Exploring New Zealand's South Island: A Travel Manager's Journey

Exploring New Zealand's South Island: A Travel Manager's Journey

Hello, fellow travel enthusiasts! As a passionate Personal Travel Manager, I’ve had the privilege of exploring some incredible destinations, but there’s one place that holds a special place in my heart: New Zealand. Today, I’m excited to kick off a series of blog posts about my recent adventure on the South Island of this breathtaking country. I visited the home of my birth in August/September 2023. My travel companions were my husband and his cousin.  This was my husband’s first visit to the South Island.

A photo of an airplanes wing. There are clouds in the sky and a view of snow capped mountains below.

Arriving in Queenstown.

Day 1: Queenstown

The Grand Arrival

My adventure in Queenstown continued to amaze and inspire me at every turn. Today, I had the privilege of experiencing one of the most breathtaking arrivals at an airport—the landing at Queenstown Airport, nestled amidst the majestic Southern Alps.

Queenstown Airport: A Gateway to Beauty

Queenstown Airport is unlike any other I’ve ever encountered. As the plane descended towards the runway, passengers were treated to a mesmerising spectacle. The sight of the snow-capped Southern Alps, bathed in the soft morning light, was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

The Southern Alps are New Zealand’s highest mountain range, and seeing them from above was a surreal experience. The peaks, adorned with pristine white snow, seemed to stretch on endlessly, creating a dramatic and unforgettable backdrop to our arrival.

As we approached Queenstown, the airplane’s wings provided a frame for this natural masterpiece. I couldn’t resist taking photos to capture the moment, though I knew that no photograph could truly do justice to the sheer grandeur of the scene.

The plane glided smoothly onto the runway, and as we disembarked, a rush of crisp alpine air greeted us. The atmosphere was invigorating, and I couldn’t help but take in deep breaths of the fresh mountain air.

This arrival in Queenstown, with the Southern Alps as the backdrop, set the tone for the days ahead—a thrilling adventure in a place where nature’s beauty takes centre stage. Queenstown’s stunning landscapes were ready to be explored, and I couldn’t wait to delve deeper into this alpine paradise.

Snowy Peaks and Skyline Splendour

Queenstown continued to captivate me with its charm and the promise of new adventures. On our first evening, we embarked on an experience that combined breathtaking mountain vistas, culinary delights, and an unforgettable snowy landscape.

The evening began with a ride on the iconic Skyline Gondola. The mountains surrounding Queenstown were blanketed in a pristine layer of snow, turning the landscape into a winter wonderland. The excitement among our group was palpable as we ascended higher and higher, taking in the panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps.

Upon reaching the summit, we disembarked from the gondola, and the first thing that struck us was the crisp mountain air and the incredible silence that only a snowy landscape can provide. It felt like we were in a world of our own, far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

A Window Table with a View

An areal view of Queenstown showing the township and the lake.

The town grew smaller the higher we climbed.

We made our way to the Stratosfare Restaurant, nestled at the top of Bob’s Peak. I’d booked a table with a view for our first dinner in Queenstown, and it didn’t disappoint. We were seated at a magnificent window table overlooking the snow-covered mountains and the glistening lake below.

 The friendly staff had us settled and the wine flowing in no time at all. The view was nothing short of spectacular.

The dinner at Stratosfare was a buffet extravaganza, and seafood lovers like myself were in for a treat. The extensive selection featured freshly caught New Zealand seafood, including succulent crayfish, plump green-lipped mussels, and buttery smoked salmon.

As I indulged in the mouthwatering dishes, I couldn’t help but steal glances at the ever-changing hues of the sky as the sun began its descent. The snowy peaks turned shades of pink and gold, casting a warm glow over the landscape.

This evening at Stratosfare was more than just a meal; it was a sensory journey through the beauty of Queenstown’s alpine wilderness. The combination of the snowy mountain backdrop, the warm ambiance of the restaurant, and the delectable seafood feast made it a truly memorable experience.

The view of snow capped mountains shrouded in cloud as the sun sets.

A table with a view to die for.

