Updated: Oct 5
I visited New Zealand in March 2019 and after a week with some family friends I started the G Adventures New Zealand Encompassed (North and South Islands) trip. The trip started at Nomads Hostel in Auckland where I met everyone else on the tour and we had a welcome meeting and meal. One of my favourite aspects of this tour is the number of places you get to visit and the activities that are available. It really was an action packed and adventurous three weeks! Although there were many activities that were included in the tour package, there was also a number of optional activities and I’ll try and include the price of those as best I can.
Bay of Islands
Our first destination on the tour after departing from Auckland was the Bay of Islands. The Bay of Islands were beautiful and on arriving we boarded a houseboat which was our home for the night. The houseboat was run by a company called Rock the Boat and they offered a wide range of activities including snorkelling, kayaking and fishing. It was a perfect way to start the trip and it set the adventurous tone for what was to come. My favourite activity was the kayaking which was by far one of the best activities I’ve ever done! We went kayaking at night and we were told there was a surprise awaiting us – what a surprise it was. We got to experience the natural phenomenon – water phosphorescence! There are only a few places in the world where you get to experience water bioluminescence and the Bay of Islands is one of them! The kayak itself and the paddles glow an iridescent green which is caused by millions of tiny Sea Glow Worms – so cool!
In the Bay of Islands there was also the opportunity to skydive. Although I didn’t do it (I let the fear get the better of me!), for those who did they absolutely loved it and the videos looked incredible. The skydive had three price categories but the jump itself cost NZ $299 with the price increasing to NZ $498 if you’d like a video and photos of the jump too.
Raglan was such a cool place! We stayed in a private lodge (Lava Lounge) with stunning views of the sea, spacious rooms and a hot tub too. One of the first activities we did was an included surf lesson which I loved as surfing is always something that I’ve wanted to try. Although tricky at the start it did become easier with practice! Raglan is one of New Zealand’s most popular surf spots and it attracts some of New Zealand’s best surfers. Another activity we did in Raglan was a yoga class. After a busy start to the trip it was good to slow ourselves down and the session was great. Another bonus too was the sunset from our accommodation – it was definitely one of the best sunsets of the trip!
Rotorua was a place in which we learnt so much about the Maori history and culture. We were given a private tour of a historic Maori village where we learnt about Maori traditions, culture and way of life – including learning Maori traditional games and a song! My favourite game was Pukana which we all loved as a group. Our accommodation in Rotorua was a hostel called Rock Solid Backpackers Rotorua which was great – spacious, clean and fun! The main activity I did in Rotorua was visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It is New Zealand’s most colourful geothermal attraction sculpted by thousands of years of volcanic activity. We spent most of the day walking around, exploring and taking photos as a group and managed to see it all just before it started to rain! G Adventures arranged the transport to and from the thermal attraction which made the trip possible as it is located 30 minutes outside of Rotorua.
Whilst in Rotorua I also visited the Hobbiton Movie Set. I had never seen The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit trilogies but nevertheless knew it would be a really cool thing to see. The travel to and from the set and the ticket itself was included in the price which made it really great value. When we arrived we were greeted by our tour guide who took us around the set for about an hour and a half. The majority of the set is still there today which makes you feel as if you are in the movies yourself!
Although we didn’t spend a lot of time in Wellington it was good to experience a city very similar to Auckland but so different to many of the other places we had visited on the tour. After a walk around the city exploring the shops we all got ready for a group dinner at the hostel’s partner restaurant. We were joined by another G Adventures group for some drinking games and a boogie as the restaurant turned bar turned karaoke played some music for us all. We then went to experience a kiwi night out which was so fun! It was at this point though that several members of our group finished their trip so it was great that their last night was spent with us all having a dance and a laugh together.
Abel Tasman National Park
We took an early morning ferry across the scenic Cook Strait to the South Island and went straight to Abel Tasman National Park. We took a water taxi to the middle of the national park to spend the night on a floating hostel boat (aquapackers). As soon as we arrived on the boat we all went for a swim to the nearby beach and enjoyed some dinner cooked by the owners of the boat. The next day we went on a hike in the national park which led us to our next accommodation (Old MacDonalds Farm). That evening we went to a burger restaurant and looked ahead to the next destination – Franz Josef!
Franz Josef was my favourite part of the tour! We stayed at the Rainforest Retreat which was in a great location as well as being a large complex. After little hesitation, I decided to book a place onto the Heli hike option which essentially was the opportunity to ice climb on the Franz Josef glacier, a personal tour around the glacier for the whole day and a helicopter ride to and from the glacier. After learning about glaciers at school I was so excited to be able to not only explore the glacier but also ice climb up it – a tick off my bucket list for sure! After the day on the glacier we spent the evening celebrating St Patrick’s Day with the group which was such a fun evening!
Queenstown is described as the adrenaline capital of the world and I now see why! As I’m not an adrenaline junkie I didn’t do any activities such as bungee jumping but it was super cool to see lots of my tour group do it. Queenstown was a busy place, full of lots of young travellers just like me. If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend taking a cable car up to ‘Skyline Queenstown’ and paying for the ‘Skyline Luge’. Their purpose built Luge carts take you down over 800 metres of banked corners, tunnels and dippers. The price for the Gondola (cable car) and 2 Luge rides is NZ $61.
In Central Otago we all went on a cycle ride together as a group. The landscape was breath-taking with the weathered ancient mountains, alpine herb fields and fast flowing rivers. There were plenty of opportunities to stop for food and drink including stopping off at a local winery – perfect for those wine lovers out there!
We had quite a unique experience in Christchurch – staying in a converted jailhouse! I’d always wanted to visit Christchurch and we had a fantastic tour led by a local tour guide who took us to Christchurch’s most well-known areas and local landmarks. I’d learnt a lot about Christchurch before from my time at school so, like the Franz Josef glacier, it was amazing to see the city with my own eyes and experience life there, albeit for a short time. We were in Christchurch just a few days after the terrorist attack that took place in a local mosque. There was a line of flowers and messages near to the mosque that just kept going, it kept going for miles. It was a deeply emotional experience and one that demonstrated most of all that the community in Christchurch is strong and it will not be broken by terrorism. I’ll always keep the people of Christchurch in my thoughts and will remember what a beautiful, diverse and welcoming place it was.
Kaikoura was one of the last stops of the trip and a place where I managed to tick another activity off my bucket list – flying a plane! Since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to fly a plane at some point in my life. I never thought I’d get the opportunity to but as soon as my tour leader told us the options for the optional activities in Kaikoura, without any hesitation I said yes. It was a once in a lifetime experience for sure and I felt completely safe throughout the whole flight. After the pilot got us into the air he explained how to fly the plane and then he let me have a go. It was more straightforward than I initially thought it would be and mainly involved pulling and pushing a handle to control the motion of the plane and then steering too. The pilot then took control again and we did some tricks in the air including a 360! It was incredible but did make me feel very sick afterwards – hey ho it was worth it!
Overall, I’d highly recommend this G Adventures tour. If you like adventure, putting yourself outside of your comfort zone and trying new things then this tour is perfect for you. I managed to see so much of New Zealand in such a short space of time which is one of the advantages of doing a G Adventures tour – and particularly this one!