The travel company was fantastic to work with for our trip to Australia and New Zealand! I always prefer working with local travel agents (because they know about special experiences that you couldn't find otherwise and because they are there, "on the ground" with you, in case anything comes up during your trip).
Despite the large time difference between Australia and the US, the travel specialist was always available for a quick call during the planning stage of our trip, which made it easy to get quick answers to questions. He was also super patient in answering all my millions of questions (I've very picky!) and if I wanted to swap out tours or had found my own, he was totally okay with it. He was the perfect combination of professional, cheerful and friendly, laid-back, and informative. This was the trip of a lifetime, thanks to all of the travel specialist's careful planning, and I'm so grateful for all his hard work!
While we were in Australia and New Zealand, he also checked on us frequently and let us know if there were any changes to our itinerary; and when I had comments about certain tours or accommodations, he passed those on as well.
One thing that was new this trip was an iphone app that had ALL of our trip information on it, which was so easy and helpful!!
There were so many!
in Australia, Kangaroo Island was the consensus favorite in our family. The travel company arranged for us to stay with a couple in their stunningly beautiful beach house, and they hired a private chef to cook us dinner! The husband, took us out into the shallow water in the evening and we caught (and then threw back) shovel-nosed rays, eagle rays, squid, and other fish, which was really fun. We also cuddled a koala at a sanctuary, and saw numerous kangaroos, koalas, and wallabies in the wild. Our tour of Kangaroo Island (Grant was amazing!) was also so much fun, and we could have spend all day at the "remarkable rocks". We also saw so many beautiful beaches--we're definitely planning to come back someday! The Phillip Island "penguin parade" was also a dream come true--as part of the "ultimate penguin experience" (which I recommend), a small group of 10 of us got to sit on a private beach at sunset and watch the adorable Faerie penguins come out of the water after fishing all day to make their way back to their individual boroughs where they were born.
In New Zealand, the highlight was Queenstown--just so beautiful--and our overnight on the Milford Mariner in Mildford Sound. We also really enjoyed seeing the glow worm caves in Rotorua and the "Hell's Gate" thermal baths. The tour of Waiheke island was also a highlight; we had great fun despite the rainy day!
We did wine tours in both countries (two in New Zealand and two in Australia) and we really enjoyed getting to learn about local wines and wine makers!
I wish in Rotorua we had gone to Waiotapu instead of Hell's Gate, which is really beautiful and like Yellowstone in the US (the guide at Hell's Gate showed us pictures, and we immediately wished we had gone there). We were also really disappointed not to ever see a Kiwi bird (apparently they are nocturnal and very hard to spot, so you have to go to a sanctuary). If we had known this ahead of time (because we love seeing wildlife so much), we would have build into our trip to Rotorua a quick visit to a sanctuary between the thermal baths and the evening Maori dinner experience (which was also fantastic).
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