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Packing list for New Zealand, February 2013

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We are a U.S. couple in our early/mid-60s traveling on our own in New Zealand for 3 weeks starting in early-mid February. We will have a car most of the time except in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, so except for the ferry from North to South Island, train from Picton to Christchurch, and from there to Greymouth, we will be driving. We expect to do a lot of walking during our sightseeing trip, but will not be hiking/tramping, climbing glaciers, camping or doing strenuous adventure activities (husband has a bad knee).

I guess we should expect to experience quite a range of temperatures as we travel through the North Island (from Bay of Islands down to Wellington) and on through the South Island, to Christchurch, the glacier area, Milford Sound, Queenstown, and Dunedin. What about precipitation?

I've searched the forum postings and found a few ideas for what to wear in NZ, and I see there is a definite consensus for layers, to include a fleece and a waterproof jacket. Will either of need a coat or heavier jacket? Pondering over whether to pack more shorts or more long pants (I have the lightweight kind that roll up to capris or zip off to shorts) and/or jeans. How dressy should we get for a few nice dinners out? I tend to over pack, so if anyone has a packing list that they could share, I would love to have it.

All tips and ideas are welcome, especially the "don't forget to bring" or "don't pack it, buy it there if you need to" etc. Thanks!


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    Hi Betty -

    NZ veteran here - we always pack the same, regardless of time of year, save a very few seasonal variances. Fleece, waterproof layer that fits over the fleece; each can be worn separately or in tandem, YES. Heavy jacket, absolutely NOT.

    Shorts - yeah, maybe a pair or two in February, but I've only worn shorts ONCE in 11 trips to the SI and that was only for a few hours. Think four seasons in a day. Layers, girl, layers.

    No need to dress up - clean, casual and neat. A pair of black pants will go a long way.

    I'm pretty low maintenance as females go, but despite whether I'm traveling for six weeks or one, I pack for one week. Period. Laundromats are easy to find in NZ, many right in your accommodation, and believe me, less is more when on the move.

    Otherwise, jeans or comfy pants (I live in my hiking pants while in NZ) a pair of swimmers, a sunhat, sunblock, insect repellant (DEET works great for those pesky sandflies and I've never seen it in NZ, pick some up at home, unless you're afraid of the stuff, as many people seem to be - the towellettes are great as they easily fit into a pocket or backpack), a small Ziploc bag of washing powder, two pair of shoes (one with sturdy soles for walks/hiking, the other casual and comfortable, backpack to carry water for your walks, etc. We always travel with tea bags/coffee bags, agave nectar, that kind of thing, as we like to caffeinate before we head out for the day, but that's just us.

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    Good suggestions from Melnq8.

    For February, also bring a couple of tee-shirts and sunglasses. February weather tends to be milder, but if the wind picks up, non-bulky woolen scarf, gloves, and cap are useful, and also good for windy, chilly boat rides, say in Kaikoura, Akaroa, Dunedin or on Milford Sound. With luck, you may not need them at all. I pack these small accessories into the pockets of the jacket I wear onto the plane. Cap is not needed if you have a jacket with hood.

    You can buy beautiful merino clothing in NZ, thin and lightweight yet warm. No need for ironing.

    I travel with extra SD disks and camera battery (SD disks are more expensive in NZ), and my Sonicare toothbrush travel charger (NZ is 230 volts/50 hertz and uses a three-pronged plug). Power/plug adapters/converters for laptops, cameras, etc. can be bought in airports, though they might be pricier than if brought from home.

    The flight to NZ is long. My feet swell by flight's end, so I pop off my shoes as soon as we are up in the air and pop on a pair of slipper socks with padded/slightly rubberized soles to fit over my regular socks. They're also handy for walking around the plane when the carpeted floor and restrooms start to get funky, and they keep your feet warm when the temperature drops on the flight. I bring ear plugs and a sleep mask—if you are a light sleeper they're also useful for noisy accommodations and those without blackout curtains or blinds.

