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crellston Feb 23rd, 2017 12:17 AM

Help with planning 7 weeks in NZ
I am in the midst of planning our third trip to New Zealand and could really do with some help and input. We arrive in late August and will be covering the South and North Islands over 7 weeks, arriving in Christchurch and departing Auckland. Planning on roughly 4/5 weeks South and 2/3 weeks North islands.

We have covered most of the major sights on both islands but I am sure there is a lot we have missed or should have spent more time at. Some places that immediately spring to mind that we have either missed completely or didn't spend enough time at include:

Abel Tasman
Tongariro crossing
Bay of Islands
Mt Aspiring NP
Cape Reinga
Doubtful Sound

We are renting a Wilderness van which has no restriction on roads etc. and is set up for wild/freedom camping so we are keen to get to more remote places using either Freedom or DOC camping sites and using commercial campsites infrequently when in desperate need of hot showers/battery recharge etc.

Keen on walking - (day hikes only as we don't want to leave the van unattended overnight), great scenery, farmers markets

Any suggestions for your favourite, "don't miss" places, experiences, campsites etc. to add to our list would be very much appreciated.

Melnq8 Feb 23rd, 2017 04:38 AM

Glenorchy - enough day hikes there to keep you busy for a week. I'm not well-versed in camping options there though. You'll want to stock up on food before you leave the Queenstown area, as not much on offer in Glenorchy food-wise.

I can give you a list of hike options if interested.

From Glenorchy you'll get a big dose of Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park. Be sure to visit Paradise - nice walking track there as well as gobsmacking views.

You must take the boat and bus and then another boat to get to Doubtful Sound. A long day trip, but you can leave your camper in the ferry parking lot. Lots of nice tracks/camping options between Manapouri and Milford - you could probably easily spend a week in that area too - I could anyway.

You're spoiled for choice in/around Abel Tasman as well. Lots of tracks, lots to see and do. Did you visit Kaiteriteri and Little Kaiteriteri last time? Did you get to Mapua and the Tasman (village) areas? So much to see and up up that way, truly.

tasmangirl Feb 23rd, 2017 11:23 AM

Great you are coming back there for the third time!
But why August? I find it the most depressing dreary month of the year (I live in Auckland) but the weather maybe better in the South. Think of it as the February of the Northern Hemisphere.
Heading to the Bay of Island is a great idea.Cape Reinga is worth the trip.
The Tongariro Crossing walk will be in the winter season and there will probably be snow. A guide is recommended unless you are very confident with alpine winter conditions and have all the gear as well. Here's the DOC website about winter conditions.
Coromandel is lovely and the day walk around the top is on my bucket list. However in August...the weather may not be so good. Matakana Coast area (1 hour from Auckland)has some lovely beaches etc but then again you are there in August. I would recommend a day trip to Kawau Island (catch a ferry from Sandspit. Sir George Grey built a lovely house for himself - Mansion House - which is now a museum. He imported wallabies to the island and some unusual plants.
Have you braved the Takaka hill and discovered Golden Bay?
Then again in August it might rain every day...this summer in New Zealand has been awful hardly a summer at all so who knows what the winter will be like!

Diamantina Feb 23rd, 2017 02:08 PM

Camp Glenorchy has been in the news a lot the last three years, but work is set to be finished by "late 2017."

Best to do the Doubtful Sound overnight trip, because, as Melnq8, says, the day trip makes for a long day. I did the overnight trip a few years ago, also in winter, and still thought it made for a long trip. I found the trip across Lake Manapouri as enjoyable as being on Doubtful Sound itself. You'd have to leave your van overnight at the Manapouri dock, but the company you're cruising with could probably store your luggage in their local office. You'd have to ask. I think break-ins are rare in Manapouri.

crellston Feb 24th, 2017 01:41 AM

Thank you all for your responses.

Melnq8 - thanks a list of hike options around glenorchy would be great! found the paradis walk on to link - looks v. Interesting.

Agree with your comments re Manapouri etc. We have spent quiet a bit of time in that area already ( and loved it). Last time we hike from Rainbow Creek to Lake Manapouri along part of th Kepler track and though it was one of the best hikes ever!

Abel Tasman was THE place we really shortchanged on our last visit. We camped at Kaiteriri (at the most unfriendly site we have ever encountered in NZ!!) Liked the place though. This time we are planning on staying further into the park and spending 3-4 days - just trying to ascertain which sites offer campervan access. Will look into the Mapua and Tasman villages you mention.

At the top of the SI, is queen charlotte sound track worth a day or two?.

