• Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton
    Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton

What to do in Stone Town, Zanzibar – Tanzania, East Africa

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

For those of you that are looking to add some beach after your safari and have decided to head for Zanzibar, then I would recommend that you should consider some time in the fascinating capital of the Island – Stone Town.

With history that relates to Zanzibar is reflected in the architecture and historic artefacts to be found in the museums and hotels. With the Sultans of Oman having Zanzibar as one of their main trading posts in East Africa for several centuries, indeed it was the capital of their empire for a while; there is a strong Arab influence on the island. Of course there is a huge Swahili feel along with the British and Portuguese buildings to be found, particularly in Stone Town.

I would certainly recommend that you should stay a couple of nights to allow you time to explore and immerse yourselves in the vibrant colours and culture. There are a good number of hotels to choose from, from backpackers to boutique to 5 star hotels – so plenty of choice.

 

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

One of the best ways of getting to know the town is to take a guided walk through the maze of narrow streets, designed to be wide enough for 2 donkeys and very anti car. The buildings are in all states of repair with the Omani influence very much in evidence but the real stars to keep you reaching for the camera are the ornate doors. Here are carvings of scripts, both religious and secular, flowers and animals of all kinds and beautiful brass studs and nails. 

The walk takes you to the Sultans Palace (now a museum), the House of Wonder and the very moving museum of slavery and its statue of commemoration. Then the walk takes you in to the vibrant and hugely colourful fruit, vegetable and general market. Add in the colour of the Zanzibari women’s clothes and you have a feast for your eyes.

Alternatively catch a dhow out to one of the sandbars that emerge as the tide drops and spend a happy couple of hour’s snorkelling while your crew cook you a fresh from the sea lunch.

Everyone recommends that you watch the sun set and the received wisdom is that Africa House is the place to do this. This is a very buzzy place with all sort of travellers gathered to toast the setting sun. For those wanting a quieter location, and with the same view, then the bar at the Zanzibar Serena Hotel is just as good and has an excellent restaurant which is right on the waterfront.

Book your place to explore the doors, museums, markets, meet the friendly people and drink your sundowner watching the dhows beating their way to the harbour by contacting us at Experience Holidays.

For fuller details, please ask for Peter Ellis.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Thinking about what to do for your next holiday then take a look at Triple Creek Ranch…

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Triple Creek Ranch is a truly gorgeous mountain hideaway and perfect for a special occasion – a luxury all-inclusive resort nestled in the Bitterroot Mountain Range of the Montana Rockies, close to border with Idaho. This year round resort, a member or the prestigious Relais & Chateaux collection, has an exceptional level of service, incorporating luxury private log cabin accommodation, fine dining and world class wines.

Picture courtesy of Triple Creek Ranch

Surrounded by incomparable scenery and wildlife, the ranch offers a wide range of activities from which to choose. In spring, the meadows are alive with wild flowers, in summer the sun-filled days are perfect for horseback riding, fishing, hiking, float trips and rafting. Autumn brings stunning fall colours – bright blue skies and crisp cool evenings. In winter, enjoy cross-country or Alpine skiing – just 30 minutes from the resort is the Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Resort – with an average yearly snowfall of 300 inches of powdery snow this is skiing without the long lift lines and crowds. Snowmobiling, snowshoeing or horseback riding through unspoiled snow-covered wilderness are also on offer. Then spend your evenings relaxing in front of a cozy fire.

 

Situated midway beteen Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, a stay at this fabulous ranch fits perfectly into a holiday to this stunning region.

 

Please contact us for more information.

Picture courtesy of Triple Creek Ranch

Picture courtesy of Triple Creek Ranch

Picture courtesy of Triple Creek Ranch

Picture courtesy of Triple Creek Ranch

Picture courtesy of Triple Creek Ranch

Picture courtesy of Triple Creek Ranch

 

South Africa’s Blue Train just became slower – But in a Good Way

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

In 2019 South Africa’s Blue train relaunched its classic train journey between Pretoria and Cape Town (in either direction) now making this a two-night experience. This will allow guests to relax more and soak up the scenery. The Blue Train has always been considered the epitome of luxury, hospitality and leisure.

The train now departs at 4pm and arrives at its destination at 10:30 two days later. The cabins compare well with the finest hotels, with en suite bathroom or shower (depending on level of cabin you choose) and the attention of your personal butler. The Observation Cat at the end of the train has windows on 3 sides allowing you to make the most of the passing scenery.

