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Itinerary Help- 7 weeks in NZ with a 7 and 4 year old

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We are a Canadian couple taking 3 months to travel with our 7 and 4 year old to Australia and NZ in mid Dec 2013. We have the Australia bit covered and will likely stay with family for 4 weeks, flying from Vancouver, Canada to Sydney, return and purchasing tix from Sydney to NZ. We will be in NZ from around mid-Dec until the end of January and are looking for ideas/travel routes.

We are thinking with young children, it might be best to rent place somewhere central for 3 weeks or so and try and do trips from a central 'base'. Is there a location that would be good to do so? I've heard Nelson and Marlborough are nice. We would like to see both the North and South Islands but doesn't matter which order...Essentially, we'd like to rent a place somewhere for 3 or 4 weeks and do day trips and just hang out generally in one spot, and then likely rent a car for the last 3 weeks and do some camping/touring. In this case would it make sense to rent a place in the North for a few weeks and then rent a car and do the camping section on the South island?

Any advice would be much appreciated!
Thanks

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    I'll just address the SI, as I'm not as familiar with the NI.

    IMO it's a challenge to see the best bits of the South Island using the base city concept. The island is long, and it takes more time to get from point A to point B than one might expect. There are only so many roads, only so many routes, countless one way bridges, many narrow and winding roads.

    Having said that, I've always thought that Christchurch and Queenstown make decent enough bases from which to explore areas up to two hours away. Neither would be my personal choice for more than 4-5 days, but you can do quite a lot from either location.

    Many time poor visitors visit Milford Sound from Queenstown in a day. It's doable, (four hour drive each way), but not something I recommend as there's so much to see and do between Te Anau and Milford that it seems a waste to rush.

    From QT it's easy enough to visit Arrowtown, Wanaka, Glenorchy, the wine region of Cromwell, and of course the immediate vicinity of QT. Trips further afield (Mt Cook, the glaciers, etc) could prove more problematic (4.5-6 hours each way).

    From Christchurch one can visit Akaroa (Banks Peninsula), Hanmer Springs, Rakaia Gorge, Waipara (wine region, Arthur's Pass, and the immediate area around Christchurch, but similarly, anything further afield will require considerably more driving, which IMO defeats the purpose of day trips.

    Nelson might also be a good option, as it's a good base from which to see Nelson Lakes, the Rai Valley, Havelock, Mapua, Motueka, and Kaiteriteri. I've personally never thought of Nelson as a good base for Abel Tasman because although it's only about an hour away, if one's goal is to spend time IN Abel Tasman, there are many much closer options which would limit travel time.

    Places like Picton & the Marlborough Sounds (two hours each way), the wine growing region of Blenheim (90 minutes each way) Golden Bay (1:40 each way) and Collingwood (two hours each way) would make long day trips IMO, and once you've driven there, you don't have much time to see the places you've driven to. Most are worth several days of exploration.

    My suggestion is that you make a long leisurely loop of the SI.

    You mentioned camping. Are you referring to renting a motor home? I've not traveled with kids, but I'd think a motor home would be an ideal way to see the SI with kids. I'd think it'd be a huge adventure for them and still allow you to be mobile, while not having to pack up and move from hotel to hotel.

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    Thanks Melnq8 for your reply, definitely lots to see and do. Sounds as though we may want to reserve the camping portion of the trip for the SI as we would likely see more and have more flexibility. Yes, we are planning on renting a camper or just a car and then tenting it in local campsites.

    We may fly into Aukland at the beginning of our trip and stay there for a few days, and then rent a place somewhere on the NI close to beaches and other sites for a few weeks (suggestions on holiday home rentals that are reasonable and central to do activities with kids are welcome!) and from there head down to the SI and rent a camper and do the rest of the trip that way.

    Thanks again!

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