Leaving Australia for three weeks in New Zealand (flying in Christchurch and out of Auckland) in April. I'm in the initial planning stages of the trip, and was wondering if anyone had any hidden gems/can't miss suggestions. So far on the itinerary is:
1.) Day hike Mt. Cook National Park
2.) Milford Sound (possibly some sea kayaking)
3.) Day hike in the Abel Tasman National Park
4.) Routeburn Trek (I have a couple questions for anyone that has completed this...see below)
5.) Whale watching at Kaikoura
6.) Waitomo Caves (is the black water rafting worth it?)
7.) Day Hike at Tongariro National Park
Any kind of suggestions/modifications are welcome. Any good winery or restaurant recommendations? Having lived in Melbourne for the past 3 years, we have come to love our food
Just a couple questions I can't seem to find answers to:
- How does transportation work for the Routeburn Trek? My partner and I have a campervan, any suggestions on how we manage the car with the beginning and ending point?
-The book says it can be completed in 3-4 days. Any experienced trekkers have comments on this?
- My partner is also slightly obsessed with the Lord of the Rings Triology/The Hobbit and would be gutted if we didn't take some kind of tour. Any suggestions for my geeky bf?
Thanks for your help!
Your itinerary sounds great on the whole but I can hopefully help with some further information and suggestions.
Consider Doubtful Sound rather than Milford Sound - it's less touristy than Milford and in my opinion more beautiful.
Abel Tasman national park is stunning and one of the highlights of NZ for me, so a day hike there is a good plan.
Personally I found the whale watching a little disappointing and overpriced, but I know others will have had different experiences and will disagree - I hardly saw any whales at all on my trip!
The Tongariro crossing is one of the best things I did in NZ so definitely don't miss that.
I did a Lord of the Rings tour at Hobbiton in Matamata - I'm not particularly interested in it but my friend was and she thought it was worthwhile.
Other places you may wish to consider visiting are the glaciers on the West coast (do a heli hike), and White Island (an active volcano) off the East coast of the North Island - both of those places were up there with the best things I did in NZ. Rotorua is worth a stop for a couple of days to see the thermal areas.
I am also really into my food and Auckland has fab restaurants. If you let me know what kind of food you are into I can advise specific places. What I would say is that many of the best restaurants in Auckland are in the suburbs so be prepared to head a little way out of the city.
[ Edit: Edited on 30-Jan-2012, at 04:50 by bex76 ]
Hi there, another gem in NZ is the Queen Charlotte Walk at the Northern tip of the South Island. You take the boat from Picton to the start of the walk. Some lovely places to stay along the way. It is a comfortable 4 day walk with gorgeous views. Great wine regions nearby with the famous Marlborough Savignon Blancs. The town of Nelson is picturesque and arty. A great place to put your feet up after the walk.
Also loved Abel Tasman National Park, which is already on your list!
If you are pushed for time in Kaikoura but want to go whale watching you might like to consider a helicopter trip. We had missed out on a helicopter trip to the glacier earlier in the holiday due to very bad weather, so as a treat we did this and it was fantastic! We only saw one whale but the experience was great.
I'll echo bex's recommendation for the Hobbiton tour. It's the only LotR movie set remaining; everything else has been restored to the way they found it (they'd planned to do the same with Hobbiton as well, but had to stop halfway through the process due to bad weather, and by the time they could resume, there'd been so many fans asking to see the set that the owners of the farm convinced New Line to be allowed to keep the set as it was; more, it's now been completely rebuilt for The Hobbit). Those green hills really are that green.
Do check in advance though; at some point this year they'll be filming The Hobbit, which'll mean that the tour will be closed.
Beyond that: April on the South Island is gorgeous, with autumn colors starting to appear. My favorite location in New Zealand is Lake Tekapo; there's not so much to do there, but it's a great place to really unwind for a bit, gazing out over the gorgeously unreal blue color of the lake. And if you want to be active, there's a decent hike to the top of Mt. John and back down the other side (~2.5 hours), with awesome hot chocolate at the observatory cafe at the top, plus an amazing view of the Southern Alps and the MacKenzie plain. (For dinner, try the Carbonara Pizza at Pepe's!)
