New Zealand February 2017 Questions

Jan 11th, 2017, 10:32 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 8
New Zealand February 2017 Questions

Hello All,

So I've been reading through a ton of posts about New Zealand South Island itineraries and have been picking up some great trips/tips but just when I think I have everything nailed down, I seem to have another question to find an answer to. Therefore, I decided that I would seek assistance via a thread.

My husband and I are spending 18 days on both the South and North Islands, understanding that there is so much to do and see we are spending the majority of the time on the South Island and trying to do a high level self driving tour. We were mainly heading to New Zealand to check out Auckland for business so we are spending some of the time in the city and we booked our flights from the US in and out of Auckland. We are pretty outdoorsy, so we are mainly looking at doing day hikes, kayaking trips or milling around to check things out. I would love any input on the trip for things to do in each of the locations or if there are better options for locations to stay. Our musts are Milford Sound, the Glaciers and Marlborough area for wine tasting(I've been obsessed with Sauv Blancs from New Zealand forever, and I live close to Napa Valley and love wine tasting).

Here's what we've got:
Day 1: US to Auckland then Auckland to Christchurch -pick up rental car spend the afternoon/evening around Christchurch
Night 1: Christchurch
Day 2: Christchurch to Mt. Cook, via Lake Takepo for a visit (4hour drive w/o stops, but we are stopping to spend some time at the Lake).
Night 2: Mt. Cook
Day 3: Spend the day at Mt. Cook
Night 3: Mt. Cook
Day 4: Mt. Cook to Te Anau (5hour drive)
Night 4: Te Anau
Day 5: Milford Sound – possibly a cruise or a kayak tour.
Night 5: Te Anau
Day 6: Te Anau to Queenstown (2 hour drive) Spend the day in Queenstown checking things out maybe a side trip up to Glenorchy
Night 6: Queenstown
Day 7: Queenstown to Franz Josef (4 ½ hour drive) possible stop in Wanaka and Haast, evening in Franz Josef milling around
Night 7: Franz Josef
Day 8: Franz Josef – checking out the Glaciers
Night 8: Franz Josef
Day 9: Franz Josef to Punakaiki (3 hour drive)
Night 9: Punakaiki
Day 10: Punakaiki to Blenheim (6 hour drive) Stopping at Maruia falls
Night 10: Blenheim
Day 11: Wine Tasting in the Marlborough area
Night 11: Blenheim
Day 12: Blenheim to Wellington (4 hours on Ferry) spend the afternoon evening checking things out
Night 12: Wellington
Day 13: Wellington to Rotorua (6 hour drive) stopping in Taupo
Night 13: Rotorua
Day 14: Spa day in Rotorua
Night 14: Rotorua
Day 15: Rotorua to Waitomo to Auckland (4 hour drive) checking out the worm caves and Hobbiton
Day 16-18: Auckland for the rest of the trip and maybe a day trip out to Waiheke island or Whangarei depending on our business and then off to the US.

The main questions I have are:
1. Suggestions for day hikes at Mt. Cook? or other activities?
2. Should we stay in Te Anau for two nights or is there another town that would be in the general area that would be better? We want to keep the drive to Milford sound around two hours max the morning of day five, so we have the entire day there.
3. Is it worth going to both Glaciers or picking one? And which one?
4. Should we spend the two nights in Franz Josef or head up to Punakaiki a night earlier? Or is there a good spot to stay the night in Murchison/ Rotoroa area(instead of Punakaiki), it would be nice to stop in Punakaiki but get another hour or so of driving so day 10 isn't such a long drive to Blenheim.
5. Knowing that February is high season, is it best to book places to stay or are accommodations available generally leaving flexibility to stay as we go? My husband and I are planners so if there is a slight possibility that finding lodging would be difficult we will definitely then stick to a plan.
6. Recommendations for lodging in any of these spots, we've only booked for Rotorua and Auckland.

