10-12 days trip itinerary to NZ (both islands)

Old Oct 7, 18, 10:23 am
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10-12 days trip itinerary to NZ (both islands)

Hello,
Me and my wife are planning to visit NZ in late November from IAD and this will be our first time to that part of the world!
We like adventure with some mixture of landscapes/nature. We did some initial research and came up with the following places we wanna visit:
  • Christchurh
  • mount cook village
  • queenstown
  • franz joseph glacier
  • drive westport/westcoast
  • wellington
  • rotorua
  • whitianga
  • auckland
Any tips/suggestions? We have 12 nights (flying to AKL and return from CHC)

Thanks!

Last edited by poisonsag; Oct 7, 18 at 12:35 pm
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Old Oct 7, 18, 11:04 am
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You're going to be spending huge portions of your itinerary driving (for example, Queenstown to Franz Josef is 5-6 hours if you stop to see anything along the way).

For a 10 day trip, I would whittle your list down to 3 places. But to help a bit more:

1. Are you flying in and out of AKL?
2. Are your "10-12 days" not including the days you arrive and depart?
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Old Oct 7, 18, 12:31 pm
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Originally Posted by calbear2005 View Post
You're going to be spending huge portions of your itinerary driving (for example, Queenstown to Franz Josef is 5-6 hours if you stop to see anything along the way).

For a 10 day trip, I would whittle your list down to 3 places. But to help a bit more:

1. Are you flying in and out of AKL?
2. Are your "10-12 days" not including the days you arrive and depart?
We just booked the flights and we will be arriving to AKL on 10th Nov (early moring) and have flight returning to IAD from CHC on 22nd morning, so we have 12 full nights.
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Old Oct 7, 18, 12:41 pm
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Consider Milford Sound (will be full day drive from ZQN). From Westport assume coming across through Blenheim and taking the ferry to the North Island. If you did not know the major car rental companies have drop off and pick ups on both sides. The Mainland more scenic than the north. If you drive from WLG through Martinborough area also quite pleasant. First trip- do what you want and enjoy. Will make it better when you return to see more or spend more time in certain areas. Good exchange rate time!
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Old Oct 7, 18, 1:51 pm
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Originally Posted by poisonsag View Post
We just booked the flights and we will be arriving to AKL on 10th Nov (early moring) and have flight returning to IAD from CHC on 22nd morning, so we have 12 full nights.
Personally, I would skip Auckland and leave for the South Island the day after you arrive (or even the day of if you can stand another flight) and fly into ZQN. From there, rent a car and tour the South Island, making your way to Christchurch. What I did was I made a map of all the things I wanted to see/do and basically made a driving route that squeezed in as many as possible. I didn't tour the North Island at all, so adventure/landscape/nature there would be someone else's call, but for 11 days in the South Island, I think you could hit the highlights. Just be sure you account for how much driving you'll be doing; driving will take a little longer than you think and you will inevitably make multiple stops as you drive from place to place because there are so many short walks and viewpoints along the road.
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Old Oct 7, 18, 3:31 pm
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Originally Posted by poisonsag View Post
Hello,
Me and my wife are planning to visit NZ in late November from IAD and this will be our first time to that part of the world!
We like adventure with some mixture of landscapes/nature. We did some initial research and came up with the following places we wanna visit:
  • Christchurch
  • Mount Cook village
  • Queenstown
  • Franz Joseph glacier
  • drive Westport/West Coast
  • Wellington
  • Rotorua
  • Whitianga
  • Auckland
Any tips/suggestions? We have 12 nights (flying to AKL and return from CHC)
As post above forgot, about Wellington, Rotorua, Whitianga and Auckland. In 11 days - 12 nights you do not have time.
I would fly to the South Island on the day you arrive in AKL.
After the long haul flight from IAD recommend you do not drive on day 1. The travel time, time zone change and driving on the left (RHD) can make it harder/unsafe.
Best to drive not more than say 3 or4 hours per day and stay overnight at some places 2 or more nights.
Mid - late November is a very good time to visit Kiwiland

You could fly into Nelson and drive (slowly) down the West Coast and over the Haast Pass to Queenstown area. Then up to Chc via Mount Cook area.

