New Zealand in Nov.: 5 week Itinerary

Jun 11th, 2019, 01:39 PM
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New Zealand in Nov.: 5 week Itinerary

I have been planning our trip to New Zealand for about a year, and I have gotten so much great advice from this board - thank you!! Most of our lodging is booked but now I am second guessing some of my decisions, so any feedback you can give me would be appreciated! I am 59 and DH is 70. We are both reasonably fit, and look forward to exploring cities on foot, and tramping easy to moderate walks/hikes, and renting bikes for easy to moderate rides. DH did New Zealand and Australia in a campervan, with a buddy, for 2 months, 8 years ago (he was already retired - I just retired from teaching 2 weeks ago!) He loved every minute of that trip and can't wait to get back!

Here is our itinerary so far:
Days 1-3: Auckland (relax, walk the city, visit museums: War Memorial, Transport & Technology, Art and/or ferry to Waiheke Island)
Day 4: Pick up rental car at airport and drive to Rotura
We rented a small SUV from Apex; We can take it on the ferry/ferry tickets for car and us is included in price.
Day 5: Rotura (explore as much of the geothermal features of this area as possible; maybe Maori cultural show in evening)
Day 6-7 Welllington (Te Papa museum; cable car to Botanic Garden, stroll along the waterfront)
Day 8 Ferry to Picton
Day 8-9 Picton (explore some of Queen Charlotte Track; explore Blenheim & Marlborough wine!
Day 10 Kaikoura (peninsula walk, relax)
Day 11-13 Christchurch (explore the city, Canterbury Museum, Int'l Antarctic Center, The Arts Center)
Day 14-16 Mt. Cook Village (hike, bike, relax)
Day 17-20 Wanaka (walk/hike, bike, day trips from this base)
Day 21-22 Queenstown (hike)
Day 23-25 Te Anau (Doubtful Sound Cruise; may drive to Milford sound if weather is good; glowworms, hike/bike ...)
Day 26 Invercargill (Transport World Museum & MotorCycle Mecca)
Day 27-28 Dunedin (walk and explore: Settlers Museum, Railway Station... drive to Royal Albatross Center/Blue Penguins tour?)
Day 29-33 OPEN
Day 34 Auckland Airport Hotel
Day 35 Fly home (FL)

1. Are we spending too much time in Mt. Cook/Wanaka/Queenstown?? (We don't want to do the west coast - not into glaciers and want to minimize sandfly encounters!)
2. What do you think of these ideas for the days that are still open on our itinerary:
Day 29 - 33: Option 1 - Take 2 days to drive up to Picton from Dunedin; one day to cross ferry and drive to Napier, 2 days to work our way back to Auckland Airport
Day 29 - 33: Option 2 - Drive to Christchurch and fly to Napier; spend a night in Napier; take 4 days to work our way back to Auckland

Thank you so much for any feedback you can give!
cathyo is offline  
Jun 11th, 2019, 02:34 PM
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cathy -

I've lost my detailed responses to you twice! Before I type it all again, I'd like to know how many nights in each place.

Days 1-3: Auckland - by this do you mean three full days (four nights) or two full days (three nights)?

Knowing how many nights in each place will help significantly.

Last edited by Melnq8; Jun 11th, 2019 at 02:39 PM.
Melnq8 is online now  
Jun 11th, 2019, 03:19 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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Your itinerary looks good to me. In my opinion, this is not too much time in Wanaka/Christchurch/Queenstown. Please be aware that November can be rainy.

With your extra days, from Invercargill, consider spending a night or two in the Catlins enroute to Dunedin. Or from Dunedin to Christchurch, spend a night in Oamaru, taking your time exploring the coastal attractions on the drive from Dunedin to Oamaru. This will also make your drive to Christchurch shorter/easier. Yes, you could fly from Christchurch to Napier, but Napier to Auckland is a long haul. I'd spend your extra days on the South Island, then make a direct connection from Christchurch to Auckland to fly home. Will you be flying on Air New Zealand from NZ to the U.S.?