Thank you!!
Joltgirl is offline  
Jan 11th, 2017, 10:41 AM
  #2  
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 8
Sorry All,

I have one more quick question. Is it better to have a smaller vehicle on roads or would a midsize SUV be okay? Since were going to be on the road quite a bit, I thought the larger vehicle would be more comfortable.
Joltgirl is offline  
Jan 11th, 2017, 11:08 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 631
High level self driving = exhausting.
Cut it back a bit. Driving here is slower and requires concentration. We have narrow roads with bends and turns over mountains. There are no freeways to zap along.
A mid size SUV will be fine.
Day 15 is a mad rush.
February is the busiest month after January so accommodation needs to be booked.
If you have the drive times from Google they all seriously underestimate distances.
tasmangirl is offline  
Jan 11th, 2017, 01:15 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 227
You are doing a 21-day trip in 15 days. You have over long drives on Days 4, 7, 9 (because all the traffic from SH1 is now routing this way), 13, and 15.

You might salvage some time if you fly into Queenstown (omitting Mt Cook), and flying from Blenheim to Rotorua.

You could also do a coach/cruise trip to Milford from Queenstown - allowing someone else to do the driving that day and skipping Te Anau. There's really little to do at Milford Sound other than the cruise, although there are many short walks and viewpoints along the road. The coaches will stop for you to enjoy these and provide commentary.
deSchenke is offline  
Jan 11th, 2017, 05:27 PM
  #5  
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Posts: 8
Tasmangirl - Thank you for the information about booking, the roads and the drive times. Google Maps is where I got all the information on. Hobbinton, we can totally skip as neither myself or my husband have read or seen the lord of the rings stuff.

deSchenke- Eliminating Mt. Cook was my only thought to give us more time in each spot. Where would you recommend adding the time? Also, what are the airports like for doing the city to city flights? And are they the little planes? I had thought about your flight suggestion, but if we get to the airport, drop off the rental car, take the 1 1/2 hours early to get through security, then the 1 1/2 flight, get our bags, rental car and out of the airport. I figured it would be a lot less hassle and only a little bit longer driving from Wellington to Rotorua.

Amazing enough this itinerary is a shortened version than what I started with. Thanks for the information, there is so much to do, and I know I will not be able to see everything but its probably the only time I'll get to New Zealand ever, so I'm trying to find the balance between seeing as much as possible and not being in a car the entire time.
Joltgirl is offline  
Jan 11th, 2017, 05:55 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 311
I hate to always fly in the face of sound advice about slower driving times in pick-your-destination, but we found the driving in Feb (even with Chinese New Year tourists) to be very easy and very close to GoogleMaps drive times (within 10% everywhere). That said, both my wife and I are very good and confident drivers, so if you are not either of those, then I could see where you would want to be more conservative with the time estimations.

Personally, I would cut out the NI part of your driving trip (obviously Auckland stays) and add more to the SI with flights in and out. If you do end up spending more time in the SI, you don't want to miss Wanaka. Great little tourist town with lots to do, including a really nice hike to the Rob Roy Glacier.

We stayed 3 nights in Te Anau because we did both the Milford and Doubtful sound cruises. I would definitely stay at least two nights there so that you get the full experience of the drive to Milford Sound. There are so many long and short walks on that road that you could easily spend all day there, depending on how adventurous you are. The Lake Marian trail was particularly interesting (and did a number on my knee, as detailed in my trip report!).

We picked Franz Josef for a couple of reasons, but they are both so close to each other that you can stay at either and see one or both, plus the other stuff in the area. The hot pools in Franz Josef are a nice way to end an evening.

Have a great trip!
paulg is offline  
Jan 11th, 2017, 07:14 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 227
>>>but if we get to the airport, drop off the rental car, take the 1 1/2 hours early to get through security, then the 1 1/2 flight, get our bags, rental car and out of the airport<<<

Security is minimal to none for domestic flights! You check in, hand over your bags, and wait in the lounge. No x-rays, no lines! The bag-drop deadline is 30-minutes before departure. Picking up your luggage and getting your rental is also a no-hassle arrangement.

True story... We had an 8:50am flight from Kerikeri to Nelson and got to the airport at 7:30. It was empty! Doors were locked and no one was around. So we went to the vegetable stand down the street and had a cup of coffee and returned at 8:10. The airport was open, but car rental office was not. We were told to drop our key in the box outside the office and checked in for our flight. We were about the 3rd party for our flight - about 20 other parties came in after us. --- At the other end, it was just as efficient.

