New Zealand itinerary help (not city/region specific)

Old Sep 9, 16, 12:13 pm
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Post New Zealand itinerary help (not city/region specific)

We'll be spending a month in New Zealand next March-April with our 3 young kids (ages 5 and below). While my preferred method of traveling is hopping from place to place every couple days, little ones don't take kindly to this much disruption. We've determined that 3 (4 at the most) different locations would give us time to settle while also seeing a little of what NZ has to offer.

What 3 locations would have enough to do to spend 10 days, while also being different enough to give us a sampling of the best NZ has to offer?

Our interests include include natural attractions, lots of hiking and outdoors, beaches, wildlife and animals, and any other kid-friendly attractions. We typically prefer to not stay in big cities, since escaping one is one of our reasons for visiting NZ.

The travel plan I've come up with so far is as follows:

Te Anau (10 Days): Fly into Queenstown, stay at a bach in Te Anau. Visit Queenstown, Milford or Doubtful Sound, hike some of the Routeburn track (stay 2-3 nights with the 5 year old).

Drive to Kaiteriteri, spending the night on the west coast near Franz Josef Glacier.

Kaiteriteri (10 Days): Stay at the beach, go hiking in Abel Tasman, visit Marlborough Sound to look for penguins.

Drive to Lake Taupo, spending night in Wellington after taking ferry over.

Lake Taupo (10 Days): Huka Falls, hike some of Tongariro Alpine crossing, Agrodome. Drive to AKL for our return flight to HW.

Would this itinerary give us an adequate sample of the best of New Zealand, or would you replace any of the locations above with another? Any other suggestions for places we should try to visit?
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Old Sep 9, 16, 12:59 pm
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I would not do Te Anau as it is (relatively speaking here) remote. I would suggest Wanaka instead. Kaiteriteri is great, but you could also look at Mapua as an alternative to be closer to town. I was in that area in April and had lunch in Mapua and used Kaiteriteri as my base for Abel Tasman. I agree with Lake Taupo, it is a great area.

I like it as a whole and think it is a great plan. The only part you are missing would require a 4th stay, but could be an alternative, and that is Bay of Islands. It would be hard to eliminate one of the 3 to swap for BoI though.
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Old Sep 9, 16, 6:08 pm
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Much of the hiking you mention (except maybe parts of Abel Tasman) aren't really suitable for under 5s. Weather is very changeable in NZ and most of these places are very remote (i.e. no cell coverage and help is hours away at best should anything go wrong).
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Old Sep 9, 16, 10:48 pm
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Originally Posted by Kiwi Flyer View Post
Much of the hiking you mention (except maybe parts of Abel Tasman) aren't really suitable for under 5s. Weather is very changeable in NZ and most of these places are very remote (i.e. no cell coverage and help is hours away at best should anything go wrong).
Thanks for the suggestion. I should add that I have significant backcountry experience having climbed and backpacked throughout the Sierra Nevadas, the Tetons, Alaska, Yellowstone, and remote parts of the Wind Rivers in Wyoming. I've already taken him on several 3 night treks and he's done great. We would probably avoid the alpine sections and go no more than 5 miles a day, but weather and other conditions would dictate how or whether or not we would go.
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Old Sep 10, 16, 1:41 am
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You may under-rate the challenge of the Routebourne track. Recently there was a tourist hiker found alive after being lost for 3 weeks; it is much more serious wilderness than Sierra Nevada & Yellowstone, though Wyoming and Alaska could be comparable in parts. If you do decide to hike there, rent or buy an EPIRB esp with a 5 year old. It is hard to evaluate until you see it for yourself, really beautiful country but also very challenging much of the year.

As for attractions, the volcanic activity around Rotorua is stunning even today (was the 8th wonder of the world a century ago until an earthquake destroyed the terraces). Very easy hiking but with a lot to see.
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Old Sep 10, 16, 6:08 am
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Originally Posted by Big4Flyer View Post
... Would this itinerary give us an adequate sample of the best of New Zealand, or would you replace any of the locations above with another? Any other suggestions for places we should try to visit?
Sounds pretty good to me.