    By flight's end, I'm worse for wear, so I like to exchange my soiled tee-shirt for a fresh one. I also bring drops for my dry, blood shot eyes and a tiny spritzer bottle filled with rosewater to spray on my face throughout the flight, to prevent my face from feeling dehydrated, and lip balm. I bring a complete change of clothes in my carry-on should my check-in luggage get lost, which has happened more than once.

    If you need reading glasses, pack an extra pair. You can buy them here, but they might cost more and might not be as nice as ones from home. Plus, why spend precious vacation time shopping for replacement items?

    If you take vitamins or supplements, such as Vitamin C or echinacea, bring them. They're costly here. Nutritional high-protein snack bars, like Clif or Luna bars, are also pricey here--but they're great to have when you're on the go.

    If you need suggestions on what to do in Dunedin, let me know.

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    Thanks Melnq8 and Diamantina for your great packing and travel trips and other replies you have made to me, as well as all the great postings you do for everyone.

    Yes, it will be a long trip for us as we will be flying out of Boston. We did a similar trip 3 years ago to Australia for 3 weeks.

    Diamantina,since you offered, we'd love your ideas for Dunedin. As of now, if all goes according to plan, we plan to arrive early afternoon one day, then have a full day, and fly out the next day in the late afternoon. We plan to do some sightseeing around the town (Dunedin Railway Station, Chinese Gardens and ???). On our full day we will drive out the Otagao Peninsula to see as much as we can squeeze in (Royal Albatross Colony & Taiaroa Head, Yellow Eyed Penguin Preserve (we saw the little blue fairy penquins on Philips Island in Australia and loved them) and Larnach Castle). We would love to have your recommendations of where to stay, where to eat, what to see, what not to bother with, etc.

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    You're welcome. I'm glad to help in a small way (Dunedin is the one place I'm familiar with!). Seeing the city center on your first half-day and the peninsula on your second is a good plan. I'll break this posting up in two, with central city recommendations first.
    You've chosen a great time. Dunedin is most enjoyable when the sun is out and the sky is blue, otherwise cloudy conditions can cast grey and gloom. Though not guaranteed, chances of clear skies and warmer weather in February are good. The sun rises at about 7 a.m. and sets around 8:30 p.m. so you can make the most of your days. Lucky you aren't here now—storms of the last 10 days have been the worst since I moved here two years ago.

    Because of your husband's bad knee, I'll not recommend walks with steep climbs, such as Tunnel Beach or Sandfly Bay.

    Many central city attractions close at 5 or 6 p.m. While you can admire its Edwardian exterior anytime, the Railway Station Building's small lobby, with its striking tiles and stained glass windows, can be accessed from 8:30 a.m. until around 6:30 p.m. (after the last Taieri Gorge train returns). On Saturday mornings, there's a Farmers Market at the Railway Station.

    Down the street from the Railway Station, Toitu Settlers Museum closes at 5 p.m. (except on Thursdays, when it closes at 8). It's interesting, attractive, interactive and has a cafe; admission is free.

    The I-Site tourism office and smallish City Art Gallery (currently showing works by local artists Ralph Hotere and Frances Hodgkins) are at The Octagon, four blocks from the Railway Station up Lower Stuart St.; admission is free. Popular Cafe Nova adjoins the gallery's lobby.

    The Chinese Garden is small and not terribly interesting. If it's sunny, Dunedin's large Botanic Garden, the country's oldest, is worth visiting, and open from dawn 'til dusk; admission and parking around the gardens is free. You can access the upper garden from the lower garden by ascending steep paths through a forested area, or you can park at the bottom (on Great King St.) to see the lower garden and then hop in your car and drive a few minutes to the upper garden (parking lots off Lovelock St.). The upper garden has a Mediterranean Garden with fine city views, an aviary, and a native plants garden, where pohutakawa and rata might still be in bloom. The lower garden has a rose garden, Japanese garden, a Victorian glasshouse, and terraced gardens overlooking a stream (Water of Leith). Here's a garden map:
    If you get Hay Fever, don't forget your allergy tablets!

