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Eager2seeNZ Nov 3rd, 2004 04:49 AM

First time to New Zealand
I am planning a 13-d trip to NZ early Dec with family - incl 3 kids. We are planning to cover both North and South Island. I want someone to critique on the itinerary.

We are planning to self-drive and stay in motels . We are not into the adventure stuff like bungy or scuba or rafting or kayaking.

Day 1- Reach Auckland by 2 pm

Day 2 - Leave for Rotorua after seeing the two caves in Waitomo. Plan to reach Rotorua and do the Maori cultural show. Spend 2 nights in Rotorua

Day 3 - Sightseeing in Rotorua [Geothermal and Agrodome ]

Day 4 - Leave for Lake Taupo - some acitivity in the lake, see the Waterfall
Stay that night in Lake Taupo

Day 5 - Leave Lake Taupo for Wellington
Stay the night at Wellington
- we are doing this as we do not want to miss the ferry at 2 pm on Day 6

Day 6 - any suggestions for 1/2 day ? Leave Wellington for Picton ; hand-over car/ pick up car; Stay overnight at Picton

Day 7 - Leave Picton for Kaikoura - for whale watching , dolphin swimming
Drive to Christchurch and stay overnight there

Question - Must we touch Christchurch to go to Franz Josef.

Day 8 - Leave for Franz Josef via the Southern Alps - I am really looking forward to this ride. I am so excited even when writing this.
Reach Franz Josef and stay overnight

Day 9 - Flyover the glaciers; take the 1/2 day walkup [ all of us cant do it though due to underage and medical condition ]
Overnight at Franz Josef

Day 10 - Leave for Te-Anau via Haast Pass
Plan to stay at Te Anau for 3 nights. [ day 10,11,12]

Day 11 - TE Anau - The sounds, the lake
Day 12 - Horse Trek/winery trip

Day 13 - Leave for Queenstown early and do the shotover jet. Any other suggestion welcome

Day 14 - Leave Queenstown by mid-day

RalphR Nov 3rd, 2004 05:31 AM

I'd spend more time on the South Island. The way it is you will be kicking yourself that you didn't. No, you do not need to touch Chch going to Franz Joseph from Kaikoura. You can skirt around via Oxford or go over the Lewis Pass, the latter being somewhat longer.

BeanMan Nov 3rd, 2004 11:07 AM

I'm with Ralph,

Spend more time on the South Island. Suggestions: Eliminate night in Taupo, stay only one night in Rotorua. Head South.


Kiwi_acct Nov 3rd, 2004 12:20 PM

Hi there,

Your half day in Wellington would be well spent at the national museum, Te Papa. Lots of kid friendly exhibits and activities plus a broad outline of NZ culture and history.



ElendilPickle Nov 3rd, 2004 02:42 PM

I'll second Steve's recommendation of Te Papa in Wellington. We spent most of a day there; it's a fabulous museum.

Your North Island itinerary sounds doable. Are you planning to stay in Auckland the first night or drive to Waitomo? If you think you're up for it, you could drive to Waitomo; it's only a couple of hours from Auckland.

I recommend the Mai Ora cultural show at Te Whakarewarewa.

Lee Ann

Eager2seeNZ Nov 3rd, 2004 04:42 PM

Thank you for all your suggestions and tips.

1. Unfortunately I am unable to increase the no of days in South Island coz we have booked the "saver fare" by ferry.

2. We are planning to spend the night stay in Auckland as we need to get over the jetlag.

Kiwi_acct Nov 3rd, 2004 05:41 PM

Hi once again,

Only just noticed that you are staying in Auckland for your first night. Are you staying in the city or down by the airport. If you are staying in or near the city, something you may consider for a late afternoon (relaxing) option to familiarise yourself with the city is take the Devonport ferry from downtown to Devonport and back. You could catch an early evening meal in Devonport at one of the cafes or restaurants and then ferry back to the city and look at the evening lights. Here is the ferry timetable.

This certainly beats being couped up with three bored kids in a hotel/motel room contemplating McDonalds for dinner any day of the week.

There is parking near the ferry terminal in the downtown parking building and also next to the viaduct restaurant district (5 minutes walk from the ferry building)

The ferry service is a regular commuter service but the staff on board are tourist focused and aware that tourists often travel on board. Also as an added bonus if the weather is great, as hopefully it will be for you, sit up on deck with a glass of wine and enjoy the sights.

