NZ in Late November -- Itinerary Suggestions

Old Mar 20, 18, 2:25 pm
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NZ in Late November -- Itinerary Suggestions

I've booked tickets for a (relatively) quick trip to NZ for me and the wife in mid-late November and I'm now starting the process of figuring out what we actually want to do there. I've been to AKL before, so I don't necessarily need to spend any time there.

Flying on QR from DOH in J. So we should be (somewhat) rested when we arrive. Either way, I won't waste the arrival day sleeping and will power through any jet lag.

Arrive: Monday, 19 Nov at 5:00 AM in AKL
Depart: Saturday, 24 Nov at 3:30 PM in AKL

I have a general idea of some things that interest us, but I'm undecided about order of doing things and what exactly we should do. I have some goals, though. I'm flexible here and want to be realistic, so I'm willing to skip certain things that may not be reasonable. Willing to do some driving, but flying would be nice. Not really looking to do much hiking, perhaps a short day hike. No camping or huts or hostels. Would love to see the mountain scenery (hence the TranzAlpine).

1. See North and South Islands
2. Hobbiton, glow worm caves and Rotorua (all on the first day and overnight in Rotorua or Tauranga, perhaps)
3. Milford Sound and Queenstown (or Franz Josef or Aoraki)
4. TranzAlpine train (maybe stop at Arthur's Pass?) to HKK? HKK-CHC-AKL/ZQN?
5. Final night in AKL and walk around Auckland on final day before flight (Sky Tower, etc)

Bonus Points (to please the wife): Visit a brewery perhaps? Day (i.e. 3 hours) at the beach (probably too ambitious and cold in Nov)?

Anyway, I'd appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you can offer.
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Old Mar 21, 18, 1:31 am
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Realistically you have 4 days and that is counting your arrival day. Your goals are far too ambitious for this amount of time.

Read a few other threads, it is very common for people to underestimate travel times in NZ and so the advice you are about to receive is repeated over and over again. Just map out the goals you have, even roughly, and you'll see how unrealistic they are. You are considering trying to 'see' Hobbitown, Waitomo, and Rotorua on the first day? That is 6 hours of driving, and not on highways. When would you actually see anything in these places? No need to go into much further detail until you revisit your goals.

My advice for your timeframe would be to fly to Queenstown on the day of arrival, spend 2 nights there and take an excursion to Milford Sound or another spot. Fly back to Auckland and spend the night there, then drive down to spend your final night near the Waitomo Glowworm caves. You have time in the AM to get to the airport from there.
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Old Mar 21, 18, 1:16 pm
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Congratulations, swingaling ! Wife and I are doing the same in early Nov, arriving early on the 9th and leaving on the afternoon of the 16th. As per CPMaverick, we are thinking of concentrating on Queenstown and leaving the North Island for another time.

(It seemed impossible to get a long holiday from the QR flash sale...)
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Old Mar 22, 18, 8:14 am
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Originally Posted by swingaling View Post
Flying on QR from DOH in J. So we should be (somewhat) rested when we arrive. Either way, I won't waste the arrival day sleeping and will power through any jet lag.
I had 7.5 days with a similar QR sale last November and that was perhaps enough to cover the top half of the North Island.

I lasted until 6pm on the first day having been up since 3am NZ time, which you will also have to do since you don't have time to eat after arrival if you want to do 6 hours of driving and get to all the sites before they close.

I suggest you stick to one island and leave the other for next time.

Day (i.e. 3 hours) at the beach (probably too ambitious and cold in Nov)?
It won't be cold in late November, unless you've spent your entire life in a country on the equator.
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Old Mar 22, 18, 9:53 am
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Originally Posted by :D! View Post
I had 7.5 days with a similar QR sale last November and that was perhaps enough to cover the top half of the North Island.

I lasted until 6pm on the first day having been up since 3am NZ time, which you will also have to do since you don't have time to eat after arrival if you want to do 6 hours of driving and get to all the sites before they close.

