Help with Trip to New Zealand - Feb

Nov 30th, 2008, 02:12 PM
  #1  
sph
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Help with Trip to New Zealand - Feb

Hello,

This web site has been invaluable in helping me plan a few trips so I am asking for help again.

My husband and I are visiting NZ the second wk in Feb 09 for 2 weeks. We fly into Auckland. I keep reading that the South Island is the best and I am starting from scratch. We were in Australia a few years ago and had fun snorkeling, diving, hiking, etc.

We would like to know of some great hikes, swimming with dolphins etc. Also wondering if a bike tour of the wine region in Aukland is worth a day or two -- also how we should split our time between islands or just head straight for the South Island. Any help is appreciated.
sph is offline  
Nov 30th, 2008, 03:10 PM
  #2  
 
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The South Island has the mountains, lakes, fjords etc. and all the more what is usually termed spectacular scenery and like anywhere great you can never have enough time it seems.

But there is still some lovely countryside on the North Island - typical - http://www.hickerphoto.com/waikato-m...3-pictures.htm , plenty of opportunities for walks and I'm not too sure on any organised bicycle touring for the Aucland region wineries but not far out of Auckland to the north there is lovely countryside including wineries and Warkworth - www.warkworthnz.com is a lovely place to centre yourself for a few days to get over jetlag.

You could do one day tripping around wineries, and another on the Royal Mailboat Cruise and then fly to say Wellington for a couple of days and then take the ferry - www.interislander.co.nz or www.bluebridge.co.nz to Picton and book a hire car to pick up from there.

http://www.newzealand.com/travel/sig...ights-home.cfm is one site with general travel info and on www.travelplanner.co.nz hold control down when clicking on distances and then you may need to click on the link and you get a dinky mao with a drag control to get distances/time between ket areas.
Bushranger is offline  
Nov 30th, 2008, 03:36 PM
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Also, re hikes [and you will find walks to lookouts and falls etc. well signposted] have a look at www.doc.govt.nz for very comprehensive information on national parks, trails and locations etc.

One thing that some car hirers do in NZ is to disable the car internal boot release and that allows people to have all their gear in a boot with less likelihood of a break-in when parked at a trail car-park - it has been known to happen, and quite frequently in some areas so see if you can get such a vehicle and they usually put a sticker on one of the windows to let would be thieves know.

You're also going when the SI is going to be very busy so it'll pay to get something of a doable plan mapped out and accommodation booked now!
Bushranger is offline  
Nov 30th, 2008, 07:18 PM
  #4  
 
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Without wishing to be dismissive of the North Island's attractions, I think that you would be best advised to spend most (if not all) of your time in the South Island. You could easily fill your 2 weeks down here. Although NZ is a small country and is quite compact in terms of being able to see and do a variety of things within relatively short distances of each other, you need to spend a bit of time in each place to properly enjoy what is on offer.

If you are likely to have only one shot at the Sth Island, and you have the time, my ideal trip recommendation would be a "figure of eight" car trip from Christchurch with either of these options (the numbers in brackets show the number of nights that you would need to stay as a minimum to enjoy what is on offer in each place):

1. Christchurch to Punakaiki via Arthurs Pass (1), Golden Bay (2), Nelson (2), Blenheim (2), Kaikoura (1), Fox or Franz Josef Glacier via the inland route to Lewis Pass (through Waiau) (2), Wanaka (1), Queenstown (Milford Sound day trip from Queenstown)(2), Mt Cook (1), Christchurch.

2. Christchurch to Franz Josef or Fox Glacier via Arthurs Pass, Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Mt Cook, Christchurch, Punakaiki via Hanmer Springs,Lewis Pass and Greymouth, Golden Bay, Nelson, Blenheim, Kaikoura and back to Christchurch.

I have suggested 2 nights in each of Nelson and Blenheim in view of your expessed interest in wine. you may not have the luxury of enough time for this, though. There will be good wine-tasting opportunities in Cental Otago as well.

