11 days in New Zealand

Wibbly23

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i'm going to new zealand for 11 days in february with the family. i'll be bringing my camera, but this is very much a travel trip, though we all love amazing scenery.


we fly in to aukland on the 11th and fly out of aukland on the 23


i'd love to hear some suggestions on must sees or must dos, as well as possibly some tips about getting around given our time constraints. we want to see as much as we can but don't want to spend our whole trip driving either.


any advice is appreciated.
 

Bushboy

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Need more info.
How many in your group?
What type of vehicle will you have?
What specific interests do you guys have?
First thing to do, get out of Auckland!
That place is just awful. Traffic nightmare.
 

Wibbly23

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it myself, my girlfriend, and my retired parents


we are likely going to rent a can or similar, something to comfortably carry all of us. we all like natural sites to see, so we've been looking at drive yourself tours of the south island.

this is one we are thinking about


10 Day Fiords, Glaciers & Mountains NZ Self Drive Tour


we don't require fancy accommodations, but aren't overly interested in caravaning or camping.
 

Mikehit

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We were in NZ earlier this year and did the full Southland-to-Northland in 3 weeks - it was good but just the right side of being a push. 11 days from Auckland has many possibilities.
Firstly, be aware that the speed limit in NZ is 50mph (80kph) on all but the largest motorways so it takes longer than expected to go anywhere.

What I like about North Island is the sheer variety of scenery from sub-tropical rainforest to volcanic and open vistas. Most of the trips I am about to give you are one day driving from Auckland but can easily be expanded with overnight stays which will always be worthwhile.
I have been to NZ twice in my life and both times I have missed the Coromandel Peninsula said by many to be the most beautiful part of the Island, a subtropical rainforest area and is the centre of NZ bohemia and that would be my first stop for 3 days. From there I would strike East round Bay of Plenty then strike down to Gisbourne and Napier on the East Coast. [just off the Bay is White Island a still-active volcanic Island you can take a trip out if you fancy]. Napier was destroyed in the 1930s by a humungus earthquake and rebuilt almost totally in the art deco style and is a photographer's dream with its elegant designs and pastel colours.
With a day or two there you have passed 5/6 days already.
From Napier strike inland for a 4-5 hour drive to Lake Taupo or Rotorua - you can stay in one and visit the other (they are about 2h drive apart). Lake Taupo is just a beautiful lakeside town (and the lake is a huge....I mean huge...volcanic crater!). Rotorua is in many ways the cultural centre of New Zealand and nearby is the Wai-o-tapu volcanic park which will take you 4 or 5 hours to walk round: there are manylakes of different hues and a geyser (a sort of mini version of the volcanic lakes in Yellowstone).
You are now up to 9 days and planning your way back.
If you or the family are interested in Lord of the Rings worlds, then there are many websites listing the places the film was shot. We were surprised how low key all the LoR stuff was, but it is easily found if you are interested.
If your family are the advernturous sort you could do worse than go to Waitomo caves situated 3h NE of Taupo. It would be a 2day venture, one day to get there and stay overnight, then one day abseiling into a cave with a 4h to 7h walk along the caves including some absolutely awesome glowworm caves.

An alternative is to go North from Auckland along the peninsula to Northland (obviously) but IMO with 11 days this would mean a lot of backtracking to somewhere else. However if you want to take things really easy you could fill 11 days if you wanted to. About 6 hours drive from Auckland is the Bay of Islands, a truly beautiful place where you can just chill and also the historic site of Waitangi where the treaty between Maoris and British was signed. Just south of that is the Kauri forests and one or two Kiwi reserves.

If you are into bushwalking then there is no place better than NZ with a huge variety of walks on very well maintained tracks.

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to and if I stopped to take a photo every time I saw something fantastic, travel times would have multiplied.

I hope this gives a starting point for your break but if anything else comes to mind I will add it later.
 

Mikehit

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it myself, my girlfriend, and my retired parents


we are likely going to rent a can or similar, something to comfortably carry all of us. we all like natural sites to see, so we've been looking at drive yourself tours of the south island.

this is one we are thinking about


10 Day Fiords, Glaciers & Mountains NZ Self Drive Tour


we don't require fancy accommodations, but aren't overly interested in caravaning or camping.
If you really want to go to S island, I would fly to Christchurch: Auckland to Wellington for the ferry will be 2 days almost and then you need to reverse that to get back for the flight out. And you need to careful when hiring cars/campers in that some companies do not let you take vehicles from one island to the other but many will arrange drop off in Wellington and a new vehicle on S Island.
S Island is not easy to drive around, by which I mean the distances between places of note is a long drive and roads are often narrow with not many places to stop (not officially anyway). My cousin and his wife went to NZ for 8 days and went from Christchurch to Southland and back calling in at Queenstown and Te Anu.
For ourselves, we landed in Christchurch then went to Te Anau, Queenstown, Wanaka, Kaikoura to go whale watching and by the time we got to Picton for the ferry 8 days had passed and there were three days of pretty solid driving. I am not trying to put you off but be careful with the times involved by the time you have had bathroom breaks and meals.

