Heading to NZ this March

Nov 6th, 2018, 09:01 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2018
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Heading to NZ this March


It looks like we are heading to NZ from the U.S. the second week of March and will have around 14 days on the ground. We will be traveling mainly by rental car and hope to spend most of our nights in BnBs, Farm stays? and motels.Our interests are mainly critters and scenery.We both like water, mountains, and the like. We donít mind a little hiking either.We have a little interest in native culture as well as some touristy stuff.No real interest in wine, but do like good food when the budget allows.Here is a rough itinerary that we would like a little feedback on if you donít mind.There are only a few items on the north island that we are interested in at this point and there is plenty on the south. On the North Island, there is an extra day built in, but could be used on the South Island.Also, on the south island you will notice some free space.Originally, we had thought about spending some time in Abel Tasman, but canít seem to work that one out logistically and still keep the schedule at least a little relaxed.Seems like there is a lot in the area between the glaciers and Dunedin, but reading all the stuff makes my mind numbÖ..Somewhere in there we need to fit in Glow worms. Also, looking for a recommendation on Maori culture that isnít to cheesy.

Arrive in Auckland on Sunday morning.
Sunday night: Auckland-Motel near airport?It will be a minimum of 20 hrs travel and neither of us travel well.Pretty sure my wife will not sleep on the plane and we will likely get in around 8 am.
Monday: Pick up rental car and possibly move to a BnB a little ways out of town.There is a BnB that offers sailing.
Tuesday: The Hobbit Movie Set mid-morning*, then possibly something Moira in the afternoon-evening?*Spend the night in the area.
Wednesday: ?
Thursday: Wellington and a flight to Christchurch.
Friday: Christchurch with perhaps a Whale or Dolphin cruise.
Saturday: Take the Train to Greymouth, pick up a rental car and drive to Westport via Reefton if time allows.
Sunday: Drive along the coast to Fox Glacier area.
Monday: Fox Glacier area.*
Tuesday: ?
Wednesday: ?
Thursday: ?
Friday: Arrive at Dunedin
Saturday: Elms Wildlife tour and Monarch Wildlife Cruise.*
Sunday: Fly out of Dunedin to Auckland than home.

As a side note, we are definitely not seasoned travelers and this will more than likely be our only trip to NZ.
travelinsteve is offline  
Nov 7th, 2018, 06:37 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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Hi Steve,

I'm sorry to perhaps state the obvious, but you won't have a lot of time for driving around both the North and South Island. It would be good if you could free up more time for the South Island.

Are your domestic flights booked? I know you'll be exhausted, but could you possibly push on to the South Island first, maybe catch a connecting flight to Christchurch? Even if you can check into your Auckland airport hotel early, you might want to try adjust to NZ time, endeavor to stay up until dinner time, then go to bed early, finally catching up with your sleep. There isn't a lot to do around the Auckland Airport. There would be more to do in central Christchurch. You could walk around the Botanic Garden, visit the Canterbury Museum (the museum is on the edge of the Botanic Garden), have an early dinner, then go to sleep.

Otherwise, going with the schedule you've proposed: On your second day, that is, Monday, where exactly is your "a little ways out of town" B&B? When you said you would "possibly move" there on your second day, does this mean that you are not entirely committed to staying there? Could you consider moving on to Hobbiton (Matamata) instead? Because this would give you an extra day for the South Island. According to the AA Drive Distance Calculator, it would take you about 2 hours, 15 minutes to drive to Hobbiton's "Shire's Rest". (I've not been there myself ). When leaving your car unattended, make sure all your luggage is securely hidden away in the car's boot (trunk).

Maybe you could do a tour around midday or thereabouts. The tour would take 2 hours. Then you'd be driving to Rotorua to do a Māori experience, maybe seeing geothermal sites, and spending the night in Rotorua, correct? The drive from Hobbiton's "Shire's Rest" to Rotorua will take a little more than an hour.

It's been too long since I've visited Rotorua. I wish Tasmangirl could advise you as she knows this area well (she lives in Auckland), but she had mentioned starting a new job not long ago and my guess is she's too busy to post right now (because she's very helpful in the past).

