Advice on our NZ itinerary

Old Oct 12th, 2010, 08:55 AM
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Advice on our NZ itinerary

Hello Fodorites!
I have read many interesting trip reports and your views on others itineraries and would love to solicit your feedback on our itinerary. I am currently starting to book hotels, but haven’t gone very far down that road yet, so it is a good time to get some external input.

About us – newlyweds in our thirties who want to relax, hike, kayak, explore wine country and take in as much of this fabulous country as possible. Oh, yes, and see awesome birds. I’ve tried to keep us in hotels for 2 nights at a time for the most part. We will have a car between major cities, but will do the cities on foot.

Our anchors are the fact that we’re flying into Auckland and out of Dunedin and we are excited about our stay at the Milford Sound Lodge, which cannot be moved due to their lack of availability on other dates.

As I have been reading more about Marlborough, I have been leaning more towards staying there longer and skipping Christchurch (and therefore Kaikoura and what should be a beautiful, if long, drive from Christchurch to Queensland). Does this make sense or is Christchurch a must-see? If we stay in Marlborough longer, we would just fly from Nelson to Queenstown, which would save us quite a bit of driving and give us potentially a little more time in the Queenstown area (could go on Dec 7 instead of Dec 8), which might be desirable.

Monday, November 22, 2010 Auckland (arriving from LAX in the early am)
Tuesday, November 23, 2010 Auckland
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 Rotorua
Thursday, November 25, 2010 Tongariro National Park (Waitomo on the way)
Friday, November 26, 2010 Tongariro National Park – Tongariro Crossing
Saturday, November 27, 2010 Hawkes Bay – art deco, wine
Sunday, November 28, 2010 Hawkes Bay – gannets, wine
Monday, November 29, 2010 Wellington
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 Wellington
Wednesday, December 1, 2010 Wellington
Thursday, December 2, 2010 Motueka/Nelson
Friday, December 3, 2010 Motueka/Nelson – Abel Tasman
Saturday, December 4, 2010 Motueka/Nelson – Abel Tasman
Sunday, December 5, 2010 Blenheim – wine tasting
Monday, December 6, 2010 Christchurch or Queen Charlotte track
Tuesday, December 7, 2010 Christchurch or Queen Charlotte track
Wednesday, December 8, 2010 Queenstown
Thursday, December 9, 2010 Te Anau
Friday, December 10, 2010 Milford Sound
Saturday, December 11, 2010 Milford Sound
Sunday, December 12, 2010 Dunedin
Monday, December 13, 2010 Dunedin – blue penguins, albatrosses, yellow eyed penguins, oh my!

We appreciate any advice you can give!
Thanks!
JandL5 is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2010, 10:04 AM
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Chances are you will have a good trip no matter where you go. Unfortunately you just can't see everything!

One thing to bear in mind is that the weather in November/December may not be "settled" so it's good to stay as flexible as possible, which is easy if you've got a car and aren't picky about lodgings. I think for the most part you are before the holidays so I'd resist booking everything and leave a bit of leeway in the schedule.

These are just my own opinions about where I'd drop or add time.

Auckland City..drop a day..yes really. For Day 2 either do a day trip outside Auckland (eg Muriwai, Waiheki or Tiritiri Matangi), or depart on day two for Rotorua.

Are you going to do one of the Waitomo caves packages or just a quick look at the glow worms? If the former, check the schedule, you may want to do it on day two and/or need to spend the night in Waitomo. You can see Waitomo before Rotorua, also (they're about 2 to 3 hours apart).

I might consider dropping Napier. I think I'd just drive from Tongariro to Wellington.

Wellington city doesn't need a full three days. I'm assuming significant parts of the first and third days are for driving and taking the ferry.

I would do Nelson/Abel Tasman (maybe even add a day) and then fly to Queenstown. Drop Blenheim/Christchurch/Queen Charlotte). There is great winetasting east of Queenstown, and lots to see nearby. Visit Arrowtown or Glenorchy (maybe even an overnight). Lots of excellent restaurants around, several in Arrowtown (I also though the one at Kinloch Lodge was great). Do an excursion such as Skippers Canyon or the Dart River. For hiking you can do either end of the Routeburn track as a day hike.

You will want to add some days to Dunedin. Also allow a full day for the drive Queenstown to Dunedin, there are several interesting routes. You can go via the Catlins or through the "Pig Route". Possibly put an overnight in there along the way.

