4 weeks in NZ in Feb. 2015

Mar 29th, 2014, 04:31 PM
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4 weeks in NZ in Feb. 2015

We are a couple in our mid 60's taking our first trip to NZ & Australia.
Since we will be flying from Boston, USA, we will stay a night in LA and then on to Aukland. We are now thinking maybe one week in the North Island and 3 weeks in the South Island. We are very comfortable driving, but also wonder whether we should hook up with some of the all day tours or will it be easy enough for us to navigate the roads and be able to self drive and tour. We would love some suggestions about best places to stay and favorite sights. We are not going to do any extreme sports but would like to get out and see the beautiful places even if it requires some not too difficult hiking. We would like to stay in clean, moderately priced motels, B&B's, or even a small apartment for a few days. It would be nice not to have to eat out all of the time. I have read that most of the motels, etc. have small kitchen areas which I would like just to make a small breakfast or small snack. I have heard about Air B&B, and it does intrigue me.
Then off to Australia early in March for probably two weeks. Based on the weather are we correct in assuming that NZ should be the beginning of our trip and AU in March considering the weather in both countries? We would like to see Sydney, Melbourne, Ulura & Cairns, We are also thinking of a few days in Fiji at the very end of our trip, just because it is so close and what if I never get back to that part of the world??? Maybe that is too much but it is something I would like to consider. Thank you for any help you can give us.
AnnieT49 is offline  
Mar 29th, 2014, 07:23 PM
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Hi Annie -

Lucky you for having a month to spend in beautiful NZ!



Excellent distribution of time!

With three weeks on the SI (my personal favorite) you can see most of the highlights by making a driving circuit (actually more of a figure 8).



Yes, NZ motels are well set up for self-catering. Many have full kitchens, but I've run into a few here and there that only had a microwave and kettle, so just make sure you know what you're getting so you can plan accordingly.

NZ is easy to navigate on your own, absolutely no need for a tour - I highly recommend self-driving...everywhere.



Yes. The further into autumn you can go to AUS the better, as it can be extremely hot, even throughout March.

Regarding what to see and do in NZ, I have several detailed trip reports posted here on Fodor's that might help get you started.
Melnq8 is online now  
Mar 30th, 2014, 01:11 AM
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Hi Annei,

we did a slightly shorter trip to NZ last year, and reading your queries may just spur me on to finish my trip report.

a word about accommodation, if I may - we used a combination of motels and B&Bs, and though it was nice to have the facilities of the motels, the places we enjoyed most were the B&Bs. The owners were very friendly, extremely helpful, and mines of local information. They booked excursions, restaurants, and provided afternoon tea. This is an example of what I'm talking about:

http://www.criffelpeakview.co.nz/

it's in lovely Wanaka, which we only went to because of a recommendation from Melenq8; we originally intended to spend only a night there but extended it to 3, which we were very pleased about.

The other B&B that I would thoroughly recommend is in the North Island at the start of the Coromandel peninsular; we only had one night there but we wished we'd stayed for longer and had the chance to explore the peninsular properly:

http://www.cotswoldcottage.co.nz/

you will have more time than us, but even then you'll find yourselves having to make difficult choices as there is so much to see and do.
annhig is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 04:08 PM
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Thank you both for the information.
Melnq8 - Since we are traveling in February in NZ, should we have some reservations for places to stay before we leave home? I read somewhere it is still peak season and we may have a hard time finding moderately priced motels, or B&B's at that time of year without reservations. I am going to look over your suggestions on where to start and things to see. I hope you don't mind if I pick your brain a little when I try to finalize some of the key places to see.

Ann Hig - Could you advise me on some of the places you felt were a must see. Also, did you do any organized tours or were you on your own pretty much. I am looking into some of the B&B's as I agree they can be very nice and the people very helpful for their areas.
AnnieT49 is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 04:40 PM
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Yes, particularly in small towns and areas with limited accommodation, such as the glaciers, Mt Cook, Arthur's Pass, Te Anau, and quite possibly Christchurch, which is still suffering an accommodation shortage since the earthquake.

Feel free to pick my brain as much as you like. I never tire of NZ.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 11th, 2014, 09:34 AM
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Ann Hig - Could you advise me on some of the places you felt were a must see.>>

annie - that's really difficult. any response is going to be very subjective, depending on the weather, standard of the accommodation we happened to have in a particular place, etc.

but here goes:

The Coromandel peninsular - drop dead gorgeous and we are still kicking ourselves that we didn't spend longer there.

the Gannets at Napier - you can do a 1/2 day trip out to the peninsular where they all nest; the trip is fun but the gannets are really a sight to see, sitting there in serried ranks, with the ones coming into land [we watched one go round over a dozen times before s/he landed] making a wonderful racket, and being a bit smelly too.