It is a short journey only around 15 minutes so not too onerous. If you were staying in Auckland longer I could recommend trips out to some of the Gulf Islands like Waiheke or Tiritirimatangi.

Anyway whatever you do, enjoy your trip.


ElendilPickle Nov 3rd, 2004 10:08 PM

Spending a few hours in Devonport is also a lovely idea. That was one of the last things we did in New Zealand, and after experiencing some difficulties with bad directions to our hotel and trying to find its parking garage, the stroll down Queen St. to the ferry, the ride across the harbor, a delicious lunch at the Cod Piece, and the historic walk restored our good moods quite nicely.

Lee Ann

Tangata Nov 4th, 2004 06:16 PM

I am not sure where you are flying in from, but if you feel up to it, it would probably be a good idea to drive to Waitomo and spend the first night there. Spending the first night in Auckland would make for a long second day.

I would skip Taupe, unless you are into trout fishing. I presume you mean Huka Falls, which you could visit on day two en-route to Rotorua. If you did that, it would give you the option of driving from Rotorua to Wellington either via Taupo and the Volcanic Plateau or via Napier and the Wairarapa. We have done both drives comfortably in a day.

I agree with other posts, Te Papa is a good call for Wellington.

Personally, I wouldn't stay in Picton, I would drive on to Blenheim, a much nicer town, with a better choice of Motels.

As has been said, you don't have to go to Christchurch, you could go through Lewis; a pleasant drive but not as high as Arthur's Pass. If you elect to go that way and are late away from Kaikoura, you might consider spending the night at Hanmer Springs, otherwise push on to Greymouth.

If you do want to go through Arthur's Pass, you could still by-pass Christchurch and spend the night at, say, Oxford, but Christchurch is a very pleasant city.

Day 10 will be a long drive, ten to eleven hours. Would you consider doing Queenstown before Te Anau? However that may not work as I don't know how you are leaving Queenstown on day 14, or where you are heading.

If you have some time in Te Anau, consider a cruise on the Manuska run by Sinbad Cruises, we had an excellent day with Murray, the skipper.

At Queenstown, consider an evening cruise on the Earnslaw.

Have fun, it sounds like a nice trip.

Eager2seeNZ Nov 5th, 2004 07:21 AM


Have been trying to draw up the detailed travel plan .... pretty hard work .... in fact it is our first free-n-easy self drive holiday.

Steve, I fell off my chair laughing imagining how it would be contemplating McDonalds for dinner on the first day of our holiday! Thanks for your tip on Devonport.

Tangata, I will now rework on the Rotorua-Wellington segment. Thanks for the tip.

I am not too happy with the long drive to Te Anau. However, if I were to break at Queenstown for 1 night and then go to Te Anau [2 nights] we will have to return to Queenstown again for a night.

Incidentally I am trying to find out about kayaking grade 1 "beginners" or where children are allowed. Any leads on Where/which is the best place? There are a couple of operators in Rotorua as also in Franz Josef. On the web both places sounds great.

We are flying in from Singapore. And on return we are flying into Auckland from Queenstown to board our connecting flight back to Singapore.

Tangata Nov 5th, 2004 10:03 PM

Yes, I suspected that you were flying out of Queenstown and that was why you had planned it that way. The one problem I have with Te Anau, is that you have to retrace your path to get out. Unfortunately there is no option if you are driving yourself. It is possible to fly in from Queenstown and take a bus back, but that would be an expensive option, particularly with a family.

I guess you are going to have to do that long day, at least in December you will have the benefit of very long daylight hours, it will be light until 9:30 or 10.

A couple of suggestions that you may want to consider:

Taking an overnight cruise on Milford Sound is a magical experience; unfortunately it is also an expensive one!

On the way back to Queenstown you will pass the "Kingston Flyer", if you time it right, it is a very pleasant ride in a well maintained steam train.

MietteMeg Nov 19th, 2004 01:29 AM

We went to NZ last year and we really enjoyed the Dart river safari (near Queenstown) with the funyak - our son who was 8 at the time loved it.
Another thing which is good with kids is Puzzle World in Wanaka (South Island).
Enjoy your holiday! (we are planning to go back next year)

WA Nov 19th, 2004 06:45 PM

Dear Eager -

I may take a couple of hits on this - but I really was disappointed with the Tamaki Maori show - maybe it was just a bad night, but after making a point of maintaining composure during the entrance show - we noticed laughter by the members of show. During the show - which was difficult to hear over the music sometimes, one member of the show kept looking at her watch and others looked to be just going through the motions. We actually thought that the bus driver saved the night and showed more enthusiam. I would better spend my tiem an dmoney on thermal spas etc.