I suggest you stick to one island and leave the other for next time.
As far as the North Island is concerned, Hobbiton is the main thing we want to see. Glow worm caves and hot springs would be more of an add-on while we're in the area. Aside from that, the bulk of the things we want to see are in the South Island. Since we have to be in AKL to catch our QR flights, I'm looking to build in a little time to see a few North Island sights either upon arrival or prior to departure.

Instead of trying to get all that done on the day we arrive, it may make more sense to catch an onward flight to ZQN/CHC on our first day. Then on the day before we're due to fly out from AKL, we'd fly from CHC to HLZ/ROT, rent a car, hit Hobbiton and then drive to AKL CBD for our final night. I just checked car rental rates and they're insanely expensive. Wow.
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Old Mar 22, 18, 10:35 am
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Originally Posted by Tocsin View Post
Congratulations, swingaling ! Wife and I are doing the same in early Nov, arriving early on the 9th and leaving on the afternoon of the 16th. As per CPMaverick, we are thinking of concentrating on Queenstown and leaving the North Island for another time.

(It seemed impossible to get a long holiday from the QR flash sale...)
Likewise!

We'd hoped to spend a bit more time in NZ, but it wasn't feasible for work schedules given we're getting to NZ on an ex-EU fare. So the trip is a bit longer than it would otherwise be for an ex-US fare. On the plus side, we get to spend a night each in ARN and OSL (plus a couple 8-10h layovers with STPC in DOH). Even factoring in the cost of (cheap) positioning flights on BA, our airfare costs were less than a third the price of a comparable ex-US J fare on AA ($2,500 each vs $9,000 each on AA).

Heck, AA wants $3,500 each for a PE seat on BOS-AKL for our dates!

That said, what are you planning to do/see in NZ? I assume you're going to book the 8 or 9AM AKL-ZQN flight on the day you arrive?
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Old Mar 22, 18, 3:59 pm
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Originally Posted by swingaling View Post
Likewise!

We'd hoped to spend a bit more time in NZ, but it wasn't feasible for work schedules given we're getting to NZ on an ex-EU fare. So the trip is a bit longer than it would otherwise be for an ex-US fare. On the plus side, we get to spend a night each in ARN and OSL (plus a couple 8-10h layovers with STPC in DOH). Even factoring in the cost of (cheap) positioning flights on BA, our airfare costs were less than a third the price of a comparable ex-US J fare on AA ($2,500 each vs $9,000 each on AA).

Heck, AA wants $3,500 each for a PE seat on BOS-AKL for our dates!

That said, what are you planning to do/see in NZ? I assume you're going to book the 8 or 9AM AKL-ZQN flight on the day you arrive?
I feel your pain on positioning issues (even though we normally take a domestic flight to LHR anyway - one of the plus points of the NZ sale flight is just two sectors: MAN-DOH-AKL and just over 1350 each in J. We haven't decided on details yet (I'm into majestic scenery, my wife wildlife). As for AKL-ZQN, there are several options, and I'll be checking QR920 arrival punctuality on FR24 for a while before booking

I'll certainly post our plans on this thread as they firm up!
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Old Mar 22, 18, 7:46 pm
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Originally Posted by swingaling View Post
Instead of trying to get all that done on the day we arrive, it may make more sense to catch an onward flight to ZQN/CHC on our first day.
This would be my choice for sure, you will be tired on arrival to AKL and might as well just keep traveling at that point. I'd rather have a nice meal and a wander around Queenstown on arrival than drive for hours.
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Old Mar 23, 18, 10:35 am
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Originally Posted by CPMaverick View Post
Realistically you have 4 days and that is counting your arrival day. Your goals are far too ambitious for this amount of time.

Read a few other threads, it is very common for people to underestimate travel times in NZ and so the advice you are about to receive is repeated over and over again. Just map out the goals you have, even roughly, and you'll see how unrealistic they are. You are considering trying to 'see' Hobbitown, Waitomo, and Rotorua on the first day? That is 6 hours of driving, and not on highways. When would you actually see anything in these places? No need to go into much further detail until you revisit your goals.

