Bay of Islands

I love to travel independently and New Zealand is certainly a wonderful place to explore by yourself, but I also like to socialize with like-minded people and have someone else do the driving once in a while. After a week on the road with Grand Pacific Tours, I can certainly see the appeal of the coach touring lifestyle.

I joined Grand Pacific Tours  (GPT) on a travel agents’ famil tour of the upper North Island and from start to finish we were treated with the same  VIP treatment that our clients get to enjoy on the tours. Our group were a mix of Australian, New Zealand and U.K travel agents, some first timers to New Zealand and some like me wanting to experience the coach touring life.

From the welcome dinner to the farewell on the last night our “Coach Captain” Megan (driver/guide and general knowledge guru) and the team from GPT were on hand to make travel comfortable and hassle free.

We travelled by comfortable, modern 48 seater coach, the same one used on the “Affordable” and “Signature” tours, with ample legroom and reclining seats. We also viewed the “Ultimate” coach to check out the next level in luxury travel – this full size coach is modified to sit just 20 people in business-class comfort.

On arrival at every hotel, our bags were already waiting in our rooms and collected from the door as we left. At every hotel and attraction we were greeted by management and personally welcomed and always had tables reserved for our group at meal times, just as it would be for the GPT guests. All breakfasts and most dinners are included on GPT tours. The quality and quantity of food during the week was excellent – after a few days the groans of “how can we possibly fit in another meal? “ fell on deaf ears so we just put on the stretchy pants and made the most of it.

After a brief tour of Auckland city, our journey took us via Matakohe Kauri museum up to the Bay of Islands where we enjoyed the next three nights at the Scenic Hotel in Paihia.

The following day after an early wake-up call we took the Fullers Great Sights “Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach Day Tour”. Cape Reinga is a magic spot but be warned that this 11-hour tour has around 8 hours on the coach, although the commentary along the way and multiple stops enroute make the day interesting.

In Paihia we also enjoyed the Fullers “Hole in the Rock” cruise – and despite the absence of dolphins that day we loved the cruise and ended with lunch at the beautiful Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell.

I took the extra option of a short helicopter ride over the islands with Salt Air – this is an awesome way to see the Bay of Islands and from the air, the beautiful blue sea and reefs really come alive.

Our next stop was Rotorua and our home for the next two nights was the Sudima hotel, centrally located right by the Polynesian Pools and government gardens.

Did I mention coach tours often begin with an early wake-up call? Next morning we enjoyed an outstanding breakfast buffet at the Skyline gondola and had a few runs on the luge. Afterward, we visited the Agrodome where the farm show and sheep shearing were highly entertaining. From here Velocity City was calling us – for all adrenaline junkies this place is a definite stop. While I got to experience skydiving in the “Freefall Xtreme” the others rated the “Agrojet” and the giant human swing known as the “Swoop” as highlights. While not part of the standard coach tour itinerary this would be somewhere to visit during the free time on tour in Rotorua.

Later we visited Te Puia for the afternoon tour of the carving and weaving schools and kiwi house, followed by Hangi dinner and show including visit to the geothermal area (Te Ra and Te Po combination tour) For many of our group Te Puia was the highlight of the week – the performances from the Te Arawa tribe were very powerful and we had some great entertainment when the ladies from our group showed it is not as easy as it looks to swing a poi and the men were invited on stage to perform a haka that would be unlikely to frighten off any invading tribes.

The hangi buffet dinner with local specialties was another amazing feast and we rolled back on to the bus very satisfied.

On our last day, Lord of the Rings fans were satisfied by the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour near Matamata on the way back to Auckland. Even those that hadn’t seen the movies loved the beautiful countryside and cute recreations of the movie set, and once again we were treated to a buffet lunch following our tour.

With a final farewell dinner back in Auckland it was time to say goodbye to new friends and head back to the real world where I have to carry my own suitcase and make my own breakfast.

As a New Zealander, I felt the tour really showed our country and people at its finest. Thanks to Grand Pacific Tours for this famil opportunity.

Take a look at a few of our recommended Grand Pacific Tours below or see the whole range of Grand Pacific Tours here.

Tags
New Zealand Coach Tours
Michelle Srzich
Submitted by
Michelle
: 18 Jun 2019 (Last updated: 7 Jul 2019)

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