1. Reminder: Please user our affiliate links to get to your favorite stores for holiday shopping!

Australia and New Zealand recommendations?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by mattia, Jan 10, 2015.

  1. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Hi folks,

    We have a 2 month sabbatical coming up in May and June, and are planning on seeing some of New Zealand and Australia. The idea is to fly into Wellington or Christchurch and spend 4 weeks (Month of May) doing bits of the South Island and North Island - any 'must see' recommendations welcome. I realize it's not the ideal season, but that's what was available!

    Australia is perhaps an even bigger conundrum in terms of what to see in 4 weeks. I wish we had 4 months, but sadly we don't. Cities interest me less than nature, overall.

    We are pretty set on Ningaloo Marine Park to start us off (we're both divers, and whale sharks are on the bucket list, plus it seems like a great dive location/wilderness anyway), probably start there but could turn the order around if need be. The difficulty lies in choosing what else to see - obviously we can only get a small taste of the country in 4 weeks, and would rather do fewer things well than rush stuff.

    Options including northern territories (incl Kakadu NP), and I'm trying to figure out if it is worth the drive (for the outback experience) or flight (for the time saving) out to Uluru. Then there's the GB reef and lots of stuff in northern Queensland to consider. Day hikes, maybe up to 1 overnight, diving and taking in the large variety of scenery are big draws. If I had the time I'd be renting a camper van and driving most of it...

    Any guidance by locals or experienced travelers warmly welcomed. I'm sure we'll be back, but likely not very soon.
     
  2. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Considering what you want to do, the north is the best place to visit. I wouldn't do any outback, long distance, driving unless you were fully used to doing this, as the distances and hazards can be very deceptive.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Thanks Ray - would you include northern Queensland as 'the north'? I've never driven in the outback (first time to Australia) but have done long drives through the Amazon and Northern and Southern Africa, so I have done some challenging driving before. My worry is mostly the time factor.
     
  4. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Yes, Queensland is included, but more so far north Queensland such as the Cairns area. OK, if you've driven those places, then I guess you have an idea of distances where there is virtually nothing for hundreds of kilometres at a time. Considering that Darwin to Uluru is just under 2000km, and you want to see other places, driving can take up far more time than people expect. To be honest, I'm not sure that Uluru is worth visiting nowadays, it's been kind of ruined in the way it's been managed the last few years. You'd probably be better off seeing places like Broome etc (flying of course). I haven't been that way for many years now, so can't really say what the places are like, most is from talking to people I know who have ben there fairly recently.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 4, 2010
    As a Kiwi, I'd spend most of my time in the Sth Island, but it depends what you like to do to a certain extent. The outdoors is definitely where its at - while there are cities with night-life it'll pale in comparison to Sydney/Melbourne.

    I've hitch-hiked from Picton (where the ferry drops you off from Wellington) down the East Coast, across the alps and back up the West Coast.

    I wouldn't recommend hitching (just hire a car and go up/down the country), but for the Sth Island . . .

    * Marlborough Sounds - top of the Sth Island (Nelson, Picton, Blenheim and the coast) are all lovely - many relatively east tramps/hikes/walks in this area. Alternatively kayak around.

    * East coast is comparatively dull - dry and flat - Kaikora does have whale watching though

    * Christchurch - check out the earthquake rebuild effort

    * Queenstown/Wanaka - you might be able to ski or just check out the awesome scenery on your route across the Southern Alps

    * If you're feeling keen - head real down South to Invercargill and/or Fiordland (spectacular - I've never been and I live here) - lots of multi-day hikes in Fiordland/Arthurs Pass area

    * West Coast - gets a bad wrap weather wise (among the wettest bits of NZ) but the scenery is amazing and the little towns are like a throwback to 1960's UK ('charming'). Also a couple of glaciers down that way (Franz Josef and Fox Glacier) worth checking out

    As a Wellingtonian, the best things about the place are its compact size - you can walk anywhere in central Wellington within about 30min and there are plenty of buses too. Plenty of great bars - its NZ's craft-brew capital (PM me if you want names of bars) and I'd argue it has NZ's best coffee (probably fighting words . . .) as there are some nice cafes and restaurants here. Zealandia is a nature park which has plenty of birds + Kiwis & Wetas. Weta studios is here so check out the Weta museum. Also - Te Papa is a great Museum - nice way to chill out across its 5 floors (free too).

    The rest of the Nth Island is OK - the scenic stuff is the on the central plateau (Volcanos & ski fields) or go to the East/West coast for beaches. Head up North for Lake Taupo (fishing), Rotorua (thermal area), Coromandel (scenery & beaches).

    Then theres Auckland - its improved a lot - become a lot more cosmopolitan in the past 20 years with immigration. I'd compare it to Sydney in AU. Plenty to do there - shops, beaches, boat trips, restaurants etc etc. Personally I think its just another urban sprawl (ducks head in case Aucklanders are reading . . .).

