Almost everyone who spends any length of time in New Zealand toys with the idea of staying there forever. Moreover, it’s not hard to understand why. Although New Zealand is a relatively small country, holidays in the country often leave people with a sense that there is still so much more to see, do and experience. Which, though, are New Zealand’s truly best kept secret destinations? The places off the beaten track which only the locals know about?
Photo courtesy of Angie Watson
Situated just west of Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand, the Catlins are one of the most sparsely populated and naturally pristine of areas in the country. Rugged coast meets dense, ancient rainforest, spectacular waterfalls, and numerous opportunities to chance upon yellow eyed penguins and endangered bird and sea mammal species which frequent the area. If you want to lose yourself in nature, the Catlins is, in this case, the place to do it. The only problem? It gets very windy at times so remember to wrap up warm even in the summer.
Te Wairoa Buried Village
Located near Rotorua in the North Island of New Zealand, the Te Wairoa buried village was a thriving Maori settlement up until 1886 when the entire village was buried by ash due to a local volcanic eruption. Essentially the Pompeii of New Zealand, visitors can today explore over 12 acres of frozen in time Maori residences and traditional rock and wood carvings.
Hot Water Beach
Looking for a unique beach experience? Located on the Coromandel Peninsula of the North Island, Hot Water Beach is unique in that it is heated year round my natural hot springs bubbling away under the beach itself. This being the case, the most popular activity at Hot Water Beach involves digging your own hot tub and relaxing until the tide later washes it a way for you. Be careful, though, temperatures on some parts of the beach can sometimes rise to over 63 degrees Celsius!
Two of the two favourite destinations in Southern Africa – The Okavango Delta in Botswana and Cape Town in South Africa – have just become easier to connect. Airlink, a regional South African domiciled airline, has now put in place direct flights between Cape Town and Maun, the gateway to the Okavango.
These flights are currently flying 5 times a week but will increase in number as we move in to the peak season. This helps you maximise your time in your favourite destinations and reduces time spent in airport lounges.
Departing mid-morning from Cape Town and arriving in Maun early afternoon means that you could be at your lodge in good time to sip your sundowner after having had a game drive in your chosen Okavango destination.
On the reverse journey the flight leaves early afternoon and arrives in Cape Town mid afternoon. This allows you time to unpack at your hotel and watch the sun set over TableMountain or the Atlantic, having been out on a game drive that morning.
Holidays to Australia simply aren’t complete without somehow experiencing the majesty and natural magnificence of the Great Barrier Reef. Visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is made up of over 1,200 square miles of thousands of individual reef systems and hundreds of islands. These islands and reefs are in turn home to over 600 different types of corals, many of which can only be found in and around Australia.
Photograph Copyright Australia Tourism
However, visiting the great barrier reef as part of family or individual Australia holidays doesn’t necessarily have to involve diving or even getting your feet wet. Of course, Australia is famous for it’s miles of pristine white sand beaches and second to none surf. However, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is itself one of the world’s most accessible natural wonders.
From snorkelling experiences departing from anywhere from the Whitsundays to Sydney, to glass-bottomed boat excursions, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the easiest of Australia-based natural phenomenon’s for almost anyone to get up close and personal with.
Nothing less than a marvel of natural engineering, children can delight in sunset fish feeding. New and old romantics in the mean time, can depart for most of the year on both day and overnight cruises. Even better, it’s even possible to experience the Great Barrier Reef from the air, either by scenic flight or skydive.
Australia holidays simply aren’t complete without some form of Great Barrier Reef experience. Of course, whether you decide to paddle board out onto the reef from the spectacular beaches of the Whitsundays or parachute over Australia’s foremost natural wonder at Cairns, the most important thing is to experience the area as responsibly as possible. Thankfully then, all of our own travel and activity partners are committed to helping preserve the natural beauty and ecology of the Great Barrier Reef, all you need to do in this case is be mindful of how you explore the reef when diving, snorkelling or even weighing anchor.
We’ve detailed below our top tips for visitors to Queensland – a useful guide for those thinking about a future holiday.
Allow plenty of time! The state covers a vast area so if you’re limited on time, choose one or two regions and explore them thoroughly. For example, it would be easy to spend two weeks just exploring the areas surrounding Brisbane.
Northern Queensland has a tropical climate and two seasons – wet and dry. We recommend travelling in the dry season, between May and October. This also avoids the box jellyfish season too.
Southern Queensland has four seasons – but prides itself on the fact that it usually receives 300 sunny days a year! This part of the state is a year-round destination.
Take a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef by small yacht – with limited passenger numbers you’ll have a more individual experience of this Wonder of the World.
Go whale watching! From August until October, humpback whales can be found off the Fraser Coast as they nurture their young, play and socialise.
