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New Zealand in March

Old Oct 16th, 2019, 03:24 PM
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New Zealand in March

We're going to NZ in March for about 29 days starting in Queenstown and ending in Auckland. We have the Milford Track reserved for four nights in the first week (after three days in Queenstown or environs). Any help with suggested itinerary would be wonderful. We are not renting a van, just a car and enjoy all sorts of exploring--both in cities and country. Not huge on museums or extreme sports but everything in between is great from wine-tasting to kayaking (and obviously hiking) and botanic gardens, wildlife and restaurants. We've never been and this will probably be our only visit (age 60). Thank you so much. This forum looks amazing.
We begin our trip with two days in Sydney to help get over our jetlag.
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Old Oct 16th, 2019, 09:05 PM
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After 3 days in Queenstown, 4 days on the Milford Track and leaving a couple of days for Auckland, you'd have about 20 days to get from Te Anau or Queenstown to Auckland. These 20 days will also include travel times, such as long drives and a ferry crossing--if you decide to drive the entire way. Though you needn't: if you feel you're running out of time, you can take a domestic flight from the south to the north island, such as from Nelson to Wellington. I'm assuming you'll want to spend at least one full day in Wellington. But it'd be best not to assume--do you have an idea of other places you'd like to visit besides Queenstown, the Milford Track and Auckland?

Regarding the South Island, I'm guessing you'll want to spend 2 to 3 nights in Wanaka (nice walks); drive along the West Coast of the South Island (glaciers, rainforests), spending 2 to 3 nights here; spend 2 to 3 nights in Nelson-Tasman (Abel Tasman NP, Nelson region wineries), spend a couple of nights in Aoraki Mt. Cook. I think you'd also enjoy Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula (wildlife, heritage buildings, Botanic Garden, cafes and restaurants, great beaches), but this and Aoraki Mt. Cook could be out of your way, given the time you don't have. Do you know where you'd like to go on the North Island? Napier? Taupo? Rotorua? Coromandel? Bay of Islands is pretty, but I doubt you'd have time to see it. Would you consider spending most of your time on the South Island?

What other walks did you want to do? I'm guessing you'll want to walk or kayak in Abel Tasman National Park. How about Queen Charlotte Track (near Picton), which is also next to the wineries of Marllborough)? Will you want to do the North Island's Tongariro Crossing?

Suggesting an itinerary will be easier after knowing more about your "must-sees".

During your three days in Queenstown, you can walk around their Botanic Garden, ride the Gondola (the Ben Lomond Track starts from near the top), drive to Glenorchy, visit historic Arrowtown, visit the wonderful wineries of nearby Gibbston Valley, take a tour to Skipper's Canyon, or enjoy some fine dining. I highly suggest you make dinner reservations at Amisfield Bistro (part of Amisfield Winery).

Will you be starting out for the Milford Track from Te Anau or Queenstown? In other words, will you have a car parked at Te Anau while you're on the track or will you return to Queenstown to rent a car? At approximately what time do you think you'll be returning to Te Anau or Queenstown? My guess is you might want to just relax after walking the track and will probably want to spend another night in Queenstown (if that's where you'll be returning to) or in Te Anau.

Last edited by Diamantina; Oct 16th, 2019 at 09:13 PM.
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 09:44 AM
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tentative itinerary--please add thoughts!

Ok, we're getting there! Here's our newest itinerary:
3/1 Arrive Queenstown midday after several days in Sydney to get over jetlag.
3/1-4 EITHER explore Q'town and environs until departure for Milford Track on the 5th (have to be in Queenstown for meeting late on the 4th) OR go south to Southern Scenic Route for two nights doing a circle through Balclutha, Owaka, Invercargill--probably staying two nights in one place about half way. But it seems there would be tons to do around Q'town including drives/explorations to Glenorchy, Arrowtown,... We're stuck on which to do but leaning towards staying more local with day trips.
3/5-9 Milford Track
3/10 Wanaka 2N
3/12 Mt Cook/Aoraki 2N
3/14 Christchurch 2N maybe with day trip to Akaroa
3/16 Kaikoura
3/18-21 Nelson/Abel Tasman
3/21 fly to WLG 2N
3/23 Ohakune or Napier
3/25 Rotorua via Taupo
3/27 Auckland--maybe one day on Waiheke?
3/30 Departure
Nothing except Milford Track is set in stone. Should we skip something, add something? So much to see and so little time we realize! We're not into adrenaline adventures but do like hiking, kayaking, wildlife spotting, wine tasting, and good food.

