Australia/NZ itinerary - please critique/advise!

Old Jul 11th, 2007, 12:43 PM
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Australia/NZ itinerary - please critique/advise!

Hi all,

Here's my 1st stab at an itinerary. Nothing is set in stone yet (except for the arrival/departure dates into/from Sydney) so helpful advice is welcomed/needed:

Arrive in Sydney Dec 24, stay there until Jan 1, this gives us a total of 9 days in Sydney. Reason for the long stay is primarily to be in Sydney for NY Eve.

QUESTION: Should we reduce the number of days so we can spend more time in NZ (the next leg of our trip)?

Arrive in Christchurch Jan 1, explore the South Island until Jan 7, giving us about 6 days there.

QUESTION: With that timeframe, would it be better to do a Christchurch-Queenstown itinerary and fly out of Queenstown (looks like a more expensive option) or will we be able to do a Christchurch-to-Christchurch route? I'm still researching what exactly we'd like to see/do in the S Island but right now, these are the places that look good: Fox or Franz Josef Glacier, Milford Sound, Mt. Cook (I'm reading the various S Island itineraries posted here to have a better idea of what's doable in our timeframe - please post any helpful suggestions!)

Arrive in Melbourne Jan 7, stay there until Jan 9, giving us 2 days in Melbourne. Reason for this Melbourne sidetrip is to visit an aunt and her family. I am considering skipping this part to give us more time in NZ but am also wary of offending family (who'd be miffed that I'd come all the way from the US and did not stop by to visit them!). Considering doing the Great Ocean Road during this stay (maybe have my aunt drive us ).

Arrive in Cairns Jan 9, stay there until Jan 14 - we are going diving!

Fly back to Sydney Jan 14, stay one night. Fly back to the US Jan 15.

QUESTION: This itinerary will skip Ayers Rock. I'm wondering if I should cut short our Sydney stay (give up NY Eve in Sydney) to either (1) make the trip to Ayers Rock or (2) add to our NZ S Island stay.

Sorry for the long post! Thanks in advance!
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Old Jul 11th, 2007, 03:05 PM
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Hi Jmoy~ You are quite an ambitious traveler I see! We could all give you better input if we understood what is really important to you in a vacation, other than New Year's in Sydney. With knowing so little of your interests, I will make just a few brief comments. Sydney is a glorious city. I love it....but nine days may be pushing it a bit, unless you have friends there or something. Also, you have not left enough time to see the South Island. I agree with your idea to fly into Christchurch and out of Queenstown, but do what you can to extend your stay in the South Island. You will not be sorry!
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Old Jul 11th, 2007, 03:18 PM
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One more thought Jmoy~ We found Cairns to be a busy and touristy (t shirt shops)port city. We prefered the quaint seaside town of Port Douglas over Cairns. There are plenty of boat trips out of PD. Just a thought for you to consider. Also, we really enjoyed visiting the Tablelands, although with your packed itinerary, that may be too much in your time frame.
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Old Jul 11th, 2007, 03:51 PM
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Perhaps you could arrive in Sydney and then fly to Melbourne and see your aunt for Xmas then return to Sydney for 5 or 6 days. Don't leave Melbourne out of your itinerary as it is a fantastic city (see other posts) and family are important. I agree 9 days in Sydney is a stretch even if you include a trip to the Blue Mountains and a couple of days on Bondi Beach! The fireworks are not to be missed and at that time of the year Ayres Rock will be extremely hot.
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Old Jul 11th, 2007, 05:42 PM
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Hi jmoy -

You've not left yourself much time to see NZ. I like Downunder's suggestion of flying to Melbourne first to see your aunt, although you'll have the additional expense of a return flight to Sydney. You might get a good deal on a return flight with Jetstar though - they have pretty good fares. It will also put you in Melbourne for Christmas, which might not be in your plans.

I enjoyed the Great Ocean Road, - we spent three nights in a great little cottage about 2 km from Apollo Bay and made day trips from there. You might be pressed to see the GOR in two days, but you could definitely see some of it.

NZ is worth as much time as you can give it. Christchurch to Queenstown then flying out of Queenstown (or flying to QT, then driving back to CH) is a much better option than Christchurch-Christchurch with so little time.

You should be able to fit in the glaciers, Milford Sound and Mt Cook into a six day itinerary, but there will be a fair bit of driving involved.

You might find this time/distance calculator helpful:

http://www.accommodationz.co.nz/distances2.html

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Old Jul 11th, 2007, 05:52 PM
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I think Downunder's solution is a good one, go to Melbourne then return for New Year. Alternatively, spend NYE somewhere in the South Island. There will be a celebration where ever you are. I don't know whether the Sydney one is particularly unique, although that said the fireworks over the harbour are fabulous.
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Old Jul 11th, 2007, 07:14 PM
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Thanks for the very helpful replies, everyone!

wannabakiwi - yeah, the more I think about it, Sydney for 9 days is a long time - 'glad that you and other Fodorites have confirmed it . Our interests are architecture (DH is an architect), nature, and active pursuits (hiking, etc). We are going to Cairns because the liveaboard we're considering leaves from there.

DownUnder, Melnq8, Susan7 - thanks for your suggestions to go straight to Melbourne at the start of the trip. I'm leaning towards doing this. Even though it's an extra flight leg, it will enable us to stay with family for Christmas, be in Sydney for NY Eve, and have extra days for NZ!

QUESTION: Is Air New Zealand the only airline that flies out of Queenstown? I could not find any Virgin Blue or Jetstar flights out of Queenstown.

Melnq8 - thanks for the distance calculator!

Susan7 - it's the fireworks over the harbour that's pulling me to Sydney for NY Eve .

DownUnder - you're saying that it's okay to miss Ayers Rock this time, right?