There is also a 2 ½ hour ‘off train’ excursion to the Kimberley Open Mine Museum and visit to the Big Hole.

This journey would make a great addition to any trip to South Africa and a wonderful way to see part of this amazing country. If you would like to find out more then please contact us.

 

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Rovos Rail is 30 Years old

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

For all lovers of iconic train journeys, a trip aboard one of Rovos Rails trains to different parts of Southern Africa is a must. As at the end this month the company will have been operating for 30 years and is offering eight trips around Southern Africa; varying in length from 48 hours to 15 days. At any given time, the Company will be offering 5 out of the 8 journeys will be running. In addition, they have taken over, and overhauled, Shongololo Express to add to their portfolio.

 

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

The trains are exceptional to look at, comfortable to travel in and offer a service that is second to none. You are well looked after the moment you arrive at the station of departure – bags whipped away to be unpacked in your cabin/suite while you have a welcome drink and introduction to a Rovos Rail trip. They stop at many of Southern Africa’s outstanding sites and offer you a tour around – be it the Big Hole at Kimberley or a National Park in the countries visited.

It is a perfect way to celebrate an occasion or to see a country from a different perspective. Please contact us for further details.

 

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

Tips for choosing the Right Safari

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

 

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safaris are a holiday that most people want to experience once in their lives. There are several things to think about before deciding on where and when you go on safari and the following are some of the questions to ask:

  • Choose your destination with care. You will be very disappointed if your favorite animal is a rarity in the country that you choose.
  • Check the right time of the year to go. Parts of Africa have heavy rain making getting around very difficult.
  • Choose a conservancy for an exclusive experience with wildlife and not fight for position with tour buses for a glimpse of a beleaguered animal. Many of the eco lodges have the benefit of being right in the bush with the wildlife passing right in front of your tent.
  • Stay longer in each destination for a fuller experience of that Park or Conservancy.
  • If you can afford it, fly between parks and camps. This particularly applies when the alternative could see you spending 6-8 hours on the road.
  • Choose accommodation that offers the authentic African experience with the wildlife and local people at the heart of its being.
  • Pick the right time of the year to see the migrations – animals, birds and whales. There is no guarantee with wildlife but there are norms.
  • Pack with the right safari clothes and do not pack too much. Many lodges and camps offer laundry facilities.
  • Read up about your chosen destination and ask someone who knows the area well for advise re the above.

That is all there is to it!

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Why Wyoming..

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

If your someone who likes space with peace and amazing scenery, then this state’s vast size and low population which could allow each person living in Wyoming to have 111 acres all to themselves could be your perfect get away. Here are 10 places to get you started…………..

 

Lander – Hiking, mountain biking, fishing and world-class climbing await in this secluded mountain town along Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Most of Lander’s outdoor fun can be found in Sinks Canyon State Park a beautiful park with a natural phenomenon known as The Sinks. Jump on one of the 500+ area climbing routes or explore the park’s stunning scenery via trail.

Wind River Canyon Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Star Valley – Wyoming’s Star Valley is a community of 12 towns that span a 45 mile stretch of valley nestled against the Salt River Mountain Range – just one hour south of Grand Teton National Park. This often-overlooked part of the state is also one of the most beautiful, with rolling hills, snow-capped mountains and rushing rivers serving as the backdrop to your outdoor adventures.

Saratoga – For the ultimate mountain rejuvenation, head to Saratoga and take a soak in the hot springs. Hobo Hot Springs features several free pools, including a few along the North Platte River. Make your way to nearby Medicine Bow National Forest to hike along the Snowy Mountain Range.

Hot Springs Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Sundance – Break away from the stresses of modern technology in the place where the Sundance Kid got his name. This Western town is located in the heart of the Black Hills, offering plenty of trails for the enjoyment of hikers, horseback riders and off-road vehicle enthusiasts alike. Explore Devils Tower America’s first national monument by hiking around its mile-long base or climbing up its 900-foot face.

Alcova – Technically part of Casper, Wyoming, Alcova is an unincorporated town near Fremont Canyon that offers rest, rejuvenation and adventure on the water. Get away from the noise of everyday life by staying at a campsite along the canyon’s Alcova or Pathfinder reservoirs; or book a rustic cabin in the town of Alcova. Rent a pontoon boat, kayak, stand-up paddleboard or water toy of your choosing at Alcova Resort and spend your days gazing at the canyon’s towering walls from its refreshing blue shores. Grab your fishing pole and cast a line into Alcova Reservoir, or try your luck at fly fishing on the nearby Platte River. Rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking offer even more fun on shore.

