I wanted to share my ride report with everyone after receiving great advice and hints here on the forum earlier in the fall before planning the trip. Thanks to all those who helped.
First let me say that my style of riding is to tour and I've managed to rack up some pretty great roads and places since I started riding. Just to name some for reference, I've been to Cape Briton, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Beartooth Pass, Glacier National Park, Colorado Rockies, Canadian Rockies, etc. Let me just say whether we're talking Kootenay or Tucomcari, there's simply no place like southern New Zealand. Best I can describe is it's as if Glacier National Park was the size of a small country.
Since limited on time, we only rode the southern island and tried to cover the best places. The southern island only has 25% of the population so very wide open with mostly sheep farms. I wish I knew more about geology to better explain what's going on there, but in one small country there are ice capped mountains, glaciers, desert , rolling hills, rivers and incredible lakes. The color of the water is astounding. If you've ever been up around Banff or Lake Louise the water takes on an aqua color. In New Zealand the water is this incredible turquoise blue. I'm sure it has to do with minerals.
Before I go further, let's talk basics. It's truly the other side of the world. Only thing south of New Zealand is Antarctica. Oddly enough when the winds are out of the south, it gets cold. It's seasons are the opposite of the US. The warm months are from the end of November and it gets to be summertime in January and February. It's also a day ahead which is weird. It's ski season in July. Getting there takes a lot of flying. Many of the flights go out of LAX and land in Auckland on the North Island. From there you either ride for a day or two to take a ferry to the south island or fly for another hour to Christchurch.
Once there there are numerous tour companies. With most you can take a guided tour with the owners taking you everywhere on bikes and often in a group. They have everything planned out for you and you follow along. Second option is an "Unguided tour" where they make all your reservations and give you a planned route. Third option which is what we did is a "Self" guided tour. You rent the bikes and make your own way. With much planning, it's pretty easy. For one thing there are few roads and most accommodations are on the web.
They speak English there with an accent identical to a British accent unlike their neighbors in Australia which is slightly different. I know you've heard this about a lot of places, but the people there are incredibly nice! No one there is uptight. I mean really really nice. There's one kicker: They drive on the left side just like in the UK or Japan. It's a bit of a learning curve, but it helps being on a bike plus there's no traffic.
It's like riding in Utah as far as traffic so plenty of time to contemplate situations. The problem is you can ride correctly on the roads and then get hit by a bus walking across the street if you let your guard down. Definitely doable though you have to stay focused.
As for the south island, from north to south it has a spine of spectacular mountains. Because of this, the weather patterns can change in a very short distance. The weather on the west side tends to be colder and wet while the east side tends to be warmer and sunnier. Some of the lakes are like a thousand feet deep since many were carved out by glaciers. Also no snakes and I believe no poisonous insects there.
There are these Parrots in the cold regions called Kia's. They're large and smart with a curved beak . I mention this as one of the main precautions when riding there. These parrots love to tear out the rubber gasket around car windshields and love to tear up a vinyl seat on motorcycles. They're aggressive so you have to sometimes cover your seats. Just their claws will damage your seat if they land on them. Everyone thinks they're a big nuisance, but they are protected.
In planning a trip I'd say there are a good dozen "Must ride" or see places to try and cover:
Northern town of Nelson
"West coast" to include Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph (neighboring towns)
Queenstown - Tons of activities here from bungee jumping to hang gliding
Te Anau on the west side which is a launch point to ride to Milford sound. Take a boat tour here and I recommend the Mitre Peak since a small intimate boat.
Mount Cook at the north end of Lake Pukaki.
Food is good all over and typical breakfast is bacon and eggs. If you like coffee, you're big time luck. They make killer espresso drinks including designs with the foam.
So much for the intro. Now for some pics.