I and my wife plan to be on a self drive tour of North & South Island NZ for about 3 weeks (Nov 16 to Dec 04, 2007).
Do we need to book for accommodation at hotel/motel/BB/farm stays in advance. We would prefer not to so as to give us flexibility. Are there vacancy signs posted at places of accommodation. We don't mind paying up to NZD 100 per night for accommodation.
Do we need to make booking for ferry (without car) from Wellington to Picton in advance.
You may be OK at that time of year if its a public Holiday or School / College Holidays it may pay to enquire ahead of time
Look out for Blue Signs on side of major highways often indicate accomodation eg B+B Camps etc
have a look on the Autombile Association web site as well
You shouldn't have too much trouble finding vacancies at this time of year (it is before the Christmas school holidays), but if you have any particular motels etc in mind that you'd prefer to stay in it could pay to contact them and ask how busy they'll be
Better still, hire a camper, then you won't have to worry about having nowhere to sleep
My partner and I travelled around the south island by hire car at about the same time last year. Others had strongly suggested to us not to get a campervan (like they had done) for the speed and comfort factor and because of all the hills/windy roads (sorry stevieh )! This also lead us to getting an automatic rather than a manual car (in NZ this doesn't bump the cost up as much as it would in the UK).
We also wanted the flexibility of not booking ahead as we only had the vaguest idea of where we were going to end up each day and found no problem with getting reasonable accommodation. Half of the time we ended up staying in cabins in holiday parks which helped to keep the cost down compared to a hotel. This may give you an idea.....
http://www.top10.co.nz/find_a_park.html They're dotted all over the north and south island. As to the ferry, not sure there. If your worried about not being able to get on the ferry when you want to, maybe look up some ferry companies before you go, take their phone numbers with you and ring a couple of days before hand. I just did a quick search and from the look of things if you're catching a ferry without a car it will probably be a lot easier to get on one!!
Hope this helps a bit,
Not a bad time to vist before the school holidays, Cabins at camps are a good option and there should be plenty of vacancies, Top ten are good if a little pricey, some of the smaller camps have more character ( sometimes good , sometimes bad) Have a look at http://www.travelbug.co.nz/ this covers the full range of accommodation. Campervans are good but the cost will be starting to head up at that time of year and they can be a pain in town or on tight roads.
If you hire from one of the main companys you should be able to leave the carand pick up another at the ferry terminals, Taking a car across is expensive 3-4 Hundred dollars +
Hope this helps have fun and get off the beaten track