If you'd like to see Napier, it'd be best at the start of your trip, after Rotorua. You could spend a night or two in Napier, then continue to Wellington from there. However, you may not be able to make this change as you stated much of your trip is already booked. May I ask, what attracts you to Napier? You hadn't mentioned wineries among your interests, so perhaps not this. Art Deco architecture? Gannet colony? There is an impressive gannet colony in West Auckland.

One notable area missing from your South Island trip is the Nelson-Tasman District. You could fly from Christchurch to Nelson-Tasman, spend a couple of nights in this area and then fly to Auckland to catch your flight home.

Queenstown has become increasingly busy, but you might enjoy it anyhow; many do. As with any resort town, there are things to enjoy: the restaurants, shops, the gondola, the Botanic Garden, the nearby wineries of Gibbston Valley, the historic village of Arrowtown, local walks. etc. If you're looking for something quieter, consider Glenorchy, which from Queenstown is a 45-minute along Lake Wakitipu.

Are you interested in wine? Because wineries are a major attraction on Waiheke.The island also has nice beaches. I'm only slightly familiar with its walking tracks. There are at least a couple that start near the passenger ferry terminal. Waiheke is popular with day trippers. If you're looking for a less busy Hauraki Gulf island to visit, read about Rangitoto or Tiritiri Matangi. For ferry info:

I live in Dunedin and your itinerary for Dunedin looks good. November is the start of cruise ship season, so the city center gets busy on these days. I often recommend the Elm Wildlife Peninsula Encounters tour, as it also includes Yellow Eyed Penguin and NZ Seal Lion viewing and a huge NZ Fur Seal Colony, plus they do the driving. But you won't see the Little Blue Penguins swimming ashore on the Elm Tour and they are quite wonderful. They can also be seen in Oamaru.

Last edited by Diamantina; Jun 11th, 2019 at 03:22 PM.
Diamantina is offline  
Jun 12th, 2019, 05:45 AM
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Melnq8, I meant nights (So, Auckland is 3 nights). I am so sorry you lost your detailed response twice! I look forward to your input.
cathyo is offline  
Jun 12th, 2019, 06:26 AM
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Thanks cathy, that helps.

Some things to think about - it seems you have only one full day in Picton - most of your arrival day will be taken up with the ferry, picking up a car, getting your bearings and checking into your accommodation, so you'll have very little time to visit wineries in Blenheim (what time does your ferry arrive?). I suggest you plan this day well, perhaps arranging a wine tour in advance to prevent you having to navigate yourself upon arrival. This will also allow you to imbibe at will

You will need a full day to explore some of the QCT - this is of course assuming by 'explore' you mean walk a portion of the track - in which case you'd take a water taxi to a point on the track, walk several hours, and then take a water taxi back. If this appeals, I can give you some detailed suggestions.

Day 10 will be busy, considering the drive to get to Kaikoura, but should be doable with the longer days of November.

The drive from Kaikoura to Christchurch will take about 2.5 hours, so technically you have just a day and a half to visit Christchurch. Doable, but don't underestimate the time it might take to find your way around, etc.

So three nights Mt Cook? This gives you two full days to walk the tracks which is a good amount of time, especially as the weather can be iffy and this will give you some flexibility if the weather is bad or the views obscured on a given day. I hate to break it to you, but Mt Cook also has sandflies. Not to the degree as the West Coast, but they're definitely there - how bad they are depends on the weather. It its warm and sunny, you won't even know they're there, but if it's muggy and overcast....

So four nights Wanaka? This is three full days, which is more than sufficient to explore Wanaka, and still spend a day walking some of the fabulous tracks near Wanaka (which will involve a drive to reach). If you feel the need to cut back a night, this might be a good place to do it.

Two or three nights Queenstown? If two, not enough. Three will give you two full days. There's a lot to do in/around QT, so if you have an extra night to spare, I'd put it here. If you prefer a bit more quiet to busy, you might consider basing yourself in Arrowtown instead - easy access to QT, busy during the day with day trippers, but more laid back at night.

Three nights Te Anau? Perfect.

