Vivian's Corner
U.S. Areas, Cities, States
Foreign Cities
Foreign Countries
Adventure & Sports
About Us
Yearly Index
Contact Us
New Zealand



On board Air New Zealand enroute to Auckland we came across a feature in "Pacific Wave," the in-flight magazine, entitled "Breakaway" about Inverness, a colonial-style retreat in the heart of the Clevedon Hills, 45 minutes southwest of the country's largest city. We had serendipitously made reservations there for our first two nights. The portrait of the owners, John and Yolanda Robinson, and the hostelry in the article augured well for our visit to this two-island sovereign state.

New Zealand is both civilized and wild, familiar and unknown. Rudyard Kipling called it "the eighth wonder of the world." James Michener said it is "probably the most beautiful place on earth." Even Kiwis, as New Zealanders are referred to, speak about their land as "Godzone" and have been heard to say, "This is Godzone country."

Auckland Harbour, New Zealand

Our introduction to this remarkable destination had come through perusing brochures listing accommodations - country houses, auberges, inns, B and B's and small estates - that are collectively known as lodges. Narrowing the choices to a few was an almost impossible task. There were simply too many appealing ones to choose from, all so perfectly described in pictures and in words. We wanted to explore the North and South Islands from jumping-off points that are centers of the country's variegated landscape. We knew we would discover beauty and more activity to fill our days than could possibly be squeezed into them. But we did not know that we would also find incomparable hospitality. It should have been expected. When so many people open their homes to strangers, they must be eager to welcome them with unusual warmth. Knowing how superior the farmland is, we might also have anticipated that the food would not pale when compared to the world's best tables.

We singled out Inverness because, although we wanted to sightsee in Auckland, the hub of life in the North Island, we wished to sleep and eat in the country, in this case horse country, surrounded by hills, pastures, farms and vineyards. We came as guests of the Robinsons, on whose 90 acres is a stable and riding ring, and left as friends. The big comfortable house was meant for cocktails in front of the living room fireplace, dinner in the inviting dining room and breakfast in the farmstead-like kitchen. Vivacious and energetic Yolanda, a talented cook who puts up jams from the fruits that grow in her orchard, said that she would have served the same dishes (they were wonderful) whether or not we had been present. Instead of waiting on us, she and John shared the meals, a gesture that was much appreciated. John, who plays trumpet in the jazz festival the Robinsons organize every year for 300 neighbors and friends, planted 4,000 vines whose grapes were harvested for the first time in 1997. Visitors drink mostly New Zealand wines from the 1,100-bottle cellar. But who knows, they may soon be imbibing vintages that say, "Bottled by Inverness Estate."

Auckland, set on the shores of two stunning harbours, Waitemata and Manukau, is a place of low hills, wharves and a bay greenly occluded like old jade. Aucklanders' affinity for all that takes place on water - there are more boats per capita than any municipality in the world - explains the appellation, City of Sails. You can take a catamaran, sailboat or ferry to suburbs like Devenport and to many of the 40 islands in the Hauraki Gulf. One of the most popular jaunts is Fullers Ferry to Rangitoto Island. You then get on the Explorer, a road train, for a guided volcanic safari to the peak to take in panoramic views of the entire gulf.

The New Zealand National Maritime Museum, housed inside old buildings surrounded by a small marina, is an evocative celebration of the maritime heritage and the seagoing traditions in this part of the Pacific. The history of boat building, immigration, shipping and racing is skillfully woven together using traditional displays and interactive ones. In addition to an extensive collection of watercraft, there is a steerage cabin that sways and creaks convincingly and a computer database of 100,000 early settlers and the names of the ships and the dates on which they arrived.

The main community for exploring Maori culture is in Rotorua. Since we had not planned to visit there, we were instead introduced to the original population of the island at the Auckland Museum where a wing serves as a repository for Maori treasures and the Pounamu Group puts on a show of songs, dances and games.

Kelly Tarton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World offers a unique chance to explore ocean life from a diver's perspective. The journey starts with a walk through the faithfully recreated and gloomy hut used by Sir Robert Scott on his ill-fated Antarctic expedition in 1910-12 and is followed by a ride in a Snow Cat across the frozen terrain to see a penguin colony. A moving walkway carries you alongside a circular underground tunnel where sharks, sea horses, stingrays and 35 to 40 other species of fish swim.