I liked Franz J better than Fox. I do think there is a way to cut over before going through CC.

If yuu are driving from FJ to Te Anua - in one day watch you time. It is a rather drive.

Shotover Jet trip was short but we think more than worth it. You can also take the Condola - and maybe get a pizza at the Cow. But otherwise it is a tourist town (great views) - but a lot of tourists. If you have the time coming in you may want to stop for a hour or so at Wanaka - very lovely place.

Oh - if your doin gthe Milford or Doubtful sound trips - be sure to check to see if you can get a book of discount coupons from car rental company - you can use them even if you have already booked and paid by CC.

Wellington - half day - go to Te Papa and take a tour of Parliment (esp. if it is Thursday.)

Pete1222 Nov 22nd, 2004 01:22 PM

You are getting some really good advice! Do the hot baths in Roto.---especially if there is a full moon rising. I would also skip the nite in Taupo & spend only one in Roto.

I've spent 8 months in NZ (2 trips)The South Island is very hard to beat...Christchurch is a wonderful town.
And yes the jet boat ride in Queenstown is worth every penny.
The Kiwi's are half the experience.
You are in for a great experience.

Eager2seeNZ Nov 23rd, 2004 07:33 AM


I must thank each one of you for the many tips that you have given me. I have infact reworked on the itinerary based on your feedback. Indeed we have made a lot of changes. Now it looks good!

Just a couple of other points :
a) An accquaintance of mine mentioned about road trains in NZ and that we must stay away else we could be sucked in by them - anyone has anything to add on this?
b) Is Lord of the Rings tour worth it or can it be done ourselves - I cant seem to connect with that movie but the children think differently!
c) Has anyone tried the twinrivers jet in Queenstown. I am trying to decide between the shotover jet and the twinrivers ?
d) The FJ to Te Anau - we hope to do that during the day with brief stopovers at Haast and Wanaka.
e) We are planning to do the drive from Te Anau to Milford - is it easy driving that section?


ElendilPickle Nov 23rd, 2004 03:04 PM

>>b) Is Lord of the Rings tour worth it or can it be done ourselves - I cant seem to connect with that movie but the children think differently!<<

Which tour? I think it depends on where you want to go. A few sites are only available to the public on tours.

However, we visited Tongariro National Park (Mordor), Kaitoke Regional Park outside Wellington (Rivendell), and some of the sites in Wellington on our own with no problems.

You could pick up a copy of Ian Brodie's The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook and decide what might fit into your schedule.

Lee Ann

Christa Nov 23rd, 2004 05:30 PM

I too would just pick up a Lord of the Rings Location Guide rather than splash out for a tour.
Some of your time in Wellington could be used taking the children around the LOTR location sites.

Road trains are more an issue in the outback of Australia.

We do have loads of forestry trucks and livestock trucks on our highways but no threat of being sucked in ... just wait till there is a safe place to overtake or wait for passing lane or slow vehicle bay.

HAve a great trip,

Kiwi_acct Nov 24th, 2004 02:16 PM

Hi there once again

Here is a website with drive times in New Zealand. They are very conservative and have built in time for short breaks. This should give you an idea of what pace to travel at.

As you will see your longest day will probably be the FJ to Te Anau day with at least eight hours of drive time.

Just a quick word of advice when you are on the West Coast. Specifically from the glaciers south. Make sure you are liberally coated in bug spray as the sandflys are so voracious they will carry you away given the chance.


Pete1222 Nov 26th, 2004 03:02 PM

Hi Eager,
No road-trains in N.Z. The only thing you are going to get sucked into is some pretty incredible landscape views and a few sheepskin rugs!
Oh yeah, ditto on the sandflies!!
They are truly wicked...

Eager2seeNZ Dec 14th, 2004 06:27 AM

Just back from the 2 wk vacation. Wow.... a splendid one it was. All of us loved it and the kids too. The weather was not in our favour all the time so we had to miss some of the activities yet we managed to squeeze in other activities.

Tthe Tranz Alpine drive was just too gorgeous that we made many many many stops! Drive to Milford sound was awesome.... ! Friendly people, great country and expensive place ....!

Thanks to you all for the tips you provided. They were a great help !

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