The Big Tiki (Auckland to Christchurch - Until October 2014) » Review by Angela
I had the best time on this tour, it was the longest vacation I have ever been on (which I am not sure is a sad thing) so I was a little worried about the duration and if it would wear on me but I was not disappointed.
I had a great tour director who is now retired but Sarah Carter you were amazing!
All of the hotels we stayed at were acceptable, even if the tripadvisor reviews say otherwise...I was pretty happy with all of my accomodations, but I did do the single room so if you are willing to sacrifice some privacy and space and share a quad room then the tour becomes even more attractive with it's lower price tag.
There is not a shortage of activities to do as well, the tour starts off mellow in Auckland (which is a pretty big city but I am from a bit city so not my thing, there are great restaurants and bars in the area of the hotel though) Once you get up to Bay of Islands the fun starts. There are swimming with the dolphins, catamaran or visiting the northern most tip of the country while getting in some sand dune boogie boarding and driving on a beach highway. I loved this little beach town, it was relaxed and everyone was super friendly. The bars had live music and some people ended up dancing on the tables.
Once you head back down to Auckland you embark on your journey south, the time will fly by with all of the activities. I did the underwater cave tubing in Waitomo which was amazing, saw some glow worms...but I got a little sick from it...so stock up on your Vitamin C and take care of yourself! Then off to Rotorua where we had some stinky hot springs to soak in, I did zorbing here which was lots of fun as well. I also got to drink vodka out of a tea kettle so that was different. Lake Taupo was our next spot, the lodge here is very strict with not being loud so be respectful because it was a nice place. This is a small sleepy town, so we went on a boat and dressed up in costume for a dinner party followed by some bar hopping.
Spent two days in Wellington, where I was pretty sick and didn't get to explore as much of the city I wanted but it is a artsy town with lots of coffee shops and restaurants and bars to check out. There is a free museum Te Papo which was pretty interesting.
The ferry across the north and south island was a great trip as well, apparently if you want to spend $35 you can get access to their VIP lounge with free wi-fi and bigger lounging couches. The trip is a few hours so I would have done this had I known about it. We also saw some baby orcas on the trip across which was a very cool experience.
So now onto the South Island, which was my favorite part of the trip because of less people and more dramatic landscapes. There are more hot springs to be had in Hamner Springs and this hotel was one of my favorite. Another must do is the fox glacier hike, but only if you have never been on or probably won't be hiking on a glacier...otherwise don't bother. The rain forest lodge where we stayed two nights was a bit smaller and cramped so you might be spending more time outside and hanging out in the bar when staying here. We spent christmas here so we had a great christmas feast and christmas gift exchange which was a very nice touch.
In between Hamner and Fox Glacier we drove through Christchurch which is still devastated from the earthquake a few years ago...it was powerful to visit the city center and see how people are trying to persevere still. So support the local businesses as much as possible and visit the container shop mall. (you will know what it is when you see it, pretty hard to miss)
Now onto Queenstown, four whole nights here...and not a shortage of things to do! I wish I left myself a free day to breathe but I did whitewater rafting, the shotover canyon swing, the Nevis Bungy, Milford Sound Discovery (warning this was an *all day* tour so unless you are committed to spending 10-12 hours where most of it is on the tour bus then don't do it), Minus 5 ice bar. I kind of wish I did something besides the Milford tour since it rained when we went on it but you can't control the weather...only note if it is supposed to rain do something else, it's not like you have a hard time finding an alternative. This is still a pretty small town so you run into many of the tour guides at the bars, fun times though and lots of good eats.
Next to the tiny town of Dunedin, we ended up here on New Years Eve so mostly everything was closed but we still got the Speights Ale factory tour. We ended up doing a bbq in the hotel which has a full kitchen before hitting the bars and bringing in the new year in the town square which had a band and fireworks.
Then off to Lake Oahu, which is in the middle of nowhere and if you have ever seen the movie the Shining has rooms similar to that. I thought it was awesome, much more character...the moose head hanging up in the great room would agree. We had a decent sit down dinner, later that night it was time for a toga party and the bartender was mixing up some fabulous drinks with some stuff he made himself like chai vodka, YUM.
Journey finished up in Christchurch, I was ready for it to be over by then...my poor liver needed a break and I needed some sleep! But it was a great trip with lots to do and being that I went there by myself, I left with about 40 new friends since many people came and went as the shorter tours are part of this big tour so I loved having a mix of new faces from all over the world. If you are going to do this, go big or go home...unless you can come back here easily to see more of this wonderful country but I probably won't for a little while so I wanted to experience as much as I could this one time, and I was not disappointed.
Review written Feb 2013event 0.3