Too much to see, too little time!
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Old Oct 12th, 2010, 05:44 PM
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mlgb has some great advice. The "top of the south" is divided by a mountain range between Blenheim/Picton/Queen Charlotte and Nelson/Motueka/Abel Tasman regions. The two areas are quite similar so if you want to see more variety I wouldn't bother with the trip over the Whangamoa hills to Blenheim. There are lots of vineyards around the Nelson region, too.
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Old Oct 13th, 2010, 07:21 AM
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Hello JandL5:

Other posters have given you excellent advice already, but do allow us to add a Motueka/Nelson lodging suggestion. When we visited that area of South Island a couple of years ago, we stayed at an absolutely fabulous place called Clifftops Retreat. (Google it.) The lodging is a stand-along house, with designing furnishings and breathtaking views. The hosts are a lovely couple who took care of our every need. Given that this NZ holiday is to celebrate your marriage (best wishes to the two of you!!), we truly believe that you will consider a Clifftops stay a highlight of your honeymoon.
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Old Oct 14th, 2010, 07:09 AM
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Thanks so much for your replies! I didn't realize there was real topography between Picton and Nelson, so that is definitely good to consider. We sort of can't imagine going to NZ and not hitting some wineries in Marlborough proper, so perhaps we can do one night in Blenheim and then head over to Nelson, so at least we're only traversing the top of the South once. That would also allow us to go to Queenstown a little earlier, which seems like a good idea.

Good advice on looking at the schedules at Waitomo (I think the rafting sounds fun) and figuring out that part of the itinerary based on that.

We're having a bit of a hard time with the mental adjustment that the cities aren't worth much time, but I will go back with the suggestion to cut another day off Auckland (I already took off one that I was considering for Waiheke, but maybe we can do that on day 2). I think we'll have only 2 days in Wellington, and it seems like that is about right.

We'll also take a look at the Clifftops Retreat, it sounds lovely!

Thanks so much!
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Old Oct 14th, 2010, 07:33 AM
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I suppose if you are super in to wine you need to go to the mother load. But I might compare it to a visit to Burgundy..the place doesn't live up to what is in the glass.
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Old Oct 14th, 2010, 10:36 PM
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Monday, November 29, 2010 Wellington

I am assuming you are travelling from HB (one of my home grounds, the other being Wellington) on this date. May I suggest you travel to Wellington through the Wairarapa, and stop off at Mt Bruce. This is a Wildlife Centre where you may well see some of New Zealand's more unusual birds.
It would add about 3 hours to your trip. Hawke's Bay to Wellington is approximately 4 hours, or 4 1/2 going through the Wairarapa.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...ldlife-centre/

The other really good place if you could fit it in is Tiritiri Matangi Island in Auckland. That is a great almost-day trip.

http://www.tiritirimatangi.org.nz/

There are some really great places to visit in Wellington, by the way. Two full days would give you a good overview of our great city.
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Old Oct 15th, 2010, 12:05 PM
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If you don't make it to Mt. Bruce there is also "ZEALANDIA" in Wellington itself.

I would recommend Kapiti Island but you probably don't have enough time for it.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 02:49 PM
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Thanks so much for all of your recommendations. I was thinking about driving down from HB to Wellington through the Wairarapa and Mt. Bruce looks like an excellent recommendation for a stop. As you can tell from my original posting, we're interested in spotting birds while in NZ and we would like to see kiwis.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 07:01 PM
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Just in case you don't see a kiwi at Mt Bruce, you might like to do this tour - although quite pricey -

http://www.visitzealandia.com/Site/Z...home_page.aspx

or visit the nocturnal house at Wellington Zoo. I have seen kiwi there every time I visit.

