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40 days in New Zealand - itinerary, accommodation and other suggestions?

40 days in New Zealand - itinerary, accommodation and other suggestions?

Old Nov 21st, 2012, 08:22 PM
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40 days in New Zealand - itinerary, accommodation and other suggestions?

My wife and I are planning a trip of about 40 days to New Zealand starting end-January, and would appreciate thoughts on our proposed itinerary below. Our thanks for all the useful info on this forum that have helped us already.

But first some background on what we’re looking for: In addition to the obvious scenic sights, we’re interested in hiking (the DOC website makes me want to get on the plane right away), biking (more road or road-like than mountain biking) and wildlife viewing. On the cultural front, we are interested in history, insights into Maori or paheka culture and living, and modern/contemporary art. (We have guidebooks like Lonely Planet and Fodors so we should be aware of the better known sights, but suggestions on lesser known items would be very welcome.) When the itinerary permits, we’d also like to intersperse a string of days that are nature-filled with an urban dose. And perhaps most importantly, since we have the luxury of a lot of time, we want to slow things down where possible and be able to just hang out in a café or read and not feel the pressure to keep sightseeing all the time. So in the itinerary, we’ve generally tried to spend 3 nights in most locations even if it means giving up certain places like Abel Tasman and Nelson, Bay of Islands, the Coromandel peninsula, or a stay at Lake Taupo.

We’d also appreciate any suggestions for bed and breakfasts. While we’d do self-catering motels or apartments in many locations so we don’t have to eat out all the time, in the places where we won’t do that, we’d like to stay at a B&B so we can get to talk with the owners, rather than stay in a regular hotel.

Our proposed itinerary:
3 nights (ie 2 full days) in Glenorchy (after flying into Queenstown from Sydney)
1 overnight near Clyde (maybe Arrowtown) before biking part of Otago Central Rail Trail starting Clyde in am
4 nights Te Anau
3 nights Mt Cook
1 night Oamaru (via Waitaki Valley)
2 nights Dunedin
3 nights Wanaka
3 nights Fox or Franz Joseph Glacier area
2 nights Punakaiki
3 nights Kaikoura (via Arthur’s Pass)
3 nights Blenheim - wine country
3 nights Wellington
3 nights Rotorua
5 nights Auckland (via Waitomo) incl day trip to Waiheke island
Total: 39 nights

Our longest drives appear to be Wellington-Rotorua (6 hours) and Te Anau-Mt. Cook and Punakaiki-Kaikoura (about 5.5 hours each). This is probably about as far as we want to drive in a day, since we want to have time to be able to stop at places that are interesting en route.

Thanks in advance.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2012, 08:16 AM
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What a wonderful plan!

A few B&B recommendations for the areas you're visiting:

Glenorchy - Precipice B&B (my absolute favorite)
Te Anau - The Croft
Arrowtown - Orchard Cottage

Wanaka - not a typical B&B but a family owned place with lots of charm and great service - Alpine Lodge

Franz Joef - Glen Fern Villas (self-catering)
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Old Nov 22nd, 2012, 06:50 PM
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Thanks for the helpful reply, MelnQ8!
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Old Nov 26th, 2012, 04:52 PM
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You are wise to take time savoring each place, so I am somewhat hesitant to offer suggestions. I wanted to suggest a route change/addition to the South Island portion of your trip that might help eliminate some backtracking, and suggest a couple of options to break up the long drive between Rotorua to Wellington. This looks like a long posting, but it mostly contains a lot of links.

I suggest driving from Te Anau to the Catlins (via Invercargill or Gore). Stay a couple of nights in the Catlins, where there is much to see and do (hiking, beaches, wildlife). Nature-lovers adore the Catlins. Then drive up to Dunedin via Taieri Mouth and Brighton. Basically, you will be following the "Southern Scenic Route." (links below)

As you near Dunedin, the road leading down to beautiful Tunnel Beach will be off to the right (you might return here later). Spend two (or three) nights in Dunedin as planned. Then continue to Oamaru as planned (don't miss Moeraki Beach and Katiki Point Lighthouse in Moeraki), then take the Waitaki Valley route to Mt. Cook/Lake Pukaki/Lake Tekapo region, as planned. Oamaru to Mt. Cook Village will be 212 kilometers or a three-hour (or less), scenic drive. Then return to Wanaka and continue your trip as outlined in your itinerary.