I'd echo some of the comment/caution above. I'm more of a NZ day hiker and dont see many young kids. Some of the popular hikes above do have difficulties ... for example, the Tongario crossing is basically a long day hike through lava rock .... lava rock as in razor sharp edges. And there's the remoteness of some of the planned activies. However, sounds like you/your kids are doing more than trivial hiking ... just be aware/plan for the unplanned/etc.

I like Mar/Apr ... things are beginning to cool down a little, crowds are beginning to thin out. You'll have a fantasic time !!

notes/considerations:
  • Routeburn - Key Summit 3hr day hike along the main track
  • Glacier Co - When in/near Franz Josef, if the weather is good and Mount Cook/Tasman are "out" (of the clouds) consider a side trip to Fox Glacier for Lake Matheson Walk. Easy :30 walk to the view point of Mount Cook/Tasman reflection off of Lake Matheson or 1.5H easy circuit around the lake
  • Stay at the beach - One word, "sandfiles", you'll wanna grab some stuff locally and have on you to help with these bugs
  • Abel Tasman - one option to the entire track is to have a water taxi take you by water to a certain point on the track and then hike back to your car/finish point. I did this in Apr from Marahau
  • Te Anau - I like Te Anau, lots of accomodation options, nice setting. Kepler Track (3-4D) start/end is in Te Anau.
  • Milford - the drive to Milford is very nice, but not much there unless you have a cruise or kayak into the sound planned. Key Summit hike is easy to access on the trip to Milford
  • Kaiteriteri - Kaiteriteri area has lots to do, but if you get an itch for something different/but similar you might consider Golden Bay for a day trip (other end of the Abel Tasman) ... for example Wharariki Beach walk.
  • Check out DOC for hiking details/info

Last edited by im-headed-west; Sep 10, 16 at 7:27 am
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Old Sep 11, 16, 6:06 am
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Lots of great ideas. Wish I had this much time in NZ

Echo Golden Bay for a day trip ..Farewell Spit is a long sand dune and would be great for kids

Abel Tasman is awesome and relatively easy. There is also great kayaking there. The water taxis make it very easy to get around. Some very nice bays with pretty beaches and long sandbars.

I've done the routeburn trek ..the 3 day, and I echo the cautions of others..did not see any small children hiking..and potentially more so for Tongariro

Rotorua would be fun for kids..or Orekei Karako for a less touristy experience of geothermal. I'd also recommend as a stop on your drive to Auckland Hamilton Botanic Gardens ..beautiful and allows everyone to stretch their legs. There are also hot spring pools that are fun and one night of the maori food and dancing could be something different

If you a spending a night in Wellington stop in at Te Papa the national museum. It's free and adds knowledge of the place you are visiting. There is a great gallipoli exhibit, and while the subject isn't kid friendly the gigantic sculptures are.

Queenstown is very expensive and was our least favorite city. That said Milford or doubtful is beautiful ..actually preferred doubtful as there are less tourists and boats but it's a long day out.

The drives in NZ take longer than you think..and the joys of driving are short stops along the way. There will be well marked green and yellow DOC signs along the way pointing out areas of interest and length of tIME to get there. Also I site info centers in every town for the smaller less known features and very helpful staff
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Old Sep 12, 16, 3:07 pm
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Originally Posted by number_6 View Post
You may under-rate the challenge of the Routebourne track. Recently there was a tourist hiker found alive after being lost for 3 weeks; it is much more serious wilderness than Sierra Nevada & Yellowstone, though Wyoming and Alaska could be comparable in parts. If you do decide to hike there, rent or buy an EPIRB esp with a 5 year old. It is hard to evaluate until you see it for yourself, really beautiful country but also very challenging much of the year.