Have a great visit to our country.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 01:36 AM
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Villa Maria Winery is conveniently located about a 10 minute drive from the Auckland Airport. Great wines, especially the reserves. They have a restaurant as well (open for lunch). Gorgeous, modern building in a lovely setting. Villa Maria's wines are sourced from vineyards throughout NZ.
For wine lovers, Marlborough is fantastic. So many choices and the quality is high. It is also a beautiful wine region.
You probably won't have time (maybe while driving from Queenstown to Dunedin), but you can also stop at wineries in Central Otago, such as Mt. Difficulty and Felton Road.
In Dunedin, visit the Royal Albatross Colony. I only saw a about seven albatrosses while I was there two months ago, among these chicks. But it was still worth it. This site is also interesting historically. This was once a Maori village, and then it became a military outpost. Part of the tour deals with this history.
http://www.albatross.org.nz/
I also highly recommend a drive to the Orokunui Eco-sanctuary on the high hills of Dunedin, especially if it is a clear day. They don't have kiwi as yet, but they have many other native birds. This is a new eco-sanctuary and they eventually will introduce kiwi into their boundaries. I plan on revisiting the sanctuary when I return to Dunedin in a couple of weeks--maybe I can update this posting.
http://www.orokonuicharitygala.co.nz...n-to-orokonui/
http://www.orokonui.org.nz/
If you can spare the time, drive up to Oamaru, where is it easy to see Yellow-Eyed Penguins and Blue Penguins. It is lovely little city with a beautifully preserved historic center. The website says the main beach for Yellow Eyed Penguin viewing is currently closed because of slips, but it might be reopened by December. I was there at the end of August, the Yellow Eyed Penguins (also known as Hoiho) come in as the sun goes down (late afternoon). There are lovely. Viewing from the hide is free.
http://www.visitoamaru.co.nz/?ecotou...w_eyed_penguin
The Riverstone Cafe just north of Oamaru is a nice restaurant. New Zealand's Cuisine Magazine voted it the best Casual Dining restauant of the 2010.
http://www.riverstonekitchen.co.nz/
Oamaru is about an hour and a half drive from Dunedin. 119 kilometers or 74 miles (without stops). Pretty drive. You can stop to look at Moeraki boulders enroute.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moeraki_Boulders
In Dunedin, Sandfly Bay is supposed to be a good place for spotting hoiho.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandfly_Bay
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 01:54 AM
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I am updating my posting already: Dunedin's Orokunui Eco-sanctuary will release 6-to-8 kiwi into their sanctuary on October 30, 2010!!!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2010, 02:21 AM
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I believe the kiwi is a nocturnal bird, so, given your routing, the best place to see them would probably be a zoo, like the one in Auckland. It's a nice zoo.
http://www.aucklandzoo.co.nz/default.asp?sectionID=80
You can see them at the Aquarium in Napier, too:
http://www.nationalaquarium.co.nz/wi...ew-zealand.asp
In Hawkes Bay, be sure to visit Craggy Range Winery in Havelock North. This is one of the best of the many wonderful wineries here. They also have a nice restaurant. Take a drive to Te Mata Peak for great views (the drive is a little scary).
I think you will find a car very handy, even for some of the smaller cities. I do not recommend a car for Auckland or Wellington, given that you will be there for such a short time.
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Old Oct 25th, 2010, 11:25 AM
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That poor little kiwi in the Napier Aquarium is pathetic.

If you want to see a kiwi at night look into Wellington's Zealandia night time tour that was suggested by dotty.

When I did the overnight at Kapiti Island, Minnie found us a kiwi within about 5 minutes!
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Old Oct 25th, 2010, 07:16 PM
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B+ route.
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 12:30 AM
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If JandL5's itinerary had included Bay of Islands I would have suggested Aroha Island Ecocentre near Kerikeri, but unfortunately it doesn't. Otherwise, this is good place for spotting kiwi in the natural environment.
http://www.arohaisland.co.nz/
Dunedin's Orokunui Eco-sanctuary is still worth a visit, even if chances of seeing kiwi are almost nil during daylight hours. They have many other wonderful native birds that are are drawn to their feeding stations. As a avid birder, I was delighted with the time I spent here.
http://www.orokonui.org.nz/content/w...mayseehere.php
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 12:51 AM
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mlgb: Could you please provide the link to Kapiti Island overnight and just a few details? That sounds worth doing next time I travel to Wellington. I am sure others would be interested as one of the topics of this post is NZ bird watching.
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 12:59 AM
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Just found your posting from February regarding Kapiti Island. Would love to see their takahe, too.
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 02:04 PM
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Re the takahe, there are several at Mt. Bruce, and we were able to see a kiwi there, as well as several other birds. We also had an unfortunate tendency to come to a screeching halt everytime we spotted a pukeko at the side of the road. Natives consider these birds a pest, I understand, but we found them delightfully cute. We found Mt. Bruce a good stop on our way to Hawkes Bay from the Wellington area. At Cape Kidnapper, the gannet colony was great, especially if you like to watch birds, and the greeting behaviors were very interesting to watch as pairs met up again after going off to feed. I second the motion for a stop at Craggy Range winery. There are several other wineries in the area as well.

If you are going to the Otago Peninsula, there are good opportunities for yellow eyed penguin sightings there, as well as at Oamaru. You can click on my name for our trip report that talks about the penguins. I think you will haave a great time.
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 06:43 PM
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Just in case I didn't include the link for the Kapiti Island overnights in my trip report

http://www.kapitiislandalive.co.nz/

I was VERY lucky to be able to go. I got the one remaining space (only 10 spots for an overnight) and the weather cleared up hours before the morning departure time!
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