Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Australia & the Pacific (
-   -   New Zealand Family Travel, North and South Island?? (

sarahly818 Apr 18th, 2018 07:37 AM

New Zealand Family Travel, North and South Island??

We will be traveling to New Zealand for a holiday for 16 days and are trying to figure out an itinerary. We will be flying into Auckland from the States with our 4 year old daughter. I am more inclined to rent a bach and enjoy beach vacation and use it as a home base for exploring the North Island. My husband wants to try and see both North and South islands. My husband is a kiwi and we are entertaining the idea of moving our family to New Zealand but this holiday is for us to see if it is ideal for us (I'm sure it will be!). I'd rather see landscape and country versus cities. Would both North and South island be feasible in 16 days with a 4 year old or would it just be too much driving? I don't want to do an additional flight between islands so we'd take the ferry. Any suggestions on places we can't miss other than the main tourist sites?

Melnq8 Apr 18th, 2018 10:23 AM

Hi Sarah -

You don't mention what time of year you plan to visit - this might impact your decision regarding island choice.

Beaches on the South Island tend to come with sand flies - so if beaches are your main focus, you might indeed want to stick with the North Island. I personally prefer the South Island, but I don't go for the beaches. I go for the beautiful landscapes, the endless walking tracks and the wilderness areas. The North Island is much more populated, busier and more urban IME - it just doesn't speak to me the way the South Island does.

I suspect if you move to NZ you'll be moving to the North Island, is that a fair assumption? Is this a reconnaissance mission? If so, it makes sense for you to visit the areas you're considering moving to.

I assume your Kiwi husband has seen both islands?

Sixteen days doesn't go very far when you're trying to see both islands - it's almost impossible to avoid long drive distances as the islands are long and skinny and it takes more time to get from place to place than you might expect. If you're willing to consider at least one domestic flight, you could compromise, and say spend a week on the north and a week on the South, - you'd not see much of both, but it would give you a taste.

You could fly to Auckland, drive to some beachy spot on the North Island, and then fly to say, Queenstown, and spend a week exploring that end of the South Island, then fly back to Auckland for departure. That way you could limit your visit to two bases, keep the driving to a minimum and potentially keep both partners and child happy.

The problem with taking the ferry is 1) You have to get to Wellington from Auckland or possibly further north if you're looking at northern beaches - this means driving or flying 2) You have to get from Picton to wherever on the South Island - this is where even more driving comes in. If you want to visit the top of the South Island, you could certainly hang around Picton, Blenheim (wine region) and Nelson, but then you'd have to backtrack or fly back to the North Island from Nelson (or drive to Christchurch and fly back from there).

Getting around NZ is a bit of an logistics issue - problematic for those short on time, or unwilling to fly between locations.

sarahly818 Apr 18th, 2018 10:40 AM

Thank you for your response! He has been to both islands but spent most of his time on the North island. Were planning on coming either in Feb or April. I wasn't aware of the sand fleas! Maybe we will just have to fly between the islands which would cut down on some of the driving time! Any recommendations on the South Island for Feb or April?

Melnq8 Apr 18th, 2018 10:53 AM

Not fleas, flies. They're particularly thick on the West Coast and not just on beaches, but they're also found at many places on the South Island, especially in summer:

February is high season on both islands - kids are out of school, so there will be lots of locals, as well as the usual influx of international visitors. It's also Chinese New Year, and in recent years the Chinese have found NZ in a big way, so be sure to check your dates.

April, particularly after Easter would be a better choice IMO. Fewer people, but still good weather.

It's hard to make specific recommendations without knowing your interests, but based on what you've said previously, I still suggest you base around Queenstown - you can see quite a bit from there - Wanaka, Arrowtown, Glenorchy, even Te Anau and Milford Sound. That will more than fill a week right there.

Diamantina Apr 19th, 2018 07:05 PM

Melnq8 is correct, the Chinese New Year's holidays (which also includes the Spring Festival and Lantern Festival) will make top holiday spots more crowded from about Feb 4-19. Though I don't think Chinese tourists tend to stay in small bach communities for a week or more. Most tourists, not just Chinese, spend one to three days in popular holiday spots, hoping to see a wide variety of landscapes and environments. I do the same when I travel to new destinations.
There is also a public holiday, Waitangi Day, on 6 February. NZ kids go back to school on Feb 7. at the latest. There's another school holiday from Saturday 13 April - Sunday 28 April (includes Easter and Easter Tuesday and ANZAC day).I don't know about all the universities, but here in Dunedin, most University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic students begin classes in mid to late February, but they'll return and get settled in before that.

Regarding relocating to NZ. Top holiday spots aren't necessarily the most affordable when it comes to housing. Please read these links:
I'm sure you've thought about employment. This informative link is geared toward visa applicants, but it'll give you an idea of the leading employment sectors:
Pay attention to the costs of food and petrol when you're here, and keep in mind produce prices tend to rise in winter. So tomatoes, for example, could be $2 a kilo in summer but $6 or more a kilo in July. If you're like my husband and crave avocados year-round, you'll have to pay a lot more in winter. But if you like apples and pears, you'll be content. Try to visit some farmer's markets when you're here.
Farmers' Markets NZ Inc - North Island Markets
Farmers' Markets NZ Inc - South Island
If you'd like to live in a warmer area and don't want to worry about winter snow and frosts, stick to the North Island (but not near its central mountains) or the top of the North Island (Blenheim, Picton, Nelson, Golden Bay).
Does your husband still have family here? Would he want to move near family?

Just FYI, you won't find sandflies on all South Island beaches. You're not likely to encounter sandlfies on beaches between Christchurch and Dunedin or north Clutha District. The Catlins, south of Dunedin, can have sandflies, but not nearly to the extent of the West Coast or Fiordland. In 8 years, I've never seen let alone been bothered by a sandfly or any other insect on a beach in Dunedin. I've heard sometimes mosquitoes can be a bother at night, but I've never been bothered by one of those either. We have a beach in Dunedin called Sandfly Bay, but it takes its name from its flying sand (because the beach tends to be windy). No actual sandflies on Sandfly Bay. I asked a Dunedin DOC ranger if he ever came across sandflies when checking on local penguin nests, he said, "sometimes, but not often." Sandfly nusisance map link here:

For a beach vacation, it'll be warmer in February than in April. Beaches on the North Island and top of the South Island (Nelson-Tasman District-Golden Bay) will be warmest. But even in warmer February, storms can slam NZ as Cyclone Gita did this year:

Diamantina Apr 19th, 2018 07:13 PM

Ignore my first post. When I posted it, it disappeared, so I started from scratch and re-posted and made some changes, but then my "disappeared' posts also appeared. I'd delete if if I could, but doesn't seem I can.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:12 PM.