We were on a Princess excursion to Ballarat Wildlife park and Sovereign Hill. Disembarkation was streamline with no issues. **I do want to mention here that when you get off in Australia and especially in New Zealand you do need to take a photo ID. The local security does check them. The ride was about 1 1/2 hrs. We stopped at Ballarat park first, which didn't look like much from the outside. They had kangaroos jumping about which was a shock so people are bunched up at the gate, you can go further in to get better pictures, they're everywhere. We only had a short time there. They also had one of the staff holding a koala bear, where everyone could get pictures with it.
We then went to the Gold Museum and Sovereign Hill, which is a old gold mining town recreated. We're not museum people so sailed through that and headed across the way to Sovereign Hill. We went for food right away and bought a couple of Aussie Pie's at a bakery. Very good. Then you just wander around looking at the different shops. They do have some events that take place, just look at your map. We paid extra for the mine tour, which took us down into the mine. It was very informative but rather dark. I wouldn't recommend it for small children. The time here was longer, but you have the drive back so it is limited.
Dunedin; The port is quite away from the town. We hired another private company - Author's Tours. We were picked up from the dock and drove to town. He took us right away to the train station. It had some very nice tile work and stained glass windows. He (Arthur) didn't seem to be in any hurry, which was strange, because we're used to hurrying around to see all we can in our limited time. We had chosen Olveston historical house, which was fun to see since it is in original condition furniture & all, and the Speights Brewery Tour. After Olveston house he drove us around neighborhoods showing us old houses vs the new contemporary houses. One or two were ok, but after that we didn't really care anymore. We arrived at the Brewery around 11:00 am so we went to lunch in the cafe. The food was really good and very fast, which turned into a problem cause our brewery tour wasn't until 1:00 pm. (Arthur ate with us and paid for his own lunch.) So we wasted time (again not what we're used to) until our tour. The tour was OK - not great, but you got to sample as much as you want for 1 hr after. Thinking we'd wasted enough time we had a couple of drinks and got on our way. Arthur then drove us to the beach and a look out spot between two houses. On the way down he asked if we liked roses - kind of- he pulled into a driveway - his house! Now we felt a bit awkward. We had to tour the backyard which was full of the things. VERY awkward for us. After that he drove us to the "steepest street in the world" (I did ask to see it) and then back to the ship. I wouldn't recommend Arthurs tours because of the wasted time and the awkwardness. The sights we saw were He liked to talk about past customers a lot too.
Christchurch; We hired "Inside Story" for our tour. This ship docks at Littleton at a working dock, we had to take a free bus into Littleton where Terry met us and started our tour. Christchurch is on the other side of the mountain. We drove to Akaroa 1 1/2 hrs away. The drive was really beautiful. It's a quaint little village by the water. The scenery was spectacular. We had lunch at a little cafe by the side of the road that made gourmet food. Terry had lunch with us (he paid for himself) we drove into Christchurch where he had us meander thorough a park that was beautiful, then drove us downtown and we walked down to the church and back. We really enjoyed Terry he was full of information and very organized and thoughtful. We would highly recommend him.
We used Mount Classic's again but had a few problems. Found out later that they had subcontracted the driver out. He wasn't anything like the day before and we were very frustrated and disappointed. Mount Classics did manage to straighten things out for us, but would double check that they are running the tour and not a sub.