    You can carry on up North - great weather, great beaches, rustic charm.

    Useful -

    Touristy stuff -
    http://www.nz.com/

    Department of Conservation (DoC) Great Walks -
    http://doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/great-walks/

    Lord of the Rings Set Locations in NZ -
    http://www.newzealand.com/int/feature/lord-of-the-rings/

    Book A Bach (Kiwi slang for a holiday home) -
    http://www.bookabach.co.nz/

    Ping me if you want any help & I hope you enjoy your trip !
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    The last time I visited Uluru was around 6-7 years ago now and it wasn't worth visiting then, it may have changed? It was just a shadow of what it was like 15 or 20 years ago, people are too lazy to walk around it and see/enjoy things of actual import and beauty and instead climb all over it like ants.

    The last time I went through NT was a while ago however I really enjoyed hiking around Kings Canyon... I don't know if it has suffered the same fate as others yet I'd still look into it if you're in the area (some of the views are fantastic). If you're into fishing around Katherine can be pretty decent (actually many places in NT are as the water beds dry up - the fish are pushed into smaller and smaller rivers/pools and you actually get to catch something for a change :smile:). Also did some fishing on the Kakadu NP border with Arnhem land however there were far more crocodiles to watch out for... didn't stay very long in the area sadly.

    Not mentioned so far is Litchfield national park, it had some absolutely fantastic swimming spots... however that was also some time ago... it still might be worth a look.

    The problem is I haven't been to any of them for at least 6 years, most of them far longer... I remember them however I very much doubt their current state would match any of my memories of them - too much time has passed.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. listers_nz

    listers_nz Mu-43 Veteran

    255
    Nov 22, 2013
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Simon
    In New Zealand plan on driving yourself if you want to explore outside the cities.

    There aren't many long distance trains in New Zealand, but one that is worth the trip is the Trans Alpine (see http://www.kiwirailscenic.co.nz/) which runs between Christchurch & Greymouth. You can do Christchurch-Greymouth-Christchurch in a day, or you could get off in Athurs Pass and spend a few hours doing some walks.

    The typical tourist trail (whistle stop coach tours) often involves a visit to Milford Sound. However, slighly less well known, and well worth a visit (particularly if you want to get about as far away from civilisation as possible) is Doubtful Sound. You have to do it as part of a tour (unless you plan on tramping and camping). It is a day trip from Manapouri township where you cross the lake by boat (takes 45 minutes) to what they call West Arm, a bus trip over to the sound, where they have another boat. Plus as part of the tour you can visit the underground Manapouri hydro electric power station, 200 metres underground, and well worth a look. Here's a photo heading back from West Arm

    16064961000_8f777e1f05_b.
     
  8. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    GB reef -- the further north the better. I suggest not south of Port Douglas.

    After NZ, I also suggest Northern areas of Aust for the greatest variation and shock after NZ at this time of year: i.e. not cold, not small. That time of year is peak period for Outback touring, so you won't be alone.

    Personally I would not favour plane-hopping across Australia from highlight to highlight, full of tourists. You will miss out on the Zen e-x-p-e-r-i-e-n-c-e of mind-numbing driving, dust, dust, dust, rugged camp grounds, camaraderie at the end of the day, and experiencing the life-giving force of Beer on a hot dusty throat.

    Port Douglas ------- Mount Isa --------- wherever --------- more wherever ---------- Kakadu and Darwin. Fill in the details. It's an option.
     
  9. Ross the fiddler

    Ross the fiddler Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    With the top end of Australia, don't forget it is the wet season now with some (outback) roads impassable during the peak of it & also there is a cyclone possibly developing to the north east that will head somewhere in the direction of Cairns soon. Just something to think of if travelling during this time of the year.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Go to Tasmania; the one place in Australia where you don't need to cover large distances between points of interest.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Finland
    Teemu
    We were in Australia a couple of years ago and loved it. We started our trip in Sydney (3-4 days there), then rented a car and drove 2,5 weeks by the coastline to Cairns and flew back home to Finland. To be honest, Sydney was the boring part of the trip. The whole driving experience was great and I can't wait to get back and have another roadtrip there!
     
    • Like Like x 2
  12. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Thanks for all the feedback guys!

    phigmov, we are planning on driving most of NZ, possibly renting a campervan to do it (looking at quotes and timelines and such) - remote is best. It's not the ideal time of year to be visiting in terms of weather, but I'm still stoked about it. We're currently considering shaving a little off the NZ 4 weeks to give us a little more time for Australia.

    Luckypenguin: Tasmania was under consideration, but June is getting a little cold/wet there, no? Not averse to that, but I'm sure we'll be back eventually.

    Ross: we're going in June, that's dry season far as I've been able to suss out.