Below are links about the Catlins. If you go, see Curio Bay (late afternoon for the penguins), nearby Porpoise Bay, and Nugget Point. Cathedral Cave must be visited during low tide. You can also visit the Catlins' forest trails and waterfalls.

If you want to break up the drive between Rotorua and Wellington, you might spend a night in either Napier or Tongariro National Park, Ruapehu (the volcano has been erupting lately!). Both destinations are interesting and amazingly scenic. If you need to trim a day from your schedule in order to spend the night in Napier or Tongariro National Park, cut a day from your time in Auckland. What are your plans for Auckland apart from visiting Waiheke Island?

You will spend three nights in Blenheim/Marlborough wine country, but you did not mention Central Otago's wine country (although I noticed you will visit Clyde as part of the Central Otago Bike Trail). If you have time and are so inclined--even if you do not drink wine--you might enjoy visiting a few wineries in Cromwell, Bannockburn or the Gibbston Valley. Chard Farm in Gibbston Valley (near NZ's original Kawarau River bungy jumping site), and Mt. Difficulty Winery & Cafe (on a hilltop) in Bannockburn are particularly scenic. Actually, you will be spoiled for choices in Central Otago; many of the wineries are lovely. As for the wine, it is world-class, comparable with Marlborough's. There are far fewer wineries, but the quality is high (Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and sparkling wines are standouts). In Wanaka, don't miss Rippon Winery (great views and a sculpture garden).
There is lot about the Central Otago wine country on this forum.

I don't know your plans for Dunedin. If you mainly intend on spending time on the Otago Peninsula, you might want to stay on the peninsula.

If you want to also see city attractions, consider staying near or at St. Clair Beach, which will give you nature and a bit of a cafe/restaurant scene (six to seven cafes/restaurants). The main beach is beautiful, about three kilometers long, which makes it great for walking. Most days, surfers, paddleboarders and kayakers ply St. Clair's waves. Behind St. Clair's saltwater swimming pool, there is a short wooded trail, "Second Beach," which runs along the cliffs and features waves crashing against hexagonal basalt columns.

A bus from St. Clair Beach takes you to the Octagon (Dunedin's city center) in about 15 minutes, or within a block of the Otago Museum in about 17 minutes, or the Botanic Garden in about 20 minutes. The fare is $3.50 or $3 if you get a GO bus discount card. This might be easier than driving into the city center and having to pay for parking. St. Clair Beach is about a 10-minute drive from the Tunnel Beach track (a Dunedin must-see) and about 35-minute drive from the Sandfly Bay track on the Otago Peninsula (another must).

St. Clair Beach can get busy during the day on weekends, but it is always quiet after dark as it is in a quiet, upscale residential neighborhood. Besides, you probably won't be around much during the day.

I don't know your budget, but here are some self-catering apts. and one B&B in St. Clair.
There is also the upmarket St. Clair Resort Hotel:

Cheaper accommodations can be found near St. Kilda Beach (which is contiguous with St. Clair Beach).

I suggested staying at St. Clair. St. Kilda, or on the Otago Peninsula because during summer the downtown area can be hectic, crowded and loud, especially on cruise ship days! The University of Otago semester begins on January 3 (classes start on the 7th), and this will add to the chaos. In fact, you might want to have a look at the cruise ship schedule to avoid such crowds.

