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Client Blog: Alison & Colin’s New Zealand adventure

Alison came to me pre-COVID to book a big trip to Canada. After a couple of enforced cancellations, it felt like the trip was not meant to be. She promised to get in touch when the time was right for a long-haul adventure. I was delighted to help her and Colin finally plan their richly deserved, once-in-a-lifetime holiday.


Susan expertly helped us plan a special holiday to Canada in 2020, but the pandemic postponed it, and eventually, it was cancelled. Despite our disappointment, Susan was remarkable. While others faced refund issues, she got us every penny back, and quickly.

Colin was keen to visit New Zealand, and although I hadn't considered it before, I was easily persuaded. It seemed like a perfect alternative adventure to Canada.

I researched and gave Susan a must-see list with some additional stops. She was very patient with my changes and ensured I was happy with the itinerary.

We flew to Auckland via Dubai, and everything went smoothly with no delays and easy transfers, though the flights were long and tiring. I had read up on the immigration rules, so we got through with minimal delay.

Two nights in Auckland were enough to sort out phones, hire cars, and do a bit of sightseeing before our month-long journey.

A visit to the Sky Tower is a must, and the harbour area is beautiful with plenty of places to eat, drink and watch the world go by.

I was initially worried about the amount of driving, but the roads were quiet and well-signposted, making it easy to navigate.

We were lucky on the North Island, receiving a free upgrade to a new Ford Ranger, which Colin loved.

Planning for fuel stops in remote areas was essential, and Google Maps proved to be a helpful assistant.

Some drives were long, but we kept them under five hours. The stunning scenery, especially on the South Island and at Whangārei Falls on the North Island, made it worthwhile. Numerous lay-bys and viewpoints allowed us to soak it all in.

We stayed in a mix of Bella Vista, Court and Quest motels. All were clean, comfortable and met our needs. Quest motels were particularly handy with in-room washing machines, while others had launderettes that could be tricky to access for short stays.

Standout accommodations included one in Pahia right across from the beach, The Lodge at Mount Cook, with its amazing view, and the Quest Motel in Christchurch.

Each city offered a unique experience between visits to smaller towns and villages.


Another lovely waterfront area with standout spots like Shed 23 bar/ restaurant and The Backbencher Gastropub next to the court. We wished for an extra night to visit the Wētā Workshop and explore more of the city. Our hotel, Atura, was ideally situated for the ferry, making it easy to walk with all our luggage after dropping off the hire car.


We loved this city. The Christchurch Gondola offered stunning 360-degree views of Lyttleton Harbour. The tram, with its engaging driver commentary, was perfect for hopping on and off to explore. The food market is a must-visit.


In hindsight, this stop was underwhelming. The journey was long and the reward was minimal. The bay and coastline were beautiful, but it involved more driving than expected. The city felt quite residential. We skipped the penguin sanctuary, which only had two penguins, and the "castle," which was more like a large house on lovely grounds.


One of our favourite stops. This beautiful little city by the lake has it all. We enjoyed the cable car and spent time by the lake. The bars, restaurants and street food were excellent. There are plenty of sporting activities and lake cruises available. Everything was within walking distance of our hotel, even though it was up a very steep hill!

It's impossible to cover all our amazing experiences, but here are our favourites:

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Simply amazing! The caves were breathtaking, the glowworms fascinating and our knowledgeable guide made it memorable. Floating down the underground river, lit only by the glowworms, was truly special.


Colin couldn’t stop smiling 😊. This superb trip was thankfully booked in advance, as many people were turned away. Our guide shared fascinating facts, and while there aren't many Lord of the Rings centres in New Zealand, this one is definitely worth a visit.

Geothermal Park Taupo

It felt like being on another planet; the bubbling mud pits and geysers were spectacular.

Whale Watching in Kaikoura

I've been on these trips before without seeing a thing, but this time was different. We spotted a sperm whale, with dolphins swimming around the boat while an albatross flew overhead. This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. Kaikoura is amazing; if I could move there, I would. The beautiful stretch of beach where waves crash onto the shore was mesmerising, and the main street bustling with cafes and bars added to its charm.

Milford Sound Cruise

Despite the long drive, it's absolutely worth it. The fjord is breathtaking with waterfalls, cliffs, wildlife and glaciers. The cruise extends out onto the open sea. Note: Skip the packed lunch - we opened ours and most of it blew away! We opted to walk in from a mile away instead of parking at the main lot, which turned out to be lovely.

Jet boat in Te Anau

Absolutely exhilarating! It was a thrilling mix of adrenaline on the water and peaceful moments surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Te Anau itself is a charming town where we wished we could have stayed longer. The lake, right in the middle of town, offers plenty of opportunities for walks and other excursions.

Mount Cook

Another long journey, but completely worth it. We were greeted with stunning views on our arrival day, and our bedroom overlooked the majestic mountain. The following day, despite the misty and damp weather, walking up to the glacier viewpoint added to the atmosphere and made the experience unforgettable.

Franz Josef

A charming little town with plenty to offer. We hiked up to the glacier viewpoint from the town, which was a bit of a trek but worth it for the stunning views. The main street was bustling with quaint bars and shops. Additionally, we indulged in a private hot tub experience surrounded by trees and ferns - a perfect way to unwind after our long walk.

TranzAlpine Train

This was the perfect finale to our trip. We opted for first class, and it was a great decision. The scenery was breathtaking, and the hospitality was exceptional with a continuous flow of delicious food and wine. The staff were delightful, offering friendly and informative service throughout the journey.

The Tipsy Oyster

We didn’t eat out much, but The Tipsy Oyster in Pahia was a standout – we went twice in just three nights.

Everywhere we went, people were incredibly friendly and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

This long trip was a first for us, and I wondered if I’d be ready for home before the end. Turns out, I wasn’t – I could have stayed longer; there’s just so much to see and do.

It truly was a trip of a lifetime, and we cherished every moment. Susan was amazing; she put so much effort into making our trip special. Everything ran smoothly, without a hitch. I’d highly recommend her to anyone planning a tailor-made adventure.


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