One night Invercargill? It's a two hour drive to get there from Te Anau, so you'll want to plan this day well in order to fit in your wish list.

Two nights Dunedin? That's only one full day, and you've got a rather long wish list. A extra day here wouldn't go amiss.

What do you think of these ideas for the days that are still open on our itinerary:
Day 29 - 33: Option 1 - Take 2 days to drive up to Picton from Dunedin; one day to cross ferry and drive to Napier, 2 days to work our way back to Auckland Airport

I think its unnecessary back tracking. I'd look into flying instead. I see no reason to take the ferry both ways, or to backtrack....unless you do it via the West Coast, which you said you're not interested in.
Melnq8 is online now  
Jun 12th, 2019, 07:15 AM
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Thank you for your thoughtful options and feedback. We are flying on American ... and we do like wine! I didn't put wineries specifically on our itinerary, because I know that will just happen! Rainy day-winery. Too tired to hike - winery! My DH really liked the town of Napier (loved the art deco architecture) and the Hawke's Bay area (wine) on his first visit, and would like to visit again with me. A lot was already planned and booked when he mentioned that, hence the possible "tack-on" at the end of the trip. However, I like your idea of going there right after Rotura. Maybe I will make Rotura a one night visit, then Napier for a night, and then a long drive to Wellington the next day.

I didn't plan much time in the Nelson-Tasman area, because I wanted to spend more of our time in the mountains of the South Island ...we live in Florida, and are surrounded by beautiful beaches and beach towns, so that area got the short end of the stick when I had to make choices! We do have 2 nights in Picton, so if the weather is good, I thought we could do a day trip to Nelson from Picton and get a "taste" of that gorgeous area.

I like your idea of spending a night in Oamaru - I am intrigued by the blue penguins, and the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony looks way more accessible than "Blue Penguin Pukekura" tour I was looking at ( 50 minutes from downtown Dunedin, at the Royal Albatross center; the 75 minute tour doesn't start until 9:15, and then we'd have a long, dark drive back into Dunedin).

I almost didn't include Queenstown in our itinerary because I have read how over-touristed it has become (and we are not into the adrenaline sports However, it is such an iconic mountain destination, so I decided we should make a short visit. I figured lunch in Arrowtown on the day we drive in from Wanaka, and then explore the town a bit. The next day, if we have good weather, I would make the drive to Glenrochy and stop for some short hikes, weather permitting. The Gibbston Valley wineries are a good suggestion if we have rain!

Thank you again, Diamantina, for all your suggestions!!
cathyo is offline  
Jun 13th, 2019, 05:30 AM
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Hi Cathy. You'll enjoy the wineries on Waiheke, providing the weather is fine.Once you get off the ferry, you can catch one of the local buses to "Wild on Waiheke". From there it's only a short walk to three other wineries, Stonyridge, Te Motu and Tantalus. The bus that goes by Wild on Waiheke continues to Onetangi Beach, a gorgeous beach with a few cafes. Another option is to walk to Cable Bay Vineyards once you get off the passenger ferry. It'll take you about 15 minutes.
Mudbrick Winery is about a 10 minute walk uphill from Cable Bay Winery.

There are also many wineries in North Canterbury, between Kaikoura and Christchurch.

If your husband really liked Napier then I can understand why you'd like to spend some time there. I've only been to Hawkes Bay once but enjoyed it immensely and have wanted to re-visit. The drive from Napier up to Mahia Peninsula then up to Gisborne then around the East Cape is beautiful.

Hawkes Bay's wine and food scene is great. I'm sure you can do a tour that will allow you to cycle to some wineries, though on cruise ship days, these tour operators probably book up early. Though there won't be many cruise ships in November. The cruise ship schedule is already out, so you can check it against your itinerary:
In addition to the Art Deco buildings of Napier, you'll also find some in Hastings, which is about a 25 minute drive away. Napier's National Aquarium has native animals such as kiwis, tuatara, little blue penguins. If you have a chance, drive up to Te Mata Peak for the view. Please note the beach at Napier's Marine Parade, though beautiful, can be treacherous because of sharp drop-offs and sneaker waves (just in case you're tempted to take a dip).