South Island is a beautiful place but very different to N Island so I would say do one or the other.
 
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wjiang

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FYI the open road speed limit is 100 km/hr, but drive to the conditions. Most of our highways are the equivalent of country roads in other places.

I would pick either the South Island or North. 11 days is pretty short and you'll speed a lot of it driving unless you stick to a specifc area.

If you're doing the South and want to avoid too much driving, I would actually suggest flying straight to Dunedin or Queenstown. From their you are within easy driving to the Catlins, Milford/Te Anau, Wanaka, Tekapo. If you want to look around Christchurch I'd still fly further South - the main drive south from Christchurch is pretty long and boring if your main destination is further south.
 

Gillymaru

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it myself, my girlfriend, and my retired parents


we are likely going to rent a can or similar, something to comfortably carry all of us. we all like natural sites to see, so we've been looking at drive yourself tours of the south island.

this is one we are thinking about


10 Day Fiords, Glaciers & Mountains NZ Self Drive Tour


we don't require fancy accommodations, but aren't overly interested in caravaning or camping.
That is a great plan to spend your limited time. Great time of the year to visit, long summer days and the kids are back at school. Forget touring the North Island fly to Christchurch or Queenstown and base drive from there. You will find the travel easy and there is a different beautiful site to see around every corner.
Car hire and finding places to stay is easy try Airbnb or book a Bach. Motels are usually available everywhere and usually have cooking facilities so you can cook your own meals if you want. The only place you may have trouble staying will be Milford Sound it is very popular and isolated, book ahead if you want to stay there.
Grab a SIM card for your phone at the airport, set the GPS and away you go touring NZ is really easy
 

phigmov

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From a scenery perspective I prefer the South Island but there is good stuff to see in the North, as mentioned by others in the thread. You can get from AKL to WLG in a loooong days drive with a pause in Taupo but you'll miss a lot of the stuff around the edges of NZ (Nth of AKL, Coromandel, East Coast/West Coast). Taking detours to see that stuff is worthwhile but will take a day or two per region - the roads are not like Europe or the US - once you're off the main drag you're into twisty/turny rural roads that don't readily lend themselves to high-speed cruising.

The South Island is more picturesque IMHO - the Southern Alps runs down the middle, you've got the dry flat East Coast (a bit dull, mostly farmland) and at some point you'll wan to consider whether to try and get to Fiordland/Queenstown - the distances on the map can be a little deceptive. Coming back up the West Coast has some stunning scenery but it has a reputation as being a 'bit wet' - rains a lot. Lots of day-walks and hikes on either side of the Alps if you're into that type of thing. The Alps themselves are a nice destination (or worth a scenic flight over) - theres also skiing there (had a late season this year).

The cities are OK - its a comparatively young country so you tend not to get the amazing galleries & museums of other nations. Auckland tends to suffer from urban sprawl although the city centre area has undergone a bit of a rebirth in the last 10 years. I'm in Wellington so I'm a little biased - its nice and compact (you can walk from one side of the city to the other in 40min tops) + has a great craft-beer, cafe scene - nice place to chill out before boarding a ferry to Picton in the South Island. Christchurch & Dunedin are pretty nice; its cool to see the rebirth of Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake. Wanaka/Queenstown are also cool but super-touristy & expensive.

All the usual things to do aside from scenery spotting, tramping/hiking, chilling on at the beach/river/lake, mountain biking, whale watching, surfing, bungy-jumping etc etc.

Make sure you try some Kiwi staples/gentle-pleasures we take for granted - fish & chips on the beach, tip-top ice-cream, Lemon & Paeroa (L&P) soft-drink, pineapple lumps (candy), Whitaker chocolate, a good flat-white or long-black (coffee), marmite/vegemite (just a dab mind-you), a meat-pie from a gas-station (or seek out the winner of the best-pie-in NZ - baked by a Cambodian refugee who started a bakery a few decades ago), a Cookie-Time biscuit etc etc

Sounds like you're travelling in the Summer Holiday period - schools out and the country is generally on-holiday. AirBNB can help with accommodation, so can sites like Book-a-bach (a bach (pronounced 'batch') is a kiwi holiday home) can be handy but you'll be competing with lots of locals - Holiday homes and baches | Holiday accommodation | Bookabach - if you've got a camper-van, you probably don't need to use this - can be handy if you want a place to base yourself out of for a week or two while traveling locally.

Its a pretty safe place by world standards, generally people are friendly and keen to help + there is minimal corruption - just use your common sense (be wary of leaving valuables in the van, keep passports safe etc) - no where is ever crime-free (and people who are obviously tourists can be easy pickings for the unscrupulous).

Oddball entertainment - ferry crossing between Wellington & Picton in terrible weather (the Cook Strait can be one of the roughest stretches on the planet when a storm rolls through), ditto being in a plane landing at Wellington Airport in high-winds (definite white-knuckle experience!)