My advice for your timeframe would be to fly to Queenstown on the day of arrival, spend 2 nights there and take an excursion to Milford Sound or another spot. Fly back to Auckland and spend the night there, then drive down to spend your final night near the Waitomo Glowworm caves. You have time in the AM to get to the airport from there.
Thanks for the advice. I've spoken to my wife about what she wants to do I've narrowed things down a bit. Ironically, she's mainly interested in North Island stuff, so I've pared things back a bit to focus on the North. Happy wife, happy life.

Does something like this sound a bit more doable? I'm not 100% sure about the first day. Waitomo (instead of Hobbiton) might make a bit more sense. Then do Hobbiton the second day.

Day 1: Arrive 5AM. Rent a car and drive to Hobbiton. Overnight Hamilton.
Day 2: Drive to Waitomo caves in AM. PM Te Puia and/or Wai-O-Tapu. Overnight Rotorua/Whakatane/Tauranga?
Day 3: AM Boat trip to White Island. Return rental car and evening flight TRG-AKL (or ROT-AKL). Overnight Auckland CBD.
Day 4: Leisure day in Auckland. Overnight Auckland CBD.
Day 5*: 7AM AKL-ZQN. 10AM Air Tour & cruise Milford Sound (4 hr). 5PM ZQN-AKL. Overnight Auckland CBD.
Day 6: Leisure morning in Auckland. 3PM AKL-DOH-OSL flight.

* Since I'd like to see Milford Sound, I'm contemplating a same day round trip AKL-ZQN with a 4-5hr sightseeing tour of Milford Sound (by plane and boat). It's a bit pricey, but it seems doable, especially since the tour departs from ZQN. Of course this is weather dependent, so worst case we'd have a day to spend in Queenstown (or just skip the South Island altogether).

If we skip ZQN/Milford altogether, it would give us an extra day. Perhaps an extra night near Tauranga, a night on the Coromandel peninsula or a day trip to Tongariro or Taupo.

Last edited by swingaling; Mar 23, 18 at 10:40 am
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Old Mar 23, 18, 3:09 pm
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Having condensed our 1st visit to NZ into 5 days i would stick with 1 island and remain on the North Island.
Day 1 AKL - Hobbiton.
Pre book a tour of Hobitton before you leave your home & take the tour from Matemata. Great visitor centre and free parking.
PM: Waitomo Caves
Overnight Rotorua
Day 2 Book a flight seeing trip to either white Island or a helicopter tour over Tarawerra that lands on each site and gives you time to explore the volcanoes
Evening, soak in the hot springs such as Hells Gate or the Polynesian pools
Overnight in Rotorua
Day 3 Drive to the Coromandel peninsula and explore cathedral cove and Hot water beach
Overnight in Thames
Day 5 Thames - Auckland via Miranda hot springs
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Old Mar 23, 18, 4:58 pm
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That does sound better. A couple thoughts

- Waitomo is do-able in a half-day. So you should be OK there
- One-way rental cars can be expensive in NZ. The one-way price isn't always advertised, it is in the fine print and due on arrival, not at booking. Make sure you can find a suitable one-way car before you book flights.
- The flight to Milford Sound is often delayed or canceled, most suggest having a 2 or 3-day window in Queenstown to make sure you can get your flight in. ZQN flights can be often delayed as well. So it is a little risky to try and do what you suggest. If the Milford cancels you have a day in Queenstown which isn't too bad, and I guess if the ZQn flights are delayed or canceled then the Milford Sound flights would probably be too.
- If you do the ZQN flights I still think it makes a lot more sense to fly straight to ZQN on arrival. As it is now, you are spending day 4 and day 5 nights in AKL, but Day 5 in ZQN. Three trips from AKL to the city in 2 days, and 4 times in your trip. That just doesn't make any sense. Go straight to ZQN and save yourself probably 3 hours bussing between AKL city and the airport.
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Old Apr 13, 18, 3:25 pm
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First off, I really appreciate all the excellent advice received here. Its been very helpful. So after more discussions with the wife, I put together an alternate South Island itinerary for comparison purposes. As it turns out, we both ended up liking the South Island itinerary more than the North. So, we're going to the South Island instead!

