Leaving Wellington early this afternoon (16.4.14), a relaxed royal trio - Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince George - were full of smiles and cheery waves as they made their final farewells on the New Zealand leg of their first official family tour.
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 unique 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. The happy snaps of the family together and the royal couple enjoying New Zealand’s people, places and experiences bear witness to that.
Prince George also made his first foray into international relations, forging some early ties on a play date with a group of ‘Plunket babies’ and their adoring parents.
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 with great dignity.
Good sports as well, they turned out on the sports field to play cricket in Christchurch - 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 in Dunedin, and launched New Zealand’s new centre of cycling excellence in Cambridge.
But, the tour will no doubt be best remembered for the action-packed fun dates when the royal couple were able to leave behind regal responsibilities and enjoy themselves - just like millions of tourists who have felt the wind in their hair sailing in the Hauraki Gulf, jet boating at speed down a spectacular river canyon, or tasting some particularly fine wine and food on a vineyard.
America’s Cup sailing - Auckland
In Auckland - the ‘City of Sails’ - the Duke and Duchess had the opportunity to rule the waves as they match raced on two former America’s Cup yachts. Famous Kiwi sailors Dean Barker and Grant Dalton were on board to help them out, along with two young Kiwi crews, but the royals were at the helm.
Not surprisingly after two races, it was Kate - who crewed an around-the-world yacht during her gap year - who emerged as the delighted winner triumphantly fist-pumping her husband from her vantage point.
The match racing took place on the Waitemata Harbour, within sight of the city’s many beaches and the 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.
Shotover Jet, Queenstown
Their Royal Highnesses were back on water a few days later in Queenstown as they donned life jackets for an adrenalin-pumping jet boat trip down the Shotover River Canyons - a spectacular 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.
The royal party burst into a round of applause after the 25-minute ride, and jet boat driver Wayne Paton - who was also responsible for the safety briefing before the royals’ departure - said that William had been shouting "go closer, Wayne" as they powered down the canyon.
The jet boats, which today are capable of reaching 85kph / 53mph, are powered by jet units that were invented by New Zealander Sir William Hamilton more than 50 years ago.
Amisfield Winery, Queenstown
Along with the adrenalin-pumping moments, the royal couple were also able to enjoy some quieter interludes tasting some of New Zealand’s best offerings in wine and food.
At Amisfield Winery, near Queenstown, William and Kate savoured fine Central Otago wines - pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay and pinot gris - and food, meeting local producers and 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 outstanding pinot noir wine.
The Duke and Duchess also dined privately with New Zealand Prime Minister, Hon. 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, in Marlborough.
Nine days - eight regions
Nine days in New Zealand (7 - 16 April) saw the Duke and Duchess visit eight regions with numerous opportunities to meet and mingle with New Zealanders - a royal tour that also allowed them to do some of the things that any visitor to New Zealand can do.
The schedule also allowed for private family time with Prince George. 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.
This royal visit leaves much to remember but the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and Prince George will no doubt have plenty of new photos for the family album.
Auckland - waterborne in the City of Sails
Shotover Jet - riding New Zealand's red boats
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, Marlborough