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New Zealand - Needs lots of help

Old Mar 16th, 2011, 08:06 AM
  #1  
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New Zealand - Needs lots of help

I just booked a last minute trip to NZ. I am flying into Auckland and out of Queenstown. We will have a car, and will have 6 days to travel from Thames to Queenstown (and then I fly out of Queenstown on the 7th day), stopping various places along the way. Since this is somewhat spur of the moment, I haven't done any research, and I have no idea where to stay or what to do. So naturally I rushed over to the fodors board. Suggestions?
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 09:37 AM
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My suggestion is to visit the volcanic area around Rotorua; spend a night--then fly to Queenstown. Otherwise, you'd have a very long drive to Wellington; a ferry to the South Island--and a very long drive to arrive in Queenstown -- in time to leave.

You need to look at a map and get a sense of how far these places are.

Also let us know what you like to see and do. (i.e., nature and scenic beauty versus cities and museums)

(You can check flights at www.houseoftravel.co.nz)
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 11:01 AM
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You have seriously underestimated the size of NZ and need a map.

Try to cancel the car rental, and a book a flight Auckland to Queenstown for your arrival day or the following one. You'll have a few days to see Queenstown, Milford or Doubtful Sounds, Te Anau, Arrowtown.
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 01:14 PM
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I wouldn't say I'd underestimated, so much as hadn't estimated at all, but I get your point. I've been looking at a map the past few hours since I posted, and I'm leaning towards Songdocs suggestion of going to Rotorua and then flying to Queenstown. What I'm deciding, though, is whether its worth it to continue down to Wellington for a day or 2 and then flying to Queenstown from there or if I should just skip Wellington and fly to Queenstown from Rotorua.

For New Zealand, I think I'm more interested in nature and scenic beauty, since thats what its known for, although generally I like a little bit of everything.
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 01:55 PM
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I've thought about it some more and I'm pretty sure I'm going to skip Wellington, unless someone convinces me its must see.

Now, what to do in Queenstown? Does it make sense to do daytrips from there or to move around a bit?
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 03:53 PM
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Good idea to skip Wellington, given your very limited time.

There's so much to see and do around Queenstown that you needn't wander too far. Glenorchy and Arrowtown are within easy reach and Milford is possible as a day trip (a very long day trip - four hours each way, but visitors do it all the time). Your time will fly by.

Lots of QT activity suggestions here:

http://www.everythingqueenstown.com/
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 04:34 PM
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I like Wellington and the surrounding area, but with your limited time, and wanting to see natural beauty, I'd skip it.

Strongly recommend a tour of Skipper's Canyon. If it's not actually in Queenstown, it's close. Gorgeous! I did a day tour with Nomad Tours and was VERY glad I wasn't behind the wheel.

Also, second the suggestion for Milford Sound. To me, the drive was even more beautiful than the boat trip. I did a one-day bus tour from Queenstown. Wouldn't have wanted to drive on some of the slippery, icy roads--and enjoyed not driving. (It was in May.) There were stops at Mirror Lakes and other scenic spots that were among my faves in NZ.

If you have the time to spend a full day at a volcanic park near Rotorua, I thought Waimangu was otherwordly and very beautiful. I flew from Rotorua to Queenstown.
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 04:34 PM
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I like Wellington and the surrounding area, but with your limited time, and wanting to see natural beauty, I'd skip it.

Strongly recommend a tour of Skipper's Canyon. If it's not actually in Queenstown, it's close. Gorgeous! I did a day tour with Nomad Tours and was VERY glad I wasn't behind the wheel.

Also, second the suggestion for Milford Sound. To me, the drive was even more beautiful than the boat trip. I did a one-day bus tour from Queenstown. Wouldn't have wanted to drive on some of the slippery, icy roads--and enjoyed not driving. (It was in May.) There were stops at Mirror Lakes and other scenic spots that were among my faves in NZ.

If you have the time to spend a full day at a volcanic park near Rotorua, I thought Waimangu was otherwordly and very beautiful. I flew from Rotorua to Queenstown.
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 10:45 PM
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skip it
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Old Mar 16th, 2011, 10:47 PM
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You can see the surrounding area from Queenstown if you prefer not to change hotels. Some like to overnight in Te Anau when seeing Milford or Doubtful Sounds.
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Old Mar 17th, 2011, 03:33 AM
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Thanks all! I think this is a good start. I'll check out that link and all your suggestions.
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Old Mar 18th, 2011, 04:38 PM
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Agree with mlgb - with just a week or less, skip the North Island altogether and head straight for the South. It is amazing.
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Old Mar 18th, 2011, 07:31 PM
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Amicita
Just finished a week in NZ. South Island - Queenstown (Last Week). I am into wine and scenery and friendly people. If thats your bag, then go directly to Queenstown (fly) and rent a car there. I did Waneka, Cromwell, Arrowtown. Spent 5 days in that area and I can tell you the scenery is wonderful and the Pinot Noir is even better. You cant go wrong with Q'town.

shrink
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Old Mar 20th, 2011, 09:20 AM
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Well I'm visiting someone who lives in Thames, so I will be staying there the first week (and doing some day trips from there). The 6 days is the period that my travelmate is free to travel. That's why I'm flying into Auckland.

