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Solo (mostly) coach trip - 45 days itinerary planning

Solo (mostly) coach trip - 45 days itinerary planning

Feb 5th, 2016, 10:25 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2016
Posts: 21
Solo (mostly) coach trip - 45 days itinerary planning

Hi all!

I'm from India and this is going to be my first trip solo, so I needed some thoughts on my itinerary. I'm planning to visit both islands in May and June because that's pretty much the only time I'm free this year. I've always wanted to go to NZ (Sorry, but like everybody else, LoTR got me hooked!)

I have deliberately avoided a guided tour because I don't want to rush through what has been my dream destination for over a decade now. So (gasp) I've pretty much planned this whole trip all by my lonesome and I needed some thoughts about if it's any good (who doesn't want validation?! ::wink wink:: ) or if it's a huge mistake and I should leave the planning to professionals!

Also, I'm going to be travelling by Intercity or Nakedbus from one destination to the next (except for a couple of places) so I do realize a bulk of my time will go in getting from one place to another. But I do not want to drive, and I don't mind watching the scenery from inside a coach.

I'd reach most of these places at late afternoon or evening, so the first day is mostly just settling in and resting. And, I'll be staying in hostels at all of these places.

So, here goes:

May 1 - arrive at Christchurch from Sydney (3 nights)

May 4 - Lake Tekapo (2 nights)

May 6 - Mt. Cook (2 nights) {considering 1 night at Tekapo and 3 nights at Mr. Cook. Works?}

May 8 - back to Christchurch for a night (1 night)

May 9 - Tranzalpine train to Hokitika (2 nights)

May 11 - Franz Josef (3 nights) {to see if it's possible to do a glacier heli-hike in case the weather does not co-operate on one of the days}

May 14 - Wanaka (4 nights) {Too much? Too little?}

May 18 - Queenstown (3 nights) {a day trip to Glenorchy while there}

May 21 - Te Anau (2 nights) {kayak Milford on 22nd}

May 23 - Coach to Dunedin reaching at noon. (1 night)

May 24 - Early morning flight from Dunedin to Nelson. Nelson (2 nights) {Abel Tasman walk and kayak on 25th}

May 26 - Coach to Picton. Interislander to Wellington. Wellington (3 nights) {there's a Super Rugby match on the 27th that I want to catch, if possible!}

May 29 - Northern Explorer train to National Park (2 nights) OR {do I just go on to Hamilton?}

May 31 - Hamilton (2 nights) {day trip or overnight at Coromandel? I haven't included it in, but if I skip National Park then maybe I can manage it. Also, Matamata and Waitomo from Hamilton. So, I'm still iffy about halting at National Park coz this leg is hectic!}

June 03 - Rotorua (4 nights)

June 07 - Taupo (2 nights)

June 09 - Auckland (4 nights) {All Blacks play Wales at Eden Park on June 11th, so I absolutely HAVE to be here during that time! I cannot go to NZ without watching a Rugby match!}

June 12 - Whangarei (3 nights) {Day trip to Cape Reinga ex-Paihia on one of the days. Maybe on the 14th?}

June 15 - back to Auckland for a night.

June 16 - Flight back home. Bye NZ! Thanks for the memories!


tl;dr - Itinerary. Halp!
Auntie_Em is offline  
Feb 6th, 2016, 12:53 AM
Join Date: Jun 2014
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Hi! I actually bought a 45-hour intercity flexipass while planning my NZ trip, but as life would have it, I have to sell it now. It is valid till Feb 2017! Was wondering if you would be interested? About the itinerary, it looks good, but this is from someone who has only read up and planned for NZ and not been there yet!
sh1818 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2016, 06:49 AM
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Hi Auntie Em -

Good on you for planning your own trip - you won't be disappointed. And lucky you for having 45 days!

We usually visit NZ in the off season and find its a great time to visit. Yes, there are weather considerations and you must be a bit more flexible that time of year, but it seems you have quite a bit of wiggle room in your itinerary which is a very good thing.

I'm curious about your routing on the SI though, as it's not very efficient. For example, why return to Christchurch just to go to Hoki and down the West Coast and to Wanaka when you were already pretty close to Wanaka?