    The Otago Museum, between the Octagon and the Botanic Garden, focuses on natural history and culture. There is a suggested/non-compulsory donation of $10 per adult. They won't mind if you pop in for a free quick look. The natural history section is excellent. Otago University, NZ's oldest, is across from the museum.

    Many people enjoy visiting the Jacobean-style mansion, Olveston House. I've not toured it.
    Speight's Brewery, the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, Baldwin St. (the steepest street), and the grounds of the First Church of Otago (a block from the Octagon) are other popular central city attractions.

    I'm often asked by tourists to point out attractions on useless maps that show only a few streets.

    Here's a more useful map of the city center:
    Here's a map of the Otago Peninsula:
    Here's a link to Dunedin's website:

    As you're from Boston, you'll likely be disappointed with Dunedin's restaurants. Dining out is costly, however, because NZ is far from almost everywhere, many restaurants make the most of locally sourced ingredients, which is a plus. I like Plato, a BYO cafe adorned with knickknacks in the industrial area by the docks, a two-minute drive from the Railway Station. They do fish well, especially the Blue Cod in Kelp Crust. Many people order their Ribeye Filet. Avoid their Paua Fritters. Two Chefs near the Octagon offers a daily plat du jour menu with a glass of wine for $58 pp. If the weather is good, you might head out to one of the oceanview restaurants at Saint Clair Beach (Pier 24, Neptuno, Salt, Starfish, Esplanade), or to Careys Bay Hotel, located on the West Harbor past Port Chalmers. A couple of Indian restaurants near the Octagon are Little India (part of a chain of 17 restaurants throughout NZ, this Dunedin restaurant was their first) and Shahi Tandoor, which is less pricey and as good, but it can be packed with students. Etrusco, a block from the Octagon, serves okay pizza and pasta, but it has a relaxed, jovial atmosphere and is in a gorgeous old building (worth a look).

    If you're self catering, a $5 or so styrofoam ice chest will keep food fresh as you drive from place to place. You might want to bring some seasonings (not salt and pepper), and tiny bottle of olive oil (pack it well) to avoid having to buy a larger bottle here (of which you'll use a few tablespoons). Just make sure you declare them to NZ customs when entering. NZ's own farmed salmon (Pacific King Salmon), farmed venison (they are the world's largest supplier), Blue Cod, Green-Lipped Mussels, honeys, and artisan cheeses are stars.

    I'll follow with peninsula tips...

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    Betty, I hope the terrible U.S. winter storms are not affecting your area! By comparison, the weather in NZ will be mild and pleasant.

    Your choices, Penguin Place and the Royal Albatross Centre, are top wildlife highlights for entire region. They are located close to one another, at the tip of the peninsula (Taiaroa Head). It won't even take a half-day to see both, which leaves time to visit another part of the peninsula. If it's a beautiful day, you'll want to spend most of it outdoors, so maybe pack things for a picnic. Public restrooms facilities are sparse on the peninsula, but a couple can be found in Portabello (this info will come in handy), which also has a small grocery store, ice cream shop, restaurant, cafe, fish and chips shop, and motels.

    If self-driving to the Otago Peninsula and not taking a tour (such as Elm or Monarch, that pick up from your accommodation), I recommend you start your scenic drive at the city's St. Clair Beach (at the end of Forbury Rd.). You can quickly admire the beach; or take a 7-minute level, walk along Second Beach (a concealed paved path that starts above St. Clair Saltwater Pool) to see the wild and rocky headland; or have latte at a cafe; or use the public restroom (note: there's one last chance to use the restroom at the playground near the roundabout at Victoria Rd. and John Wilson Ocean Drive).

