Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Australia & the Pacific (
-   -   17 days in NZ - NI and SI - Would like feedback on finalizing itinerary (

mrsmlee Dec 3rd, 2013 06:31 PM

17 days in NZ - NI and SI - Would like feedback on finalizing itinerary

I am finalizing details on my trip to NZ, which is coming up in 2 weeks and would appreciate insight and feedback in finalizing activities and details on my itinerary. This is what we have outlined for our 17 days in NZ:

Dec 15: Arrive 8am Auckland from NYC. Spend day leisurely to rest and recover from jetlag. Visit Sky Tower. Mt Eden? Restaurants recs in City Centre?
Dec 16: Drive to Coromandel Peninsula to see hot water beach and cathedral cove (in hindsight, I'm wondering if this is even worth it)
Dec 17: Drive to Rotorua
Dec 18: Rotorua - Waiotapu and ?? Could use suggestions on how to spend our afternoon
Dec 19: Drive to Whakapapa (base for Tongariro National Park) and half day of golf
Dec 20: Alpine Crossing Hike
Dec 21: Drive to Waitomo - black water rafting (is this worth the $$?) - Drive to Auckland
Dec 22: Fly to Nelson - Drive to Marahau
Dec 23: Abel Tasman National Park (water taxi, hike, I need to book in advance?)
Dec 24: Drive to Punakaiki (pancake rocks)
Dec 25: Drive to glaciers
Dec 26: Glacier hike (Full day hike on Fox or ice explorer at Franz??..would like to see glacial blues)
Dec 27: Drive to Queenstown
Dec 28: Queenstown (return car rental - drive to glenorchy in the AM??)
Dec 29: Overnight Doubtful Sound Cruise (transport provided)
Dec 30: Return to Queenstown
Dec 31: Queenstown
Jan 1: Fly back to NYC

A few questions...

1. I think I might have allotted too much time in Rotorua. Other than waiotapu, what is the next must-see in the area? Not sure what to do with my afternoon after seeing waiotapu.

2. I am still trying to decide if the black labyrinth black water rafting tour is worth the $$. The fact that you said the glowworm cave was underwhelming is making me second guess myself

3. I have 2 FULL days in Queenstown...I have decided I want to do the shotover jet and gondola / luge, however, should I take the morning (before I return the car rental) to drive to glenorchy? or arrowtown? i am more interested in scenery and activities.

4. I still have not decided on whether it would be better to do Fox glacier vs franz josef. I have read that franz josef can only be accessed via heli hike. i don't mind paying the premium if it means an unforgettable experience and beautiful scenery. it seems based on what I've read and pictures that I've seen that franz josef has more "blue" ice, ice caves, ice crevasses, and more dramatic ice formation. However, I'm also wondering if perhaps I did the full day fox glacier hike, if I would be able to access similar. Any thoughts / ideas?

5. Weather - Current it seems to be mid 70s. by mid to late December, I'm sure it will be slightly warmer, but to me living in NYC, mid 70s could mean a lot of different things depending on humidity, cloudiness, etc. Also considering I will be going to Tongariro National Park and hiking the glaciers....I am guessing I will still need winter attire?

6. Any other recs on must-sees and must-dos and must-eats in those regions will be much appreciated!

Thanks in advance for feedback and advice!

Melnq8 Dec 3rd, 2013 08:28 PM

Hi mrsmlee -

I might be able to help with a few of your SI questions.

<Dec 23: Abel Tasman National Park (water taxi, hike, I need to book in advance?)>

Considering the time of year and the fact that you only have this one day to work with, I'd suggest that yes, you do book in advance.

<Dec 26: Glacier hike (Full day hike on Fox or ice explorer at Franz??..would like to see glacial blues>

I can't personally compare the two, but the full day hike is 6-7 hours, which leaves no time to see the rest of the area, so based on that alone, I'd go for the helihike instead. The glacial hot pools is included too, which is a bonus IMO - I loved the hot pools (but it was winter and practically empty).

<however, should I take the morning (before I return the car rental) to drive to glenorchy? or arrowtown? i am more interested in scenery and activities.>

Glenorchy, no contest. Once there, follow Paradise Road to Paradise Trust (there's very small sign, you'll have to keep your eyes peeled) and then walk the 30-40 minute track through the property. Trust me on this, I've been so the SI eleven times and there's nothing quite as gorgeous as the scenery around Glenorchy and Paradise.

Arrowtown is basically a one street town of shops selling tourist tat. Yes, it has the Chinese settlement and a couple of nice tracks, but you'll get much more bang for your buck if you head to Glenorchy.

<I am guessing I will still need winter attire?>

We always pack the same on our trips to NZ, regardless of time of year. We've found that a fleece jacket and a waterproof layer that fits over the fleece are invaluable. And sturdy shoes.

Have you booked accommodation yet?

ElendilPickle Dec 4th, 2013 11:18 AM

You could visit Te Puia, the NZ Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, on your way back to Rotorua on the 18th.

Waitomo - the Black Labyrinth tour was one of the most fun things we've ever done. You don't go through the glowworm caves that are on the regular tour; rather, you're tubing down a river. It's well worth the price.

