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NZ:Need some help with our 13 Day December Itinerary

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1. Posted by dnison (Budding Member 2 posts) 10y

Greetings All-
Me and my man just bought our plane tix to Auckland 12/8-12/22. We have 13 days to pack in as much as possible and are overwhelmed by all the itinerary choices we have. We get into Auckland @ 5:30 am on 12/10 and figure we'll hang out in the North for a few days before going down South, or we might just hightail it down South. We leave from Auckland on the 22nd at 8pm. I've read that school's get out around the 20th there so we're not sure if we should do the beaches at the beginning of the trip or the end. From doing some reasearch we think we want to hit these areas on the North Island:

Bay of Islands (Pahia/Russell)
Coromandel Peninsula
Bay of Plenty (Mount Maunganui/Tauranga)

And these on the South Island:

Fox Glacier
Kayak or Cruise Fiordland NP (Milford and Doubtful Sound)
Bungee in Queenstown

We're open to changes though. We're in our late 20's and like to have a good time. We are looking forward to spending some alone time as well as hanging with some locals. We're thinking about renting a car and possibly getting a flight between the two islands to help us along a little quicker (any input on this would be welcome!). We would GREATLY appreciated any suggested itineraries that you could recommend. I've also read that this time of year finds lots of biting flies so if anyone could recommend places to avoid that would be great! We're not afraid of bug spray either. We're not really wanting to go the same path that most tourists do, but at the same time don't want to miss out on too much. HELP US!


2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4817 posts) 10y

An Auckland-Christchurch (or potentially Auckland-Queenstown) flight would indeed be a very good thing to do with such a limited amount of time. It'd take you two complete and very long days to drive from Auckland to Fox Glacier, and you'd be absolutely exhausted from the drive afterward (awesome scenery though).
I'd give Mt. Maunganui a miss. It's a very nice place, and I loved sitting on the beach or climbing the mount to watch a sunrise, but with such a limited amount of time, it's just not up there with the really must see sights. Instead, I'd substitute Mt. Cook and Lake Tekapo which you'd literally come across anyway en route to/from Queenstown (assuming the flight to Christchurch).

Okay, how's this for a suggested itinerary (first link to a map of the walk, all the rest to pictures of those places) :

Day 1: arrive Auckland, explore (the coast to coast walkway is highly recommended to get an overview of the nicest bits of Auckland (including the Auckland Domain, Mt. Eden and One Tree Hill), and takes a comfortable six hours of leisurely strolling through. (I did this with my girlfriend on the day that she arrived just fresh off the plane, it it was eminable doable. Pick up an informative brochure with map at the visitor information centre at the bottom of the skytower.)
Day 2: rent car, drive to Bay of Islands (~3 hours), go swimming with the dolphins in the afternoon or do one of the many other touristy activities that're pushed at you once there. Also highly recommended is the boardwalk to Haruru Falls starting from Waitangi. (Budget three to four hours for walking there and back. Maybe shift that to the morning of day 4.)
Day 3: Cape Reinga daytrip with sandboarding e.a.
Day 4: Take a ferry to Russell, wander around there in the morning, drive back to Auckland in the afternoon.
Day 5: Drive to Whitianga. (~3-4 hours?) Visit hot water beach and cathedral cove and all that.
Day 6: Drive back to Auckland, drop off car, take an afternoon flight to Christchurch. Explore Christchurch in the evening.
Day 7: Rent car, drive to Franz Josef Glacier via Arthur's Pass. (~5-6 hours) Walk up to the glacier and be certain to visit Peter's Pool. Finish driving to Fox Glacier (~30 minutes).
Day 8: Do guided tours on the glacier / take a helicopter flight. (Besiege the weather gods for lack of rain, otherwise this'll be a mostly wasted day, as there's nothing to do here that isn't glacier related.)
Day 9: Drive to Queenstown (~7 hours). Explore Queenstown.
Day 10: Daytrip to Milford Sound with kayaking / cruise included. (Try to book this from Christchurch already, as many tours will be filled up a day or two early that time of year.)
Day 11: Leave Queenstown, bungy jump at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge. Drive on to Mt. Cook village (~3 hours), eat lunch at the Hermitage, marvelling at the views of Mt. Cook. (Besiege the weather gods to have the clouds not cover it.) Drive on to Lake Tekapo (~1 hour). Gaze into the blue of the lake and marvel at such beauty. Eat Carbonara pizza at Pepe's (best pizza in the universe, imnsho).
Day 12: Climb Mt. John (~3 hours there and back again) for superb views of the Southern Alps and of eternity itself. Do a helicopter flight over the glaciers if you couldn't at Fox. Drive on to Christchurch (~3 hours).
Day 13: Flight to Auckland, flight out of Auckland.

Alternatively you could skip the daytrip to Cape Reinga and visit Mt. Maunganui after Whitianga (the Coromandel). Or you could do both and fly to Auckland out of Queenstown, missing Mt. Cook and Lake Tekapo (I'd recommend against this, as those are my personal favorite bits of New Zealand, but you might not be willing to take my word for it). :)

Sandflies will be present on the East Coast from Franz Josef glacier down to Haast Pass, and will be absolutely swarming at Milford Sound. Nothing much you can do about it other than lots of repellant and hopping about. Train those reflexes to slap as soon as you spot one. (Sandflies look just like fruitflies, so your first reaction will be just to wave it off - this doesn't work for sandflies, and by the time you realize it's not moving, it'll already have bitten. You'll learn after the first few dozen.) :)

Make certain to book all accommodation, as well as car rental, as many weeks in advance as possible. High season will be starting everywhere around you.

[ Edit: Edited at May 10, 2006 5:26 PM by Sander ]

3. Posted by dnison (Budding Member 2 posts) 10y

This is awesome. Thanks Sander!!!!