First time visitors planning a 3 week trip in May

Old Mar 22nd, 2022, 02:35 PM
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First time visitors planning a 3 week trip in May

Once we figure in travel from the US it will be much more like a 2.5 week trip. Currently we are open to anything. We are in our late 50s (how did that happen!?) and like a balance between sightseeing, relaxing, pseudo adventure (moderate hiking but not 8 hours of it in one day), cities, small towns, art, culture, wildlife etc.

I know it's that odd shoulder season, heading into fall/winter in the Australian/Pacific region and the weather be a factor because my ask covers such a large region. And yes, it's a lot to plan in just a short while but that's how most of our vacations roll and we're used to this highly dysfunctional planning (more so my husband but after this many years I've learned to go along with it). However I am a bit overwhelmed because I've never delved too deep into travel in the region (other than dream of an over bungalow but that's probably going to be a completely different time after covid with a desire to get out and see and do).

So... GO! What should we consider as first timers with 3 weeks? I've heard great things about both NZ and Australia but don't know how to best sort through all the 'best ofs' for either place. Is one better than the other in May? Anyone have a highlights "reel" or a bucket list to help narrow down regions/cities/towns?
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Old Mar 22nd, 2022, 02:49 PM
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You don't mean to visit both Australia and New Zealand in 2.5 weeks, right?

Two and a half weeks will get you a nice, but fast paced trip on one NZ island - I'd suggest the South. And I rather like May in NZ - the leaves are changing and it's much quieter than summer, warmer than winter.

So first...pick either NZ or Australia. Then, if NZ, pick one island. If Australia, pick a maximum of two states.

Over water bungalow? I'm not familiar with any in either country, but if that's your top criteria, you'll be limited from the get go.

https://www.travelassociates.com/lux...er-bungalows-2

Happy to help with a NZ South Island itinerary if you choose NZ. I've got many, many trip reports posted here that might help as well.

Last edited by Melnq8; Mar 22nd, 2022 at 02:53 PM.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2022, 08:57 PM
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Totally agree with Mel that you need to decide first on which country you want to visit. Three weeks in total, including flights (allow for jetlag), may sound like a long time but distances in Australia are huge, similar to the US. Also if you try and do too much it will likely be a blur once you get back home.

Doing lots of reading would help narrow down what you'd like - try online travel websites like Fodors or TripAdvisor to see what's in each country/state. Or visit a library or bookstore and check out guidebooks - Lonely Planet are good for our part of the world. Even look at Google Images to see what places look like.

There are lots of different options in Australia but one idea that seems popular with overseas tourists is combine Sydney and Cairns/Port Douglas. Fly into one and out of the other. Fly between them, check Qantas or Virgin for domestic flight times/fares. An over water bunglalow is more of a Pacific island idea, not really Aust or NZ. You could try Fiji if that's a priority.

Weather in May in Australia varies greatly depending on where you go. It's a bit like weather in New York compared to Florida. The further north you go in Australia, the hotter it is. Our summer is over Christmas, winter is June/July/Aug.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2022, 02:02 AM
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I agree with KayF, that Sydney, Cains/Port Douglas would be great idea for May. If your budget allows for it, you might look at something like Bedarra Island Resort (accessible from Mission Beach, south of Cairns). It has accommodations that look nearly over the water. I've not stayed there as my budget did not allow for this, but if it had, i would not have hesitated to stay there. But Port Douglas is a great place as well and you wouldn't be as isolated as you would be on an island. You could easily take a cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef or a drive up to the Daintree Rainforest. Port Douglas has many restaurants and shops and a wide range of accommodations. If you stay in Cairns, I can highly recommend the Shangri-La Hotel. Book a Deluxe Seaview or an executive Marina View Room. While in Cairns you can take a trip to the small town (village popular with tourists) of Kuranda. Sydney has museums, the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens, the Opera House, an amazing harbor, and wonderful restaurants; it's easily one of the world's most captivating cities.

In May the south of Australia, like NZ, starts to get cooler, but these are ideal times for visiting the north, such as Tropical North Queensland and Northern Territory. Tropical North Queensland and Northern Territory are subject to cyclones from November through April. Darwin and Kakadu National Park (aboriginal culture, wildlife, interesting landscapes) would also be good places to go in May.

