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Napier: Art Deco Capital of the World!

Once a year, the pretty seaside town of Napier in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealands North Island, gets its glad rags on to celebrate the Tremains Art Deco Weekend, in serious 1930’s style.

people enjoying Napier Art Deco Weekender

Art Deco Weekender

The Tremains Art DecoWeekend has just enjoyed its 28th year, drawing over 40,000 people to the town over the five days it runs, with over 200 events, both free and ticketed, for visitors to enjoy.

Lovingly referred to as ‘An extravaganza of elegance’ by The Art Deco Trust, a charity run by over 170 volunteers that is dedicated to preservation, promotion and celebration of the city, the weekend is a chance for people to get dressed up and truly step back in time to celebrate a wonderfully glamourous bygone era.

If you haven’t visited the area you might well ask ‘Why Art Deco? Why Napier? And of course there’s a story behind it…..

On 12 March 1931 an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale ripped through what was then the very small town of Napier on New Zealand’s North Island, killing over 256 people and flattening many of the towns buildings in the two and a half minutes it shook the ground for.

Napier in 1931

Napier in 1931

Any buildings that weren’t destroyed by the quake were quickly ravaged by the fires that spread through the town, and it was not long before Napier, as it had been, completely ceased to exist.

Although a devastating tragedy, the Earthquake did leave a positive mark on the city. As the tectonic plates crashed together they lifted the earth by two metres, and 2000 acres of land emerged from the sea to surround the city, allowing the rebuild to create a much bigger Napier.

Once the initial aftermath had died down, the locals, aided by a very limited amount of financial help for the NZ government, began the job of rebuilding the city, with a remit to ensure that buildings were both safe and modern, and that costs were kept to a minimum.

The style of the times was Art Deco, a style that fit the criteria perfectly with its lack of ornamentation, making it cheap, and much safer than the tall, ornate architecture that was so easily damaged in the quake.

Art Deco Napier

Art Deco Napier

Fast forward 80 odd years, and Napier is now one of the world’s most impressive and well preserved Art Deco capitals in the world. The buildings reflect the sharp, clean lines that the architectural style is so well known for, and theres even a McDeco Macdonalds in the town!

The Tremains Art Deco Festival runs from Thursday to Sunday with a jam packed programme of events running throughout. From guided walking tours around the city, to lessons in how to learn to jitterbug, wonderful steam train rides, and a highlight for many, a vintage car parade through the town.

Visitors can take a great big step back in time, donning some wonderful 1930’s clothes and enjoy a champagne breakfast on the beach, or dress down for the famlous Depression Dinner.

You can learn more about the city from the back seats of a vintage car, chauffer driven by an Art Deco Trust expert, or dust of your dancing shoes and take to the floor to learn to Charleston.  The activities are endless!

The Gatsby picnic on the Sunday afternoon is our absolute favourite event – and its free! You can take supplies and find a spot by the ocean to sit back and take in the atmosphere. There’s even a competition with judges choosing the most impressive tea setting and most elegant gazebo!

The Art Deco Trust do a remarkable job of preserving Napiers heritage, and although this event is their biggest of the year, their 170 volunteers who work for them are busy the whole year round, organising various evens including a new mid winter festival , and daily walking tours around the city. their never short of a pair of hands to lead the popular walking tours that take place daily throughout the year.

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If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, we really recommend adding Hawkes Bay to your ‘must visit’ list, whatever time of year your visiting. Aside from the wonderful Art Deco treat of Napier , the area is a great place to sample some of New Zealands best wines and follow the Hawkes Bay Wine Trail as well as visiting the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony to see the worlds largest Gannet Colony.

Enjoy!

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10 Reasons to Visit the Bay of Islands

images of the Bay of Islands

This month sees the opening of the brand new Waitangi Museum which look set to offer visitors a much more interactive experience than before, and with lots of events and activities planned throughout the year, It’s a definite ‘Must See’ on any trip to New Zealand.

That’s not the only reason to head up North from Auckland though! There are endless ways to fill your days in the Bay of Islands, and here are a few of our favourites…..

You can swim with dolphins

people swimming with dolphins

Swimming with dolphins

It’s one of those things that makes it onto just about all of our bucket lists, and we think there’s no better place to get acquainted with these amazing creatures than in the pristine, sheltered  waters of the pacific ocean in The Bay of Islands. Dolphincruises offer an Eco Experience where you’ll have the chance to cruises out to the many tiny islands in the bay, before taking to the water to swim with bottlenose Dolphins as they play in their natural environment – it’s a pretty special experience!

