Kiwi Experience Driver Guides
During my trip, I had three different driver guides. 85% of my travel was with Bridge (don’t call her Bridget unless you’re angry with her), and while I heard a few complaints from others about her brash personality, I loved her and intentionally stayed on her bus as much of the trip as possible. She’s a no nonsense type, so if you spill milk on her bus, if you show up 15 minutes late in the morning, if you’re acting like a child, she’ll call you out in front of the group. I appreciated that though, personally, because I wasn’t there to party with 18 year olds who were just excited they could drink legally in New Zealand. There’s a lot of that, so if you’re like me and looking for more of the travel experiences and less of the partying and hooking up debauchery, you’ll appreciate being on Bridge’s bus.
For my ‘Milford Explorer’ trip, I had Q, who I also quite liked. He was helpful and informative, and fun loving at the same time. I didn’t come back on his bus from Milford Sound because I stayed overnight, but for the time he was my driver, I enjoyed him.
I can’t remember who my driver was from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo and then on to Christchurch, but there wasn’t much to say anyway, as those short legs of the trip were purely about getting from Point A to Point B. While I don’t remember them individually, I don’t remember having anything bad to say, either.
Free and Paid Activities (and Discounts)
Depending on what you’re trying to get out of your trip to New Zealand, you may or may not be interested in some of the planned activities at each of your stops. I quite liked Hot Water Beach, one of the first stops we made. As the name implies, there’s an underground river of hot water that flows from deep inside the earth out to the ocean. Grab a shovel and dig yourself a nice pool in the sand, and within minutes, you have your own hot tub. Be warned though — ease into the water, as it can be scalding hot at times. One of the girls in our group burned her feet and she complained about them for days. Hot Water Beach is a free activity best experienced at night. As a bonus, you get a phenomenal view of the beautiful New Zealand night sky.
In Rotorua, you can tour the Hobbiton Movie Set where a lot of the filming was done for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. I’ve never considered myself a huge LoTR geek, but I have seen the movies, so it was great to walk around and see it all. I was there on a brilliant sunny day, so it also made for some excellent photos. It costs $75 NZD for the Hobbiton Movie Set tour (with the Kiwi Experience discount), including transportation back to Rotorua when you’re finished.
During the bus ride each day, your driver guide will pass around clipboards with lists of activities for your next day’s stop. They’ll include the discounted price so you know in advance what you should expect to spend. You can sign up for one of them, several of them, or none of them, depending on what you’re after. If you’re in New Zealand to skydive or bungee jump, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for that. Once you sign up for an activity, the driver guide will call ahead and get you booked. Again, all you have to do is show up and pay.
Regardless of the activities you’re interested in, your driver guide has likely done them all. They’ll be able to give some good insight you couldn’t get anywhere else as for the best places to do certain things. If you’re in a position where your budget forces you to choose between two or more things, they’ll make a recommendation on the ‘must do’ activity.