Instead I suggest you consider something like this:

Christchurch-Tekapo-Mt Cook (yes three nights in Mt Cook is good, will give you two full days to hike if that's what interests you, but if the weather is bad...you might feel trapped. In which case two in Tekapo and two in Mt Cook works too). Then Mt Cook to Wanaka, Wanaka to Te Anau, Te Anau to Dunedin (all the better if you can incorporate the Catlins into this segment), Dunedin to Queenstown, Queenstown to the glaciers, the glaciers to Hoki, Hoki to Nelson, Nelson to Picton and then on to Wellie.

This routing is more of a loop, avoiding backtracking, and it will take you up most of the West Coast, which is incredibly scenic. It also eliminates the Dunedin to Nelson flight.

You will see the best of the SI on this routing. Yes, you will miss Arthur's Pass, but personally, I think it's a good trade, especially as the Tranzalpine train is mostly through tunnels - you'll miss the best of the scenery.

As far as time allotment, I'd delete a night in Wanaka, delete that second stay in Christchurch and perhaps a night from the three night stay, delete a night in Hoki, add a night to Te Anau (if you can spare it), add at least one night to Dunedin (you won't even have a full day there with only one night), add a night to Nelson, and if you have any days to spare, add them to Picton - lots to see in the Marlborough Sounds, but you'd need at least a full day to work with.

I'll leave the NI for those who know it better.
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2016, 05:30 PM
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I think the Tranzalpine goes to and from CC to Greymouth. Someone please correct me if I'm uninformed. I'm not aware of a passenger train connection to Hokitika, though I know trains go there; I've seen the tracks, heard the trains, which rumbled past my Hokitika accommodation. I think you might have to take a bus connection from Greymouth to Hokitika. What do you plan to do in Hokitika without a car? The town itself has a nice beach, jade (pounamu) shops, a glow worm dell close to the town center. I don't know the town well, but I thought Hokitika Gorge was its most interesting attraction, but I don't know how you'd get there without a car. You can email their ISite tourist information bureau to find out:

I agree with Melnq8, do a loop of the South Island. If you'd like to take the Tranzalpine train, consider spending a day in CC at the beginning of your trip to do a day trip from CC to Arthur's Pass and back. Your train trip done, then you're free continue on your SI trip, following a loop.

I've done some bus traveling around the South Island, using Atomic Shuttles, Intercity, Alpine Connexions, West Coast Shuttle, Catch a Bus South. Melnq8 is right, you'd love the Catlins, but you don't have many public transportation options for getting there or around there. Some of the backpacker busses go there, like Bottom Bus. There used to be a bus called the Catlins Coaster, but this is now Bottom Bus.
Stewart Island is very visitable by public transit. The ferry (from Bluff) or flights (from Invercargill) aren't cheap. You wouldn't need a car once you get to Stewart Island. It's a top destination for birders, particularly Ulva Island.

For the South Island, you also have the option of taking Atomic Shuttles. There are many shuttle buses that travel shorter, specialized regional routes. Two that might interest you are: Cook Connection, which travels between Lake Tekapo, Mt. Cook Village and Twizel (you're in luck as it only runs through May 31); and Alpine Connexions, which goes to walking tracks in Wanaka and to other Otago towns.

I've not taken Naked Bus, which has a reputation of being sometimes unreliable (but mostly reliable and cheap).

If I were you I'd first take a day trip on the Tranzalpine (as you'd like to take a train trip), then do this loop: CC to Tekapo (Atomic Shuttles), Tekapo to Mt. Cook Village (Cook Connection), Mt. Cook Village to Wanaka (Cook Connection, then connect to Atomic Shuttles in Twizel), Wanaka to Dunedin (Atomic Shuttles), Dunedin to Te Anau (Intercity from Dunedin Railway Station, special pick-up that must be arranged for when you book the bus), Te Anau to Queenstown (Naked Bus or Intercity), Queenstown to Franz Josef (Intercity), Franz Josef to Hokitika (Intercity, or skip Hokitika), Hokitika to Punakaiki (Intercity), Punakaiki to Nelson (Intercity), Nelson to Picton, ferry to Wellington. Or Picton to Kaikoura, Kaikoura to CC, fly to Wellington.