And if you don’t spot Dolphins on your trip, they’ll give you a ‘go again for free voucher’ for another Eco Dolphin Experience

http://www.dolphincruises.co.nz/

You can visit the new Waitangi Treaty Museum (soon!)

This year marks the 176th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and with the building of a new museum and education centre well underway, and due to open on Waitangi Day this year – the 6th February, there’s more reason than ever to make sure that a trip to New Zealand includes taking in one of the most historically significant sights.

Waitangi Treaty House

Waitangi Treaty House

The treaty of Waitangi is an agreement made back in 1840 between the British Crown and Maori Chiefs to found a nation state and build a government in New Zealand, and a visit to the grounds where the treaty was signed is a must. You can visit the treaty house itself, enjoy the amazing carvings in the Meeting house, and see the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe.

http://www.waitangi.org.nz

You can walk the Cape Brett Walkway

New Zealand has a lot of amazing walks, and this one, voted as one of the top 100 walks in the world, is one of our favourites. It does require a good level of fitness – there are quite a few steep climbs along the way but its well worth it for the 36o degree views across the Bay of Islands when you get to Cape Brett itself. If you don’t fancy walking the whole track (its not a loop so you have to return the same way you came) you can get a water taxi to Cape Brett and walk back, or vice versa, or water taxi in and out and complete some of the shorter walks in the area – you’ll still be able to enjoy the epic views!

http://www.capebrettwalks.co.nz/

https://www.silverfernholidays.com/walking/new-zealand-day-walks/cape-brett-track/

 

You can visit Tane Mahuta in the Waipua Forest

Tane Mahuta Kauri Tree

Tane Mahuta – New Zealand’s largest Kauri tree

Venture up the west coast from Auckland, and just past Dargaville you’ll reach the most famous of all new Zealand’s Kauri Forests, The Waipua Forest, most well known for being home to the country’s largest Kauri Tree,  Tane Mahuta. Over 2000 years old and still growing, the huge tree is known as The King of the Forest, and no wonder. With a diameter of over 4.4 metres, its an impressive sight and well worth a visit. Footprints Waipua will take you on a guided night walk through the forest to see the tress, keeping you entertained with songs telling the history of the trees and story’s regaling the forests spiritual significance.  http://www.northlandnz.com/visit/about-northland/walk-among-the-kauri

You get a sugar rush at the Makana chocolate factory in KeriKeri

A visit to KeriKeri, just North of Paihia wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Makana, a boutique chocolate factory and shop. The huge glass windows mean you can watch the chocolates being handcrafted and there are always samples available to try before you buy. They’re also working on adding a café to the building, so visitors will soon be able to enjoy a whole host of treats, always finished off with a chocolate of course!

From Marlborough Pinot Noir truffles to macadamia butter toffee crunch, the varieties are endless and it’s a great place to go for gifts to take back home (if it makes it that far!) https://www.makana.co.nz/

You can visit the world famous Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa

It’s not very often that we recommend you make a special trip to visit the toilet, but this is an exception! Designed by Frederick Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist who fell in love with New Zealand and moved there in the 1970’s, the loo’s were built by volunteers from the local community using reclaimed materials with an impressive result.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser bathroom

Hundertwasser public toilets
image credit to flikr

The public loo’s are seriously worth a visit – even if you don’t need to spend a penny (worth mentioning that this is a free attraction so even if you do need to spend a penny you won’t need to spend a penny, if you see what we mean!) With a grass roof, beautiful ceramic tiles, windows made from old glass bottles and carefully crafted mosaic tiling and even a living tree integrated into the design, you really have to see it to believe it – we promise you’ll never find another toilet like it. Though while we’re on the subject, the Redwood forest does a pretty good job too! http://www.bay-of-islands-nz.com/hundertwasser.shtml

You can light up your life under the twinkling lights of glow worms at Kawiti caves in KeriKeri

There are several places in New Zealand you can go to see the natural wonder of glow-worms, and if you’re travelling ‘up north’ we really recommend making an effort to add a visit to a cave to your itinerary.

