A long-haul flight to New Zealand can be made
pleasurable with a glass of wine, while bingewatching
movies on board. And before you
know it, you have arrived at Auckland Airport. On
arrival, we simply walked to Hotel Novotel Auckland
Airport, which is a convenient option. As we were
waiting for the rest of the group to arrive before
beginning the tour, I chose to spend time shopping at
the factory outlets that had great bargains on offer.
We started off with a tour of Hamilton in Waikato
region, the farming region that came in the limelight
after ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbiton’
trilogies. This is a classic example of a Hollywood
movie set turned into a tourist attraction; the story
of ‘Farm to Fame’.
The farm of 1,250 acres was bought by a family
in 1998. Of this area, 12 acres are allotted to The
Hobbiton set. All J R R Tolkien (author of ‘The
Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’) fans make their
way to the east of Matamata to visit the set. I had
the pleasure of chatting with the farm owner, Ian
Alexander, who narrated the amazing story, right
from his first encounter one late afternoon with
the production company, to the evening spend in
the company of cricket legends, playing a game at
the venue. Sir Richard Hadley, Stephen Fleming,
and Therese Walsh were the VIPs at the event.
Our meeting ended with a drink at the
Green Dragon pub.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of the FAM trip was
watching India win the match against Ireland at the
Seddon Park Cricket Ground. We were seated at the
VIP lounge, as arranged by Tourism New Zealand,
and were served amazing wine and unlimited beer
and food. The fun and frolic that we agents indulged
in drew the attention of quite a few people around us.
And among us were a few crazy fans who went out of
their way to get captured on television.
With the experience so far, I had an idea for an
ideal package for honeymooners and families. An
evening tour at the Hobbiton Village, including
dinner, followed by an overnight stay at a farm would
make for an attractive package.
The next morning, we flew to Christchurch in the
Canterbury Region. One thing that stands out here is
the resilience of the Kiwis, following the earthquakes
that shattered the place in 2010 and 2011. Despite
the devastation, the city is getting back on its feet,
regaining its charm.
New Zealand is carving its niche in Gourmet
Tourism. This was evident in the
outstanding experiences of highquality
dining. We had a great sitdown
meal at Curator House, which
highlighted the fresh, local produce.
It is located at walking distance from
the place where punting starts, which
is a great stop to enjoy the beauty of
the garden city with a great dining
experience. We also relished great
Indian food in Hanmer Springs and
seafood at the Kaikoura town. Another
gastronomic delight was a spicy Thai
dinner at a modern restaurant, Spice
Paragon in Christchurch.
Though Queenstown is the capital
of soft adventure, there are quite a lot of adventure
activities that one can engage in at other regions
too. It would be great to soak oneself in the thermal
pools (always offer a two-day pass) and a stay at the
Heritage Hotel. This makes it convenient to visit the
beautiful Marble winery that is a serene setting by
the River Waiau. Visit the highest altitude vineyard
at 297 mtr above sea level and enjoy a meal at The
Tasting Room, with their great wines. I recommend
the 2013 Pinot Noir. A combo of jet boating and
bungee jumping with Thrillseekers for NZD 259 is an
attractive option for adventure-seekers.
After a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Christchurch
and Kaikoura, be prepared to witness the Giant Sperm
Whales. The photographs of these mammoth species
on brochures may be impressive, but getting a few
clicks by yourself is an unprecedented experience. We
even witnessed the dusky dolphins doing a rhythmic
dance in the blue waters, on a beautiful sunny day.
Factor in a good three hours to get a wholesome
If one is only touring the south island, the Maori
cultural experience at Ko Tane near Christchurch
shouldn’t be missed. It is an interactive show in a
perfect forest setting.
The TranzAlpine train in Christchurch, which is
iconic to the city, is back on track. It takes you through
the great walls of street art that disguise the trauma
caused by the earthquake, with colourful patterns.
The Quake City is worth a visit to understand all that
happened during and after the natural disasters. It is
just next to the Re:Start Mall, which is a great concept
of creating a shopping mall out of shipping containers.
Lifestyle stores, groceries, cafes, fashion stores, and
souvenirs are all available here*All pics by Heena Munshaw