“The whole world all in one place. When it comes to natural geography New Zealand has it all. ”
We flew into poor old Christchurch, still rebuilding from the 2011 earthquake. We were amazed at the resilience of the locals and how they have coped. A visit will renew your faith for in the human spirit. The South Island of New Zealand is just a picture album which turns the page with virtually every corner you turn. If you are lucky to have good weather you see it at its best and it becomes a photographer's delight. With a national population of over 4 million and heading quickly to 5 million, I am glad we experienced it while it is still unhurried and relaxed. Tourist's are still welcomed as guests by the locals, still happy to help guide and advise you. Sadly the only drawback is that most tourist traps are a bit on the pricey side, especially for families - but on the other side, all seemed to be well maintained and generous in what they offer. There was enough free time in the larger towns and to visit many free museums, galleries and entertainments. The tour included activities were great and have laden us with many happy memories.
Our 16 day Grand Pacific tour of North and South Islands was particularly well run and organised. From the time we joined the tour to the last day at the airport we never handled our luggage. The hotels were as good as could be expected considering the areas explored, we never found cleanliness below par. The final hotel in Auckland, The Calthorpe gives the impression that it is due for a revamp although still clean and warm and extremely well placed at the edge of the CBD. Evening meals were usually buffets style and varied from place to place and occasionally showed a lack of imagination but once or twice surprised. Each island had its own bus and driver/guide and that seemed to work very well, with excellent commentary; although at times the driver had to labour on while our group was relaxing inside.
There are only two things that could be improved for me to reach total satisfaction. As an amateur photographer one of the buses had its windows cleaned only a couple of times on the tour and soon devalued the clarity of some pics. The other bus was immaculate all the time. The other point for me was that in the North Island, time spent travelling in the bus from Wellington to Rotorua was excessive and really needs another day to explore out to Napier and Wairoa. The Bay of Islands was the final area to be enjoyed - and it was. Excellent weather and the catamaran trip made it a great place to visit. The hotel was excellent. I would recommend this trip and consider it to be very reasonably value.