tour

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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November 2015

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November was an exam month so not much happened before the nineteenth. Highlight of the month was definitely the 1989 concert!!! I’ve been waiting for this day since I was 12 and first heard Love Story on the radio in the supermarket carpark. I guess you could call that love at first note. What an event! With a 76 000 strong crowd (the biggest crowd she’ll play to this whole tour!!!), there was really something magical about being in a confined space with so many people who all know the lyrics to your favourite songs. Visually, How You Get The Girl was my favourite with the floating street lamps and light up dress but I think I danced the hardest to Out Of The Woods and I Knew You Were Trouble. The flashing wristbands were such a neat idea because they pulsed to the music (see above) and I’m glad they still work after the concert because it makes for a nice memento. I’m so glad this was the concert that was filmed for the DVD because I’ll have to get it just to relive the night :’)

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Bite Beauty in Glace / Top Shop Beauty in Perplex / Rumba Time in Madison (c/o)  or via Shopbop/ Seed Marble Phone Case 

I have been looking for an affordable marble phone case for over a year and I finally found this one from Seed when they were doing 20% off storewide at VOSN for under $10. I was looking to find a Kylie Jenner-esque colour lip pencil and this one sadly misses the spot but is still quite pretty as you can see me wearing in Paint Me Like … By Your French Door.’ Finally, I have a new time piece from Rumba Time in my life that is less glitzy than my MK one because there aren’t any crystals but its still very shiny because of they way the edges are cut. 

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Topshop opened their second store in Sydney (took their time am I right?) and its kitted out with a Doughnut Time. On the opening day they gave away 500 doughnuts and I scored two – ‘The Cereal Killer’ and ‘Oreo’. These artisan doughnuts are hand dipped and so scrumptious.

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There are only a few weeks until Christmas and then its the new year and 2016 will be upon us :0 I’ve put up the trees in my house including this new baby tree from Bed Bath n Table. Its a bit underdressed right now but I’m hoping to add a few homemade ornaments when I get back from my holiday.

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