Parnell, a trendy gentrified neighborhood, has restaurants, cafes and taverns as well as galleries, boutiques and craft shops. Schedule a midday break here for lunch and shopping.


Rangitoto Island Volcanic Explorer, Fullers Cruise Center, Ferry Building, Quay Street. Tel. 09-367-9111. Departs at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.

New Zealand National Maritime Museum, Eastern Viaduct, corner of Quay and Hobson Streets. Tel 09-358-3010. Open summer, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; winter 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Auckland Museum, The Domain. Tel. 09-306-7067. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Maori shows at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Kelly Tarton's, 23 Tamaki Drive. Tel. 800-80-5050, 09-528-0603. Open summer, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; winter 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where To Stay

Inverness Estate, Ness Valley Road, Clevedon, RD5, Papakura. Tel. 09-292-8710, fax 09-292-8714. Rates from $380 per couple including breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and dinner. www.inverness.co.nz

Where To Dine

Iguaçu, located on the main street in Parnell, serves interesting Pacific rim food.

Iguaçu Restaurant and Bar, 269 Parnell Road. Tel. 09-358-4804. Open for lunch and dinner all week from 11 a.m. on, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. on. Brunch served on weekends. Moderate. www.iguacu.co.nz


Woolly For You features attractive New Zealand-made sweaters in wool, mohair and angora.

At Elephant House over 300 craftspeople exhibit their handmade wares in a range of materials: wool, pottery, glass, bone, leather, wood and seashell.

Woolly for You, 237 Parnell Road. Tel. 09-377-5437. Open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; weekends 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Elephant House, 237 Parnell Road. Tel. 09-309-8740. Open weekdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; weekends 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Those who don't mind driving on the left will find motoring in New Zealand surprisingly easy since drivers are very courteous and the road conditions are excellent. The trip from Auckland to Lake Taupo is a leisurely four hours by car and an almost effortless way to take in the exquisite scenery. The route to the central part of the North Island crosses quaint towns like Hamilton and Cambridge, mountains, forests and patchworks of green spanning hues that range from the lightest tints to ones so deep they are almost black.

The resort town of Taupo is splendidly positioned on the northern shore of the lake, facing Tongariro National Park with the distant peaks of the park visible across the sweeping breadth of the water.

Lake Taupo is renowned as the trout fishing capital of the world. On a half-day excursion with Chris Jolly Boats, between lunch and sitting on deck in the sun, we and the other anglers reeled in brown and rainbow trout.

The attractions in the area are diverse and seem endless. You can spend some time at the Wairakei International Golf Course hitting a few balls on the driving range, taking a spin in a cart around the spectacular grounds set in the shadow of the Tongairo Mountains or playing a full round of the game.

You can also participate in some action-packed adventures. At DeBretts Aviation don a bomber jacket, leather cap and goggles for a breathtaking ride in a bright yellow 1930s-style open cockpit G164A biplane. The captain of the two-passenger aircraft carries out a few daring maneuvers as he soars and dips while circling the sky.

Ride the Huka Jet down the Waikato River to the bottom of the commanding Huka Falls. The boat races past sheer cliffs with just centimeters to spare and clouds of rising steam where a hot tributary joins the river, and it does jet turns, 360-degree spins in its own length at a rapid speed. See the Huka Falls from the top by walking across the bridge and along the road to the scenic viewpoints.

Stroll the surrealistic Craters of the Moon in the Wairakei Tourist Park. An almost circular path goes through this geothermal phenomenon of steaming craters and boiling mud pools. Enjoy the thermal waters by visiting Taupo Hot Springs to soak in the outdoor communal pools or smaller private baths, whose temperatures range from "not so hot" to "hottest".

Other possible entertainments include a tour of Prawn Park where geothermally heated water is used to farm prawns and a Waikato River cruise aboard the African Queen.


Chris Jolly Boats, 1 Otupai Street, PO Box 1020. Tel. 07-378-0623, fax 07-378-9458.

Wairakei International Golf Course, State Highway 1 North. Tel. 07-374-8152, fax 07-374-8289.

DeBretts Aviation, Airport Terminal. Tel 800-800-207, fax 07-378-6238.

Huka Jet, Wairakei Tourist Park. Tel. 07-374-8572, 07-374-8016, fax 07-374-8573. Reservations essential.

Craters of the Moon, Wairakei Tourist Park. Open dawn until dusk.

