New Zealand Itinerary Help

Jul 17th, 2015, 10:01 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 30
New Zealand Itinerary Help

My husband and I are planning our first trip to New Zealand in December. He'll work in Auckland for the first few days and then we plan to hit the road for 12 days. We like to take photos of beautiful scenery, explore and enjoy the culture. When we travel, we generally like to stay for a few days in one place, but I'm thinking we have too much ground to cover to do that much on this trip. I'm working on the itinerary and would like suggestions. Here is what I am thinking, with my questions:

Day 1. Drive to Rotorua via the Waitamo Caves. Night in Rotorua.
Day 2. Explore Rotorua including Tamaki Maori Village dinner. Night in Rotorua
Day 3. Drive to Wellington with stop in Taupo. Museum of NZ (maybe next morning). Night in Wellington.
Day 4. Ferry to Picton. See wineries if have time. Stay in Blenheim.
Day 5. Christchurch for night.
Day 6. Drive to Queenstown
Day 7. Queenstown where we may bicycle, boat trip, kayak, tour the scenery by car or 4 wheel drive
Day 8 Queenstown
Day 9. Queenstown to Te Anau. Overnight Te Anau.
Day 10. Milford Sound tour and cruise. Overnight Te Anau
Day 11. Doubtful Sound overnight cruise
Day 12. Return to Queenstown
Day 13. Return to Auckland by plane to catch early flight the next morning.

My big questions - Is it too exhausting to spend a day on a tour of Milford Sound and the next day leave for an overnight on Doubtful Sound?
Would we want to see the Glow worm caves at Te Anau after seeing them at Waitamo (or should we skip them in Waitamo and have more time for Rotorua area or just spend one night in Rotorua to make time somewhere else?)
Should we dump the rental car on Day 10 and rely on tour transportation? (spending night on Day 9 in Q'town and taking the tour from Q'town instead of Te Anau. We'd have to be dropped off in Te Anau for the night to be ready for our Doubtful sound trip the next morning)
Should we dump the rental car in Wellington and take the ferry without, then pick another up in Picton? Suggestions welcome.
Orcas1 is offline  
Jul 18th, 2015, 06:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,665

No. The departure point for the Doubtful Sound Cruise is only a 25 minute drive from Te Anau (Manapouri).

Probably not. Glow worms are glow worms and getting to the ones in Te Anau involves a boat, increasing the expense.

I personally prefer to self-drive Milford Road - more flexibility - we like to devote the entire day to the drive and explore tracks en route. You'll see a lot more by driving yourself. Besides, where would you return the car? I'm not aware of any rental car agencies in Te Anau.

If you're uncomfortable with the drive, you can take the bus from Te Anau to Milford and just leave the car at your accommodation for the day, but I don't see the point in returning it. Generally, the longer you keep a rental, the lower the daily cost, so I suspect you'll find keeping it cheaper than returning it an taking operator transport.

As far as I know, parking is provided free of charge for the Doubtful overnight.

I've never taken the ferry (I tend to get very sick on boats), but not all rental car companies will allow you to take the car on the ferry anyway - APEX will. Others make you drop off on one end and collect on the other. I'd do some research with different companies - keep in mind here's generally a cost for the car transport too - I believe it's free with APEX, but can't swear to it.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 18th, 2015, 11:41 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 30
Thank you for the information. It is really helpful. That is quite interesting about the ferry trip and rental car situation, where you drop off and pick up a new one on the other side. If we signed up for one with pick up in Auckland and drop-off in Queenstown, will they assume we'll be dropping off and picking up, or would we need to get one from Auck to W and then from W to Q?

If we self-drive to Milford Sound, is there a good time to plan on arrival, when there will be less people? Also, do you need to book the cruise boat in advance, or can you just sign on when you arrive?

I very much appreciate your help!
Orcas1 is offline  
Jul 18th, 2015, 02:30 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,665

I don't have the answer to that one, but I suspect if you go as far as the booking page on any rental car website, their particular policy regarding the ferry will be quite clear.

Re: Milford, absolutely. The first or last cruise of the day is best for those self-driving. That way you'll either beat the bus traffic going in (buses arrive around 11 am) or they'll all be leaving as you arrive. I've done it both December you'll have loads of daylight to work with and won't have any winter driving issues, so either works a treat. If on a late cruise, you can spend the day exploring Milford Road on the way in and still get back to Te Anau before dark. If on a morning cruise, head directly to Milford, take the cruise, then take your time working your way back to Te Anau. Do avail yourself of some of the fabulous walking tracks - you can collect a free track map at the Te Anau visitors center (I Site).

I've only booked a cruise once in advance, and that was the night beforehand, and because we chose to take the bus at the last minute due to weather issues. Every other time (about 8 or so) we've just turned up and walked on a boat, or had a short wait for the next boat. All the cruises are very similar...same Sound!

I'd wait to see what the weather was up to and go from there.

The Doubtful Sound overnight will require advance booking for sure.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2015, 08:13 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,809
Hi Orcas,

IMO the first half of your trip is very ambitious. Before you get to QT you have 3 one night stands in a row, with long drives in between which are going to be very heavy going. Why are you going to C/Church? - you won't have any time there - ditto Wellington.

I think that you would be better flying from Rotorua to QT.

We started off with if anything a less demanding itinerary and ended up changing it half way round because we realised that we couldn't manage the driving. [and we're brits, well used to driving on the left and on winding country roads]. We had received really good advice from Mel to limit the driving but we didn't realise how good till we got there!
annhig is offline  
Jul 24th, 2015, 06:44 AM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 127
My husband and I did a similar route to yours but we had a month! And we still felt a little rushed. I agree with Annhig that you might be better off flying to Queenstown from Rotorua. You can enjoy the fabulous wine country there instead of around Blenheim. The drive from Christchurch to Queenstown is long. All main "highways" in the South Island are two-lane roads with the occasional one-lane bridge, lol. You're on these roads with every vehicle on the island, from giant trucks to tractors, and the occasional passing lane is extremely appreciated! Christchurch these days is all about the earthquakes, and it takes a whole day to appreciate what happened there. Wellington is a cool city, but it's not really what NZ is about, on a shorter trip.

We used Apex and the price of the ferry was included in the rental. Parking for the overnight Doubtful cruise is indeed free. It's easier to have a car everywhere in the SI.

I'm in the midst of posting a trip report; it's called an autumn month in NZ.
pthomas156 is offline  
Jul 24th, 2015, 08:41 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,809
lucky you to have had a month, pthomas! We were forewarned [mostly by Mel] about the driving but somehow the reality didn't hit till we were there, when we quite quickly realised that we had bitten off more than we could chew.

I agree with you about C/Church and Wellington - good to visit but not at the expense of time in the mountains.

We also used Apex and had the ferry cost included in the total rental. I'd have been sorry to miss that part of the trip but with so little time to spend in the NI it's not worth the effort of all that extra time on the road.
annhig is offline  
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