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Goway’s Business Development Manager for Eastern Canada, Sam Cottar, recently returned from a FAM trip to New Zealand, where he got to explore many of the natural and urban highlights of this lovely nation. Here, he answers some questions about his trip and gives agents some advice about selling New Zealand and tips for clients heading to this natural gem of a country.
What cities/places did you visit in New Zealand?
We started in the City of Sails, Auckland. Whilst in Auckland, we visited Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano located in the Hauraki Gulf. En route, we visited the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world, a fern glen, and rugged lava terrain as we made our way to the base of the volcano summit. Afterwards, we did a Bush & Beach Best of Both World’s tour during which we experienced the best sights of Auckland City in the morning combined with an afternoon Wilderness Experience. We also took a 35-minute cruise to Waiheke Island, which is covered in native bush, vineyards, olive groves, and seaside villages fringed by sandy beaches.
Our journey continued into the heart of the Central North Island, taking in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the Hobbiton Movie Set. We also visited Te Puia Thermal Reserve to view mighty geysers, boiling mud pools, and the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute along with a visit to Rainbow Springs, a unique showcase of New Zealand’s flora and fauna including its national icon, a kiwi bird. This was followed by a visit to the Agrodome, a 160ha working-sheep-and-cattle-farm where we were entertained by the world famous sheep show. Following the morning tour, we rode up the Skyline Gondola and had lunch at their restaurant overlooking Rotorua, which was simply superb. We also enjoyed an Evening Hangi & Concert, where we journeyed back in time through the Maori village of Te Tawa Ngahere Pa and feasted on a selection of foods cooked the traditional Maori way on hot stones in an authentic earthen oven.
Our trip also included Queenstown (which reminded me so much of the Canadian Rockies). Here, we enjoyed a return scenic cruise from Queenstown Bay across stunning Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm on the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw (built in 1912, the same year as the Titanic) and also enjoyed a delicious carvery style buffet featuring New Zealand specialties. After dinner, we enjoyed a farm show before returning on board the TSS Earnslaw and enjoying a traditional sing-along around the piano.
Our Queenstown stay also included The Dart River Wilderness Jet, an exhilarating and spectacular journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt. Aspiring National Park. This rich and diverse landscape offers a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, adrenaline filled experiences, and New Zealand’s most exciting jet boat ride along glacier-fed rivers. After this thrilling excursion, we strolled through ancient beech forest, unchanged for over 80 million years, and viewed the scenic backgrounds for many Middle Earth movie scenes. We also got in the driver’s seat with the gravity-fueled Skyline Luge, as we got behind purpose-built Luge carts and rode on over 800m of banked corners, tunnels, and dippers. Once was not enough so we rode it five times. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit Milford Sound due to circumstances beyond our control, but the alternately planned trip to Skippers Canyon was truly one of a kind (it’s featured in the latest Mission: Impossible movie during the climatic helicopter chase).
What was your highlight and why?
Every day of this amazing FAM was a highlight, but I would say my stay in Queenstown was simply spectacular. The breathtaking scenery (it combines the greens of Ireland, the fjords of Norway, and the lakes and mountains of Switzerland), gastronomic food options (highly recommend The Ferg Burger, which is simply the best burger place I’ve ever visited), and a variety of adventure activities made for a fantastic stay. Another memorable experience that will forever be etched in my memory was being made Maori Chief for an evening and interacting with the Maori elders. I also got to do the Haka, which was a very serious experience.
What was your favorite property and why?
They all were centrally-located, good hotels, but the Sky City Hotel in Auckland was perfect in terms of location and facilities that it offered. It’s pretty much walking distance to everything. As well, the Sofitel in Queenstown, which I inspected, is one of the finest deluxe accommodations in the city. Its luxury and boutique value coupled with the central location across Lake Wakatipu makes it very desirable.
What are some interesting excursions or itineraries you would recommend?
I would absolutely recommend visiting the geothermal hot springs in Rotorua and the Maori traditional exchange. For fans of The Lord of the Rings, a trip to Hobbiton is a must. Seeing the Glowworm Caves of Waitomo is another fantastic experience through impressive underground caverns where you get to learn how stalactites, stalagmites and other limestone structures were formed over millions of years. Jet boating on the Dart River and the Skyline Luge in Queenstown are some of the most thrilling experiences for adventure seekers.
Finally, what are your top tips for those visiting (or selling) New Zealand?
Take the time to stay on both the North and South Islands as there is so much to see and visit. New Zealand is the most beautiful country that I have ever visited and I was amazed by its sheer magnificence. I highly recommend adding on Fiji or Tahiti as an extension to your New Zealand vacation as well. The flights are between three and five hours from Auckland.
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