Tasmangirl - why August?? Our first time in 2008 was June- July in 2015 we had all sorts of weather but still loved it. 2015 we were Tre from 15 Aug to 28 sept. Weather was terrible on arrival but cleared up within days - we had sun and blue skies, snow and everything in between and whilst cold initially it did warm up considerably as the time went by and we headed north when it was quiet warm. This time we are arriving at the end of August and leave 15 oct and so are hoping for slightly warmer as we go one. Coming from England we are used to "variable" weather. Our last trip in 2016 was to the Andes, much of the time hiking at high altitude and freezing temps. We always come we'll prepare - mostly with stuff we have bought in NZ - we are Icebreaker addicts and always get a major fix in the shops when we arrive :-)

I suppose the major reason for coming at this time of year is to avoid the crowds and have many of your amazing sights all to ourselves. Plus, apart from diving, we are not beach people and will be arriving in NZ after several months in the heat of Asia and so are looking forward to the cold..

We were in Coromandel last year and loved it. However, I think we may have missed the day walk around the top. Will looking into that and add to the list.

By the time we reach Auckland at the end of our trip, it will be mid October so hopefully some nice spring weather will have arrived. We have arranged to meet some friend there who are doing something similar so Matakana sounds perfect for our last night or two before we drop off the van - on the list, as is the island.

Tongariro crossing looks fantastic. On our first trip we were about drive to the centre to start the crossing but the weather closed in and the snow started so it was called off. Quite like Taupo as a place to stay a few days so I guess we will just wait and see. Thanks for the link, really helpful.

Diamantina - confess to being doubtful over a visit to Doubful Sound. We have done Milford so I am beginning to think we should maybe just think about Lake Manapouri itself rather than the sounds?

All this has been really helpful. Many thanks. If you, or anyone has any further suggestions or ideas please keep them coming. Much appreciated.

For anyone else planning a campervan trip, I have found one of the campsite apps available from Rankers, CamperMate and wilderness invaluable in sourcing campsites. DOC, Commercial and Freedom sites are all on there with good info, reviews and downloadable offline maps.

crellston Feb 24th, 2017 01:43 AM

Forgot to add tasmangirl- we did brave Takata Hill and "discovered" Golden Bay - one of our favourite places and we found the best fish and chips in New Zealand there!

ms_go Feb 24th, 2017 03:44 AM

Melnq8, I'm also interested in hikes around Glenorchy. We are planning to spend a day next week in that area (day trip from Queenstown)--so maybe looking for a little warm-up hike before starting the Milford Track the next day. Thanks!

Melnq8 Feb 24th, 2017 06:12 AM

<<At the top of the SI, is queen charlotte sound track worth a day or two?.>>

Absolutely. One of my favorite tracks, and much quieter than Abel Tasman (don't tell anyone).

FWIW, I've had very good (and horrible) weather on the SI in August during our winter trips.

Glenorchy tracks we've enjoyed (check DOC track alerts before setting out)

Invincible Gold Mine track, about three hours return. Access: Thirty minutes drive up Rees Valley Road from Glenorchy. The road is gravel with fords.

Glenorchy Walkway - a boardwalk that crosses wetlands with plenty of opportunity to view bird life as well as views of Mt Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi and the surrounding ranges. The track starts at the northern end of Glenorcy.

More here (note Lake Rere was a great walk, but LONG and challenging - lots of mud, scree and sheep poop when we walked it. Lake Rere itself wasn't terribly exciting, but the views of Lake Wakatipu on the descent were stunning.

tasmangirl Feb 24th, 2017 10:05 AM

August is good then! There is something delightful about having a place to yourself.
Turangi has some charms as a base for the TAC. It's walked one way so most people organise some transport/shuttle for getting back to their vehicle or they leave it at the end.
There is a RV park at the bottom of Lake Taupo - I'll try and find the exact address. There was quite a little community of RV people there and some American birdwatchers all intently watching the lake shore with their binoculars.
Have you been to Waiheke? It would be $$$ for the campervan but it's a gorgeous place.
Coromandel Coastal walkway is based out of Coromandel village and like the TAC another one way walk but not as tough!
You'd probably love Great Barrier Island but that would have to be after you'd dropped the van off. I have not been there yet but if you like the remote and beautiful check it out.

Diamantina Feb 25th, 2017 12:40 AM

Doubtful Sound is three times longer than the Milford Sound, and its sea surface area 10 times larger. It branches off into three arms and contains islands. There's a hostel at Doubtful Sounds' Deep Cove for people who want to explore more, mainly used by educational groups, but also open to casual visitors.

I took the DS overnight cruise in September, when the boat wasn't even half-full, so I ended up with a room for four all to myself. I'm not saying you'd get this lucky, but if you were to take the cruise, it's a possibility.

I actually prefer Milford Sound because it's smaller and seems to rise higher around you. Doubtful Sound is amazing as well, but more open and spread out. It'd be nice to have more than a night and day there.

tasmangirl Feb 25th, 2017 10:48 AM

Silly question Diamantina - but how would you get to the hostel? I will check it out. I have not been to Doubtful Sound but it's on my list....(long way down there from Auckland).
Anyway we are diverting from helping Crellston. I'm guessing the overall scenery is much the same so if you skip it you won't feel like you have missed too much. Besides you would have to leave the van if you do an overnight cruise so that's a bit of a waste of money.
What about Lake Waikaremoana (head east after Rotorua). You could do some day walks, fishing, kayaking. I'm not sure about the road for a campervan however.

tasmangirl Feb 25th, 2017 01:31 PM

Afterthought - maybe not Waikaremoana in August! The road may be pretty bad if it is not sealed. A guy at work went there in January so I'll ask him about the road. It's definitely out of cell phone range in that area so if you got stuck it could be a big problem.