Kawiti caves have been showing visitors the caves for over 50 years and will take you on a 30 minutes guided tour through the twinkly limestone cave system. You’ll have chance to get so close up to the glow worms in their natural environment and learn all about them and how they make their magic lights. http://www.kawiticaves.co.nz/

You can pick up some Possum Merino knitwear to take home.

If you haven’t felt the super soft, snuggly warmth of clothing blended from a mixture of Merino Wool and Possum fur, you’ve been missing out! Bushtail Possum fur has amazing thermal properties that make it 35% warmer than cashmere but the little creatures wreak havoc on native forest and wildlife in New Zealand, and the need to control their numbers led to a whole new industry of incredibly cosy, insulating clothing. Pay a visit to possumtrendz in KeriKeri to stock up on a few wardrobe staples to take home with you. www.possumtrendz.co.nz

You can bike the Twin Coast cycle trail

Those who prefer two wheels to two feet, will thoroughly enjoy a day experiencing New Zealand by bike, and the trail offers easy cycling as it’s mostly flat with wide, open roads so it’s perfect for all abilities and great for families too.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail

Twin Coast Cycle Trail

The trail will eventually stretch right from Opua on the East Coast to Horeke on the West, though some sections are yet to be completed, but a popular day ride is the 14km return trip from Opua (just north of Paihia). You can hire bikes rom the Marina café, and head out at your own pace – enjoy the ride! http://nzcycletrail.com/trails/twin-coast-trail/

You can take to the seas and sail away for the day.

Taking a trip out aboard a custom-built classic ocean racing sloop promises a day out you won’t forget. Phantom Sailing will take you out into the Bay of Islands for a full day (10am-4pm), with lots of opportunity to take the helm and try your hand at sailing, or, if that sounds too much like hard work, you can just sit back and enjoy the views from the deck. After all that hard work (!)hosts Robyn and Rix will prepare you a lovely lunch and you’ll have a chance to spot pods of dolphins, enjoy the pretty coastlines and take a swim in one of the bays. Bliss!  http://www.yachtphantom.com/

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A Weekend Guide to Glenorchy [Guest Post]

Although one of the Silver Fern team heads across to New Zealand every year, and returns with endless ideas and notes for our New Zealand blog, we also love it when someone we know has been and can tell us about their unforgettable New Zealand experiences.

Just recently, a friend of mine, Lisa, bravely left her life in the UK to travel through New Zealand, and had (as we knew she would!) an amazing trip!

Below she shares some of her favourite walks and ideas for how to spend time in Glenorchy, a small settlement nestled on the shores of Lake Wakitipu, just 45 minutes from Queenstown.

Over to you Lisa!…………

After years of feeling like slaves to the system and living to work instead of working to live, my boyfriend and I packed up our lives and headed to the other side of the world for what we hoped would be a life changing trip – we werent disappointed!

We definitely wanted to embrace everything New Zealand had to offer and had read about some of the amazing track walks, one of them being the Routeburn track. So in our converted camper van, we set off from Queenstown towards a small town called Glenorchy. The road follows the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu so you can enjoy stunning views during your drive.

The road to Glenorchy

The road to Glenorchy

Unfortunately, whilst we had experienced cold but bright sunny days, we had overlooked that fact that it was still Winter (late aug) and therefore parts of the track were closed.

Glenorchy is a quaint town with a few cafes, accommodation and an excellent general store. On recommendation of one of the ladies there, it was suggested we head over to Kinloch on the other side of Lake Wakatipu where there is a campsite and pub/inn. We camped out there for the night and cooked our dinner on a makeshift fire on the cobbled beach by the lake whilst enjoying the stunning scenery surrounding us. Simply breathtaking!

Lake Sylvan

Lake Sylvan

Whilst in the area we decided to head to Lake Sylvan, its an easy walk through woodland (about 1.5hrs) so easy terrain (unless wet and muddy) ending up at the lake, again with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Theres a basic DOC campsite there and we did stay the night in our camper van, we were the only ones there (apart from some very elusive deer!) and it snowed lightly overnight so we woke to a winter wonderland!

The Goldmine Track

The Goldmine Track

Whilst enjoying a hearty cooked breakfast at the hotel in Glenorchy that morning, we got chatting to the manager about walks locally and he recommended the Invincible Goldmine track about 20 mins out of town. This track is not for the faint hearted but although steep, is easy underfoot and if you pace yourself its so worth it for the views alone! Id allow a good 3/4 hours depending on your fitness levels and take a pack up with plenty of snacks and water. There was snow underfoot as we neared the top but it was a cold but bright sunny day and we soon warmed up walking uphill (although quickly cooled down again once we stopped for lunch so lots of layers are definitely recommended!).

