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Top 6 takeaways from Tourism New Zealand’s If You Seek famil

Across six days, four destinations, two internal flights and copious coach travel, nine Aussie travel agents, one Karryon writer and a Tourism New Zealand host tried some of the best and most unexpected experiences in the North and South Islands on an indulgent If You Seek itinerary.

Across six days, four destinations, two internal flights and copious coach travel, nine Aussie travel agents, one Karryon writer and a Tourism New Zealand host tried some of the best and most unexpected experiences in the North and South Islands on an indulgent If You Seek itinerary.

From culture to adrenaline and much food and wine tasting, here’s the surprising things we learnt about Aotearoa on the Tourism New Zealand If You Seek famil. Plus, read on to discover how to get on the next fam!

1. It’s easy to include cultural experiences on an Aotearoa trip

NZ Waiheke
At Piritahi Marae on Waiheke Island. Image: Tourism New Zealand

From the first “Kia ora” on your Air New Zealand flight, Kiwi tourism and travel operators really excel at incorporating Māori culture into activities and experiences.

On the If You Seek famil, indigenous experiences were woven into every facet of the trip, including guided activities and interpretative tours and cultural immersion through food from casual eateries to fine dining such as the exclusive Hiakai restaurant in Wellington. 

We were also the first group of Aussie agents to experience a traditional pōwhiri (Māori welcoming ceremony) at Piritahi Marae on Waiheke Island.

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Experiencing a traditional pōwhiri. Image: Tourism New Zealand

“That Māori culture is so intertwined in present-day life is a real point of difference between Australia and New Zealand,” said Flight Centre Cairns Central Senior Consultant Melissa Thornton.

 “New Zealanders take such beautiful pride in their Māori culture and heritage and it’s impossible to travel in the country and not feel incredibly welcomed and filled with awe,” Holiday Wonders Travel Consultant Laura Bacuriski added.

2. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new

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EcoZip Adventures on Waiheke Island. Image: Selena Petyt

Is it even a New Zealand famil if you don’t hurl yourself off something high? On this trip, we ventured way out of our comfort zones in many challenging and ultimately enriching ways.

For some that meant tackling a 60m-high zipline at EcoZip Adventures on Waiheke Island, for others, the 2.5-hour ocean canoeing activity in Abel Tasman National Park might test their limits.

Even trying new foods or seeing the curious sight of a New Zealand paua or abalone wriggling in its shell on the Paua Pearl Tour at Arapawa Blue Pearls is different from your everyday experience.

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Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park. Image: Linda Forster

The If You Seek famil gently introduced lots of ways for the group to step outside their comfort zone to try something new, learn different things and take those unique experiences back home.

“Hiakai was a next-level experience. There were several dishes I would not normally have tried but I was pleasantly surprised. The host, George, was fantastic and informative, giving a full rundown of each course and where the ingredients were sourced,” Mel said. 

“I got to do a few things I hadn’t done before, like kayaking, which was amazing!” Laura added.

3. Sustainability is all around

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View from the eco-cabins at Awaroa Lodge in Abel Tasman National Park. Image: Cassie Tannenberg

The latest Air New Zealand safety video shares the ‘tiaki’ promise to care for the land, sea, nature and people while travelling in Aotearoa.

Protecting nature and keeping New Zealand clean are central to this promise and it was reaffirming to see many tourism businesses and operators promoting sustainability and responsible travel practices.

Travel & Cruise North East Senior Consultant Alex Lee said: “The Hotel Britomart – a 5-star modern oasis in the heart of Auckland – blew me away with its beautiful, generously sized rooms and the best shower. Timber features, natural light and a big sustainability focus gave it a tick for me.

4. You can never sample too much NZ wine

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At Johanneshof in Marlborough. Image: Cassie Tannenberg

Like Lindsay Lohan’s character in Mean Girls said: the limit does not exist. But we sure sampled a lot of local vino on this famil to really push that limit!