Hiking wise, I unfortunately haven't done the Routeburn, can recommend stopping in Te Anau on the way back from Milford Sound, and doing the first day of the Kepler track as just a dayhike (you need permits for the full Kepler track, but can hike to the first hut on back in a day, and so still get to see some of that amazing forest scenery).
The glaciers are also really worth seeing - there's amazing rainforest hikes at Franz Josef (Peter's Pool and (the beginning of) the Robert's Point track); and on a good (windstill) day, the aforementioned helicopter flight (with landing on the glacier) is really amazing (if rather expensive). There's departures both from Franz Josef (and Fox?) and from near Lake Tekapo / Mt. Cook. If this sounds good to you, but you need an argument to convince your boyfriend, just say "the lighting of the beacons". :D
If you end up doing the Queen Charlotte Track recommended above (which has the big benefit of having pack transport by boat), be sure to stay at the Mahana Lodge. Amazing homemade chocolate cake!
Ok my two cents!
NZ can change dramatically with the weather. One persons awesome experience in great weather can be an-others miserable rainy day. Be prepared in April for a few chilly and rainy days, but also with some nice days too.
Franz Joseph glacier, guided hike with rented spikes. Looking at it is pretty impressive, but unless you get right up on it and walk through the crevasse's you miss the real experience. And yes you really need a guide. The ice climbing wall in town is really good fun too.
Up over Aurthers Pass back into Christchurch and then north to Kaikoura. Un like Bex I had the best experience at Kaikoura, but I did the swim with dolphins. Really amazing swimming and playing with hundreds of dolphins and we saw whales on the boat trip back in!
Abel Tasman there is a part of the forest that they shot that movie. I'm not into the movie, but my friend pointed it out and it really did look like the trees could come alive and start moving at any minute.
Queen Charlotte track can be done in a day if you rent a mountain bike. They will transport the bike and yourself by ferry to the end, or as far up as you want to go and then you have an awesome if a bit exhausting (its pretty hilly) day ride of 60km. You could break this into two days and stay at one of the really nice B&B's. I left my camper at the campsite and it was perfectly safe.
The national museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington is well worth 4 or 5 hours.
Tongariro Crossing is a great day hike with amazing views. Make sure you climb Mount Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe). I stayed with my campervan at Whakapapa campsite in Tongariro national park. There is a shuttle bus that picks you up at the park and drops you at the start, then picks you up again at the finish. If you are fit you can do it all in about 5 hours.
Edit, from Tongariro, you can come up to Taupo and stop in at Spa Park. You park in the parking lot and walk down with beautiful views of the Waikato River, just down by the river is a small hot stream. Its absolutely the best, to sit in the hot stream then swim out into the cold water of the Waikato. Do this after you continue on the track down to Haka Falls.
Waitomo caves, I did the rubber inner tubes, much more fun than sitting in a raft! There are also caves that you can walk for free, ask at the campsite, and make sure you go see the sheering of the Angora rabbits! seriously not to be missed.
Not all the best restaurants in Auckland are in the burbs. In fact I'd quite disagree. If you want atmosphere and great food try the downtown neighborhoods of Ponsonby, and Parnell.
If possible save some time to go north from Auckland to the Bay of Islands and then back down through the mighty Kauri trees.
[ Edit: Edited on 30-Jan-2012, at 14:45 by Dodger ]
Thanks for all the suggestions! These are some fantastic insights for the trip.
Bex: In reply to your post. We're really open to any kind of food..nothing really too fancy. We'd be open to a nice mean now and again if the situation called for it
I'll def look into the Ponsonby and Parnell neighborhoods, and we'll have our campervan around the city, so totally up for heading out to the burbs!