We love… creating unforgettable family holidays

We love... creating unforgettable family holidays

As many of John Stevens’ clients will know, the Stevens family specialises in tailoring unforgettable family safaris, the perfect opportunity for different generations to connect with each other, from grandparents to children.

This type of safari needs an entirely different approach, of course, and careful planning, especially when younger children are involved.

New Zealand is the most beautiful playground your family could ever dream of, where, young or old, there is no shortage of things to do!

Here are some brilliant ideas to think about…

The great outdoors

New Zealand is best known for stunning, untouched natural landscapes. You’ll find that the mountains, forests and coastlines are all surprisingly accessible. There are countless options for exploring on foot, even with little ones. Easy tracks for day walks abound, whether you’re looking for waterfalls, bush, lakes, cliffs, ocean, forest or a combination of scenery.

There are trails to challenge all levels of trampers. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4km hike and is often hailed as one of the best day hikes in the world. After sunset, you and your family can relax together and watch the skies come alive with twinkling lights. In the South Island, the Dark Sky Reserve has been labelled one of the best stargazing sites on earth.

Geothermal delights

Watch boiling mud pools and feel the heat underfoot from landscapes that hiss with steam. New Zealand’s natural hot pools - particularly around Taupo and Rotorua – are popular with locals and visitors alike; a soak in the waters of Kerosene Creek or Waiotapu Stream is uniquely relaxing.

Hell’s Gate has the only geothermal mud baths in New Zealand, while Polynesia Spa is world-famous for its lakefront mineral springs. In the Coromandel, at Hot Water Beach at low tide, the kids can dig their own natural warm ‘spa’ in the sand.


If there are bird lovers in the family, New Zealand boasts some of the most unique birdlife in the world – a quarter of our birds are found nowhere else on the planet. As well as the famous flightless kiwi, this is the home of the colourful pukeko and takahe, the melodious tui, and the mischievous kea to name a few. There are three species of penguin, all found in the South Island.

This is also a fantastic country for whale watching and dolphin spotting. Other family-friendly activities for everyone to do together include farm tours, horse riding and visiting the incredible Waitomo glowworm caves.

Adventure time

Bungy, skydiving, caving, canyoning ... New Zealand has every adventure activity and extreme sport you can think of - and some you've never even heard of! All set to a backdrop of mind-blowing landscapes. Of course if Middle-Earth excites your family, more than 150 locations throughout the country were used to film The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy. Many activities and attractions offer the chance to see the film locations for yourself.

Cultural experiences

New Zealand's Māori culture is an integral part of Kiwi life and adds a unique, dynamic experience for visitors. Parents, especially, like their children to learn about and experience other cultures.

Māori are the tangata whenua, the indigenous people, of New Zealand. They came to New Zealand more than 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. Today Māori make up 14% of the population and their history, language and traditions are central to New Zealand’s identity. We can tailor a culturally and historically honest Māori experience for your family.

If a combination of these experiences sounds enticing and you are considering a family holiday in 2015 or 2016, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Example family itinerary

Day 1
Arrive Auckland off your international flight.

Day 2
Auckland – Hobbiton – Hamilton (drive)
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour at Hobbiton

Day 3
Hamilton - Waitomo – Taupo (drive)
Discover the incredible Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Day 4 & 5
Spend the day hiking the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Explore the geothermal attractions in the area
Head to Huka Falls, New Zealand’s most visited attraction
Spend a day with a private Māori guide

Day 6 & 7
Taupo – Nelson (fly)
A day in Abel Tasman National Park

Day 8 & 9
Nelson – Kaikoura (drive)
Spend a day getting close to the whales, dolphins and seals

Day 10 & 11
Kaikoura – Christchurch (drive or train)
Visit the uplifting ReStart Shipping Container Mall

Day 12 & 13
Christchurch – Queenstown (fly) – Wanaka (drive)
Wanaka sheep station/farm experience
Paddle boarding/fishing

Day 14 & 15
Wanaka – Fjordland National Park (helicopter flight)
Stay on a private houseboat for 2 nights

Day 16 & 17
Fjordland - Queenstown (helicopter)
Discover why Queenstown is called the adventure capital of the world!

Day 18
Queenstown – Auckland (fly)

Notes to itinerary:

This is merely an example itinerary giving ideas of the places and activities families may enjoy together. Understanding family dynamics, we tend to recommend a minimum of 2 nights at each location. Time permitting, you may choose to explore just the North or South Island or include them both in your itinerary – they compliment each other perfectly.