For an idyllic end to a Queensland trip, include stay on one of the many beautiful islands of the Great Barrier Reef or the Whitsundays – there are options to suit most budgets.
Whilst we’d usually suggest visitors self-drive in Queensland, if you’re not keen or not able to do so, consider taking the Spirit of Queensland train between Cairns and Brisbane – you can stop en route for stays in plenty of places of interest.
Search for wildlife! The state is not only home to the Great Barrier Reef, but also has plenty of land creatures to see, from koalas and kangaroos to platypus. crocodiles and the elusive cassowary. We can suggest the right places to give you the best chance of seeing the wildlife.
For a true outback experience, take the ‘Spirit of the Outback’ train to Longreach, home of cattle stations, the Qantas Founders Museum and Stockman’s Hall of Fame.
If you are still wondering about what to do for a holiday this summer and you fancy a cruise with a difference, then consider one of the following adventures with Star Clippers.
They offer cruises in the Adriatic, around Italy and explore the islands of Greece. With the length of cruise varying from 4 to 12 nights there is plenty to tempt you. Perhaps consider one of the shorter trips if you have never cruised before or link it with a special event such as the Monaco Grand Prix. Prices include flights and transfers abroad – all you have to do is to enjoy being under sail, providing the wind blows, and visiting wonderful destinations. And you only have to unpack once.
Anyone who ever visits New Zealand will testify to the stunning natural beauty of the country. From secret beaches to rugged snow-capped mountains, New Zealand is easily one of the most visually spectacular of the world’s holiday destinations. The only problem is that after a while people simply start taking even the most stunning scenery in New Zealand for granted. In this case, where are the best places in New Zealand to experience the country at its most scenic even by New Zealand’s own standards?
Credit Orion Expedition Cruises
Made up of miles of otherwise impenetrable fjord land, a day or night cruise around Milford sound is a must for anyone who wants to experience New Zealand at its most magisterial. Even in poor weather, water cascading over towering waterfalls into the surreal quiet of the Sound itself leads to a truly magical visual experience. Surrounded by cliffs towering upwards of 3000 feet overhead, Milford Sound is also home to some of the world’s most beautiful fauna and fauna. In fact, such fauna even includes black coral, an aquatic organism which has a lifespan of over 4000 years making it the longest living known life form on the planet.
Picture courtesy of Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Located near Rotorua, the hot water spring, mud bath and geyser capital of New Zealand, Wai-O-Tapu is a geothermal wonderland perhaps most famous for the Devil’s Bath, a stagnant pool of sulfuric green water which is actually considered a natural wonder. Of course, such a description doesn’t make the area sound too scenic. However, Wai-O-Tapu itself is considered the best place outside of Yellowstone National Park in the US for experiencing truly iconic geothermal features and resultant geology and natural scenery.
Franz Josef Glacier
Composed of more than 12km of in places cobalt blue ice, walking on the Franz Josef Glacier on New Zealand’s South Island is like stepping into a surreal blue-white world looking down over miles of lush sub-tropical rainforest. One of only a handful of glaciers in the world which terminate into such temperate climates, the only place outside of New Zealand where you can experience such scenery is Argentina. In this case, taking a Heli-hike onto the Franz Josef, or for that matter, nearby Fox Glacier really is a once in a lifetime experience.
Africa has the ‘Big Five’…The Great Barrier Reef has the ‘Great Eight’
Here you will find eight iconic residents of this fantastic underwater eco-system which until you have seen them all, really means you haven’t seen the Great Barrier Reef at all.
Whales, Manta Rays, Clown Fish, Turtles, Potato Cod, Giant Clams, Maori Wrasse and of course Sharks.
The largest coral reef system in the world is their home. Some might migrate here, some might travel along its length and some stay in exactly the same place all of their lives.
They range in size from 18cms long right up to 18 metres long and are the ‘heroes’ of the reef.
To put it in perspective how wonderful diving the reef is you can spend about an hour in the water on an average snorkel or dive. That dive site changes with the tides, during daytime and night and throughout the seasons so what you see in one half of the day can be totally different in the other.
You could visit exactly the same site every day for a year and always see different things there….so if you think you’ve seen ALL OF the Great Barrier Reef…think again.
So, if you would love to dive off into another world to find the reefs great eight then let us help you make it part of your very own bespoke, tailor made holiday to Australia all you have to do is contact us on 01323 446550 email firstname.lastname@example.org or click on the contact us link on our home page.
We are often asked what and where is the best rail journey in the world? So in answer to this we have detailed below some of our must do Great Rail Journeys of the World:
Consider the luxury rail experience offered by the Eastern and Oriental Express, operating between Singapore and Bangkok and taking two or three nights depending on the direction of travel. Enjoy vistas of tea plantations, rolling farmland, colonial cities and historic temples.
