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Topdeck NZ Northern Explorer

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When I was initially researching this trip, I looked high and low for a review about this specific Topdeck tour but I couldn’t find anything that answered all my questions and was also recently published. Now that it has been almost a month since my return, I wanted to create a post for anyone who is looking to do the Northern Explorer tour in the future. I will be covering accommodation, food, attractions and the people 🙂

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I booked my tour a few months in advance with STA travel but you can also book online directly through Topdeck’s own website. I would definitely recommend doing it in person through an agent because you can ask as many questions as you please, the price is exactly the same and you don’t have to pay the whole trip up front, only a small deposit. If you don’t want the hassle of booking flights and buying insurance separately, STA are happy to hook you up as well but if you want to save some money you can grab those through Webjet which is what I did.

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Accommodation

My friend and I went together so we upgraded to twin share which was an extra hundred each. This was a really great decision on our part because our room was always much nicer and we would always have access to our own private bathrooms and amenities. I think the accommodation was fantastic in terms of variety, as you can see we stayed in a ski resort, a Maori Marae (which is the sacred meeting place) and also a small boat!

These are all the places we stayed at:

  • Pre-Accommodation at Travelodge Hotel, Wellington
  • Skotel Alpine Resort, Mount Ruapehu
  • Maori Marae, Rotorua
  • Sudima, Rotorua
  • Rock the Boat, Bay of Islands
  • Tanoa Paihia Hotel, Tanoa

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Rotorua Museum of History & Art

Attractions

I paid for three optional extras: Hobbiton, Hell’s Gate mud spa and Rock the Boat. There is a ton of other cool things that you can also participate in such as white water rafting, zorbing, inflatable kayaking and bungee jumping.

Hobbiton: to read more about my Hobbiton experience, you can visit my first New Zealand post here.

Hell’s Gate: was a nice experience after having skipped way too many showers on this trip! We spent an hour in the hot mud and springs where our noses accommodated to the sulphurous scent of Rotorua.

Rock the Boat: this was my favourite part of our entire trip! For 22 hours we went on a tiny little boat and saw all 144 islands with a very enthusiastic local crew. There was a paint balling introduction, fishing for dinner followed by night kayaking which was breathtaking. We paddled out at 10pm and the water was filled with phosphorous algae so when we dipped our paddle or arm in the water, a beautiful trail of glow in the dark algae moved along with us. We also lay in our kayaks and looked up at the glowing night sky and it was quite magical 🙂 After kayaking, the brave kids jumped in for a swim. It was cold but so worth it because as we swam, the algae continued to glow and everyone felt like a mermaid. Once all warmth had escaped our bodies we jumped back out and sat by the fire. The next morning we went snorkelling and hiked up a lush island barefoot. I don’t think I’ve ever had that many adventures in under 24 hours!

The activities that were already included in our tour were just as great and the night at the Marae was my favourite. Some of the things included a hike in Tongariro which you can read more about in my previous post here, a rugby lesson at the NZ Sports Academy and a night learning about Maori culture including the haka and poi dances at the Marae.

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If you choose not to participate in an activity you have the option of exploring the city yourself. None of the activities are affiliated with Topdeck so you can do as little or as much as you would like. Here’s a snap of me ‘skydiving’ and another of my friend bungee jumping.

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Te Papa Museum

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Food

Breakfast is included every morning at the location of the accommodation for the previous night. We had a combination of cold and hot breakfasts and three dinners were included. Lunch was always up to us and we were given the opportunity to go to grocery stores and stock up on water and snacks if we were heading somewhere remote.

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People

For the trip we had a tour leader, a driver and an extra person who did both jobs whenever the main people were tired. No tipping is required and they were all very helpful. Most of the the other travellers were Australian like myself but around 30% were from overseas. We had a big group of almost 40 including people from the UK, US, Germany, France and Switzerland. The best way to describe the environment would be like a big school camping trip. I know tours like these have a reputation for being party tours but I think it usually depends on the group itself. This was a bit of a quiet group so there was no pressure to drink if you didn’t want to and the places we travelled to lacked night life so there wasn’t much on offer in terms of after hours entertainment.

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Waiotapu Geothermal

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Overall, Topdeck tours are very fast paced adventure packed trips. If you want to see lots of scenery, I wouldn’t recommend going on one because we were only allowed 10 to 30 minutes tops at some scenic lookouts. However, they are very well organised so you don’t have to do much thinking aside from getting to the bus on time.

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Huka Falls

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I never have much use for souvenirs so I only bought one thing for myself – a kiwi charm (only available to purchase in New Zealand) to finish off my pandora bracelet for 2015.

Hopefully this whopper of a post was helpful for some people. If you have any questions in general about Topdeck tours or more specific ones about the northern explorer I would be happy to answer them in the comments below. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back with a fashion post on Friday! Lets hope this weather clears up a bit too eh?!!

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Namastay in Bed All Day

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Namastay in Bed All Day‘ – is that the general consensus among students this time of the year? Yeah … you and me both buddy … but we soldier on knowing that in a fortnight’s time, ‘school’s out, we can sleep as late as we want too’.* Here’s a little lifestyle editorial for your viewing pleasure today in collaboration with Shhh Silk. They launched their online store a few weeks ago and specialise in fancy schamncy silk pillowcases to keep your hair silky soft (the puns continue, apologies). I’m a violent thrashing sleeper who often wakes up in the morning looking like Hermoine so hopefully this will minimise the damage. My favourite thing about these pillow cases aside from how they make me feel like Eloise at New York Plaza is that they come with a zip! I haven’t found a pillowcase with a zip ever – they usually have nothing or little fussy buttons that no one has time for. For some more dreamy photographs, check out Shhh Silk’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Also, if you are interested in learning more about my creative process, have a look at my Pinterest Board to see the inspiration behind this editorial.

Since this is a collaboration and all, I would like to address something that has been on rotation in the social media loop in the last week. As someone who uses Instagram and the like I feel like I should talk about the whole Social-Media-Is-Evil-Essena-O’Neil-Quits-Everything matter. I use my blog and other social media channels to express myself creatively and part of this process involves collaborations with companies and brands that I am proud of. I am proud to be working with Shhh Silk because I think the fact that the founder quit her 9-5 job to pursue something she was passionate about is inspiring. I have been offered paid content before but I’ve turned it down because it meant giving the reigns to someone else. I’m not saying that I will never publish a sponsored post but when I do, it will be disclosed and it will be in line with my brand. I also think very highly of my readers and I am confident that they are smart people who can tell that my content is staged. Because, no, I do not have breakfast in bed like this every morning. If you would also like to read another opinion on this click here for some lolz.

*Millennials I do hope you get that reference because if you don’t SHAME ON YOU 😉

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Single Silk Pillowcase in ‘Blanc’ (c/o) Shhh Silk

Copper Wire Basket, Fairy Lights and Breakfast Tray from Kmart

Bustier from Cotton on Body (navy and pale blue are my favourites)

‘365’ Diary from Kikki-K 

 Bowl from Freedom; Vase from Ikea  

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