Wine and scenery and friendly people sounds perfect, Shrink. Can you tell me more about what you did? Do you have a trip report or anything?
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Old Mar 21st, 2011, 04:36 AM
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Amacita
I will have a trip report -- when I get time to do it. I am currently in Australia and heading for Beijing for a week tomorrow enroute around the world.
In NZ, I rented a car for a week and just took off. I didn't do all the wineries but I didn't miss many. Enjoyed talking to the people at the wineries and hotels and restaurants, etc, tasting the wines, and looking at the scenery getting there. There are maps outlining all winery locations. Google Otago Wine country and you are on your way. I didn't have any agenda, just let the trip take me. Really enjoyed it and I am confident you will too.
shrink
ps: Are you ok with driving on the left side of the road? Queenstown and vicinity doesn't have much traffic.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 09:22 AM
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My travelmate is OK with driving on the left side of the road, so she'll be doing the driving.

Now, I have a few more questions:

(1) (I may post this separately, but I'll put it here for now.) I'd like to spend a day driving around to vineyards, but I'm concerned about drinking and driving, especially when we're not used to driving on the left. I looked into some tours, so that they'd drive us, but they seem overpriced, and I'd prefer to be self-guided for this sort of thing anyway. Anyone have any suggestions to get around this issue? Perhaps if there was a vineyard that is near some other activity (a hiking trail or something), so we could have a few glasses of wine, and then have period to sober up before driving again? Or if there's a vineyard within walking distance of queenstown, that'd be even better.

(2) I assume everyone agrees that I don't have time to fit in Franz Josepf Glacier? I don't really see how we'd fit it in, but I wish we could go, so I'd welcome disagreement.

... I thought I had more, but thats all I can think of for now. Thanks all!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 10:05 AM
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Unfortunately they are very spread out in the Queenstown area.

I did find a situation similar to what you described in the North Island, in Martinborough. But it doesn't really fit in with your itinerary.
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Old Mar 24th, 2011, 01:21 AM
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It is about a five hour drive from Queenstown to Franz Josef, which you can do in one day. But as you want to visit the wineries. I would break this up with an overnight stay along the way, in either Cromwell or Wanaka. It is about 60 km or 37 miles from Queenstown to Cromwell, and you can visit several wineries along the way. Plus, there are rest stops and other tourist attractions on this road.

You are going for wine "tasting," not to drink your fill, right? So you should be okay to drive. Or just taste and spit. Pace yourself. Stop every now and then to just look at the view--because this is a lovely drive--or to drink some water or juice, or to snack on something.

Yes, you can do some hikes in the wine region to break up your day of tasting. "Walking tracks" as they are called. The area around Bannockburn, in particular, reminds me of the American Southwest, like New Mexico.
http://www.centralotagonz.com/Centra..._ID=1554_.html

You could leave Queenstown around 10 a.m. or a little earlier, driving directly to Amisfield Winery, which is only about 15 minutes from Queenstown and opens at 10 a.m.
http://www.amisfield.co.nz/home/location
http://www.centralotagopinot.co.nz/d...ibbston_02.pdf

After tasting here, continue east on the Gibbston Highway, also known as Highway 6 or the Kawarau Gorge Road. In Gibbston Valley, make your first stop Chard Farm, which is on Chard Farm Road, a narrow road that splits off from Highway 6. It'll be on your right and it is across the way from a well-known bungy jump bridge, the Kawarau Bungy Bridge (which will be on your left).
http://www.chardfarm.co.nz/?pi_pageid=18

After Chard Farm, continue toward Cromwell on Highway 6, perhaps stopping at Gibbston Valley Wines, off to the right, which sells cheeses and is a nice spot for a picnic, then continue on to Peregrine Winery, off to the left. There are several other wineries in Gibbston Valley, but I think these are among the best.
http://www.gibbstonvalleynz.com/
http://www.peregrinewines.co.nz/