I live in Dunedin, on the South Island of NZ. In my opinion, most of the best of NZ is on the South Island and, in May, it can get quite cold. I'm thinking if you are dreaming of over-the-water-bungalows, which most of us associate with tropical climes, like French Polynesia or Fiji (though the only one I've stayed in I was on El Nido, Palawan, the Philippines), NZ in May would not suit you. May is late autumn. It will be cooler weather. It could be sunny and dry, but I am almost sure you will at some point encounter cold and rain, possibly even early snow. The days are also short, with the sun rising at approximately 7:30 a.m. and setting at 7:30 p.m. This being said, if you don't mind a little cold and rain, May is all right for NZ and the hiking can be spectacular. But you must dress for the occasion.

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Old Mar 25th, 2022, 01:45 PM
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Just to clarify, no we are not trying to cram multiple countries into 1 trip! I was really just looking to see if there was a top country to start our planning from.

Since posting we've decided to change plans because it won't be ideal weather or time of year for this part of the world! But I am going to welcome any and all ideas for first trip to the region planning. We'll probably plan a trip during the spring or summer months instead. For our May trip it looks like Portugal is our winner!

Appreciate everyone's responses and feedback! Fodors is always my favorite travel forum!
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Old Mar 25th, 2022, 05:40 PM
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May for popular Portugal is a great idea. It's one of my favorite countries and I look forward to returning, though I'd probably opt for October.

For future reference, with respect to NZ travel planning, if you like warmer, sunnier weather then February would be best for New Zealand (unless you're here to ski and snowboard). I also like early December (before summer school holidays) when we're just going into summer. February has more settled weather, but December isn't as busy as February, and our longest days are in December. But February is better for wildlife viewing (sea lions and seals have pups; penguins, albatrosses and other birds are rearing chicks, etc.). Most travelers don't come to NZ for the nightlife, they mainly come for the great outdoors, so longer days are of great value. April is also nice because of the autumn leaves, autumn wine harvest, and still mainly pleasant weather, but the days are shorter and start to get colder and wetter. There are also school holidays in April, which should be avoided if possible.

I love traveling in Australia, too, at any time of the year. It's a vast country that offers an astounding diversity of environments and variety of activities. You mentioned liking "a balance between sightseeing, relaxing, pseudo adventure (moderate hiking but not 8 hours of it in one day), cities, small towns, art, culture, wildlife etc." On each of my many vacations in Australia, I've managed to pack in all of that and more (including snorkeling, scuba diving, fine dining, and wine tasting), whether I've had only one week or several weeks. It's easy to get around Australia and Australians are fantastically friendly.

I'd say for those who enjoy walking in a variety of landscapes and observing wildlife, Australia and New Zealand would offer more than Portugal. But as you mentioned having an interest in wildlife, I'd like to suggest birdwatching while you are in Portugal. It's a main stopover for migrating birds. Even busy Lisbon has easy access to a top birdwatching on the Tagus Estuary. This out-of-town day trip also makes for a nice, interesting break from urban sightseeing.

I'm no Iberian Peninsula expert, but I haven't heard of any over-the-water bungalows in Portugal, but you could easily find one on a South Pacific stopover as you make your way to Australia or New Zealand. I would check Air Tahiti Nui's website for deals like this in the near future. For future planning, remember cyclone season in the South Pacific falls between November and April.
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Old Mar 26th, 2022, 01:04 PM
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We're leaving for Portugal in three days!
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Old Mar 26th, 2022, 08:06 PM
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Good for you, Mel! Hope you have a fabulous time - and please write one of your wonderful Trip Reports.
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Old Mar 26th, 2022, 11:37 PM
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Lucky you! May you have a wonderful trip and enjoy many bottles of fine vintage port--and some aged tawnies, too!
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Old Mar 27th, 2022, 04:28 AM
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Thank you ladies, I shall do my best.

Sorry to hijack your thread Minooka, I saw the mention of Portugal and couldn't resist.
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