On the road again, continuing north.  As is typical in New Zealand, your next adventure is just around the corner. We stumbled upon an area called Buller Gorge. We found New Zealand’s longest swingbridge, at 110m long. The kids loved it – I was terrified! We walked over, and then the kids did the cometline back.

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We finally got to Nelson, where we were staying before checking out Abel Tasman National Park the next day. Nelson is a cute little town with a wide flat beach and some great local rugby watching.

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Day 7 – We took a sailing trip out to Abel Tasman as the kids were too young to do the kayak trips. I didn’t realize that the Abel Tasman area is huge! We had a beautiful sunny day so really enjoyed relaxing and sleeping most of the day, until the kids found the greatest playground swing ever and made some local friends.

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I was really looking forward to this. 30 minute helicopter ride with a glacier landing? Oh yes.

We woke up to near white out conditions on the glaciers, meaning no helicopter ride for us. However, it cleared slightly after about thirty minutes and we were able to go up. We probably should have opted out, as the helicopter was only able to land on the glacier for less than two minutes and we couldn’t see too much. On a brighter day, this would have been such an amazing trip, but the weather was a huge disappointment. At any rate, we all loved being in a helicopter!  I gave up the front seat of the helicopter to the boys, so they got better photos than I did.

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That little hut is where the hard core climbers can seek shelter. The glacial ice has a blue tone to it which you can see in the photos.

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I wasn’t kidding about the weather conditions. In fact, looking back at these, we must have been out of our minds!

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No lazing around on this part of our trip. After our helicopter adventure, we continued driving up the coast to to Punakaiki, home of the famous Pancake Rocks.  I begged Mark to take what turned out to be quite the detour through dairy farm country to see Hokitika Gorge. I had seen images of it online and couldn’t miss it. We hiked for about 2o minutes down a concrete path, and it didn’t disappoint. Yes, it really is that color!! The lack of haircuts on the boys killed all hopes for much of a decent family photo!

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Finally, we got to our little cottage rental across from the beach in Punakaiki. This area of the west coast is really remote – we could only find two restaurants anywhere nearby. This area of New Zealand reminded me of the Oregon coast.

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These Pancake Rocks were formed millions of years ago from  fragments of dead creatures and plants. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers. Then, seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed, and slightly acidic rain, wind and seawater helped to make these crazy shapes.

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Yes, we’re crazy. Day 3 in New Zealand, and we drove several hours up the west coast of the South Island. We love a good road trip. This is a LONG drive, but one that is well worth doing. Our destination this night was Franz Josef, which is a 7 mile long glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. We got here fairly late at night, planning on taking a helicopter up above the glacier the next morning.

Advice for anyone wanting to do this… Take your time. Stop. Jump in a river. Stop again. Admire the waterfalls. Stop some more.

This was one of Mark’s favorite days of our trip. (Minus the driving thing.) So much to see along the Crown Range Road. .. Wanaka, The Hawea River, Lake Hawea, Thunder Falls, Lake Matheson to name a few spots to see. Our final destination this night was Franz Josef, which is a 7 mile long glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

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We didn’t see any penguins.:(I actually grabbed this with my iphone as we drove by as there was nowhere to park on the road.

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This was my favorite day of 2011.

Milford Sound is a fjord in the south west of the South Island, just inland of the Tasman Sea. The plane trip from Queenstown takes about 20-25 minutes instead of driving 4 plus hours ONE WAY in a bus. We didn’t have much time so we opted for a four hour plane/boat combination first thing in the morning.  Worth every penny! These photographs don’t remotely do this area justice.
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When you get to the Milford Sound airport, everyone walks about a half mile to get to the boats. The boat trips take about an hour and you go all over the fjord. We got lucky and had somewhat clear skies. Waterfalls everywhere. Our boat captain drove us right up next to one of them – the kids loved it, and got quite wet!

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Overlooking Queenstown on the way back to the airport.

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Once back in Queenstown, we opted for another adventure to keep the jetlag away… Whitewater rafting on the Shotover River. If you ever take your children to Queenstown, make sure you book with Family Adventures – our guides Brynn and Cameron were the highlight of the kids’ trip. The  45 minute drive through Skipper’s Canyon was one of the scariest roads (if you could call it that!) I have ever been down, but the scenery was spectacular. I left my camera at the hotel as the guides had a camera with them. I am still mad at myself for that. The put in point for the boat is the area known as “The Ford of Bruinen” in the Lord of the Rings movie.

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Once back in Queenstown, we stumbled upon the best little restaurant on the lake which was a restored bath house. Nothing better than a restaurant where we can sit and chat while the kids get to play on a beach.:)It didn’t get dark until almost 10pm so we enjoyed the sunset there after dinner. Also not to be missed… Aggy’s Fish and Chips – a little fish shack nearby.

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  • Jenni Carmon - Breathtaking!! I’ll take a print of the waterfall with the sun rays all over it please :)

  • Jen Mabray - Hi Lisa! Wow! And wow again! Would you be willing to sell the one with the waterfall and sun rays? I want to make a print for my house :) Great work!!

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Get ready. You are about to see a lot of New Zealand. I finally found the time to catch up on some personal photo projects over the holidays. Yes, we took this trip in February of last year. 😉

What an amazing place. I will go back here someday. Our two day whirlwind was not enough. The adventure junkie in me needs more Queenstown already. Our flight to get to Queenstown took us over 20+ hours, and we arrived in the early morning. In order to keep us awake as long as possible to adjust to the different time zone, we decided to keep busy. Shotover jets on the Dart River… every tourist seems to do this, but I must admit, it is a must do. Just watch the video!

The kids would have done it five times over. Well worth the drive out here just for the scenery alone.

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Then after the local fish and chip lunch, off to Skyline… beautiful gondola ride up and the best luge rides EVER! I was really panicked that Jason would drive right off the edge.

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  • Jenni Carmon - I am SO excited you are sharing this trip! I am not sure I could do the jetboat ride. I must be a wimp but it looks a little freaky!! The landscapes are sure beautiful!!