If walking up a steep mountain is not the sort of walk you enjoy there are several tracks in the area, for all abilities to enjoy and everywhere you look there are mountains aplenty!

If you enjoy walking, the outdoors, bird and wildlife, getting away from it all, off the beaten track then Glenoorchy and Kinloch are not to be missed!

In my opinion, whatever your ability and whatever activity you enjoy doing, New Zealand definitely has something to offer everyone.

Thanks so much for sharing Lisa – and I know your new views from your cottage in Bala in lovely Wales are equally as stunning!

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Destinations – The Holiday & Travel Show

Destinations – The Holiday & Travel Show is taking place at Olympia from the 4th – 7th February and we’re going to be there!

If you haven’t been to the event before, and are planning your next holiday or adventure to New Zealand, or indeed to anywhere in the world, Destinations – The Holiday and Travel Show is definitely worth a visit!

There are over 300 specialist travel companies attending Destinations this year, and we will be on hand throughout the four days to offer inspiration and advice for your holiday to New Zealand.

John (our big boss) will even be taking to the stage at 3.45pm on Sunday the 7th to give a talk on ‘New Zealand – on and off the beaten track’ so if you are visiting the show on the Sunday, make sure to stop by to see him!

Walker in New Zealand

off the beaten track in New Zealand

We have some exclusive complimentary tickets available just visit http://www.destinationsshow.com/london/form/registration and quote code DST72.

We’ll also have a super competition to win a case of New Zealand wine if you come to see us – there’s a reason if ever there was one!

 

See you there!!

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The Best Way to See New Zealand?

A year or so ago, we were looking back through the feedback from our previous guests who had travelled to New Zealand with us, and hit on an idea…………..

What if we could offer some of the best benefits of Independent touring, such as the wonderfully personal, boutique bed & breakfast style accommodations, the ability to get off the beaten track and see the real New Zealand, and the flexibility that self drive offers, but with the additional benefits of group touring?

What if we could offer a small group touring itinerary so our travellers could sit back, relax and enjoy New Zealand without having to worry about navigating around, and could meet and get to know like-minded people but without being on a coach with 40 other people and the limitations that that brings?

So, we thought about it for a little while, and we worked on it for a long while, chatting to our team over in New Zealand, and the hosts of some of our favourite bed & breakfasts that we know so well, and finally, last year we launched our exclusive Small Group Journey programme.

 Queenstown - a walk and a celebration!

Queenstown – a walk and a celebration!

Small Group Journeys are unlike other coach tours, for the very reasons we’ve listed above, and we’re super excited that the 2016 programme is getting booked up already!

So what’s so special about a Small Group Journey? Click here to find out!

We run six departures through the year, all named after some of New Zealands best loved fauna, and all offering carefully designed itineraries to ensure that you get to see the absolute best bits of New Zealand:

The Tane Mahuta 21 day tour that takes you on an adventure throughout the North and South Islands, travelling the length and breadth of the country with unforgettable sights along the way. From swimming with dolphins in the very north, to visiting the only mainland nesting sight for the Royal Albatross on the Otago Peninsula, you’ll experience some of New Zealands best wildlife close up.

The Pohutukawa 19 day tour. A slightly shorter journey, that begins in Auckland and travels south through the North and South Islands of New Zealand, taking in some of the most iconic sights and including dinner at one of New Zealands oldest wineries.

The Kowhai 17 day tour that takes you up to the bay Of Islands, and back down through the North Island and on to the South Island, including a memorable day in our favourite of New Zealands national parks, Abel Tasman.

The Rimu 15 day tour. Spend the night under the stars on the Milford Sound overnight cruise and visit the must see places in the North and South Islands.

The Mount Cook Lily 13 day tour is dedicated to the South Island. Spend time in glacier country and visit the pancake rocks at Punakaiki.

Enjoying a helicopter trip up onto the glacier in Mount Aspiring National Park

Enjoying a helicopter trip up onto the glacier in Mount Aspiring National Park

Dinner with new friends at Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman National Park.

Dinner with new friends at Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman National Park.