I don't mean to put you off visiting the city center, because it is full of attractions. The Octagon is where you will find the I-Site Tourism Office (brochures, tours, bookings), the City Art Gallery (free admission), cafes and shops, and free internet access. Speight's Brewery (brewery tours), the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, and the Dunedin Railway Station (home to the Saturday Farmer's Market, and the Seasider and Taieri Gorge trains) are a few blocks away. The Otago Museum (free admission) is about 6 blocks from the Octagon, and the gorgeous Botanical Garden and aviary (free admission) is just minutes away by bus or taxi (or you can walk from the Octagon, but it's about 11 long blocks). Dunedin's renovated Otago Settlers Museum is due to re-open in December (it is sandwiched between the Railway Station and the Chinese Garden).
Plus, you can take a walking tour of the city's gorgeous Victorian and Edwardian buildings:

I strongly suggest while in Dunedin, you go on a wildlife tour, either with Monarch Cruises or with Elm Wildlife Tours or a combination of both. If you choose Monarch Cruises, try to include a visit to Penguin Place as part of your tour. Both companies will pick you up from your Dunedin accommodation.
Sometimes you can get a cheaper price for the tour by booking through the I-Site office.
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Old Nov 26th, 2012, 05:54 PM
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I forgot you are interested in contemporary art. Dunedin's city center is home to more than a dozen art galleries, which are good. The small Public Art Gallery at the Octagon is worth visiting, with a mixture of contemporary and traditional exhibitions (again, free admission).

Below is a link to Dunedin's public sculptures. You needn't go out of your way to see these old and new works, but you might be interested in knowing where they are. You won't have time to visit the Dunedin suburb of Port Chalmers, but if you find yourself there, seek out the small but scenic Hotere Garden Oputae. This small sculpture garden features a few works by artist Ralph Hotere, one of New Zealand's most honored living artist. His works can be found in collections throughout the country as well as internationally.

The Dunedin Hospital also has a large and varied art collection (700 works) Definitely don't go out of your way to see it! (But if you happen to sprain your ankle tramping and find yourself here, have a look around, the hospital is otherwise dreary.)
And you might want to ignore the giant molars on the waterfront:
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Old Nov 28th, 2012, 08:32 PM
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I've used bnb.co.nz to look for B&Bs

Some that I've enjoyed (it's been a while so check recent reviews)

Kuoatunu===Drift In

Martinborough--Oak House

Karamea (west coast South Island) Beachfront Farmstay B&B

Dunedin (center of town near Octagon) Hulmes Court
www.hulmes.co.nz (note that it is listed for sale)

Some of the less publicized spots that I like are

Hump Ridge Track

Kapiti Island Nature Lodge

Kapiti Island
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Old Nov 28th, 2012, 10:26 PM
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Question for you, mlgb, did you happen to post a trip report for the Hump Ridge Track?

I enjoyed your Kapiti Island report. Both destinations are on my NZ bucket list.
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Old Nov 29th, 2012, 10:58 AM
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If I did I can't find it.

I went in November, 2003, the track now has many more wooden staircases rather than mud as when I went/ I prefer the mud, easier on the knees. At the time, you had to walk both directions along Bluecliffs Beach, also I opted to have my things helicoptered to the lodges although I walked the full track.

I found an email I sent to friends with a report:

"I survived my 53k hike with two sore toenails and lots of sandfly bites. It was muddy and long but worthwhile. A lot of walking along deserted beaches (with sandflies), steep climb above the subalpine zone into snow and hail. Some great views of the south coast of New Zealand (when the cloud briefly lifted). Tons of mud and an amazing series of plant communities from alpine and stunted birch forest (something to do with constant gale force winds at the ridge line) thru different forest associations to the beach again. Crossing some tall wooden trestles from the logging days and walking along the tram line to the abandoned logging town of Port Craig (more sandflies). Lots of relics. Of the hikers, about half Germans, one third locals and one other American."

I do remember that it was so cold on the ridge at night, that you couldn't touch the metal huts or your fingers would stick, and that the huts were unheated so most of us spent the evening in the common area playing cards and drinking ginger wine that the Kiwis had brought along. The warden unlocked her supply of emergency sleeping bags and gave us each one as a topper to what we had brought. Good thing, or I might have frozen to death. I also remember a little bit of the walk along the ridge top that was quite scary, narrow with drop offs and strong winds. Saw lots of parrots (kea above the treeline and kaka in the forests, I think).

So perhaps my one recommendation is don't go in November!
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Old Nov 29th, 2012, 11:11 AM
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PS, you don't know anyone in Dunedin who would buy Hulmes Court as a B&B? If not Norm will turn it into studio apartments!
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Old Nov 30th, 2012, 01:30 AM
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Thanks for telling me about the Hump Ridge Track. That was interesting, informative, and entertaining.

