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planning for 1st trip to NZ

Old Sep 29th, 2013, 01:14 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 32
planning for 1st trip to NZ

Husband & I want to go to NZ in Feb-March for about 3 wks. We want to take an easy pace, 3-4 nights per place as base for day trips. Our $$ level is budget-moderate. Questions:
* 1 island (which one?) or both?
* recommend any such escorted tour or go w/ rental car?
* suggested locations/itinerary with enough to see on day trips?
* we're interested in a mix of museums/architecture (i.e., city-not so interested in night life), Maori culture, nature/outdoors/hiking

Any suggestions and info will be appreciated.
Bobbe is offline  
Old Sep 29th, 2013, 01:35 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,460
bobbe - there are a lot of threads about trips on the NI and SI, which i benefitted from hugely when planning our first trip, which starts in November. We have 17 nights in NZ - we are picking up a car in Auckland and driving it down to Wellington [spending 4 nights in the NI] and then taking the ferry to the SI where we are spending 13 nights.

you can see our route here:

if we'd had more time, i'd have liked to have fitted in some time in the Bay of Islands north of auckland, and longer in the north of the SI.

of course we haven't gone yet, so it may be that we have got our trip planning entirely wrong. that said, we've had tremendous help from melnq8 and mlgb and other fodorites of course. melnq8 in particular is an american living in Perth, australian, who just loves the SI of NZ and she has been exceptionally helpful with helping us plan our itinerary. as you say you like hiking, you should read anything you can that is written by her, as that is her passion too.
annhig is offline  
Old Sep 30th, 2013, 02:57 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,497
With three weeks, I would visit both islands. Rent a car; it's easy to get around and you'll appreciate being able to stop when and where you like.

We spent 10 days on the North Island in 2004 (too long ago!) and everything we visited is still there. You can take a look at our itinerary in my trip report:

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Old Sep 30th, 2013, 05:41 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,049
Hi Bobbe -

With three weeks you can see quite a lot - I suggest two weeks on the SI and one on the NI, although in my experience it's certainly easy enough to spend all (and more) on just the SI.

NZ is best seen my car, as it gives you endless flexibility and doesn't tie you down to a tour operator's schedule.

For Maori culture = North Island (Rotorua is a good place to start)

If cities interest you, Auckland and Wellington on the NI, Christchurch and possibly Dunedin on the SI. For museums, Te Papa in Wellington is a good bet. The Canterbury Museum has an excellent display called Quake City in Christchurch - all about the 2011 earthquakes - excellent and worth several hours.

For hiking, you just can't go wrong with the SI - loads of tracks, some of which you'll have entirely to yourselves.

A possible driving route on the SI:

Christchurch-Arthur's Pass-Greymouth-Punakaiki-Hokitika-Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers-Wanaka-Te Anau-Milford-Queenstown-Mt Cook-Lake Tekapo-Christchurch.

It's possible to do this route in about two weeks, you'll pretty much cover the highlights of the SI.

A few words of wisdom -

Don't overstretch by trying to fit the far north and the far south of the SI into only two weeks. It's possible with three weeks, but still involves quite a bit of driving.

You're on the right track, planning to spend at least three nights in each location, although I think you'll find that two nights works quite well in some areas, depending on what you plan to do of course.

These are very general answers to a very general question, but as you narrow down your itinerary, myself and others will be better able to help you with specifics.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Oct 3rd, 2013, 02:24 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 32
Annhig, ElendiPickle, and Melinq8 - thank you all for your invaluable information and advice. This forum is fabulous and folks are so responsive. Annhig - I'm in awe of your diligence in preparing your itinerary! I'm sure your trip will will exceed your expectations. We are still trying to sort out the details and make some decisions. To be continued!
Bobbe is offline  
Old Oct 4th, 2013, 02:16 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,460
Annhig - I'm in awe of your diligence in preparing your itinerary!>>

thanks - but I would save any admiration til we get back and tell you how we got on! I've nevre planned a trip quite as diligently before but we want to make sure that we use the time as well as we can. Naturally things will go wrong, and not exactly to plan, but that's what makes travel fun! and we have plenty of unplanned time in Oz for a bit of R&R too.
annhig is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2013, 07:48 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 561
When we had three weeks a few (ok more than a few) years ago. We felt the pacing was good, the one night stops were usually specific places we wanted to go for an activity - such as glacier hiking, wine tasting or swimming with dolphins. 18 nights, lost a day on trip to NZ but really long day heading home.

Queenstown (2 nights)
Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge (2 nights) - hike to watch penguins on beach was memorable
Franz Josef (1 night) - glacier hike
train Greymouth to Christchurch (Trans Alpine)
Christchurch (2 nights)
Kaikoura (1 night) - swimming with dolphins was a trip highlight
Timara Lodge in Blenheim (1 night) - would definitely have stayed more (lovely lodge, great wine tasting, another highlight)
Queen Charlotte Sound (2 nights) - would have skipped and added another night in Blenheim and Kaikoura, or 2 nights in Wellington
fly Wellington to Auckland
Russell in Bay of Islands (3 nights) (we ended up driving because we had too much luggage!, favorite little town, terrific B&B hosts)
Coramandel Pen. (3 nights) - relaxing end to the trip at Puka Park
Auckland (1 night)

Tamara Inn in
POlson is offline  
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