We are a family of four 2+2 (33/M, 31/F, 6/F and 3/M). We are planning on self
driven holidays to see scenic nature destinations in NZ for three weeks.
Advice us as to:
1. Best season for car drive.
2. Type of car to hire.
3. "Do not miss" highways across NZ.
4. Recommended stays on farm or home stays.
5. Hiking and adventure for kids.
we are looking forward to your replies
Hi, here some info from your travel helper,
1. I have been in summer to New Zealand which is a great time to be there. It seems the winters are not too cold but hiking will be more difficult. It seems that February is the best month to go. I was there in December/January which was absolutely fine. It does not get very hot in summer but simply very pleasant.
2. Most rental cars in New Zealand are asian cars. Since you are a family you could consider a motorhome. In this way you have also your accommodation with you which is kind of a 'stable' surrounding for your children, you can stop and let them sleep anywhere you are. When renting a car there are relocation deals which could be advantageous. I would not be surprised if these exist as well for motorhomes.
And as for speed, there are hardly any highways where you can speed up. at most roads you are allowed 80 km/h.
3. Basically driving around is great whereever you go, especially in the south island the landscape is great.
between National Park and Waiouru (road 49): beautiful view at Mount Ruapehu)
between Utiku and Ohingaiti (road 1): zigzagging along the river with its gorges.
Karangahake Gorge (just a few km but beautiful gorge) (road 2)
forgotten highway: nice winding road, also dirt road, but quite long!
Between Lake Tekapo and Twizel (road 8)
Between Twizel and Mount Cook (road 80)
Haast pass (road 6): between Bruce bay, Haast and Makarora
bits and pieces from road 6: between charleston and punakaiki; around cromwell (close to queenstown)
bits and pices from road 73 (arthurspass)
road 5 between picton and nelson
I could continue with many other roads. Maybe it is better to indicate which roads are NOT interesting (mostly flat):
- around auckland and between auckland and hamilton. (road 1)
- from wellington to hawera (road 3)
- between st arnaud and blenheim
- between waimate and Omarama
4. I stayed mostly in huts on the hiking trails and in youth hostels so cannot help you here. The best site to look at is : bbh.co.nz. they have also ratings from visitors. What is great in New Zealand is that you have all kind of accommodation: if you want some privacy you stay in a motel, if you want company from other travellers you stay in a hostel, if you want to meet local people (which are very often NOT local people) you go to a B&B or home stay.
5. I do not have kids but highlights which are also accessible with kids:
- punakaiki: it is a half hour - hour walk over a concrete path while looking at the punakaiki rocks: beautiful and easy.
- tongariro crossing is probably too difficult with young children (ca 20 km) but really special. already going walking a part of the trail is special.
- the glaciers (fox & franz josef) are very easy accessible for all levels, so I think this would also be possible with children. I would then recommend fox glacier since the crowds are smaller there.
- abel tasman: you can kayak, hike, use water taxi or any combination of these. Easy to be arranged from Nelson (although staying at huts has to be booked way in advance through www.doc.govt.nz). Tracks are not too long and are easy, views are great.
as for hiking: you have the great walks tracks (as milford, abel tasman, kepler, routeburn, etc) for which you have to book the huts way in advance since they are quickly fully booked. These tracks are in general very beautiful. Look at the www.doc.govt.nz site and probably you will also find info on travelling with children. Please note that on most tracks you have to bring your own sleeping bag, food, cooker & plates.
There are also the tracks which are not the great walks which you do not have to book in advance and where even in high season you can be the only guest in the hut.
Furthermore you can of course also do hiking without staying in huts. If you are interested in those I would advice you to make a list of type of landscapes you are interested in (mountains, lakes...) and the duration and difficulty of the hikes. at the doc.govt.nz site you can then search for the walks that meet your criteria.
if you need more info, do not hesitate to contact me
Hi Naresh, I'd have to say I'd recommend a motorhome too. They can seem expensive, particularly in summer season, but it's your accommodation too.
The downside of using a car is that you'll either have to book accommodation in advance without seeing it, or you'll have to search for some as you arrive in each place.
The thing with NZ is that all the sights are spread around, so you'll want to do a couple of days here and there, moving on all the time, so afternoons spent looking for accommodation will impact your holiday heavily.
We had our kids with us (8 & 12), so the campsites were excellent - we would pull up in the motorhome and put the kettle on and they would be off to the playground burning off some energy
I can highly recommend the following:
www.top10.co.nz - a chain of campsites we used almost exclusively, most with excellent facilities.
www.pacifichorizon.co.nz - while Maui & Britz seemed to have newer motorhomes, Pacific Horizon's were bigger and cheaper, while being clean and very practical. I think we also got a discount on the Top 10 parks.
Te Tiro Cabins (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g616349-d617970-Reviews-Te_Tiro-Waitomo_Caves_North_Island.html) for an amazing place to stay in the North Island.
If you've any questions, please ask