On the same trip, we had a flight from Wellington to Invercargill which connected in Christchurch. Our WLG flight was delayed for half an hour and I thought there would be no way we'd make the connection. As we landed, they announced anyone connecting to the IVG flight to follow the ground crew's directions. They had people stationed throughout the airport pointing the way and helping about a dozen of us get to our flight. They held the flight about 10 minutes for us to board.

Do not be afraid of domestic flights! The real drawback is short, one-way car hires can be expensive. But the flights are a breeze.
deSchenke is offline  
Jan 17th, 2017, 08:19 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 2
You are going to be pleasantly surprised with the airports. When they say show up 30 minutes before your flight...they aren't kidding TO be honest, in lots of places you don't want to show up early...cuz there will be nothing to do. I don't think we even sat down at the Blenheim airport. So no...driving will not save time and aggravation...definitely take advantage of the domestic flights in NZ.
ZoeRocks is offline  
Jan 29th, 2017, 06:29 AM
  #9  
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 8
Hello All,

So here is the final itinerary, it is a lot, I am aware. However, I think we will just have to wing it with what we have booked and if it doesn't work... eh we will still be in New Zealand!! Thank you all for your assistance the trip is only a week away. I follow up once I get back with thoughts so others can learn from my mistakes. Cheers!!

Day 1: US to Auckland then Auckland to Christchurch -pick up rental car spend the afternoon/evening around Christchurch
Night 1: Christchurch
Day 2: Christchurch to Mt. Cook, via Lake Takepo for a visit (4hour drive w/o stops, but we are stopping to spend some time at the Lake).
Night 2: Mt. Cook
Day 3: Spend the day at Mt. Cook
Night 3: Mt. Cook
Day 4: Mt. Cook to Queenstown
Night 4: Queenstown
Day 5: Milford Sound – possibly a cruise or a kayak tour.
Night 5: Queenstown
Day 6: Spend the day in Queenstown checking things out maybe a side trip up to Glenorchy
Night 6: Queenstown
Day 7: Queenstown to Fox Glacier possible stop in Wanaka and Haast, evening in Fox Glacier milling around
Night 7: Fox Glacier
Day 8: Fox Glacier to Atarau
Night 8: Atarau
Day 9: Atarau to Blenhiem
Night 9: Blenhiem
Day 10: Wine Tasting in the Marlborough area
Night 10: Blenheim
Day 11: Blenheim to Wellington (4 hours on Ferry) spend the afternoon evening checking things out
Night 11: Wellington
Day 12: Checking out the area in Wellington
Night 12: Wellington
Day 13: Wellington to Rotorua (6 hour drive) stopping in Taupo
Night 13: Rotorua
Day 14: Spa day in Rotorua
Night 14: Rotorua
Day 15: Rotorua to Waitomo to Auckland
Day 16-18: Auckland for the rest of the trip and maybe a day trip out to Waiheke island or Whangarei depending on our business and then off to the US.
Joltgirl is offline  
Jan 29th, 2017, 06:44 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 311
You'll have an amazing trip and won't regret a thing. And I guarantee you'll want to go back as soon as possible.
paulg is offline  
Jan 29th, 2017, 12:33 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,670
Atarau?

Where the heck is that?
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 29th, 2017, 12:36 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,670
Found it.

Congratulations, on stumping someone who has been visiting the SI of NZ since 1993.

So, exactly what's at Atarau, and why there?
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2017, 07:28 AM
  #13  
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It's a detour off of state hwy 7 on the same line as Ahaura. It was a good mid point so we could enjoy the driving time between places. We are staying at the Kiwi Wild Lodge, which to my guess is a persons house that is more like a B&B, but it looked really nice and welcoming. I'm not normally a fan of B&B places but it's for one night and it looks like it will be a good way to relax and have an experience. So there really isn't anything in Atarau, but it was a good stopping point.

Thanks again everyone! We leave tomorrow and I couldn't be more excited.
Joltgirl is offline  
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