New Zealand’s moment in the royal spotlight is over but - just like any other overseas trip, there are many happy family snaps to keep the memories alive. The Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince George made their final farewells on the New Zealand leg of their first official family tour. As guests of the New Zealand Government, the Royal family were based at Government House in Wellington. From there, they were able to make day trips to other parts of the country - Auckland, Hamilton, Cambridge, Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown - returning to be with Prince George in the evenings.
From setting foot in New Zealand on the Wellington tarmac and their first official engagement as a family with a bunch of Kiwi toddlers, to some outdoor adventures and encounters, the royal couple have clearly enjoyed their New Zealand experience.
On his fourth visit to New Zealand, Prince William has frequently spoken of how much he loves New Zealand and his wish to share his appreciation with his wife.
New Zealanders turned out in force to greet the royals wherever they went, so that during their nine-day, eight-region tour they were never far from a crowd waiting to shake hands, chat or pass on gifts.
They were also there for the solemn civic moments - commemorating the first world war, remembering those who have given their lives in war or the line of duty and the victims of the Christchurch earthquake- in which the royals participated.
They turned out on the sports field to play cricket- heralding the ICC Cricket World Cup which New Zealand will co-host with Australia in early 2015- and non-contact Rippa rugby with young Kiwis, and launched New Zealand’s new centre of cycling excellence.
The match racing took place on the Waitemata Harbour, within sight of the city’s many beaches and thousands of Aucklanders who took to their own boats to get the best views of the royal couple. Auckland has hosted two America’s Cup campaigns and is home to Emirates Team New Zealand, three times winner of the America’s Cup. The city is said to have more pleasure boats per capita than anywhere else in the world.
Their Royal Highnesses were back on water a few days later in Queenstown as they donned life jackets for a jet boat trip down the Shotover River Canyons, a landscape of shallow but fast-running rocky rapids between tight narrow canyons. Shotover Jet’s signature ‘big reds’ are an iconic New Zealand tourism activity that has thrilled more than three million visitors with high-speed, gravity-defying, 360-degree action.
Jet boat driver Wayne Paton - who was also responsible for the safety briefing before the royals’ departure, said, “William had been shouting 'go closer, Wayne' as they powered down the canyon. The jet boats, which today are capable of reaching 85kph / 53 mph, are powered by jet units that were invented by New Zealander Sir William Hamilton more than 50 years ago.”
Along with the adrenalin-pumping moments, the royal couple also enjoyed some quieter moments tasting some of New Zealand’s wine and food. At Amisfield Winery, near Queenstown, William and Kate enjoyed sampling fine Central Otago wines - pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay and pinot gris - and food, meeting local producers and strolling through the vineyard learning about cultivation and wine-making. Queenstown lies in the heart of the Central Otago wine region which has earned international recognition for its pinot noir wine.
The Duke and Duchess also dined with New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, and his family at Premier House, in Wellington, where Kiwi staples pavlova and hokey pokey icecream were on the menu.
There was also a meeting with notable New Zealand film-maker Sir Peter Jackson for a tour of the ‘Knights of the Sky’ exhibition, featuring Jackson’s personal collection of vintage planes and aviation memorabilia at Omaka Heritage Aviation Centre, Marlborough.
Nine days in New Zealand saw the Duke and Duchess visit eight regions with numerous opportunities to meet and mingle with New Zealanders.