The website looked great. I really the option of having my backpack flown up to me, instead of having to carry it up myself. Plus, it looked like a gorgeous track with beautiful coastal views,

I have to admit after reading your report, I am not as interested now. The scenery, foliage, and keas sound great, But mud, sandflies, cold, and scary narrow trail with sharp drop-offs and strong winds is a bit off-putting. You are made of sturdier stuff than me!

I will research the Routeburn Track, Only 32 km. Now that I am living in NZ, I feel obliged to hike one track from start to finish (while I still can, as my knees are not so great, the rest of me is getting kind of crumbly, too).

Sorry to hear that your favorite B&B in Dunedin is up for sale, Hopefully, it will be purchased by someone who will maintain it as a B&B.
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Old Nov 30th, 2012, 01:44 AM
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The sandflies were worst at the coast eg in Port Craig. I went only a few years after it opened, so maybe they have improved that scary bit along the ridgeline before you reach the huts, it really needed some boardwalk and handrails. I really had no choice, it was either go or freeze to death! Anyways I am probably making it sound worse than it is, I do not like dropoffs at all.

They now have all sorts of posher options where you can fly up to the ridge, hot showers, etc. Beautiful up there if you get the right weather.
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Old Nov 30th, 2012, 08:32 PM
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Thanks so much for your very informative post and great suggestions, diamantina – I really appreciate the time you’ve put into it! And also to mlgb for the B&B recs.
I’ve responded below to your suggestions – pl feel free to offer any further comments.
- I’ve reconfigured the itinerary as you suggested to avoid backtracking, by going from Te Anau to the Dunedin area to Mt. Cook and then to Wanaka and the west coast.
- Meanwhile, I also discovered a great website for folks interested in biking: http://www.nzcycletrail.com/ which lists several great off-road cycling possibilities. As a result, we’ve added time in some locations (eg another night in Arrowtown) for additional biking.
- The other change is that after speaking with a Kiwi friend from Gisborne, I’m looking at adding a drive along the East Cape. The biggest draw to us would be the exposure to Maori culture in that part of NZ – the maraes, churches, Maori docents, etc. Will read up on some Witi Ihimaera and see Whale Rider again to get into the spirit. I was initially afraid that we’d be ODing on scenic coastal driving, but my friend insists that it’s a very different feel from the coastal parts of the South Island. We’ll probably fly from Wellington to either Napier or Gisborne to cut down on driving fatigue, and drive to Hicks Bay and Opotiki and then on to Rotorua. Probably 3 nights total, including Napier/Gisborne. (May include short bike rides at Napier and Opotiki mentioned in the cycle trail website above.) Yes, this portion goes against what I was saying earlier about taking it easy and spending more time in fewer places, but the cultural part of it sounds intriguing. We do like art deco so may indeed spend the first night in Napier. Diamantina had mentioned that Napier is very scenic – are you referring to the art deco or the actual scenery?
- In order to accommodate the changes above, I’ve also cut down on Blenheim (to 1 night; will have to make up for the vineyards elsewhere), Te Anau (to 3) and skipped the night in Oamaru (although we will stop by the town en route to Mt Cook). Even 40 days is not enough!
- We will definitely do the Elm wildlife tour in Dunedin, probably together with the Monarch boat trip – thanks for the suggestion.
- And thanks for the great art links – I do like several of the Ralph Hotere and will look out for his work.
- Great suggestions too on the scenic vineyards – fits what I like since I’m not necessarily looking for the very best wines, but for a good overall experience including the wine, views, maybe even a bistro (speaking of which, the Herzog bistro in Blenheim appears to be a good reason to stop in Blenheim). We’re more interested in finding a great location and spending a couple of hours there providing variety to the day, than trying to see 4 or 5 vineyards in a day. I already had Rippon in my sights as part of a Wanaka day, and Chard Farm looks terrific too. And while Mt. Difficulty also looks great, we may not get to Bannockburn under the revised itinerary because we’re probably going to replace the Central Otago bike ride with a couple in the Queenstown area. But depending on what we feel like, it may still be worth making the drive to Mt. Difficulty from Arrowtown or even a detour on the way from Mt. Cook to Wanaka.
- Diamantina, you’d asked about what we plan to do in Auckland (in addition to a possible daytrip to Waiheke). Apart from collapsing in exhaustion after all that unrelenting scenic beauty, we’re likely to check out the Auckland Museum, Auckland Art Gallery, One Tree Hill and visitor center and the Wallace Arts Center. But probably a fair bit of hanging out and just enjoying the urban setting.