    From St. Clair continue your drive up residential Victoria Rd. (which becomes Tahuna Rd. then Tomahawk Rd.), the street parallel to the city's beaches (St. Clair, St, Kilda and Tomahawk). Drive 6 km., or 10 minutes, until you reach Centre Rd., just before Smails Beach. You'll see a bunker to your right. Briefly stop for the ocean view, then turn left onto Centre Rd. (which is surrounded by hilly green paddocks full of sheep) until it ends in a few minutes at Highcliff Rd., where you turn right. This is the Otago Peninsula's picture-postcard "high" road—but you won't be on the "cliff" side. Highcliff Rd. ends at Portobello, the peninsula's main town. From here, take Harrington Pt. Rd. out to Taiaroa Head (Royal Albatross Centre and nearby Penguin Place) or Allans Beach Road, a good gravel road that leads to Allans Beach, one of the peninsula's nicest and most accessible beaches. Highcliff Rd. view:,-above-MacAndrew-Bay-Otago-Harbour.html

    I love Penguin Place. This is not just a place to see YEPs, but they are extremely active in conservation, habitat restoration, and run a penguin rehabilitation center for vulnerable, sick, or injured penguins found along the entire Otago coast. A bit of easy walking is required. I recommend a late afternoon tour, as this is when the YEPs return from the sea. Also, cruise ships passengers, when in town, take earlier tours. Though, in February, a few YEPs might be moulting and so around all day. This is the best place to see YEPs in Dunedin. They are getting harder to see on local beaches, as many of them died last summer, and this summer half of the chicks have already died of starvation. Soon, Anadarko, the Texas-based company that was partly responsible for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, will be drilling for oil and gas just 60 km. off Dunedin. They are already drilling near Raglan and are eyeing Marlborough Sounds. It's not known how the noise, extra boat traffic, and pollution will affect local wildlife. YEP numbers have remained stable in other parts of Otago and Southland.

    The Royal Albatross Centre tour is interesting, as well, and its setting, Taiaroa Head, is stunning. No matter how sunny the day starts off, bring your windbreaker/parka. It gets windy in summer, especially at exposed Taiaroa Head, and the weather can rapidly change. You can take a tour of just the albatrosses or for $10 more include Fort Taiaroa, which was established in the 1880s because NZ feared invasion by Russia! Tours depart from noon and continue through the day. February is said to be the best time to visit. I agree, as you've seen the multitudes of Little Blue Penguins at Phillip Island, you won't need to visit the Pilot's Beach Colony, as it makes for a long day. There are only 100 to 200 blue penguins in this colony during summer, but they're easily seen thanks to lights and a viewing platform.

    Regarding Allans Beach. It's a level 5-minute walk from the parking lot to the beach. You can often see endangered NZ Hookers Sea Lions here, and sometimes YEPs, as well. Enroute you pass Hoopers Inlet, frequented by birds (White-Faced Herons, Black Swans, Pied Stilts, Paradise Ducks, Pukekos, perhaps Royal Spoonbills). The Dept. of Conservation cautions, "Please keep at least 10 metres away from sleeping sea lions, 20 metres from active animals... .With penguins, please don't linger on the beach below the hide, or anywhere else where they may come ashore. If you encounter a penguin on the beach keep well away and crouch down. If they feel threatened they will not come ashore."

    Another beautiful peninsula drive is Sandymount Rd. to Lovers Leap and the Chasm. The road is unpaved, narrow, has a few blind curves, but otherwise okay. The view from the trailhead parking lot is fantastic. There are other great views about 7 minutes into the trail (no need to go farther). The trail is mostly flat, but it takes 20 minutes to reach the Chasm, a few minutes more to Lovers Leap. Plus, if you go all the way to the Chasm, it requires a short walk through a sheep paddock. I guess I've been here long enough to not even notice sheep poo, but I realized how yucky it can be when I took my friends from San Francisco to this trail last month—they carefully watched each step, as if dodging landmines! When we returned home, I gave their shoes a thorough scrubbing.

