New Zealand Uncovered

 By: Wanda Leas and Collette Vacations

New Zealand is my favorite place in the world. I love to see the wonder in the eyes of those travelers seeing its beauty for the first time. Putting on my tour manager cap, I’d love to show this place to you. Pretend we’re there.

New Zealand is comprised of three major islands. The North Island is more industrial; the South Island is more agricultural; and Stewart Island is more protected due to the large populations of Kiwi, the national bird.

Auckland is a city with countless sights to see: the American Cup Village, Maritime Museum, some art galleries, and the Sky Tower among them. An extinct volcano blends with the landscape here – Mt. Eden.

The Bay of Islands is where the country began; touring Paihia and Waitangi Treaty grounds, you’ll learn how the country got its start. Waitangi is where Captain James Cook and Chiefs of the local Maori tribes signed the Waitangi Treaty, in 1840 blending the two cultures of the British Crown and Maori together. The Treaty is the linchpin of race relations in New Zealand today.

As you set sail for the South Pacific, keep your eyes open for seals, Orca whales, and dolphins playing by our boat. Arriving in the township of Russell, we’ll discover a tranquil place with a romantic setting. Russell wasn’t always this calm; in fact, it was once known as “the hell hole of the Pacific,” as in 1835 it became a magnet for convicts, whalers and drunken sailors.

Our tour moves on to Rotorua, home to mineral springs and many spas. Our scenery shifts, becoming filled with lovely rolling hills and historic, extinct volcanoes. A highlight for many is our visit with a Kiwi family for the night. Travelers love the opportunity to learn all about the culture and daily life of New Zealanders over a warm, homemade dinner.

Until 1865, Auckland was New Zealand’s capital city. Now Wellington holds the title – and much beauty to go with it. Aptly called the San Francisco of the South Pacific, the city is hilly and also windy. Huka Falls is where you’ll find nature at its best, with water that’s clear and turquoise.

Leaving the North Island behind – beauty surrounds and overpowers. Crossing Cook Strait, we enter the South Island. On a clear day, the water sparkles like diamonds dancing on waves. Enter Christchurch – the most English city in New Zealand. A wine tasting is a great way to start our adventure on the South Island. From Blenheim, most of the trek for the day will take us along the South Pacific Ocean.

The next morning, climb aboard the Tranz Alpine Train to ride across the Canterbury Plains, some of the most beautiful farmland in the country. Our train winds up into the Southern Alps, where sheep stations flourish, and pristine rivers of glacier runoff flow through the mountains. The beautiful turquoise of the water against the golden hills and white-capped peaks offers an awe-inspiring sight.

Queenstown welcomes you – the city known as New Zealand’s outdoor adventure capital. If jet boating, paragliding, parasailing or bungee jumping inspires the adventurer inside you, take advantage of the activities offered here. There’s plenty of beauty to entertain those who want to stay grounded, as well. The Queenstown Gardens are lovely; boutique-browsing is a must and there are galleries to check out. The Safari of the Rings is an excellent way to see the surrounding area, including the Remarkable Mountains – where much of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was filmed. The TSS Earnslaw and Walter Peak Farm is a pleasurable way to cruise on Lake Wakatipu. “Middle Earth” comes to life here.

Milford Sound, a breathtaking fjord and a World Heritage Site, is a must-see for anyone visiting New Zealand. Travel around Lake Wakatipu, through farmland, sheep and deer country, stopping for tea on the banks of Lake Te Anau.

Venture through beech forest, stopping at Mirror Lake where I always get this great feeling of wonder at its majestic beauty. Our group walks into a rainforest to take pictures of a hidden secret – the Chasm.

Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand at about 12,000 feet. Our journey to Mount Cook takes us through fruit orchards and vineyard country – where we stop and enjoy a sample.

And the adventures just continue. This tour has the best of New Zealand: Auckland, Bay of Islands, Tongariro National Park, Wellington, the Franz Josef Glacier Region, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Mt. Cook, Christchurch… and so much more. Extinct volcanoes, famous mountain chains that set Academy Award winning scenes, fjords, wildlife, turquoise waters, romantic islands… this is New Zealand.

When it is time to go home, you have so much more than you came with – new friends and many fond memories of an adventure you will never forget. Many people are concerned about the long flight to New Zealand but the only concern you’ll have when its time to leave is how soon it’ll be before you can return.

Contact R and B International Travel and discover New Zealand Uncovered.

Wanda Leas, one of our seasoned Tour Managers, has been a Tour Manager for 25 years. She leads tours to New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, and throughout the USA, has traveled to 28 countries and lived in 25 of them with the USN. She wants to take you on a virtual tour of some of her favorite parts of New Zealand!