Public transport options to Mt. Cook Village are very popular, so I would make sure that these are available first.
Diamantina is offline  
Feb 7th, 2016, 06:10 AM
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You're correct Diamantina, the Tranzalpine stops in Greymouth. I'd assumed the OP would catch a bus from there to Hoki.
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2016, 07:08 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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I traveled NZ solo back in 2005 using buses and youth hostels. Unfortunately, didn't have as much time, but did manage to see both islands and loved it. Back then, the YHA had a package deal with a set itinerary, now they just offer bus and bed passes and leave you to work out the details - see http://www.yha.co.nz/travel-shop/
thursdaysd is offline  
Feb 7th, 2016, 08:21 AM
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Thank you all for your detailed replies! It was so very helpful!

Melnq8 - I have pretty much done what you've said for SI and changed my itinerary accordingly. The loopy route you laid out makes a lot more sense. I initially thought of going to Greymouth and beyond because the Tranzalpine halted there and I didn't see the point of coming back. So I planned the rest of the trip accordingly. But the way you've put it makes a lot of sense!
I don't mind skipping Arthur's Pass because based on what you and diamantina have told me, I'll be doing the Tranzalpine as a day trip. So, I'll pass through the place twice. I'll be sure to keep my eyes peeled! There's a jade carving workshop at Hokitika which I was interested in, hence the extra day there. I couldn't add another day for Catlins or Marlborough Sounds unfortunately. Oh well, next time!

Diamantina - I cannot thank you enough for all the info you gave me! I didn't even know about Cook Connection and Atomic Shuttles! Shame on me! (Since I wasn't considering Stray and Kiwi Experience, I'm not counting them) Your idea to do the Tranzalpine as a day trip? Genius! It's what I plan to do with the one extra day I have at Christchurch. In fact I think I'll do the Taieri Gorge - Middlemarch day trip too (as I am at Dunedin on a Sunday fortunately!)
I'm gutted I cannot add a trip to Catlins in this trip because you sold me on it, but I hope I'll be able to see those and Stewart Island the next time I visit NZ (whenever that is!)
Also, that link to the travelheadfirst website is a lifesaver! I now know what to do in Rotorua!

thursdaysd - YHA was the first website I sought out when I decided to take the trip! What I did was:
1) first decided upon the places I wanted to go to,
2) then checked if there were YHA hostels there (or BBH as an alternative) and then finally,
3) I checked out the bus routes! LOL!

My itinerary is a lot saner now that I've removed all the extras. I'll put it up below! Let me know if it needs more fine-tuning? Thanks heaps you all!
Auntie_Em is offline  
Feb 7th, 2016, 08:42 AM
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Revised itinerary:

May 1 - arrive at Christchurch from Sydney (3 nights) {Tranzalpine-Greymouth return day-trip on the 3rd}

May 4 - Lake Tekapo (2 nights) {Atomic shuttle combo pass FTW!)

May 6 - Mt. Cook (3 nights)

May 9 - Atomic Shuttle to Wanaka via Twizel (5 nights)

May 14 - Dunedin (3 nights) {Taieri Gorge day trip on one of the days}

May 17 - Te Anau (2 nights) {kayak Milford on 18th}

May 19 - evening GS shuttle to Queenstown (4 nights) {a day trip to Glenorchy on 21st}

May 23 - Franz Josef (3 nights) {to see if it's possible to do a glacier heli-hike in case the weather does not co-operate on one of the days}

May 26 - Hokitika (2 nights) {Jade carving workshop and Hokitika Gorge on 27th}

{No halt at Punakaiki as the Intercity bus halts there for 45 mins en route to Nelson. I guess that has to be enough to see the Pancake Rocks!}

May 28 - Nelson (3 nights) {Abel Tasman walk and kayak on 29th}

May 31 - Morning coach to Picton. Afternoon Interislander to Wellington. Wellington (3 nights) {WETA, Te Papa et al!}

Jun 03 - Northern Explorer train to Hamilton (3 nights) {day trip or overnight trip to Coromandel with Hamilton as base? There's a local bus called Coromandel25 if I'm not mistaken.}

{OR should I add another day at Picton before to check out the Marlborough sounds}

June 06 - morning coach to Rotorua (4 nights) {day trip to Waitomo and Hobbiton with Waitomo wanderer. And a Half day geyser trip with the same guys. Maybe a trip to Taupo if I can wing it, else that's off the table.}

June 10 - Early morning coach to Auckland (2 nights) {All Blacks play Wales at Eden Park on June 11th!}

June 12 - Early morning coach to Whangarei (1 night) plus half of the next day.

