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Advice for 21 Day New Zealand Motorhome

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Oct 7th, 2015, 12:09 AM
  #1
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Advice for 21 Day New Zealand Motorhome

Our family (Myself, husband, boy / girl twins - turning 12 during trip) are doing our first NZ motorhome trip from 12 December 2015 to 2 January 2016. We are all fit and enjoy the outdoors but not keen on extensive hiking. We are hoping to have a mix of adventure, education, wildlife and scenic experiences. We don't like to 'rough it' too much so are mainly sticking to established holiday parks - invested in Top 10 membership to take advantage of discounts on admissions, ferry etc. After months of research it's still very difficult to choose between places and experiences when everything NZ seems so incredible. I've included possible activities - am sure not all will be possible but please say what you think is most suitable. So here's our run down - ready for the experts guidance!

12. Auckland pick up Motorhome 11am to Coromandel (2nights)
• Head south out of Auckland headed for Coromandel - free camp at designated area around Thames district

13 Driving via Coromandel and Waiau Falls to (Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park is booked)
• coastal route to Waiau Falls and Kauri Grove lookout walk (30 min walk)
• Coromandel town (lunch?), Whitianga.
• On to Hahei and walk to Cathedral Cove (2.5km - best towards low tide at 3.17pm).
• From Hahei south to Hot Water Beach (low tide).

14 / 15 Coromandel to Matamata to Rotorua / Taupo (Top 10 Rotorua / free camp Taupo)
• Hobbiton tour - The Shires™ Rest Matamata (10% discount with Top 10)
• Skyline Gondola and luge
• Agrodome
• Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland or Te Puia
• Aratiatia Rapids / Huka Falls

16 Taupo to Wellington (Wellington Waterfront Motorhome Park in city is booked)
• Scenic driving through Tongarriro National Park to Wellington. Not much time here. Explore Wellington City by night - have dinner.

17. Wellington to South Island (Kaikoura overnight)
• Te Papa Museum - tour booking at 10.15
• Check in for Interislander Ferry by 1.45pm for 2.45pm departure from Wellington
• Ferry to Picton - have dinner on Ferry or in Picton / Blenheim
• Drive to Kaikoura (Is this too much? Figured we haven't driven this day and will still be light - reduce driving next day to Arthurs Pass)

18. Kaikoura to Arthurs Pass (scenic driving) maybe stay at Jacksons Retreat Holiday Park (10 mins from Arthurs Pass)
• Whale watching in Kaikoura (if it's a good day - not really planning on it)
• Otira Viaduct Lookout (just past Bealey) near Arthurs Pass
• Arthurs Pass Visitor Centre - can do national park walks from here (30mins to waterfall) or can do walks from accommodation

19. Arthurs Pass to Hokitika (Drive on a bit and stay at either Ross - Empire Hotel - paid campground $20 per powered site including showers OR Hari Hari Campgrounds $30 per powered site right next to small pub, toilets and showers, free wifi in bar)
• LOOK OUT FOR SEALS, PENGUINS & DOLPHINS ALONG THE COAST TO HOKITIKA
• Hokitika Gorge Scenic Reserve (30 mins from Hokitika - must do- lake Wanaka early morning for reflections) Dorothy Falls?
• Hokitika Wilderness Gallery
• lots of shops and galleries / glass studio
SHOULD WE JUST GET TO FJ AND HAVE 2 NIGHTS THERE?

20. Ross / HariHari to Franz Joseph Glacier (short drive)
• Glacier Heli-Hike (2.5hrs) - this is one of our luxury excursions and surprise for kids!!!
• Glacier hot pools (free with Heli-hike)
• Maori Cultural Centre & Gallery (Jade carving / sculpting - carve your own if it's not too busy)
• West Coast Wildlife Centre
• The Tartare Track (short Walk - Old gold mine works?) or Gallery Gorge walk - 2 hrs

21. Franz Joseph (via Lake Matheson - Fox Glacier - Haast) to Wanaka Scenic driving (Maybe stay at Aspiring Holiday Park - Free wifi, unmetered showers, free hot tubs)
• Lake Matheson - awesome scenic views and short walk
• Haast information centre- lots of information and free museum, good for a leg stretch
• Blue pools walk to swingbridge (30 mins easy return walk) just outside of Makarora
• Puzzling world (in Wanaka)