Follow us on twitter

Image © Fraser Clements

Some material used with kind permission of Tourism New Zealand.
All other content ® Copyright Guided New Zealand 2015.

We Love… New Zealand in the UK media


“The Land of the Long White Cloud casts its spell over many people in many places, but seems to exert a special hold over British travellers with its mix of old-fashioned Englishness, stunning alpine scenery, vibrant Polynesian culture and obsession with extreme sport. The fact that it also produces some of the world’s best sauvignon blanc and pinot noir adds to its charm, while the quality (and freshness) of Kiwi cuisine continues to impress.” Mark Chipperfield, The Travel Telegraph, 27 November 2013


Prince William, Duchess Kate and baby George recently ended their 10-day royal tour of New Zealand before heading on to Australia. The royal tour with its many photocalls, royal smiles and little baby George in tow, attracted quite a following and is giving New Zealand and Australia a welcome boost when it comes to tourism from the UK.

Whether you can only get away for a 10-day break or have a bit more time up your sleeve, we can help customise an unforgettable and exclusive visit to this country of sheer physical beauty - you’ll see why New Zealand continues to win travel awards - and hearts.  Contact Briar today.

Follow us on twitter

Image © Fred Rood | All other content ® Copyright Guided New Zealand 2014

We are loving… New Zealand’s South Island Glacier Highway


The drive along the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island is voted to be amongst the World’s Top 10 Scenic Drives, with an astonishing array of attractions along the way... wild, weather-beaten beaches, two of the world’s most accessible glaciers, brooding lakes and wetlands and pristine sub-tropical forests, all set against the backdrop of New Zealand’s highest peaks. Breathtakingly brilliant and hard to beat! Guided New Zealand plans the perfect road trip…


“There are not many roads where you can see beaches in the morning, rainforests at midday and glaciers in the afternoon… It’s got to be the most epic road trip in the world.” Mike Rose, Paradise Motorcycle Tours NZ taken from article by Ian Lloyd Neubauer, Time magazine Travel section, March 25, 2013.


Of course, we also hope to entice you out of your car and into the heart of the landscape – we know some wonderfully passionate private guides who live and work in the area and will give you a wider and more intimate view, on foot or by air.

If you love the sound of this incredible drive and all its possible extensions, Guided New Zealand can create an exciting and exclusive itinerary just for you. Contact Briar today.

Follow us on twitter

Image © Gareth Eyres
All other content ® Copyright Guided New Zealand 2013

We Love… New Zealand Summers


From December to February, whilst the northern hemisphere feels the chill, we’re celebrating the festive season in shorts and t-shirts on the beach... join us! And take a look at all the other fun things you can do to escape the cooler climes in New Zealand’s long, balmy days of summer...

Summer is spectacularly-marked by crimson-blooming Pohutukawa trees,
also known as New Zealand’s native Christmas tree.

Beach barbecues – nothing tastes better than fresh seafood cooked on the beach

The joy of surfing – you’re always near the sea in New Zealand!

How about yachting around the Bay of Islands? There’s no better way to see this stunning part of the world

Come biking on the wine trails. Cycling from vineyard to vineyard allows you to enjoy the magnificent scenery as well as wonderful wines with the sun on your shoulders and warm wind in your hair

Get active tramping or hiking in New Zealand’s stunning diversity of National Parks

Experience the excitement and the challenge of catching a brown or rainbow trout in one of New Zealand’s lakes, rivers, backcountry streams or spring creeks

If you love the sound of some of these experiences, Guided New Zealand can include them in an exciting and exclusive itinerary just for you. Contact Briar today to plan your December 2013 or 2014 journey to New Zealand. Half the fun is in the planning!

Follow us on twitter

Middle Earth makes for an unexpectedly magical journey…

Haere mai! Welcome!

Haere mai! Welcome!

It’s the end of another year and we’ve loved sharing New Zealand with our many enthusiastic clients over the last twelve months! Read on to find out more about the kind of holiday you can take in the world’s most beautifully diverse country…

Middle Earth makes for an unexpectedly magical journey…

At the end of an exciting year for Guided New Zealand, we are soaking up the spectacular impact that Peter Jackson’s new film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is having on New Zealand. As a film set, the world’s youngest country bears an uncanny resemblance to J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagined Middle Earth and some of the film locations are simply so stunning that they’ll take your breath away.