Thank you for your input!
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 03:03 PM
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Looks good.

I'd spend those first few days exploring the area in and around Queenstown (its botanic garden, gondola, fine dining. walking tracks, Arrowtown, Gibbston wine region, Glenorchy and beyond--too much to do here).

If planning on staying in Aoraki/Mt. Cook, you should book accommodation soon.

There are good wineries in North Canterbury that you'll pass enroute from Christchurch to Kaikoura. Some of these have restaurants, such as Pegasus Bay and Black Estate.

I assume you'll want to also stop in Marlborough wine region from Kaikoura enroute to Nelson. This is NZ's largest wine region. Of course, it's best known for sauvignon blanc. The Queen Charlotte Drive from Picton to Havelock is scenic. Havelock is the self-described "greenshell mussel capital of the world".
https://www.newzealand.com/us/featur...arlotte-drive/
https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/102...-to-world-fame

You'll also pass wineries from Nelson to Abel Tasman. Where will stay in this region?

You said you're not huge on museums, but you'll probably enjoy Te Papa and admission is free. Take the Wellington Cable Car up to the Botanic Garden, then walk back down through the garden to the city center. Or, if it's early enough take the free shuttle from the top of the botanic garden to Zealandia Ecosanctuary to see some of the North Island rarest birds (and some weta and tuatara). There also conduct night tours.
https://www.visitzealandia.com/

If you got to Okahune, you can do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is probably the most popular one-day hike on the North Island.

If you go to Napier after Wellington, you can briefly visit Martinborough/Wairarapa wine region along the way. The drive from Wellington to Martinborough takes about 1 hour, 20 minutes, Martinborough to Napier 3 hours, 30 minutes. Part of the route from Wellington to Martinborough is winding (SH2, Rimutaka Road which climbs through the Rimutaka Range). I'd recommend a night in Martinborough, but I don't think you'll have a night to spare.

If choosing just one or two Martinborough wineries to visit, I'd pick Ata Rangi or Martinborough Vineyards. There are many other good wineries here, but these two produce consistently highly rated pinot noirs.

Napier/Hawkes Bay has Art Deco architecture, lots of wineries, and fine dining. I'm not sure if the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony is currently open to the public, the Napier I-Site (tourism office) could tell you: https://www.napiernz.com/

Anyhow, there's another, very accessible and free gannet colony in West Auckland at Muriwai and it's not far from the wineries of Kumeu. West Auckland is also known for its beautiful black sand beaches and the Waitakere Ranges (some of this has been closed to the public to protect the rainforest against the spread of kauri dieback disease). If you're a movie goer, the beach scenes from Jane Campion's film, The Piano, were shot on Karekare Beach.

Definitely visit Waiheke. Beautiful wineries, many with restaurants with stunning views.
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 03:03 PM
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What wildlife are you hoping to see?
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Old Feb 16th, 2020, 10:58 AM
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Question re Abel Tasman area

We have three days to include driving from Kaikoura towards Abel Tasman before returning to Blenheim to spend one night and flying to Wellington in the morning. Any thoughts on exploring Abel Tasman in our short time and where to stay? Too little time to go all the way to Takaka I think. We're thinking to do the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive on our way. But then we're not sure where we should stay for two nights. Nelson, Motueka or go further? Maybe take a water taxi to hike part of the AT Coast Track? Or kayak someplace? Or just drive to explore scenery! So much to see and so little time.
On our last day I think we need to get back to Blenheim to see the Omaka Aviation Centre.
Thank you.
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Old Feb 16th, 2020, 02:48 PM
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I wouldn't just drive to explore the scenery, I'd walk/experience the AT track on foot or by kayak (my preference would be to walk).

Would you have two full days for Abel Tasman activities? If so, you can kayak on your first day (choosing either a full-day or half day) and walk the track on your second day.
Have you looked closely at this brochure for the park?
https://www.doc.govt.nz/globalassets...k-brochure.pdf

You can access the walking tracks by road (only in some places) or more commonly, by water taxis or with companies like Wilson's or Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles, which operate larger capacity boats and, in addition to dropping people off at walking tracks and beaches just like the water taxis, also offer kayaking trips and scenic cruises along the park's coastline.

You'd have many options of places to stay, but I'd try to find self-contained accommodation in Kaiteriteri, as it's lovely (with a famously beautiful beach) and this is where most of the boats that service the park leave from. There are also sales outlets for several companies across the road from the dock, near the grocery-shop at the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve, so it's very easy to make arrangements or change plans you've already arranged for . There's only a small grocery-shop in Kaiteriteri, so I'd shop for groceries at the New World Market in Motueka.

