New Zealand with small children

Jul 15th, 2019, 09:50 PM
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New Zealand with small children

I will be traveling to NZ and have a 4.5 year old and a 2.5 year old with me. We arrive in Auckland on the 8/1 and leave on 8/7 from whatever airport is closest. I would love to fly to Queenstown and see Milford Sound, but do you feel that would be too much with two young kids? We were thinking of doing a one day guided tour of Waitomo and Rotorua on the North Island. Then one other day in the North and possibly fly to Queensland on 8/4 and do Milford Sound on 8/5 or 8/6. I hate to miss the South Island though but given our short time and the potential for bad weather, would we be best staying in the North? Any other suggestions for guided tours/day trips in the North? I'm a bit overwhelmed right now. There are 3 adults and none of us want to deal with driving on this trip. Our first day we are probably going up to Orewa to see a family member since we arrive very early in the morning and it's 23 hours of travel time I believe. I would like to try and do more scenic things. We are flying to Sydney on 8/7 where I'll be working and they will be free to sight see. Thanks for any suggestions!
Rosie3110 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2019, 07:03 AM
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FWIW we did a 6 week driving tour of both the North and South islands and barely scratched the surface. Trying to see both islands in 6 or 7 days is foolhardy. You don’t say what time you’ll be leaving on 8/7 but you probably won’t have very much “free time” on that day and you are spending the better part of 8/1 visiting relatives so that really means you only have 5 days to actually see New Zealand. Why would you want to waste the better part of a day (or maybe even more time) traveling between Auckland and parts on the southern island??? If I were you I’d spend my time more wisely and more fully explore and enjoy the northern island. To paraphrase the Viking River Cruise commercial - you want to spend more time “being there” than “getting there”.
RoamsAround is offline  
Jul 16th, 2019, 08:03 AM
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If we took an early morning flight and got into Queenstown at 10:30 am, we’d have most of the day free to explore, plus one additional day in the area and a day at Milford sound. Not sure what to expect with the relatives, my husband has never met them before but some of his other family has. I don’t know that we’d spend the whole day with them or not.
Rosie3110 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2019, 08:23 AM
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Rosie -

I fully appreciate that you want to fit in as much as possible, but you'd do well to heed the advice of RoamsAround.

I think you're underestimating the time it takes to get to/from airports, get luggage, get your rental car, get your bearings, etc.

You mention 23 hours travel time, so I assume you're coming from the US and by 8/1 you mean August? (in most countries 8/1 means January).

If you're coming from that far away you'll be exhausted and the kids will probably be very cranky.

Traveling in NZ winter (assuming we're taking about August) can present all sorts of issues - the road to Milford does occasionally close temporarily for black ice and avalanche blasting - this can throw a spanner in the works of a tight schedule - it's happened to me more than once.

You'll be required to carry snow chains in your car if you choose to self-drive and there's absolutely no guarantee that you'll actually make it to Milford if the weather is not in your favor. It's also a very long day - four hours each way from Queenstown (that will probably seem like an eternity with kids so young) and days are very short, so you won't have much daylight.

If you plan to go to Milford via bus, you're looking at a 13 hour return journey.

Last edited by Melnq8; Jul 16th, 2019 at 08:47 AM.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2019, 02:52 PM
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Did I understand correctly that you are going to Orewa after arriving in Auckland? How will you get there? When you said "it's 23 hours of travel time" did you mean you will have been traveling for 23 hours to get to Auckland?

Recently, domestic flights into and out of Auckland Airport were delayed or cancelled due to fog. This happens more frequently between April and September (this actually makes me anxious about my own travel plans).
So this is another way in which the weather could interfere with plans to travel to or from Queenstown.

As it's ski season, this is also high season for Queenstown, when accommodation costs more. Last-minute flights to Queenstown will also cost more than if you had booked these well in advance. I would save Queenstown for your next trip to NZ, when you have more time to plan, and during a time a year when the weather is less likely to limit your activities. Your children would probably better appreciate the trip and be able to participate in more activities when they are older.Also, keep in mind that Queenstown and Milford Sound are just two of the South Island's highlights. If you return to NZ, give yourself time to see more of the South Island's scenic highlights, of which there are many.
Diamantina is offline  
Jul 16th, 2019, 06:49 PM
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I echo what everyone else is suggesting. I don’t know your interests but there was plenty to keep me occupied in Auckland for a few days. Perhaps consider going to the aquarium, where there is a good penguin exhibit, or the zoo, for a look at some of NZ’s native animals. You could go across the harbor to Devonport for a few hours or a day. If you want to venture further out, take a cruise to Waiheke Island or another island in the gulf.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2019, 10:37 AM
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I'm looking at this as most likely my only trip to New Zealand so I want to see what's high on my list. I just want to see a few things that I find most interesting. I'm fully aware that 5 full days will only give us a very brief experience. It's not ideal, but it is what it is. Additionally, even if on the rare chance we can make it back again we'd only be able to travel in July or August anyway, so it would be the same. I want to see things that are unique to New Zealand, I'm not looking to spend much time in the cities, I would like to do more outdoorsy stuff. My kids are going to 2 zoos in Australia, so that's not something that I'm looking to do in New Zealand. Maybe I need to head to the South Island and not spend much time in the North, as I feel I would really regret not trying to see Milford Sound. We would just need to have contingent plans if it didn't work out. I'm used to lugging kids around and traveling and know it's a lot. We just have to be flexible and if something doesn't work out, it doesn't.
Rosie3110 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2019, 02:16 PM
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Well, in that case, head to the South Island and spend all your time there. That's what I usually advise anyway.

