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New Zealand: my too short, winter, non-driving possible itinerary...Help?

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Feb 29th, 2016, 03:28 PM
  #1
Amy
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New Zealand: my too short, winter, non-driving possible itinerary...Help?

Soooo...

I posted earlier on about traveling to Fiji (as voted on by my geography class) and adding on New Zealand. My total travel time is July 28th to August 13th, and I'm coming from the east coast of the US, so I realize it's quite short! My 26 year old niece will be traveling with me, and she is a big LOTR fan (as am I, actually, but more the books for me) so we wanted to prioritize that. Anyway, here's a very loose itinerary possibility; I would be delighted with any ideas/critiques/help:

TWO NIGHTS QUEENSTOWN
Fly into Queenstown, arriving Saturday morning (we'd have left on Thursday evening.) Walk about in Queenstown.

Sunday, July 31st: "Pure Glenorchy" LOTR tour*, four hours in the morning. Later afternoon??
*not married to this tour, but it gets reasonable reviews

ONE NIGHT WELLINGTON
Monday, August 1st: early morning flight to Wellington; visit Weta and Te Papa (would stay longer in Wellington, but the train is limited on which days it travels)

TWO NIGHTS ROTORUA
Tuesday, August 2nd: scenic train to Rotorua, arriving in time for Maori dinner show?
Wednesday, August 3rd: Te Puia and the geothermal bits or similar (nature/culture)

TWO NIGHTS MATAMATA FARM STAY
Thursday, August 4th Bus (Intercity ca. 4PM?) from Rotorua to Matamata for farm stay: http://www.hobbitontours.com/FarmSta...9/Default.aspx
Friday, August 5th Visit Hobbiton movie site from farm stay; visit Waitomo?

TWO NIGHTS AUCKLAND
Saturday, August 6th: Transport from Matamata to Auckland via bus
Sunday, August 7th: Auckland; Waitomo tour if not possible on Friday

FIVE NIGHTS FIJI:
Monday, August 8th: Fly to Nadi out of Auckland; stay one night at hotel/apartment near Nadi
Tuesday, August 9th: Yasawa Flyer to Navotua home stay on Nacula island, Yasawas; stay for three nights
Friday, August 12th: return from Yasawas to Nadi area

Saturday, August 13th: fly home, almost meeting ourselves on the way by getting home in "two hours"

Sigh. I used to go on "spend two weeks in one location" trips, but this one is about as busy as last year's! On the other hand, it kinda sounds like fun.
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Feb 29th, 2016, 03:44 PM
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I know very little about public transportation, as we always rented a car. But I do know the train does not go to Rotorua.

Now that I've googled the route, I see it does stop in Otorohanga, not far from Waitomo.

I think that portion needs a little more investigating. Could be that Kiwirail has a contract with a bus company to transfer you from National Park or Otorohanga to Rotorua.
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Feb 29th, 2016, 03:57 PM
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So, your entire SI experience is two days? That just makes me sad.

I don't know anything about that particular Glenorchy tour, but Glenorchy is spectacular. I highly recommend the Dart River Safari, maybe it could be done in the afternoon after your LOTR thingie - transport back to QT included.

Although...I just looked at the LOTR tour and it might be slightly repetitive, other than the jet boating. So, maybe the Shotver Jet back in QT instead.

Pray for nice weather. Dress warmly.

Curious about that flight to Wellington from QT - is it direct?
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Feb 29th, 2016, 04:04 PM
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Amy
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Thanks, deSchenke, you're right, of course! There would be a bus to get after the train. (Might be better and possibly cheaper to fly in, but the train ride looked pretty awesome and would be a way to see a piece of the land.)

Melnq8, I know two days is sad for SI...but this is winter, and I won't be skiing, so NI seemed a bit better fit this time out. I would love to visit Milford Sound, but with limited time/weather/seasickness etc. didn't feel that it would be worth the risk...what are your thoughts?