Seminoe Alcova Wyoming Backway Cedit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Guernsey – Step off the grid and into a time when the West was a new frontier. Just south of Guernsey you will find remnants of travel from those heading West on the Oregon Trail during the mid-1800s. See the Oregon Trial ruts – the tracks worn into sandstone from pioneer wagons – some of which are now five feet deep. Then head to Register Cliff to find names carved into rock wall by emigrants passing through. Continue your deep dive into history with a trip to Fort Laramie, a national historic site that transformed from a fur trading outpost to a military post protecting westward travellers from local American Indian tribes.

Fort Laramie NHS Buildings Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Fort Laramie NHS Barracks Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovell – This quaint town in northern Wyoming offers a doorway to both Western history and outdoor adventure. Spot wild horses at the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center, discover ancient American Indian History at Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark or stroll through downtown Lovell, known for its beautiful rose gardens. While in town, take a few days to explore the nearby Bighorn Lake and Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, an area that spans into Montana and features stunning, 1,000-foot-tall canyon walls carved by the Bighorn River.

Medicine Wheel Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Green River – Discover southwest Wyoming’s beautiful buttes and other worldly rock formations in the area surrounding Green River. Toss your phones aside as you search for wildlife at the beautiful Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, where moose, pronghorn and over 200 species of birds can be spotted year-round. Or drive the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop for the chance to see members of the area herd, which consists of about 1,500 wild horses. Drive the Flaming Gorge-Green River Basin Scenic Byway for breath taking views of Green River and Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, leaving ample time to stop and explore.

 

Buffalo – Tucked just east of Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains, Buffalo offers a wide range of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed during any season. Take a hike in Cloud Peak Wilderness, cast a line in Clear Creek or saddle up for an hourly, daily or overnight horseback trip at one of several nearby ranches. When the snow starts falling, hit the slopes at Meadowlark Ski Lodge or snowmobile pristine trails in the Bighorns. For a touch of Wild West adventure, step back in time at the Historic Occidental Hotel, where infamous guests such as Butch Cassidy and Calamity Jane once stayed. Then venture down to Hole-in-the-Wall near Kaycee to get a first-hand look at one of the West’s best outlaw hideouts.

Buffalo Occidental Hotel Credit: Buffalo, Wyoming Chamber of Commerce

Dubois – Located near both the Wind River and Absaroka mountain ranges, you can hike to the peaceful Lake Louise or challenge yourself with a hike up Whiskey Mountain, both of which aren’t far from Wyoming’s tallest mountain at 13,809 feet: Gannett Peak. During the winter months, head west to Falls Campground or Deception Creek to snowshoe or cross-country ski. These areas are protected from snowmobilers, allowing you to have a quiet experience on pristine snow.

Sydney to the Hunter Valley Wine Region by Rail

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

If you are planning a holiday to Australia and fancy visiting the Hunter Valley but are not keen on self drive, then why not include a rail trip in your itinerary?

You can travel to the Hunter Valley, which takes about three hours by express train, from Sydney Central Station. Along the way you will only experience seven stops. The modern trains are very comfortable and feature an on board café and toilets. Large windows offer views of the stunning scenery throughout your journey.

The package would include:

  • Return train tickets from Sydney’s Central Railway Station to Singleton Station
  • Meet and Greet transfers to and from Singleton Railway Station via private Mercedes
  • Two nights’ accommodation in a choice of guestrooms and cottages at the Hunter Valley Resort.
  • Onsite Vineyard Tour followed by a private tasting with a Cellarmaster
  • Hunter Wine Theatre experience showing the onsite winery in action followed by wine tasting
  • Accommodation, breakfast, and wine activities are included in the package.

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Hunter Valley Resort is a superb country inn or lodge with 35 rooms and cottages surrounded by 70 acres of countryside and 50 year old shiraz vineyards.

Whilst there see the Hunter Wine Theatre Experience, explore and enjoy the facilities in the resort, visit the Brewery, souvenir shops, go bike riding, visit local wineries and a cheese factory, try a segway, horse riding, enjoy a relaxing massage in the Hunter Valley Heaven Massage Centre, take a carriage ride, play tennis, or go swimming – there really is something for everyone!

 

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

River Boat Cruising with a Difference

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Many people enjoy the freedom of river and/or canal cruising and the choices to do this are various and different. But for something that is of the beaten track (well for us in the U.K.) would be to consider cruising the Rideau Canal in Canada.