Some of the driving days would be quite busy, and a couple of intermediate stops could be substituted.

As you will see, this does not allow for any time in Christchurch itself.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Dec 1st, 2008, 02:54 PM
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Have you browsed the boards for other's trip reports and itineraries? It will help to get a handle on what's possible in two weeks. A common mistake is to plan too much, because you think an island must be small. It isn't.

How important is the diving and snorkeling? For the most part, dive sites are accessible from the North Island. Search Poor Knights if you aren't familiar with that. The North Island does have the Tongariro Crossing, which is a heck of a day hike. It's also got some beautiful beaches up around Northland. Matai Bay was my favorite.

Are you interested in Alpine scenery, glaciers, fiords/sounds, glacial blue lakes etc? That's primarily a feature of the South Island. Great hikes include the Abel Tasman coast, and the Routeburn track. Dolphin swims are especially popular out of Kaikoura and Akaroa, near Christchurch on the South Island.

There are wine regions on both islands, so I wouldn't plan an itinerary around that. Nor would I spend much time in Auckland, there is just a whole lot more to see. You can always spend the first and last day there.
mlgb is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 08:38 AM
  #6  
sph
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Wow, thank you all so much! I have decided that we should head straight to the SI - maybe one night in Auckland to get on our feet. Diving and snorkeling is not important on this trip but hiking, fjords, glaciers, lakes are critical - also swimming with the dolphins would be a highlight so I wonder if kiwi rob's # 2 option fills all this. We are adventurous and love exercise -

Please let me know the best way to get from Auckland to Christchurch which is where I assume we should pick up the rental car.


Thanks again - for some reason on this trip I am having trouble with all of the names of glaciers vs towns etc so mapping it out for me is extremely helpful!

sph is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 08:54 AM
  #7  
sph
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OK another question, I am getting excited about this trip! Looking at Kiwi rob's 2 options I wonder if Dunedin is anywhere near - I read that we can see penguins also wonder about sea kayaking in fijordland but again I have no idea about any of this - more help please!
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Dec 2nd, 2008, 09:18 AM
  #8  
sph
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Kiwi Rob - question... looking over options 1 and 2 it looks like we have to backtrack through Christchurch on option 2 so is option 1 a better choice as I see that Kairkoura is also on option 1 - thanks
sph is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 10:46 AM
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You are correct, sph, Kaikoura is in the mix under either option, and this would give you the opportunity to swim with the dolphins. I prefer option 1 because of the chance to do the inland drive through Waiau -- it just gives you a look at a bit of the countryside that is usually missed. It does mean that you would not go through the Waipara wine area north of Christchurch, but you would get plenty of opportunity for wine tasting, etc, in the Nelson, Blenheim and Central Otago areas.

The drive from Kaikoura through to the Glaciers would be a fairly long day, and you could break it with an overnight at (say) Hanmer Springs or Maruia Springs. Both have thermal pools for a bit of R&R, but Maruia is far less developed than Hanmer. Hanmer Village is a thriving tourist destination, but Maruia is on its own in the middle of the mountains.

Dunedin is a possibility, but you are starting to look at a three week itinerary, not two. If you had an extra week to spare, I would be steering you down south of Dunedin to spend a night or two in the Caitlins area. This would be an add-on from Queenstown before your return to Christchurch.

There are plenty of flights from Auckland to Christchurch and plenty of rental car options available from Christchurch Airport.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 11:22 AM
  #10  
sph
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THANK YOU!!!!!!
sph is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 11:44 AM
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If it was me, I'd plan the following itinerary (which can be done in reverse).

Fly into Dunedin, 2 nights minimum. If you're really interested in wildlife, you can easily pick up Dunedin. The Elm Wildlife tour is a day-tour that will take you to the Otago Peninsula Albatross Colony as well as a private beach for viewing the yellow-eyed penguins. Alternatively, you can go to Penguin Place, a crazy half-military half-wildlife viewing venue. Dunedin town has two good tours (the Cadbury chocolate factory and Speights brewery). The Otago Museum is excellent.

