9.5 days in New Zealand

Apr 23rd, 2016, 04:31 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 11
9.5 days in New Zealand

Hi all:

My wife and I booked one of those awesome fares from LA to Auckland. We have 9.5 days from wheels down in AKL to wheels up in AKL. Looking for some advice on what to make sure we hit. We are ok flying between cities in NZ and/or renting a car.

Here is a very early idea... please lend your thoughts.

Day 1: Early morning flight from AKL to Queenstown. Arrive Queenstown. Take bus to glenorchy and do the dart boat tour (we want to enjoy the scenery not necessarily do a thrill ride on the faster Jetboat). Explore Queenstown for the evening.

Day 2: Pick up rental car, drive to local hot springs (which are the best in the area?), drive Te Anau and spend the night.

Day 3: Take bus or drive to Milford sound, do cruise. Drive or fly back to Queenstown.

Day 4: Drive to Wanaka, ski Treble Cone, spend the night in Wanaka.

Day 5: Drive up the west coast to Fox/Franz Glaciers tour the glaciers and stay overnight OR drive the mountain pass towards Christchurch stopping somewhere.

Day 6: Drive to Nelson and Fly to AKL OR drive to Christchurch and fly to AKL.

Day 7: Drive to Rotorua?!? Stay overnight in Rotorua

Day 8: Hot Springs in Rotorua and drive back to AKL. Stay overnight in AKL

Day 9: Explore AKL

Day 10: Depart AKL

Overall questions would be:

Rotorua and Hamner Springs are the two hot springs I've heard most about...is there any near Queenstown? And if so should we go to one near Queenstown or the two more well known ones?

Skiing- my wife and I are intermediate level skiers and want to hit one resort for one day...what would be a good resort for us?

Winery- My wife also wants to fit a winery in here...any suggestions?

Overall thoughts on our itinerary? Anything we are missing that is a must do?
Filler03 is offline  
Apr 24th, 2016, 04:30 AM
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I don't know of any hot springs near Queenstown, however its Onsen Hot Pools is popular. These hot tubs are on Arthur's Point Road, so they have great mountain and Shotover River views. Plus, they provide courtesy transport, so you wouldn't need a car to get to them.

I think it's best you just enjoy Queenstown itself on your first day, as you'll be tired and jet-lagged. Take the Skyline Gondola, explore the town centre, waterfront, botanic garden and its lakeside track. Then, late afternoon or evening, maybe go to Onsen Hot Pools, have dinner, a couple of glasses of Central Otago wine, then go to bed early. Get up the next morning refreshed for your trip to Glenorchy and the Dart River. Wouldn't you rather be well-rested and refreshed when you do this?

Dart River Wilderness Jets or Funyaks will pick you up from Queenstown.

If you're hoping to ski, I guess you're coming in winter, but it's better to ask: when are you coming here, what month? This can affect your plans to drive on Milford Road.

I think you should do the all-day coach-cruise-flight tour from Queenstown as you have so few days. In bad weather, the flights from Milford Sound can't fly, so you might have to return by bus. If this happens, you can just sleep on the bus, as you'll probably still be tired and jet-lagged, and a little exhausted from getting up early and from sensory overload.

Amisfield WInery is only 10 to 15 minutes drive from the centre of Queenstown. The local Connectabus also goes from Queenstown to Amisfield. See:

The wineries of Gibbston Valley are a bit beyond Amisfield. See:

In Wanaka, don't miss the view from Rippon Winery.

"Must-dos" are a matter of personal taste. You can't possibly see all of NZ's highlights in 9 days, and I'm sure you know this, but you'll still enjoy great experiences and see some of the best that NZ offers.