I wrote about both Te Puia and blackwater rafting in my trip report from 2004, if you're interested in reading that.

Lee Ann

mrsmlee Dec 7th, 2013 08:32 AM

Thank you both for your suggestions and advice!

@Melnq8 - I think it is probably wise to book abel tasman in advance too. do you have any suggestions on who we should pre-book with?

I am also so nervous to prebook the ice explorer at franz josef because i want to leave flexibility to pick a day with the better weather forecast. if the 26th is raining, i wanted to leave the morning of the 27th as a backup....but given the time of year I am thinking if it unwise to not book in advance as well? Is weather fairly consistent in the winter on the glaciers? I'm wondering how unpleasant it will be to do the glacier hike in wet rainy weather =(

Thanks for the suggestion of Glenorchy! I am building that into our trip :)

And yes, we have most of our accommodations booked. I booked 3 different locations in Franz Josef / Fox area given I wasn't really sure which glacier we would go to. Any suggestions for a place near the glaciers?

Is mid-late December "warm" or "pretty hot"? Should I be packing mostly shorts and tank tops / t-shirts? with a fleece / sweater / and a couple of long sleeved shirts just in case?

@ Lee Ann - Just read your trip report. Makes me even more excited for my trip :) I noticed that you weren't able to hike the Tongariro National Park. I don't know if weather is more consistent during the summer, but I might forego the caves if weather doesn't allow us to hike Tongariro the day before. If all works out and we can hike Tongariro on the day we have planned, I am sold on the Black Labyrinth :)

mrsmlee Dec 7th, 2013 08:35 AM

Also, I could use some suggestions on what else to do in Queenstown. I will do the shotover jet and the gondola and the drive to glenorchy. Anything else that I should add? I don't have that much free time. Really only the 28th and half day 30th and full day 31st. Recommendations on how we should spend our NYE in Queenstown?

Could use restaurant / food recs too! Thanks in advance for your help!!!

annhig Dec 8th, 2013 12:37 AM

Hi mrsmlee,

we are in NZ [QT actually right now] and would strongly suggest revising and reducing the amount of driving you are planning on doing. We drove straight to the Coromandel from Auckland, which took us 2 hours and after a night in a lovely B&B, tried to combine seeing a small part of the Coromandel with sightseeing further south and driving to Napier. I now know that this was utter madness. I don't know exactly what the times for driving between the places you have mentioned in the NI, but you need to check with the AA website or similar, and then add on a good margin for error.

We are experienced drivers, but we were on our knees by the time we got to Nelson, so much so that we completely revised our itinerary and dropped our stay in Te Anau in favour of staying longer in Wanaka. Probably the best thing we did. I haven't analysed your itinerary in detail but you really need to make sure that you have enough time not only to do what you want to do but to get there and back as well.

As for the weather, when we arrived in Wanaka 3 days ago it was summer, and now it's winter - it was 11C in QT today and we were wearing all our clothes when we went out to dinner. T-shirt, long-sleeved t-shirt, cardigan, fleece and waterproof. It was the same temps as at home in the UK where it really is winter. And gloves. They are promising 24C tomorrow but I will believe it when I see it [or rather when I see the mountains on the other side of the lake instead of cloud and rain.

Regarding Franz Joseph/Fox, you can't do a 1/2 day walking tour to the FJ glacier now, nor I suspect at any time this year as the glacier has receded too far. We did the 1/2 day walking tour of Fox and enjoyed it very much. You get to walk on the glacier with crampons which is a lot of fun. Also you see crevasses, blue ice etc. though probably not as much as you see on a heli-hike or full day hike. if you can afford it, the heli-hike is probably the way to go, though walking was fun too.

I can''t tell you yet what there is to do in QT as we only arrived today; I'll let you know in a couple of days time when we leave!

Melnq8 - I can't thank you enough for all the help you gave me in planning this trip. We've had a wonderful time, the driving not withstanding. Where it's gone wrong, it's been because I didn't listen to your wise advice.

And thank you for your tips about Glenorchy. We were planning to go there today but because of the weather we stopped off in Arrowtown instead and looked at the chinese settlement which was fascinating. When we go to Glanorchy, probably tomorrow, we will definitely go to Paradise..

Melnq8 Dec 8th, 2013 09:10 AM


I've no personal experience with kayak operators in Abel Tasman, but I'd suggest just choosing the operator that best fits your schedule and price range, I reckon they're all very similar.

Regarding the booking the glaciers...I'm with you on waiting to see what the weather gods have in store, however, as you're driving to Queenstown on the 27th, you really don't have any leeway - it takes at least six hours to drive from the glaciers to QT, so there's no time to do any glacier activities on the 27th. Rain is always a possibility, but as you have only one full day, it's either take a chance, or don't.

The villages of Fox and Franz are very small, no need to try to be 'close' to the glaciers, as you'll need to drive to both no matter where your accommodation is.

Melnq8 Dec 8th, 2013 09:12 AM

annhig -

We live, we learn... I look forward to all the details. Fingers crossed for lovely weather in Glenorchy.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:20 PM.