Reviews of The South Island's Ultimate Day Hikes

5

Gail and Jeff Summit

Boston, MA, USA
04 Jan 2023

Gail and I had a wonderful three weeks traveling on the South Island of New Zealand. First Light Travel did an amazing job. We worked with a number of their agents and they listened carefully about the kind of trip we wanted: opportunities to do a lot of hiking, seeing a lot of the South Island but not driving every day and basing ourselves in good areas for exploring. They put together a thoughtful schedule and we were booked into great, comfortable places and all arrangements were conveyed to us very clearly. When we had questions, the agents responded to us quickly and with helpful information. 

We recommend them highly and will use them again when we return to New Zealand. 

Jeff Summit, Boston, MA, USA

 


5

Barbara & Michael Bartling, Emily & James Bokern

USA
02 Apr 2020

Hi Amelia,

I just wanted to reach out to you once again to express my appreciation for all you did in making our trip to New Zealand an absolute success. I did write a review on Trip Advisor but I'm not sure I submitted it correctly.

As I'm still on quarantine with time on my hands I thought I would share a few things about our trip that you may use in working with other travelers.

First, we were so grateful that upon arriving in Christchurch you had a driver meet us to take us to our accommodation. After that long flight I'm not so sure we could have figured out the GPS system, how to drive on the opposite side of the road, and get to our hotel without being totally stressed.  Our driver, Norm, was delightful...and we had him the next morning for our trip to the train station. Again, awesome to have had a driver.

The places and accommodations you selected for the four of us were spot on. You had us in lovely towns (or pretty cool remote locations like Waikiwa Bay), close to restaurants as we like walking to dinner when possible.  You picked some amazing houses/apartments, such as the Paparoa Beach Hideaway. What a way to kick off the trip. It was a very cool place.

We tend to lean towards more "off the beaten path" activities but we were so glad you suggested a few guided excursions.  Our Kepler Track heli-hike was a great one. We thoroughly enjoyed spending time with our knowledgeable guide Becs. We learned so much and had many of our questions answered. It was a delightful day.   Luck was with us when your office rescheduled our Southern Discoveries Milford Sound tour to a Trips & Tramps tour. We again learned so much from our guide. Plus he made several stops for short interpretive walks and afternoon tea at a lovely picnic area.  Another great day. Thank you for encouraging us to include a few guided tours.

To accommodate our "off the beaten path" natures, we purchased a book titled "NZ Frenzy" by Scott Cook.  The South Island edition breaks the island down by region and then lists and describes the top tourist attractions, well known second tier must sees and his favorite obscurities along with an "Obscure -O-Meter". We did his "Don't Miss" suggestions and had a blast exploring some of his obscure hikes.  Cannibal Bay in the Catlins with its sea lions was a treat, as well as a hike into Glacier Burn Valley near Wanaka. His book was a perfect resource for us.

One item for you to note is that we learned the Rippon Winery in Wanaka is by appointment only.  We opted for an obscure walk instead!

Funny story. The guides for our kayak in Akaroa were from our home state of Wisconsin. One of the guides is from a town only 45 minutes from our home! And in the summer he leads kayak trips on Lake Superior for the company we used for our kayak/camping trip a few years ago.  Small world! Great sea kayak trip; the guides were extremely knowledgeable about the area, history, geology, bird and marine life. 

The highlight of our trip was the overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound.  We were lucky enough to have good weather. The cruise was nothing like I had expected.  The ship was large, the rooms and beds were comfortable, the food was delicious and plentiful, and the Nature guide was impressive.  The water, scenery, stars and sunrise were beautiful to experience. Having done this first made Milford Sound seem small and extremely commercialized!   

Lastly I want to give a shout out to First Light Travel.  We called the office twice, both times on the weekend. The gentleman/men who answered the calls were extremely helpful. Our first call had to do with the Milford Sound bus transport issue.  Within minutes he had it resolved and before he could call us back with an update we already had an email from Trips & Tramps confirming our morning van pickup. Our second call was in regards to the US issuing a travel level 4 warning to return home immediately.  The Bokerns were quite stressed over this and the travel consultant they talked with in your office did a great job of calming their fears, talking through our options and giving sound advice. Your email response, though you were out of the office, was greatly appreciated as well.  We put our concerns aside and did another obscure hike near the Rob Roy track!

We had a fabulous trip...tramped over 200km, drove over 3000km, experienced the South Island from end to end and side to side. Thank you again for being part of our adventure.

Warmest regards,

Barbara & Michael Bartling, Emily & James Bokern - USA


5

Judith & Michael Phillpott

Australia
01 Oct 2019

First Light Travel should be your first and only option when planning a holiday in New Zealand. These guys are professional and know exactly what to do and how long to stay in each of your locations. Great attentive staff, especially Christine.