Jun 13 - Late evening coach to Paihia (2 nights) Reaches Paihia at 9 pm. {Day trip to Cape Reinga ex-Paihia with Nakedbus on the 14th.}

June 15 - Morning coach back to Auckland (1 night) reaches afternoon so I have half a day.

June 16 - Ridiculously early morning flight back home.

Is this any better?
Auntie_Em is offline  
Feb 7th, 2016, 01:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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The SI portion is definitely better. The only thing I'd change is delete one of those nights from Wanaka and add it to Te Anau.

Keep in mind that in order to see Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park near Wanaka, you will need to take yet more transportation. Diamantina mentions an option above.

There are some great tracks around Te Anau and there's transport to/from some of them as well, so you'd have no troubles spending an extra full day there if you like to walk or enjoy lake activities.

How do you plan to get to Hoki Gorge?

What are your plans for the two nights in Tekapo? I assume you know there's not a whole lot there. Most folks stop to see the church, take a wee, grab a meal and move on. A trip up to Mt John is always interesting, and you can walk there from town.

Yes, 45 minutes in Punakaiki is sufficient to see Pancake Rocks.
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2016, 03:08 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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I also wonder if two nights in Tekapo isn't too much. The Atomic Shuttle leaves CC at 7:30 a.m., arriving Tekapo at 10:40 a.m. (double-check because I could be wrong). If correct, you have a whole day, enough time to walk up to Mt. John Observatory, look around this tiny community (see church and working dog statue), maybe go to Tekapo Springs, and/or do a night stargazing tour (only makes sense if the sky is clear, and if the moon is NOT full). You might get bored, if you stayed a second day.

The New Moon is on May 6 this year so the stargazing on May 4, if clear, should be excellent.
Also, the Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks May 5-7 and it favors the Southern Hemisphere!

If stargazing interests you, but it ends up being cloudy on the night you're in Tekapo, you'll have another chance in Mt. Cook Village.

We did the Cowan Observatory stargazing tour at Tekapo, and loved seeing planets and constellations through their telescope, as well as the guide telling us about them.

Here's a link to a brochure for walking tracks from Mt. Cook Village:
The Hooker Valley Track is great and easy.

You must like trains, in which case, you'll probably enjoy the Taieri Gorge Railway train. I took the trip later in winter, after autumn leaves had dropped so trees were bare. It was a grey day. I was underwhelmed. It's probably most scenic on a sunny day. The first 15 minutes or so passed through railway yards and other empty, overgrown lots. It takes a while to get to the gorge. May is not busy, so you can decide after you get here. If you have an Internet connection in Te Anau, you can check the weather forecast at http://www.metservice.com/national/home
It's reliable for about two to three days out.

I enjoyed Dunedin Railways short Seasider trip far more, but it's only offered in peak season, generally on cruise ship days.

Dunedin is known for its wildlife. If the weather is fine, consider going on an Elm Wildlife Peninsula Encounters Tour. In May, they'll pick you up at 1:30 p.m. from the city (I think directly from your accommodation). If you're getting in at noon, possibly you could do this on your first afternoon/night, but your connection would be tight. If your bus is late, you might not make it. You could try calling them after you arrive in Dunedin, they'll probably have room. You won't see as much wildlife in May as you would in summer, but you'd still see Yellow Eyed Penguins, fur seals, NZ sea lions, probably Northern Royal Albatross, and many other birds.

The Elm Wildlife Peninsula Encounters Tour would be my pick of the best thing to do in Dunedin.

If the weather is poor, indoor activities include Toitu Settlers Museum, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Otago Museum, Cadbury Chocolate Factory, Speight's Brewery Tour, Olveston House, and Taieri Gorge Railway. Museums are free, donations are welcome, there's an admission fee for the other attractions. Outdoor activities include the Botanic Garden, nearby Baldwin St. and the University of Otago, or St. Clair Beach. Or just walk around looking at Dunedin's heritage buildings and murals. Dunedin's city center is very walkable.