It would be less hassle to visit Napier after Rotorua, than to catch a flight from Christchurch, rent a car, then drive to Auckland for your departure. It's only about a three hour drive from Auckland's CBD to Rotorua (there is an APEX pick up office in Auckland's CBD as well), so you'd get to Rotorua early enough to visit geothermal attractions in the afternoon and have the option of attending an evening Maori experience (performance & hangi). So one afternoon and night could work. It's only a 2 hour 45 minute drive from Rotorua to Napier. Napier to Welllington is a little more than four hours. The sun rises at around 6 a.m., so you can get going early (but I don't mean as early as 6 a.m.). Still, you'll have less than a full day in Wellington. But your agenda for Wellington is modest.

Your agenda for Dunedin is modest as well. Toitu Settlers Museum is next to the Railway Station, so about a two-minute walk. The Pukekura Blue Penguin Colony is on the beach below the Royal Albatross Colony. Driving back at night from Pukekura Blue Penguins on that winding road is a little daunting, but there's not that much traffic on this road at night, also you'd be on the inside lane, not the one closest to the harbor. To see the penguins swim ashore, you'll have to stand on a viewing platform right on the harbor. It will be cold. And it could be wet and windy.

If you'd like to see Dunedin's Octagon, it's only a few short blocks up from the Railway Station. The Railway Station has a lively Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. From the Railway Station to the Octagon, make sure to see the First Church of Otago (on Moray Place). The interior is small and plain, but the church's setting is lovely. The interior of St. Pauls' Anglican Cathedral on the Octagon is more interesting. Some of the stained glass windows feature local wildlife, such as penguins, spoonbills, and sea lions.

Between Dunedin and Oamaru, you might want to stop at Shag Point (seal colony and coastal views), Katiki Point Lighthouse, maybe visit the restaurant Fleur's Place in Moeraki village, and Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach. You can get off the main highway, SH1, to see more of the coast, by taking Coast Road from Warrington village to Karitane (where you can rejoin SH1). Farther north, just south if Oamaru, you can also get off SH1, by taking the mainly coastal road from Kakanui to Oamaru.

In addition to its Blue Penguin Colony, Oamaru also has its famed Steampunk HQ and its beautifully maintained Victorian Precinct (its annual Victorian Fete is on Nov. 17). Its Riverstone Kitchen is a culinary attraction, as is its Whitestone Cheese Factory (they offer factory tours). Oamaru also has a couple of breweries, though I don't know much about them. In addition, Oamaru has a pretty botanic garden.

Christchurch's Botanic Garden, Arts Centre, and Canterbury Museum are near one another, so you won't need to do a lot of running around to see these attractions. Christchurch's International Antarctic Centre is by the airport. If you end up flying out of Christchurch Airport and, depending on the time of your flight, maybe you can visit it before leaving. They offer luggage storage (lockers). They also offer a free shuttle from the Canterbury Museum, should you care to visit it after the museum.
The Canterbury Museum also has a fine Antarctic Exploration gallery.

I can see how NZ's mountain scenery would appeal to you more than coastal scenery, and how this made you want to pass on the Nelson-Tasman District. My husband spent most of his youth in Fort Lauderdale. When he finished up at the University of Miami, he moved to mountainous Colorado, then California. Though he misses many things about Florida (warm weather, calm beaches with warm swimmable water, palm trees, stone crab, etc.), he often mentions how Florida is so flat. NZ beaches are often backed by steep sand dunes, or hills or mountains, and the coastline can be rocky and rugged.

If you decide to spend those extra days at the end of your trip on the South Island and just catch a flight from Christchurch to Auckland for your return flight, please give yourself lots of time between the arrival in Auckland of your domestic flight and the departure of your American Airlines flight. Just in case there are delays. When I need to catch a non-Air New Zealand international flight departing from Auckland, I'll actually fly up a day early from Dunedin and spend the night at an airport hotel in order to not miss my next-day flight.

By the way, congratulations on your retirement!

Last edited by Diamantina; Jun 13th, 2019 at 05:45 AM.
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