One of the advantages of Small Group Journeys is that they can be added on to a tailor made itinerary. So if you like the idea of joining a tour for the first part of your trip while you find your feet and get over the jet lag, and then explore independently, you could join our Koromiko tour of the North island, and we’ll create a tailor made itinerary for you to tackle the South island. Similarly you can join a Small Group Journey (Mount Cook Lily) in the South Island, and travel under your own steam in the North.

We’d love to hear what you think of our new Small Group Journey programme, so do comment and let us know!

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Taking to Two Wheels on ‘Nga Haerenga’ – The New Zealand Cycle Trail

Switching from four wheels to two and taking to the tracks on the New Zealand Cycle Trail is, in our humble opinion, something that everyone travelling around New Zealand should do at some point during their holiday if they can. We’ve spent many an evening sitting on a stack of cushions after a particularly long day on a bike, but believe us, it’s always absolutely worth it. We recommend our travellers to take a break from the car or coach and see a little (or a lot) of New Zealand on foot or by bicycle if at all possible! Not only is a great way to work off some of the fantastic food and world class wines you’ll be eating and drinking, but it really does give you a different perspective on the country, and meandering along a trail, with the sound of native birdsong in your ears and the wind in your hair is a real treat.

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Cycling on the New Zealand Cycle Trail is a special experience; many of the roads are quiet and extremely easy to navigate (though it is worth remembering that during the summer months (November – February) they will be busier as its peak holiday season) and trails afford some of the country’s best scenery, weaving through some beautiful and remote parts of the Islands, with the trails breathing new life into old tracks, roads and disused railways that would otherwise fall into disrepair.

Nga Haerenga literally translates as ‘The Journeys’ and is a network of wonderful cycling routes across the country. We think ‘journeying’ across New Zealand at least in part, on The National Cycle Trail routes is a unique way to explore and get involved in the Great Outdoors, which, lets face it, is one of New Zealand’s biggest and best loved features.

You don’t have to be a super fit adrenaline junkie to ride the trails, and it’s not all off road mountain biking that takes you through some of the most challenging terrain New Zealand has to offer (though there is that option if you are a thrill seeker, or a more experienced cyclist!)

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 12

Nope, the network of cycling trails that zigzag across the North and South Islands of New Zealand offer tracks and routes to suit all levels of fitness, experience and enthusiasm! The routes are graded from 1-5 (1 being the most leisurely, such as the Hauraki Rail Trail and 5 recommended for serious cyclists like the Waikato River Trail) so it’s easy to decide what level of ride you want to tackle, and be reassured that you won’t face too many surprises!

Although New Zealand has been popular with cyclists for a long time it was back in February 1999 that an idea was formed to build a network of cycling trails that would weave across both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, allowing both tourists and locals alike to explore the country from two wheels, getting out into the countryside and experiencing the country in a different way, meeting locals, appreciating some absolutely breath-taking scenery and offering a healthy and enjoyable way to support the environment and local economies.

Backed by the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand and the NZ Government, the idea quickly became a working project and with a $50 million government investment and additional funding from local government and cycle trail trusts 23 Rides were established across the country with an ambitious goal to have them all open to riders by 2016. December saw the opening of the newest section of the trail, The Old Ghost Road on the west coast of the South Island.

Twin Coast Cycleway 048

The Great Rides are the Premier rides on the National Trail chosen as they showcase the very best of NZ iconic landscapes, heritage and culture but  the network has also expanded to include other trails in addition to the 23 Greats’ so you really will be spoilt for choice!

Do have a look at the New Zealand Cycle Trail website www.nzcycletrail.com where you’ll find lots of detailed information  of each of the Great Rides, or track down a great book written by the Kennett Brothers – ‘National New Zealand Cycle Trails’, that’s an ideal read if you’re planning to undertake any of the rides during your holiday.

Keep an eye on our blog for our top tips for cycling in New Zealand, which we’ll be posting soon!

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New Zealand Flag Update

The decision has been made – And we’re delighted!!

The winning flag design features the iconic New Zealand emblem, the Silver Fern – which also happens to be our company logo!!

The final results for the flag referendum came in earlier this week, and Melbourne based designer Kyle Lockwood was surprised and delighted when he heard his design had beaten the others to make it to the final run-off. In an interview with The Guardian, he explained “When I’m designing a flag, I’ve got to think about how it flows in the breeze, how it would look draped, how it would look above a podium.”

