Visiting Australia and New Zealand should be on everyone's list and when you find the time for an extended tour call this travel agency. Both countries inherently pose logistical nightmares to getting around - NZ with its mountains and Australia with its great distances. We needed to pick up and drop off a car several times and take a number of domestic flights so we sought local expertise.
Our agent is the person who runs the company and my husband eventually started referring to him as "the genius". He took our ideas and notes and organized a 10-week cohesive trip finding us beautiful inns and lodges with incredible views, recommended the best gourmet restaurants, and sent us on some wonderful wine tours. He also recommended some experiences that we had not considered that were unforgettable - like a visit to Kangaroo Island, and because we are hikers, some areas to explore that provided breathtaking views. But more than that, his integrity and commitment to his clients is foremost in your dealings with him. He stays within budget, resolves issues with suppliers in the background while you continue on your merry way, and if he feels you were not treated fairly, he steps in and offers compensation out of his own pocket.
This agent keeps mostly to conceptual planning and is supported by a team to manage the details. They review your daily itinerary and make arrangements to ease your way - like pre-booking your dinner on days when you have a long drive and will be tired. They call you if a plane is delayed, advise pick-up times for tours etc - with the end result being that you feel completely looked after.
My favorite part of the New Zealand segment of the trip was staying in the lodge on Lake Taupo. It has breathtaking views over the lake, beautifully appointed rooms, and community dining in the evening sharing a gourmet meal with the other guests. There is a little town down the hill when you feel like something different. We used it as a base for 5 days visiting the award-winning Hamilton Gardens, taking a river tour by canoe, going to the Hobbiton Movie Set, visiting the glow-worm caves, and hiking the Tongariro mountain pass. While challenging, the Tongariro Pass is justifiably rated one of the best walks in the world. My daughter renamed it the Mordor walk as it is where these scenes were shot in the Lord of the Rings movies and its strange kaleidoscope of volcanoes, lava fields, crystal blue lakes, quiet forests and most of all the Red Crater are incredible.
Mt favorite part of Australia was Kangaroo Island. It is Australia in miniature with a focus on wildlife, scenery, and good food. My husband loved the hippy dippy town of Byron Bay with its funky shops and restaurants, quiet beaches,and beautiful views. And we both loved diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Their concierge service is comforting for a nervous diver such as myself and their pictures beat ours all to hell. Another great personalized service sourced by our travel agency. The tour company operates out of Port Douglas which was more to our liking than Cairns and has access to the better dive sites.
We researched our trip for over a year so we had a good idea of how we wanted to spend our time. With hindsight I would spend less time north of Auckland and stay even longer around Lake Taupo and the surrounding area. There is so much to see and do and when you want a day off, you could not be in a more beautiful place.
TRAVEL COMPANY COMMENTS:
Katherine was great to work with and had researched a number of unique locations that not many tourists would venture to. We were happy to take up the challenge and assist with such a long trip that included so many diverse activities and adventures. We helped to assist the family throughout, including adjusting arrangements due to missed international flight connections and refunded an excursion in good faith due to weather conditions, even when the operator still went ahead.
Our team would be delighted to assist with Katherine on her next journey Down Under!
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