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3 Weeks in New Zealand

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1. Posted by tinyalot (Budding Member 4 posts) 6y

This thread is marked as being about Overseas Territories (New Zealand)

Hi fellow adventurers,

I'll be spending 3 heavenly weeks in New Zealand during February/March of next year. My sister and I are traveling together, flying into Auckland on February 20th and departing homeward out of Christchurch on March 11th. We've decided to rent a car (and will most likely book through Explore More) so what we do will be entirely up to us.

With so many incredible sights to see, places to visit, and activities to do, I start to glaze over when I think of planning. Would anyone be able to offer any suggestions or tips? Any sort of advice would be most appreciated. We're 20-somethings, active and fit, and definitely looking for excitement over comfort.

I'd compiled a rough itinerary, but perhaps we're missing things? Have I allotted enough time for driving, etc? Is this too ambitious? Or maybe some places I've listed are worth skipping so we can add a sight not on my itinerary.

Feb 20 - Arrive Auckland
Feb 22 - Drive to Coromandel
Feb 23 - Matamata and Rotorua
Feb 24 - Rotorua to Lake Taupo
Feb 25 - Lake Taupo to Wellington
Feb 26 - Wellington to Picton via Ferry, drive to Abel Tasman?
Feb 27 - Abel Tasman
Feb 28 - Abel to Fox Glacier
Mar 1 - travel to Fox Glacier
Mar 2 - Fox Glacier to Wanaka
Mar 3 - Wanaka to Queenstown
Mar 4 - Queenstown to Te Anau
Mar 5 - Te Anau
Mar 6-9 - Milford/Fjordland
Mar 10-11 - Christchurch

I'd like to do plenty of day hikes, kayaking in Milford, wine tasting, glowworm caves, possibly some sky diving, or any other activities you might suggest!

Thanks for the help,

[ Edit: Edited on 22-Oct-2010, at 14:31 by tinyalot ]

2. Posted by mcljai (First Time Poster 1 posts) 6y

Hi ya,

I am a kiwi so I am giving a NZ perspective, perhaps travellers might give you more of a 'travel' view...

The first thing I noticed was that you had one day in the 'Coromandel' - the Coromandel is an entire region, coromandel town itself is tiny and not worth the trip. However, the region itself is absolutely wonderful in summer - I am from upper North Island and I know many many many North Islanders go the Coromandel for the Summer - the best beaches would be Pauanui, Whangamata, Whitianga, and Cooks beach. One day would definitely not do it justice at all!!

I notice you are moving really really quickly and spending hardly any time in each place. I would suggest picking fewer places, and spending more time there where you can enjoy it and see what we've got. I really think you are really rushing things. For example, if you are planning to do Matamata and Rotarua in a day - they are completely different places! Rotarua is where you will see the most about NZ culture re: Maori culture, so that shouldn't be skipped if that's what you're looking for. You say you'd like to do adventure activities - the South Island would be the place for that, so I definitely think your plans from Abel Tasman, Fox Glacier, Queenstown and the Milford sound are a good idea. In fact, if you are looking for adventure, I would suggest skipping a lot of the North Island.
Auckland: big city but hardly anything worth doing (given the short time you will be spending here), wouldn't recommend much time there
Coromandel: All it is is beaches, so one day spent here (which beach? whereabouts?) seems pointless
Again Taupo and Rotarua: doesn't seem worth it just to spend a single day there

With the little time you have, I don't think you need to do both Wanaka and Queenstown. Nothing happens in Wanaka outside of the ski season, and it is very similar to Qtown. However Qtown is an actual town with loads and loads going on and its beautiful. Qtown and Milford Sound are wonderful.

I would rethink doing a hasty top to toe of NZ, I think you'd get a lot more out of your stay if you focused on a few places - or for example, flying from Auckland to Picton and doing your roadtrip from there. The West coast of the South Island is my favourite - and most New Zealanders who have actually been there - its where you'll get the scenery you've probably imagined NZ to be and all the adventure stuff along the way.

Hope that helps, just read over what I wrote I don't mean to criticise your plans at all so please just ignore me if you think its a rubbish reply!

Best of luck.

3. Posted by nick3006 (Budding Member 24 posts) 6y


If you are going to the Coromandel I'd say you need to spend a couple of days there, if not then just travel straight down to Rotorua and Taupo. Then if you like wine you could stop off in Napier/Havelock on the way to Wellington.