Guided New Zealand can put together a magical journey that captures the essence of some of these beautiful places - Matamata, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury, Mackenzie Country, Southern Lakes and Fiordland. Ten years after the release of the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, fans continue to travel to New Zealand to experience the mountains, lakes, rivers and plains that formed the magical landscape of Middle Earth in the Tolkien films. Now it’s your turn! Even if you’re not a film buff, you can’t help but be seduced by the sheer wonder of it all…

We can arrange a spectacular helicopter tour of some of the site locations used for the filming of The Lord of the Rings. You’ll fly with the very same pilots who flew Peter Jackson’s location scouts into landscapes that they fell in love with instantly and thought would be perfect for showcasing Middle Earth. You couldn’t get more authentic than that! There are various other ways you can experience the captivating landscapes and experiences associated with The Lord of the Rings – movie tours, included. Also enjoy the food and wine of New Zealand, rolling green landscapes, mysterious caves, secret trails, bubbling mud pools, snow-capped peaks and glaciers, deep blue lakes, sunny beaches and enchanted forests… please feel free to discuss your ideas and travel dreams with us. Contact Briar now.


For the Young and Young-at-heart - you’re going to love this!

Having been to Africa as a family or group with John Stevens Guided Safaris Africa, it makes perfect sense that many of our past clients are now working with Briar to create their next adventure – this time ‘down under’ in beautiful New Zealand.

New Zealand Image

We are always struck by how much travel not only opens your eyes to the world, the people, places and cultures that help shape our impressions, but also how much it changes your world view. This is especially true in two instances, no matter where you take your journey…

“A change of scene can be life-changing!”

First, you can take a life-changing journey by pushing the limits in every way… and so discovering your potential, realising the value of diversity and difference, finding meaning and affirming beliefs, understanding possibilities and the greatness that exists in small wonders…

New Zealand provides the ultimate destination for groups of adventurous youths looking for an outward-bound type of experience or multi-generational family groups who wish to keep a range of ages fully engaged and enjoying the holiday.

In fact one such group travelled to New Zealand over the winter months of June/July 2012.  With a highly demanding brief, Briar worked closely with the client and some hand-chosen New Zealand operators to put together an unforgettable New Zealand experience for 8 teenage boys. The highly personalised itinerary varied from working on a high country sheep station to diving for crayfish in remote fjordland, to setting up a simulated adventure on request.

New Zealand Image

The trip was such a success because New Zealand has it all – varied and interesting terrain (winter snow made this even more exciting) and amazing people who are happy to think out of the box - one thing which was certainly called for on this trip.

“GNZ (Guided New Zealand) put together a breath-taking package for us. We covered North and South Island, exploring cultural as well as adventure dimensions. We had a truly bespoke programme and were operating well off-the-beaten-track: one moment privileged to be with Maoris on their sacred mountain and the next in the remotest and most majestic fjord lands. Along the way GNZ ensured we were guided and provided for by experts whose professionalism was matched by their passion. We had an unforgettable time, thanks to Briar and her insightful planning and deft handling of a highly individual itinerary which never missed a beat.” Alex Gardiner, Group Leader

And secondly, the other kind of life-changing experience that a change of scene provides is when families travel together, particularly from two or more generations. Grandparents, parents and children make extraordinarily special bonds over the discovery of new destinations and shared participation in active experiences – doing things together, as a family, creates the best kind of fun.

So whether you are a grandparent wanting to plan something special for your energetic family or just wanting to put together a experience that will take a group of teenagers out of their comfort zone, pushing the boundaries of fear and excitement and in turn building self confidence in a safe, controlled environment, think about this wonderful little country full of endless possibilities…

These are the kind of journeys that make us better people on our shared planet and we are so pleased we’ve been able to include these types of trip in our portfolio this year. New Zealand offers endless possibilities of adventure and fun, for groups of young people, or multi-generational families… how about some of these ideas to whet your appetite, so you can get planning a Young-at-Heart Guided New Zealand journey?

