Kiwi Experience, New Zealand

kiwi experience

Kiwi Experience has been running for 26 years, providing travellers who wish to explore New Zealand with efficient and fun routes around the country. I joined the big green bus in Auckland for three weeks discovering the best of the North and South islands.

There are numerous routes to suit all requirements. I took the Sheepdog tour from Auckland to Christchurch with a day trip to world-famous Milford Sound added on. Kiwi Experience encourages you to create your own journey, providing amazing flexibility with their hop-on and hop-off service, so you can spend one night or one month in a destination, and after starting your trip the pass will be valid for 12 months, to use as you please. The buses have a sociable feel and are particularly good for solo travellers hoping to find some like-minded comrades. Often on longer driving stints the bus will stop off for scenic group walks and important photo opportunities. It is a stress-free way of ticking off all the must-see tourist sights and natural wonders of New Zealand.

The bus drivers seem to have an impossible job, juggling a long list of responsibilities each day whilst also ensuring the 55 people on the bus are well looked after. At times it did feel like a school trip! I was lucky to spend most of my trip on Dallas’ bus, an experienced Kiwi Experience driver who was knowledgeable, fun and organised. We also had fun with new driver Marcanui – a keen, enthusiastic and passionate Kiwi, who shared ancient stories and tales about his country.

Over the years Kiwi Experience has built relationships with some of the most exciting and unique businesses across the country. Many of these companies will offer exclusive discounts on activities to Kiwi Experience visitors. Most of my bus seemed keen on extreme sports such as black water rafting, sky-diving and bungy jumping. I preferred the less daunting options like glow worm caves in Waitomo and Greenstone carving at Lake Mahinapua Hotel. Often though, there is no need for adrenaline activities, as the natural scenery provides plenty to explore for free. I loved walking around Lake Tekapo and cycling around the city of Queenstown.

Discounted rates at hostels are always available through Kiwi Experience though travellers are also free to organise accommodation independently, just using the buses for transport between destinations. Of the hostels I tried I was impressed with the standard of cleanliness and most were quiet and cheap. Often in the smaller towns there is limited choice with Base and Nomad being the hostel chains you are most likely to come across. But my favourite accommodations were the family-run, characterful River Valley Lodge, the scenic Lake Tekapo Lakefront Lodge and the lovely Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, where you can opt to stay in a private cabin.

The most memorable experience for me was visiting the Tamaki Maori Village – where guests are able to fully immerse in the Maori culture, learning about their traditions and customs. Kiwi Experience visitors are also offered the exclusive opportunity to stay overnight at the Marae village. I would also recommend spending a few extra days in each of the cities, so you have enough time to visit the museums and sample the best New Zealand cuisine.

The Kiwi Experience is best suited and most popular with 18-25s, but welcomes guests of all ages and interests. Though I often wished for more independence I cannot deny that it was the most efficient and easy way to explore this beautiful country.

More information about Kiwi Experience and book a trip here.

Calamity Jane, New Wimbledon Theatre

Calamity Jane is not a musical which you get the opportunity to see very often, so when my friend announced she was going to be in the new touring show, I jumped at the chance to watch and support. Travelling around the country theatre by theatre, it was only a matter of time before the cast arrived in London and the capital was certainly pleased to have them, packing the New Wimbledon Theatre to the brim.

The narrative is based loosely on the life story of Martha Jane Cannary, the American frontierswoman known for fighting Indians! It has famously been adapted for film, and stage. Recently there has been an economic trend for actor-musician shows where the orchestra are incorporated in onstage performance, and the instruments are played by the talented multi-tasking cast. Nikolai Foster uses this technique to make the show snappier and more powerful, and luckily the cast seems able to flit between acting, playing, singing and dancing with staggering ease. This style of production definitely suits this vintage show. To create the scene authentically, Matthew Wright has designed a set that is simple and rugged evoking the Western character.

Jodie Prenger, known for winning the part of Nancy in Lloyd Webber’s televised search, is a powerhouse. She stomps about the stage, with the perfect twang and a very fluid, natural comic acting style. She is complemented by the cast of versatile performers around her. I was delighted to see my good friend Giovanna Ryan stepping up to the role of Susan, and storming the stage as if she’d been playing the part her entire life. Amazing too to see her full set of musical skills illustrated in the show – she tinkles virtuosically on the piano, plucks away at her bass and beautifully bows the cello. I felt very proud. I also really enjoyed Phoebe Street’s rendition of Katie Brown, the pretty girl who offers some contrast to the rest of the rowdy cast.

It is a joy to see this Sammy Fain musical revival, if you can visit any of the tour venues, I highly recommend a trip to this brilliantly modernised version of an old-fashioned classic.

More information and book tickets to see Calamity Jane here.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MISS: Sex and the City Tour, New York

As Manchester is the rainiest city in the UK, I took full advantage of miserable, wet days whilst at University by snuggling up with girlfriends on the sofa and delving into the Sex and the City boxset. How we all wished we were the SATC girls, living a fabulous life that revolved around gossiping, shopping and endless cocktails in New York City. I knew the words to practically every episode by heart and felt like the famous four were long lost friends. So when Milly told me that we would be visiting all the sites where our idols spent their time, I could hardly contain my excitement.

As 40 giggling girls, plus 3 men (obviously dragged along by their persuasive girlfriends) clambered onboard the tour bus in the Upper East Side, it started to rain, which immediately took me back to those days in Manchester, where my love of SATC first began. Milly and I adored our tour guide, a part time actress from Manhattan, who we decided we would quite like to adopt as our very cool and seriously fun older sister. She instantly had all 43 tour goers whooping and cheering, in the mood for a very good time.

As the tour navigated the city, various locations from the six series and the most recent films were pointed out. The coach was kitted out with small televisions, and as we drove past exciting landmarks, we were shown short clips that took place right where we passing. We started at The Plaza Hotel, where Carrie said goodbye to Mr. Big and also where Mr. Big hosted his engagement party – to another woman! Our driver took us through the Upper East Side, passing the New York Library where Carrie and Big nearly tied the knot, then stopping for a quick browse of the ‘Pleasure Chest’ where Charlotte bought her ‘rabbit’. A few tour goers made some cheeky purchases, which they were too embarrassed to ‘show and tell’ to the rest of the bus – I wonder why?! Moving downtown to SoHo, we were given enough time for a speedy pit stop for boutique shopping in Bleeker Street and more importantly to refuel with coffee and a super sweet Magnolia Bakery cupcake. After a walk around historic Greenwich Village, what better way to end the tour than heading to Scout, the bar Aidan and Steve opened on the show, for the cocktail SATC made famous – the  Cosmopolitan.

Our experience on the Sex and the City tour was so enjoyable, I would thoroughly recommend this to any girls seeking a small piece of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte’s fabulous New York lifestyle.

For more info, visit: and

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Miss, Susie Hemsted.