Guest post by Fox Tour Manager, Elizabeth Cramer
New Zealand, meaning The Land of the Long White Cloud, is a harkening to the raw, dangerous beauty that can still only be found in certain parts of this marked up world. At first glance, the aesthetic itself could be mistaken as the offspring of Iceland and Hawaii. Add in some brash humor and a touch of Polynesia and you’ll be disconcerted as to where the plane just touched down. It’s a unique conflation of original culture with a melting pot of immigrants, adventurers and hippies. Perhaps above all, it’s a country known for powerfully natural landscapes; a young land mass not yet jaded by wear and tear. People know better than to over-handle New Zealand, afraid to leave fingerprints on nature’s favorite vase.
Starting the trip in Auckland was the perfect choice for access to attractions while seeing the city (don’t miss visiting the Sky Tower for the ultimate view) and after a day of regaining our bearings and fighting off jetlag, we were ready to jump right into the northern island of New Zealand with a trip off the coast to Waiheke for a vineyard tour and tasting of New Zealand’s finest wines.
The next day was exciting as we embarked on a full day of exploring landmarks starting with the Glowworm Caves of Waitomo. “Wai” meaning water and “Tomo” meaning sinkhole, this is what I would classify as a low key natural wonder. As we sailed in complete silence (noise frightens the worms into “no-glow” hiding mode), Arachnacampa luminosa slowly started to light up the ceiling above our small boats. Thousands upon thousands of these astounding creatures, completely unique to New Zealand, resembled holiday icicle lights as they strung themselves along the top of the cave.
Conveniently located near Waitomo, visiting Hobbiton is a must for any fan of the terrific writing of J.R. Tolkien. Seeing the set of the “Hobbit” and learning about “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is fascinating in itself, but the intricacies of director Peter Jackson and the stunning landscape are enjoyable even if you’ve never heard of Gandalf the Wizard. Trust me when I say, visiting Hobbiton will leave you with a deepened respect for attention to detail.
Threaded through the cloth of New Zealand is the Maori culture and we were incredibly grateful for a heartfelt experience at Te Puia, the center for culture in Rotorua, New Zealand. As our Maori guide lead us through the geothermal springs, teaching us about her culture first hand, we were able to get close to the geysers, boiling mud and pools of water that are still used by the Maori to geothermally cook food today. Ah, and of course, no trip down under would be complete without seeing an endangered Kiwi bird (within a protected conservation area, of course).
I can speak to the advantages of group tours endlessly because I’ve seen them work for experienced and novice travelers alike. Queenstown, New Zealand is a great example. Here you stand in the “Adventure Capital of the World”. Will you relax on the shores of Lake Wakatipu? Hike the Remarkables? Bungee jump from the home of the original bungee on the Queenstown Bridge?
The good news is that whatever you pick, you’re not alone when you’re with a group. Typically, guests can find themselves on excursions with 2-15 other guests. Unless you choose the bungee, then you might just end up with me.
One destination that everyone can agree on is Fiordland National Park and the stunning Milford Sound, high on New Zealand’s southern island bucket list. We flew from Auckland to Queenstown in just under two hours and made our way to the National Park the following day. Rudyard Kipling called the Milford Sound the “eighth wonder of the world” only to be validated by the fact that it stands as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. It’s not hard to see why:
We arrived in Melbourne to a bit of a heatwave (welcomed since fleeing the polar vortex of Wisconsin) and anticipation of witnessing the Phillip Island penguin parade and driving the Great Ocean Road.
Perhaps the most special highlight for me was flying to Cairns to explore The Great Barrier Reef. Located off the coast of northern Australia featuring 1,400 miles of sprawling islands and coral reefs, one paradoxically, only needs to see a sliver to understand its place as the largest wonder of the world.
Discovered by the English explorer James Cook in 1770, how the reef was found is a testament to the classic adage of trusting the journey. Cook quite literally ran into the reef while on orders to document an eclipse of Venus and a secret naval mission to claim first dibs on a rumored southern continent for England. His ship was run aground on the reef for a full day before barely making it to the mouth of a river for repairs. Cook never discovered the southern continent that England had in mind, but he did discover the largest living organism in the world, eventually to be seen anywhere from ship sails to space: The Great Barrier Reef.
Not everybody went in the water. In my years of traveling with groups, the one thing I’ve been reminded of consistently is that everyone experiences things in their own way, including world wonders. But, what is truly amazing about the Great Barrier Reef is that you don’t need to see its entirety or be a deep-sea diver to experience the destination.
A 90-minute boat ride from Cairns will take you to a large structure pontoon that became our home for the day on the Outer Reef. The reef is usually referred to by inner, outer, and ribbon reef areas; the outer reef being further away from the mainland and the best area for visibility and biodiversity. While some guests snorkeled, others dived and some went in the semi-submersible watercraft where they were able to view fish, coral and sharks.
