We began our trip to Australia and New Zealand on April 1 and returned on April 24. We were happy that we selected this time of year as we did not get much rain (2 days altogether) and the temperatures were mild. We started in Sydney and spent 2 nights there and found it to be a very cosmopolitan city. We had a tour guide take us around the entire city and its suburbs. We had a good selection of restaurants for dining.
The next day we flew on to Tasmania. We landed in Hobart, where we were picked up and driven to the the Freycinet National Park. We stayed 2 nights in a very simple cabin and had wonderful meals at the Freycinet Lodge. On one of our walks in the forest we saw a wallaby. We returned to Hobart and spent 2 days exploring the area. While there we visited Maria Island and hiked. Along our hike we got to see some wombats and beautiful natural rock scapes. Hobart is a very interesting city with lots of history and we enjoyed our short stay.
The following day we flew to Cairns, as we wanted to experience the Great Barrier Reef out of Port Douglas. The snorkeling at the reef was amazing. Very surreal. This was our most memorable time in Australia.
All of our excursions, our guides and drivers were wonderful. We never experienced any glitches and our accommodations were beyond our expectations. We found the Australians to be warm and very easy to get along with. We left Melbourne feeling we had truly experienced Australia from one end of the coast to the other. Sarah did a good job with our itinerary, our accommodations and our excursions.
From Melbourne we flew to Auckland, and early the next morning headed to Rotorua. This was almost a 4-hour drive, which gave us a good taste of the North New Zealand Island and again a wonderful driver with good information about New Zealand. Rotorua is a geothermal area of North NZ and while it was very interesting visiting many of these natural hot “pools,” learning about the Māoris, and seeing the Redwood forest, we found it difficult to find good eating restaurants and the accommodation was mediocre. We spent 3 nights there and we would recommend 1 night. On the 4th day our driver picked us up and drove us to Wellington (3-4 hr drive) to catch our flight to Nelson.
Nelson is a beautiful city on the Southern Island of NZ. Our accommodation was spectacular. Pihopa Retreat was formerly an Anglican bishop retreat and sits on 5 beautiful acres of trees and flowers. Here the service was impeccable and the reservations for our restaurants were made by the person who managed this wonderful gem. The dining experience in Nelson was spot-on.… Nelson has beautiful national parks along its coast. It is a must see to explore. We spent an entire day there, hiking in the forest and walking on its beaches. A wonderful excursion. Next day, we then flew to Christchurch and again we were driven by an excellent driver/guide to Kaikoura where our accommodation was right on the ocean and superior. Again we took an excursion offshore to see albatross, whales and lots of dolphins. Another wonderful day. We spent 2 days there and then flew to Queenstown where we were met by our driver and spent 2-3 hrs driving to Lake Te Anau. We spent another 2 wonderful days in a beautiful lodge situated on top of a beautiful hill on 2,000 acres with spectacular views. We did an excursion in the Fiordland National Park. Absolutely spectacular forest, which included a boat excursion viewing waterfalls and also a hike. The visit to this area was most enjoyable. We could have stayed here longer, the chef at the lodge fed us delicious meals, and everything about this area and place was magical. After 2 days we headed to Queenstown for 2 nights in this beautiful, vivacious city with great dining, shops and a port. Once again, our accommodation was beyond our expectations. This boutique B&B was also situated on a hill with great views of the city and harbor. We went on a jet-boat excursion that was exciting and exhilarating. This trip was a whirlwind trip, in retrospect if we were to do it again we would stay longer at some of these cities.
Sarah did a great job at putting together within our timeline a well-organized itinerary customized to our requests of nature activities and experiences we had talked about. Everything throughout the trip went exactly the way it was planned.
The Sara(h)s were absolutely amazing. It wasn’t the easiest trip to plan because things kept changing — United massively changed their schedule after we’d booked our tickets and so our itinerary had to be rejiggered. Then two of the hotels closed and they had to find replacements last-minute. Throughout it all, they were calm, efficient, full of good ideas, and very reassuring.
Sarah’s office did a fantastic job helping us plan and execute an amazing trip to New Zealand. With their help we spent three glorious weeks exploring both the North and South Islands. Their experience and expertise were invaluable. Also much appreciated was their initiative. With the weather looking iffy for our ferry crossing to the South Island, they jumped in to put us on a flight to avoid any issues. They were extremely professional and attentive. Very highly recommended.
