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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Travel Review: Carlton Tours New Zealand

Note: This is a sponsored post

As part of  my family holiday on board Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas cruise ship we stopped at 3 ports in New Zealand - Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga. I wanted to see New Zealand from different angles so for Tauranga decided a small private tour would show us the best bits of Tauranga and beyond.

As we had a variety of ages in my family group aged from our 30s to 80s we wanted a tour to suit everyone and that we could move at our own pace and not be rushed from here to there and everywhere. As a self proclaimed natural born organiser, I got right onto researching tour companies in the area.

The cruise ship sailing into the Port of Tauranga
Such a beautiful town and harbour

That's when I came across Carlton Tours - a small local business run by husband and wife duo Jodie and Tim. They run 2 types of tours, one with a set itinerary with a 15 seater bus you pay per person and the other you can customise a private tour for a group to fit an 11 seater van and you pay a set fee for the van/driver/guide for the day, plus entry fees if you chose to visit Te Puia (which are cheaper than buying them there as they can buy at group discount prices). As we had a group of 8 people they suggested we book the private tour and find some extra people to fill the seats once we joined our cruise, or we could keep it just our group and split the cost between us.

I booked with Carton Tours via their website about a month before the cruise, it was simple and easy and our tour was confirmed via email and a follow up phone call, which took the stress and worry out of booking the tour from Australia. We also didn't need to provide payment until the day on arrival which gave us time to get our NZ money together. The best part was that they specifically cater to cruise ships so are aware of the arrival times of all the ships and flexible to fit around our ship's time in port, they knew sometimes there's hold ups with disembarkment etc and worked around us so we could do what we do best - Enjoy our holiday!

Carlton Tours very own postcard

Our driver and guide Robin greeted us with a big friendly smile at the Port of Tauranga where the cruise ship docked and we were off and on the road well before the big tourist coaches had boarded their groups for the day.

We sat in our air conditioned van looking out the windows at the stunning scenery as Robin told us commentary as we drove through the Tauranga town area and onto Rotorua. He was a wealth of knowledge, giving us a big insight into the town of Tauranga and beyond. He looked after us and made sure we saw all the sights but without feeling rushed as we went from one place to another. If we needed more time to buy souvenirs or stop for photos, it was no problem.

My buss buddy .... watching the sights go by

All aboard !

We had such a fun day and saw some fantastic scenery on the way to our first stop Te Puia the thermal valley where we arrived in time to see a traditional welcome performance by the Maori singers and dancers. This is my second time to Te Puia but first time seeing the cultural show and it was well worth the extra to see it, they put on a really great performance. Because there was a bit of walking on gravel involved, Robin also organised a wheel chair for my Nana which was a big help. We were also given some bottles of water and snack bars to keep us replenished until lunchtime - now that's a thoughtful tour!

Te Puia meeting house
Watching a traditional welcome performance
Life in the past in a Maori village
We had some free time to walk around the thermal park to see the boiling mud and geysers. They put on a great show too blowing steam and water into the air on one side, boiling mud and water on one side and frozen over cold water on the other. We saw some live kiwi birds in it's dark enclosure. A spot of souvenir shopping before we were back on our van heading to our next destination.

Walking around the geothermal valley

The geysers put on a great show for us
My Nana, Dad, Mr P and me
You would never think the water would be boiling .. but it is hot hot hot!

We stopped for a quick lunch (at our own cost) at a cafe by the pretty Lake Rotarua. The cafe was pretty busy and we didn't have a booking so were split across a couple of tables, it would have been nice if we had a table reserved for us. We recharged on burgers, fish and chips and a glass of lovely NZ wine. Then there was time to enjoy the sights of the Lake Rotarua and the boats and joy ride helicopters hovering over the waters before we were back on the van and heading back home towards Tauranga.

Lunch with a view

Me + Mr P = Happy travellers

We stopped by the pretty Government Gardens for photos and a looksy. Then drove past beautiful farms and greenery onto Kiwi 360 where we stopped to sample the different types of kiwi fruit, juice and wine and do a spot of shopping.

Government Gardens

Kiwi 360 ... My Mum getting up close and personal with the big Kiwi bird!

Our final scenic route took us along the Mount Maunganui coast looking at the stunning houses along the beach with Robin pointing out the ones for sale just in case we wanted to move over there!
Driving past the beaches
After our full day 6 hour tour Robin dropped us back in the port and with just a few steps we were boarding our cruise ship once again as we set sail for our next destination ... passing through the sights of the harbour while enjoying a cocktail on our balcony, made for a perfect end to a perfect day in Tauranga. I underestimated Tauranga, it is such a beautiful place and I will definitely be adding it to my list of places to visit again.

View from my balcony leaving Tauranga
Cheers to a fantastic tour and a memorable day in Tauranga!
We all agreed Carlton Tours was one of the best personalised tours we've ever been on so if you're ever in the Mount Maunganui, Rotorua and Bay of Plenty area and want a great day out - book with Carlton Tours you won't be disappointed!

Best of all if you mention Jarrah Jungle when booking you'll get a 10% discount on your tour.

Happy travels everyone and thanks for the memories NZ!
Disclosure: Carlton Tours have partnered with me to help promote their business. This is a sponsored post and I received a tour discount. I am free to form my own opinion and share them in my own words.
[All images my own]
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  1. Your personalized tour looks like a roaring success! The pictures of the thermal park are marvelous as are all of the others. Looks like you did a great job of enjoying your vacation.... Candy

    1. The tour was the best thing we did, great value for money while seeing everything we could in a short amount of time. I took heaps of photos, its something really different the thermals over there.

  2. What an amazing tour, the geothermal valley and geysers are fascinating. I am sure I would have taken a million photos of them.

    1. So. Many. Photos! Im still downloading and editing them to try to pick my favourites :)

  3. What an amazing family holiday! The valley in the background is stunning :)

    1. It really was special, thanks Hanna. NZ is such a beautiful country full of mountains and valleys, it really is a pretty place.

  4. I'll be in Tauranga next weekend! I used to go there every summer as a kid so going back with my best friend :)

    You guys managed to pack a lot into your time there though, very impressive!

    1. Will you? How cools that! I loved it there so much, heaps to do and see and the beaches were impressive too. I hope you get some hot sunny days, we had great weather which always makes the holidays better too. We sure did saw heaps and heaps, was a great trip!

  5. looks like such an awesome tour! I would love to visit new Zealand sometime!
    -- jackie @ jade and oak

    1. You wont be disappointed, NZ is such a great place to visit. Add it to your bucket list!

  6. Looks like such a fun trip, and beautiful too!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing your itinerary! This will definitely help me plan our trip, but it also makes me feel like I need to extend our trip by about two week’s haha. Also available on Short term accommodation Christchurch.


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