Picton to Abel Tasman
Either Take the scenic route along the Queen Charlotte Road, the Marlboroughsounds are so beautiful; or take route 6 and stop for some wine tastings at the vineyards around Blenheim ( there are about 20 of them and they produce some great wine).
Stop in Nelson if you get time, it's a great place for art and crafts
Marahau is good place to stop for the ABel Tasman park, hire some kayaks and paddle along the coast for the day and then get the water taxi back.
there are also great day hikes in the Abel Tasman.

I'd say ABel Tasman to Fox Glacier is too far for a day perhaps you could stop in Punakaiki on the way down, it's an amazing place and there are some great day hikes up the Fox and Pororari rivers.

If you like bunge jumping white water rafting etc then you'll need a couple of days in Queenstown.

Stop at Lake Tekapo on the way up to Christchurch it's worth seeing.

Have a great time, hope this helps a bit.

4. Posted by tomtvl (Budding Member 26 posts) 6y

Well, it sounds great! :)

5. Posted by tinyalot (Budding Member 4 posts) 6y

Thanks everyone for the suggestions! I've done a bit more research and agree that we were missing things, rushing things, and had listed places that may be worth skipping. Can I trouble you guys for thoughts on my revised itinerary?

Feb 20 - arrive Auckland late PM
Feb 21 - Auckland / nearby day trip?
Feb 22 - car pickup, Auckland to Waitomo, visit glow worm caves, drive to Rotorua
Feb 23 - Rotorua - Kerosene Creek Hot Springs & Waimangu Volcano Valley
Feb 24 - Rotorua to Lake Taupo, Tangariro Crossing Hike
Feb 25 - Tongariro to Wellington
Feb 26 - Wellington to Picton, Picton to Nelson
Feb 27 - Wine Tour in Nelson or Marlborough
Feb 28 - drive to Abel Tasman
Mar 1 -Abel Tasman kayak day
Mar 2 - Abel to Punakaiki
Mar 3 - Punakaiki to Fox Glacier, stop at Hokitika
Mar 4 - Fox Glacier, 1/2 day guided glacier tour
Mar 5 - Franz Josef to Queenstown
Mar 6 - Queenstown to Te Anau
Mar 7 - Te Anau to Milford
Mar 8 - Milford, kayak day trip
Mar 9 - Milford to Dunedin
Mar 10 - Dunedin to Christchurch
Mar 11 - departing flight via Christchurch at 9pm

I feel pretty good about our revised plans up until the glaciers. But are we giving ourselves enough time to enjoy Milford? My sister suggested spending less time at the glaciers and longer at Milford, but aren't the glaciers just as special?

Lastly, Any sights we should see between Queenstown and Dunedin? We're not too keen on spending tons of money on bungee jumping and the like, but would love to know of any great day hikes along the way. Is Dunedin worth visiting?

Thanks again everyone!!

6. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4953 posts) 6y

Feb 24 - Rotorua to Lake Taupo, Tangariro Crossing Hike

There's no realistic way you can do the Tongariro Crossing on the same day as driving from Rotorua. (I don't think there's even trail transport available from Taupo; only from Turangi, and either way, that leaves before 07:00 in the morning; maybe at 08:00 for a late departure, but not after that. (?)) Tongariro Crossing is definitely worth doing, and chances on decent weather are good in late February, but you'll want to base yourself in Turangi or Whakapapa the night before.

My sister suggested spending less time at the glaciers and longer at Milford, but aren't the glaciers just as special?

The glaciers are imo worth way more time than Milford Sound. Moreover, there's nothing at Milford Sound. The only possibilities for staying the night there are at a private lodge if you just hiked in from the Milford Track, or on one of the two overnight cruises (a wonderful experience on a good day, but not cheap, and chances of a good day aren't very high). I'd go so far as to recommend just staying in Queenstown, and doing Milford Sound (including kayaking) on a daytrip by bus from there; you'd be stuck behind the masses of tourbusses on the road anyway, and although it's an exceedingly long and exhausting day with the transport from and back to Queenstown built-in, that way you'll avoid needlessly visiting Te Anau (which is a rather boring town, only really worth a visit if you're hiking the Kepler or Milford Track) and give yourself a few more days which you can use to pad out the rest of your itinerary.