The ferry trip from Wellington to Picton

a self-guided winery tour near Nelson [sorry, the Abel Tasman didn't float our boat, perhaps because it was too similar to where we live in the UK] , the great meal we had, and the vibe of the town itself, which we really liked.

Walking on the glacier at Fox [wish we'd done the heli-tour and walk though!]

The drive from Franz joseph to Wanaka.

Wanaka, especially the boat trip to the island in the middle where the Weka [ a very tame flightlesss bird] live, the exceptionally good B&B we stayed at, the fantastic meal we had at a winery there. a really great place.

Arrowsmith near Queenstown. touristy but interesting, especially the chinese village.

Doubtful sound [the boat trip before we got to the sound was particularly enjoyable, perhaps because the sun was shining, the sound itself seemed over-rated]

Oamaru - the gardens, the great italian restaurant, the old victorian buildings, especially the newly restored Victorian opera-house, and the fairy penguins [you can get within feet of them, though you probably shouldn't]

Timaru - the spectacularly good rose gardens.

The pop-up shops and restaurants of Christchurch. not much to look at but fascinating non the less.

you will have gathered that we are quite keen on food, wine and wild-life. and meeting new people which is where the B&Bs come in.
annhig is offline  
Apr 11th, 2014, 02:52 PM
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That'd be Arrowtown.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 12th, 2014, 02:52 AM
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well, Melnq8 - I prefer to think that I was half right, not half wrong.
annhig is offline  
Apr 12th, 2014, 06:25 AM
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Indeed you were annhig.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 12th, 2014, 10:41 PM
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Hi there,

Regarding your accommodation, have everything booked up until at least the 9th of February. School starts to go back at the end of January however in Auckland the last Monday of the month is a public holiday and throughout all of NZ the 6th of February is a public holiday so these are very busy weekends (waitangi day). Given February is typically the nicest month of the year weather wise people make the most of these two long weekends before getting back into the yearly grind.

Places to see / consider:
On top of already mentioned and depending on your taste:

South Island:
Queenstown / wanaka - lots to do in the area. Could easily spend at least five nights
Milford sound - a must. Glow worms in te anua are also pretty cool (if you stay in te anua while doing the sounds)
Franz / fox glaciers as well as lake matheson on a crisp clear morning (photos of the southern alps are taken here)
Punakaiki (pancake rocks) - west coast of the South Island just south of Westport. Punakaiki is beautiful in itself but also marks the start of an amazing stretch of road down to greymouth. Keep heading south to the glaciers before crossing over to wanaka via haast pass
Marlborough sounds / queen Charlotte sound / Abel Tasman national park - top of the South Island not far from nelson. You can head from here to punakaiki. Westport is a hole (nothing there) so don't rush to stay - slightly north of Westport is apparently very nice but I haven't been there yet.
Kaikoura - whale watching and other nice stuff.
Akaroa - Christchurch peninsula - quaint village
Hmmm, you can go down south of Dunedin to the Caitlin's but never been there

North island
Bay of Islands - 3.5hrs north of Auckland. Stay in paihia but be careful around Waitangi Day (6th feb) as waitangi (the place) is right next to paihia so accommodation may be difficult.
While up here you can do day tour to cape reinga (top of north island), buses drive along ninty mile beach. Also do the hole in the rock boat trip and go over to Russell on the ferry - very quaint.
Coromandel peninsula - take your pick of matarangi, Whitianga, cooks beach, hot water beach, pauanui, or a bit further down whangamata / mt mounganui - all beautiful beaches but book accommodation. This is where 2/3rds of Auckland go on holiday to their baches (holiday homes) so feb will still be pretty busy.
Rotorua - lakes / and NZ cultural stuff
Taupo - more so on the way south. I can't remember if hells gate is here or in rotorua but it's worth going to some of the geothermal pools if you end up in the area.

I've given you lots of ideas and while this list isn't exhaustive it's from my travels through NZ as a kiwi (lived in Auckland) - google them and see if any take your fancy...

Have lots of fun
osteorach is offline  
Apr 14th, 2014, 05:35 AM
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Hi Bostonites - we just returned from 4 weeks on South Island and posted our trip report a few days ago.
Very glad we had self catering facilities as we didn't care much for the food. See our report for lodging, etc.
If you have other questions contact me at [email protected]. We're coming to Boston next month for long weekend.
changemaven is offline  
Apr 14th, 2014, 12:25 PM
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Very glad we had self catering facilities as we didn't care much for the food>>

changermaven - we spent over 2 weeks in NZ last year and had no complaints about the food at all, in fact some of it [not all ] was very good.