We enjoyed the Māori carving and weaving school that we visited as part of our daytime tour (the "Te Rā Experience") at Te Puia. They also have a night program that includes a hāngi and Māori performance.

We also went to a hāngi and Māori performance on our first visit to Rotorua, but it was not at Te Puia. I can no longer remember where it was. It wasn't enjoyable or interesting and I must have wanted to forget all about it. Tamaki Cultural Village gets good reviews:
Have a look at these videos, so you can personally determine if it looks cheesy.

Rotorua to Wellington is a 5 hour 40 minute drive, without stops. But you will have to stop, probably more than once. You might want to spend the night some place along the way. Lake Taupo is the most scenic and popular in-between destination, but it would only shave an hour off your drive to Wellington. Taupo to Wellington would be a 4 hour 40 minute drive, without stops. Or you could stay in Tongariro National Park, but then you'd still have a 4 hour drive to Wellington the next day.

Here is a link to an article about the drive between Taupo and Wellington:
Part of this drive will take you on the Desert Road, the highest road on the North Island, which passes through Tongariro National Park. This landscape might look slightly familiar to you if you've seen Lord of the Rings. Mount Doom was actually Tongariro National Park's Mount Ngauruhoe. Take extra care when driving on Desert Road.

If you push on through to Wellington to spend the night there, then you'll have the advantage of waking up in Wellington the next day, and have one full day in Wellington, during which you can do a lot. If you're a Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fan, you might want to take a tour of the Weta Cave Workshop:
Absolutely visit Te Papa, the National Museum. Admission is free.

My ideal day in Wellington begins with catching the Wellington Cable Car from the CBD to the top (near the Botanic Garden),
then catching the free shuttle from near the top of the cable car to Zealandia, an ecosanctuary (a great place for people like us, who enjoy seeing NZ's native "critters") .

When finished visiting Zealandia, you can catch their free shuttle (check the times) down to the I-Site Tourism office near the waterfront, then just walk to Te Papa. This walk will take 8 to 10 minutes. Plan on at least two hours for touring Te Papa, which is open from 10am–6pm.

About the South Island. You wouldn't be able to do a dolphin or whale watch cruise out of Christchurch. You could both in Kaikoura, a 2.5 hour drive north of Christchurch. Akaroa also has dolphin, but not whale, cruises. It's a one hour 20 minute drive south of Christchurch. If you skip the whale/dolphin experience, then you'll free up another day for the south (to spend in Wanaka, Queenstown or Te Anau, base for self drive trips to Milford Road and Sound).

Just curious, why are you interested in driving from Christchurch to Westport and Reefton? These seems out of the way if you will then be heading south to the glaciers. Westport to Fox Glacier would be more than a 4 hour drive. Between Westport and Fox Glacier, you'd want to walk to the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki and drive to Hokitika Gorge to do the little walk across its swing bridge.
You might want to walk stop at Okarito Beach (before Franz Josef). You might want to stop in Franz Josef, if you have time, to take the short walk to Peter's Pool.

Will you be doing the Helihike on Fox Glacier? There is a free glow worm walk in Fox Glacier township. I've not seen the glow worms there, but here's the info:
After Fox Glacier, you might want to go to Wanaka. It's closer than Queenstown. But there's probably more for you to do and see around Queenstown and, if short on time, which you will be, you can do all day coach trip to Milford Sound (includes the cruise) from Queenstown. Both Wanaka and Queenstown are beautiful, but Queenstown is busier and more congested than Wanaka. If you stay in Queenstown, you'll want to take a drive to Glenorchy. You might want to visit Arrowtown as well.

I'm thinking you could follow this itinerary. I've cut the B&B in Auckland and the whale/dolphin cruise to add a day in Wanaka.

Sunday night: Auckland Airport
Monday: Hobbiton, then Rotorua
Tuesday: Drive to Wellington
Wednesday: Wellington
Thursday: Christchurch
Friday: Westport (I'd stay in Punakaiki or Hokitika)
Saturday: Fox Glacier
Sunday: Fox Glacier
Monday: Wanaka
Tuesday: Queenstown
Wednesday: Queenstown
Thursday: Drive to Milford Sound, do cruise, return to Te Anau, maybe do evening glow worm cave tour. This would be a long day with a lot of driving.
Friday: Drive to Dunedin or Otago Peninsula.
Saturday: Dunedin. Elm Wildlife Tour and Monarch Cruise.
Sunday: Fly out of Dunedin to Auckland than home.