7. Posted by tinyalot (Budding Member 4 posts) 6y

Sander, thank you!! Regarding Milford, I kept getting the feeling that that was the case - worth it for a day but once you've seen it, you've seen all of it? And with less time there, we'll have more days to explore more of the South Island. Any additional spots you might recommend?

Perhaps so I have time for Tongariro, we head to Waitomo/Rotorua on day 2 (Feb 21) instead of a an Auckland day trip. Then February 23rd we drive to Turangi or Whakapapa so we can wake up early and do the hike on Feb 24?

8. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4953 posts) 6y

Quoting tinyalot

Perhaps so I have time for Tongariro, we head to Waitomo/Rotorua on day 2 (Feb 21) instead of a an Auckland day trip.

Auckland is one of my favorite cities in New Zealand; I'd say it's worth spending a day there (lots to see and do: take a ferry to Devonport and hike to North Head, explore Mt. Eden, maybe take a bus to One Tree Hill, spend some hours ambling through Ponsonby, etc), especially after you've just arrived and want to take things easy. There's other places where you can save time though: you're current scheduling an entire day for the drive from Nelson to Abel Tasman, while this is a one hour drive. I'd probably suggest driving on from Nelson to Motueka after your wine tour, and then using that as your base for the kayaking in Abel Tasman.
I'd also make Punakaiki a short stop on the way from Abel Tasman to the glaciers, and skip Hokitika (except if you really want to buy any jade jewelry, but even then that should be just a short stop). Yes, that means you have a long drive on that day, but it's still doable, and you'll have a day without driving before and after, so should be reasonably balanced. (Look up high tide times beforehand, so you can time being at Punakaiki at high tide if at all possible.) I'll also strongly echo nick3006's recommendation of a stop at Lake Tekapo; it's by far my favorite place in New Zealand.

So, taking your itinerary and tweaking it a bit, I'd say:

Feb 20 - arrive Auckland late PM
Feb 21 - explore Auckland
Feb 22 - car pickup, Auckland to Waitomo, visit glow worm caves, drive to Rotorua
Feb 23 - Rotorua - Kerosene Creek Hot Springs & Waimangu Volcano Valley
Feb 24 - Rotorua to Whakapapa, stopping in Wai-o-tapu and Taupo on the way
Feb 25 - Tongariro Crossing
Feb 26 - Whakapapa to Wellington, explore Wellington
Feb 27 - Wellington to Picton, Picton to Nelson
Feb 28 - Wine Tour in Nelson or Marlborough, drive to Motueka
Mar 1 - Abel Tasman kayak day
Mar 2 - Motueka to Franz Josef Glacier, stop at Punakaiki
Mar 3 - Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, 1/2 day guided glacier tour (also try to hike some of Roberts Point Track, for gorgeous rainforest scenery, or at the very least gaze in Peter's Pool for an awesome glacier reflection)
Mar 4 - Franz Josef to Queenstown
Mar 5 - Milford Sound daytrip, including kayaking.
Mar 6 - Rest day, explore Queenstown. (If you have energy left, I can recommend the one mile creek track following the old waterpipe (the start is a bit tricky to find: head to the west end of Lomond Cres / Thompson St.), and if you're really keen hikers, onward climbing Ben Lomond for great views over the Remarkables and Queenstown.)
Mar 7 - Queenstown to Dunedin, explore Dunedin
Mar 8 - Dunedin to Mt. Cook via Moeraki
Mar 9 - Mt. Cook to Lake Tekapo; gaze out over the stunning blue of the lake; maybe hike up Mt. John for hot chocolate at the observatory cafe.
Mar 10 - Lake Tekapo to Christchurch
Mar 11 - departing flight via Christchurch at 9pm

9. Posted by tinyalot (Budding Member 4 posts) 6y

Amazing Sander, this itin is a great plan!! Your help is so appreciated...I can't wait to be there!

10. Posted by groverkiwi (Budding Member 15 posts) 6y

I think Sander's itinerary is pretty good to squeeze in what you want to see. Its a long haul from LA to Auckland so you will probably want to catch your breath before taking on driving in NZ.
You are probably going to need a Holiday to recover when you have finished but to help with your planning here are a couple of useful websites

For some cool / hot swims while here in NZ I recommend the Waterfall pool near Wai-o-tapu

Info on walks:

General Info:

Hope you have a good trip and watch out for crazy kiwi drivers

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