Picture courtesy of Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

Being over 200 kms long with 49 locks, this canal is the oldest continuously in use canal in North America and is also a World heritage Site. Following the war between Britain and the USA in 1812, the canal was built to ensure that the interior of Canada had access to open water and ultimately the sea without threat from Canada’s neighbour. It was opened in 1832 and is an amazing feat of engineering with sometimes up to 8 locks to overcome the height differences between lakes.

 

John By supervised the work and made the most of the rivers and lakes that cover this amazing region. If you were in a hurry you could probably cruise from Ottawa to Kingston on Lake Ontario in 3 days but was is the rush. Why not take your time and explore the lakes and enjoy the locks – particularly as they are manned. And if you do not want to sail the whole way, that is OK as well. Cruise in your own boat or join a larger cruiser that sales the waterway and has a capacity of 45 guests.

A wonderful way to slow down a holiday to a fascinating part of Canada which would truly add to your experiences whilst here and a great way of getting back to nature.

Picture courtesy of Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

Picture courtesy of Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

 

South Island of New Zealand

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

For those with limited time to explore New Zealand, focusing on one island only is a great way to reduce the amount of time spent travelling, and allow more time to be spent exploring this beautiful country.

Summary

South Island – New Zealand

 

Day 1:   Christchurch

Day 3:   Kaikoura

Day 4:   Blenheim

Day 6:   Abel Tasman National Park

Day 9:   Punakaiki

Day 10:   Arthurs Pass

Day 12:   Fox Glacier and Franz Josef

Day 14:   Wanaka

Day 15:   Queenstown

Day 17:   Te Anau

Day 19:   Stewart Island

Day 21:   The Catlins

Day 23:   Dunedin

Day 25:   Lake Tekapo

Day 27:   Akaroa

Day 29:   Depart Christchurch

 

Description

Description

 

The south island offers dramatic mountain scenery with the Southern Alps running north to south, and with pristine lakes, majestic glaciers, jagged peaks and deserted beaches. Add to this wildlife, birdlife and marine life along with friendly locals and a fascinating culture, and this island makes for a fantastic introduction to New Zealand.

Christchurch and Queenstown are the two key international airports on this island, and a looped route from either one will provide a comprehensive and diverse holiday.

Day 1: Christchurch

Begin your holiday in the city of Christchurch. Punt along the river, visit the botanical gardens or take a tram ride around the town centre. Unique attractions to pop up since the earthquakes include Re:Start – a shopping centre comprised of shipping containers, and the Cardboard Cathedral.

Two nights Christchurch

 

Day 3: Kaikoura

Collect a hire car and head north to Kaikoura. Located on the coast and jammed in between the mountains and the sea, Kaikoura is famous for its fish and chips and crayfish! It is also the place for whale watching – either by sea or from the air.

One night Kaikoura

Day 4: Blenheim

This area produces some excellent wines and many wineries are open for tastings. The Marlborough Sound and Queen Charlotte sound are both in this area and well worth exploring if you have the time.

Two nights Blenheim

Day 6: Abel Tasman National Park

Drive around to Abel Tasman. This northern tip of the South Island is so often overlooked, but it is one of our favourites.  It is here that you’ll see the crescent shaped beaches backed by lush greenery – easy to spend a full day in the park, using the water taxis to get about, and perhaps walking one of the many trails in the park.

Three nights Abel Tasman

Day 9: Punakaiki

Coming down the west coast, it is nice to break the journey with an overnight stop at Punakaiki. This is the home of the Pancake Rocks – a strange rock formation, and the overnight stop simply allows you to take your time as these roads are so scenic that you will simply have to keep stopping for more pictures.

One night Punakaiki

 Day 10: Arthurs Pass

Turning inland to the central spine of mountains that run through the South Island, this is alpine scenery at its very best.  There are plenty of walking opportunities in the area with stunning views all around.

Two nights Arthurs Pass

Day 12: Fox Glacier and Franz Josef

Returning to the west coast, the next place of interest are the two glaciers of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. Take time to visit one or both glaciers, the beautiful Lake Matheson and the dramatic coast at Gillespie Beach.  From here also, you can take a sightseeing flight, with or without a glacier landing and hike, and hopefully good views of Mount Cook.

Two nights Fox Glacier

Day 14: Wanaka

The route to Wanaka takes you through the Haast Pass and past Lakes Wanaka and Hawea.  Simply beautiful – this little town is surrounded by mountains and is the Queenstown of yesteryear.  Where Queenstown has developed, Wanaka has remained delightfully small.