Five designs made it to the final selection – but our team here at Silver Fern HQ enjoyed reading this article from the Telegraph that lets us in on some of the more ‘interesting’ designs submitted!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/australiaandpacific/newzealand/11743690/New-Zealands-new-flag-the-best-and-worst-designs.html?frame=3377496

The final referendum will take place in March 2016, giving the Kiwis chance to make their decision over the summer months as to whether they want to take on the new design, or stick with the existing Flag – Watch this space and we’ll keep you updated!

The existing National Flag

The existing National Flag

You can read more about the history of the flag and the other designs that made it to the final five in a previous blog post here.

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New Zealand by Train

Seeing New Zealand by train is one certain way to make sure that everyone travelling can make the most of the incredible scenery New Zealand has to offer.

The problem with driving by car around New Zealand, practical and popular though it is, is that someone’s always going to have to be the driver, and there’s nothing worse than trying to keep your eyes on the road when your passenger keeps exclaiming, pointing and oohing and ahhing  at the lanscapes you’re passing through!

Sure, the roads are usually quiet enough that you can make lots of swift, impromptu stops, and the most scenic routes have lots of viewing points on the roadside where you can pull in, but still, you do tend to miss a fair bit when you’re concentrating on watching out for wayward sheep crossing in front of you and not able to fully take in the beauty of the landscapes you’re driving through.

We always recommend that our travellers try to incorporate a few different modes of travel during their time in New Zealand, lets face it, there are plenty to choose from – whether its by car, ferry, bicycle, horseback, or, today’s blog post topic, by train.

Seeing New Zealand by train is a real treat, It gives you a chance to see parts of the country that aren’t accessible by road, and you get a whole new perspective when your standing out on the viewing carriage as the train races through some of New Zealand’s most iconic and simply superb scenery.

All the trains are fitted with headphones that offer commentary as you travel, plus information displays and overhead videos. The Café carriage serves drinks and snacks and the viewing platforms at the back of the trains offer great photo opportunities.

There are three main Kiwirail scenic journeys that connect various parts of both the North and South Island, but also worth investigating are the Taeiri Gorge railway in Dunedin and the fun Driving Creek Railway in The Coromandel, but they’re for another day’s blog post!

 

The TranzAlpine

Tranz_Alpine_two

The most popular train journey to take in New Zealand is the trip from one side of the  South Island to the other on the TranzAlpine Railway.

The crossing takes 4 ½ hours, and you can either opt for a return journey, or do what most of our travellers do and disembark in Greymouth, pick up a car and continue to explore South Island along the wild West Coast and on to Fiordland.

The TranzAlpine begins its journey in Christchurch and heads east through the expansive Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps, travelling alongside the Waimakiririr River, before climbing up through the Alps and on to Arthurs Pass National Park, where we guarantee you’ll be making the most of the viewing platform at the back of the train to take in the breathtaking scenery of the majestic Alps that surround you.

From here the train passes through the Otira tunnel and begins its descent. The landscape for the final part of your journey couldn’t be more different from the start, as you head down towards the Tasman Sea through the lush alpine Rainforests of the West Coast and into Greymouth which is a great place to base yourself for visits to Punakaiki and the Blowholes and the Glacier country of Franz Josef and Fox.

The Northern Explorer

Tranz Scenic - Northern Explorer with Mt Ruapehu

This 12 hour journey from Auckland to Wellington takes you along the main trunk line as you cross viaducts and gorges across the Whanganui and Rangitikei Rivers. You’ll travel through 14 tunnels and over 352 bridges en route passing through rugged farmland and up the famous Raurimu spiral to the Volcanic Plateau where the peaks of Mounts Ruapehu, Mgaruhoe and Tongariro loom above you. Keen walkers might want to stop here for a few days to undertake one of New Zealands Great Walks, The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, before picking up the train to complete the journey.

As you approach the end of the crossing you’ll have views out to the Tasman Sea and nearby Kapiti Island, before you arrive in The Coolest Little Capital in the World, Wellington.

The journey isn’t the best loved of the three main routes through the country, and although the scenery isn’t as jaw dropping as you’ll see on the TranzAlpine, it’s still a super way to travel from one end of the country to another. Besides it takes a good eight hours to make the journey by car so adding an extra four on, wont make too much difference to your travelling time!