Taupo Hot Springs, State Highway 5, Napier Taupo Highway. Tel. 07-377-6502. Open 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Prawn Park, Huka Falls Road, Wairakei Tourist Park. Tel. 07-374-8474. Hourly tours, summer, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; winter, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The African Queen, Wairakei Park. Tel. 07-374-8338. Departs 10:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Seasonal evening cruises.

Where To Stay

Designed in the contemporary style of a Frank Lloyd Wright house, the magnificent Lake Taupo Lodge is situated high above Acacia Bay. The six-sided structure's sweeping windows offer views of the water and the property's meticulously landscaped gardens. Although there are never more than eight guests in four spacious and beautiful suites, a crackerjack chef prepares extraordinary four-course meals. Proprietors Gary and Shirley Akers are happy to help with arrangements for sightseeing. Because the bedrooms are heated from the ceilings, they may be a bit cool for Americans, so if you're visiting in winter, bring your woollies.

Lake Taupo Lodge, 41 Mapara Road, tel. 07-378-7386, fax 07-377-3226, is a Small Luxury Hotel of the World, 800-525-4800. Rates are $700 per couple including breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and dinner. www.laketaupolodge.co.nz

Where To Dine

The poshest retreat (three suites, 17 rooms) in New Zealand is the world famous Huka Lodge. You need not be an in-house guest to enjoy the rare wines from their handsome cellar - ask for a tour - and the five-course feast beginning at 8 p.m. each evening. Dinner is served family-style. We found it a delightful way to meet other travelers from all over the world.

Although their best dish is steamed prawns with lots of garlic and butter, the chef at Prawn Works Bar & Grill has also dreamed up several unusual ideas for preparing the crustaceans from their own farm.

Huka Lodge, Huka Falls Road, tel. 07-378-5791, fax 07-378-0427, is a member of Relais & Chateaux, the only one in New Zealand, 800-735-2478, and Small Luxury Hotels of the World, 800-525-4800. Very expensive. www.hukalodge.com

Prawn Works Bar & Grill, Prawn Park, Wairakei Park. Tel 07-374-8474. Seasonal hours. Moderately expensive.


The North and South Islands are divided by windy Cook Strait and most visitors cross it on the ferry that shuttles between Wellington and Picton. We chose instead to reach our next destination by flying on New Zealand Link. Like the rest of the country the area is another stretch of paradise and is teeming with outdoor activity; the ones being most in demand are the hikes on the Queen Charlotte Walkway and dolphin watching in the Sound.

Our day-long itinerary combined both. We met our hosts, the Battersbys, in their Picton office. Les navigates the "Dolphin Endeavor, " a high-speed craft, and Zoe, the naturalist guide, points out seals, penguins, orcas and dolphins and hopefully a whale or two. We docked at Motuara Island for a close look at the native birds in the sanctuary and a climb to the site where Captain James Cook claimed New Zealand for King George III. From this summit we could admire the tableau of Cook Strait, the North Island and Queen Charlotte Walkway.

We went on to Ship Cove, stopping briefly in Resolution Bay to call for Carol Teutscher, who sometimes works in tandem with the Battersbys. With boundless enthusiasm, she led our group on a two-hour, four-kilometer trek over a mountain and through a forest, pointing out plants, trees and distant places that could be seen from a lookout.

For the hike, which should only be undertaken by those who are fit, bring sturdy footwear - the trail is muddy - and a warm jacket.

Wine tasting at a vineyard in Marlborough
(Credit: Edwin Fancher)

The Marlborough Wine Region is heralded as a district that produces international award-winning wines. Some 30 vineyards can be found within a short distance of central Blenheim. Almost all of them are open for tastings, sales and tours by special arrangement and some have restaurants or cafes. Even if you are not a serious oenophile, the drive in the countryside is enjoyable and the buildings on the estates are attractive and merit a stop. The Art & Craft Trail, the studios and shops of artists, potters, weavers and carvers, wends through the same roads as the wineries. You can watch craftspeople at work and buy from them directly.


Dolphin Watch Marlborough, next to the Railroad Station, Picton. PO Box 197. Tel. 03-573-8040, fax 03-573-7906. Departures at 8:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Hike can only be combined with morning trip. The well-marked Queen Charlotte Track (our direction was reversed) from Ship Cove to Resolution Bay can be undertaken without a guide. Cougar Line picks people up at Resolution Bay at 3 p.m.