    To return to the city center from Taiaroa Head, take Harrington Point Rd. to Portobello Rd. all the way into "town." Portobello Rd. is the scenic road along Otago Harbor; but you'll comfortably be on the inside lane.

    The Queenstown to Dunedin drive without stops takes almost 4 hours—if you hurry 3.5 hours, but I don't recommend this! It's pretty drive, and part of it, through Kawarau Gorge, demands greater attention. If you don't get around to visiting the Gibbston Valley wine area while in Queenstown, you can en route to Dunedin. Peregrine and Gibbston Valley wineries are right on the main road (SH 6). My favorite, Chard Farm, is on Chard Farm Rd., a scary-ish but gorgeous side road, across from A.J. Hackett's original bungy—the world's first—where you can watch folks dive off the Kawarau Bridge. You can also stop and stretch en route in the Kawarau River Gorge (scenic rest stop, old gold mining operations) and Cromwell (more wineries and a tiny Old Town where shops, bakeries and cafes sit across from the water). From Cromwell, you'll take SH 8 to Alexandra, a pretty town on the Clutha River known for wineries and orchards (you'll be here during stone fruit season). From Alexandra, you have two choices on how to reach Dunedin, you can go north on SH85 through Ranfurly, or south on SH8 (southern approach). If you go north, you again have two choices on how to reach Dunedin after Ranfurly, one goes through Palmerston (northern approach), the other through Middlemarch (northwestern approach).

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have other questions.

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    Hi, B and B,

    just chiming in, as yesterday we got back from our [for us] mega-trip of 5 1/2 weeks, which included 17 days in NZ.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the ideas above; NZ is not a dressy place, though curiously a lot of the ladies seemed to like to wear dresses in the evenings. I in my capris, which I lived in, caused no excitement, so clean and tidy will be fine.

    we were very lucky in that almost everywhere we stayed we had access to full laundry facilities - either the apartment had washing machine/dryer with detergent provided, or our B n B hostess did a load for us at no or nominal cost. so you don't need to take a lot of clothes. and even though we kept being told that the weather was cool for the time of year [end of Nov to mid December] we rarely needed our fleeces and never a warm top coat or heavy waterproof, though we did take the sort of thin waterproof that you roll up and put at the bottom of a ruck-sac, both of which proved useful.

    as for those pesky sandflies, the deterrent that we brought with us worked well, so long as we remembered to use it. When we didn't, and we got bitten, the trick we learnt from our hosts at our Wanaka BnB worked well - roll-on deodorant. it works a treat, as my feet can testify.

    we didn't get to Dunedin, so I can't help you there, but if you are venturing further up the coast to Christchurch, you might like to look at Oamaru as a possible stopping off place. It has some terrific Victorian architecture, including a fully-restored opera house, a wonderful italian restaurant called simply "Cucina" which we can thoroughly recommend, AND the sweetest little penguins to watch every night as they come in onto the beach to get to their burrows in the sand. It wasn't on our radar at all, and we stopped there almost by accident, but in the way of these things, it was one of the highlights of our trip.

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    Hi Betty,

    I'm sorry, I just noticed you also wanted to visit Larnach Castle, too. As you're driving on Highcliff Rd., you'll see a sign for Larnach Castle off to your left. When leaving Larnach Castle, just return up to Highcliff Rd. or down to Portobello Rd. to continue your peninsula drive to Taiaroa Head. As you are going to Larnach Castle, Albatross Centre, and Penguin Place, you probably wouldn't have time to comfortably also visit Allans Beach. But you might, as the February days are long.

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    Hello Betty,
    Just joined the forum and saw your post. My husband and I are planning a trip to NZ, very similar to the trip you took and we are also from Boston. We will be going in feb. 2015. Just wondering how you enjoyed it and if you have any feedback that would be helpful to us.

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    Welcome to Fodor's, AnnieT49.

    Scroll through the posts, and you'll find some great trip reports with helpful information.

    You might also want to start a separate thread, if you haven't already, with your questions.

    Lee Ann

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