Once again, thanks for all the great suggestions!
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Old Dec 1st, 2012, 01:53 PM
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Wanted to mention that in addition to B&B suggestions, we're also interested in recs for self-catering motels to help keep the cost down to fund the splurge accommodations!
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Old Dec 1st, 2012, 02:27 PM
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As far as self-catering, you may want to look at bbh.co.nz which includes hostels that have private rooms (if you don't mind sharing common areas with other guests), and some of the yha.co.nz hostels as well, with good kitchens and private rooms, sometimes ensuite.

Personally I did not find the motels the bargain that they once were, especially for only one or two people.

Just be sure to read reviews carefully, especially if you are noise=sensitive or don't want a party atmosphere (the YHA hostels tend to be quiet, the one in Mt. Cook is really quite good for the upstairs rooms).

To go meals are becoming popular in NZ, the supermarkets have excellent prepared food sections. Typically a sandwich or fish and chips are the least costy meals, but even so the price of food in NZ is rising.

Another good choice for saving money on food is to keep an eye out for the farmers markets, as well as farm stands for fruit and veg.

Here is a link that I've used for farmer's markets
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Old Dec 2nd, 2012, 05:50 PM
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I hope this long posting with many links will be of help, Krishnan.

Yes, it seems you will be doing many coastal drives, but, then again, New Zealand is surrounded by water, and sometimes the coastal routes are the most scenic and convenient ways of getting from glaciers to lakes, or from forested mountains to cities. Your friend is correct is saying that the coastal areas are different in feel as well as appearance. These images might give you a sense of their distinctness:
SI's West Coast:
East Cape:
Otago Coast
This video clip made in 1990 highlights the Otago Peninsula's wildlife and geography: http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/wild...pisode-20-1990

I loved the East Cape. We drove from Opotiki to Gisborne only once, about seven years ago. It's a long drive, and you are right, it would be wise to break up your journey by overnighting in Hicks Bay. We made the mistake of pushing on, only to realize a few hours later, that it was getting dark and there weren't many other places to stay. This is the North Island's most remote region, and we hardly encountered other cars on the road (or even people) during our drive. The days were gloriously sunny, the sky, bright blue and clear, yet we seemed to have this coastal road to ourselves.

The weather is generally warmer on the East Cape than in most of the rest of NZ, and the sun rises there first.

Besides gorgeous coastal scenery (I remember green pastures rolling down to the sea and views of towering Mt. Hikurangi), the East Cape has native forests, vineyards (the Gisborne region is known for its white wines, particularly Chardonnay and Gewurtraminer), and is dotted with small communities. We stopped at the cafe at the East Cape Manuka Oil Company in Te Araroa, and in pretty Tolaga Bay.

It has a large Maori population, and its Maori culture is not as commercialized as Rotorua's. Some of the country's best Maori carvers and tattoo (Te Moko) artists have been--and still come, from here. No doubt, there are some great Maori weavers here, too. Yes, the book and film of Whale Rider were both set in Whangara (fang-a-ra), about 30 km north of Gisborne.

Gisborne has a small museum:
And Gisborne's Tairawhiti Polytechnic has a gallery that exhibits young Maori artists:

My husband worked in Gisborne for a few months, and we seriously considered moving there from the San Francisco Bay Area--we liked it that much. He rented in the quiet suburb of Wainui Beach, popular with surfers (I was there for part of the time). Wainui Beach would be a nice place to stay; it's only about a 10-minute drive to Gisborne's city center. But cheaper accommodations can be found in Gisborne's city center.