Travel Dunedin to Queenstown via Alexandra, Clyde and Cromwell. This is actually were the best Pinot Noirs are from, labels like Mt. Difficulty. You might want to stay around Clyde (cute town) and then continue on into Queenstown the next day.

I would definitely see Queenstown including a Milford Sound side trip. And the steamship Earnslaw is a good rainy-day activity (you visit a sheep station at the end of the lake). Here you can jetboat, head up some of the "Lord of the Rings" canyons, etc. I'd allow 3 nights minimum. Add another night if you go up to Glenorchy and hike part of the Routeburn Track.

From Queenstown, you have two choices to head back north and see some glaciers along the way. The glacial blue lakes are best seen on the east side of the Southern Alps, near Mt. Cook (Lake Tekapo and Pukaki. You can reach this in a day's drive from Christchurch. If the weather is good, I think Mt. Cook National Park is worth seeing. There's some good glacier viewing of the Tasman Glacier, and there's even a small boat cruise of the terminal lake. You can also take glacier overflights and landings out of the Mt. Cook side of the Alps...you don't have to do this out of Franz/Fox.

The alternative is to head up the West Coast, with overnights at Fox/Franz. I only recommend this route if the weather is forecast clear.

Either way, you'll want 2-3 nights to reach Christchurch.

Once you're in Christchurch, you can day trip to Kaikoura or Akaroa for dolphin swims. The Waipara wine region is about an hour north of Christchurch on the way to Kaikoura. You can also do the Arthur's Pass train as a day trip (or overnight to the west coast).

Personally, I think I'd give the following locations a lower priority:

Punakaiki via Hanmer Springs, Lewis Pass and Greymouth, Golden Bay, Nelson, and Blenheim.

mlgb is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 10:01 AM
  #12  
sph
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Finalizing trip - I am really struggling with lodging.. not finding my preferences available.

Couple questions - if I can find a place to stay in the golden bay area is this close to Queen Charlotte Track or am i way off?

also, I can get a room at Millbrook in Queenstown but is it too inconveninet based on being 20 min from town?

Thanks
sph is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 10:27 AM
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Have you had a look at any maps yet?

Collingwood to Picton is at least 3 hours (and probably 4) each way. Once in Picton you're still not on the track, you would want to book a track transport launch.

Not sure why anyone would go to Golden Bay on a 2-week trip. It's very much out of the way. If you must see part of the north coast of the South Island, I'd recommend the Abel Tasman Coast.

Millbrook Resort is a golf resort on the outskirts of Arrowtown. Not terrible, I like staying in Arrowtown myself, but for a first visit I think Queenstown would be more convenient. For the same price as you'd be spending at Millbrook you should be able to get something in Queenstown with a nice view of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables.
mlgb is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 10:59 AM
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Yes, your GPS is way out in the Collingwood/Queen Charlotte connection.

I wouldn't be quite so dismissive of the Golden Bay region, since I find it a very relaxing part of NZ (I prefer to stay in the Pohara area and do a day trip over to the Collingwood side of the Bay). I do agree, though, that your 2 weeks could be quite busy if you are going to make the most of these various places.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 11:14 AM
  #15  
sph
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Thanks for the replys. I was using Kiwi Rob's recommendation when planning golden bay but I can't get a place to stay so maybe should go the Abel Tasman route. Now, another stupid question since I am struggling with regions vs towns etc - where does the Abel Tasman route fit into Rob's #1 itinerary if I take out golden bay - yes looking at a map this is not listed
sph is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 11:20 AM
  #16  
sph
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I know you are shaking your head right now. I see that Abel Tasman is not too far from Nelson area - can you give me an idea of drive time between the two? I am wondering where to book lodging in Abel Tasman area or should I just book three nights in Nelson in lieu of Golden Bay and then drive to the area?

