Planning Tip to Australia & NZ, March-April, 2010

Aug 23rd, 2009, 10:32 AM
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Planning Tip to Australia & NZ, March-April, 2010

We are experienced independent travelers who have traveled in SE Asia on our own, China on a tour, larger European cities on our own and regional travel in the US, where we are from. Planning to do Aust & NZ in 2010. What are your thoughts about doing this as part of a tour group or doing it by ourselves. If we do this trip by ourselves we would pre book guides to show us the places and things that we wish to see.

That brings us to another question. Do you have guide suggestions for Sydney, Melbourne Cairns plus north and south island? My thoughts are that we can see the things we really wish to, set our own schedule and pace and even do this trip cheaper than doing a tour. Of course there are pluses to doing a tour also.
MSheinberg is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 02:16 PM
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New Zealand is very easy to navigate on your own, and you won't need guides for most things.

How many days do you plan to take for this trip? If it's two weeks or less, choose one country.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 02:19 PM
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I forgot to add - if you click my screen name, you can read my trip report. We spent 10 days on the North Island in 2004 and loved it.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 03:05 PM
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Australia and New Zealand are among the easiest destinations for North Americans to navigate, with the sole exception that we drive on the LH side of the road. If you go down the DIY route, I recommend plenty of research using a good guidebook and online sources to make up your itinerary and hit-list of places you want to see and things to do.

You may wish to consult an Aust/NZ specialist travel agent to do you a customised itinerary - they can be found at the official Australian tourism site ( and its NZ equivalent (sorry, don't have the URL).

I know nothing about individualised guide services, which strike me as more appropriate to a destination like China. Certainly they wouldn't come cheap in countries that pay First World wages, and I question their value when it's so easy to get around using public transport, day and walking tours and rental cars. But that may also be something a specialist travel agent could help you with.

New Zealand being the more compact country is best seen on a drive-yourself basis. The more obvious Australian destinations are so far apart that with the possible exception of the Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne triangle you're best advised to fly.

You don't mention how long you're allocating to each country. That of course makes a difference.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 03:58 PM
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As stated Australia is easy to get around and for most things one does not need a guide. A guide will however find you wildlife or provide information which would take a lot of time to research.

What sort of guides would you want? I know more about wildlife guides than history or things like that.
Saltuarius is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 06:23 PM
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NZ is a breeze to see on your own. Rent a car, get a map and go. There are many organized tours in specific areas, such as the 4x4 tour of Farewell Spit, a guided helihike or glacier hike in Franz Josef/Fox Glacier, a boat cruise on Milford Sound, the Dart River Safari, a guided wine trail tour, etc, but there's certainly no need for a guide for the entire trip.

The only time I encountered a guide in NZ was on a trip where we met a Japanese couple touring the SI. They'd hired a bilingual guide as they didn't speak a word of English.

Same with OZ, do your research, rent a car/book flights and go.
Melnq8 is online now  
Aug 24th, 2009, 04:21 AM
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Agree with the others re how generally easy Australia and NZ are to do on your own. However, if you are adventurous and interested in seeing some of the wilder, more isolated parts of the Australian Outback, doing a camping tour is a very good way to go. My wife and I did such a trip several years ago across the vast, empty and ruggedly beautiful Kimberly region in NW Australia - one of best, if not the best, vacations we've taken.

Agree with ElendilPickle about the time needed for the trip. Two weeks would be a good start for NZ. Australia is tough: even with 3-4 weeks, you'll have to pick and choose carefully.
RalphR is offline  
Aug 24th, 2009, 08:30 AM
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There is no need to take a guided tour of New Zealand, particularly if you are comfortable with driving on the other side. (Outside of Auckland, it is pretty easy although it takes longer than expected).

The official NZ tourism website has lots of suggested itineraries & driving routes. If you want to see both the north and south coasts of the South Island you need at least two weeks for the South Island, plus about one week for the North Island, and even then you will not be able to see everything.

Check the Christchurch-Milford-Christchurch loop for a typical South Island visit.

For the North Island you can do a loop to Bay of Islands from Auckland to Taupo/Rotorua in about a week. Or drive to Wellington via Rotorua and take the ferry across to the South Island.

As was mentioned above there are lots of specialized tours and excursions that you can book directly with the operators such as the Elm Wildlife tour in Dunedin (for active people), Milford or Doubtful Sound, ferries and sails around Bay of Islands, various Queenstown area activities. The tourism website can link you directly to the providers.
mlgb is offline  
Aug 24th, 2009, 10:55 AM
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Thanks everyone for the good info. We are planning from 3 to 4 weeks in either mid March or the beginning of April 2010. It looks like the weather either time frame should be pretty good. We live with hot humid days and hope to enjoy some cooler weather on this trip. It looks like it will also be pretty dry but maybe cloudy at those times.

We would like to do both islands in NZ and perhaps Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns along with the great barrier reef. I am using the Quantas vacation brochure for ideas along with recommendations of other Fodorites. Of course, I will be looking at other travel sources.

I did drive in the Cotswolds about 3 years ago. The first night in the car we hit a terrible rain storm and I did pretty good. I did hit several curbs during that trip but after about 4 days I was starting to blink and move my head as I drove. Driving on this trip should be a piece of cake. Maybe I will even keep my eyes open.

Please feel free to make suggestions as to what you fell are must do things as well as things that we might want to skip. If there are local day tours that you think would be better than staying independent please tell me about those also. Our trip to SE Asia last year was put together the forumn and I must tell you it was a fantastic trip. I am counting on you again.
MSheinberg is offline  
Aug 24th, 2009, 02:22 PM
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Lee Ann, enjoyed your 2004 NZ trip repoprt. Forgot the Lord Of The Rings movies were filmed there.
MSheinberg is offline  
Aug 25th, 2009, 10:15 PM
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Thank you! I really hope we can go back.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Aug 26th, 2009, 05:17 AM
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Hi MSheinberg,

To do both islands comfortably, figure 2 weeks; do do them more in-depth (depending on your interests), add another week.

re: using Qantas brochure - you'll find the "cookie cutter" type of tours, mass produced for a broad appeal. If you want something that's tailored for your interests and your budget, then I'd suggest contacting your local Kiwi Specialist and working with an agent - here's the link from the Tourism NZ website.$-travel-agents-state-select.cfm/countryid/1/activityItemID/90.html

or, as you've used this forum before, the advice of people on this board; BUT, you said "..must do things or things to skip..." - we don't know your interests so that would be difficult = (wine, history, thermal activity, Maori culture, wildlife?), you may want to provide some more information.

Afterall, what's on one person's "must do" list might not isn't be on someone else's! (like glow worms and caves aren't on mine)!

Hope this is helpful!

Certified Aussie & Kiwi Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Aug 26th, 2009, 07:49 PM
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Have put this trip on the side for a few days. Helping my daughter plan a trip to Vietnam & Bangkok. Will get back to you soon. Meanwhile keep the ideas coming.
MSheinberg is offline  
Aug 29th, 2009, 11:59 PM
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Tell us a little more of your interests!
Saltuarius is offline  
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