capped mountains.

As we turned and cruised into the twilight, out toward the Tasman Sea, we bid farewell to the beauty and serenity of New Zealand with a promise to return to the land of the Kiwi.


  1. My mother and brother vacationed in New Zealand about two years ago and loved it. Unfortunately, the only kiwis I've had a chance to see are the little statues they brought back as gifts. Maybe one day . . .

  2. What a fun sounding vacation and quite an adventure, I think. I enjoyed this post, Karen and Susan.

  3. What an exciting trip. Great post!