Or fly to CHC and drive to the West Coast via Arthurs Pass or Lewis Pass the next day.
Or the train CHC to Greymouth and rent a car at Greymouth. https://www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz/tranzalpine/

Mount Cook & the glaciers are on the opposite sides of the Southern Alps. A 2 days drive from each other.

Note 12 Nov - 17 Nov in Christchurch is Cup - Show week. Will be a more people visiting than usual. Friday 17 Nov is a public holiday in CHC. Cup and Show Week
However not worth staying in Chc, other then overnight before/after your flights. Its still a construction zone following the 2011 earthquakes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_C...rch_earthquake

Some good realistic posts
here New Zealand for 8-10 days
and here Is it possible? New Zealand South Island 8-9 days by train and bus?!

Including post 30 and post 35 as quote below
Originally Posted by gooselee View Post
When we went, we spent 2 days in ZQN and then I think another 5-6 days making our way from ZQN up the west coast to Greymouth, then the train into CHC, with stops in Wanaka and Franz Josef. While not overwhelmingly rushed, that was certainly a much faster pace than we would have liked.

The thing we (and it seems many other first-time visitors) underestimated, was how long the drives take and how much we would want to just stop, go on quick hikes, pop into shops, or just sit and enjoy the towns and scenery along the way. NZ is a beautiful country that has a way of making you want to constantly pause and just take it in. Two weeks is certainly just a taste of what it has to offer!
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Last edited by Mwenenzi; Oct 7, 18 at 3:54 pm
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Old Oct 7, 18, 9:12 pm
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+1 for spending as much time as possible on the South Island.

If it was me, I'd fly to NSN same day I arrive at AKL, spend a day or so kayaking Abel Tasman and enjoying Nelson, then three days at Hopewell Lodge in Marlborough Sound. Hiking, fishing, mountain biking, kayaking.

From there, fly down to Queenstown. Next day, hike the Routeburn Track with Ultimate Hikes. Round up the rest of the trip in Queentown, then one night in Christchurch before heading home. Ideally I'd find a way to fly out of ZQN and skip CHC entirely.
  1. Arrive AKL, fly to NSN
  2. Nelson/Abel Tasman
  3. Nelson/Abel Tasman
  4. Drive to Hopewell
  5. Hopewell
  6. Hopewell
  7. Fly to ZQN
  8. Routeburn Track
  9. Routeburn Track
  10. Routeburn Track
  11. Queenstown
  12. Queenstown to Christchurch

If you want adventure, landscapes and nature, this gives you all three. Perfect beaches in Abel Tasman with excellent hiking and kayaking options. Fishing, relaxation, maybe some mountain biking in the Kenepuru/Marlborough Sounds (plus the best steamed mussels you'll ever have). Finally, one of the best multi-day hikes in the world, the Routeburn, taking you up and over Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks. Seriously, the views are amazing.
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Last edited by txflyer77; Oct 7, 18 at 9:19 pm
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Old Oct 8, 18, 2:03 pm
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10-12 days isn't really enough time to spend evenly between both islands. As others have alluded to, I would spend more time on the South Island, and I would only budget a day or two in Auckland if you want to see what the biggest city in NZ has to offer. Otherwise - I'd hop on a plane and fly right to somewhere else. One other consideration is that Mt. Cook and Franz Josef are on the opposite side of the same mountain range - so you're going to spend a heck of a lot of time just driving around those portions if you want to see both of them. When I went a few years back, I didn't do Mt. Cook and opted to drive the West Coast (and hit Franz Josef) while I was at it.

I would plan on doing some version of what was suggested above - drive down the West Coast 1-way from Nelson to Queenstown / Milford Sound area and figure out how to budget your 12 days there, and fly ZQN-CHC (so you don't have to spend the 3-4 hours driving from Queenstown to Christchurch - which won't be the most compelling drive you've ever done).
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Old Oct 9, 18, 3:30 am
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Agree with the others. Do a quick tour of AKL then spend your ~10 remaining nights on the South Island. The North Island spots just aren't as interesting. Don't get me wrong, the Coromandel is beautiful, but it takes too long to get there and back given your other wish-lists. Getting around NZ by car is slow, especially because you'll constantly want to stop and enjoy the beauty. It is also tiring, with switchbacks, one-lane bridges, and tourists driving erratically draining you mentally much quicker than on a big highway. Taking it slower is the way to go.