Thanks
sph is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 01:14 PM
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Hi sph -

I'm not sure which itinerary you've decided on, but please keep in mind that you just cannot see and do it all in two weeks. The SI looks small, but it takes much more time to get from point A to point B than you might expect. AND there are usually many reasons to stop along the way, making those drives even longer.

If you plan to do some hiking and to actually explore the places you want to visit, you'll need at least two nights in each area. This will allow you time to get there, plus a full day to get out and see the place.

I suggest you narrow down your options based on what YOU most want to do. If you're interested in the Queen Charlotte Track for instance, I'd suggest you spend two nights in the Marlborough Sounds, perhaps at a resort within the Sounds, most of which can only be reached by boat and some of which are right on the track.

You can walk a portion of the Queen Charlotte Track and arrange a water taxi to return you to where you started. It's a great way to see the track without committing to the entire three day walk.

I'm a big fan of Golden Bay, but it's not a place I'd normally suggest to a first time visitor with limited time. Same with Dunedin, but many people seem hellbent on going there for whatever reason.

To answer your question about Abel Tasman and Golden Bay -

Abel Tasman is accessible from Nelson, but it's about an hour's drive each way. There are closer places to stay if you want to spend a day in Abel Tasman - Marahau is a tiny area right at the doorstep of Abel Tasman, Kaiteriteri is a small beach community about 10 minutes from Marahau, the town of Motueka is about a 20 minute drive away, and Upper Moutere (wine region) and Mapua are halfway between Abel Tasman and Nelson (about a 30 minute drive).

When I visit the area I like to base myself in Upper Moutere, or one of the tiny spot-on-the-road towns between Nelson and Motueka (Ruby Bay area). This puts me right in wine country, and about 30 minutes from Abel Tasman. If you opt to do this, I'd suggest at least three nights, which will give you one full day for Abel Tasman and one full day for wineries, arts and crafts studios, a trip into Nelson, etc.

Abel Tasman can also be accessed from the Golden Bay side (look for Takaka on your map). BUT it's not near as easy as getting there from the Marahau side.

To reach Takaka, you'll need to drive from Motueka over Takaka Hill (a winding road that takes about 45 minutes) and then continues on to Takaka. From Takaka, you'll need to drive 28 kms on a squiggy, unsealed road to reach Totaranui, and from there you can catch a water taxi or walk into Abel Tasman.

The added bonus of staying on the Takaka side is that you can take a drive to Collingwood and maybe take a 4x4 trek to Farewell Spit, which is a place not many visitors to NZ manage to fit in. You're also realtively close to one end of the Heaphy track from this side, but once again, it takes some effort to get there - the beginning of the track is 33 km from the turnoff, 14 of which is pretty rough going (think cow paddocks and fords).

I have several detailed NZ trip reports posted here on Fodor's that might help you with your planning.

The first link has alot of details about the Abel Tasman area:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...3&tid=35062577

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...3&tid=35118771

Good luck with your planning.
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 02:33 PM
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There are people who would happily spend their entire two weeks on the north coast of the S. Island, however OP did seem to be interested in penguins and glacier scenery, neither of which can be found there (well, I'm not positive about the penguins).The attraction that draws people to Dunedin is the wildlife, specifically the yellow-eyed penguin and albatross.

I've successfully accessed Abel Tasman for a day hike from Nelson. They'll pick you up, and you take a water taxi to part of the track, walk a portion and return by launch. You can also catch the taxi from points closer to the park, and there are a few lodges insid the park.

http://www.abeltasman.co.nz/
mlgb is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 03:18 PM
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Point taken mlgb -I was just answering the latest question posed by sph.

If penguins are a major interest, they can also be found on the SI at Pohara (between Takaka and Totaranui in Golden Bay incidentially), at Akaora (Banks Peninsula) and along the West Coast between Punakaiki and the glaciers.
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 03:25 PM
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And sph - you can swim with the dolphins in Akaora, Kaikoura, Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman, just to name a few.
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