Then continue along Highway 6 toward Cromwell, but stopping just short of Cromwell to turn right on Pearson's' Road toward Bannockburn. You can stop for lunch in Bannockburn, at either Mt. Difficulty Wines or Carrick Winery. Both have beautiful restaurants with great views. Both offer excellent wines. Also worth visiting in Bannockburn are the wineries: Felton Road (only open from Monday through Friday), Ollsen's, and Akarua. Again, there are other good wineries here, but these are among the best.
http://www.centralotagopinot.co.nz/d...ockburn_02.pdf
http://www.mtdifficulty.co.nz/
http://www.carrick.co.nz/cellardoor.html

Another hint for not getting too inebriated is to just focus on the few varietals that interest you or that the particular winery is known for. I usually focus on Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris (because I like these the best) and, depending on the winery, sometimes try the Riesling or Rose. Try to learn what the winery is known for so that if you must pace yourself, you can limit yourself to just their top offerings. For instance, Quartz Reef (only open from Monday through Friday), in Cromwell, is known for their sparkling wines (and their Pinot Noirs), so if I were going here, I would surely try their sparkling wines. Also, you can take your time at the wineries. The last time my husband and I went wine tasting in Bannockburn, we spent about an hour and a half at Ollsen's Winery and had a great long conversation with the owner. For us, meeting and speaking to people, taking photos, and admiring the views along the way, is part of the wine tasting experience.

After Bannockburn, continue to nearby Cromwell, which is only about 10 minutes away. In Cromwell, you could visit several wineries. I like Wooing Tree, Rockburn and Quartz Reef. There are a many nice reasonably priced motels with cooking facilities in Cromwell, so it would be easy to overnight here.
http://www.centralotagopinot.co.nz/d...romwell_02.pdf

Or you can continue on to Wanaka, which would make your drive to Fox or Franz Josef the next day a little shorter. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Cromwell to Wanaka on the Luggate-Cromwell Road. It seems to me that accommodation is pricier in Wanaka than it is in Cromwell (Wanaka is prettier, livelier, and a bigger draw for tourists). In Wanaka, don't miss Rippon Winery. It has the greatest views! The drive from Lake Wanaka to Fox or Franz Josef is fantastically scenic--that is, if you enjoy lakes, waterfalls, mountains, rainforests, beaches, and glaciers.
http://www.rippon.co.nz/

Perhaps you can spend two nights in the glaciers area before returning to Queenstown (5-hour drive, but make sure you take the most direct route from Wanaka to Queenstown on the return). Or, if really pressed for time, you could spend just one day and night in the glaciers area. But it would be best to arrive by noon or so to make the most of it. You would have time to see either glacier in the afternoon, maybe even both Fox and Franz Josef, or take a walk to Lake Matheson.
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Old Mar 24th, 2011, 10:37 AM
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Thanks Diamantina, thats helpful. And after some research I discovered that there's a new Gibbston River Trail that goes past some of the Gibbston Vineyards you mentioned (Chard, Gibbston Valley and Peregrine), so I could even do it as a walk, perhaps. Unforunately, now that I've figured that all out, it doesn't really fit into my itinerary.

This is the current draft of my itinerary (I've changed it quite a few times, so I'm not really set on it). It's pretty crammed, but I'm OK with that as long as its not completely unfeasible. The Thames days my travelmate will be working, and I am not willing to drive myself around, so I'll be staying around Thames those days.

Day 1: Arrive Auckland 8am, drive to Rotorua. Polynesian Spa, Maori Show at night. (I know I'm going to be really tired, but (1) sometimes I find it helpful to stay active my first day so I dont fall asleep; (2) I want to do these things and they dont fit in elsewhere.)

Day 2: Waimangu, drive back to Thames

Day 3: Thames

Day 4: Thames, drive to Hamilton

Day 5: Hamilton Ballon Festival, Matamata, drive back to Thames

Day 6: Thames

Day 7: Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove

Day 8: Fly Auckland to Queenstown, drive to Franz Josef Glacier

Day 9: Morning heli-hike, drive back to Queenstown

Day 10: Drive to Milford Sound, overnight Milford Sound Cruise

Day 11: Drive back to Queenstown, do things around Queenstown (Gondola, etc.)

Day 12: Skippers Canyon Tour

Day 13: Fly home

Thoughts? I know its alot of driving, but I dont really want to skip anything. Its unfortunate that all the things I want to do seem to be in opposite directions.
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Old Mar 24th, 2011, 10:56 AM
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I really question the amount of driving on Days 8&9, combined with flights and the possibility of cancellations due to weather.
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