As for attractions, the volcanic activity around Rotorua is stunning even today (was the 8th wonder of the world a century ago until an earthquake destroyed the terraces). Very easy hiking but with a lot to see.
March should be ok for Routeburn but as he says he has experience and would know better than this other couple that did not leave their intentions with anyone and very much underestimated things and they went during winter!!! I don't think they were prepared either - hence only 1 returned. Although lucky and brave, the stupid mistake they made cost a life. If OP gets local intel he should be fine. You can't miss out on these things, you just need to plan.
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Old Sep 12, 16, 3:57 pm
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Well ... from "the horse's mouth"

Great Walks

Great Walks are suitable for families:

  • Older children (over 10 years), with support of an experienced adult, can embrace an outdoor challenge, depending on their ability and experience.
  • Under 10 year olds may find the terrain too difficult, so the Milford Track and the alpine sections of the Routeburn and Kepler Tracks are not recommended for children under 10 years of age.
  • The tracks are excellently maintained to a Great Walk/easy tramping standard.
  • Huts are well equipped with bunks, cookers, heating, lighting, toilet and basin facilities so you donít have to carry everything - just food, clothing, and essentials.
  • Itís free for children (5-17 years) to stay in huts and campsites on Great Walk tracks. Children under 15 years must be with an adult.
Child and family friendly guide to Fiordland
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Old Sep 13, 16, 10:50 am
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Thanks to all for the feedback! Based on the feedback I'll certainly take a cautious approach to our planning. I wasn't planning on completing the entire Routeburn or Tongariro, specifically because of the alpine sections and distances between huts, rather doing an out and back and staying a few nights in the same hut. Once we arrive hopefully I can talk to some locals or wardens about the conditions to determine whether it would be suitable.

In regards to the recent tragedy on the Routeburn track, its certainly unfortunate, and even more so because it could have been prevented by adequate preparation or simply bringing an emergency beacon. Having been caught in a blizzard in the Tetons while ice climbing several years ago, I've learned that nature takes no prisoners and you need to be entirely self sufficient when in the outdoors. Often times, even having a beacon won't be enough as conditions could prevent a rescue.

Are sand flies a year round nuisance in NZ, or will we be spared at all because we'll be there in the fall? What do you suggest using so that we can still enjoy our time at the beach without being eaten alive?

I appreciate all the other location specific suggestions, I hadn't heard about many of these in the guidebooks I've read.
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Old Sep 13, 16, 11:57 pm
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The sand flies are bad in the fall too. I was at Abel Tasman and Punakaiki and getting bit. Punakaiki was worse as I watched the sunset and two of the little devils even left scars (full disclosure, I scar easier than the average person).

Adding to the Tongariro Crossing information - I had clients do it with a guide in April. It was a sunny day during the week and they were surprised how many people were on it. They were also surprised that it was much harder than they were expecting. It was a family of 4, boys ages 13 and 15 and are very, very active. They said it definitely should only be done by people who are skilled. That being said, there are tons of hikes in the area and you will find plenty you can do with the family.

Te Papa is an amazing museum and they have a big play area for kids, too.
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Old Nov 11, 16, 9:48 am
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Advice sought for trip to New Zealand

Hi all. I finally found time to visit New Zealand and I'd be most grateful for any helpful tips for an itinerary. Currently I don't have any plans (other than flights to get there). The dates I'll be there are March 30 - April 20 and I arrive and leave from Christchurch. My passion is photography and I know there's plenty to see. Thank you!
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Old Nov 12, 16, 3:54 pm
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What are you looking to see/do?

Culture? Scenery? Hiking? Wineries? Adventure? etc.

That will help narrow things down.
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Old Nov 13, 16, 10:49 am
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Don't overlook the North Island - it has plenty to do, but Auckland isn't why people go to NZ. Bay of Islands, Coromandel, Wellington are all pretty cool.

South Island - Kaikoura has a year round resident whale that makes for great pictures. The drive from Kaikoura to Christchurch is very pretty. I would tell you to drive from Christchurch to Greymouth instead of the train to get good pictures. Mt Cook area, Queenstown, Milford....many choices. Kiwi Flyer is right. A bit more info can help us direct you.
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Old Nov 13, 16, 10:59 am
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Queenstown is a must (35min flight from CHC) - such a good atmosphere, stunning views and generally just a really cool place to be!

IMO I found Christchurch to be quite a depressing place, no one on the streets at night and very few places open for dinner past 8pm. I found Auckland lacked something, but not sure what - not a great deal to do there. Though Lake Taupo is a great place.
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