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Travel expert Hollie Smith recently enjoyed a thrilling coach journey around New Zealand with Grand Pacific Tours. Check out her top tips for visiting this bucket list destination.
Q What are the key highlights from your trip to New Zealand?
Visiting Hobbiton - the film set for 'The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit' - was one of my main highlights. We had a very knowledgeable and funny tour guide, who told us so much about the set.
The food was an amazing buffet meal that took place inside a hobbit tent, and we also had a drink inside the famous Green Dragon pub. Although I've never watched the films or read the books, I would definitely recommend this as a great day trip for anyone.
Another highlight was Tu Puia Mauri cultural experiences and geothermal valley. We discovered all about the Mauri culture and took part in a welcoming ceremony. The geothermal valley was fascinating and like nothing I've seen before. The night finished with Mauri entertainment including music, dancing, games and a banquet of food and live music.
Q What piece of advice would you give to agents to help them sell Grand Pacific Tours?
The hosts, tour guides and coach drivers offer an incredible service and are highly knowledgeable about all areas of New Zealand. The tours are great value for money, and everything is sorted before you leave. Our luggage was even taken to our room on arrival and then back to the coach on departure.
The coaches are of a very high standard and provide extremely comfortable chairs, lots of leg room, televisions on board and a toilet. You can even upgrade to the ultimate coach tour, for a 'business class on wheels' experience.
Q From your experience, what top three items should a client not travel without when visiting New Zealand?
Rain coat – On some days, we woke up to sunshine and then three hours later it poured with rain. New Zealand is known for experiencing four seasons in one day, and this was definitely the case while I was there.
Camera – New Zealand has the most amazing scenery and landscapes. We visited Waiheke Island and the views at the vineyards were outstanding - definitely a moment to capture on camera.
Pen and paper – There are many different stops and unusual things to do in New Zealand, so it's easy to forget where you've been. A pen and paper came in handy for me to jot down where I visited and what I experienced, as well as anything else I didn't want to forget about.
Q Which three must-do excursions/side trips do you recommend?
Luge ride in Rotorua – One for adrenaline junkies who want to do something totally different. The go-cart/toboggan is a great way to ride down the mountain – but once is just not enough! Try the Sky Swing as well, which hangs 50 metres in the air and reaches speeds of 150mph; the views over Rotorua are spectacular.
Hop-on-hop-off bus in Auckland – A great way to see the city in comfort, stopping off at 17 of Auckland's top attractions. There is an on-board commentary where people can find out about the city and its history. The bus offers discounted tickets to other attractions and a free ferry to Devonport, a small town boasting pretty cafes, restaurants and walking tracks.
Fullers wine tasting tour – The boat over to Waiheke Island is an experience in itself, with amazing views of the city and the island. The tour consists of a selection of different vineyards, including an oil factory/store, which all have their own history and stunning views. We tried some delicious fresh wines and enjoyed a tasty lunch while admiring the magnificent landscape.
Q What are your top tips for visiting the destination?