    We are firming up our plans a little - Fly into Christchurch, rent vehicle, tour South Island for a few weeks, head up to the North island, explore s'more, fly out of Auckland. Then probably fly into Perth, probably drive up the West coast to Ningaloo, then fly to Alice Springs, rent a car/camper, see a bit of the outback, possibly drive up to Darwin, spend a few days in Kakdu, then head to Cairns (plane), rent another car and explore that area at relative leasure before flying back. Contacting some of the dive operators around Ningaloo to check whether it might not be wiser to flip the order around and end in Ningaloo in late June (depending in part on the 'Whale Shark weather report' if you will). Also makes more sense in terms of flight time, i.e. Auckland to Cairns, then end up in Perth and fly home from there.

    Regardless, I do want to do at least some driving myself around bits and pieces of Australia - I loved seeing South Africa like that (and I'm perfectly comfortable with right-hand drive vehicles), and the offroad trip through the jungle in Guyana was one of the highlights of that trip for me.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  13. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    I was going to warn you about campers then I had an idea and checked google maps... even the "remote" places seem to have bitumen access roads... I guess I'll reminisce about old travels...

    The first few times I traveled through NT I saw at least a dozen campers that had the suspension/wheel bearings/etc fail on them (I'm not even talking "4wd access only" type areas, 'large' 1 lane each way roads(why do you need 2 lanes? it's not like anyone can overtake if they wanted to keep their windshield with the dust/rock plumes). The old corrugated dirt roads had speeds at which the road makes your car resonate (you can both feel it in the vibration on your bum and the also sound the car makes) and if you don't speed up or slow down it can shake things to pieces. As it turns out 100-110km/h was a bad speed for the car I was in, 120-130km/h was about right.

    Then again, back then when we wanted lunch you didn't pull over... you parked in the middle of the road (and left the engine running for air con). If you pulled over and got a puncture you would just hate yourself for it... it's wasn't like anyone(who exactly?) was going to be annoyed at you parked in the middle of the road. Besides, you could see people coming from 10km away or more by the dust plume behind them...




    ...I feel like traveling again...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  14. I'm not sure if it will be any wetter, but certainly colder. I was there in September (start of spring) which I thought was a nice time to visit.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  15. Kalifornier

    Kalifornier Mu-43 Veteran

    428
    Apr 29, 2014
    California
    NZ- South Island is stunning. Apart from the places mentioned by others, I'll also add Kepler track, Routeburn track, and Lake Te Anau (glow worm caves).
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. MarkoPolo

    MarkoPolo Mu-43 Regular

    141
    Jan 25, 2014
    Greeley, CO
    Mark Brown
    My wife and I took our "Trip of a Lifetime" to New Zealand for 3 weeks in Jan. 1999. We rented a "camper van" in Aukland and make a big "8" of both islands. Our first time using an RV and it was wonderful. Being from the US, we had to adjust to driving on the opposite side of the road, but it was easier that I expected. We used Fromme's tourist books and some others and it was pretty easy to decide as we went along what we wanted to see. The only set dates we had were for the ferry crossings from North to South island and coming back. We did not have time to do Australia, but would love to some day. We would go back to NZ in a heartbeat if we had the opportunity. Wonderful country and wonderful people. So long ago I was shooting Velvia:smile:
     
    • Like Like x 1
  17. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    One thing people need to be aware of, for both Oz and NZ, is that there can be significant restrictions as to where you can take a hire car. In Australia, hire car companies generally forbid you to go on unsealed roads and in NZ, from research I did when planning to go to NZ one year, is that there are many normal roads where hire cars are not allowed (you can get fined for doing so). From the NZ point of view, it's more to do with safety, as so many tourists have come undone due to not being familiar with the road conditions, so in many cases it's become a blanket ban (or certainly was some years ago). In Oz, the hire car companies simply don't want their cars to be wrecked by our lovely unsealed roads.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. listers_nz

    listers_nz Mu-43 Veteran

    255
    Nov 22, 2013
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Simon
    In NZ the restrictions on where you can take a rental are not as significant as they used to be. I varies by company, but one of them states you aren't allowed the vehicle on the following off-road and/or on roads other than tar seal or metal, or is driven on Skippers Road (Queenstown), the road to Macetown in the Queenstown area, Tasman Valley Road (Mt Cook) or 90 Mile Beach (Northland). So not much really, and most of those "roads" listed aren't for the faint hearted anyway (I've been up the Skippers Road in a rafting bus, and that was enough for me!). Interesting that metal (unsealed) roads are allowed, although I would suggest those not familiar with driving on them stay off. And in any case there aren't as may unsealed roads as there used to be - unless you want to go somewhere out of the way, you should generally be able to get there via a sealed road, which is something to keep in mind should you sat nav tell you otherwise :smile:
     
    • Like Like x 1