As we descended back to Queenstown on the gondola, the starry night sky and the twinkling lights of the town below added a touch of magic to our day. Queenstown’s charm and natural beauty continued to amaze me, and I couldn’t wait to see what the next day had in store on this incredible New Zealand journey. Whether you’re a foodie, an adventurer, or simply seeking stunning landscapes, Queenstown has something for everyone, and I’m here to help you plan your perfect New Zealand getaway.

Day 2: Queenstown – 

Adventure Capital of the World

Queenstown, is often described as the “Adventure Capital of the World”. This vibrant town nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu is famous for its adrenaline-pumping activities.

A photo showing the view of a lake, there are grey clouds in the sky, mountains in the background and a jetty on the left of the picture. On the right you can see a jetty and some buildings. Although it is cloudy the sun is shinning on the water.


Queenstown lives up to its reputation with a plethora of thrilling activities. While I found it easy to  resist the lure of bungee jumping, I know that took the leap from the historic Kawarau Bridge, the world’s first commercial bungee jumping sites a perennial favourite for some travellers. I imagine rush of free-falling with the stunning river gorge below is an experience they will never forget. But as my family will tell you my fear of heights is so extreme I find it impossible to even stand on a chair let alone free fall off a bridge!

For those seeking a more laid-back experience, Queenstown also offers plenty of options. A scenic cruise on Lake Wakatipu or a ride on the Skyline Gondola for panoramic views of the Southern Alps and the Remarkables mountain range are equally breathtaking.  While it was tempting to stay in Queenstown and enjoy some of these great attractions we had arranged to take a 13 hr round trip to Milford Sound.

A snow caped mountain shrouded in cloud.

Every corner we turned revealed another postcard moment.

Fiordland National Park – Majestic Milford Sound Adventure

Today’s adventure took me to the heart of Fiordland National Park, where I embarked on a small group tour (with 22 fellow travellers) to explore the pristine wilderness of this stunning region. Our enthusiastic guide, Do, hails from Norway and quickly became the heart and soul of our journey with her bubbly personality and infectious enthusiasm.

Dense rainforest. The trunk of a tree is in the foreground and the sunlight is filtering from behind the trees.


Fiordland National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of New Zealand’s most iconic natural wonders. Its dramatic landscapes feature towering fjords, lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and crystal-clear lakes. Milford Sound, the jewel of Fiordland, awaited us today.

As we arrived at Milford Sound, often called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” the sheer cliffs, rising dramatically from the water, left us speechless. While we had some rain on the journey to Milford sound, once as we arrived the sky cleared. The weather was kind, offering clear skies and the promise of an unforgettable cruise with the bonus of rain having awoken waterfalls that can only been seen when the weather is wet.

Do introduced us to our boat’s captain, who skilfully navigated the

A photo of Milford Sound. There are small cruising boats on the left of the picture with snow capped mountains in the background. The sky is blue with just a few white clouds. The sunshine reflects on the surface of the lake.

Milford Sound on a perfect day.

fiord while he pointed out hidden waterfalls, seal colonies basking in the sun, and the towering Mitre Peak, which seemed to touch the heavens.

As we sailed closer to Stirling Falls, he shared the Maori legend of the mist that rises from the falls—said to cleanse and rejuvenate the spirits of those who pass through it. We couldn’t resist getting closer, and the misty embrace was invigorating.

A thundering waterfall crashing down the side of a forested mountain in Milford sound.

Stirling Falls.


Our adventure continued with a visit to the fur seal colonies, where we observed these adorable marine mammals in their natural habitat. Our skippers knowledge of their behaviours and life cycles added depth to our appreciation of these charismatic animals.

As our Milford Sound cruise came to an end, the sun bathed the fjord in a warm golden glow, creating a magical atmosphere that will forever be etched in our memories. Do’s infectious enthusiasm and her genuine love for the place made this day trip to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound an unforgettable experience. The drive back to Queenstown brought flurries of snow, giving us the perfect end to a perfect day.

A picture of a towering mountain peak which is covered in snow. The sky is blue and it is sunny. There is a lake in the foreground with a tiny cruising boat.

Milford Sound.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of my New Zealand journey, where I’ll take you to more hidden treasures and breathtaking landscapes. And remember, if you’re dreaming of your own New Zealand adventure, I’m here to create a personalised itinerary that will make it truly fabulous.

Michelle Aitken
Based in Benalla, VIC
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