I’ve been lucky to enjoy an action-packed 6 days to the land of the long white cloud, to New Zealand’s North Island courtesy of Air New Zealand and AAT Kings.
We started off day one enjoying the delights of the Air New Zealand Lounge in Sydney Airport as we waited for our flight to Wellington. Barista-made coffee and breakfast was on offer as well as a place to sit, relax and recharge. For those travelling at other times of day there is also a bar showcasing excellent New Zealand wines. Access is available for all Business Class passengers with Air New Zealand, Airpoints Elite, Gold, Elite Partner and Koru members.
Air New Zealand’s seats to suit system lets the customer choose the best option for their needs on their flight. With competitive seat-only prices, seat + bag, the works and works deluxe, the customer can choose which level of service they require.
With seamless processing through immigration and biosecurity, we arrived in windy Wellington to the warm welcome of Mary and Mike from AAT Kings, our Travel Director and Driver respectively. After being whisked off to the James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor hotel under bright blue skies, we enjoyed the comfort of our 4* star hotel before dinner. The hotel is centrally located just off Lambton Quay with easy lift access to the main shopping street in Wellington and is the hotel used on AAT Kings First Choice tours. We then enjoyed a delectable welcome dinner on the waterfront.
The next day as we enjoyed a fascinating exclusive guided tour of Te Papa Museum, including the spectacular Gallipoli exhibition with huge models of New Zealand soldiers recreated on a giant scale for a moving experience. Mike then drove us smoothly to the peak of Mount Victoria to enjoy 360° views over a wet Wellington with Mary providing an insightful commentary of local kiwi tidbits. Following that a quick visit to the Beehive and other parliamentary buildings before heading on up to Zeelandia, an urban eco-sanctuary, which highlights the efforts of conservationists to protect New Zealand’s unique and incredible flora and fauna.
Day three took us on a journey on the comfortable 53-seater AAT Kings coach through the heart of the North Island to Taupo and Huka Falls before arriving in Rotorua in the afternoon. This smelly geothermal city is overflowing with activities to suit everyone. There are geothermal springs and geysers, numerous cultural Maori sites and adventure activities too. We continued the afternoon luging and ziplining before a marvelous buffet dinner at the Stratosphere restaurant with night-time views over the city. The evening didn’t end there, as we delighted in a tree top walk amongst Rotorua’s redwood trees and the illuminated bespoke creations of the artist David Trubridge. We then checked into the Millennium Hotel, an excellent 4* property right opposite the Polynesian Spa and with rooms overlooking steamy Lake Rotorua.
The next day was all a go. After breakfast we headed to the shorefront for a seaplane flight over the lake and surrounding volcanoes. The scenic flight offered spectacular views over the surrounding area and on a fine day views straight down into nearby volcanic craters. The company also offer flights to the famous and wild White Island. Next up was a thrilling jetboat journey to Mokoia Island where we were guided by two enlightening Maori elders. They led us through the island, telling us the famous love story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai and showing us the local flora and magical birdlife. It was then back to Rotorua and the Te Puia geothermal area for a beautiful buffet lunch including traditionally cooked hangi options. After sating ourselves we were graced with a tour through traditional Maori crafts and spluttering mud pools and geysers. Then came a few hours to relax in the healing waters of the Polynesian Spa before heading out for a cultural evening at the Tamaki Maori Village. Here, led by chief Andy of AAT Kings, we were welcomed by Tamaki to enjoy a concert and an authentic Maori hangi. This is a highlight dinner offered on all tours heading through Rotorua.
After a good rest, we headed North on the next day to the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata. Here, we discovered Middle-Earth in a picturesque setting on a two-hour guided tour. This is offered on most of AAT Kings Guided Holidays as an optional extra from Rotorua and is a must for any Lord of the Rings fan. Following a complimentary cider at the Dragon’s Inn, we continued in our coach to Auckland. Here we stayed at the VR Queen Street hotel, a 3 ½ * property offered on Best Buys tours. The hotel is conveniently located on Queen Street and offers small kitchens in the rooms. This evening we had our farewell dinner overlooking the Harbour.
The next morning there was time for a quick trip up Skytower for 360° views over Auckland and a bit of free time to wander Auckland’s streets before being picked up by Mike and taken to the airport for our return flight to Sydney, courtesy of Air New Zealand.
The trip was a marvelous insight into what AAT Kings and New Zealand has to offer and a fantastic product for those wanting to get the best out of a New Zealand tour. The food was fantastic and with different service levels to suit different budgets and travel styles, AAT Kings is a great option for many people.
I look forward to helping you with any enquiries, Chloe Thompson
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