If you want to see Wellington, you might consider flying there from ZQN, spending a night there, then flying to CHC.
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Old Oct 9, 18, 12:24 pm
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All,
Thank you everyone for their valuable comments and tips! I am still working on readjusting the itinerary after the comments, will post it here for more feedback once i am done.

We might not visit NZ anytime soon so wanted to cover everything that we could in 12 days, but looks like south island is much better than north side so i am planning just to tackle hobbitown and rotorua and head to south after that.
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Old Oct 10, 18, 1:13 am
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Originally Posted by poisonsag View Post
We might not visit NZ anytime soon so wanted to cover everything that we could in 12 days, but looks like south island is much better than north side so i am planning just to tackle hobbitown and rotorua and head to south after that.
This is a very very common mode of thinking for a first-timer to NZ. I was also convinced to see both islands on my first trip, and trimmed it down to just the south island. Since then i've been back to NZ many times and seen beautiful spots on the north island... but I'm still glad I focused on the south island for my first trip. As nice as the north island is, the south island is just a lot more epic. Plus, it is easier to do 1 or 2 day trips from AKL as part of another adventure, say to Australia or a Pacific island. The south island is more time intensive, so you really need a longer trip for it.

I've never been to Rotorua or Hobbitown. All the advice I've seen (particularly by kiwis) is to give Rotorua a pass.
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Old Oct 10, 18, 10:20 am
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Originally Posted by CPMaverick View Post
This is a very very common mode of thinking for a first-timer to NZ. I was also convinced to see both islands on my first trip, and trimmed it down to just the south island. Since then i've been back to NZ many times and seen beautiful spots on the north island... but I'm still glad I focused on the south island for my first trip. As nice as the north island is, the south island is just a lot more epic. Plus, it is easier to do 1 or 2 day trips from AKL as part of another adventure, say to Australia or a Pacific island. The south island is more time intensive, so you really need a longer trip for it.

I've never been to Rotorua or Hobbitown. All the advice I've seen (particularly by kiwis) is to give Rotorua a pass.
Agreed. I started a thread here back in January/February where I had 16 days in NZ and wanted to do 4-5 days in the North Island, but eventually settled on just 2 in the North Island and 14 in the South Island. Even then, the 14 days in the South Island seemed a little rush, and my route was fairly straight-forward (Te Anau-Queenstown-Wanaka-Franz Josef-Arthur's Pass-Christchurch). With the OP's preferred schedule (3-4 days in the North Island and 8-9 days in the South Island), the OP should just stick to Queenstown and Wanaka (with a day trip to Milford Sound) and then head straight to Christchurch with maybe a stop at the Hooker Valley track (I'm still mad I didn't get to do this walk). Doing a day at every place won't allow you to do much, unless you want to just drive through and "see" it.
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Old Oct 11, 18, 8:50 pm
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Originally Posted by calbear2005 View Post
Agreed. I started a thread here back in January/February where I had 16 days in NZ and wanted to do 4-5 days in the North Island, but eventually settled on just 2 in the North Island and 14 in the South Island. Even then, the 14 days in the South Island seemed a little rush, and my route was fairly straight-forward (Te Anau-Queenstown-Wanaka-Franz Josef-Arthur's Pass-Christchurch). With the OP's preferred schedule (3-4 days in the North Island and 8-9 days in the South Island), the OP should just stick to Queenstown and Wanaka (with a day trip to Milford Sound) and then head straight to Christchurch with maybe a stop at the Hooker Valley track (I'm still mad I didn't get to do this walk). Doing a day at every place won't allow you to do much, unless you want to just drive through and "see" it.
Originally Posted by CPMaverick View Post
This is a very very common mode of thinking for a first-timer to NZ. I was also convinced to see both islands on my first trip, and trimmed it down to just the south island. Since then i've been back to NZ many times and seen beautiful spots on the north island... but I'm still glad I focused on the south island for my first trip. As nice as the north island is, the south island is just a lot more epic. Plus, it is easier to do 1 or 2 day trips from AKL as part of another adventure, say to Australia or a Pacific island. The south island is more time intensive, so you really need a longer trip for it.
​​​​​​​
Originally Posted by PsiFighter37 View Post
10-12 days isn't really enough time to spend evenly between both islands. As others have alluded to, I would spend more time on the South Island, and I would only budget a day or two in Auckland if you want to see what the biggest city in NZ has to offer. Otherwise - I'd hop on a plane and fly right to somewhere else. One other consideration is that Mt. Cook and Franz Josef are on the opposite side of the same mountain range - so you're going to spend a heck of a lot of time just driving around those portions if you want to see both of them. When I went a few years back, I didn't do Mt. Cook and opted to drive the West Coast (and hit Franz Josef) while I was at it.
​​​​​​​
Originally Posted by Mwenenzi View Post
As post above forgot, about Wellington, Rotorua, Whitianga and Auckland. In 11 days - 12 nights you do not have time.
I would fly to the South Island on the day you arrive in AKL.
After the long haul flight from IAD recommend you do not drive on day 1. The travel time, time zone change and driving on the left (RHD) can make it harder/unsafe.
Best to drive not more than say 3 or4 hours per day and stay overnight at some places 2 or more nights.
Mid - late November is a very good time to visit Kiwiland
​​​​​​​
Originally Posted by txflyer77 View Post
+1 for spending as much time as possible on the South Island.

