We were a little hesitant to utilize the "independent travel" aspect, as we have always gone as part of a group, or we went on our own. When we couldn't find a guided tour that hit all our "must-do/see" things, I found this travel agency and our travel planner was able to customize our trip. We were given a book of vouchers on arrival which kept us on track. The transportation to excursions and from one location to the next was varied, which we really liked. We rode a coach from auckland to Rotorua, which allowed us to go by the Wiatomo glowworm caves, and also to the Milford sound. We flew from Rotorua to Wellington, rode the ferry from the north to the south island, rode the trains from Picton to Christchurch, and from CC to Greymouth, where we rented a car for the remainder of the trip. The car allowed us to see places on our own which were not part of our itinerary (Pancake Rocks, Fox Glacier, Mount Cook, Glenorchy).
Our travel planner made recommendations that were very helpful and much appreciated. The partner company was very cooperative and helpful when we needed to call them. We arrived in Christchurch the night of the earthquake( a little shaky), and were scheduled to be one the Trans-alpine over to Greymouth the Wednesday after. We knew the Coastal Pacific was out (we had been on that last train in to Christchurch), so were concerned that other railways could be affected. They were able to do the communicating for us and let us know as soon as they found out when the train was operating again. I received an e-mail from our travel planner checking on us in CC. As it turned out, none of our itinerary was altered, but I feel confident that our travel planner and her partners would have handled any changes that were needed. Excellent service and wonderful trip!!
The ferry ride from Wellington to Picton provided some of the most beautiful scenery. We rode the Interislander and were in the Premium Luxury lounge. This was especially good because the day we went there were several school groups on board, adding to the numbers and the activity. Complimentary food and beverages as well as comfortable couches made it especially nice.
We'd never been in a helicopter, so the trip to White Island to visited an active volcano was a real highlight. This was while in Rotorua, which we loved because of all the geothermal activity in the area.
If visiting both islands, I would definitely want to stay longer. We were only able to go for a little over 2 weeks, so there were place we did not see (Dunedin, Coromandel, Stewart Island, northern part on north island). Also, no need for really dressy clothes, as nowhere we went required it.
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