New Zealand’s South Island

Natural, untouched beauty! That’s what New Zealand’s South Island is all about. The South Island is home to the Southern Alps and some great skiing and snow boarding opportunities.

Christchurch is the busiest city in the South Island and also offers an international airport, with flights connecting directly to a lot of overseas destinations. The Sumner Beach, Gondola, Avon river and Cashmere hills are the main attractions in Chistchurch. The city centre is always busy with trams running frequently making it a great place to hang out!

Dunedin with it’s Cadbury’s factory and Queenstown with it’s adventure attractions are the other two cities that can’t be missed in the South Island. Queenstown also has bungee jumping opportunities, jet boats and ski dive opportunities. Milford sound tours also leave from Queenstown, and are highly recommended. Stewart island can also be visited by ferries leaving Invercargill.

Most cities in the South Island are well connected by Trans Rail and that’s perhaps the most convenient way to travel. Alternately, rental cars can also be booked and a drive along the West Coast is highly recommended. Getting to the South Island from the North Island is possible by either catching the Interislander ferry from Wellington or a Sounds Air flight from Wellington airport. Domestic flights run by Air New Zealand and other airlines also connect most other cities in the South Island to Wellington.

Online Travel Statistics

The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) released their annual Travelers’ Use of the Internet study in December 2003. The study shows an increase in the number of people using the internet to research and book travel.

TIA found that 30% of the adult U.S. population (63.8 million) consult the web for travel information. These travelers spend (on average) $300 more on travel, and nearly 40% had an annual household income above $75,000.

Online travelers surf to two or more travel websites, spending an average of 37 minutes. They research and compare prices, check schedules and book trips. The number of people actually booking online increased by 8% over 2002 and grew to 42.2 million people in 2003. Within this group of online travelers, 32 million people made travel arrangements exclusively through the internet (a figure expected to grow according to the TIA).

10 million travelers responded to email campaigns, causing the TIA to believe that email campaigns are stimulating unplanned travel.

TIA stated that the top 10 travel websites are:

Yahoo Travel
Cheap Tickets
Hot Wire

If your business supplies lodging, real estate, shopping, recreation, dining, events or tourist related specialty services, it may be wise to place advertisements with these websites. If you are not making full use of the internet for your marketing campaigns you are missing 30% of your potential market.

As online travelers’ habits become more sophisticated you will find them expecting to find and book everything from one location.

MARKETING COORDINATOR and WEBSITE DESIGNER-Radha Khalsa, has extensive experience in the areas of marketing analysis, strategic planning and project management.

Discover Your Back Yard

This past year with the travel budget a little light from the family ski trip we ditched the summer trip to Florida (sorry sis) to instead get to know some old familiar in the neighborhood activities. Well they familiar with me anyway, having grown up visiting these recreational areas several times through out my childhood. We started with the premise of heading to the heart of the hill country and making my mothers house the starting point of our day trips to the great swimming holes of central Texas. With the help of a few web sites and the book Splash Across Texas by Chandra Moira Beal, we found our targets of choice. We decided on Hamilton Pool, Krause Springs, the Guadalupe River, the Comal and Barton Springs as our natural swimming holes of choice.

When the chosen time arrived one Friday night we packed up and headed out of Hot Houston Town for the home base in Austin just off Mopac (Loop 1) Express in Northwest Hills. We put up camp in the 3 spare bedrooms my mom has to offer any wayward member of the clan – after the necessary hugs and greetings and a little obligatory catching up conversations. Bright and early Saturday morning I got up and made my usual trek out to find the best Latte in the hill country. Which quite often is Starbucks, but this time I gave a little place across from the running mecca of Murchison Middle school a try. It was a very pleasant surprise to find a great latte without out all the hype. After a quick haircut at my favorite Haircut Store in Austin, the family set out for Hamilton pool.

When we arrived at Hamilton pool just after noon we found the parking lot had already filled up and they were only letting cars in as others cars left. Seeing that we were the four or fifth car in line we made a u-turn and headed for the little known private swimming hole of Krause Springs.