Tunnel Beach track is scenic on a sunny day, but hard to get to without a car, you'd have to catch the local bus then walk about 15 minutes to get to the track. It'd take half a day, probably not worth it. https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Attrac...th_Island.html

There are several backpacker/hostels near the Octagon (Dunedin's center) and one near the Naked Bus depot. Let me know if you need more info about hostel locations.

Four nights in Queenstown is good. You could ride the gondola, walk through the Botanic Garden and its lakeside track, take the local Connectabus to Arrowtown or Amisfield Winery, take a LOTR tour to Glenorchy, take a Jet Boat Tour into Skippers Canyon Road (the guide will point out where Arwyn summoned up a flood from Fellowship of the Ring).
Diamantina is offline  
Feb 9th, 2016, 08:46 AM
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Melnq8 - I'd originally kept 2 nights at Lake Tekapo for stargazing, actually. I've never done it before and every little titbit I read about the place said it was the best place to do so! So I figured why not start there?! I live in the city so I was really fascinated in seeing the loads of stars for the first time.

But I see your point, so I'll get rid of one of those nights and add it to Te Anau. All the better as if I can't do Milford on the first day, then I have another shot at it.

I'm not much of a hiker, but I don't plan on plopping on my backside either! I'll tramp as much as I'm able, but I'll definitely keep in mind my limits. Don't want to be sore right from the start of the trip!

Hokitika Gorge was the only one I had a problem with. But I figured since I absolutely want to see it, I'll probably arrange for transport from the i-Site or the YHA I'm staying at? Since it's on the following day, maybe I'll convince ::cough manipulate cough:: some folks staying at the hostel to come with! Who knows?!

Wanaka is actually only 4 nights. I reach late evening on the first day, so I'll basically be sleeping on the first day!
Auntie_Em is offline  
Feb 9th, 2016, 09:12 AM
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Diamantina: You are a rock-star! An absolute goddess (if I'm right in guessing you're a woman!) I had only a vague idea about stargazing, only that I wanted to do it on this trip! I've never been so far away from pollution before to marvel at clear skies! That info you gave me?! Priceless! I doubt I would have found out about them even if I had looked for it! I am so stoked about the Eta Aquarids! I have 1 night at Tekapo per my adjusted itinerary (you're right. Atomic Shuttle reaches Tekapo at 10.40 a.m.) and 3 nights at Mt. Cook. I totally plan on watching the meteor showers on at least one of those places!

The Tranzalpine is more of a thing I want to do to strike off my bucket list. Plus, I'm from India so I am more used to trains anyway! Also, I thought it would be an interesting thing to do...see all the gorgeous scenery from inside a train and cover more ground. Similarly with the Taieri Gorge. I plan on booking them once I reach NZ from the i-Site or the YHA I guess. Because the fares are more if I book them from outside the country.

I plan on staying at the YHA (everywhere except Dunedin and Wanaka) and some of them offer free wi-fi to members. I will absolutely download that weather app. Something tells me I will be using it quite often because eveybody has been telling me about the NZ weather and how unpredictable it is!

I hope to do some short treks or light walking here and there. So I'm on a lookout for those.

Those tips for Dunedin are excellent! I'll absolutely check out the Elm Wildlife tour! Sounds exciting! The link you sent in one of the replies before? The travelheadfirst one? I was checking them out and they offer a day trip option around Dunedin - $99 for a guided trip to Larnach castle, Cadbury Factory and Speights Brewery. I thought that was intriguing, so I think I'll do that on one of the days! With the Taieri Gorge on the 3rd day, I think my plan for Dunedin is all set!

Dunedin doesn't have a YHA (it was shut down recently I think) but I checked out On Top Backpackers and Central Backpackers. They seem fine enough, or so I thought. Any info you have is greatly appreciated!

And I feel like I should be apologising to your fingers or something for typing so much! Between you and Melnq8, I have turned this vaguely thought out trip of mine into something that's so much more practical and fun!

I can't thank you enough!
Auntie_Em is offline  
Feb 9th, 2016, 10:28 AM
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Happy to help Auntie_Em, sounds like a great trip.

You might indeed work out the Hoki Gorge transport issues at your hostel.

For what it's worth, we often pull over and offer a ride to visitors we see trying to get to the glaciers or trailheads, etc in country NZ. You'll find locals (and even repeat visitors like us) quite friendly and approachable.

Barring that, you might send these folks a note to see if they can help, or advise of a service that might get you to the gorge.

Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 9th, 2016, 09:44 PM
Join Date: May 2015
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The North Island part is a bit wonky...by taking the train you end up in Hamilton and then backtrack to Rotorua. Problem is the train does not go near the tourist hot spots of Taupo and Rotorua.
Think about getting off the train in National Park and bus from there to Taupo. Mana bus do a once a day trip I think.
I'm not sure it's worth a bus trip for 1 night in Coromandel. Hamilton has a really nice little zoo and the Hamilton Gardens to explore if you stay there a few days.
Or forget the train and fly from Wellington to Rotorua. It's a good base for lots of day trips.
Don't stay in Whangarei for 1 night as there's not much to see. Get the bus all the way to Paihia.
Nakedbus have gone under I think and now replaced by Mana Bus. I'll do some research and check for you.
tasmangirl is offline  
Feb 10th, 2016, 02:23 AM
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What bus will you be taking from Wanaka to Dunedin? I just checked Atomic Shuttles' schedule and they have a trip leaving Wanaka at 9:25 a.m. arriving in Dunedin at 1:40 p.m. on May 14 (note: I could be worng). So if catching this bus, you'd have only two full days in Dunedin, which is fine, but I don't think you'll be able to do three excursions.

If you arrive in Dunedin at 1:40 p.m., this would be too late for catching the Elm Wildlife Peninsula Encounters Tour, which leaves the city at 1:30 p.m. You could contact them ahead of time and explain your situation, if they're not busy, maybe they could accommodate you. Otherwise, you might plan on doing this tour the next day.

I couldn't find schedules for Intercity or Naked Bus from Wanaka to Dunedin. Perhaps they don't offer this route.

On Top Backpackers and Central Backpackers are practical choices if you're taking Atomic Shuttles or Intercity to the Dunedin Railway Station. Both are conveniently located a block to 1.5 blocks from the Octagon. Atomic Shuttles drops passengers off at the Railway Station, which is three short blocks from the Octagon. So you'd have a short walk (four to four and half short blocks total), and no hills. Probably take you 5 to 10 minutes, walking. People walk around downtown Dunedin rolling suitcases or carrying backpacks often, so you'll blend right in. You'll feel safe going out to dinner at night, because this is the busiest part of town. Both hostels are near two big supermarkets (Countdown and New World Market), library (free Wi-Fi), I-Site Tourism office at the Octagon, restaurants, pubs, an Indian market, and many tourist attractions.

Hogwartz in also in the center, but a little farther than those other backpacker hostels and up a hill! (Tiring if lugging a suitcase or backpack.) But it's homier, and in a quieter location.

Kiwi Nest is also more homey, but you'd have to catch a bus from the Octagon to get there, so it's not convenient, but close to the Botanic Garden, University of Otago, Otago Museum. It's 6.5 short blocks from the Octagon.

Yes, you can wait until you get here to book Taieri Gorge Railway.

May is moving into winter, so you'll need a wind-and-waterproof jacket, and a woolen sweater or fleece layer to wear beneath it. Cap, gloves and scarf are useful. You can experience four seasons in a day here in the south: sun, rain, fog, sun again, on the rare occasion, snow.

Here's the city's tourism website:

Looks like good advice about the NI from tasmangirl. I noticed the Coromandel 25 bus from Hamilton takes more than 3 hours to get to Coromandel town. I agree with tasmangirl, it seems like too much time in transit just to spend and afternoon and night. I'd want enough time to so something fun or interesting while there (in your case, I'm guessing that would be the Driving Creek Railway). I think Fuller's Ferries runs a same day return service from Auckland to Coromandel town on Saturdays/Sundays in June, but this might not fit into your schedule. Keep in mind, ferries will be cancelled in rough weather or ocean conditions. https://www.fullers.co.nz/destinatio...rs/coromandel/
Diamantina is offline  
Feb 11th, 2016, 09:01 AM
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Thanks a ton for the info tasmangirl! And you too diamantina. I got busy with work and I haven't had time to breathe! Just wanted to let you'll know I shall tweak my itinerary accordingly day after tomorrow when I finally get the day off! Hope it works better then!