The Coastal Pacific

Tranz Scenic - Coastal Pacific with Kaikoura ranges

The Coastal Pacific train connects the small port town of Picton – the gateway to the fabulous Marlborough Sounds – to Christchurch, New Zealand’s most English city. Along the way you’ll pass through the wine growing region of Blenheim, and on through Kaikoura, where marine enthusiasts will want to make a stop for some Whale Watching or the opportunity to swim with dolphins.

From Kaikoura you continue to travel between the mountains and the sea until you reach the farmlands of the Canterbury Plains heading into Christchurch.

All of the trains run between October and March, and of course, you are more than welcome to get in touch if you’d like some more information about any of the routes, or about how to add a train journey to your Tailor made self drive adventure.

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A Bluffers Guide to New Zealand Rugby

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you can’t have failed to be aware of the Rugby World Cup fever that gripped the nation throughout September and October  and as the furore dies down, for us in the UK at least, we thought it fitting to write a blog post to fill you a little on the history of New Zealand Rugby, as we can guaranteed that for anyone heading over there in the next few months after the All Blacks World Cup victory, it’s bound to be the number one topic of conversation!!  If there are any doubts, check out this video of the reception the All Blacks got on their return to New Zealand this week – just brilliant!

Read on, and you’ll be able to hold your own in any conversation with somebody who knows somebody who knows one of the All Blacks – It’s bound to happen at some point during your holiday.

It was in England, back in the 1820’s when William Webb Ellis a student at the Rugby School, (in Rugby funnily enough!) disregarded all the rules of football during a game and instead of kicking the ball, caught it and ran forward with it, instead of carrying it back to his own line. Somehow, it caught on, and although it took a little while for the rules to be agreed, by the 1860’s Rugby was a firm favourite of sportsmen and its popularity started spreading further afield.1280px-New-Zealand-in-NSW,

In the late 1860’s Charles Monro, a New Zealander who had been studying in England, headed back down under, having developed a soft spot for the sport and suggested to his local football  club in Nelson that they might like to give it a try – they did, and must have liked it – in 1870 the very first Rugby match in New Zealand was played.

Later on, that same year, during a visit to Wellington, Monro arranged a game between the Nelson Club team and a Wellington selection – the first inter-district match in New Zealand – and after recruiting and training the Wellington team, Monro took to the pitch as both player and Referee (not sure how impartial he’d have been!)

That was it – the Kiwis embraced the game, and by the end of the 1870’s unions were formed in Canterbury and Wellington. Not long after in 1884 a national side representing New Zealand took to the field and in May 1892 the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (as it was known then) was formed.

The All Blacks played their first test match against Australia in 1903, and then powered through a tour of England in 1905 taking everyone by surprise with their innovative style of Rugby. The fastest players ran with the ball rather than kicking and chasing it, and the New Zealand teams held the field with such ferociousness and nimbleness they were soon heralded as the most fearsome side to be pitted against.

It was during the 1905 tour that their kit was redesigned, from blue and gold to all black. The Express & Echo in Devon was the first to use the term All-blacks when a writer, reporting on the win the team had against Devon during the 1905 tour penned “The All Blacks, as they are styled by reason of their sable and unrelieved costume, were under the guidance of their captain (Mr Gallaher), and their fine physique favourably impressed the spectators”. The name stuck and the team has been known as the All Blacks ever since.

Not a great deal  has changed since then really – Having just won their second World Cup in a row, we think it’s safe to say that they retain that reputation both for their skilled and formidable rugby playing, and, having watched a few games, for their fine and impressive physiques!

Hakka

Hakka

Rugby has become not only a game that Kiwis are particularly good at, but also a huge part of their National Identity over the last century  and there are several places you can visit during a holiday in New Zealand that are unmissable for fans of the game.

If you’re planning to visit Nelson during your holiday in New Zealand, be sure to walk The Centre of New Zealand Walkway, alongside the Matai River, where the very first game of Rugby in New Zealand was played. If you’re joining us for one of our Small Group Journeys, we’ll stroll along a section of the walkway too.