Take a rail journey in Vietnam, from the bustling city of Hanoi to the village of Sapa, located in the mountains overlooking spectacular views of the Ta Van valley’s terraced rice fields. The train operates overnight in both directions.
Think about the super-fast Shinkansen ‘Bullet Train’ in Japan. There are a number of routes on offer, but no trip to Japan is complete without at least one trip in the iconic Bullet Train.
Picture courtesy of JNTO
There are three iconic rail journeys available in New Zealand, one on the North Island, and two on the South.
On the North Island, the Northern Explorer runs from Auckland to Wellington through diverse countryside comprising of rolling farmland, towering viaducts and beautiful hidden valleys.
On the South Island, the Tranz Alpine train runs from Christchurch in the east to Greymouth in the west through stunning scenery. A stop is made in the small mountain town of Arthur’s Pass, where a stay enables a closer inspection of this Alpine region. The Coastal Pacific runs from Picton (tying in perfectly with the ferry from Wellington on the NorthIsland) south to Christchurch. This rail journey stops in Kaikoura en route, where a stay gives the opportunity to take a whale watching cruise.
An impressive and popular rail journey on the Devil’s Nose section of railway in Ecuador could be a part of your holiday itinerary. Named Devil’s Nose due to the many deaths amongst workers as well as difficulty of building it, the route connects the Alausi and Sibambe stations taking a stunning trip down the rocky slopes of the Andes through breath-taking scenery.
Board the tourist train in Peru taking you on a journey through the Urubamba Valley or Sacred Valley of the Incas, to the marvellous mountaintop ruins of Machu Picchu.
One of the more popular rail routes is the Coast Starlight which takes you along the west coast between Seattle and Los Angeles stopping in Portland along the way. Why not take a day out of your itinerary to treat yourself by taking a trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train where you can relax on-board the exquisitely restored vintage rail cars and experience fine dining service, multiple course meals and the stunning Napa Valley scenery. Most people see the Grand Canyon from the skies but since 1901 the Grand Canyon Railway has been taking people right through the heart of this amazing place and you could be one of them, you’ll feel like you’re travelling back in time. For something a little different during your visit to Colorado why not travel along the 45 miles of 3 foot narrow gauge track on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway which has been running since 1881. However long your journey is travelling by rail is a definite must do during your USA holiday.
Picture courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer
The most famous rail journey in Canada has to be the Rocky Mountaineer. With a variety of routes available you can spend a couple of days or a couple of weeks on board. One of the more popular routes is the Journey through the Clouds which takes you between Vancouver and Jasper with an overnight stop in Kamloops. With different grades of service available this is a must no matter how big or small your budget is. If you want to travel the width of Canada in comfort and without missing the scenery as you concentrate on driving then take a ride on The Canadian. In the space of four nights and three days, you’ll get to see the lakes in Northern Ontario, the lush boreal forest, the western Prairies, and the magnificent Rocky Mountains as you travel between historical Quebec and modern Toronto.
Australia has some of the most iconic rail journeys in the world. There isn’t enough room here to talk about them all but here are some to whet your appetite. The Indian Pacific gets its name because it covers 4352km between Perth on the Indian Ocean and Sydney on the Pacific Ocean. The whole journey takes three nights, although you can break it up with a stop in Adelaide. You’ll travel through a variety of landscapes from towns and cities to the desert like Nullarbour Plain, from the outback to the forest of the Blue Mountains. So we’ve taken you East and West, but what if you want to go North and South? Named after the Afghan Cameleers who travelled this route, the Ghan will take between Darwin in the North to Adelaide in the South going straight through the centre of Australia. If it’s just a day on a train that you would prefer then a trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway is perfect. It was built between 1882 and 1891 and is made up of 15 hand made tunnels and 37 bridges taking you from Cairns into the Barron Gorge National Park on your way to Karunda, known as the village in the rainforest.
Africa has a wealth of train experiences that cover the whole spectrum from world leader to leaving a lot to desire. Rovos Rail has exciting itineraries that stretch from Pretoria, in South Africa through all their southern neighbouring countries and even a trip to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Where possible they travel during the day. The Blue Train is another South African luxury train that travels from Johannesburg to Durban and Cape Town or vice versa.
Picture courtesy of SA Tourism
For further information, and for assistance planning your next bespoke, tailor made holiday which could incorporate one of these great rail journeys, please call us on 01323 446550, email us at email@example.com
For most people, holidays in Australia are synonymous with overland safaris into the backing Red Centre of the country, miles of idyllic beaches and much more interesting flora and fauna than almost any other place on earth. However, holidays in Australia can also be planned around visiting some of the world’s most vibrant and interesting cities. The only question, is which are the best cities in Australia to plan holidays or a sightseeing trip around?
Holidays in Cairns
Credit Australia Tourism
For travellers who might be strapped for time, cities like Cairns are perfect for sampling the best that Australia has to offer in a single locality. Subtropical and bordering the Great barrier Reef, Cairns in a relatively small provincial city but is positively booming when it comes to things to do and ways to unwind in the area.
