Plannng a trip to New Zealand

Feb 7th, 2009, 07:15 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2009
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Plannng a trip to New Zealand

My daughters (24 and 21) and I will be traveling in Australia and NZ in April. We'll spend a week in Australia seeing Canberra (where the younger one is in school), the GBR and Sydney then spend a week on the SI of NZ. From looking online, it appears the train from Picton to Christchurch would be a great idea as well as the train from Christchurch to Greymouth. I want to do an overnight cruise of Doubtful Sound so need to get to the south of the island. I don't know the best way to travel besides the trains. I'm not sure I want to drive on the left side of the road while trying to see the gorgeous scenery so am considering bus travel. Any one have experience with the NZ bus system? Suggestions on places to stay in some of the more out of the way locations? Should we plan to go to Dunedin? Since we're traveling in a couple of months and I'm just starting to plan, should I use a travel agency? I've never done that but also haven't traveled to a location where I don't have friendly suggestions and advice. Help will be appreciated!
Biking_kathy is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 07:49 PM
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I've been to the South Island 3 times and if I only had a week to spend there, I would not include Dunedin (which I have visited) on my itinerary. I would recommend you limit yourself to 2 or 3 destinations. The distances may seem small on the map, but it takes longer to travel them than you would think as you are generally on 2-lane roads--not interstate highways.
You can still plan this trip yourself even though you are going in a couple of months. Since you have already decided on your Australian destinations, you are halfway there. Your daughter in Canberra (ANU?) can help arrange accomodations and sightseeing in Australia as I am sure her classmates will have a lot of good info. Then grab a good guidebook for New Zealand (I like Lonely Planet), decide on your destinations, go online for info/questions and book your trip.
We have always driven ourselves around NZ, but I can see why you would want to use public transportation as the scenery is spectacular. I think Lonely Planet or Rough Guide would give you a lot of info on buses in NZ.
longhorn55 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 08:17 PM
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I agree with longhorn about skipping Dunedin and limiting yourself to two or three areas on the SI. Suggest you decide what you absolutely don't want to miss and go from there. You might try to limit yourself to either the north or the south of the SI, as drive distances will eat up your time in a hurry. It's almost impossible to see both ends of the SI with only a week, unless you plan to live in your car or fly.

Keep in mind that you can also fly within NZ. For instance, you can arrive in Christchurch, then fly to Queentown, then perhaps work your way back to Christchurch, or perhaps base yourself down south and then fly back to Christchurch for departure. Lots of options, it just depends on your particular interests.
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 11:12 PM
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Having just returned from SI I agree with the advice you are being given. We did one corner of the south of SI - Te Anau, Wanaka and Queenstown. And we are very glad we did not try to do more - and we were driving so had the flexibility. I don't think you need a travel agent - we made al our bookings directly. I'd highly reco both our Te Anau and Queenstwon acco (my trip report has details) but I am concerned that neither may be convenient without transport.
hobbes is offline  
Feb 8th, 2009, 04:13 AM
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Thanks for the advice. I hadn't thought of flying within NZ. I really want to do one of the trains so maybe the TranzAlpine to Greymouth with bus travel to Gueenstown then fly back to Christchurch. From what I've seen, the south part is what looks most appealing to me.

Anyone have "must see's" in the south? Has anyone used Real Journeys for Milford/Doubtful cruises? They had quad rooms that looked good for the 3 of us.

I'll get travel books and see what they have to say but do like real people's thoughts. Thanks so much!

Hobbes, your trip looks amazing! Traveling mercies as you continue on.
Biking_kathy is offline  
Feb 8th, 2009, 04:38 AM
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Both Australian and New Zealand are relatively easy to organise travelling in and the main issue for you is going to be the challenge on time and places you want to see.

Just answering your main NZ query, their national bus network uses modern buses and from trips I have made when there they are on time. is the site and you could travel by bus down the west coast from Greymouth to eventually Queenstown from where you could arrange your Doubtful Sound cruise.

I'm not sure on how long a run that is going to be and haven't checked their timetable - your organising and all that you can probably do more efficient online without introducing and relying on a third party.

You could look at stops at the Glaciers and/or Wanaka making that a two/three day section, you probably needing two days at minimum.

For Australia, it is a simple either train/bus or fly Canberra to Sydney and then with time crucial, it is probably either a flight to Proserpine or Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays or Cairns, you able to do the GBR from either location, Cairns perhaps being a bit more humid, especially with all the rain being dumped up north - it'll be soggy for quite sometime. will give you an idea of internal flights and also look for Cairns to either Wellington or Christchurch, the Transalpine train ride being far better than that Picton to Christchurch.
Once you have the best flights just book direct with airlines, and a Cairns exit to NZ does give an advantage for you re time. and will give you an idea of what's available in both locations. is not a bad site to help on planning for NZ and do a Ctrl click on distances and then click on link and you get a map that is handy for giving you an idea of distances.

But work on your itinerary detail, means of travelling and sure we can help out more as required.
If you're up to some hostelling, NZ in particular has some great ones and is a good listing.
Bushranger is offline  
Feb 8th, 2009, 05:50 AM
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Must have been typing while you posted Kathy, and yep Trans Alpine is way to go.

I'd suggest you do not really need a guidebook for such a short trip where you have limited time and you'll find just so much information by googling.

On arrival in Oz and NZ you'll find plenty of free guides, maps and even books as well as "i" information centres abounding, and even wander into a or office in a capital city or just a hostel and there's always heaps of info available.

Keep a lookout for Safari Petes Jungle Guide or it could be JPSG, a little pocket size freebie gem that covers both Oz and NZ basics.
Bushranger is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 05:08 PM
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Bushranger, Thanks for all your suggestions. I need some time to digest them (while working and keeping up a house) so may be back with more questions later. You've given me a good start.
Biking_kathy is offline  
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