Other ideas of ‘must see’ spots in New Zealand for rugby fans………………

Take a tour of Eden Park – scene of the All Blacks world cup triumph in 2011

http://www.edenpark.co.nz/tours

Visit the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame which tells the stories of the country’s greatest sports stars – mostly rugby players.

www.nzhalloffame.co.nz

Spend a morning or afternoon exploring the Rugby Museum in Palmerston North

http://rugbymuseum.co.nz/

http://www.newzealand.com/uk/article/behind-the-scenes-at-new-zealand-rugby-museum/

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Travel Tips: Surviving a Long Haul Flight to New Zealand

We’ve all heard the saying that ‘life is about the journey not the destination’ but in the case of surviving a long haul flight to New Zealand, we have to admit that the opposite is probably true – actually getting to New Zealand is never going to be the highlight of your trip, but we do think that with a bit of preparation and some organisation, the 11689.8 mile journey doesn’t have to be something to dread.

We’ve travelled between the two countries more times than we can remember and although when we can, we usually choose to stop for a day or two en route -both to break up the journey and to explore other countries while we’re so close to them – sometimes time is of the essence, and if you’ve only got a couple of weeks scheduled for your trip you’ll probably want to get to New Zealand as quickly as possible to make the very best of your time there.

We’ve put together our favourite tried and tested flight survival secrets to make sure that you arrive in New Zealand, if not feeling as fresh as a daisy, then at least not like you want to hide away in a hotel room for 24 hours!

Before You Go:

Get Your Gadgets Ready

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It’s true that long haul flights have much better in-flight entertainment than they used to, but you never quite know what will be on the schedule, so it makes sense to have some entertainment back-up for the flight (and for the in-between times when you’re passing time in the airport lounge).

Charge your devices, download your favourite television programmes or a few films onto your tablet and if you have a kindle or an e-reader make sure you’ve got some good reading material ready. (Top tip – start your book a few days before you go so you’re already into it and you know you like it by the time you fly – there’s nothing worse than looking forward to starting a new book, only to find it’s not a page turner!)

Pack Snacks

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We’re not sure about you, but we’ve never been particularly fond of aeroplane food (except for the fact that it breaks up the journey and passes a bit of time) and even if you aren’t adverse to the culinary offerings on board you’ll probably want to eat to your own schedule –no-one enjoys being woken up from a much needed snooze by a flight attendant offering you a meal you don’t really want.

We usually take some fruit, some veggie sticks and a small pot of hummus, some cheese and some dried fruit and nuts. They’re all slow release energy and will fill you up without leaving you feeling uncomfortable and bloated.

Pack a Flight Survival Kit

Completely essential if you want any chance of managing to sleep during the flight. Although airlines used to always hand out travel packs, you never quite know these days, so we recommend packing your own. An eye mask (we love our lavender infused ones), some ear plugs, a travel pillow and a pair of warm cosy socks will go a long way to making the journey more bearable and they don’t take up much room in your cabin baggage.

Choose your Seats

Avoid a middle seat! We definitely recommend choosing an aisle seat whenever possible. You’ll want to get up and stretch your legs from time to time, and its so much harder when you have to wake up the person in the seat next to you, or try to climb over them without disturbing them!

Be Organised

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Aim to get to the airport early so you’re not stressing and rushing around – consider an airport hotel the night before if you’re prone to anxiety!

In Flight

Stay Hydrated

cold-person-woman-water

And watch what you drink. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Well, actually, you are officially already on your holiday once the plane takes off, and we’re not total killjoys so maybe don’t avoid alcohol completely, but limit it to a glass of fizz to toast your travels, or a glass of  wine with a meal.

Although on long flights, you can request water throughout, we always find it easier to buy a couple of bottles once you’ve passed through baggage control so you don’t have to keep buzzing the flight attendant (note: another reason to book an aisle seat – upping your water intake also means more regular trips to the bathroom!) .

Check the Time

numbers-time-watch-white

Set your watch to your destination time when you board your flight, and try, if you can, to nap at times that fit in with your new time zone – you’ll be more likely to arrive feeling more human, we promise!

Stretch your Legs

Make a conscious effort to get up and have a walk around the plane, move flex and stretch your legs regularly to encourage blood flow, and there are lots of exercises you can do in your seat too to stop muscles stiffening up. Granted, you might look like a bit of a wally, but they’ll keep you comfier.

Be Nice

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Last but most definitely not least, be polite and friendly to the flight attendants and your fellow travellers. It can be hard to stay chirpy when you’re lacking sleep and have been squeezed into the economy cabin of a jumbo jet for the past 10 hours, but so has everyone else, so smile at the stewardess, don’t get grumpy in the queue for the loo and be nice to your neighbour, we promise you’ll arrive in New Zealand feeling so much better!

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