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2 Week Trip to New Zealand...Early Planning Stage

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Feb 16th, 2013, 08:32 PM
  #1
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2 Week Trip to New Zealand...Early Planning Stage

My husband & I are looking to travel to New Zealand March 2014 for our wedding anniversary and our last big adventure vacation (for a little while at least) before we settle down and start a family. We are in our later 20s and want to travel to New Zealand for the beauty and adventure. We love hiking (which I hear is called "Tramping" over there). With travel time we will only have 10 - 11 days in New Zealand. We would like to see both islands and get a great overall feel of what New Zealand has to offer. We are Lord of the Rings fans...not fanatics, so we would like to see some of the places it was filmed if possible. I've heard of Milford Sound, Waitomo Caves, Tongagiro Crossing...etc. I'm sure everything is beautiful, but if there is something that is a must see or not worth it, we would love to hear it.

Would it be best to go with a tour group or go individually? Is renting a car a good option? Has anyone had experience with the Magic Bus? Would it make any difference to start on the South or North Island? Most likely we will be flying into Auckland or wherever we can find the lowest airfare.

It is really early in our planning process so we would appreciate anyone's opinions. Thank you for your time!
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Feb 16th, 2013, 09:47 PM
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With so little time, I suggest you pick just one island. NZ looks small on a map, but it takes much longer to get from Point A to Point B than you might expect. Roads are generally one lane in each direction, there are tons of one lane bridges, and roads tend to be squiggly and narrow. Then there's all the spectacular scenery along the way...all of which add considerably to the travel time.

I'd suggest renting a car and doing it on your own - this way of traveling offers you more flexbility and if something strikes your fancy, you can explore at will. Taking a bus will tie you down to the bus schedules and will eat into your limited time.

I suggest the South Island - in 10-11 days you can do a circuit and see quite a few (but certainly not all) of the highlights.

Here's a popular driving route for first time visitors to the South Island (I only mention the SI, because it's my preferred island, and in 10 visits, I've still not gotten enough of it).

Christchurch-Arthur's Pass-Greymouth-side trip to Punakaiki- Hokitika-Glaciers-Wanaka-Te Anau-Milford Sound-Queenstown-Mt Cook-Lake Tekapo-Christchurch.
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Feb 17th, 2013, 12:00 PM
  #3
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Thank you for your response!! I really appreciate the advice. Any ideas on places to stay? Does lodging fill up pretty quickly where we would need to book everything in advance or would we be fine with booking as we travel around?
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Feb 17th, 2013, 12:21 PM
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In March you might get by with booking as you travel. A few places to consider if you follow the route suggested by Melnq8. The Shining Star in Hokitika is right on the beach and surprisingly affordable. The Edgewater in Te Anau and the Amity Lodge Motel in Queenstown were also good values, both just a few blocks from the center of their respective towns. If you decide to splurge on something, I'll have to say that the helicopter flight over the glaciers and by Mt. Cook with landing on the Franz Josef Glacier was the highlight of our trip. An overnight boat trip on Doubtful Sound with Fjordland Expeditions (less luxury and a smaller boat, more personalized than the bigger ships that cruise the sounds) was a close second. We chose Doubtful over Milford since we thought it would be a bit more remote. Both are lovely.
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Feb 17th, 2013, 02:49 PM
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Since you are Lord of the Rings fans, pick up a copy of Ian Brodie's The Lord of the Rings Location Guide, which includes the locations of all the filming sites. We used it when we visited the North Island in 2004, and it was very helpful.

As others have said, rent a car; you'll appreciate the freedom to stop when you want.

Lee Ann
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Feb 17th, 2013, 04:01 PM
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March is still pretty busy, I'd suggest you book in popular areas with limited accommodation, such as Mt Cook and the glaciers.

You won't have any school holidays to contend with, but do be aware that Good Friday, Easter, Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday will be very busy - if you're traveling over these days, absolutely book.

As far as specific places to stay with the above suggested itinerary:

Christchurch - Merivale Manor
Hoki - Agree with Midnight Sun - the Shining Star is lovely
Franz Josef - Glen Fern Villas
Wanaka - Alpine Lodge
Te Anau - The Croft B&B or Birchwood Cottages
Queenstown - we actually prefer to stay in Arrowtown at Orchard Cottage.

The Bella Vista Motel chain is also a good, decent priced option. You'll find them in several towns across the SI.
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Feb 18th, 2013, 04:05 PM
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Correction - that's the Alpine View Lodge. There is an Alpine Lodge, but I've not stayed there.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 08:44 AM
  #8
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Thanks everyone! I really appreciate all the help!
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Feb 21st, 2013, 07:28 PM
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Put New Zealand in the upper right hand search box and you will see quite a few reports and threads on New Zealand to get more information and ideas.
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