Hi - landing in Auvkland 3 October - flying out of Christchurch on 16 Oct. Want to see the essentials but don't want to miss out on spending some days walking and chilling but not sure where the best places are to go for that. Propose to hire a car, go by train - whatever seems best. Husband not keen on motorhome idea because of limited time.
Thought we might go to the Bay of Islands in the north first - but how long to stay?
Thought we might miss out Rotorua but should we?!
Wondered whether then to fly from Auk to Christchurch and catch Transalpine train then hire a car and go down to Queenstown etc.
Also, anyone know what the weather is likely to be like at the beginning of October?
Hi. You really have not allowed any where near enough time to do both Islands. In fact not even enough time to see one Island fully . October weather is often variable can be very windy and unsettled . Jan Feb March could be much better but the way the world weather is going you have to take your chances anytime !!
For those who have a very limited time I would expect the following may be of interest
Bay of Islands and North Cape
Quick tour of Auckland
Geo Thermal area of Rotorua and surrounding areas
Taupo and Geothermal areas
Tour of Wellington
Queenstown / Wanaka /Arrowtown area
Alpine Train Trip to west coast
Franz Josepth and Fox Glaciers
Lake Manapouri and power station trip
just a few ideas I can think off
With that little time, I wouldn't bother with the TranzAlpine, unless you really like trains. Yes, it's a great train journey - but you're still cooped up trying to look at the landscape from the lowest possible vantage point, with no possibility to stop and properly admire the view those few times that it really warrants it. (I did that train trip twice, and drove a rental car via Arthur's Pass once, and the car journey was far and far better.)
Rotorua is a good place to miss; as a city it's infinitely boring (unless you're a backpacker there to do all the adventure activities - but even then there'd be better alternatives). It'd be a shame to miss the volcanic landscapes, though - but I saw in a different thread that you like hiking, and then it'd be a much better combination to try and squeeze in Tongariro National Park and see the landscape there. That lacks the bubbling mudpools and insanely colored lakes - but still gives you the rest of it.
Bay of Islands is a tough call. I'd personally give it a miss, opting for a day around Hahei and Cathedral Cove instead, just because that's closer by and less filled with tourist activities.
How's this for a suggested itinerary:
3 Oct: arrive Auckland, see Auckland (I can recommend doing (part of) the Coast to Coast Walkway, that takes you past most of the most beautiful Auckland places, including the most impressive volcanoes).
4 Oct: Rent a car, drive to Hahei (2.5 hours), wait for low tide if necessary (low tide on that day is at 17:06; you're good for 3-4 hours before and after it, so worth starting to walk from 13:30-ish onward) and see Cathedral Cove plus the rest of the gorgeous Coromandel coast there.
5 Oct: drive to Tongariro National Park (~6 hours; this is a rather long day's driving. Still quite doable, and the landscapes you see are gorgeous. If you start out early enough, you could make a beeline for wai-o-tapu and thus still see the best the rotorua landscape has to offer.
6 Oct: Do hiking in Tongariro National Park (if the weather's good (tough to say in October, but you have at least some chance), consider doing the Tongariro Crossing, a 7 hour walk billed as the greatest one-day hike in the world (and if you like volcanic landscapes, they're not wrong either))
7 Oct: Drive on to Wellington (~5.5 hours), drop off car, take flight to Christchurch.
8 Oct: Rent a car, drive to Lake Tekapo (3.5 hours). Gaze at the insanely blue waters of the lake sipping a cup of tea and doing nothing. (You've been rushing about quite a bit, so deserve a rest day.)
9 Oct: Climb to the top of Mt. John at Lake Tekapo for gorgeous 360 degrees views of the MacKenzie high country and the Southern Alps.
10 Oct: Drive to Queenstown (3.5 hours), stopping at Mt. Cook village en route (~45 minute detour). Have lunch on the balcony of the Hermitage. Maybe do one of the short walks around here. Also be certain to stop alongside the road in Kawarau Gorge to gaze at the water there. (The original bungy bridge always makes for a nice place to do this.)
11 Oct: Wander around Queenstown for a day. If you want to do more hiking, I can recommend the one mile creek track, following an old waterpipe up the hill. You can continue on to the top of Ben Lomond from there, or be lazy and take the gondolas back down.
12 Oct: Do a daytrip to Milford Sound. (Take the bus, as you'd be stuck behind the tourbusses anyway, and this is a looong day.)
13 Oct: Drive to Fox or Franz Josef Glacier (~5 hours). Be sure to make lots of stops at all the waterfalls along Haast Pass.