Your itinerary looks too ambitious for such a short time, given the difficulty of some of your drives, especially in winter (if this is when you are coming). According to the AA Drive Distance Calculator, it will take 4 hours 48 minutes to drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef Glacier and this is in good conditions. There are some difficult stretches along here, where the road is narrow and curvy. There's only one lane in each direction. Franz Josef to Christchurch will take 5 hours, and again, there are some narrow and curvy stretches. The days are shorter in winter. Franz Josef to Nelson would be a little over 6 hours. Because South Island roads in winter can often be frosty early morning, it is advisable to not drive on them before 10 a.m. So much of your daylight hours would be spent driving between these places.

You could easily just base yourselves in Queenstown and Wanaka, and do activities/tours from here. Or 6 days and nights based in Queenstown and Wanaka, and then fly to Rotorua for a couple of nights before flying or taking the Intercity bus to Auckland for your last day and night in NZ.
Diamantina is offline  
Apr 24th, 2016, 04:57 AM
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I haven't skied in NZ, but here's a link to an online article that lists intermediate terrain at South Island ski resorts:
Diamantina is offline  
Apr 24th, 2016, 05:56 AM
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Listen to Diamantina, she knows what she's talking about.

You've tried to fit a three week itinerary into 9.5 days.

Things start going seriously wonky at Day 5.

Wanaka to the glaciers is a full day. Wanaka to Christchurch via Arthur's Pass (let alone in winter) is just silly.

You're traveling in the winter! Days will be very short. It will get light around 8 am and will get dark around 5. Roads are often frosty (think black ice) until about 10 am. This makes driving treacherous.

You've left not a second for contingencies, such as bad weather. I visit NZ often in the winter months, and believe me, you need lots of wiggle room for torrential rain, fierce wind, potentially closed roads, landslips, etc.

My advise - stay on the SI and extend your nights in QT, Te Anau and Wanaka and don't even think about driving beyond Christchurch. What is the point of driving to Nelson just to fly to Auckland?

There are hot tubs in Franz Josef, manmade, but a nice set up just the same. In fact, I enjoyed them more than the natural hot springs at Hanmer Springs.

Please rethink this. You will be exhausted.

I do envy you that airline deal - would have loved to score one of those but didn't hear about them until they were gone.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 24th, 2016, 07:14 AM
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I'd leave the West Coast and Nelson for another trip. You don't have time for either one of them. Just getting there will take an entire day and then you plan on leaving the very next morning. In particular to Nelson, you realize flights from there to Rotorua will connect in Christchurch!

From Wanaka, drive Lindis Pass and stay the night at Mount Cook. The next morning, drive to Christchurch.

Do a coach tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound. If budget allows, do the coach/cruise/fly. Driving yourself is only reasonable if you stay 2 nights in Te Anau and you don't have time for that.
deSchenke is offline  
Apr 24th, 2016, 07:30 AM
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Ooops, you're flying Nelson to Auckland, not Rotorua. But my advice still stands on skipping Nelson - you've left no time there, flights and car rental return will just add to your cost with little benefit whatsoever.

Hot Springs - do in Rotorua. Skiing - do in Queenstown (Coronet Peak or Remarkables) or Wanaka (Cardrona). Wineries - do in Queenstown or Auckland (Waiheke Island).
deSchenke is offline  
Apr 24th, 2016, 03:27 PM
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First- thanks for everyone's initial thoughts. We are indeed visiting in Winter (July 29-Aug 7). Many of you are right- I didnt plan to go to Nelson other than to fly direct to AKL.

So are folks suggesting just to base in Queenstown and not drive up the west coast OR the inland route to Christchurch and just fly back from Queenstown to AKL? If doing this, can we catch a bus/tour to Rotorua from Auckland?