Touring the Marlborough wine region. Pick up one of several maps at the information center. Vineyards are open from 9 or 10 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. Blenheim Information Centre, The Forum, Queen Street. Tel 03-578-9904. Open all week, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where To Stay

Located 15 miles outside of town, Timara Lodge is surrounded by sprawling park-like grounds and has the character of an English country manor. Built in 1923, all the rooms have recently been refurbished. The lustrous wood paneling and one-of-a-kind antiques give the feeling of a lovingly tended estate that has been in the same family for generations. With its tranquil lakeside setting, lap pool, tennis courts, inviting library and lounge and superb cuisine, it is one of the region's best hideaways. Chef Jeremy Jones, who with his wife Sue Goulter manages the establishment, serves memorable meals using New Zealand's best products.

The Hotel d'Urville was reincarnated from a commercial building to one welcoming overnight guests. Formerly the historic Public Trust Building, the hotel has corridors that are lined with heavy metal doors that secured the vaults. Each of nine rooms is individually decorated and makes a strong statement. Although we'd gladly sleep in any of them, we were partial to the Rajah room, displaying Indian artifacts and done in vibrant red silks, and the D'Urville, which is modeled after the captain's quarters on an oceangoing vessel.

Timara Lodge, Dog Point Road, RD2, Blenheim, tel. 03-572-8276, fax 03-572-9191, is a Small Luxury Hotel of the World, 800-525-4800. Rates are $440 per couple plus 12.5 per cent tax and include breakfast, dinner with wine and airport transfers. www.timara.co.nz/expindex.html

Hotel d'Urville, 52 Queen Street, Blenheim. Tel. 03-577-9945, fax 03-577-9946. U.S. reservations, 205-967-7051, fax 205-967-5192. Not all rooms have bathtubs, some have showers only. Rates start at $162. www.durville.com/home


Our next and last stop was in Christchurch, the most quaintly English of all of New Zealand's urban centers. During the five-hour journey on the Coastal Pacific Railroad, we could barely turn away from the windows. The train, which earns its name by following a thin ledge of land pinned between the Pacific Ocean and the coastal mountains for over 100 kilometers, also threads through grape country, salt mountains and river valleys.

Famed for its Gothic architecture, tree-lined streets and appealing parks and gardens, this typical English city with its squares and pedestrian malls is a metropolis that is designed for sightseeing on foot and strolling. It is also a base for exploring the rural attractions of the Canterbury Plains. One of the most touted of the day-long side trips is a classic of rail travel, the TransAlpine Express, which regrettably we did not have time for.

We did, however, drive down the undeveloped and almost deserted Banks Peninsula to Akaroa on winding roads cut into the side of mountains that slope toward the bay, passing sheep, cows, deer and fields of wild hay. The bustling resort town is the site of the French settlement in the South Island; the rues have names like Jolle, Lavaud, Balguerie, Benoit and Pompailler. Visit the Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage and Akaroa Museum, which is furnished like a French colonist's home and has displays of the history of the settlement. Board the M.V. Canterbury Cat for a cruise in the harbour to sight seabirds and mammals. On the return trip you might stop at the Akaroa Winery or Barry's Bay Cheese where cheese is made every other day from October until April.

Punting and the Avon, Christchurch (Credit: Edwin Fancher)

The Christchurch Tramway is a hop off and on again restored vintage trolley car - Hagley Park, New Regent Street and the Botanic Gardens are a few of the 10 points of interest - that loops around The Garden City and includes commentary about its history. The Avon River with its mighty oaks and sweeping willows along the banks winds through the heart of the town and adds considerably to its enchantment and British character. Glide along the river in a punt propelled by a punter dressed in a straw boater and whites. The Christchurch Gondola climbs 1,500 feet above sea level on the side of Mount Cavendish to a crest on the crater rim of an extinct volcano. At the top there are 360-degree views and an audio-visual Time Tunnel Show with some novel features. Spend time at the Arts Centre, a focal point for musicians, performers and artisans who sell their creations. Allot a few hours to visit the Antarctic Centre, a museum where many of the exhibits are interactive and you can experience the awesome beauty of the magical "Great White South."


Coastal Pacific Express. Reservations 800-802-802, fax 800-101-525. Departs Christchurch at 9 a.m. and returns at 6:25 p.m.

Akaroa Museum, 80 Rue Lavaud. Tel. 03-304-7614. Open daily 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

M.V. Caterbury Cat, Akaroa Harbour Cruises, Main Wharf, Beach Road. Tel. 03-304-7641. Cruises depart at 1:30 p.m. all year and also at 11:30 a.m. from November to March.