The QT-Wellington flight is direct, yes!
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Feb 29th, 2016, 10:05 PM
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Your North Island days need a rethink.... have you checked out all the bus times and connections? I'm worried you will spend all your limited time on the bus just getting to places.
There is a Waitomo shuttle that meets the train but the Intercity bus from Waitomo to Rotorua takes several hours as it goes through Hamilton.
The train is very scenic but very awkward in that it goes nowhere near any of the tourist spots like Rotorua or Taupo.
Matamata to Waitomo on the bus might be just awkward and time consuming.
Fiji has just been devastated by Hurricane Winston. This was on the news last week and we have had the tail end of it here in NZ over the weekend.
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Mar 1st, 2016, 03:28 AM
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Amy
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Thanks, tasmangirl, I was worried about that too. I'm thinking that flying into Rotorua from Wellington is going to work better than the train, and the flight is only $68 (US). I do love a good train ride, but sometimes it just isn't the best use of time.

Any thoughts on the Matamata farm stay? Might it be better just to do a Hobbiton/Waitomo tour out of Rotorua or Auckland? I like the idea of a farm stay for variety, but again, it's winter! Not quite the same as a bright summer's day at the farm...

If I do the flight out of Wellington rather than the train, I could spend a little more time in the SI--should I look at flying into CHC and out of QT, or just spend all the time in QT? (I realize that's subjective, but that's why I'm here! )

I did know the sad news about Cyclone Winston. According to the relatively active TA Fiji board, though, they expect clean-up before April and will need to keep the tourism afloat now more than ever. I will be contacting the village stay there later on in the spring, to make sure that everything is good to go, although it sounds like the Yasawas might not have been quite as hard hit?
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Mar 1st, 2016, 11:00 AM
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for the sake of one night and half a day there, is it worth going to Wellington? [I have been there and wasn't blown away, to be honest]

I've not stayed in Rotorua but the impression I have is that there's quite a lot to do there with lots of non-driving tourist options, ditto QT where I have been; I agree with Mel that it's a real shame not to spend longer there and in the SI.

with so short a time, I think that I might drop Wellington and fly from QT to Rotorua.
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Mar 1st, 2016, 11:57 AM
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<>

My thoughts are that flying all the way to the SI for two days is an utter shame, but that's just me.

I rather enjoy the SI in the winter...and I don't ski either.

What seasickness? the water in Milford Sound is like glass, regardless of time of year - the boats turn around before they get to the sea. Trust me, I get sick even looking at water and I've never felt sick on a Milford Cruise (and I've been on several). The boat does rock while it's docked at the ferry terminal while passengers are being loaded, but only for a short time and that would happen year round.

The road to Milford does occasionally close in the winter months - it's usually just long enough to blast for avalanches - sometimes for the better part of a day if there's black ice - and yes, it can very much put a crimp into such a short holiday if Milford is high on your list.

< )>>

Spend all 'of the time' in QT. Looks like 'all of the time' only means 3-4 days anyway, and you can easily fill that and lots more in the QT area. That's just not sufficient time to make the drive from Christchurch and still have a vacation.
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Mar 1st, 2016, 02:40 PM
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Amy
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Annhig, there doesn't seem to be a Queenstown to Rotorua direct flight, but there is one QT to Wellington. From some of what I've read it seemed like Wellington was sorta "up and coming" as a destination? I did like the look of Te Papa and the Weta workshop, but it's true that neither would be a deal breaker. I'd love to hear more thoughts on "Wellington or no" as of course I could also fly QT to Auckland and go out from there to Rotorua/Matamata/Waitomo. (Maybe like this link leaving on the Friday if dates come up for July any time soon.) http://booking.kiwirailscenic.co.nz/...x?Group=W3DayA That way we could stay Saturday AM to maybe Thursday AM in the South Island.

Melnq8, glad to hear seasickness isn't an issue on Milford! I am very, very prone to it and tend to avoid boaty things. It does sound pretty weather dependent, so possibly I could wait until closer to the time and book or even just book after I arrive and see what day looks best.
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Mar 1st, 2016, 03:00 PM
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Wellington is very much a city, nothing up and coming about it.