Which spings, etc in Rotorua are the best?
Filler03 is offline  
Apr 24th, 2016, 03:52 PM
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Do you think this is too aggressive:

1 arrive Auckland, fly to Queenstown, explore

2 bus to Milford Sound, cruise, fly back to Q'town

3 Dart River (Glenorchy), collect rental car - drive to Wanaka

4 ski Cardrona (perfect for intermediate) or ski Treble Cone (advanced skiers)

5 drive Lindis Pass to Aoraki/Mt Cook, explore

6 drive to Christchurch

7 fly to Rotorua

8 explore

9 bus to Auckland via Waitomo caves greatsights.co.nz/new-zealand-tour-destinati…

10 fly out
Filler03 is offline  
Apr 24th, 2016, 04:39 PM
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It would be for me, and I've been to NZ a dozen times.

Day 2 is a 13 hour day, eight hours of it on a bus (assuming to take the bus both ways). In the winter, about four of that 13 hours will be in the dark.

Yes, it's done all the time, but keep in mind that Milford Road does sometimes close in the winter months due to ice and snow. Sometimes the road is only closed for a matter of hours to blast for avalanches, but a delay is a delay, potentially making a very long day even longer.

If you happen to be there on a day that the weather is bad and the road is closed...here is where being flexible works to your advantage. And by being flexible I mean giving yourself an extra day or two to work with, just in case.

The flight back to QT is a great (yet very expensive) alternative, weather providing.

Day 3 - this will work if you take the morning tour. The afternoon safari will mean you will return to QT around dusk and drive to Wanaka in the dark. To me, driving in the dark defeats the whole purpose of visiting NZ - you'll miss the spectacular scenery.

Where is the time to visit a winery and have a tasting and a nice meal? As mentioned above, Amisfield has beautiful Pinot Noir and lovely food, but the last seating is at 5:30 - be sure to book!

Mt. Difficulty (Bannockburn) is another wonderful choice, my favorite in fact - it closes at 4:30.

Wanaka to Mt Cook is roughly a three hour drive, which gives you about 1/2 a day to explore Mount Cook. Doable? Yes, but only if you're not planning any big hikes.

If it were me, I'd give the NI a pass. I'd spend 3-4 nights QT (or vicinity), which will give you a contingency day in case of bad weather for Milford, and give you time to actually see QT and the vicinity - wineries included.

I'd then spend 2-3 nights in Wanaka, two nights in Mount Cook and one night in Christchurch before your flight.

Whatever you decide, have a wonderful trip.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 24th, 2016, 05:54 PM
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Yes, your itinerary could work, I think, but you wouldn't see much of Wanaka. I'd thought about the Wanaka-Mt. Cook Village-CC option, but thought it wouldn't give you enough time in Wanaka, which is a nice place. But it's your first trip to NZ, so maybe getting a quick look will be enough this time.

It will be a rushed trip, but at least it won't involve too much winter driving. Mt. Cook Village is beautiful, with splendid walking tracks. By the way, there are also manmade hot springs in Tekapo (Tekapo Springs), but you wouldn't have time for these.

Melnq8 is quite right, in winter you need to be flexible due to road closures. Look at this article from last winter.
But not every day is like this. By and large, winter days are clear on the South Island.

I agree with Melnq8. Mt. Difficulty in Bannockburn is my favourite as well, its restaurant has great views and good food, the servers at the wine tasting bar are the friendliest, and the wine is terrific. I like most if not all of the wineries in Bannockburn. It's farther from Queenstown than Gibbston Valley. It'll take you about 50 minutes to get from Q'town to Bannockburn. Cromwell also has good wineries. The drive from Cromwell to Wanaka takes about 40 minutes and it's relatively easy.

If Great Sights will take you from Rotorua to Waitomo then to Auckland, then that seems like a good option.
Diamantina is offline  
Apr 25th, 2016, 03:32 PM
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How does everyone rate Rotorua vs Hamner Sprins vs any other hot springs/spas?

How about glow worms in waitomo vs Te Anua? I heard the que at Waitomo can be long and the tour short.
Filler03 is offline  
Apr 25th, 2016, 04:21 PM
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It's been eons since I was in Rotorua (ever been to Yellowstone? If so Rotorua might be a let down - it was for me anyway).