22 / 23 / 24. Wanaka (via Arrowtown) to QUEENSTOWN (Top 10 Holiday park - 3 nights)
• keep an eye out for roadside fruit stalls
• Cromwell - Goldfields mining centre (guided tour for $25 recommended, also pan for gold)
• Arrowtown - Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery $8 entry
• The Arrowtown Jade & Opal factory
• Shotover jet
• Kea 6 line ziptrek
• Skyline Gondola and luge
• TSS Earnshaw cruise / Walter Peak farm & BBQ lunch
• Kiwi Birdlife Park (or should we wait and do this in Dunedin or Christchurch?)
• Queenstown Ice Arena?

25 / 26 drive to Te Anau in afternoon (Top 10 holiday park - 2 nights)
• Milford Sound drive, Cruise
• Te Anau glowworm caves

Is there a way we could fit in Doubtful Sound here as well?

27 / 28. Te Anau to Dunedin
• Cadbury world
• Baldwin Street (Steepest street in the world)
• Larnach Castle
• Portobello Peninsula
• Otago Peninsula scenic driving - Penguin place (blue penguins)
• Royal Albatross Centre
• Orokunui Eco Centre - bird sanctuary
• Wildlife tours (penguins, fur seals, Hookers sea lions, albatross)????

29. Dunedin to Omarama or Mt Cook in the afternoon (maybe Omarama Top 10 holiday park) IS THIS NECESSARY?

30 / 31/ 1. Omarama to Mt Cook / Lake Tekapo / to Christchurch (3 nights - maybe Top 10)
• Mt Cook (Lake Pukaka)
• Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre (At Hermitage Hotel) $20
• Lake Tekapo - Best view from Mt John University Observatory
• Church of the Good Shepherd
Christchurch (haven't researched this much yet - can I cut a day out here for elsewhere?)
• Bus tour explaining earthquakes etc (11am and 1pm daily)
• Quake City (Earthquake museum) need at least 2hrs
• International Antarctic Centre
• Akaroa??

2 Flight to Brisbane @ 2pm

I appreciate any suggestions! Thanks in advance!
jodmaree is offline  
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Oct 7th, 2015, 06:33 PM
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You certainly want to see a lot of New Zealand! But your itinerary is pretty rushed and overplanned to me with a lot of driving.
You cannot do all the activities you want so rethink the list. Your budget may decide what to do or let everyone pick an activity in an area.
All of New Zealand go on their annual holidays on 26/12 until 5/6 Jan 2016 so it will be busy wherever you are. Make sure you have all activities booked in advance. If most of your accommodation is booked that's great.
I'll comment more on your North Island plans as I have more experience there.
I hope you are not landing from ?? and driving off on 12 Dec. Jet lag can make tired drivers and if you are not used to driving on the left you will have to adjust. Motorhomes drive about 20 % slower and roads in the Coromandel are narrow, winding and hilly.
Dec 14/15 by the time you drive from Hot Water Beach to Hobbiton that's 2 hours. Do the tour and move on to Rotorua (1 hour)late afternoon and the gondola and luge might still be open.
Wai o Tapu needs a morning or afternoon to really enjoy it and the family pass is $80 so a rush visit is a waste of money.
Huka Falls and Aratiatia Dam could be done in a half day. For a cheaper volcanic walk try Craters of the Moon just along the road from Huka Falls and $20 per family.
Dec 16 is okay about 4 hours drive.
Dec 17 Kaikoura is about 2 hours south and it will be daylight until about 8.30 pm so that is doable.
Dec 18 looks a long tiring drive to me but i will leave the SI experts to help you.
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Oct 7th, 2015, 07:18 PM
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Regarding the South Island:

Day 18 -

The drive alone is 4.5 hours. Highly unlikely you'll fit in a whale watch on the same day, unless you plan to drive after dark which sort of defeats the purpose of a scenic drive.

