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New Zealand Road Trip

Old Sep 21st, 2013, 02:32 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2013
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New Zealand Road Trip

We are considering a "driving" vacation in New Zealand. In your opinion, is the driving vacation worthwhile? Would you do it again? What tips or suggestions do you have for a group of 4? Thanks in advance for any input ...
jldodge is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2013, 04:14 PM
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Absolutely! We've done self-drive holidays in NZ a dozen times now - have loved every single trip.

We prefer to rent a car and stay in accommodation along the way, although some people prefer the flexibility that campervans offer.

My biggest tip is to have plenty of time - don't rush - limit yourself to one island if you have two weeks or less.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2013, 09:36 PM
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We've done three self-driving trips in New Zealand and I wouldn't do it any other way.

I actually think it's do-able to visit each island for a week, but I will say that we loved our last visit when we spent an entire 2 weeks just on the South Island.

Also, if you plan to go in the New Zealand summer months, particularly during school holidays, book your accommodations in advance. It's no fun to have to look for a place to stay when most of them are booked up.
longhorn55 is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 05:20 AM
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This will be our first trip to New Zealand. Are there any travel tips you can share? I have driven in England so am reasonably comfortable with driving on the opposite side of the road. Do you typically drive during the day OR early morning/evening? It appears in many of the towns, simply walking around is sufficient given their size.
jldodge is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 04:54 PM
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Just take it slow and easy, enjoy the journey.

I personally drive between destinations during the day, never at night - what would the point be, as most folks are there to see the scenery?

The roads in NZ are narrow and winding, and there's an abundance of one way bridges - it takes much longer to drive from Point A to Point B than you might expect, and that doesn't include all the reasons to stop along the way to explore short walks, take photographs, etc. Driving in NZ takes concentration and can be tiring. Switch drivers every few hours if you can, stop frequently for breaks.

Follow the signage - be flexible - NZ is prone to poor weather, landslides, flooding - if a road is closed, it's closed for good reason. It's not a race, it's a holiday. Use your head.

Yes, some towns are small and easily covered on foot. Even places like Queenstown can be covered on foot, if you've got a place to park your car (like your motel carpark). Otherwise, parking is a royal pain in the butt in QT.

But, the cities aren't the main attractions, the outlying areas are - the lakes, the tracks, the mountains - for these you will need to drive or take a tour or whatever.

NZ is best seen by car IMO - you'll have the upmost flexibility with a car, you can detour as many times as you want, take your time, do what you want to do.

If you're not comfortable driving in towns, I suggest you research your accommodation carefully, and select a place within easy walking distance to the city sights. This is easy enough to do - I just did it in QT, Wanaka and Chirstchurch - piece of cake.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 03:34 PM
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Thanks ... very helpful advice. I am leaning very heavily to the "driving" tour vs. a cruise ship tour. Appreciate everyone's help on this ...
jldodge is offline  
Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 03:40 PM
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You won't see the best bits on NZ on a cruise ship tour - you'll see a handful of ports of call, mostly cities. That's not what NZ is about IMO.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Sep 29th, 2013, 05:13 AM
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I'm a little late on this but last October we did a one month driving tour of NZ and in over 35 years of travel it was without a doubt THE BEST TRIP we've ever taken.

We started out in Aukland and ended in Queenstown. Our itinerary gave us 2 or 3 nights in each place, we never had more than 3 to 4 hours of drive time between each destination. This allowed us to travel at our leisure and gave us ample time to stop and enjoy at points of interest along our route.

Once at each destination we had some type of "formal activity" - whale watching, private guided tour, day sails, guided nature hikes, flightseeing tours, overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, river tours, wine tastings, farm tours, cave exploring, you name it we probably did it. We then had the rest of the time "At Leisure" to explore on our own.

To save a little time we did fly from Wellington to Nelson and from Christchurch Queenstown (and Queenstown back to Aukland for our flight back home) but the rest of the time we drove through the countryside.

We met some of the friendliest people, had some great meals, saw plenty of wildlife and some of the most majestic vistas you can imagine.

We logged in 1,762 driving miles and not one time did we encounter any major traffic congestion.

We'd go back in a heartbeat.
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