North Trip in September

Old Feb 11th, 2024, 09:03 AM
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North Trip in September

I have a very short amount of time for a trip to New Zealand after spending 2 weeks in Australia. We will fly home from Auckland on either a Sunday or a Wednesday evening (8pm) since those are direct flights to Chicago. Given the time of year plus the fact that we only have either 5 or 8 days, I think staying in the North makes sense.

We love nature, photography, shorter hikes (3 hours or less), food and wine. We enjoy seeing a lot of things over sitting at a beach. I will probably want to spend at least a night or two in Auckland at either the start or end of our trip. The rest of the time, I think we'd rent a car and explore. I do have a cousin near New Plymouth that I'd try to see if it works, but I'm not sure if there are places in that area that would make it work the drive. Maybe he'd come to Auckland or meet us somewhere.

I can fly into a different city (from Australia) if that makes sense.

What would you recommend I do if I only have 5 nights?
What would you recommend if I have 8 nights?

Thanks for your thoughts.
lynnelarosa8039 is offline  
Old Feb 12th, 2024, 03:09 PM
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You have lots of options. Almost too many. The easiest would be to have your cousin meet you (and not necessarily in Auckland), but you might want to see the area where he (and perhaps his family) lives. New Plymouth is near iconic Mt. Taranaki/Egmont National Park. Mt. Taranaki is a "cone" volcano. Its shape looks a bit like Japan's Mt. Fuji. New Plymouth also has a pretty coastal walkway. I've only been there once, many, many years ago. To be honest, New Plymouth is not a top-of-the-list destination for the first time visitor. Have you explained to your cousin how little time you might have and asked for his suggestions on where you might meet, if you can't easily visit New Plymouth?

If visiting him in New Plymouth is a priority, you can always fly to it directly from Auckland (50 minute flight). Or from Wellington (1 hour flight) , if you can arrange to fly from Australia to Wellington (NZ's pretty, interesting and compact capital) instead of Auckland.

There are also many flights from Australia to Christchurch and a few to Queenstown, two major destinations on the South Island. Otherwise, you can fly drectly from Auckland to Christchurch in 1 hour 30 minutes or from Auckland to Queenstown in 1 hour 50 minutes. It should still be spring ski season in Queenstown..

September is a pretty time of spring blossoms. In Auckland and many other places, the native kowhai, NZ's unofficial national flower, will be in bloom, and it will attract highly vocal native tuis and melodious bellbirds. It'll also be the time for many non-native flowers, like daffodils, magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons, and cherry blossoms.

As it'll be spring, you can expect rain, cloudy skies, as well as sun. Sitting on the beach wouldn't be appealing at this time of year (unless you're well-insulated orr don't mind chilly weather), but walking on beaches might be fine, unless it's raining. In Auckland, the average high temperature for September is 62F, the low is 49F but it'll get warmer toward the end of the month. On average, there are 10 days of rain. In mid-September, the sun will rise at around 6:15 a.m. and set at around 6 15 p.m. Bring a lined water- and wind-proof jacket with a hood, gloves, waterproof footwear and waterproof pants if you plan to hike. You can keep the waterproof pants in your backpack and just use them, if needed. Think layers: bring a fleece or thin merino wool top to wear under your jacket, if needed. Bring tee-shirts, too. (I assume you'll be wearing these in Australia.) Locals wear shorts all year round, even in the rain. NZ's weather is unpredictable and can change quickly. You can get a warm sunny day or a wet, windy one, but you have to be prepared and check that morning's weather forecast, which will probably be fairly accurate.

If you decide to stay in Auckland, Greater Auckland, beyond the city center, offers many opportunities to get close to nature. West Auckland has rugged, black sand beaches, a gannet colony (currently closed, but possibly open by September), and the Waitakere Ranges (some tracks might be closed due to kauri dieback disease). The islands of Auckland's Hauraki Gulf include the volcanic Rangitoto Island, the wildlife sanctuary island of Tiritiri Matangi, and Waiheke, the island of wines.

You have not mentioned Maori culture, so i assume you are not interested in Rotorua, though many first time visitors to the North Island are. Waitomo Glow Worm Caves are also on many first-time visitors' lists. You can self drive or have a look at these tours.

It would take you at least 5 hours, without stops, to drive from Auckland to New Plymouth, so getting there will take all day, given that you'd need to stop for breaks. Better yet, you can spend a night or two between Auckland and New Plymouth. Maybe Hamilton as it would be on your route and not out off your way. Hamilton is known for its Botanic Garden.

Hawkes Bay (centered around the towns of Napier-Havelock North-Hastings) is home to the largest wine region on the North Island. It's also known for its Art Deco architecture. But if driving to New Plymouth, it would be out of your way, as it's on the opposite coast. Suppose you had 8 days, and tried to fit in Auckland, Napier, New Plymouth, and Wellington (where you could drop off your car and fly back to Auckland)--you'd be spening a lot of time driving. I wouldn't do it.

Your interests are broad, "We love nature, photography, shorter hikes (3 hours or less), food and wine.... I will probably want to spend at least a night or two in Auckland at either the start or end of our trip." In my opinion, if you have 5 nights, you can spend a few days in Auckland and take an overnight trip to another nearby destination. If you have 8 days, you can spend a night or two in Auckland, then drive to Wellington (but fly back to Auckland from there), and spend some nights at some destinations in between (possibly including NP). There are wineries throughout the country, but Waiheke, Hawkes Bay, and Martinbourgh (a little more than an hour from Wellington) are the largest wine regions on the North Island.

I live on the South Island, and, I admit, I am partial to the South Island. I like the North Island, and have made many wonderful trips to the North Island, but I think the South Island has that "wow" factor. i can't even begin to describe how beautiful it is--and it way less crowded. if if I had 8 days, I think I would either fly directly to Queenstown, see Queenstown, visit Glenorchy, Wanaka, Arrowtown, Gibbston Valley Wine region, take an all-day coach tour to Milford Sound, then fly to Auckland for the last two nights, or I'd consider flying into Christchurch (maybe take a day trip to Arthur's Pass or Akaroa) while there, spend a night or two there, then drive up to Kaikoura (you'd also pass through the North Canterbury wine region along the way), then spend a night there, then drive up to Marlborough, NZ's largest and best known wine region, spend a couple of nights there, before flying back from there (Blenheim) to Auckland.

These are just a few of your options. Remember, you must be prepared for all types of weather, and the possibility of snow in Queenstown-Wanaka Lakes and Arthur's Pass. I would suggest reading through Melnq8's trip reports as I believe she often travels to the South Island at this time of year.


Personally, I think I'd have a hard time leaving Australia!

Last edited by Diamantina; Feb 12th, 2024 at 03:26 PM.
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Old Feb 12th, 2024, 04:55 PM
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Thank you!

Wow. Iím overwhelmed by your complete response. Thank you so much.
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Old Feb 12th, 2024, 09:59 PM
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On one of our campervan trips around NZ we did head to New Plymouth with the objective of seeing MT Taranaki. Sadly the weather didn't cooperate and the mountain was obscured by cloud the whole time we were there. I have to say we left NP less than impressed. We did however love driving the "Forgotten World Highway" towards Taupo.

Taupo high be a good choice for you. Lake Taupo is stunning and provided easy access to Tongariro (you could even do the crossing if feeling energetic!) and the many geothermal areas etc. Rotorua is not too far.


If it has to be the north island , fair enough but if this your first visit to NZ I would seriously consider spending your time on the SI even if it means flying to Auckland for your flight home. Lots of sub 3 hour hikes there, some of which we covered in our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/new-zealand/
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