From wine pairings at dinner to guided boutique winery tours, we were spoilt for choice. We visited several famous wine-growing regions – sampling sauv blanc in Marlborough, sipping rich reds in Nelson and toasting with sparking and rosé on Waiheke Island.

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At Gravity Winery. Image: Cassie Tannenberg

“Lunch at Mudbrick Winery on Waiheke Island was my favourite meal – stunning views over the water and incredible food and wine – the lamb and haloumi dish was delicious,” Alex said.

Even non-drinkers like Mel found the guided tours of wineries interesting and insightful.

“I did not expect to be interested in wineries and a behind-the-scenes tour would not have been on my highlights list but I was pleasantly surprised. Brett was fantastic and it was really interesting to see how they produced wine at the unique Gravity Winery,” she said.

5. It’s easy to get around NZ

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The AU crew on an Air New Zealand domestic flight. Image: Linda Forster

If you think you need a motorhome and sat nav to get around Aotearoa, think again. On this famil we zipped from North to South seamlessly, thanks to internal flights and coach travel.

Some agents noted that as many Australians travel long distances for interstate and even intrastate travel, there’s a tendency to believe that travel from A to B in New Zealand is a similarly long experience.

“Coming from Australia where we have such large distances between cities it was really cool to be able to travel so quickly between destinations,” Mel said.

Others said that there’s the perception that as New Zealand is so small, there’s not a lot to do.

“There’s so much to see and do that you’re going to need at least a couple of weeks to even scratch the surface,” Laura said.

Advisors also enjoyed the ease of domestic travel within Aotearoa with no need to declare food or major security checkpoints. Plus, some of the regional airports are pretty impressive with new facilities and striking designs.

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The ceiling design at Nelson Airport reflects the surrounding mountains. Image: Cassie Tannenberg

TravLin Travel Owner Linda Forster said: “It’s an extremely easy country to get around, especially but not limited to, domestic air travel. Australia could learn a lot!” 

“I also loved the internal flights in New Zealand because they were stress-free and it was such a simple process checking in our bags and waiting at the departure gates all in the same terminal,” Laura added.

6. Look out for wildlife

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Birdspotting at Zealandia – Nio the rare takahē. Image: Sandra Etter

As we kept being reminded on the trip, unlike Australia, the native wildlife won’t kill you in New Zealand. The lack of apex predators aside, the group still oohed and aahed over the animals and birdlife we spotted in their native or domestic habitat.

From sheep nonchalantly grazing in vineyards to cute penguins bobbing their heads in Queen Charlotte Sound, we loved them all.

We saw the aforementioned paua (abalone); cheeky seal pups sunbaking, swimming or scoping salmon farms; and birdlife at Zealandia, a protected eco-sanctuary just 10 minutes from downtown Wellington.

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NZ fur seal. Image: Selena Petyt

“Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park and seeing the seals was an amazing experience that I will never forget. The guides were amazing and even in the rain it was just incredible,” Mel said.

“There is something for everyone with beautiful, unique native wildlife (I recommend a visit to Zealandia in Wellington to meet the birds), natural beauty and magnificent landscapes with plenty of room to move,” Alex said.

Coming at the end of our famil, the trip to Zealandia dovetailed nicely with the overarching themes of culture, nature, sustainability and amazing food and wine.

Become a New Zealand Specialist

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At Arapawa Blue Pearls. Image: Sandra Etter

The Tourism New Zealand If You Seek itinerary took the online training modules and brought them to glorious technicolour life for the travel advisors.

“The Tourism New Zealand website has fantastic resources,” Alex said. “The training modules are interesting and a great resource to learn about the various regions and sell New Zealand.

“The interactive modules were a very useful tool; they were creative and engaging, and I found the interactivity a wonderful way to retain the information presented,” Laura added.  “I would highly encourage other tourism bodies to promote a similar interactive approach to training as it genuinely makes a huge difference.

Inspired to seek more info about New Zealand holidays? Upskill your Aotearoa know-how and sign up for the 100% Pure New Zealand Specialist Programme here to become a New Zealand expert and find out about upcoming famils.