With dolphin cruise in Akaroa

Sunday night: Auckland Airport
Monday: Hobbiton, then Rotorua
Tuesday: Drive to Wellington
Wednesday: Wellington
Thursday: Christchurch
Friday: Akaroa for dolphin cruise.
Saturday: Westport (or Punakaiki or Hokitika)
Sunday: Fox Glacier
Monday: Fox Glacier
Tuesday: Queenstown
Wednesday: Queenstown
Thursday: Queenstown (all day coach tour to Milford Sound).
Friday: Drive to Dunedin or Otago Peninsula.
Saturday: Dunedin. Elm Wildlife Tour and Monarch Cruise.
Sunday: Fly out of Dunedin to Auckland than home.

Last edited by Diamantina; Nov 7th, 2018 at 06:43 AM.
Diamantina is online now  
Nov 7th, 2018, 06:53 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,781
Hi Steve,

I always suggest that folks continue flying to the SI instead of breaking up the arrival in Auckland - I do it that way myself and it just seems to work better. That way you arrive at your first destination, can get a good night's sleep and then wake up ready to go the next morning already being where you want to be, without having to return to an airport a few days later

You really don't have sufficient time to see both the NI and the SI, but if you're really set on the NI, consider seeing it at the end of your trip, once you return to Auckland. If you're waffling (as you said you only have a few interests on the NI and plenty on the SI), why not just visit the South? Two weeks is sufficient to hit many of the SI's highlights without rushing around too much.

I also plan in nights instead of days - I'm assuming you have 13 nights?

You might consider something like this:

Arrive Christchurch - two nights - one to recover, one for a day trip to Akaroa for a whale or dolphin cruise - note Akaroa is about a 90 minute drive from Christchurch one way

Take the Train to Greymouth (or better yet, drive yourselves - the train goes through many tunnels and IMO the best views are from a car - and offers the flexibility to get out as you please and explore) Note that Westport and Reefton are in the opposite direction of the glaciers - not sure what you have in mind here.

You might consider the detour to Punakaiki, then back track and head to the glaciers for 2-3 nights. I always recommend at least two nights in the glacier area as two nights is only one full day - two full days is better if you're inclined to take any of the wonderful tracks in the area and get out and explore the nooks and crannies, take a heli-hike, etc.

Drive from Fox or Franz Josef glacier to Wanaka - this is a very full drive day, plenty to see en route - two nights Wanaka

Drive from Wanaka to Queenstown if you have any interest there, or just head to Te Anau, which makes a better base for visiting Milford Sound and is an ideal starting point for the drive to Dunedin via the Catlins) it just depends on what you hope to accomplish) - at least two nights here

Drive from Te Anau to Dunedin via the Catlins - maybe spend a night en route - lots to see and do in the Catlins - beautiful coastal scenery, seals, penguins, etc

Drive from the Catlins to Dunedin - 2-3 nights depending on your interests. Fly out of Dunedin or return to Queenstown and fly out from there.

Or if you have extra time, drive from Dunedin back to Christchurch via Mt Cook - then depart from Christchurch.

Your 13 nights is already full and we've not even discussed the NI. This is the problem with NZ - so much to see, so little time.

Just some food for thought.
Melnq8 is online now  
Nov 7th, 2018, 07:00 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,781
I see Diamantina and I have been simultaneously posting!
Melnq8 is online now  
Nov 9th, 2018, 07:31 PM
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Posts: 2
HI again
I appreciate the detailed replies!

Doing some more looking, we might actually fly to Christchrurch and do the NI last. Perhaps just to 2 night there before flying home.

After the train we were thinking of driving to Westport as the coastal scenery is very good. Also, Glowworms and the Pancake rocks sounded interesting. We may reconsider this also.

Hadn't read much about Wanaka. Looks like there is rafting and I might be able to rent a bike there. Sound interesting.