I found these links about the drive for you:

It takes about 3 hours to drive from Gisborne to Napier (or vice versa). If you have time to spare, take a side trip take a drive down to the Mahia Peninsula (between Gisborne and Napier). There's not much there, mostly vacation homes, but it is pretty.

When I wrote that Napier/Havelock North/Hastings/Hawkes Bay was scenic, I was referring both to its city sights and natural environment.
Napier's beach is pretty and long, great for walking (not for swimming, as conditions can be hazardous). We stayed in self-contained accommodation on the Marine Parade, the street that faces the beach. Restaurants, shops, and other tourist attractions can also be found on the Marine Parade:
Below is the link to where we stayed. Though it has been years, recent reviews on Trip Advisor are positive. I don't think they had an elevator!
As you wrote, Napier's town center has Art Deco Buildings, purportedly the largest collection after Miami.
We dined in Napier's attractive Ahuriri seafront neighborhood:
The vineyards of Hawkes Bay are pretty, of course. Craggy Range Winery in Havelock North was my favorite. We also had dinner in their restaurant:
The view from nearby Te Mata Peak was outstanding:
Then there is the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers:

Napier also has a small but interesting aquarium (right at the beach). Apart from visiting wineries, we also visited Arataki Honey, which sells a variety of honey, candles, and toiletries containing bee products.
It looks like they are in the process of building a new Hawkes Bay Museum and Art Gallery:

For general information about Hawkes Bay, try:

Throughout New Zealand, the local I-Site office will be your best source of information:

It takes about 4 hours to drive from Napier to Wellington (or vice versa). This route takes you through the Martinborough wine region.

You will enjoy Auckland's War Memorial Museum. They have an outstanding Oceanic/Maori collection. On a couple of occasions, we have gone into Auckland just to visit this museum. The Auckland Art Gallery is good, too. I still remember a John Pule exhibition I saw there. Pule is a artist from Niue who lives in Auckland.
You'll love Wellington's Te Papa. Wellington's City Art Gallery is also worth a visit.
In Rotorua, Te Puia and the Rotorua Museum are must-sees if you are interested in Maori art/taonga. The Wearable Art Exhibition will be there through February 10. It's comprises a relatively small sample of one of NZ's most original and imaginative annual art events.

Speaking of Maori art, I heartily recommend the catalogue for the groundbreaking exhibition, Te Maori:
Here is a link to a video about this exhibition:

Dunedin is hardly a major art destination, but if you are going to be visiting its city center, you might pop into some of these downtown fine art (and some crafts and design) galleries (all within blocks of the Octagon)
These three are on Dowling Street near Toitu/The Otago Settlers Museum:
Also downtown:
Koru sells Maori crafts, jade pendants, locally made clothing and a few paintings. It is across from the Railway Station.

Non-commercial collection:
The Hocken Gallery houses the collections of the University of Otago
The Dunedin Public Art Gallery has some beautiful 19th century New Zealand landscapes on view right now:

Sorry, I can't help you with art galleries in other cities, but I am sure you will easily find gallery guides for Wellington and Auckland.

mlgb gave you some great advice on economizing on food and accommodation. Dining out can be pricey in New Zealand. My Kiwi friends always remind me that this is because tax and tip are included, but I still think prices are high!

I agree that it is better to economize on things that are not so important, such as day-to-day meals, so that you can spend more on the special experiences that will make your trip to New Zealand unforgettable. Keep in mind, petrol is expensive, too.

My husband and I generally stay in self-catering accommodations. We have mostly avoided staying in B&Bs after we had some strange experiences. One our first trip to NZ (nearly 17 years ago), while having breakfast in our highly recommended B&B in Parnell in Auckland, we were trapped in a conversation with a sad woman who seemed desperate to tell us about her candida infections. When we checked in, the owner briefed us on the "rules"; "no beverages or food in the room," "if you drink water, use a coaster for your glass," etc., plus she listed a litany of regulations about not making too much noise. (Such a strange way to treat a professional couple in their 40s, who are checking into their first stay in NZ.) Another time, while staying in our favorite spot on the Mendocino Coast of California, we were served cake, pancakes, and and a huge bowl of ice cream for breakfast each morning (needless to say, that place soon closed). We prefer our privacy and being able to make our own breakfasts now.