Day 19 - You'll have more luck seeing seals near Kaikoura...in fact you're pretty much guaranteed plenty of seals right in town near the peninsula walk and a short drive north at the Ohau Point seal colony.



That's what I'd do, but it'll be a longer drive day, although long days will be in your favor. You lost me at Lake Wanaka though. It's well beyond Hoki and the glaciers, near Wanaka.

Day 20 - I sincerely doubt you'll have time for everything listed, in fact, I know you won't, but I admire your energy and enthusiasm!

Day 21 - Franz/Fox to Wanaka is a good 5-6 hour drive. You'll reach Franz Josef first, then Fox. Lake Matheson is near Fox Glacier.



Not unless you add a night. Both sounds are full day commitments, due to distances and getting there. You'll have a leg up getting to Milford by staying in Te Anau, but it's still a full day if you plan to explore Milford Road en route, take some hikes, etc. It's a two hour drive each way to Milford from Te Anau.

<<29. Dunedin to Omarama or Mt Cook in the afternoon (maybe Omarama Top 10 holiday park) IS THIS NECESSARY?>>

Is what necessary? About a 4.5 hour drive from Dunedin to Mount Cook. I suggest two nights so you have a full day to explore what you've driven so far to see.

Overall, way too ambitious IMO, but I suspect (I hope) you're just listing all the options and not really planning on seeing everything listed.

Best as I can tell, you're hoping to see both the north of the SI and the far south of the SI in 15 days - not really a good idea. Too much driving, too little time spent at the places you're driving to.
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Oct 7th, 2015, 07:46 PM
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Thanks so much Tasmangirl for your comments. I feared this would be the case. We fly in from Brisbane on the evening of the 11th and will stay at airport accommodation that night so no jetlag (only 3hr flight). Being Aussies thankfully the driving on the left is a plus for us! Although I'm sure we will be taking it slow as we adjust to driving a motorhome.

We plan to start early to get to Hobbiton for mid morning tour in the hope of getting to Rotorua / gondola luge by 4pm. Is it correct that the luge runs until dark - 7ish? Hoping so but I've received conflicting information on that.

I'm thinking if we cut Agrodome? What do you think?
Would you recommend Wai o Tapu over Te Puia? Te Puia website seems a little lacking info. Leaning towards Wai o Tapu.
Will keep Craters of the Moon as back up plan - cheap!!
Maybe do Huka Falls the morning before heading to Wellington?

Sincerely appreciate your feedback! Thank you.
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Oct 7th, 2015, 08:17 PM
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I'm relieved to hear you are Aussies and sensible enough to be in Auckland the night before!
The luge has 'twilight hours' - we have daylight saving here in NZ so it will be light until about 8.30 pm. It may be open but the website does'nt give hours. You could do a hot pool swim that night.
The Agrodome is a sheep show so if they don't interest the family do something else. My kids much preferred Paradise Valley Springs as there are lions there.
I have not been to Te Puia sorry - if tossing up between them go for the cheapest!Save your money for the family to see Milford Sound.
Huka Falls could be done quite quickly as you drive there and walk over the bridge to take photos.
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Oct 8th, 2015, 04:34 AM
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Melnq8 thank you for your feedback!

Don't worry - the dot points of "things to do" were more just option lists, and see how we feel on the day (apart from obvious must do's). If there are any mentioned that you think are a waste of time or similar to something else better, i'm happy to hear.

I'm think we need to start by forgetting Dunedin! As you suggested we can spend more quality time in the other places. That gives us 2 extra nights and less driving. What do you think?

Points noted re Kaikoura, will make the Lake Wanaka correction (too many late nights googling).

Will go away now and re-think taking in your advice and repost.

If you can recommend the best places to extend our time that would be helpful. Options for another night - on the West Coast / Queenstown / Mt Cook?

Any recommendations for Christchurch? Is 3 nights (2 and 1/2 days too much or not enough in comparison to other places? Should we take a night off here and add elsewhere?

Sorry - I know it's a lot of questions. Thank you again!

tasmangirl - thanks re "twilight hours" info (sigh of relief). Will decide about Agrodome at the time I think (apparently the shows fit 500 odd people - I'll risk not booking ahead).