Another relatively small provincial city, Alice Springs might not be as iconic as cities like Melbourne or Sydney but with the red centre of Australia right on the city’s doorstep, the outlying area definitely makes up for what Alice Springs lacks in terms of cosmopolitanism. The place to be for visitors to Australia who want to sample a sense of the countries original pioneering spirit, Alice Springs is the last significant stop on the road for those looking to travel to iconic places of interest such as Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon.
Holidays to Australia usually start and depart from places like Sydney and Melbourne. In this case, it’s easy to forget about Darwin tucked away in the far north of the country but if you have the time, Darwin definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. A popular domestic holiday destination, Darwin is home to fantastic stretches of tropical coastline. At the same time, the azure waters of the area’s bays and natural harbors make Darwin the place in Australia for activities such as water skiing and scenic boat cruises.
What I love about my job is that every day is different. Different customers, different destinations, different preferences and requirements. The aim of this blog is to enlighten readers to the life of a travel professional. Yes, I use the word ‘professional’ as I believe our role to be an important and responsible one. On any given day, we are looking after the travel dreams and plans of a number of clients- and this is something we take very seriously.
Today, I want to focus on questions – those that we ask, and those that are asked of us.
What is your budget?
Contrary to popular belief, we do not ask this question so that we ensure we spend as much of your hard earned cash as possible, to inflate the prices or to include unnecessary or unwanted upgrades. We ask the question so that we can ensure that any suggestions we make are realistic for you – so that we’re not suggesting a boutique luxury hotel, when actually your budget dictates that a 3* moderate hotel in the right location is the better option for you. It is also so that we can manage your expectations- the age old ‘champagne taste and beer money’ is unfortunately a common issue. It’s not to say we won’t do our best for you- whatever your budget, we will do our utmost to make sure that you get the best itinerary and the best value for money we can offer. So often we hear clients say ‘we don’t have a budget’ but it’s simply not the case. Everyone has a budget whether it be £500, £5000 or £50,000 – by not telling us you inhibit our ability to do our best for you.
Will it be more expensive to book with a travel professional?
This is an interesting one! A common misconception is that it is more expensive to book with us than to arrange the trip yourself. Whilst this can occasionally be the case, the majority of the time our expertise means we know the insider tricks to save you money. We can suggest changes to your plans that could make it more economical- whether that be reversing the itinerary to avoid a one-way fee on a hire car, amending the travel date to avoid a weekend supplement or simply discussing the accommodation options based upon our knowledge and personal experience. Occasionally it might cost marginally more for us to book your arrangements. But ask yourself this- if you’d like a decent haircut, will you do it yourself? Or will you go to a hairdresser and pay a fee to get the best job done? If you were to spend five hours trawling the Internet to research your plans, how much would that time be worth to you at work or at home? We do that work for you, but we do so using our experience and knowledge to help you get the best value for money, and the best holiday to suit your preferences and requirements.
Will it be hot? Will it be rainy? Will we see the fall colours? Will we see wildlife? (Delete as applicable!)
Whilst we don’t have the ability to foresee or guarantee any of the above (oh how we wish we did though!), what we can do is ensure you’re in the right place at the right time to have the very best chance of feeling the warmth of the sun on your face as you sunbathe on a golden beach, seeing the beautiful bright colours of New England in the fall, or watching the wildebeest migration through Kenya.
Why should we book with a travel professional?
I hope my answers above might give you some of the good reasons to book with a travel professional, but if you need more convincing, then consider the following thoughts. We and our local ground agents are available to assist you both in the lead up to your trip, and most importantly whilst you’re away. When disaster strikes in the form of illness, earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanic ash clouds, this becomes vitally important – someone with travel expertise to help amend or cancel onward arrangements as necessary. We recently had clients fall ill in a remote location in South America, and although their travel insurance company needed to organize their homeward travel, we were in regular contact with both our clients and their insurance company to liaise and assist where possible and at any hour of the day or night – our clients felt we provided a lifeline to them, and we were pleased to be able to help. If your holiday through Experience Holidays includes flights from the UK, it will be financially protected by our ATOL license. If it doesn’t include flights, your money is still protected via our Trust account.
We hope this may have reassured you that even tho we are specialised experts we are here to help you get the most out of your bespoke, tailor made holiday and it is not always more expensive to book with us! So why not give us a call to get a no obligation quote and you may just be pleasantly surprised – Please call us on 01323 446550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Experience Holidays is fully bonded under the Civil Aviation Authority ATOL scheme and is a member of the
All the flights and flight-inclusive holidays sold by us on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it.
Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate
Book your holiday with confidence, safe in the knowledge that your money is protected and your holiday is in safe hands.