Hope you enjoy your trip!
 

wjiang

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IMO February is a better time to visit the North Island instead of the South. The North remains lush and green, whereas by summer the South will be fairly dry (other than in native bush) and have negligible snow on the mountains.

Driving through the eastern suburbs of Auckland, you can take the coastal route to Thames instead of the boring drive to Hamilton. From their you can either detour to the Coromandel or drive on to Rotorua. The bit in the middle past Taupo is a pretty long and tiring mountain drive.
 

Bushboy

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If it was me having this holiday, and I was flying into Aucks, and only had 10 days...
I would rent a 4person campervan.
I wouldn’t even consider the South Island.
I would try and get around the North Island only.
What about the Far North? That’s gorgeous up there!
Mate, 10 days touring the North Island, you won’t even scratch the surface....
p.s. if you must do the South Island , don’t even leave the Auckland airport, get on the next plane to Christchurch
 

djtaylor7

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As has been said, the South Island probably has the best scenery, but less of the Maori culture and the geothermal scenery, which is also very spectacular.
As you fly into Auckland, could be worth a couple of days there; the Museum is worth half a day, and there are day trips to Rotorua by coach.
Then as suggested fly down to Christchurch or Queenstown, pick up a hire car, and do an abridged form of that 11 day trip you were looking at. Certainly aim to do Te Anau and Milford Sound.
In February the schools will be going back, so although still holiday season, it should not be very crowded.
 

Wibbly23

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thanks so much for all the input thus far.


i really wish we had the time and money to do a month-long tour, but sadly we don't. it looks like we're probably spending a couple of days on the north island before heading down to christchurch and touring around the south for the remainder of the trip. maybe a quick jaunt up to kaikoura, then off to see mount cook, te anau, milford sound, lake wakatipu, queenstown, wanaka, then taking the train back to christchurch


maybe a little touristy, but this is going to be a bit of a crash course in NZ.


i'd love to do a longer, more authentic trip, but this time we just don't have the resources. i have a feeling we'll be back though!
 

Holoholo55

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I've been to Aotearoa only once, back in 2003 for about 10 days. We stayed mostly in Dunedin for a fishery meeting for me and my colleagues, but my wife and my friend's family got to look around. They spent a couple of days in Queenstown. We also visited Christchurch (before the earthquake), Auckland and North Island. Visited mostly the touristy spots (Rotorua hot springs, glowworm cave, Cadbury factory tour, etc.), but we still enjoyed it immensely and would love to go back. As others have said, it was just scratching the surface, but we enjoyed everything we did and had enough time to walk around neighborhoods, stop at the dairies to enjoy the fantastic ice cream, and discovered Tim Tams. I'm jealous of you. :)
 

Bristolero

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Hi. Sounds like you're gonna' have some fun! Lots of good advice above. Like many said, 11 days is pretty short. I think I would pick either the NI or the SI and not attempt both. If you want a subtropical, maritime experience, head north from Auckland, past Warkworth, and take the loop that runs past Dargaville, up the west coast and through the Waipoua Forest, turning to the east @ Opanoni and across to Russell. Then back down the east side, taking the coast road when you can--it's a very scenic drive. Don't miss the Kauri Museum in Matakohe. And Russell is one of our favorite towns in NZ--busy during the day, but surprisingly relaxed when the evening ferries take boatloads back to the other side. And do stay as close to the east coast as you can on the way back down. That would be my pick for your time in the NI. I will put in a plug for the city of Napier, though, if you happen to choose that direction.
SI is a lot different. Less people, more relaxed on the roads, big mountain views, and you have the West Coast. I can't imagine visiting visiting NZ w/o traveling up that wild and rugged region. However, it's much nicer when the sun shines there! As @wjiang said, the SI distances can be long and the drive south along the coast from Chch is one you should probably miss given your time frame. To see a great cross section of SI, consider a drive southwest from Chch, through the Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook region, past Omarama, and on to the Queenstown/Wanaka area. While in great settings, I find Queenstown and Wanaka too crowded for my tastes, but our tastes might be different. From this area, you could head south to Te Anau and up through the very pleasing Edlington Valley and on to Milford sound. It's a long drive, but on a good day the views are hard to beat. Or you could head to Haast on the West Coast and up through the glaciers to Hokitika/Greymouth and back to Chch via Arthurs Pass. This loop is probably my favorite in NZ, especially the portion from Haast onward.
Your travel dates are actually pretty good. We tend to stay holed up somewhere remote during the time from Boxing Day through Feb 1st. The school holidays are ridiculously busy and crowded. But things calm appreciably, especially on the NI after the kids go back to school and the parents to work. The one exception being Waitangi weekend, but you are arriving just after. You will have plenty of overseas company, though, especially on SI.
And I'd like to put in a plug for Christchurch. Great city, pretty banged up after the EQs, but with a can-do spirit. Don't miss Hagley Park and the Canterbury museum, if you're into that sort of stuff.
 
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