For a while, I stood on the high deck of the pontoon, watching travelers indulge in a place most people only read about in books. At one point an older gentleman stood next to me. Staring out at the reef, we both acknowledged the privilege of being in our current surroundings and bonded by gratitude, he turned to me and said,
“The mind makes promises the body can’t keep. It was my dream to come here so I made it happen while my body could still keep the promise.”
Truly, the most important promises are the ones we keep to ourselves.
The following day was free to spend exploring the rainforests of Cairns and relaxing by the pool at the resort. A lovely time in nature before heading to Australia’s largest city, Sydney.
The Opera House. Harbour Bridge. Manly Beach. Bonde Beach. Sydney Tower. Darling Harbour.
Oh, Sydney. How do we choose?
We chose all of the above. Going to a city as large as Sydney with a group tour will convince you of one choice for certain: It’s good to be on a group tour. Armed with a guide, local guides, a ferry, a bus and some free time, there were enough resources to make the absolute most of 3 days in Sydney; a city that could swallow you for months.
There are so many moments from this trip that I treasure and remember frequently. Interacting with kangaroos and koalas, sitting along the ocean as penguins marched to their burrows, eating amazing food in front of amazing views, natural wonders that brought tears to our eyes and taking pictures that “just don’t do it justice”. These special times were made even better by our bond and humor with each other, another gift of being in a group. After 17 days in New Zealand and Australia, we had gone from being couples, families and friends to something a bit more like the famous rugby playing “All Blacks” and “Wallabies”: A team.
You’re in Hawaii to relax. Soak up the sunshine, lay out on the beach and of course, treat yourself to a spa day you won’t forget. Read these spa treatments below for ideas on your next getaway to haute Hawaii.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach
You’ve waited for it and now it’s nearly here. But, what are you going to do after Game of Thrones ends? Fox World Travel suggests you create your own tour of Westeros and Essos. Walk north of the Wall where Jon Snow once walked, stroll the streets of royalty in Croatia and trek the long staircase to the home of the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea and, well, you know the rest. Find out where your favorite Game of Thrones scenes were filmed in our guide below.
Hawaii is a state unlike any other in the U.S. With six visitable islands, there is so much to see and experience with each island offering a completely unique experience. Unless your stay is a long one, we suggest sticking to the main four islands for your visit. These four will offer an endless amount of sights, foods and experiences for your stay, no matter how long it is.
Thank you to all of those who choose Fox for all of their travel needs. Your support is the reason all of our Vacation Travel Consultant’s receive the recognition they do. By voting in your county’s yearly awards for the best travel agency, you can continue to support your favorite consultant you’ve come to know over the years. We appreciate every vote as these awards mean a lot to the people that work so hard day in and day out to make your well-deserved vacation a memorable one. Below are links to all of the counties in which we have a nominated location. Please take a couple of minutes to vote.
Is Ireland one of those bucket list destinations for you? Do you dream of venturing the Irish countryside experiencing sight after sight? Well, then you may be wondering what time of year is best to visit Ireland. We’ve got you covered as we examine the best times of year to visit the emerald isle.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight a few of the many amazing ladies who make this company what it is. No matter what department it is, at Fox, there a successful woman there making a difference. Here are just a few of amazing women who work at Fox.
You’re invited to Experience the Vineyards of South America on our custom, one-of-a-kind tour of Argentina and Chile, October 10 – 22, 2019. This tour is hosted by Wisconsin Public Radio Host, Lori Skelton.
Rose Gray recently hosted an online travel show highlighting the experiences showcased on this guided tour with Globus. Please reach out to a Vacation Consultant at Fox World Travel by calling 888.369.8785 if you’d like to learn more or make your reservations today!
Whether you’re in town for a big convention or conference, you’ll find your nights in San Diego may be filled with some downtime. But you don’t need to waste time wandering around or doing research places to go, only to end up with more options than you know what to do with. Our quick guide to the San Diego Convention Center has you covered.
Activities to Enjoy
|Shopping – Gaslamp Quarter
Right across the street from the San Diego Convention Center, the Gaslamp Quarter is full of shops, restaurants and beautiful sights to take in.
|Attraction – San Diego Zoo
San Diego is home to one of the largest and most famous zoos in the world. Just a short drive north of the convention center, the San Diego Zoo is a must visit, especially if you are taking a bleisure trip.
|Golfing – Torrey Pines
Home of the 2008 U.S. Open and as well as the Farmers Insurance Open, Torrey Pines is one of those legendary courses where golf lovers need to play at least once in their life. Reservations are often required well in advance.
Restaurants to Try
Places to Grab a Drink
Guest post by Fox World Travel tour manager, Rose Gray
There are Italy itineraries and then there is the ultimate Italy itinerary; Treasures of Italy with Fox World Travel and Insight Vacations is just that. On this group tour, we visited Vatican City with VIP access to the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum. What made this part so special was our behind the scenes access where we had the chance to admire the Bramante Staircase, a revolutionary piece of architecture that most visitors don’t get to see.