When you fly south of the equator in your private plane, the seasons are the opposite of those in the U.S. This makes New Zealand’s South Island (aka, the “Mainland”) the perfect place to visit when you need a cheery escape from the dreary autumn weather. In this land, you’ll find all your ideas of perfection, from snow-topped mountains to seaside paradises to perfect Lord of the Rings-like landscapes (minus the hobbits). After you pick up your luxury car rental and remember to drive on the left side of the road, you’re ready to begin you epic New Zealand, South Island road trip.
Queenstown is the country’s ultimate alpine resort and a great place to start your road trip because of the Queenstown Airport, the hub for flight-seeing on a helicopter or your private charter jet. Head down to Lake Wakatipu and dine on your seafood favorites and then shop for plush sweaters made from merino wool. For an opulent night of rest, follow the shores of Lake Esplanade to the Matakauri Lodge (http://www.matakauri.co.nz/), a boutique lakeside resort that gives incomparable views of Cecil Peak and Remarkables Mountains.
After spending a couple of days in Queenstown, make the 110-mile drive to Te Anau. To get here, follow the banks of Lake Wakatipu south. During your drive, you’ll pass Mossburn, the “deer capital” of New Zealand and the perfect place to stop for lunch if you love a fabulous venison steak.
As you continue south, you’ll find yourself on one the best drives in the world–the Southern Scenic Route (http://www.southernscenicroute.co.nz/). On this road, you’ll pass through forest wonderlands and catch amazing views of waterfalls, lakes, coastlines and fjords. When you arrive at Te Anau, check into the luxury Fiordland Lodge (http://www.fiordlandlodge.co.nz/accommodation/) and enjoy the included three-course evening meal as you take in the views.
Manapouri and Doubtful Sound
Take it easy on the next leg of your journey as you venture 26 miles to Manapouri in the southwest corner of South Island. From this town, take an excursion to Doubtful Sound, which travel-savvy Kiwis favor over Milford Sound. To get to Doubtful Sound, you’ll embark in an hour-long boat ride across Lake Manapouri and then get on a bus (or the transport of your choice). Along the way, you’ll cross the 2,200-foot Wilmot Pass before you see the sound’s glittering waterfalls, penguins, bottlenose dolphins and fur seals.
At night, enjoy some meteor watching in the crystal skies back in Te Anau. Some of the visible meteor showers in the fall include the Piscids throughout September, Orionids throughout October, Leonids between the 14th and 21st of November, alpha-Monocerotids between November 15 and 25 and the Phoenicids at the end of November.
After your retreat at the southwestern tip of the South Island, start the 185-mile drive north to the Otago Peninsula. Along the way, grab some fish and chips and do some whale watching. Some prime viewing locations include Orepuki and Riverton, a fishing villages established in the 1830 by whalers. Then make a detour at the Catlins, an area full of waterfalls, more whales and a petrified forest from the Jurassic era.
The Otago Peninsula is a land where the wildlife is abundant and the landscape untamed. Check into one of the Camp Estates at the Larnach Castle (http://www.larnachcastle.co.nz/), the only castle in the country, and sample the region’s celebrated wines.
The last leg of your road trip has you making the 185-mile drive back the Queensland. If you enjoy wildlife, stop at the Westpac Royal Albatross Centre (http://www.albatross.org.nz/), the world’s only breeding colony for albatross, which have a wingspan of 10-plus feet and a lifespan of over 60 years.
As you make your way back to Queensland, take Portobello Road for a different view and stretch your legs at the central plaza in Octagon. Then get on Routes 6 and 8 to take in views of former gold fields and farmlands. Finally, unwind at The Dairy (http://www.thedairy.co.nz/), a private luxury hotel in Queensland with a rustic, farmhouse charm.
About Solairus Aviation:
Solairus is a US-based private aviation services company whose core business is assisting aircraft owners with the safe, reliable, and efficient management and operation of their aircraft. Our services are customized to meet the client’s individual travel and financial requirements, and to support their flight operation with the highest standards of safety and personalized service, regardless of the location of the aircraft.
Solairus was founded in 2009 and is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area. Solairus has over twenty-five base locations across the United States, Europe and Asia, employing more than two hundred flight crew and support personnel to operate a fleet currently numbering over fifty aircraft. Solairus is an Aviation Research Group/US Platinum-Rated and Wyvern Wingman certified charter operator. Solairus has also received the NBAA Commercial Business Flying Safety Award and is an IS-BAO stage two certified company. Solairus offers a full range of services in addition to aircraft management, which includes aircraft charter sales, aviation support services, and consulting. For more information about Solairus Aviation, visit www.solairus.aero or call 800-359-7861.