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How's this itinerary for New Zealand in November/December?

How's this itinerary for New Zealand in November/December?

Old Jul 6th, 2010, 09:25 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2003
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How's this itinerary for New Zealand in November/December?

Hi Fodorites
I'm back for your help with the last bit of planning for our Great Adventure. (I've posted previously about taking this trip to celebrate our retirement, and you have given some great advice.) We'll have 24 days total in New Zealand.

I've read guide books and TRs and posts till I'm dizzy, and we have a pretty clear idea of where we want to go. I realize we can't see it all, so we have eliminated some spots to avoid too much churning round the countryside. We're supposed to enjoy this, not make it a race from Cape Reinga to Bluff!

About us: we love to travel, enjoy beautiful scenery, visit vineyards, drink good wine and eat good food. We like art galleries, history, music, and lazy beach days. Stay at nice-but-not-over-the-top hotels and B&Bs, or self-catering apartments or cottages. We like to walk, not hike -- Mr SB's knees not up to that. We will mostly travel independently, taking occasional day tours here and there. We'll rent a car as the most practical way to get around.

The plan so far: fly from Melbourne to Auckland at the end of our Australia trip and spend one (or two) nights in Auckland.
- Drive to the far north, visit Bay of Islands area and take flightseeing trip to Cape Reinga. (Love the sound of the Cavalli Beach House, which is over our budget but looks fantastic for a couple of nights.) Would that be a good place to stay?

- Drive right to Rotorua for a couple of nights to experience Maori history and culture, then drive to Wellington for 2 nights (really want to see Te Papa).

- Take ferry to Picton, and stay 3 nights in Nelson area -- do a winery tour and water taxi to Abel Tasman. Is Nelson a good central spot to locate for the north coast area of SI?

- Drive to Christchurch for 3 nights -- visit Akaroa. Maybe we can work in a sheep station stay here?

- Drive to Dunedin/Otago peninsula area for 2-3 nights. Must see albatross!

- Final driving spurt through the Catlins to Te Anau, and visit the fjords. I think we really want to see both Doubtful and Milford sounds -- maybe do the overnight cruise on one or the other? That is still TBD.

Lastly, drive to Queenstown for a flight back to Auckland, then the next day take our flight back to the US (LAX).
Phew! ;-)

So -- are we crazy? I know it's a busy schedule, but it does take in the places we most want to see. It may be our only chance, after all.

Your thoughts/alerts/advice are all very welcome. And thanks for all the great ideas I've gotten here already!
SB_Travlr is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2010, 12:37 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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SB -

No, you're not crazy.

<Is Nelson a good central spot to locate for the north coast area of SI?>

Yes, but keep in mind that the water taxis into Abel Tasman leave from Marahau and Kaiteriteri, so you'll need to drive from Nelson to one or the other to board the taxi...you're looking at a ~30-40 minute drive to/from Nelson (unless there's a new option I'm not aware of). If you plan to walk a section of the Abel Tasman track, you'll want to get an early start.

You'll pass right through some of Nelson's wine region on the drive between Nelson and Motueka (the town near Abel Tasman). I personally like to base myself in/around Upper Moutere, which is located between Nelson and Motueka and smack dab in the middle of the wineries, but that's just my personal preference. Nelson is a pretty little town and well worth some time.
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Old Jul 7th, 2010, 06:09 PM
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I did a similar trip in January of this year- spending around 29 days in NZ. You should base yourself in Pahia in the Bay of Islands - as most tours depart from here (dolphin tours etc). Also be aware that if you are driving up to the Cape- a good deal of the road is unsealed, which means you cant travel much over 20/30km/h.

I would suggest that you allow some time for the Coromandal peninsula on the North Island - mabe take a day or two out of your Auckland time to do this- as there is not a whole lot to do in Auckland- unless you plan to visit some of the outlying islands. Also, I would agree with Melng8 - Motueka is a very good place to base yourself for Abel Tasman- which was one of my favourite places in NZ- and you should def walk some of the track. We did a 2 day 1 night trip in Abel Tasman - which involved getting a water taxi to the end- kayaking for a day back to a half way point- during which we saw seals (they even came on board our kayaks- they were very playful), stayed overnight on a boat docked in a bay, and then walked the rest of the way back the next day. It was incredibly beautiful.

We drove from Motueka to the glaciers- a long journey- but worth it for the helihike! And then onwards to Queenstown and the Sounds- which deserve 4/5 nights at least!!! Dunedin is very relaxing- but two nights is more than enough here, and whilst we were lucky to see the Crusaders play in Christchurch (as well as meeting them in Motueka during a warm up match), there isnt a whole lot to Christchurch so maybe you should reconsider spending so long there?

Good luck on your trip. New Zealand is magical. Even though he takes a while to get between towns/attractions- the scenery is breathtaking all the way.
rtw0910 is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2010, 06:16 PM
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One last thing- I recommend you stay in Picton for at least one night. If you get an early ferry from Wellington- you should organise a wine tour from Picton in the Marlborough region for that day. It was one of the best experiences we had. These are relatively inexpensive compared to tours in Napa valley etc - as they can cost no more than 100NZ and include lunch at some of the most well known wineries in the world and you wont have to pay extra for tastings. Its then a comfortable drive onwards to Nelson / Motueka the next day. Around 2/3 hrs from what I remember.
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Old Jul 10th, 2010, 12:23 PM
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thanks mel and rtw. Must say I hate when work gets so busy that I can't pay attention to my forum posts!!

In NI, we thought about staying in the Paihia/Russell area, and doing a flight-seeing/drive trip up to Cape Reinga. (Sounds like a good way to go to avoid a very long driving day.) I'm still pondering a night or two at Cavalli Beach House, which looks fab.

I appreciate the suggestions about staying near Picton to do a wine tour before heading to Nelson/Moutere/Motueka area. We will for sure visit Abel Tasman, but we're not going to do any big league tramping. ;-)

Time in Christchurch is to visit Akaroa, which I just like the sound of, and to take the Tranz Alpin over Arthur Pass.

Any thoughts about visiting fjords from Te Anau area?
SB_Travlr is offline  
Old Jul 10th, 2010, 04:22 PM
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It's a ~two hour drive to Milford Sound from Te Anau, including a few stops. There are some wonderful hikes along the way, in particular the hike to Key Summit, which is on the Routeburn Track. Easy to fit into your Milford day if you get an early start.

The cruises to Doubtful leave from Lake Manapouri, which is in the opposite direction of Milford, but easy to reach from Te Anau.

Knowing how much time you plan to spend in/around Te Anau would be a help.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2010, 04:17 PM
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Mel, so far we've got 3-4 days in Te Anau area -- I'm still figuring out how exactly many days to spend where! We've squeezed as much time for the trip as we can to still get home in time for Christmas...
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