Due to some great last minute planning and some last minute issues at work we left all the info and maps we downloaded off the internet sitting on my desk at home. So, using my male tracking, I got us in the general vicinity and let my wife ask for directions at the corner gas station for the final fix on our target.

Really, It is Their Backyard

Krause Springs is the back yard playground of Elton and Jane Krause. The Krause’s have taken this beautiful location and opened it to the public slowly building improvements over the years as time and monies allowed.

There are 32 springs throughout the campground which is complete with RV hookups. Two springs feed the 70′ by 20′ swimming pool at a rate of 70 gallons a minute at a temperature of about 70 degrees. The springs never slow down, even during severe drought.
Below the house and man-made spring fed pool is the creek swimming hole, lined with towering cypress trees and a waterfall coming over a cliff covered with ferns.

Krause Springs is west of Austin off of TX 71 and Spur 191 into Spicewood. Take Texas Highway 71 west from Austin, cross the Pedernales River, drive 7 miles, turn right on Spur 191 at the Exxon Station, right on County Road 404 and look for a sign on the left directing you to this private park.

Fallen Grottos – Hamilton Pool

Day two brought us back to Hamilton Pool. We arrived early this time and managed to beat the crowds. The pool and grounds however are never crowded thanks to the effects by the Travis county parks department at the gate. Since the state has taken it over in partnership with Travis County it has turned from a old fashion wild and crazy swimming hole where bikers, frat boys and other rowdies partied to a family conservation and swimming field trip. Hamilton pool is a collapsed grotto with a 45 foot waterfall cascading into the pool basin and empting less than a mile downstream into the Pedernales River. We hiked the Hamilton creek trail and skipped rocks across the Pedernales from the beach.

Day 3 took us to the Guadalupe River – Canoeing down the Guadalupe we rented two inflatable canoes from Jaks after checking several outfitters on our drive up the river road. We got a river map at one of the outfitters in Gruene (pronounced Green by the locals) We trying to find a descent trip for the canoes. Most river outfitters hare rent tubes form the lazy decent of Central Texas’ finest river waters. Everyone was telling us that it would take all day to get where we wanted to go. We kept wondering what their point they were trying to make. The Guadalupe was trip was done in 3 hours, but my daughter quit paddling after 30 minutes, so we decided to call the river experience done for the day. My son managed to negotiate a small dam with a break in it without flipping, so he was bragging about it for days. The real trick was getting all three of us in the other canoe trough the same gap and keeping the drinks in the cooler.

Day Four we did the Schlitterbaun – Well it’s everything you’ve heard about. A big commercial water park nested along side the shortest river in the United States. The Schlitterbaun is different in several respects in that there are three parks in two different locations that you get to by hopping on the convenient Schlitterbaun shuttle. The West Park is different from most I’ve seen in that the water in pumped out of the Comal which is cool and refreshing and that the rides are all tube rides just like the original attraction in New Braunfels the tube shoot at Landa Park. The Master Blaster which has been rated the best water park ride in America for several years in a row was, well a roller coaster with water. We waited in the Master Blaster line for over 2 hours and all for a 90 second thrill. The kids loved the rides and we thoroughly enjoyed the family being together, so some adventure is a little kitsch.

Great American Shopping Adventure On day 5 my wife did the outlet mall shopping tour and my son and I took a different route. It turned out to be a real highlight for my son and I on this trip – the Texas Ski Ranch. The ski ranch has a cable lake that is perfect for beginners and experts alike. The layout gives the rider a perfect opportunity to learn and improve on new skills and tricks. My son and I got to learn how to wake board better without the trouble of getting up at 6 am for 30 minutes of perfect water. At the ski ranch the water was always perfect for wake boarding.

In all, don’t take for granted what you have yet to discover in areas close to home. Just because you pass it every day on the way to work doesn’t mean it is not worth exploring. Get out there and talk to the local outdoor sport shops and outfitters. What you find may just surprise you!