We often use Wotif to book an accommodation, but before booking, we check its reviews on Trip Advisor (you can ask here, as well). I can't say Wotif is the best, just what I am used to. I also find it easy to book with them. They do not list many smaller places in less traveled spots, so they are not useful for booking accommodation on the East Cape or in the Catlins, for example. I just checked and they do list the Hicks Bay Motor Lodge, but for the Catlins, they will give you accommodations in Invercargill or Dunedin as well! You should be aware that Wotif will list nearby accommodations, so if you search for Mt. Cook accommodations, it might also give you listings for Twizel. Plus, as I said before, it doesn't list a lot of the smaller B&Bs or self-contained accommodations.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the smaller popular areas of New Zealand can have limited accommodations, so the best-value places tend to book up in advance, particularly in peak season, which can make spontaneity or last-minute changes difficult. If you need to keep your schedule open and fluid, research accommodations in nearby towns as well. But it sounds like you would like to firm up your plans before leaving, so this might not concern you.

Last-minute self-catering accommodations in the cities shouldn't be a problem.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2012, 08:16 PM
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I had to laugh at your B&B experiences Diamantina, how bizarre

There was a time that I was leary of B&Bs, but I've since fully embraced them, due in part to Jane at The Croft in Te Anau. Some of our best NZ experiences have been at/or thanks to the proprietors of B&Bs. We've stumbled upon some wonderful B&Bs in Western Australia too, in every instance operated by Brit transplants, oddly enough.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2012, 01:10 AM
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Yes, Melnq8, really bizarre, My husband and i can laugh about it now. We have occasionally stayed at B&Bs in Europe or South America (which were fine), but we always go in with a sense of wariness, due to our past experiences.

We have been meaning to return to Te Anau, probably after high season and before the snow descends. Maybe we will stay at The Croft! If so, I will let you know how it goes.
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Old Dec 4th, 2012, 04:29 PM
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Thank you again, mlgb and Diamantina! Have checked out many of the links and websites you suggested - great information and it’ll take me some time to mine it further - but here are some initial thoughts:

East Cape: Good to hear your affirmation of the East Cape, Diamantina - it doesn’t figure prominently in the normal itineraries, but that’s probably part of the attraction. The low-key exposure to Maori culture (in contrast to the Rotorua approach) is certainly a big part of the draw for us. We’re hoping to do a half-day excursion with Tipuna Tours in the Gisborne area, which is run by a Maori woman who provides insight into various aspects of Maori culture. And in Gisborne, while we were planning to visit the Tairawhiti museum if possible, we’re even more interested in your excellent tip on the visual design school and student gallery at the polytechnic in Gisborne - they apparently feature contemporary Maori art and design, which would be of great interest to us.

Museums: Is the Auckland War Memorial Museum the new name for the Auckland Museum - as in the English translation of Tamaki Paenga Hira? (When I went to the website for the War Memorial museum, it also referred to the Auckland Museum.) Thanks also for the tip on the Wellington City Museum.

I’ve ordered the Te Maori exhibit catalog from amazon - thanks for the link, Diamantina, and the website of the Encyclopedia of NZ that you linked to is a great read! It was interesting to delve into the process of how Te Maori came about and was exhibited in 1984 at the Met in NY and at other leading US art museums. An interesting quote from the book on the impact of the exhibit: “The Metropolitan is synonymous with international art. It is the centre of the world of art. By taking our art to New York, we altered its status and changed overnight the perception of it by people at home and abroad. We brought Maori art out of the closet, out from obscurity, out from anonymity, and out of the cupboard of primitive contextualisation.” (And then I find that the Met in NY had a “Department of Primitive Art” that sponsored the exhibit. Hmm....)