I'd suggest basing in Queentown for your entire five days - you can visit Milford, Arrowtown, Wanaka and Glenorchy all from a Queenstown base. It's one of the few towns on the SI that makes a decent base, and by that I mean it's proximity to other attractions, sites, etc.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2019, 02:36 PM
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It seems you want deeply to go to Queenstown and Milford Sound, will regret not going there, and will not be dissuaded by our advice.
Queenstown has a beautiful setting on Lake Wakitipu and sits beside the Remarkables, but it's essentially urban, a resort town, with many features of cities, such as traffic, fast-paced development, and lots of visitors, many who go there to party. It's close to more peaceful rural places and unspoiled national parks but you will need to drive or take tours to get to these places.
As Melnq8 mentioned, you might not even be able to get to Milford Sound if the road is closed.
At the moment, Milford Road is open:
I live in the south of the South Island and we've so far had a very mild winter, but this can change at any moment, with the arrival of a "cold snap". So it would be good to give yourself at least a couple of days for making this all-day trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown, just in case your first scheduled trip gets cancelled.
Milford Road and Sound are indeed beautiful and Fiordland is unique to NZ. Fiords/fjords, however, are not unique to NZ.
To give yourself more time to enjoy/explore Queenstown, maybe you should spend all your time in Queenstown and forget trying to get to Waitomo and Rotorua or Orewa, which are appealing destinations in and of themselves. Glow worms can also be seen in Te Anau, which is a little more than a two-hour drive from Queenstown, on the way to Milford Sound. You have stated you don't wish to drive. If you change your mind, stick with taking a tour to Milford Sound. Tours leave from Te Anau as well as Queenstown.
Once again, posted at the same time as you, Melnq8!

Last edited by Diamantina; Jul 17th, 2019 at 02:39 PM.
Diamantina is offline  
Jul 17th, 2019, 05:09 PM
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You might want to look at recent reviews for the tour/cruise to Milford Sound. These are for Real Journeys, just one of the companies that offers this trip:
Diamantina is offline  
Jul 18th, 2019, 02:59 AM
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"I feel I would really regret not trying to see Milford Sound" impressive though it is, Milford Sound probably would not make it into my top 10 places in NZ (I may be in a minority here!). It certainly would not be on my list with the time you have.

As you don’t seem to want to drive it is always going to be difficult to get around with anything other than an organised tour. Based on the experience of spending many months travelling over the north and South Islands, mostly in winter, I think I would go with Melnq8’s suggestion on basing yourself in Queenstown but would substitute Milford with a trip to Mount Cook (Aoraki) either by driving and staying overnight or by a helicopter trip.

Alternatively, on the North Island, we have often based ourselves in Lake Taupo for a week and used that as a base for places like Rotarua, Tongariro Etc..just a thought..
crellston is offline  
Jul 18th, 2019, 07:12 PM
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I'm still trying to decide what's best. I'm used to packing a lot into trips to new countries (and terrible about planning far in advance, but it has always worked out). I like to see some of the highlights in different areas of a country. Are there any guided tour companies in the North Island that you would recommend if we stuck to that? We were definitely thinking of that for a few days. Aside from Waitomo and Rotorua, anything else that you highly recommend in the North Island? Looking for more outdoorsy stuff. Don't mind having to travel to get there as long as we don't have to drive. I'm still thinking about going to the South as well, but just want to know my options. We probably should have left a few days earlier, but I'm going to be gone for close to 4 weeks and didn't want to since I feel like I'm missing summer back home. The majority of that time I will be working, not on vacation. NZ is the only portion, aside for some weekends that I will have time off. Thanks for everyone's input.
Rosie3110 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2019, 01:19 AM
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I don't take many tours but take a look at Great Sights/Intercity tours from Auckland:
Auckland and Beyond:

You can catch ferries from the Auckland waterfront to islands in Hauraki Gulf (among these Waiheke, Rangitoto, and Tiritiri Matangi) and to Coromandel peninsula.
Waiheke is home to gorgeous wineries and beaches (but August is not beach season). Once on Waiheke you can catch the Hop On Hop Off Bus. Rangitoto is an uninhabited predator free volcanic island with walking trails and rare native birds. It's pure nature, no accommodation, shops, restaurants or snack bars. If you don't feel like walking around the island, you can hop about the "road-train". There's a great view from its summit. Tiritiri Matangi is also predator-free, an open nature reserve with extraordinary birdlife; many of these species were brought back from the brink of extinction (something that New Zealand excels at). The island has many walking tracks and a lighthouse. Save for rangers and a few visitors staying in its bunkhouse, the island is uninhabited.

The Northern Explorer train goes from Auckland to Wellington, NZ's beautiful and vibrant capital, along the way you can view the countryside.
From Wellington, it'd be best to fly back to Auckland.There are frequent flights between the two cities.

How will you get from Auckland to Orewa?

The North Island gets most of its rain in winter.
Diamantina is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 05:57 AM
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Not sure what the best way to get to Orewa is. Obviously a taxi would be easiest, but expensive. The bus looks like it would take a while. Any suggestions? I'm afraid renting a car would just be too stressful. There is a small chance they might pick us up, but I don't think they can accommodate 5 people.
Rosie3110 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2019, 12:40 AM
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Maybe they have a van!
Can they meet you in Auckland? That would be easiest on you (but not for them as Auckland has terrible traffic).
There's also a ferry that goes from Auckland to Gulf Harbor Marina, which is a half hour drive from Orewa. So maybe you can catch the ferry to Gulf Harbor and they can pick you up and drop you off there. I've caught a ferry from Auckland to Gulf Harbor and back a couple of times.
Orewa is on the Hibiscus Coast. There are a number of shuttles from the airport that serve the Hibiscus Coast but these would probably cost about the same if not more than a taxi or uber. I wouldn't know.

Last edited by Diamantina; Jul 23rd, 2019 at 12:51 AM.
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