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Magnificent scenic south hits GoSee between eyes in NZ South Island tour

March 30, 2011
Magnificent scenic south hits GoSee between eyes in NZ South Island tour

GoSee's tour to the south of New Zealand's South Island hit us between the eyes. As we headed over Arthurs Pass the spectacular scenery rushed to meet us.

Inquisitive Kea birds met us when we stopped for photographs, looking for anything on offer. GoSee thinks their interest is the result of visitors who ignore the "don't feed" signs.

GoSee particularly wanted to check out the glaciers and the great scenery on the South Island. We spend a couple of nights at the Franz Josef Top 10 park, a great park with many accommodation options. We spent a day exploring the glacier and thanks to Franz Josef Top 10's Richard and Lorraine we discovered the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools for a relaxing soak before dinner.

GoSee visited Fox Glacier and dropped in on old friends Linda and Adrian at the Fox Glacier Holiday Park & Motel. Adrian proudly showed the development and improvements which is coming along nicely.

The beautiful untamed wilderness is breathtaking, fresh and unspoilt.

Franz Josef the town is named after the glacier. From the glacier car park, visitors can hike to a choice of lookout points for a ' big picture' view of this awesome river of ice. If you want to actually make contact with the glacier, take a guided ice walk or a heli-hike. Aerial sightseeing is another option. GoSee would have liked to go on one but the weather was bad that day. In the town there are plenty of places to stay and eat.

This includes authentic Indian food, a buffet, Italian pizza, cooked roast, homemade baking, five course menu or kiwi takeaway.

Alice May Bar Restaurant is well worth a visit and visitors can enjoy the views of the surrounding peaks while they eat. There is a hot pool spa, sooooooo relaxing.

Richard and Lorraine Molloy welcome you to Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park. Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park has a surprising number of accommodation options, ranging from tent and caravan sites, through to a three bedroom motel unit.

They even cater for larger groups, at the Lodge it has seven ensuite units and its own private communal kitchen.

The site has 150 beds, two large kitchens, ablution blocks with heated floors, a laundry, TV room, Internet caf and games room. Qualmark has recognised the modern facilities and dedicated staff with a 5-star Holiday Park rating and a Silver Enviro Award.

Franz Josef Top 10 also won the West Coast of the Southern Alps: Overall Best Visitor Accommodation in 2009. This year they received a Top 10 Holiday Parks: Infinite Innovation Award for the on-site booking website. Staff can now access up-to-the-minute information on activities and make immediate online bookings for guests.

Westland National Park is part of a world heritage area. It is 5 hours drive from Christchurch or Queenstown, four hours from Wanaka and two hours from Greymouth.

Fox Glacier Top 10 Holiday Park
Fox Glacier Top 10 Holiday Park

GoSee found the road to Milford Sound an unforgettable journey into the heart of New Zealand's Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area.

The striking nature of Fiordland is naturally amazing but in terms of human achievement the Homer Tunnel is just as impressive. Hacked from the solid rock the Homer Tunnel was almost 20 years in the making and it is the gateway to Milford Sound.

Here the wharf is the centre of the tourist activity. Cruising the Sound is the popular way to go but there are aircraft which offer aerial options and kayaks allow a waterborn approach to this place of peaks, waterfalls and towering rock cliffs.

The is also an underwater observatory which gives a 'downunder' view. The surface water in Fiordland's Marine Reserves is fresh as the huge volume of freshwater runoff from the mountains forms a permanent layer on top of the salt of the seawater.

In Te Anau the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre is the place to plan walks on the Milford, Routeburn or Kepler Tracks. Apart from hiking, popular local activities include the Te Ana-au glow worm caves. There is a museum which reflects Maori and European history in the region and a wildlife park with native birds.

GoSee found Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park's award winning facilities include information and ticketing for all trips, Go Milford Coach and Cruise, professionally designed children's play ship, Public Spa/Jacuzzi, free gas barbecues and picnic tables, email access including wireless internet hotspot.

Accommodation ranges across tent sites and powered campervan/caravan sites, motel units, self-contained units, studio self contained units, standard cabins, family cabins, ensuite units and lodge accommodation.

Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park is on the shore of Lake Te Anau in the heart of Te Anau Township.

The township of Te Anau is two hours from Queenstown and is the gateway to Fiordland.

Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park can help link guest to the many activities available in the unique Fiordland wilderness region. These include hiking/walking, mountaineering, fishing, kayaking and general sightseeing options to Milford and Doubtful Sounds.

New Zealand's Fiordland region is the place to see conservation in action. Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park supports groundbreaking conservation initiatives which include rare flora and fauna species recovery programs. Take the bus. Travellers can participate and reduce their own impact on the planet by using local alternative transport when they visit the region.

Te Anau attractions and things to see and do include:

Milford Sound Day Trips, Milford Sound Overnight Cruises, Te Anau Glow Worm Caves Tour, Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Te Anau, Walking tracks including Milford Track, Routeburn Track and the Kepler Track, farm tours by horse or quad bike, sea kayaking, excellent fishing, Highride quad bikes, horse trekking, helicopter picnic and Fly jet boating.

Cruise control Milford Sound
Cruise control Milford Sound

Editors Note: Fiordland has high rainfall and the weather can change quickly with snow, high winds and heavy rain all year.

January and February are warmer. In November and December there is still snow on the surrounding mountains. March is more settled with fresh mornings, sunny days and cooler nights. Be prepared for bad weather and carry the appropriate clothing at all times. There are long periods of fine sunny days in summer.

GoSee used a Toyota Aurion V6 from Drive Now Hire Cars for the tour. The Toyota sedan handled the often challenging roads, which include blizzard driving through mud, snow and dirt particularly well.

The Aurion is comfortable, safe and easy on fuel (9.9litres per 100km). The Aurion has driver assist technology which includes stability and traction control.

Heads up: Bad weather and scenic roads can lead to mishaps. Towing costs, should private vehicle need assistance, are high. GoSee was told of a $600 towing retrieval and quickly changed direction to a Go Milford tour bus to visit local attractions.

Local tour  bus handles bad weather
Local tour bus handles bad weather

Kea looks for anything on offer
Kea looks for anything on offer

Southern roads can be a challenge
Southern roads can be a challenge

Underwater observatory view
Underwater observatory view

Franz Josef glacier
Franz Josef glacier