14 Oct: See the glaciers. Be sure to visit Peter's Pool at Franz Josef for perfect mirrored views of the glacier, and wander on for more of the track to Roberts Point from there to see gorgeous rainforest.
15 Oct: Drive to Christchurch via Arthur's Pass (~ 5.5 hours).
16 Oct: Wander around Christchurch, fly out.
Alternatively, if you feel driving down the length of the North Island is perhaps a bit much (it's very doable (I've done it several times), but it is a lot of driving), you could go back and forth to see the Bay of Islands (or the Coromandel) in three days (2x a half day's driving, and 2 half days + 1 full day there), see more of Auckland on the 7th (totally worth it) and then fly directly from Auckland to Christchurch.
I would recommend the campervan or motorhome idea when you're in New Zealand. I would agree with the previous contributor that you simply don't have enough time to see both islands. We hired a Kiwi Camper 6 berth last summer and travelled around both islands. We had it for a number of weeks and still felt it wasn't enough time to see and do everything. If you do decide to get a campervan, a great site to book one is called -snip-
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It's easy to make an argument for anywhere in New Zealand - it's all wonderful. But in your limited time (we spent seven weeks there and it was nowhere near enough!) it might be best to think about your top priorities first.
Although I loved the experience at Waitangi and the history in that area, the Bay of Islands might be a distraction that's not worthwhile.
We drove through Tongariro and it's fantastic. It would make for incredible walking country. But then there's lots of that, and particularly on the south island when you get off the interislander ferry - worth the experience in itself.
I would disagree with your husband - a motorhome is best precisely because of a lack of time. You drive, arrive, plug in and get out and see the place. If you hire a car you'll be searching for hotels half the time and you don't have it to spare. If you've not been before you'll be amazed how many hired motorhomes are on the roads - everyone does it that way because it's the best way to see the place. You need to move on every day or two and this makes it so easy.
I was in NZ for a month and a half and that wasn't long enough. With only thirteen nights there isn't near enough time to see both islands and I'd give the BOI a miss because you need two nights minimum. I would definitely see Rotorua - itls the heart of NZ full of Maori culture and the geothermal areas surrounding it. A suggested itinerary below is a lot of driving, but doable. The South Island is incredibly scenic.
Oct 3 - Arrive Auckland
Oct 4- Auckland
Oct 5- Auckland - Rotorua (237 km)
Oct 6- Rotorua - Taupo (81 km ) ; Taupo - Napier (139 km)
Oct 7- Napier - Wellington (334 km)
Oct 8- Wellington - Picton - Christchurch Tranz Coastal arrive Chch 6.30pm or Car hire
Oct 9- Christchurch - Greymouth (258 km)
Oct 10 -Greymouth - Franz Josef (188 km)
Oct 11 - Franz Josef - Queenstown (365 km)
Oct 12- Queenstown
Oct 13- Queenstown - Aoraki/Mt Cook (263 km)
Oct 14- Aoraki/Mt Cook - Christchurch (331 km)
Oct 15 - Christchurch
Oct 16 - Fly out
On the 5th I'd suggest Tamaki Maori Village for a hangi and haka. It is something not to be missed and is one of the highlights of NZ. The next day you can watch Lady Knox Geyser on the way to Wai-O-Tapu before continuing on to Napier.
Napier is the home of art deco and many wineries.
Wellington - Te Papa museum has the largest collection of Maori artifacts and a whole section devoted to LOTR. The Wellington Cable Car runs from Lambton Quay to the Botanical Gardens and offers spectacular views over Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington's harbour.
The Interislander Ferry can be booked on-line, and I'd recommend the morning departure at 8.25am. The ferry takes three hours to reach Picton.
If you intend to catch the Tranz Coastal you will need to pre=book and when checking onto the feryy say that you're catching the treain- they will trasfer your luggage.
Franz Josef Glacier Hikes are very popular. Information on Queenstown here. Fiordland is a world heritage area and is home to MIlford Sound and Doubtful Sound. A day trip takes approx 12+ hours.
One of the most scenic drives is Aoraki/Mt. Cook accommodation includes The Grange and a YHA hostel.
Christchurch is called the "Garden City" and is a very English city. Some attractions include punting on the Avon (River), and the Christchurch Tram Cathedral Square is the hub and New Regent Street has great little cafes. The Swiss cafe there make really good coffee.
Hope this helps. Enjoy your holiday. Cheers.
Thanks everyone for such fantastic help/advice.