Feedback on my 2 month OZ/NZ itin

Old Nov 20th, 2016, 06:25 PM
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Feedback on my 2 month OZ/NZ itin

Hi all. I'm back here again for more feedback. Posted last year and then had to delay trip a year.
Have been working on the itin on and off. We're two retired active well traveled couples - interests:
culture, nature, food, wine, birds. . . . .

Note alternate routes now that Kaikoura may be a no go ..... guess it's too soon to tell for sure.....
Wondering if we can do Queenstown/Wanaka etc from one location....... any other feedback welcome.
International flights have been purchased. Will do the domestic ones soon. Will do a lot of self- driving in NZ.

New Zealand/Australia - 8 weeks
North Island
3/3 – depart
3/5 – Auckland (3 nights)
3/8 – Coromandel (1)
3/9 – Rotorua (2)
3/11 – Napier/ Hawke's Bay (2)
3/13 – Wellington (3)
3/16 – Ferry to Picton

South Island
3/16 – Marlborough area (3 nights)
3/19 – Kaikoura (2)
3/21 – Christchurch (2)
3/23 – Glaciers (2)
3/25 – Wanaka / Queenstown area (3)
3/28 – Te Anau (3)
3/31 – Dunedin/Otago (3)
4/3 – Fly to Brisbane/Cairns from Dunedin

NOTE: below is a South Island alternative that excludes Kaikoura
South Island ---
3/16 – Marlborough area (4)
3/20 – Westport /Punakaika (1)
3/21 – Glaciers (2)
3/23 – Wanaka / Queenstown area (3)
3/26 – Te Anau (3)
3/29 – Dunedin/Otago (3)
4/1 – Christchurch (3) (or stop one night en route)
4/4 Fly to Brisbane/Cairns from Christchurch
_______ __________________________________________________ __________
Australia (based on South Island alternative)
4/4 – Cairns (4)
4/8 – Ayers Rock (3)
4/11 – Adelaide (2)
4/13 – Kangaroo Island (2)
4/15 – Melbourne (3)
4/18 – Hobart/Tasmania (5)
4/23 – Sydney (5)
4/28 – Home
glover is offline  
Old Nov 21st, 2016, 03:35 AM
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Do I understand correctly: your international flights from the U.S. to Auckland and Dunedin to Brisbane are booked?

Here’s a link to the NZ AA Drive distance calculator.

If arriving in Auckland early morning, you can consider spending your first day visiting the Auckland War Memorial Museum (located in the pretty domain), maybe the City Art Gallery and Auckland’s waterfront (restaurants, cafes, ferry building, views, so on).
Here’s a link to Auckland’s great website:

If you’d like to see lots of wonderful birds, on one of the following days take a ferry from terminal at Auckland’s waterfront in the CBD at the end of Queen Street to Tiritiri Matangi Island. The ferry only goes once a day, at 9 a.m. and only from Wednesday through Sunday.
Ferry info here:

With your third day in Auckland, you can explore more of the city, or visit another Hauraki Gulf island (such as Waiheke or Rangitoto), or rent a car and drive to West Auckland, home to the Muriwai Gannet Colony, the Waitakere Ranges, wineries around Kumeu, and black sand beaches such as Piha and Bethells.

It’s possible to stop in Martinborough wine country between Napier and Wellington. Its pinot noirs are highly regarded. But you don’t have to go this way.

I’d take a day off Wellington, unless you have lots to do there. Wellington is a wonderful city, but by shaving a day off Wellington, you can spend an extra day elsewhere, and you could use it. Te Papa Museum would be a priority. I’d start the day with a ride up the cable car. At the top, you can have a look around the botanic garden before catching the free shuttle to Zealandia. When done touring Zealandia, take their shuttle down to the CBD and spend the rest of the afternoon at Te Papa Museum or exploring the waterfront (if you’ve already visited Te Papa).

If you drop a day/night from Wellington and a day/night from Christchurch , consider spending two days/nights at Mt. Cook Village enroute from Dunedin to Christchurch. This is considered the scenic inland route (an alternative to driving between Oamaru and Christchurch, which is not scenic).

My guess is that, as birders, you were headed to Kaikoura for the pelagic bird tours/albatross encounter. I’ve whale-watched, gone swimming with dolphins, and watched heaps of fur seals in Kaikoura, but I haven’t done the pelagic bird tours/albatross encounter. But the seabird sightings seem excellent on this tour. At the moment, it's impossible to say when you’ll be able to travel to Kaikoura. The inland route is open but just for emergency vehicles at present. If your heart is set on visiting Kaikoura, you’ll have to monitor the NZ Transportation website and keep in contact with the Albatross Encounter website.

