When to go to New Zealand ?

Mar 3rd, 2009, 10:44 PM
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When to go to New Zealand ?

We are planning a 16-17 day trip to New Zealand later in 2009. We would like to rent a car and drive through the country, covering both North and South Islands (more time on the South Island). Is this too long a trip ?

Options are either to go in later October/early November, or have the trip include the Christmas/New Year period. I heard that it gets quite crowded around Christmas time, and that prices everywhere go high; is that true ? How would the weather be on South Island in late October/early November ?

We plan to see the scenic beauty, visit quaint towns, and confine ourselves to motel accomodations. No arduous hikes or mountain walks.

Please advise on preferred time to travel.
indiancouple is offline  
Mar 4th, 2009, 01:40 AM
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Too long? Absolutely not. My longest stay on the SI was 28 days and I could have easily spent several more weeks there.

You'll be hard pressed to fit in both islands in only 16-17 days, but people have been known to do it. Just be prepared to move around alot. NZ looks small on a map, but trust me, it takes much longer than you might expect to get from point A to point B, as roads are generally only one lane in each direction and there are a lot of narrow, winding roads.

Given your choices, I'd pick October/November hands down - fewer people, cheaper lodging, coolish weather. But also, the possibility of reduced schedules and closures (for instance water taxis operate on a reduced schedule, etc).

The Christmas holiday in NZ is also when kids are out of school, so in addition to international tourists, the locals will also be out in force. I've travelled in NZ over a major holiday (Easter) and I will NEVER do it again.
Melnq8 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2009, 04:56 AM
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Mel is right re time and what you can expect to see - you'll either be on the go just skimming the surface in many places and still leaving many behind or take your time on what you want to see and see even less.

I've read of some people doing lightning visits, the following being an example just prior to Xmas last year:
"We had a blast (happily escaping all the snowy mayhem back home) with our "Jucy Campa" - a gnarly, fine vehicle and toured more than 5K kilometers in 10 full days - starting in Auckland and getting to Dunedin and back to AKL via Lake Wanaka all in a pretty leisurely pace, thoroughly enjoying every minute.
Visited basically all the impressive, very fine wineries in Hawke's Bay and Blenheim/Marlborough on the South Island, which added the bonus of joyful giddiness to our sometimes strenuously long travel day.
We were struck by the friendliness of people and the comfyness of our surroundings - often it looked like back home in Oregon but with added wonderful foliage and palm-trees.
We enjoyed great food, perfect wines, were in awe of beautiful, giant mussels and tasty avocados and cherries, and on top of it all - coming from a coffee-obsessed environment - the wonderful coffees everywhere. To us, everything basically seemed to taste better here than any place else !
The roads were amazingly good (althought more and better road signs would be welcome, especially for tourists), the campa perfect, the driving just fine and enjoyable, the ferry-crossings (yes, we had to do a full circle in 10 days) easy and comfy, Mt Cook and Wanaka lake stunningly beautiful and Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin and Napier so fun to visit.
We could park and sleep often right on the beach promenade or a town's domain (park), there were facilities all around and the most stunning and sophisticated design of a public bathroom ever encountered on all my worldly travels I found in ....
downtown Picton !
So many charming places to visit, great people to meet, so many cute sheep and lambs to see and so much great food to enjoy, all in a stunning setting !

In short, we are already yearning for more and can't wait to soon return for a much longer stay !"

I've been in the northern regon of the north island in late January and found it near deserted in many places - perhaps families getting ready for back to school and also leaving it for cooler months as NZers call it the "winterless north" , but it is known that a lot of NI people do head to the south island in warmer months Xmas holidays too.
That said with economic crunch being felt all over I expect by next year there'll be less local movements as well as overseas tourists, huge numbers less!

So you need to choose between the cooler, blustery, wetter time to be expected of October/November [not a great time to be on the road] or risk the more traffic of December/January or if possible put the trip off to February/March/April.