It's very busy and congested for its size, having, IMO, outgrown its infrastructure and it's topographic limitations, but set in a beautiful spot. I've been to Wellington twice and feel no need to return, but then again some people love it.

I agree wholeheartedly that you should wait until you get to NZ to book the Milford trip - weather is everything (don't believe for a minute what the tour operators tell you, that Milford is just as spectacular in the rain, been there done that, and IMO it's much better in the sunshine!)

You'll have no trouble getting on a Milford trip (bus included) that time of year. We much prefer to just rock up and get on a boat - never had a problem doing that.
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Mar 1st, 2016, 03:09 PM
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amy - I'd assumed that there would be a direct flight between two such major tourist venues in NZ - sorry. I agree that Wellington has an appeal but is it enough to justify reducing your already very limited time in the south.

if you were to forget about the farm stay [probably not an optimum activity in August] you could spend longer in the SI AND have Wellington.

BTW I too suffer from terrible sea-sickness [I've been sea-sick on dry land!] and I was fine on Doubtful Sound, which is at least as open to the ocean than Milford I think and you could always take something before hand if you were worried.
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Mar 1st, 2016, 03:17 PM
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I love Wellington - it reminds me of San Francisco, if you've ever been there - and I'm sad that we don't have time for it when we go to New Zealand in May.

Lee Ann
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Mar 1st, 2016, 05:42 PM
  #13
Amy
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See, Lee Ann, now I'm all confused again! I haven't been to SF (want to go, though, actually) but that's what it seemed like to me in what I've been reading--and up and coming in the sense of becoming a place to go, not literally just starting. (As a comparison, Philadelphia is on a number of lists this year--#1 on Lonely Planet's--and it's been a city since, oh, 1682.)

Annhig, I was surprised by that flight info, too! Flying by way of another city made the price about $200 more, so...that's not in the cards. Plus, of course, that would take a lot more time. I think I probably will ditch the farm stay and go for more South Island time, with or without Wellington. Just for more opinions, I'll probably post on TA, too; should be interesting!

Any further SI recommendations (or anything else!) of course will be happily received.
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Mar 1st, 2016, 08:54 PM
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When we had Ansett Airlines here they flew Rotorua to Queenstown but that was a few years ago now. Even if you do transfer you would still get there quite quickly. I would have assumed likewise that some airline would have a direct flight to link the 2 main holiday hot spots for tourists.
I like Wellington but for me we had family living there and I went to Victoria Uni so I am a bit biased. It has a cute compactness and vibe that Auckland lacks and on a nice day is really beautiful. Go to the Scorch-a-rama café on a sunny morning and sit outside watching the Interisland ferry go past. Wait staff cross the road to bring you your coffee and food.
Weta workshop and tour were really good if you are a LOTR fan. Peter Jackson's Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa is worth seeing as he has done an amazing job.
I looked at the LOTR tour out of Queenstown but decided that $170 was too much for a tour of scenery and I am not such a fan I want to dress up and play with swords either.
I did go on the Mt Nicholas farm tour (about $60)instead and I really enjoyed that. Have a look at that for your farm experience as you get to watch a sheep dog demo and sheep being shorn and then a drive around the farm followed by a pikelet and tea snack. It was a lovely day and the boat trip down the lake was awesome. Or the Walter Peak steamship trip will give you a farm experience.
Also don't miss Hobbiton!
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Mar 1st, 2016, 09:08 PM
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I split my post as I hate reading a long long post... consider the bus between Wellington and Rotorua but it's a 7 hour trip. It will go through Taupo which is scenic and across the Desert Road as well so sit back and enjoy the view.
Not sure about a farmstay but maybe the Queenstown options would provide the experience you want. The countryside around Matamata is lovely rolling green hills but if you go to Hobbiton you will get the idea of why they chose to build it there.
There are day trips out of Auckland for Hobbiton and Waitomo. Great Sights do a trip to both and takes about 11 hours all up.
Radio NZ news said the Yasawa's were the hardest hit by the cyclone. They will rebuild but if you had accommodation booked I would be asking the hotel/resort for more information.
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