My journey to New Zealand was unlike any other travel experiences I’ve had. For many reasons, not the least of which was a camera crew following us for a week, which was quite fun.
My 30 second elevator pitch on New Zealand would go a little like this.
“It’s like something out of a fairy-tale. Everywhere you turn it looks like a post card! The food, the people, the culture, the landscapes. I can’t think of anywhere else on Earth that has as much depth and diversity in such a small area. I feel like New Zealand is the world’s best kept secret.”
When I left New Zealand, I left a little piece of my heart there and I cannot wait to return.
Getting around the country is by far the easiest traveling I’ve ever done. It’s also part of the fun - planes, trains, boats, and automobiles, they have it all. The airports are quick and painless (so not like airports in the US) and helicopters or seaplanes are aplenty.
We flew from Auckland to Whakatane with Air Chathams into the smallest airport I’d ever seen but it meant we were able to quickly join our helicopter to White Island, an active marine volcano just off the coast of Whakatane. We landed in the crater and then hiked to the acid lake in the center of it, which was unbelievable!
Flying over a smouldering volcano? That’s not something that will leave your memory box anytime soon!
Afterwards we took a boat and cruised around Whale Island, which is home to a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals – there was just so such beauty that it was hard to know where to point the camera.
We finished that day with a private tour of Mataatau, (the house that came home), for my first Māori cultural experience. I wish I could put the emotions into words, but it was deeply moving, and they have so much history and pride in their culture.
New Zealanders believe that the better you take care of visitors, treating them with "Manaakitanga", a special Maori concept of hospitality, which to me feels like a welcoming warmth, genuine concern and lots of laughter, the more you are elevated and revered intrinsically. We could all learn so much from this way of life.
When planning trips for your clients, you need to ensure that there are local guides taking your clients through places like Mataatua. It’s impossible to get these authentic experiences without hearing it from someone who can bring the culture to life for you. It would be like watching a movie with no sound. You could see the beauty, but you’d miss most of the plot.
Kiwis (New Zealanders) are so passionate about, well, pretty much everything! It’s like they add a vibrant paint covering, to an already beautiful scene.
New Zealand does so much right (not least their French Fries and Garlic Aioli!). Their concern for our environment is second to no other country I've visited. Your clients will come home with a renewed love for our planet, and deep seeded guilt about anything plastic!
If you have clients that are wildlife lovers, the Tauranga Bay Explorer cruise
is a must-do! We saw a dolphin, a blue shark and a whale (right beside the boat!). Brandon, our guide and the owner of the company, shared so many wonderful stories about the history of the Bay of Plenty Region. I could have listened to his stories and been on the “look out” for the sea life all day. It’s an all-day excursion that will leave your clients wowed!
For your Hobbit fans, the Hobbiton Movie Set
will be at the top of their list. This tour will not disappoint, just make sure they leave time to enjoy a pint in the “Green Dragon!”. Incredibly, they’ve removed the “cheesiness” I expected from this and created an authentic experience that leaves you feeling like you’ve entered that world.
One of the things I found most fun in New Zealand was racing on the luge at Skyline Rotorua
. Your clients will feel like kids again and it’s easy to do, not hard to manoeuvre, so it is truly fun for the whole family. Also, in Rotorua, you should make sure nature lovers include the Redwoods Tree walk
in their itinerary.
I don’t think I know of any woman that doesn’t want to visit the Spa while on vacay! The Polynesian Spa
is where the geothermal hot springs will provide your clients with, not only a relaxing experience, but an Instagram-able one as well! I LOVED it.
For your families, or just your clients that are young at heart, “roller-balling” at OGO Rotorua is an insane experience! This activity was invented right there in Rotorua and had all of us laughing uncontrollably!
in Rotorua is another authentic Māori experience with knowledgeable local hosts who will tell a story that will captivate everyone. For those clients that seek a truly immersive experience, surprise them by adding a private traditional lunch here – it’s cooked right in front of them in one of the hot springs!
Where do I begin with Abel Tasman National Park? If there is a place on earth that heaven touches, this might be it. I will never forget looking down at the water as we boarded a small boat to leave and seeing the water glitter! It was like someone had poured gold glitter into the ocean and it was just rolling up on shore with the gentle waves. I was mesmerized!
We stayed at Awaroa Lodge
in the National Park and it’s only accessible by boat and a short walk. This was one of my favorite hotels that I visited during the entire experience, and it was amazing to have such an extraordinary view off the balcony. If your clients fancy taking a short walk after dinner, once the sun has completely set, they will be rewarded with glow worms. And the stars. Oh, the stars! It’s like being in a snow globe and an experience I can’t wait to repeat!
Probably the most awe-inspiring experience of the trip was swimming with dolphins in the wild. As an animal lover, I will not do captive dolphin swims as it goes against what I feel is right. But this is unbelievable!
If your clients are animal lovers, you must insist they do this - I promise they will thank you! The trip starts with a quick stop at the Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura
base where you get fitted for your gear and watch a short briefing video. Then a short bus ride later you are on your boat and beginning the quest to find the dusty dolphins.
It can take a while as they have to find a pod that is interested and wants to swim with us, as everything is done on the dolphins’ terms. But when we did find a pod, it honestly rocked my world! The dolphins were swimming and jumping amongst us. You can’t touch them, but one swam right along my arm and three swam together in circles right under me. I will carry vivid memories of this bucket-list activity forever!
Obviously, I have stayed in many, many resorts and hotels. But, by far, my favorite room that I have ever stayed in was the treehouse at Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses
, and I can't wait to help clients experience it too. Laying in your Jacuzzi bath, looking at your fireplace and out enjoying the view of the snow-capped mountains is utterly swoon-worthy.
At Hapuku, no detail goes unnoticed. The treehouse has a wood fireplace with everything you need to start a small fire quickly, heated bathroom floors, candles, luxury robes and slippers, a heated towel rack, a Jacuzzi tub, fresh coffee beans with an automatic grinder and French press, a mini bar stocked with local drinks (lemonade, beer, milk), fresh cookies made daily on-site and windows that open with screens. From the snug seating are at front of the treehouse you look out at the breath-taking snowcapped mountains and through the floor-to-ceiling windows and private rainfall shower at the back, you see the ocean. It is truly the best of both worlds and I will have these images in my heart for a lifetime.
The food in New Zealand is the freshest, everywhere you go. Everything is bright, colorful and there are so many healthy options that taste amazing. There is some great seafood too. The wineries are plentiful too, if you have clients that love their wine. Many of them have been in families for generations, and they love to share their stories with you. They will almost always have food pairings for meals, or tastings.
All in all, I think New Zealand belongs at the top of everyone’s bucket list. I have yet to meet one person that’s visited that doesn’t positively glow when talking about it, and that’s special!