I'm just curious - what didn't you like about it?
annhig is offline  
Apr 14th, 2014, 04:49 PM
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Interesting I didn't like the food very much in the US, I guess it is just what you are used too.
nelsonian is online now  
Apr 15th, 2014, 05:51 AM
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nelsonian - I've read changermaven's trip report, and had s/he not said that they didn't like the food much, I'd not have known. like all of us, they had some good meals, some ok ones, and a few mediocre ones.
annhig is offline  
Apr 16th, 2014, 08:05 AM
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re food surely its what you are used to. we found most of the 'take-away" food to be fried, which we don't want to eat. Meat pies which we did try twice (and liked), to us were heavy and full of calories. Breakfasts were good everywhere - mostly muesli, yogurts, fruits, breads. I guess it was mainly the fast food and dinner restaurant options we found to be much pork, which we don't eat. We found it hard to find lighter meals. Since we pack light, and only very casual hiking clothes, we didn't look at the "nicer" restaurants. I am sure there is very fine food all over. For us, we had to search. for convenience we ate mostly pb&j for lunch on our hikes each day.
hope this helps...
changemaven is offline  
Apr 16th, 2014, 09:40 AM
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I guess it was mainly the fast food and dinner restaurant options we found to be much pork, which we don't eat. >>

lol, in 17 days in NZ i can't remember eating any pork apart from bacon and sausages for the odd breakfast. We never eat fast food, but IME [admittedly very limited] they don't serve much pork, but mainly very poor beef and chicken. My recollection of your TR is that you ate a lot of fish, and self-catered a lot, so i'm still confused.

but let's not fall out about it. you obviously had a good time, which is the main thing.
annhig is offline  
Apr 16th, 2014, 11:15 AM
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changemaven -

Interesting comments about the food, and I agree to a certain extent; we've had our share of bad food in NZ over the years. Some of it can be attributed to regional differences in taste - for example, we find Australian bacon repulsive, because it's so different from what we grew up with and it's not cured or smoked. However, we've had some pretty good NZ bacon.

My die-hard carnivore spouse can't stomach NZ sausages (and believe me he's tried them all) and on our latest visit he even struggled to eat some of the beef offered in the grocery stores. Whether the difference was due to 100% grass feeding vs a combination of grass and corn, who knows, but it's notable as it's a rare day when he turns up his nose at meat!

We first began visiting NZ back in the 90's...back then tearooms dominated the countryside and white bread sandwiches and fried food seemed to reign.

The NZ dining scene has since come a very long way, but yes, there's still plenty of low end options. The higher the budget, the better the food.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 16th, 2014, 01:30 PM
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We first began visiting NZ back in the 90's...back then tearooms dominated the countryside and white bread sandwiches and fried food seemed to reign. >>

we loved the tea rooms. all very individual [if not to say quirky] and we had nice things like soups, toasted sandwiches, the odd pie - whatever looked best on the menu. and very nice cakes with usually excellent coffee. so much better than the dreaded "little chefs" et al at home in the UK.
annhig is offline  
Apr 16th, 2014, 04:38 PM
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Melnq does your DH not like the taste of grass fed beef. We didn't like the meat in the US because it had a different taste which I took to be from it being corn fed rather than grass-fed cattle. Interesting discussion.
nelsonian is online now  
Apr 17th, 2014, 06:22 AM
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He eats grass fed beef in AUS all the time nelsonian, but he prefers grass fed that's been finished off with 100 days of corn before butchering. It improves the flavor tremendously, (at least for those of us used to corn fed beef) and there's considerably less sinew.

This year in NZ though, all the beef we bought at grocery stores had so much sinew running through it that he could barely chew the stuff.

Our British friends in Australia much prefer completely grass fed to corn, as that's what they're used to. A Thai expat living in AUS once told me she found Aussie pork smelly and disgusting. I thought that was an interesting comment as we felt the same about the pork in Indonesia - it would stink up the house for days.

It all comes down to what a person is used to.

During a tour of Cadbury in Dunedin years ago, we learned that they made the chocolate less sweet for their Japanese market.

Different strokes for different folks.

You can have those tearooms annhig (not to be confused with NZ cafes, which are lovely). If I could find a NZ tearoom with a proper flat white I'd give it a go, but most seem to do the Nescafe thing (gag, choke).
Melnq8 is online now  

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