However, March, though not the peak of high season, is a popular month, so you might want to leave Kaikoura for a future trip and concentrate on the rest of the SI for now. I'm no different from anyone else in wishing Kaikoura’s tourism sector and community as a whole a speedy recovery. I also think Kaikoura is a stunning place worth seeing, nestled between a rugged coastline and the Kaikoura Ranges (a northern extension of the Southern Alps), but, as you’ve acknowledged, you’ll have to start making alternative plans. There will be more than enough to see on the rest of the South Island.

You’ll have three days for Wanaka and Queenstown and you’d like to know if you can base yourself in in one or the other? Depends on what you plan on doing. If you’re driving from the glaciers, you’ll shorten your driving time by staying in Wanaka, which is not as busy as Queenstown. It’s handy for visiting nearby Mt. Aspiring National Park and has some nice walking tracks of its own. Wanaka’s Rippon Winery has spectacular views. Queenstown is a good base for visiting Glenorchy, Arrowtown, wineries in Gibbston Valley, and for the attractions of Queenstown itself. Hopefully, others will weigh in with advice on this.

I live in Dunedin. I highly recommend the Elm Wildlife Peninsula Encounters Tour. These are small group tours that will offer you an overview of Otago Peninsula environments and wildlife.
By the end of March, Yellow Eyed Penguin chicks will have fledged, but adults should still be around. The Yellow Eyed Penguins are having another tough year, with many chicks succumbing to avian diphtheria.
The Little Blue Penguins have not been affected. You can view Little Blue Penguins at Blue Penguins Pukekura at the Otago Peninsula’s Taiaroa Head, which is also home to the Royal Albatross Colony. Though you can see far more Little Blue Penguins on Victoria’s Phillip Island, where they are known as Fairy Penguins. Until recently, it was thought that they were the same species, but turns out there is a genetic difference.

Northern royal albatross chicks hatch at the end of January through the beginning of February, so if you visit the colony or if you take the Monarch Cruise, you should be able to see chicks on nests. If you visit the Royal Albatross Centre, you’ll view the chicks from a glass-enclosed hide. The nests might be close to the hide or not, but the hide also has a TV screen that offers close-up views of a nest. We’re having an unusually warm late spring (it’s supposed to be 80F tomorrow). Continued warm weather will not be good for our penguins or albatrosses, so we’ll have to see how it goes.

Penguin Place might also be of interest to you. Admissions help fund their penguin “hospital,” which cares for injured, sick and undernourished penguins of various species rescued from Otago and Catlins beaches.

The Otago Peninsula also has some lovely long beaches and walking tracks. Its inlets are visited by migratory birds in summer, but by late March, many will have left. Dunedin city attractions include Toitu Settlers Museum, the Otago Museum, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin Railway Station (train trips and Saturday morning farmers market), Dunedin Botanic Garden, Baldwin Street (steepest street), Olveston House, Tunnel Beach Track. Orokonui Ecosanctuary might interest you.

Will you stay on the Otago Peninsula, in town, St. Clair Beach, or elsewhere?

You might be interested in these links:
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Old Nov 21st, 2016, 01:28 PM
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New Zealand - a lot of driving is tiring and requires concentration.
Or can all 4 of you drive so the others can enjoy the sights. A max of 3-4 hours driving in a day is enough. Skip Coromandel and add it to Rotorua. Taupo is an easy day trip from there and also Hobbiton. Some relaxing days are better than always in the car.
Diamatina has excellent answers on the South Island. As for Kaikoura - the devastation has been pretty bad but it is still a gorgeous place and the businesses there would appreciate your visit. The alternative plan might be better.
I can recommend Tiritiri Matangi as being an awesome day out if you like birds. It's an island reserve so no one lives there (bring your own lunch etc)with great views and the entertaining takahe.
Australia - you have 24 days but Australia is a huge place and you are going just about everywhere.
Cairn's location in a USA comparison is above Lake Superior, then Uluru more or less Denver, Adelaide (Houston), Melbourne (New Orleans), Hobart is in the Gulf of Mexico and Sydney is somewhere by Atlanta. It's a an awful lot of time in a plane and in airports not to mention the $$$. I'd cut it back to maybe Sydney/Cairns/Uluru or Melbourne/Adelaide/Hobart.
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Old Nov 21st, 2016, 02:54 PM
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Only if you just want to spend a day in Wanaka poking around town and the lake. There are so many things to see and do from Wanaka - the hike to Mt Iron, access to Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park and all it's wonderful hiking tracks, etc - to really experience Wanaka, you need at least three nights there alone.
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Old Nov 21st, 2016, 04:08 PM
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My husband and I thought two full days in Uluru was enough, given the heat and flies (though we also spent a couple of days in Alice Springs). This was enough time to walk around Uluru, visit the Olgas, and watch the sunset over Uluru.

