This trip to New Zealand was just amazing!
New Zealand | Nov 19 - Nov 28, 2023

J
Judah J.
Los Angeles, CA | Reviewed on Nov 29, 2023

This trip to New Zealand was just amazing! We had an incredible time driving all around the North and South Islands of NZ. Everywhere we looked, there was another breathtaking vista all around, with mountains, lakes, fjords, sheep and livestock, and so much greenery.
All the kimkim-booked excursions and accommodations made the trip so much easier to manage day-to-day, with all the details already looked-after and sorted. A particular highlight was the fly-cruise-fly excursion to Milford Sound from Queenstown—I'll remember those views and that experience for the rest of my life!

Hotel Reviews
Ruapehu Country Lodge
Ruapehu

This charming B&B near Tongariro National Park (45-60 mins' drive) was a fabulous place to stay for 1 night on our trip. B&B owners Bernie and Marie were as warm as can be, and the property is clean, beautiful, and quiet. There are 4 rooms total, so even at "full capacity," it never felt like there were other guests looming over us.

Authenticity & Character
Location
Staff
Cleanliness & Comfort
Kokomea Pure Pod
Peka Peka

Views and surroundings were stunning. The food provided was really good too, though it does require cooking on your own. The instructions for how to find the parking lot were a bit challenging to decipher, as road construction has since finished, and the directions were outdated. We did eventually find where to park, and then the 10-minute hike commenced... For the adventurous!

Authenticity & Character
Location
Cleanliness & Comfort
Galaxy Boutique Hotel Tekapo
Lake Tekapo

Wow!! This hotel was exceptional. The views of Lake Tekapo were stunning, and the hotel itself was beautifully designed. (Our room had a skylight that's designed for star-gazing at night!) Included breakfast could be taken in-room, which we opted for. Delicious and a great way to start the day.

Authenticity & Character
Location
Staff
Cleanliness & Comfort
Activity Reviews
Fly Cruise Fly – Queenstown to Milford Sound
Fly Cruise Fly – Queenstown to Milford Sound
Queenstown (NZ)

This was the highlight of our whole trip. The fly-cruise-fly package was perfect for seeing Milford Sound and the surrounding fjords/mountains/lakes, and it was well worth the money and time. An absolute must-do if visiting the Queenstown area.

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Transport
There was a booking error for our pickup, but the excursion operator rectified it when we called.
Kayak Taupo - Maori Rock Carvings
Kayak Taupo - Maori Rock Carvings
New Zealand

To start, this was a challenging kayak experience. Pros: Lake Taupo is a beautiful place to kayak. The water, on our morning, wasn't *too* rough, but it was definitely windy, which made for a challenging rowing experience, and it's not a short one. We spend more than an hour each way paddling. Cons: Firstly, our operator Liz was verbally and visibly annoyed with us that we didn't arrive 15 minutes early, which was never communicated on our itinerary nor the activity voucher. Additionally, she constantly belittled and corrected a new hire on her own team who was clearly in training when accompanying our group. Moreover, she continued to yell at other tourists from Taiwan, whom she thought were tiring out too quickly or not following her shouted instructions to keep up with the group. She actually had them turn back with another guide 1/3 into our trip, which made us think that if we didn't strain ourselves to "keep up," she'd turn us back too. Overall, she was a real detraction from the experience, and I think kimkim & Once Upon A Trip should be aware of all the above when continuing to send tourists to this operator.

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
National Hatchery
National Hatchery
Rotorua

Such a great way to see Kiwi up close and also support conservation in NZ!

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Glowworm Paddle Board Tour
Glowworm Paddle Board Tour
Rotorua

This was so much fun! The guides were really warm and understanding of everyone's physical abilities, the kayaking was not too challenging, and the glow worms were really cool to see up-close.

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Transport
 Pō combo (Guided Experience + Indigenous Evening Experience)
Pō combo (Guided Experience + Indigenous Evening Experience)
Rotorua

This was a very special way to experience some Maori culture while in New Zealand. It was informative and entertaining, and the venue includes numerous geysers to view, too.

Quality of Experience
Food
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Two-Hour Sunset Guided Walk
Two-Hour Sunset Guided Walk
New Zealand

Stuart & his team leading this walk through Tongariro National Park were great. We had nice convos with others in our group, and the guided walk was somewhere between a walk and a hike. The views for those 2 hours, as the sun set, were just spectacular.

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Tekapo Springs - StarGazing
Tekapo Springs - StarGazing
Lake Tekapo

In one of the world's star-gazing capitals, it makes sense to take advantage! We were blessed with a clear night, and the telescope-viewing was a great way to see multiple constellations and planets before getting into the hot pools to do some more star-gazing while soaking away the day :)

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Hell's Gate
Hell's Gate
Rotorua

The free guided tour at 10:30am was great, and I'd highly recommend everyone gets there in time to join it. The property is quite large, and having a guide to walk through it and explain everything was really helpful, from a scientific and cultural perspective. The mud baths were also really fun.

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Local specialist: Franck Lemaitre
Franck
Franck Lemaitre
Local specialist in Auckland, New Zealand | Replied on Dec 06, 2023

Hey Judah,
Thank you so much for this very detailed testimonial which is obviously really helpful. We will pay a specific attention to the kayak activity in Taupo to make sure our clients are well satisfied which so far has been the case but thanks a lot for the feedback and warning.
You have been a pleasure to deal with as you were really open to my suggestions, happy to read you loved this trip
Franck