I'd be prioritising what you want to see and http://www.magicbus.co.nz/ have various highlights travel routes that may help you in decidiong your route as could a site like http://www.travelplanner.co.nz/ [many more sites too] but do a Ctrl. click on distances tab on that one and then click on link on next page and you get a handy map for planning distances/time.
Bushranger is offline  
Mar 7th, 2009, 02:02 AM
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We spent two months in a campervan in NZ last year in the middle of winter and loved it. Even with this amount of time we still did not visite everywhere we wanted to.

We much preferred to South Island to the North but that is very personal and subjective view. With the time you have available I would seriously consider restricting yourself to one island.

Here is a link to our blog which may be of interest (entries 39-54 cover NZ:
crellston is offline  
Mar 7th, 2009, 02:15 AM
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It seems that Oct 16th to November 2nd is the time-slot that is most convenient, and keeping away from the Christmas rush. But Bushranger suggests that it is not a good time to be on the road. Is the weather really bad at that time ? Too much rain ?
indiancouple is offline  
Mar 7th, 2009, 04:58 AM
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You can use http://www.worldclimate.com/ and put in major cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and possibly Queenstown to gove you something of a historical guide on averages.
Obviously you expect to find cooler temps in winter months but you'll also find temperature has not warmed greatly by October and NZ does get rain regularly throughout the year.

It's just that southern spring weather brings with it substantial variation, going from being reasonably mild at times to sudden storms, winds coming off the southern ocean going straight onto especially the south island and though the southern island eastern plains is generally milder because of the alpine ridge along the western side, it is in the alpine areas and over on the west coast where you could get some inclement weather, maybe even ice on roads at height in mornings if there are late season cold snaps.
Bushranger is offline  
Mar 7th, 2009, 07:32 AM
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We've done 2 trips to New Zealand both in early November. The first trip was entirely on the South Island and the 2nd trip split between the southern South Island and the middle of the North Island. I would not discourage anyone from taking a trip during this time period. Yes there were some rainy days but there were stretches of absolutely gorgeous weather even in the far southern part. It will be early spring but the baby lambs are in the fields and the Mt.Cook lilies and other plants are in bloom. We hiked in the South Island Mts for 5 days in shorts and then had a day of sleet - you just need to be prepared for changeable weather. No problems driving.
KensingtonGirl is offline  
Mar 13th, 2009, 10:16 PM
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November is a great time for seeing NZ - we live in Napier and all our trips to other parts of NZ have all been in November. Just be aware if you come on those dates there is a public holiday (Labour weekend 24-26th October) can be a bit busy but the rest of the time will be fine.
What do you want to see while here in NZ.
Like Kensington Girl we prefer the South Island for the fab scenery. Favourite places include Milford Sound, Arrowtown, Dunedin, Kaikoura (whale watching).
Fav spots in North Island Coromandel, waitomo caves (blackwater rafting)Rotorua and of course Napier (great city 50,000 people - hit by large earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt in Art Deco Style - just beautiful - never get sick of looking at the buildings)
art_deco_kiwi is offline  
Mar 14th, 2009, 11:23 AM
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Qantas has a great airfare sale until Friday 3/20/09 for flights through 10/24/09. I just roundtrip LAX to Auckland for $678 including fees and taxes.
enjoyinglife is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 10:01 PM
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Actually it is even better than that!! I just got a fare for July-winter there I know...from NYC-AKL and leaving from SYD-JFK plus two internal flights for $1000.00 which is excellent even for the winter
affonsj is offline  
Apr 6th, 2009, 02:37 PM
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November is a great time here in NZ, and driving is never that bad - just note when there are Public Holidays and make sure you arent on a major route then (26th Oct the only one then - Labour Weekend).
A suggestion I have made before to others - check out the Classic NZ Wine Trail as a touring route - Napier to Blenheim with 70% of NZs wineries on the route.
Cheers, Alex
alexbeijen is offline  
Jun 6th, 2009, 10:37 AM
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GillsinEurope is offline  
Jun 6th, 2009, 07:59 PM
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alexbeijen, we are finally planning our trip from 19th October to around 3rd November. I know the Labour Day weekend will fall in between. Would that be a major problem on the roads ? Or in motel availability ? And how about the weather in late October ?
Planning on renting a car in Auckland, driving through North and South Islands, and dropping off the car in Christchurch. What would you say ?
indiancouple is offline  
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