I've visited the thermal pools in Hanmer Springs a couple of times (always in winter) and visited the hot pools at Franz Josef once. Although man-made, I much preferred the Franz Josef option. It might have been timing - a winter day following a full day of hiking - we were two of about 10 people in the entire place, so it was pretty wonderful.

The pools at Hanmer Springs get very busy over weekends, due to its proximity to Christchurch.

There are also hot pools in Omarama, also man-made, haven't tried those yet.

Glow worms are glow worms IMO. Having said that, I did enjoy Waitomo on our first ever visit to NZ (underwater rafting as I recall). I'd take the path of least resistance. You can see them free of charge at many places, you just need to know where to look.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 25th, 2016, 05:06 PM
Join Date: Jul 2014
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Glowworms: There's only one operator for the glow worm caves in Te Anau. There are half a dozen in the Waitomo area. Do a bit of research and you may find something that you'll really like.

But in agreement with Melnq8, they can be found along trails and gullies if you know where to look - ask a local.

Hot pools/tubs/thermal areas: I like a warm pool, but I get bored after about 20 minutes in it. Because of this, I wouldn't pay extra to go into one. We stayed in our campervan at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, entrance to the pools was a bonus to our powered campsite stay. It was commercial, but kept it's natural beauty. We also visited Kerosene Creek, which was fabulous! But I hear it's not always so, as it is un-regulated. We caught it just as a group on a bus left.

Spa Park we caught at a bad time when a Kiwi Experience bus had just unloaded. There were cases of beer along the banks and everyone in the water had a glass or bottle in hand. We didn't stay long - not our crowd.

We stayed in Hanmer Springs, but didn't go to the pools there. It seemed very crowded. That isn't what I would want to go to a thermal "retreat" for. We were there on a Friday night. Be aware that Christchurch locals head to Hanmer on their weekends.

If caught at the right time, a natural, un-commercial experience is unbeatable. But there are no guarantees on that.
deSchenke is offline  
Apr 25th, 2016, 05:25 PM
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We really enjoyed blackwater rafting in Waitomo in 2004, but if you don't want that kind of experience http://www.waitomo.com/black-water-r...labyrinth.aspx I would take one of the other suggestions.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Apr 25th, 2016, 06:05 PM
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Elendilpickle: looks like the link you posted (black water) is only available in summer. We will be there in winter.

I'm assuming some others are closed in winter as well?
Filler03 is offline  
Apr 25th, 2016, 06:43 PM
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Filler03 -

Unless I'm missing something, it appears that the rafting is offered year round, there are just more trips available during the summer.

Granted it was forever ago, but we took a similar excursion well off season (I'll never forget putting on cold wet wetsuits and jumping into freezing water). Yowsa.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 25th, 2016, 06:47 PM
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Just put in some random dates for July, and the website asked for credit card details, so looks like winter is a go.
Melnq8 is online now  
Apr 26th, 2016, 06:01 PM
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Also, we originally booked a seat for my daughter (will be 14 months in July). Now torn between taking her or leaving her stateside so that we can explore NZ a little easier. Thoughts on taking a 14 month old to some of the attractions would be great.
Filler03 is offline  
Apr 26th, 2016, 06:28 PM
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Melnq8, we went blackwater rafting in April and it was still pretty cold - but so much fun!

Of course, Filler03, you couldn't take a 14mo to do that, and if you want to ski, you'd probably need to find some kind of child care. If you can leave your daughter home, that might be easiest for all of you.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
May 2nd, 2016, 05:49 PM
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When visiting NZ it is "trip de jour" to bum around in a campervan for a while. It can be cheaper than car/hotel depending on your requirements and who you go with.
check out http://ecampervanhire.com for campers

Go where you want, when you want, stay overnight places for free, change your mind each day, stop and have a stretch when you like - be your own boss. I've done it twice.
WineAroundOz is offline  

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