By far one of the best tours I have taken anywhere and I travel a lot. The warmth and hospitality of Stuart and Donna exceeded expectations, and it was such a marvelous opportunity to learn more about New Zealand and see an actual, working sheep farm. From pickup at our hotel in downtown Auckland to drop off, the day was absolutely perfect and one of the highlights of a nearly three week trip to New Zealand and Australia. Stuart was a knowledgable guide and we enjoyed learning about how his family had acquired the farm and seeing Auckland and environs on the way to his farm. Donna was a gracious host and imparted so much information that I feel like I really learned a lot about the Maori culture and the history, animals, and flora and fauna of New Zealand. Our tour group was only six, which made it very nice and it turned out that we all were going to be embarking on the same cruise a few days later so it was nice to later see some friendly faces. We LOVED everything we did on our tour, which included a stop at a fantastic crafts store--the goods are made by local artisans and as I learned later the quality and prices were probably the best we found anywhere in New Zealand. We wanted to go back but it was a bit of a taxi ride from our hotel so we didn't do so. I almost wished we had stopped there on the ride back to Auckland as opposed to our first stop because after seeing the items and local handicrafts Donna had in her house I would have been a more informed shopper and likely would have bought some additional items. The next stop at a local winery, which included a wine tasting and a superb lunch, was fun. We also enjoyed the sparkling wine we purchased there sitting on our balcony during our cruise. We then went to the coast to see a black sand beach and a nesting colony of birds (can't remember the name but the views and photography opportunities were awesome!) I could have watched the birds for a long time, and especially liked seeing a small chick with the mother nesting on top of it. Then it was on to Stu and Donna's farm, which really was the best part of the whole day. It was so great to see a working farm. We loved getting up close and personal with some sheep and seeing their sheep dog in action. It also was the small touches that set this tour apart from others, from Stu stopping to buy us the most delicious strawberries from a local vendor, to Donna's excellent pavlova, to planting a tree associated with our tour group, to the small container of black sand we were given etc. Again, the glowing trip reviews on this site say it all--this is a tour not to be missed!!!! Do it soon too because Stu and Donna are retiring after this season, and while we understand a relative will be taking over the business, I somehow suspect it won't be the same without them at the helm.
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