My head is spinning! Thank you - time to take it all in.
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Oct 8th, 2015, 01:31 PM
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<>

I figured as much, but one just never knows.

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I think that's a grand idea. I suggest a second night at the glaciers and perhaps a second night at Mt Cook.

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Depends on what you want to do. I personally prefer country NZ to the cities, so three nights would be more than enough for me. With three nights though, you could easily make a day trip to Akaroa.
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Oct 8th, 2015, 01:46 PM
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I've never been there but i would agree with dropping Dunedin, but do try to keep Oamaru in if you can. two reasons [at least] - the weird rocks on Moeraki beach, and the chance to watch the little blue penguins coming ashore in the evening - it is just the sort of thing your twins are sure to enjoy. plus it is a quite unique place - a Victorian town in more or less the middle of nowhere, with a pleasure garden, lake, and even an opera theatre.

I think that if you went from Wanaka to Te Anau and then back to QT you could cut down on your driving quite a lot, wherever you decide to go after that.
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Oct 8th, 2015, 06:56 PM
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melnq8 and annhig I sincerely appreciate your help.

Yes - Dunedin will be ditched for another time!

I will allocate another night in FJ and Mt Cook. Will also look at taking off extra Christchurch night for Oamaru or Akaroa as we would prefer to see more of the country than city also.

The idea of going straight to Te Anau from Wanaka and coming back to Queenstown had crossed my mind too so will look at the drive times again. (Hubby wants to be in QT on Christmas day - not that I'm sure anything will be open so it would be a walking / nature / rest day wherever we are). I guess we might be able to have a nice Christmas lunch (at hefty price in QT)

My job for the weekend! Getting more excited as the plan comes together.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
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Oct 8th, 2015, 07:18 PM
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Happy to help jodmaree. Good luck with your planning.
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Oct 9th, 2015, 08:23 AM
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hope that it all works out for you, jodmaree. I'm sure that you'll have a wonderful time - it's hard not too, so long as you allow yourselves long enough to enjoy it.
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Oct 9th, 2015, 12:17 PM
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If there is a free phone for the Gondola/luge I will give them a call and post again. It's peak holiday time so they would be sensible to be open.
You will be aware of the holiday rush out of cities as you are from Australia, sometimes I state the obvious as I am assuming visitors are from the northern hemisphere! Also there are preconceptions out there about the distances involved in Downunder...Australia is huge and some weird rushed and unrealistic itineraries pop up which are never going to work and the same with NZ. We are a lot smaller but it's our roads that make the driving slower. We should have a Bruce Highway all the way down the country. We have done 2 road trips in Oz, one in the Melbourne/GOR area and the other southern Queensland and the Australian roads are wonderful and so easy to drive on.
I have been to Dunedin once - IMO there are more interesting places to go but the Catlins area had become very popular. If you have time in Auckland the kids might like Kelly Tarlton's. It is an underground aquarium and there is a penguin enclosure. Have a great holiday!
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Oct 15th, 2015, 04:38 AM
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Finally made some adjustments to South Island (after ditching Dunedin and adding extra days in. We decided to split our Queenstown time with Milford / Te Anau in between to help break up the driving. I hope you think this looks more achievable?

18. Kaikoura to Arthurs Pass (scenic driving)
Jacksons Retreat Holiday Park (10 mins from Arthurs Pass)
•Otira Viaduct Lookout (just past Bealey) near Arthurs Pass
•Arthurs Pass Visitor Centre do national park walks from here (30mins to waterfall) or can do walks from accommodation

19/20 Leave Arthurs Pass to Franz Josef -2 nights
(Franz Josef Top 10)
•Hokitika Gorge Scenic Reserve 30 mins from Hokitika
•Hokitika Wilderness Gallery / shops and galleries / glass studio
Franz Josef Glacier Options -
•Glacier Heli-Hike (2.5hrs) book this!!!
•Glacier hot pools (free with Heli-hike)
•Maori Cultural Centre & Gallery
•West Coast Wildlife Centre
•The Tartare Track (short Walk - Old gold mine works?) or Gallery Gorge walk - 2 hrs