I appreciate all the posts!!!


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Old Jul 11th, 2007, 08:41 PM
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I just read somewhere that Qantas has two flights a day from QT to CH, Air NZ has four and there was even mention of Origins Pacific. Not sure how current this info is though.
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Old Jul 11th, 2007, 09:13 PM
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OK, a fellow fireworks fan, there are the kiddies fireworks at 9 pm, then the main event at 12. There are places you can book to view them as well as lots of places along the foreshore. Last year I think they even had fireworks on the Gladesville Bridge so there are plenty of places to choose from. Depends on how you feel about crowds as to where would be a good place to view.

I'd avoid Uluru (Ayer's Rock) in summer.
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Old Jul 11th, 2007, 09:29 PM
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Susan7 - didn't know that there are places to book to view the fireworks so thank you for the tip!

'Glad to know that Ayers Rock is not recommended for the summer since it looks like we won't be able to squeeze it into our itinerary anyway .
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Old Jul 11th, 2007, 11:15 PM
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Hi Jmoy

As your DH is an architect perhaps he might be interested in visiting Napier. Totally re-built in the 1930's , following a devastating earthquake , in the Art deco style.
Just a thought.
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Old Jul 12th, 2007, 08:31 AM
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Hi heathy, thanks for the tip. DH's interests lie in contemporary and modern architecture. The tours with Sydney Architecture Walks are on our must-do list .
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Old Jul 12th, 2007, 10:25 AM
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Re your NZ itinerary, if you do want to see Mt. Cook as well as the glaciers, you might as well do a loop Christchurch to Christchurch. EG, Christchurch to Mt. Cook, Mt. Cook to Queenstown, Queenstown to Milford to Queenstown (or Wanaka), Queenstown/Wanaka to Glaciers, Glaciers to Christchurch.

I don't know that doing a one way between Christchurch and Queenstown helps unless you decide to drop either Mt. Cook or the Glaciers.

As you can see, the above itinerary is pretty full since each leg is pretty much a full day including time for sightseeing.
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Old Jul 12th, 2007, 10:45 AM
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Thanks, mlgb, your suggested itinerary (with the point-to-point directions) is very helpful! I'm hoping that we could do this kind of itinerary (Christchurch to Christchurch loop) after adding 2-3 days to NZ! 'Appreciate the lead - I will be researching this some more!
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Old Jul 12th, 2007, 10:50 AM
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Melnq8 - I just noticed that you posted a reply to my question about airlines flying out of Queenstown. Thank you, I'll keep this in my notes! Hopefully though, we won't need to fly out of Queenstown if we are able to add more days to NZ (and do the Christchurch and back loop that mglb suggested) .
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Old Jul 12th, 2007, 02:28 PM
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Yes add more days to NZ! You'll want to book accommodations in advance if at all possible.

If you have an extra day to travel between the Glaciers and Christchurch, I recommend Mountain House in Arthur's Pass. Little cottages that you can rent by the bedroom or the whole house.

My review:http://www.hostelz.com/hostel/25903-Mountain-House
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Old Jul 12th, 2007, 02:34 PM
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mlgb - thank you, I've got the site bookmarked! It looks very nice! I've also ordered my Frommers, Lonely Planet, and Rough Guide books on OZ/NZ today so I have a lot of homework to do . Yes, from what I've read, I should start making reservations as soon as possible!
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Old Jul 13th, 2007, 07:01 AM
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Hi jmoy, I think you've worked this out already but far far too long in Sydney and not enough time in Melbourne and NZ.

NZ is absolutely TAYLOR MADE for active pursuits! Not that beautiful nature and active pursuits don't abound in Oz, but everything is much closer together in NZ and they have marketed and developed themselves so heavily for the "active" traveller that it becomes easily accessible and highly enjoyable. When I was planning my trip there, I used the travel planner function on the http://www.newzealand.com website. It was fantastic for finding and scheduling activities and accommodation and the site works beautifully.

Have you ever been to Melbourne? Don't underestimate it. The Great Ocean Road is fantastic as well, and if you are going to do this route, consider staying at one of the very charming B&Bs along the way. There are two ways to do the GOR - drive in and out, ooohing and aaahing all the way. Or drive in and stay, have meat pies in one of the small towns, stop at a wild looking beach with some of the clearest waters, swim (as it will be surely warm when you visit), lie in the sand and consider a blue, cloudless sky
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Old Jul 13th, 2007, 11:36 PM
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Just a note re airlines flying out of Queenstown. Origin Pacific went into receivership a year or so ago. We used it a lot flying out of Nelson but now there is just Air New Zealand.

Jetstar flys out of Christchurch only, and Virgin Blue, known as Pacific Blue in New Zealand flys from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
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Old Jul 19th, 2007, 10:36 AM
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We were in Sydney quite awhile ago, but I can't say I would allow more than 2 days for it. I actually think you might enjoy Melbourne more. We spent time in Queensland/Cairns and loved the reef, however we really fell in love with NZ and will be going again in Oct. We did the overnight boat trip on Milford Sound and the day trip on Doubtful sound and loved them, but our favorite was a jetboat trip up the Dart River and then kayaking back down the river. We liked that whole Queenstown area although it is pricey. We were not impressed with the glaciers (go to Alaska for glaciers), nor were we impressed with the whale watching in Kikoura (go to Oregon, California, B.C. or Alaska), although the town itself is cute. We enjoyed Christchurch and are looking forward to the new Arts Museum there. Try the vegetarian brewpub on the square. Rotorua was nice, but for thermal features go to Yellowstone. The Waitomo glow worm caves were OK, but for better caves check out Virginia (no gloworms, but better caves). We stayed at Larnach castle outside Dunedin and enjoyed that, however for penguins, go to Chile.
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