Diamantina Feb 25th, 2017 03:57 PM

Not a silly question, tasmangirl. That's precisely what I wonder when I saw the hostel for the first time. You'd have to arrange transport with Real Journeys, probably have to join one of their tours.
It looked busy with school groups when I was there. I wonder how it would be with the sandflies.

I'd first heard about it through University of Otago students, as one of the university's marine science field stations is right next door.

Doubtful Sound is an amazing place, relatively untouched, less bustling than Milford Sound. Though still not entirely pest-free, it must look much like it did in 1793, when explorer Alessandro Malaspina and his crew sailed into it.

crellston Feb 27th, 2017 08:57 AM

Lake Waikaremoana looks terrific, thanks - added to the list although it does seem as there are no circular walks there but there and back is ok too. Will be on the north island in October not August so hopefully it will have warmed up by then?

The hikes around Glenorchy have also been noted.

Still doubtful on Doubtful Sound :-) will see how it goes as we travel although so may other places it may be falling out of contention

Haven't been to waiheke but yes, it does look expensive to get the van over there so probably a no no.

For anyone else planning a similar trip, I have been busy searching through the excellent NZ Frenzy iBook provided as part of the deal with Wilderness Vans. Really helpful for more out of the way place. Also finding the Campervan app very useful - provides comprehensive info on DOC, Freedom and commercial campsites as well as dump stations, ATMs etc..

Thanks once again for your input guys. Much appreciated and keep it coming (even if I am suffering from information overload!!

tasmangirl Feb 27th, 2017 05:07 PM

I asked the work guy about the road (as I was there years ago and he's just been) and he said 'hell of a road and not sealed' so maybe not the best choice!
Plenty of other awesome places to go.
Re Waiheke can you hand the van back a day or so before and stay in a hotel? Then you could explore some Hauraki Gulf Islands. Tiritiri Matangi and Ranngitoto are worth a visit.

crellston Feb 28th, 2017 07:22 AM

Thanks for the opinion on the road. I think I will ask the opinion of Wilderness. That way, if they say it is ok nad if it all goes horribly wrong, at least I can blame them :-) . However, as you say, there are loads of ather places to choose from.

A few places on the NI I have added that look interesting include:

Waipoua Kauri forest
Paihia or Russell near the Bay of Islands
Waitomo caves
Mt Taranaki & Whanganui river road

Any thoughts?

mlgb Feb 28th, 2017 08:22 AM

Been to NZ many times but never in August! I like Central Otago nd would recommend the Maniototo but I am guessing it would be bitterly cold.

Anyways you can browse this re the Otago Rail/Trail if you have not already done that area

Another area you may not have been to yet with some interesting scenery is Karamea, which access the Heaphy Track, and Oparara Arch. Again, no idea of conditions in August..maybe fewer sandflies? Scott's Beach is a good day hike from the end of the road.

I don't know if they ever improved the River Road but it was rough when I did lane with no visibility around the curves and gravel the whole way.

mlgb Feb 28th, 2017 09:27 AM

Re Doubtful.. if you've already been to Milford, I wouldn't. It will be an expensive trip (I think it is only by escorted tour).

As for the coastal areas, you may find that in August they aren't really as nice as during warmer weather and may not be fully open but you'll be self contained. I thought the Karikari peninsula was beautiful (note..not Kerikeri)

crellston Feb 28th, 2017 10:17 AM

Hi mlgb, A change to meet you in NZ rather than South America!

Thank you so much re Karikari Peninsula - I had read about it several weeks ago but failed to make a note and have been racking my brain ever since to remember the name!

Karamea looks exactly the sort of place we would like, it does seem like a dead end roads-wise and would involve back tracking to our penultimate destination of Abel Tasman (unless google maps is missing some roads?). maybe we could stop off in Murchison on the way to break the journey.

Thanks for the info on the river road - do you recall how long it was? also for the Otago rail trail - some Aussies we met in Vietnam were raving about their bike trip around that area.

Melnq8 Feb 28th, 2017 10:50 AM

Google is correct, no missing roads. Karamea is one way in and one way out.

We spent three nights there many years ago.

There are some interesting limestone caves, the Heaphy track and lots and lots of sandflies.

Not much in Murchison, although we've spent a few nights there too. Mostly hiking tracks and more sandflies.

But if you're looking for off-the-beaten path, isolated and quiet, they both fit the bill. If you're in the area (Murchison) don't miss Maruia Falls.

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