John & Susan MacKenzie, Custom New Zealand Tour, Travelled on 2nd January 2012
—It was a great introduction to a beautiful and scenic country.
The Fine Tours representative met us at Auckland airport and helped us get our car hire sorted. Driving in New Zealand was easy because of good roads and the lack of traffic! The driving directions were clear, and we were glad of the security of knowing that accommodation was booked and waiting for us.
Our first stop, in Paihia in the Bay of Islands did not disappoint: lovely warm sunny weather and a state-of-the-art motel unit with a dishwasher! We loved the area and would return there if we visit again. Other favourite places on our itinerary included Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook village, Kaikoura and Queenstown. We are keen walkers and were able to do some hiking on a modest level. New Zealand really manage the environment well and paths were well laid out and marked. The drive from Queenstown to Franz Joseph, which promised to be long and arduous, turned out to be breathtaking as we drove beside Lake Wanaka and followed the road up the west coast in sparkling sunshine.
Queenstown was such fun and the enthusiasm for adventure is quite infectious: had we had more time there we would have tried ever more daring activities!
While we were keen to see lots of New Zealand we did find it quite hard sometimes to tear ourselves away from a place we liked, but we were nearly always delighted by the next place, with the possible exception of Rotorua, which we found unattractive and smelling strongly of sulphur!
The motel units varied a lot, but were mostly of a good quality. It would be helpful to know in your information booklet, however, what level of cooking facilities there are: some places, such as Kaikoura had only a microwave, and although there was a BBQ, it would have helped us plan our self-catering a bit in advance to know what was in the unit. Similarly, the farmstay at Lake Tekapo included breakfast, but we didn't know till we got there that they would also provide an evening meal by prior arrangement. This would have been welcome, as the journey there was long and it is some distance from the village. The manager there was really welcoming, and it was a nice homely place to stay.
All our organised trips ran smoothly:the ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton, the Milford Sound cruise, the Shotover Jetboat and the Heli-hike on Franz Joseph glacier were all worth doing. The train journey from Greymouth to Christchurch, on our penultimate day, was a relaxing, informative way to bring our trip to a close: there was commentary along the way and an outside viewing platform on the train which allowed us to get fresh air and take photos.
We liked being in Christchurch, though were saddened to see the earthquake damage, which has made much of the city inaccessible. However the spirit of the people there is wonderful: indeed all the New Zealanders we met were friendly, welcoming and positive. They clearly take a pride in their country also: there was very little litter! We are glad we went with Fine Tours: it was a great introduction to a beautiful and scenic country.
John and Susan MacKenzie
—John & Susan MacKenzie
2 January 2012