21/22. Leave Franz Josef (via Lake Matheson - Fox Glacier - Haast) to Wanaka (Wanaka - Aspiring Holiday Park -2 nights)
•Lake Matheson
•Haast information centre- lots of information and free museum, good for a leg stretch
•Blue pools walk to swingbridge (30 mins easy return walk) just outside of Makarora
•Puzzling world (in Wanaka)

23 / 24. Leave Wanaka to QUEENSTOWN
(Top 10 Holiday park - 2 nights)
•Lake Wanaka - must do in the morning (reflections) before heading to Queenstown - Options
•Shotover jet
•Kea 6 line ziptrek
•Skyline Gondola and luge
•TSS Earnshaw cruise / Walter Peak farm & BBQ lunch
•Kiwi Birdlife Park
•Queenstown Ice Arena

25 / 26 drive to Te Anau in afternoon
(Top 10 holiday park - 2 nights)
•Milford Sound drive, Cruise
•Te Anau glowworm caves

27 / 28. Te Anau to Queenstown (Top 10 holiday park - 2 nights)
Do the things we missed in first stop. Visit Arrowtown / Cromwell if time.

29/30. Queenstown to Mt Cook / Lake Tekapo
(Lake Tekapo Motels & holiday park - 2 nights) To do options
•Mt Cook (Lake Pukaka)
•Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre (At Hermitage Hotel) $20
•Hooker Valley tramping trails
•Big Sky Stargazing (at Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park DOC Visitor Centre)
•Lake Tekapo - Best view from Mt John University Observatory
•Church of the Good Shepherd

31/1. Lake Tekapo / to Christchurch (2 nights)
(Top 10 holiday park - 2 nights) Options
•International Antarctic Centre
•Rebuild Bus tour 90mins
•Quake City (Earthquake museum)

2. Christchurch to Brisbane
•Canterbury Museum (Free) and head to airport around midday.
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Oct 15th, 2015, 09:04 AM
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Instead of breaking up your 4 nights in Queenstown into 2 sections, you could drive from Wanaka directly to Te Anau. Then after 2 nights Te Anau, go to Queenstown for 4 nights, and then on to Mount Cook.

It's not that big a deal in a motorhome, since you aren't packing and unpacking. But thought I'd throw out the idea.
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Oct 15th, 2015, 09:33 AM
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deSchenke - I think that the OP's DH wants to be in QT on Christmas Day. also the Milford Sound boat may not run on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.
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Oct 15th, 2015, 02:21 PM
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Gotcha. I hadn't reread the posts further back than the most recent.
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Oct 24th, 2015, 07:01 AM
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Hi and thank you for the latest comments (illness has kept me away).

annhig you're right about our reason for splitting time in QT. We have actually had a change of heart about Christmas in QT though. We decided (once checking Milford Sound cruises do run) that would be a lovely thing to do on the 25th. Te Anau seems to be a beautiful and quieter area to enjoy for Christmas. So thank you deSchenke it is a good suggestion considering our change of heart.

We're feeling on top of the planning now - thank you all for your knowledge and guidance. I'm so happy I found this forum - incredibly helpful reading of other peoples experiences too.

Can't wait to get there!
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Sep 23rd, 2016, 10:14 PM
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For anyone looking at this post for their own planning purposes....
This trip went really well!! If we were to change anything, we might have added extra time in Rotorua (we loved it - there was plenty to see and do). Although Wellington is beautiful, for the time spent on the drive, we would consider flying out of North Island into Christchurch, giving us a couple of extra days in South Island. Apart from the spectacular natural beauty, our favourite thing about NZ is the incredibly friendly people. I thought us Aussies were nice until our NZ trip - Kiwi's are the best!!
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Sep 23rd, 2016, 11:55 PM
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Great you had a good trip and enjoyed Rotorua. There is a lot to do and see there. Flying from there to Christchurch does give more time. After Tongariro it is a bit boring on the way to Wellington and the ferry takes us more time and expense so I will suggest people skip it.
Wellington is not really a top destination for tourists.
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