We'll be spending a week in NZ in March, flying into Auckland. We've been considering riding the train to Wellington, ferry to the south island, then train to Christchurch. We're looking for suggestions - is this too much to do?
Are trains the way to go or should we rent a car, or fly? I know it's not much time, but we'd like to see the countryside. We're a newly retired group of 6.
That is a lot of travelling in one week.
I spent two weeks driving between Queenstown and Auckland (inc Picton-Wellington ferry) and I found that a bit of a challenge (not to be patronising either but I'm in my 20s).
I'd definitely recommend seeing the country by car if possible, but I think doing those kind of distances would simply leave you feeling like a commuter.
Flying is obviously quickest but you'll tend to miss some of the scenery in between (which can be stunning)
If you only have one week then you should choose between the two Islands. You could stay in the North Island, rent a car and travel to the bay of islands, Taupo and Rotorua.
Or, You could get a connecting domestic flight to a south Island airport such as Christchurch, Queenstown or Dunedin and plan a circuit there. I would say fly to Christchurch, travel Arthurs pass, drive down the west coast to Fox & Franz Josef glaciers, drive to Milford sound or Doubtful sound and do a boat trip, then to Queenstown and fly from Queenstown back to Auckland.
There is so much to see in NZ. You need a car and ideally 6 weeks. You did say that you're retired!!!!!
[ Edit: Edited on 24-Sep-2010, at 18:08 by trainrider ]
If you only have one week I definitely recommend choosing one island rather than trying to cover both. Here is a good way to think about about it...if you are into beaches and bush ( forest ) then particularly in March I would suggest the North Island. the Coromandel peninsular is the best.
On the other hand if your preferences are for mountains and lakes ... The typical Lord of the Rings type scenery then definitely the South Island is the way to go. Either way recommend a car as the best part of experiencing NZ is the scenery as you travel through it. That said there are some exceptional train journeys..my favorite is the trans Alpine trip between Christchurch and Greymouth. have fun!!
I think I did the very same trip about 20 yrs ago by train. As I remember, the train gives you rather limited access to NZ. You need to use other means of transport to see places like Queenstown, Bay of Islands, etc. I did a combination of train, ferry, bus and air travel, but I took at least 2 or 3 weeks. South Island is the beauty spot with a small population compared to the bustling North Island. North Island has the good beaches.