Our foursome has traveled extensively and frequently do not utilize the services of a travel agent, preferring to spend weeks together, studying guidebooks and maps, hammering out an itinerary and familiarizing ourselves with the history and culture of our intended destination. However, this time we decided to put ourselves in the hands of Sara’s office, after being directed by Wendy Perrin, and it was the best decision we could have made!
Sarah and Sara (or as we called them, The Saras), arranged our 2 1/2-week stay in New Zealand from 2/12 to 3/1. Before even departing from the USA, we felt assured we had made the right choice. Through a combination of phone calls and emails, with return communications always occurring without delay, the Saras helped us to put together a FOMO’s dream vacation. Whenever we wanted to add additional sites, we never heard the word No, always being told that it could be worked out, even if it meant revamping plans already made. The Saras listened carefully to our interests and prioritizations and put together a trip that exceeded our specifications.
It is easy to give praise when everything works out exactly as planned, but the true worth and value of your travel advisor is tested when conditions go awry. This is where we cannot give enough high praise to The Saras.
The day we arrived, we were one of the last flights into Auckland before the airport (and everything else) closed in anticipation of the arrival of a Category 3 cyclone. While we were still in the transportation van from the airport, we began to receive information from Sara Devenie regarding mass evacuation orders issued for the Coromandel, our first planned stop, bridge closings and expected transportation problems made worse by 3 weeks of rain and epic flooding which preceded our arrival. She preemptively presented suggestions to reroute our trip, giving us options and suggestions, and was able to extend our Auckland reservations and add additional nights to another reservation, so that our trip could continue with relatively minor inconvenience. She also provided us with a 24/7 hotline phone number should we need any assistance and texted us daily to ensure everything was going smoothly.
After that rocky start, the trip went seamlessly. On the North Island we explored the geothermal parks of Rotorua, relaxed in the hot springs of a day spa, hiked the trails at Tongariro National Park, and enjoyed the Te Papa museum, botanical gardens and Aucklandia Reserve at night in Wellington, to name a few of our activities. A unique experience was a private walk with a guide through her husband’s Māori village. She shared tribal history, culture, and traditions to give us a deeper understanding of New Zealand’s history. This is exactly the kind of experience we requested, rather than attending a tribal “show” along with busloads of other tourists.
Crossing by ferry to the South Island also required some readjustments, as the cyclone had affected shipping in the channel as well. But again, Sara made all the needed arrangements and communicated these changes quickly and clearly.
Thankfully, the weather improved and our South Island activities were all as planned. The only hitch was a weather-enforced cancellation of a heli-hike on the Franz Joseph glacier. When we called Sara and apprised her of the situation, she again jumped in and was able to schedule a similar excursion on Mount Cook the next day! This was above and beyond! Our other activities included a private daylong boating excursion at Abel Tasman, wine tasting and lunch at a vineyard in Marlborough, whale watching in Kaikoura, glow worm caves in Te Anau, jet boating in Queenstown, and a most spectacular night of astronomy and star viewing of the Southern Hemisphere sky—at the Dark Zone at Lake Takepo, while comfortably floating in a large, hot springs pool. There was even a spectacular showing of the aurora australis on our night in Queensland.
While most tourists find themselves visiting Milford Sound, with many day visitors and large boats plying the waters, we were directed by Sara to Doubtful Sound, an equally stunning location in Fiordland of towering cliffs, tumbling waterfalls and local wildlife. The difference was, we spent our overnight boat trip on a 5-cabin small vessel and never saw another boat during our 24-hour stay. This was the trip’s highlight for me—seeing incredible vistas, accompanied by a large, playful group of bottle-nosed dolphins following our vessel, eating fresh lobster taken from traps set the day before and fishing and catching our dinner of blue cod straight from the water. The tranquility, splendor and induced awe could not be matched.
I could go on about the beauty of New Zealand, the friendliness of its people, and the many opportunities afforded for hiking, boating, biking, and just rounding a corner to see jaw-dropping vistas at every turn, but I know that we wouldn’t have seen half as much, or been better directed and cared for than by the team of Sarah and Sara. We have never had a better experience with any travel consultant, large or small, anywhere else in the world. I have already referred 2 of my friends to their company and will continue to do so in the future. Thank you, thank you to The Saras!