Judith & Michael Phillpott -  Australia


5

Valerie & Jere Jackson

United States of America
01 Apr 2019

We give FirstLight the highest ratings possible. Our detailed itinerary was perfect & included driving times that were within 5-10 min of our planned schedule!! Our consultant  really listened to us & responded promptly to our questions & her suggestions were extremely helpful. First Light Travel made our trip a truly unforgettable, wonderful experience.

We strongly recommend First Light Travel.

Valerie & Jere Jackson  - United States of America


5

Andrew & Bonnie Harpel

United States of America
03 Mar 2019

We did some shopping around with different travel companies when we first started planning our trip to New Zealand, and First Light Travel was the most responsive and helpful. They helped us put together a trip full of exactly the activities we wanted to do. The result was the most amazing vacation we had ever been on. Future vacations are going to have a hard time living up to this one. Having all of our bookings and travel details taken care of made everything super convenient and easy. Thank you so much for helping us take our dream vacation!

Andrew & Bonnie Harpel – United States of America


5

Marian & Robert Klein

USA
24 Feb 2019

First Light Travel and Deb Evans planned a perfect three week trip for my husband and me. She totally understood both our activity preferences and our level for hotels. We are hikers and it was a complex itinerary,we covered lots of area and activities. Her suggestions were awesome. It was one of the best trips we've taken. I feel we got great value for the cost. (picture is summit McKinnon Pass)

Marian & Robert Klein - USA


5

Maureen Hutson and John Chase

Canada
13 Feb 2019

We put this trip together very quickly only two months before, thanks to Rhodri’s itinerary suggestions and the arrangements he was able to make for us.  We felt very lucky about this as we were aware we had left it very late.  Rhodri found us good flight connections and great accommodations throughout New Zealand that were beautiful and yet connected to the local people and the surrounding environs.  My husband and I had requested an active trip and Rhodri delivered a variety of experiences for us so that we had a fabulous time.  We travelled for 16 days and did and saw a lot, giving us a very good appreciation for all that New Zealand has to offer.  Highlights include the Glow Worms Cave in Waitomo, hiking the Tongariro Crossing on a perfect sunny day, hiking along the Queen Charlotte Track after a water taxi ride on the Marlborough Sound out to the trail, kayaking both on a river in Havelock as well as on the ocean in Kaikoura, and the days we spent based in Queenstown.  From that beautiful city we did an excellent day trip out to Milford Sound and a day hike on the Routeburn Track, and very much enjoyed a “down day” where we cruised on a beautiful lake to Mt. Nicholas Farm where we learned about sheep farming followed by a 14 km cycle to Walter Peak sheep station where we partook of an incredible barbecue lunch.  All of our day trips were well-arranged for us and we just showed up and enjoyed the activity.  Many activities were guided, but we did a few on our own as well.  We added in a trip to the Redwoods in Rotorua, a stop at Waiotapu for the geothermal area and did some impromptu hikes in other areas including beautiful Akaroa.  Also a stop at a winery for lunch outside of Blenheim.  First Light Travel and Rhodri were so very easy to deal with and created a wonderful memorable trip for us.  When we needed to change the itinerary  to allow one more day, Rhodri was able to quickly do so.  He was very responsive to my emails.  Our flight arrangements were smooth, the accommodations were nicely appointed and well located, and the car rental went well.  It seems that everywhere we showed up, whether for a rental car, activity tour, ferry ride or the bed and breakfasts and small hotels, people were expecting us and made us feel welcome. 

We costed out the trip at the end and our calculations showed that we actually saved a few hundred dollars by booking with First Light Travel, rather than booking things separately ourselves.  My husband and I highly recommend First Light for anyone considering a New Zealand trip.

Maureen Hutson and John Chase - Canada


5

Linda & William Stuchal

Cleveland, Ohio
28 Nov 2017

Chrissy Sun planned a perfect trip for us to New Zealand. She built an itinerary based on our likes of hiking and beautiful scenery. She arranged all transportation within New Zealand, every car, train , plane and boat ride. It was so easy to just hand the voucher to the agent or hotel reception clerk and off we went. We thought this was a once in a lifetime trip but would love to go back. Kudos to Chrissy Sun for helping us have a great holiday.

Linda & William Stuchal - Cleveland, Ohio


5

Nick and Joel Trent 

USA
15 Oct 2013

Thanks Chrissy for organising our holiday and for all of your help with the trip, New Zealand is an awesome place and we are keen to go back in the near future.

Thanks Again! 

Nick and Joel Trent 


5

Julie Baher & Family

USA
20 Jan 2016

Kasey, Thank you for planning a wonderful trip for us. It was absolutely amazing and we had great weather too! Here are a bunch of pics of us having fun on our trip . We will be sure to refer you to folks we know because you provided Wonderful service and very efficient, even with the time zone difference!!

Julie Baher & Family - USA



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