Barry's Bay Cheese, RD2. Tel. 03-304-5809. Open weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Akaroa Winery, Long Bay Road, Takamatua. Tel. 03-304-8990. Open seven days.

Christchurch Tramway. Board at points of interest. Tel. 03-366-7830. Daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Extended summer hours.

Punting on the Avon, Visitor Centre, corner Worcester Boulevard and Oxford Terrace. Tel. 03-379-9629. Daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting.

Christchurch Gondola, 10 Bridle Path Road. Tel. 03-384-0700. Shuttle from Visitors' Centre or No. 28 Lyttelton bus from Cathedral Square. October to April, 10 a.m. until late; May to September, noon until late.

Arts Centre, 2-28 Worcester Boulevard. Tel. 03-366-0989. Open daily, summer, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; winter, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Antarctic Centre, Orchard Road. Tel. 03-358-9896. Open October to March, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; April to September, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Where To Stay

The Charlotte Jane, built as a grand Victorian family home in 1891 and stripped of its charm when it became a youth hostel, is now an elegant B and B. Moira and Siegfried Lindbauer, he a former yacht builder, took two years to complete the project and spared no expense. To create the most beautiful and romantic inn possible, they focused on every detail. They stripped all the wood, commissioned furniture in antique designs, made new plaster cornices and ceiling roses, improved the heating, opened up the fireplaces and installed bathrooms, some with spa tubs, that are truly spacious. Although visitors come from far away, the locals have discovered that this superior lodge is idyllic for a special overnight.

The Charlotte Jane, 110 Papanui Road. Tel. 03-355-1028, fax 03-355-8882. Rates begin at $140 per room including breakfast. www.charlotte-jane.co.nz

Where To Dine

The best food you might possibly eat in all of New Zealand, but certainly in Christchurch, is at The Sign of the Takahe. Built to look like a small castle, the stone and wooden-beamed interior hung with the shields and coats of arms of English families matches the impressive menu, which includes four-course epicurean dinners paired with appropriate wines. The talented chef has devised some incredible combinations to bring out the best flavors of crayfish, quail, hare, venison, wild boar and lamb.

Cafe de la Mer, the only seafood restaurant in Akaroa, is casual like the other dining spots near the water.

Sign of the Takahe, corner of Summit Road and Dyers Pass Road. Tel. 03-332-4052. Open daily for Devonshire tea, 10 to 11 a.m., 2:30 to 4 p.m.; lunch and dinner. Very expensive. www.signofthetakahe.co.nz

Cafe de la Mer, 71 Beach Road. Tel. 03-304-7656. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; November to March. Open the rest of the year, daily for lunch; dinner, Friday to Wednesday. Inexpensive.


Much of the fine shopping in Christchurch is located at or near the corners of Colombo and Gloucester Streets. Look for jade, black pearls, sheepskins, waxed coats and sweaters intricately designed by Bonz and Coogi.

Shops open daily, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Flying to New Zealand and Fiji

Air New Zealand flies spacious 747s every day from Los Angeles to Auckland and five times weekly to Nadi. Flights to Nadi stop in Honolulu. The airline was given the 1997 Onboard Services Award for the best in-flight entertainment. Business class passengers each have their own private screens. On overseas flights they can watch two cycles of movie programming; 16 films are featured. The seats are among the most roomy in the sky and offer several comfortable adjustments for reclining. Service is superior and food is very adequate. 800-670-9000. www.airnz.co.nz

When To Go

The summer months are December, January and February. Attractions and restaurants usually schedule their longer warm weather hours from November through March.

Where To Stay In Los Angeles

If you are flying from the East Coast and want to overnight at the Los Angeles airport, the Wyndam is the hotel that is closest to the terminals. Although the rooms have the standard look of a motel, the lobby is large and attractive and the accommodations on the concierge floor include a sitting area and special amenities for businesspeople. There is an Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool and a sauna, whirlpool and health club. The Century Cafe, the more casual of the two restaurants, was trying out a new menu when we ate there. The food needs to be improved.

Wyndam Hotel at the Los Angeles Airport, 6225 West Century Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90230. Tel. 800-996-3426, 310-670-9000. Rates are $149 including breakfast on the concierge floor. www.wyndham.com

Fall 1997