If you like wine, you might want take a day away from one of your other destinations to add a day to Adelaide. Figure one day for McLaren Vale, another day for Barossa, then there are the lesser-known wine regions, such as Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, so on. Adelaide is also a lovely city with an excellent museum, the South Australian Museum, a great Central Market and some fine restaurants (though it's been too long since I've been there).

I'm glad tasmangirl suggested eliminating Coromandel from your NI itinerary. I was thinking the same thing.
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Old Nov 21st, 2016, 04:11 PM
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Just saw your AUS itinerary - only four nights in SA is just not enough! So much to see and do!
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Old Nov 27th, 2016, 12:19 PM
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Thanks to all for this terrific feedback. We've been digesting it and tweaking things a bit here and there. Just a few responses to specific things. Will no doubt come back again to ask more!

Diamantina: Thanks so much for the Tiritiri info. We hadn't realized we could only go from Wednesday to Sunday! Because we HAVE booked our flights from US to Auckland and home from Sydney, we'll need to hang around Auckland another day til. Wednesday. But it will be worth it to us. Is that why you asked whether are flights were already booked? We're now flying from Dunedin to Christchurch. And then Christchurch to a Brisbane/Cairns.

Melnq8: I know the Australia itin sounds ambitious, but at this stage of life and with so much of world left to see, we won't pass this way again. Not sure what you meant about "just 4 nights in SA ? ". By sa you mean Sydney? We actually plan
5 nights in Sydney.

Looks like Kaikoura will be a no go for us unfortunately now. But it is what it is.
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Old Nov 27th, 2016, 03:47 PM
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SA = South Australia

Seems like a whole lot of flying for not a whole lot of 'doin'.

SA has much more on offer than Adelaide and Kangaroo Island.
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Old Nov 27th, 2016, 04:04 PM
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Melnq8 : since we've had to eliminate Kaikoura in N Z due to earthquake and haven't yet booked NZ to Oz flights, we have some wiggle room. If we were to add a day or maybe even 2 for SA, what would you suggest?
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Old Nov 28th, 2016, 05:46 AM
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Oh man, so many choices.

You might consider the Flinders Ranges, or even the drive to Coober Pedy for a night or two (Opal capital of the world) - it will require more than an extra day though- it's an eight hour drive from Adelaide - but by far the most unique place we ever visited in Australia.

Then there's the Limestone Coast - Robe is a beautiful spot. You can incorporate this area if you're open to driving between Adelaide and Melbourne via The Great Ocean Road:

At the very least, consider spending some time in the Adelaide Hills - look up - koalas in those trees - and one of the wine regions, such as the Barossa (assuming SA's beautiful wine is of interest).

You might get an idea of distances and things to see/do from my two SA trip reports:
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Old Nov 28th, 2016, 04:12 PM
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Glover, will your three days in Melbourne include visits to surrounding areas, such as Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island, Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges?

Melbourne's urban attractions alone could easily occupy your three days.
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Old Dec 13th, 2016, 03:00 PM
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Glover, after seeing your most recent question about Australia, I was reminded of a suggestion I wanted to make for your trip to NZ. As you are not visiting Stewart Island (a top destination for viewing South Island birds and probably the easiest place to see a kiwi in the wild), you might be interested in the kiwi spotting tours in Okarito Forest, which is near Franz Josef Glacier.

Because the kiwi is nocturnal, the tour takes place at night, so this activity won't interfere with your daytime activities/sightseeing. It's not the most comfortable tour: it requires quietly walking through, and standing in, the forest for almost two hours or until you see a kiwi. But there are no hills to climb and the track is wide and well-maintained. No photos are allowed.

The kiwi that lives in this forest in NZ's rarest kiwi species, the critically endangered Rowi. You can read about it on the Dept. of Conservation's website:
And on the NZ Birds Online website:

Link to the tour operator:

Otherwise, you can see the Rowi in captivity at the West Coast Wildlife Centre in FJ:

Here's a link to a list of other places where you can see various species of kiwi (there are five species):
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Old Dec 14th, 2016, 06:45 AM
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If you are interested in birds and other wildlife I highly recommend a side trip from Cairns to the Atherton tablelands with Alan Gillanders. We did a three day private tour with him in April last year and couldn’t have been more pleased. Our interest was primarily marsupials and he included everything on our wish list: platypus, tree kangaroo, possums, rock wallabies, plus lots more: Cassowary, a bower bird in his bachelor pad, a waterfall, a bat hospital (fascinating), reptiles, tea plantation.

He is extremely knowledgeable and an all round nice guy, easy to be with. He used to be quite active on this board. He doesn’t participate any longer but a search might turn up some of his old posts.
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