A Journal, with Pictures

Blanket Bay Lodge South Island NZ

by on Mar.07, 2020, under Happenings

On Thursday, February 27 we flew from Hawks Bay on the North Island to Auckland and then to Queenstown on the south end of the South Island. We traveled by car an hour to the south end of Lake Lake Wakatipu to the Blanket Bay Lodge. The lodge is a very impressive stone and wood structure overlooking the lake and the Livingston Mountains. Our suite was at the south end of the hotel and had a patio and windows that gave us spectacular great views.

The weather changed our plans for Friday so we moved the day’s activities to Sunday and enjoyed a day of relaxing at the lodge and a visit to the little town of Glenorchy for some shopping and sightseeing in the drizzle. Saturday the weather cooperated so we embarked on our Dart River Jet Boat Wilderness excursion. This included a mini-bus ride through the countryside leading to the rivers entering the south end of the lake, then a hike through the forest and finally a Jet Boat ride up then back down the Dart River. The Jet Boats are fast and bouncy able to travel with only 8 inches draft over the rocky river rapids. We had ponchos but we still got a little wet but the incredible scenery and exciting ride made it worth it.

Sunday was our last day of touring and it was also Joyce’s Birthday. We were picked up in front of the lodge after breakfast by our helicopter for the morning. We lifted off headed across the lake and climbed over the Livingston Mountains, through valleys, over glaciers, traversed the valley to the next range, the Franklin Mountains, and descended into Milford Sound to the beach on the Tasmanian sea. A recent “rain event” washed a large amount of driftwood and a number of boulders onto the beach which made for an interesting walk. We landed on a glacier and the beach for a hike as well as on the side of the mountain overlooking Lake Wakatipu and had a champagne birthday toast. The sites were spectacular, our pilot Rene was great and when we were done we landed back on the east side of the lake at Moonlight lodge the headquarters of a 33000 acre “Sheep Station” (Ranch). One interesting observation was that the glaciers had a red hue, which was caused by ash from the recent fires in Australia. The three-hour helicopter exploration of the South Island mountains was one of the highlights of our trip.

We were met by Paddy our driver/guide at Moonlight lodge and were introduced to John Foster the owner of the sheep station. We then took a tour via a Can-Am ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle). We drove up and down over lots of rugged terrains which is where John raises his sheep. The area is grazing land, native beech forest, lakes, rivers, mining huts, and tracks from the gold mining era. Before lunch, we explored primarily sheep grazing land with panoramic views of the mountains. We then enjoyed a picnic lunch with John and Ginny Foster and his son and grandson as well as Paddy in front of Moonlight lodge which is also John and Ginnys home. In keeping with our entire New Zealand experience, we were welcomed and treated like family in the typical open comfortable sincere style of the people of this beautiful country. We learned a lot about the business of producing fine merino wool, mainly that it includes a lot of hard work and the market for wool is uncertain. After lunch, we reluctantly said our goodbyes to continue our tour. Paddy then took us down the canyon which was a major gold-producing area, with remanents of past mining activity and beautiful clear streams to ford. We swapped vehicles and then toured what was the gold rush town of Arrowtown that is now mostly shops and restaurants for tourist. We then headed back to the Blanket Bay lodge for our last dinner in New Zealand.

In honor of the birthday, the lodge poured champagne for cocktails and since it was a beautiful evening we dined outdoors on the deck with the incredible view we have enjoyed so much. It was another exquisite dinner with another excellent New Zealand wine finished with a birthday cake to cap off a wonderful stay.

 

We had a leisurely morning Monday packing and one last great breakfast served by the outstanding Blanket Bay staff. Our driver picked us up and we were driven back to Queenstown for our flight back to the U.S. through Auckland. This was the fifth trip organized by Tony Huffman for us and again it was another incredible experience. Tony and his associates as well as his partners, in this case, Seasonz in New Zealand, made the trip effortless, absolutely first class with every detail attended to. Our New Zealand experience was one of the best ever, Thanks, Tony.

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