Also, might squeeze in Milford sound

I have some experience driving secondary roads in the Rocky mountains so I am not overly concerned, except for the whole driving on the other side of the road...…..
travelinsteve is offline  
Nov 10th, 2018, 06:21 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,752
Steve, do I understand correctly that you are now thinking of catching a domestic flight to Christchurch after arriving in Auckland, visiting Christchurch for a day or two (and getting over jet-lag), before renting a car to tour more of the South Island, ending your tour of the south in Dunedin for two days, where you will then fly to Auckland for a two night stay, before catching your flight home? Sounds much better. This will give you a few more days for the South Island.

If you spend a second day in Christchurch, you might consider taking the Black Cat Cruise in Akaroa. They give you the option of swimming with Hector's Dolphins, one of the world's smallest dolphins and native to New Zealand. Akaroa is about a 1.5 hour drive south of Christchurch. The road is curvy. There are also shuttles from Christchurch to Akaroa:
reviews here:
reviews here:
Before deciding to go to Akaroa, you might want to check its cruise ship schedule:

The Cape Foulwind walkway near Westport is beautiful. The coast from Punakaiki to Greymouth looks like this as well. So maybe you don't have to go as far as Westport. There are beautiful hiking trails in Punakaiki, in addition to the short track that goes out to the Pancake Rocks. However, if you have your heart set on seeing Westport, you would have time. In mid-March, the sun wlll rise at around 7:30 a.m. and sets around 8 p.m. The drive from Westport to Fox Glacier will take around 4 hours without stops. But you would want to stop at Punakaiki and Hokitika Gorge along the way.

Absolutely visit Milford Sound. Milford Road, the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound, is highly scenic, with many places to stop for photos, and with walking tracks of various types. This is one of the most beautful drives in the country. You'll want to read the follow web pages:
Milford Road tips for drivers;
Travel times, features of interest:

If planning on visiting Milford Road and Sound, it would be best to spend two nights in Te Anau, so you'd have one full day for driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound and back, and have time for stops (Mirror Lake is a must) and walks along Milford Road. A top walk is the Key Summit Track. It will take three hours return. Or do an overnight cruise on Milford Sound followed by a night in Te Anau.
Te Anau also has some nice walks, a bird sanctuary, and glow worm caves.

Without stops, the drive from Te Anau to Dunedin takes 3.5 to 4 hours, depending on what route you take, and where you're headed to in Dunedin. I live in Dunedin, so if you need advice on where to stay, what to do, etc., just ask. There are many things to see and do, especially on the Otago Peninsula (a kind of rural suburb of Dunedin). The city center also has lots of attractions. Greater Dunedin has many beautiful beaches, walking tracks and lots of wildlife. I've done the Elm Peninsula Encounters Tour three times and the Monarch Cruise four times. They're both great tours. With your other night in Dunedin, you might want to drive to Taiaroa Head to see the Little Blue Penguins swim ashore. If you get there early, you can watch for albatross flying above the Royal Albatross Centre. The is the Southern Hemisphere's only mainland albatross colony.The drive from the city to Taiaroa Head is winding and runs along the harbor.

You'll want to dress warmly and bring a wind- and waterproof jacket for any wildlife viewing. Even on sunny days, once the sun goes down, it gets cold. Bring snacks and water for the Elm Tour.

If the weather is fine, I highly recommend walking the Tunnel Beach Track while in Dunedin--unless you have knee problems. It's short but steep. Visit St. Clair Beach (it's only a 10-minute drive from the Tunnel Beach Track). When driving from Te Anau to Dunedin, you could easily go by the Tunnel Beach Track and St. Clair Beach.

Luckily, you'll have a co-pilot on board to remind you to drive on the left. Take care when entering road ways and at seemingly deserted intersections. It's easy to forget what side of the road you should be driving on when there's no one else around, and easy to forget which way to look before turning. But please don't forget.

Last edited by Diamantina; Nov 10th, 2018 at 06:32 AM.
Diamantina is online now  
Nov 10th, 2018, 03:17 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,752
FYI: If you decide to spend a day or two in Queenstown, it's considered the adventure capital of NZ, where there are many options for white water rafting and cycling.
Diamantina is online now  
Nov 11th, 2018, 01:06 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,752
Steve, you'll want to take a walk in Wanaka, It's got some great walking tracks:
Diamantina is online now  
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