You would have time to go to Takaka, if you did a morning half day kayaking trip that would get you back to Marahau or Kaiteriteri by 1 p.m. or so. Because the drive from Kaiteriteri to Takaka would only take a little over an hour. I'd prefer to just kick back and enjoy Kaiteriteri. In my opinion it is not worth it to drive over Takaka Hill (and back) just to see Takaka. I'd want to see more of Golden Bay, drive all the way to Wharariki Beach and Pillar Point Lighthouse and do a few short walks, such as Te Waikoropupū Springs and the Grove Scenic Reserve. To get to Wharariki Beach, you'd also have to walk though the sand dunes first. So to see Golden Bay properly would take time, probably all day.
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Old Mar 28th, 2020, 03:31 PM
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I apologize if you get this more than once--having internet issues! I just wanted to thank you for your input for our NZ trip. We had a great time (until the stress of the last week as NZ shut down and flights canceled, etc.) and hope to return someday to finish what we started. Your advice was spot on and we so appreciate it. Thanks. Stay well.
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Old Mar 29th, 2020, 11:27 PM
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I'm extremely glad you had a good time despite the arrival of a pandemic. I'm happy to hear that my advice served you well. I'm sorry your trip was cut short, but sincerely hope you will have a chance to return.

When you arrived in New Zealand it probably looked like one of the safest places on earth. Not sure exactly when you arrived in NZ, but as of March 1, there was only one case of Covid-19, a NZ resident in his 60s who'd recently returned to the country from Iran on Feb. 28.

As of March 14 & 15, the newspapers were reporting that billionaires were still escaping to New Zealand, which they perceived as a safe haven.
https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/queens...gs-seen-so-far
https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/...le-land-resort
A week earlier, newspapers had reported of super wealthy Asians, who'd seen the effects of Covid-19 sooner, seeking out boltholes here, too.
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/hea...virus-escapees

As of March 14, NZ still only had 6 cases of Covid-19, all of these were arrivals from overseas, with the exception of the son of patient #1. However, it was was enough for the NZ govt. to announce that anyone entering the country must self-isolate for 14 days, except those arriving from the Pacific (too bad few arrivals actually self-isolated). Cruise ships were banned from the country. Strict border measures for people travelling from New Zealand to the Pacific were put in place, including health assessment requirements. I think you know the rest of the story, as you were here.
https://shorthand.radionz.co.nz/coro...ine/index.html

At this same time, Europe had become the "epicentre of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths there than in the rest of the world combined, apart from China." (from above article)

On March 14, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), France had 4,499 confirmed cases, Iran 12,729, Italy 21,157, Spain 5,753, UK 1,140, U.S. 2,816. China was not listed, but no doubt the numbers of those affected were high. Korea's govt. reported 8,084 as of March 14. In comparison, NZ still seemed like a safe haven with its 6 confirmed cases.

As of today, March 30, there were 589 confirmed cases of Covid-19, though, sadly, a 74-year old woman, who her daughter described as an "active 74-year-old up mowed her own lawn and chopped wood", has now died, NZ's first casualty to this swiftly moving disease.

Life has changed a lot (as it has for all of us). We are in Day 5 of the lockdown, with many still flouting the rules. I'm sure the lockdown will last more than 4 weeks.

Reportedly, there are still up to 200,000 tourists in the country. To put this into perspective, New Zealand has a population of less than 5 million.

When my husband returns from the hospital where he still works 5 days a week, I clean the soles of his shoes and mobile with 70% alcohol and he immediately takes a shower. Our region, the Southern District (which includes Dunedin, Wanaka, Queenstown, Invercargill, Oamaru, and places between) on a per head of population basis is hardest hit by Covid-19. But we're only beginning to see its effects.

When we bring back groceries from the supermarket, I wash them with soap and water before I place them in fridge (if that's where they're going). The shopping bags get a treatment of bleach and get set outside. I'll wear a mask when I next go to the supermarket, where the employees now wear masks and gloves because they're frontline-essential workers, too. Very luckily, we can find lots of food and even toilet paper on the supermarket shelves.

I'm so glad you made it out of New Zealand on time. Please stay safe in Seattle, a lovely city that I've enjoyed visiting on several occasions. My husband was born and raised in not-too-far-away Puyallup. I feel that, more than ever, we are all connected.

Last edited by Diamantina; Mar 30th, 2020 at 12:02 AM.
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