Weve settled on the following general itinerary. Well have a few days in QTN to give us our best shot at a clear weather window for a Milford Sound flight tour. Some things will be planned closer to the trip based on weather conditions.

Day 1: Arrive AKL 5AM. Fly to AKL-ZQN. Arrive ZQN 11AM. Get rental car. Leisure day in QTN. Overnight QTN

Day 2: Milford Sound Tour -- Fly/Cruise/Fly (4hr duration), weather dependent. Alternate: Coach tour to Milford -or- Te Anau / Fiordland -or- Jet Boating / Glenorchy drive / etc. Overnight QTN

Day 3: Day in QTN area doing some of the above activities. Overnight QTN

Day 4: Drive to Mt. Cook in AM. Hike Hooker Valley Track -or- glacier tour -or- scenic flight tour. Overnight Twizel and stargazing. We found a really cool property for the night (expensive but hopefully worth it).

Day 5: Drive to ZQN. ~2-3PM flight ZQN-AKL. Overnight AKL CBD

Day 6: Morning in Auckland. 3PM flight AKL-DOH

Anyway, were always open to suggestions, but I wanted to put this here so it can help fellow FTers.
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Old Apr 13, 18, 7:14 pm
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Looks like a nice plan! Hopefully the weather cooperates with your flights and stargazing plans.
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Old Apr 14, 18, 1:15 pm
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Originally Posted by swingaling View Post
First off, I really appreciate all the excellent advice received here. Its been very helpful. So after more discussions with the wife, I put together an alternate South Island itinerary for comparison purposes. As it turns out, we both ended up liking the South Island itinerary more than the North. So, we're going to the South Island instead!

Weve settled on the following general itinerary. Well have a few days in QTN to give us our best shot at a clear weather window for a Milford Sound flight tour. Some things will be planned closer to the trip based on weather conditions.

Day 1: Arrive AKL 5AM. Fly to AKL-ZQN. Arrive ZQN 11AM. Get rental car. Leisure day in QTN. Overnight QTN

Day 2: Milford Sound Tour -- Fly/Cruise/Fly (4hr duration), weather dependent. Alternate: Coach tour to Milford -or- Te Anau / Fiordland -or- Jet Boating / Glenorchy drive / etc. Overnight QTN

Day 3: Day in QTN area doing some of the above activities. Overnight QTN

Day 4: Drive to Mt. Cook in AM. Hike Hooker Valley Track -or- glacier tour -or- scenic flight tour. Overnight Twizel and stargazing. We found a really cool property for the night (expensive but hopefully worth it).

Day 5: Drive to ZQN. ~2-3PM flight ZQN-AKL. Overnight AKL CBD

Day 6: Morning in Auckland. 3PM flight AKL-DOH

Anyway, were always open to suggestions, but I wanted to put this here so it can help fellow FTers.
Can you give some more details about Day 4 accommodation, I am putting together a very similar itinerary with about 2 more days as you have.

Were you planning to stay at the scenic lodge on day 4, I looked through quite a few tours of Franz Josef / Fox Glacier and Mt. Cook and I believe there's one by Glaciertours, which is a 40 min heli tour of all three of those places (although a bit pricey but reasonable for a 40min heli tour). Let me know if you found a other tours and/or better ways.
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Old Apr 14, 18, 4:35 pm
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For anyone booking a helicopter tour for the glaciers, just be aware that these tours are very often canceled due to weather conditions. Even strong winds on a clear day can cancel these tours. Since the 2015 fatal crash at Fox Glacier they have been much more quick to cancel tours even on days which might appear fine to the average tourist.

I went to Frans Joseph for two days, both beautiful and clear, without a cloud in the sky, but the heli tours were not running due to wind. So we never got to go up. And there isn't much else to do in town either, except hiking (which we did and it was lovely, but required a fair amount of fitness).

Just something to keep in mind before you make your plans, I wouldn't bend over backwards to get a half day in one of these places for a heli tour, because you might come up empty-handed.
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