One night Wanaka

Day 15: Queenstown

Sitting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a sizeable town with activities for every adrenalin junkie!  Here you will find bungy jumping, sky diving, a luge and plenty more.  Much of the Lord of the Rings was filmed in this area, and although the sets had to be removed, the scenery will seem familiar!  For those not into extreme sports, a drive to Glenorchy is beautiful.

Two nights Queenstown

Day 17: Te Anau

Te Anau is the gateway to Fjordland National Park – for both Milford and Doubtful Sounds. For either, you can visit for a day, or take an overnight cruise. Of the two, Milford offers the more dramatic scenery but is busier. Doubtful Sound has fewer tourists and lovely scenery, but it’s not quite so dramatic.

Two nights Te Anau

Day 19: Stewart Island

At the very southern tip are areas of New Zealand that many never get to. Stewart Island is home to the only kiwi’s (the birds that is) to be found in the wild, and a must for birding enthusiasts. Access to the island is by ferry or by light aircraft – we suggest going by air as the ferry crossing can be quite choppy.

Two nights Stewart Island 

Day 21: The Catlins

The Catlins is the area in the far southeast corner of the South Island – a wild and remote corner for those whose idea of paradise is the absence of anyone else at all (or pretty well!) and with good opportunities to see wildlife such as Little Blue Penguins, Yellow Eyed Penguins, seals and sealions.

Two nights The Catlins

Day 23: Dunedin

Visited by many for its Scottish appeal and for the colony of albatross that call this home. This is a must for birders. There are a number of other attractions in the area including the Rail Trail – great for cycling. The Otago Peninsula is beautiful, and a stay here rather than in the city itself may appeal too.

Two nights Dunedin

Day 25: Lake Tekapo

This is the home of the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Collie Dog Memorial often features in brochures. This is also a great place for stargazing as it is a ‘designated dark sky’ area.

Two nights Lake Tekapo

Day 27: Akaroa

Located on the Banks Peninsula south east of Christchurch, this small town has a French feel to it and is a lovely place to relax for a day or two. From here, one can take a cruise to swim with wild Hector’s Dolphins – the smallest and rarest dolphin, which is endemic to New Zealand.

Two nights Akaroa

Day 29: Depart Christchurch

Depart Christchurch today to head home or to your next destination.

Fox Glacier – Credit Jim bell

Franz Josef Glacier Credit New Zealand Tourism

Queenstown – Credit Jim Bell

Rippon Vineyard-Lake Wanaka- credit David Wall

23 Nugget Point The Catlins- Credit Graeme Murray

Te Anau Milfor Sound – Credit 100% New Zealand

Arthurs Pass National Park Canterbury Credit Tourism New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coastal Pacific Rolls Again!

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

It’s the news we’ve been waiting for – the Coastal Pacific train on New Zealand’s South Island is set to recommence operations from the beginning of December! This scenic rail route operates between Picton and Christchurch, and connects perfectly with the ferry between the north and south islands of New Zealand.

If arriving by ferry from Wellington, Picton is the first place visitors will come to – with a stunning journey through the Queen Charlotte Sound on the approach. Here, explore the wine regions of Blenheim and Marlborough, and take time to discover Abel Tasman National Park with its crescent shaped beaches and lush greenery. Kayaking, sailing, cycling and walking are just a few of the activities awaiting visitors to the region.

From Picton, board the Coastal Pacific train – the rail route wends its way down the east coast of the island, and stops in Kaikoura along the way. At this point, it’s possible to stop for a night or two – Kaikoura is best known for its whale watching and the albatross found here. The earthquakes of 2016 have meant an enforced regeneration of parts of the town, and it is ready to welcome visitors once again.

 

Picture courtesy of KiwiRail

The rail route continues to Christchurch. This is another place that has seen earthquake enforced regeneration and the locals here have taken advantage of the chance to make improvements along the way. Alongside traditional attractions such as the botanic gardens, the tram and punting along the river, visitors can head to the unique Cardboard Cathedral and the Quake City Museum – both icons of the recent history of the city.

From Christchurch, it’s possible to connect to another of New Zealand’s iconic rail journeys – the Tranz Alpine. This rail route cuts a path through the Southern Alps from east to west, briefly stopping in alpine Arthur’s Pass before continuing to Greymouth on the coast.

These trains provide a chance to experience New Zealand’s scenery from a different perspective, and can dovetail perfectly with sections of self-drive during a New Zealand holiday. For more information, please contact us.

 

Picture courtesy of KiwiRail

Picture courtesy of KiwiRail

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