In Rotorua we’ll definitely visit the Rotorua Museum with its new wings. You’d suggested Te Puia also. During the day, we were thinking of going to the Whakarewarewa thermal village rather than Te Puia in the same area - it seems to to be more of a village and less slick. It sounds like Te Puia has more sophisticated arts, but we thought we may see that elsewhere in museums, galleries, etc. and hence the village may be a better choice to see something different - but would appreciate any thoughts on this. We also thought we’d do the cultural performance at the Auckland museum rather than the evening extravaganza in Roturua (and the day visit in Rotorua to the thermal village or Te Puia also appears to have some cultural performances.)

We’ll also be on the lookout for music performances that have a NZ slant (Maori or not). And I just heard from a friend that there are fabulous gardens in NZ as well, given the climate. Any suggestions on these would be welcome as well!

Accommodations/food: I agree, mlgb, that the motels are no great bargain - at least the nice-ish ones - based on what we’re booking so far, but we’ve been doing pretty ok so far. And there are other advantages other than price: We’ve found on our previous long trips that we’ve welcomed the downtime at breakfast and dinner with self-catering accommodations (usually apartments in major cities, but with our shorter stays in each place in NZ, motels appear to be the alternative). At the end of the day we’d often prefer to just put together a large salad with local bread/wine/dessert, and put our feet up. On the other hand, several weeks on the road with your spouse - no matter how beloved - also make it attractive once in a while to do the B&B/homestay thing for the people interaction and local color (tales of candida infections notwithstanding).

btw would the grocery stores/supermarkets in the places outside the main cities also carry a reasonable amount of fresh produce and salad greens in Feb? (We were in central Europe in Aug-Sep, and seeing fresh vegetables or fruit - other than potatoes - were generally cause for major celebration. I assume NZ would be better.) And would these be in small independent grocery stores, or in supermarket chains? (Of course farmers markets or stands, as you mentioned mlgb, would be best but finding one would be a matter of luck - we’ll keep an eye on the website you suggested.)

Thanks again for your time and all your ideas - this is really shaping up to be a great trip!
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Old Dec 4th, 2012, 05:28 PM
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My favorite grocery supermarket is New World, they are fairly well distributed altho might be in the outskirts/suburbs in many towns.


If you have a car you should be able to find them.

However for some locations where you may be staying, ie Mt Cook/Twizel, Te Anau, Arthur's Pass, Fox/Franz you will want to stock up on your way out of town using a "chilly bin" lest you be stuck going to the local Four Square Market which is likely to offer a limited selection of marked up goods.

February is still summer so there will be lots of fresh fruit and veg.
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Old Dec 5th, 2012, 01:16 AM
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Ditto on everything mlgb has written.

When we go on road trips anywhere, we always take a portable ice chest (also known as a esky, chilly bin, cooler, cool box). I also suggest ear plugs (useful for noisy accommodations and for sleeping on planes).

New World Market is my favorite NZ supermarket, too, and its wine sale prices are reasonable. Of the larger supermarkets they have the best gourmet/international food selection. I was delighted when I first shopped at the New World Market in downtown Wellington (the one on Wakefield, just two blocks from Te Papa Museum). It was so large and there was great variety of New Zealand-made food, unique items like Manuka and Pohutakawa honey. The produce is fresher and cheaper at green grocers and at Farmers' Markets, though.

Countdown, Pak'nSave, and Fresh Choice are other supermarket chains you might come across.

Some of the markets, like New World and Countdown, have discount cards. You can ask for them at the counter and they'll give you a temporary card that will get you the coupon saver prices. Sometimes, there are gas savings. For instance, right now at New World Market, if you buy $100 worth of groceries, you will get a coupon that will get you 10 cents off each litre of petrol at some major petrol stations, such as BP.

Farmers' Markets tend to be held on Saturday and Sunday mornings. In Dunedin, it's held at the Railway Station on Saturday Mornings (until noon). They sell produce, fish, breads, pastries, organic meats, jams, honeys, Lebanese specialities, Chinese buns, locally made tofu, locally made Evansdale cheese, award-winning Judge Rock Wine, award-winning organic Green Man Beer (which, like Speight's is made in Dunedin), beeswax candles, plants, and more. There are also some food trucks, where you can get takeway or sit and have a coffee or a meal. Here is a partial listing of NZ Farmers Markets:
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