  • Simulated adventure exercises
  • Experiences working on high country sheep stations
  • Skiing
  • Adrenaline activities, e.g. home to the latest and greatest adventure activities, Queenstown has something for every adrenaline seeker, from bungy jumping and jet boating to whitewater rafting, river surfing and canyon swinging.
  • Cycling and hiking through some of the most exquisite scenery in the world – for instance, the Otago Central Rail Trail takes you through a remarkable Central Otago landscape away from roads and vehicles. There’s nothing quite like it; it’s New Zealand’s Original Great Ride.


Adding to our portfolio of specially selected, unique properties…

New Zealand Image

Briar recently spent 3½ weeks in New Zealand with Dom, her husband, and Oscar, their one-year-old son. They spent a few days with family in the North Island before flying into Nelson, collecting their hire car and self-driving around the South Island. Briar and Dom travelled during the shoulder season, in their opinion a great time to travel as it’s not too cold, with just a sprinkling of snow still on the mountain tops, but more importantly, ideal if you want to escape the crowds of peak season…

Briar returned to Melbourne bursting with enthusiasm and inspiration after meeting with established and new contacts. The Guided New Zealand ethos ensures that our guests stay in places that are not only unique, but are owned and/or managed by exceptional hosts. Many of these are family or friends and it was great to catch up with everyone.

Oscar and Dad

In between meetings and getting familiar with the many incredible properties in South Island, there was a little bit of time for play and tasty treats along the way...

Little Oscar practiced his walking with a little help from Dad, along a perfectly positioned bench in the most stunning location in Arthur’s Pass.

Briar indulged in a fresh Kaikoura Lobster (Crayfish) at the famous Nin’s Bin on the Kaikoura coast. Dom is a vegetarian and Oscar too young to appreciate such fine food, so Briar enjoyed the small lobster all to herself!



New Zealand voted best country worldwide to visit

Reader’s Choice Awards, Tourism-Review.com

According to the Telegraph Travel Awards 2012, readers chose Cape Town as the favourite worldwide city and New Zealand was voted the best country worldwide. These two destinations were chosen based on seafront, cuisine, and climate. Telegraph polled over 17,000 different readers about their favourite companies and travel destinations, and the British newspaper announced the awards recently.



Active Adventure Travel

Did you know that Queenstown is also known as the "adventure capital of the world"? - and that's not without reason.

Queenstown has led the world in high adrenaline adventures since A.J.Hackett first brought Bungy Jumping to the capital of the Southern Lakes District. Since then Queenstown has developed into a centre for extreme sports, offering Fly By Wire, canyon swinging, skydiving, jet boating, white water rafting, jet boating, river surfing and river boarding… with many more getting dreamed up as you read this.

If you would like to find out more about unique journeys in New Zealand, contact Briar at briar@guidednewzealand.com

How would a trip to New Zealand make you feel?

This is the question asked in a recent New Zealand campaign flighted in the UK. And this next line pretty much sums up what a recent Guided New Zealand guest felt – “I am so emotionally attached to the trip and it meant so much, I really cannot thank you enough.”

These are the words that Kate Wilson used to describe the itinerary that Briar came up with for her and her husband’s recent trip to New Zealand. The holiday encompassed destinations such as Arrowtown, near Queenstown, Clyde, Bruce Bay, the High Country of Canterbury and Lake Herron. Here’s more of what they had to say…

“We loved our experience in Arrowtown. The boutique accommodation so professional, it really was an incredible little place and the couple were so experienced at hospitality which came across in everything they did… the helicopter ride was the best thing I have done in such a long time it just blew us away and made for a really special day. ”

“Bruce Bay was magical, totally different and very homely and relaxed. The hospitality was so warm and friendly and it created this amazing vibe, everything was very local based in terms of the food but also the way neighbours popped round to ask us if we wanted to go fishing or horse riding. This felt so friendly and fun.”

Bruce Bay

“Lake Herron was fantastic. We loved the stunning scenery and the family. The lodge is incredible and it was great seeing the sheep shearing area and getting an idea of how it all works.”

“How would a trip to New Zealand make you feel?”

Ask yourself how a romantic and luxurious journey in New Zealand would feel. How about an active, adventurous one? Or – just imagine being inspired by the beauty of the place and the friendliness of the folk – or refreshed by the nature and the simplicity of life here. It’s a question well worth asking yourself before you plan your New Zealand trip because Guided New Zealand can design and provide you with endless experiences that will exceed your expectations every time – and make you feel fabulous.

Click here for a Sample Itinerary.

Click here for more comments from our Guest Book.