I like the comfort of sitting inside the bus and watching beautiful scenery pass by, but you two are right. Spending more time travelling than staying at the place and soaking in the sights, is not worth it. I'll drop Hamilton then and see what other route I can take.
Auntie_Em is offline  
Feb 11th, 2016, 05:50 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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What are your plans for Wanaka? No one would dispute that Wanaka is a scenic and relaxing place. The lake and mountain views are spectacular and the small town vibe is good. It'd be great to be able to spend five nights there, soaking in the town atmosphere; admiring mountain, lake and remaining autumn foliage during the day; the stars at night. But it'd also be nice to do some activities, or you could become bored.

Wanaka attractions off the top of my head include: Puzzling World, Rippon Winery (nice views, but perhaps too far to walk to from town center), the lake itself, its little bays, the town itself, and Mou Wahu Island (I've not been there, but it's supposed to be lovely).

Wanaka's walking tracks are a star attraction. Many of these are steep (because Wanaka is surrounded by mountains). I thought I would mention this as you noted you're "not much of a hiker." This being said, I know you'd still enjoy the drive with Alpine Connexions out to Mt. Aspiring Park road end, even if you aren't planning on hiking. Views from this road are fabulous. See "track transport" here:
I hope you'll try a little hiking, because views from above can be rewarding. If you're not confident in your hiking abilities or being on an unfamiliar track by yourself, but would like to tramp, consider a guided tour with the tour operator below. I've not used their services, but I would consider them if I were traveling to Wanaka solo and wanted to hike (called "tramping" here, trails are called "tracks")--though they're a bit pricey.
Reviews for them here:

If you shaved a night off Wanaka, you could get into Dunedin a day early, on Friday, May 13. If I'm not mistaken, there's a Dunedin rugby game that night at Forsyth Barr Stadium, one of the country's best rugby stadiums. It'll be between the Highlanders (Super Rugby 2015 champs from Dunedin) and the Crusaders (Christchurch team). This will be a popular game, so you might have trouble getting accommodation on this night, it could sell out. So before you change your plans, make sure you can book the bus from Wanaka to Dunedin on Friday, May 13, and make sure you can also book accommodation, and make sure the game is on (check schedule below). I must warn you: this is a university town, so there'll be partying going on, and it could be louder and rowdier than usual around the Octagon--this could be a big turn-off for you. But as you expressed an interest in seeing rugby, I thought I'd let you know. Highlanders rugby schedule here:

If you got into town on Friday, you'd also be able to visit the Otago Farmers Market, which is held on Saturday mornings at the Dunedin Railway Station. It's a local institution. Sadly, you don't have a great choice of produce in May, as it's heading into winter, but the market is still fun (if it's not raining).

If you had an extra day in Auckland and the weather turned out to be okay, you could consider a day trip to one of the islands in Hauraki Gulf, such as Waiheke (wineries, beaches, local bus to get around), Tiritiri Matangi (predator free wildlife sanctuary. walking tracks), or Rangitoto (remnants of a volcano, walking tracks).
Diamantina is offline  
Feb 12th, 2016, 08:36 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Posts: 21
Hi tasmangirl!

So, I figure I'll drop Hamilton altogether. My only reason for halting there was the Northern Explorer, and that I didn't want to go to Auckland directly when there were a ton of things to see before. Hence, I figured Hamilton. But yeah, it isn't very feasible.

Since the Northern Explorer stops there, what if I get down at Waitomo directly and spend a couple of days there? The train stops at Otorohanga station and there's a bus service available that takes you to Waitomo (Waitomo Shuttle - The Caves Connection, in fact) I figured that would be a better deal. I could see the glowworm caves while staying right there and check out the other sights, rather than make the trip here from Rotorua. Then, I would head off directly to Rotorua and take a day trip to Taupo, in case I don't need to stay overnight there. Is there anything else to see and do at Taupo apart from the Maori Rock Carvings? I really didn't have anything else planned for the place apart from those.

Flights would really blow my budget up, unfortunately! Else the idea of going directly to Rotorua from Wellington is pretty neat.

I did see the ads for Mana Bus on the NakedBus site but it said that they were a sister company. Oh well, at least now I have another alternative to look at for the North island.

I am going to work on my itinerary and I hope to thoroughly finalize it by Sunday. Maybe then I'll know for sure if I can make it to Coromandel (maybe ex-Auckland this time tho) or skip it. I just wanted to see the Cove there!

