We recently caught up with Stephanie Swail, the winner of our photography competition at the grand opening of our STA Travel store in Clapham, London.
Meet Stephanie Swail. She wins amazing competitions.
Stephanie landed herself return flights to New Zealand, for her and a friend, with the opportunity to explore some of the world’s most celebrated landscapes.
Hailing from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Stephanie was in awe of the experiences on offer for her during her trip to New Zealand, noting that, “There’s no traffic in New Zealand!” when comparing it to her homeland!
If the idea of a road trip through New Zealand sounds like your kind of adventure, visit the travelling in New Zealand pages of our website, for the latest deals.
But first, let’s find out how Stephanie got on, when she took her first ever trip to the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’.
Stephanie travels to New Zealand!
Stephanie, from Northern Ireland, landed herself a pair of return tickets to New Zealand, but where would she visit? And who did she take? Read on, for the full story…
How did you hear about the competition?
I received the STA Travel newsletter and heard about the competition there.
Had you ever won anything before? How did you feel?
I’d never won anything before; I was so excited! When I first heard, I received the phone call on the bus and the reception cut out so I didn’t know I’d won!
I got a call back at work and was over the moon. I shouted out and everyone in the office congratulated me and asked if they could come.
Had you ever thought about going to New Zealand before?
I’d always wanted to go, but as I thought the flights would be so long, it had put me off.
My brother had really wanted to go to, as he loves the outdoors. I decided to take my brother for this reason although all of my friends really wanted to go.
New Zealand wasn’t what I expected – it was totally different and so beautiful! I had a friend who lived there before and she raved about and gave me lots of tips. She also told me to go to the South Island, which is why we flew into Christchurch.
So, which route did you go?
After speaking with friends, and other travellers, we decided to travel in the South Island, from Christchurch down to Lake Tekapo, Queenstown. Queenstown is famous for adrenaline sports, I saw a few bungee jumps, but didn’t fancy it.
What were your first impressions?
The scenery was so different from one place to another. For example, driving from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, the contrast between the Canterbury Plains and then the mountains was breathtaking.
Flockhill Rocks left a big impression on Stephanie.
Do you have any amazing memories/funny stories from the trip?
The highlight — undoubtedly— had to be… Doubtful Sound! Whilst there, we got to see penguins, dolphins and go whale-watching. In fact, the first whale-watching trip got cancelled due to bad weather so we went the next day at 6:30am — it was still choppy, so we didn’t know if we’d see anything.
But we saw everything! We sighted lots of whales – the crew were great, and told us how they’re all really different, and every whale has been given a name.
Visit the dolphins of the incredible Kaikoura.
What was the best/worst food/drink you had there?
In Kaikoura, the seafood was amazing – freshly caught seafood, including garlic scallops, yum!
We also went to the café in Te Anu where all of the Lord of the Rings cast used to eat whilst they were filming there. The scenery driving up to a restaurant in Paradise was out of this world. We didn’t have a single bad meal whilst we were out there.
Just some of the stunning landscape photography from Stephanie's prize trip.
Did you pick up any special souvenirs?
We got most of the usually tack, like keyrings and magnets but we also had a special request from our nephews to get the Canterbury sportsgear, including the NZ rugby tops.
Did you meet some nice/memorable people on the trip? Anyone you will keep in touch with?
We met two people from Australia who had sailed over from Oz – they had sailed all the way over and were then sailing all around New Zealand.
We met them at Doubtful Sound and bumped into them again at Fox Glacier. We also met lots of people from Northern Ireland – it’s a small world as we met someone who had a mutual friend back at home.
Do you have any insider tips to give to others planning a trip to New Zealand?
Definitely plan where you are going in advance and do your research before hand. And ask the locals for their recommendations as they know of some incredible places off the beaten track like ‘Paradise’
Also, see NZ in a campervan. We considered it, but ended up staying in B&Bs and hostels. With a campervan it would have been more flexible and you could choose where you go – if your trip gets cancelled (like our first whale watching trip), you can always head off somewhere else or wait around until the next day.
Although some places like Paradise require 4x4s to visit them, which probably aren’t suitable for campers.
The beautiful Closeburn Estate in Otago.
Has this given you the travel bug? Any plans for more travels in the next year? If so, where? With STA Travel?
Absolutely, I’m talking to friends about where we should go to next. We want to go to Brazil; and then visit a friend in Thailand – then explore New Zealand’s North Island.
It all sounds great! Were there any disappointments?
Only one! We booked a helicopter trip to Franz Joseph glacier, but it was cancelled due to the weather, it would have been too dangerous. I guess that’s the downside of only having two weeks, though — no time for second chances.
Has the trip changed your opinion towards the New Zealand?
I would definitely encourage people to go to New Zealand – the landscapes are out of this world and you have to make the most of this life.
What three words would you use to sum up your trip to New Zealand?
‘Trip of a lifetime’, that’s four, but here’s three more… thanks STA Travel!
All Images © Stephanie Swail