I wanted to spend the day at Whangarei because the hostel there is located very near the waterfalls, it seems. Plus, my NI is a bit hectic, so I figured it would make for a nice change of pace before the final part of my trip, which is Paihia and Reinga. I'll see about this segment on Sunday too!
Auntie_Em is offline  
Feb 12th, 2016, 09:21 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Posts: 21
Diamantina! Hi!

Wanaka to Dunedin via the Atomic Shuttle, yes. The timing said 1.35 p.m., but I shall re-check it. And yes, I'll do what you said and ask the folks of the Elm Wildlife Peninsula Encounters Tour if anything could be done where they could adjust the time a bit or if the bus is on the same route, if I could get in. Fingers crossed! Else there's always the next day, as you suggested.

Also, RUGBY! The Super Rugby website said that the venue was TBD, so I didn't give it another thought. Also, since I was absolutely intent on watching the All Blacks play at Auckland, I figured it was okay.
(side note, I did try to tweak my itinerary very early on actually! Before putting it up here in fact, in the hope that I could watch the Crusaders match at Christchurch on the 7th May, or the Hurricanes and Highlanders match at Wellington. But no such luck. I ended up going about trying to adjust my trip to suit the match schedules, so I eventually decided against it. But I definitely want to watch this match at Dunedin if I can....ergo, I shall see what I can do about getting there a day sooner, when I get some time on Sunday to work on the itinerary!)

Hogwartz was the backup of my backup of Dunedin hostels, actually! With that name, how could it not be?!

I'm definitely going to have to go shopping before the trip for winter clothing. And I hope to buy some merino wool clothing while I'm there too, so my problem will now be how much NOT to take actually coz I'll have to be carrying them around! LOL!

Wanaka was supposed to be the busiest time for me in this trip actually! I wanted to go skydiving (I am terrified, but I want to try it once!) Apart from that, there's the lake like you said. Wanaka Kayaks hold a half day kayaking tour of the lake which I thought I could do. And the Puzzling world, and Cinema Paradiso in case I want to catch a movie (Captain America 3 releases on 6th May in the USA. I'm guessing it'll release in NZ around the same time too! The timing of this trip is truly fortuitous!)
But, that's all I have on the list at the moment. I'll check out the Mou Wahu Island and the Winery.

(I actually would love a tour of at least one winery in this trip, but I haven't been able to incorporate it into any of the places as of yet. A brewery at Dunedin, but no love for wines! Which place would you suggest I go check out the vineyards at? If I cut down on any of the days, maybe I'll get a day to spend at Picton? Melnq8 did suggest that in one of her first posts in fact, but I couldn't include it. I was thinking Marlborough Sounds, but I wanted to ask you first if you have any better suggestions.)

Don't worry! I absolutely plan to get off my lazy backside and get active on this trip. In fact, I am on a lookout for some 2-3 hour walking or tramping trails in the quieter towns. I found a couple at Mt. Cook, and Te Anau like Melnq8 mentioned, and also at the lake at Hokitika actually. There's a bit of hiking involved at Abel Tasman, but I still have to find more of them.

The timing wasn't right for the Tongariro Crossing what with winter setting in, and Ben Lomond at Queenstown sounds a bit scary! But, I do believe that walking would be a beautiful way of discovering NZ! Except I know I don't have a lot of hiking skills, ergo I'm proceeding with caution. I checked guided tours, but they were all quite expensive, unfortunately. Eco Wanaka was entirely too pricey! Whew!

(Basically what with me spending about 450 NZ$ or so on skydiving, my budget has to be adjusted for the whole trip. Except, I can definitely find a reason for this expense as I want to do it, so I cannot really complain! If I were to give that up - and I really don't want to coz it'll be a memory to last a lifetime, right?! - then I get some breathing room.)

I was trying to fit in Waiheke or Rangitoto into my Auckland schedule! Let's see if playing Tetris all those years ago as a kid gave me any skills in making things fit!

Sunday's post is going to be a loooooong one with tons of info! Time to make hard decisions about what to include and what to leave out!
Auntie_Em is offline  
Feb 12th, 2016, 09:47 AM
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 631
Diamantina - you give such great advice and if you want to give up your day job write a travel guide for NZ!
tasmangirl is offline  

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