If it was me, I'd fly to NSN same day I arrive at AKL, spend a day or so kayaking Abel Tasman and enjoying Nelson, then three days at Hopewell Lodge in Marlborough Sound. Hiking, fishing, mountain biking, kayaking.
From there, fly down to Queenstown. Next day, hike the Routeburn Track with Ultimate Hikes. Round up the rest of the trip in Queentown, then one night in Christchurch before heading home. Ideally I'd find a way to fly out of ZQN and skip CHC entirely.
Originally Posted by zebranz View Post
Consider Milford Sound (will be full day drive from ZQN). From Westport assume coming across through Blenheim and taking the ferry to the North Island. If you did not know the major car rental companies have drop off and pick ups on both sides. The Mainland more scenic than the north. If you drive from WLG through Martinborough area also quite pleasant. First trip- do what you want and enjoy. Will make it better when you return to see more or spend more time in certain areas. Good exchange rate time!
​​​​​​​
Thank you everyone for all the help and ideas!! IT was amazing to get feedback from all of you guys! we made LOTS of adjustments to our itinerary and have come up with version 2
Please provide more feedback on this and let us know how it is!!

Day 1: Reach and explore Auckland city, sleep in Auckland
Day 2: Rent a car and visit hobbiton, rotorua, sleep in rotorua (Skipping Waitamo caves and doing Te Anau caves instead)
Day 3: Return rent a car, fly from Rotorua to Queenstown, explore and sleep in Queenstown (Also rent a car)
Day 4: Drive to Franz Josef via Wanaka, sleep in Franz Josef
Day 5: Glacier heli hike and lake Matheson, sleep in Franz Josef
Day 6: Hike at Roberts Point Track, sleep in Franz Josef
Day 7: Drive back to and sleep in Queenstown
Day 8: Explore more of Queenstown, sleep in Queenstown
Day 9: Day tour to Milford sound from Queenstown, sleep in Queenstown (Tour: https://www.greatsights.co.nz/new-ze...mt-cook-combo/)
Day 10: Day tour to Mt. Cook Village, sleep in Queenstown (Tour: https://www.greatsights.co.nz/new-ze...mt-cook-combo/)
Day 11: Visit Te anau (Glow warm caves) and sleep in Queenstown
Day 12: Take the bus to CHC and explore Christchurch (time permitting), sleep in Christchurch
Day 13: Return the car and fly back to USA
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Old Oct 11, 18, 10:25 pm
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Looks pretty good. Flying from Roto to ZQN will save some time, which is helpful, just beware of high one-way car rental fees.

You might consider driving to Wanaka from ZQN on arrival, and overnighting there. Stop at the famous Cardrona Hotel (pub) in-between for lunch/dinner. Wanaka is a beautiful town and worth a stop, probably cheaper than Queenstown, and will shave an hour off your drive time to Frans Josef (that can be quite a long drive as there are so many places you'll want to stop and take it all in!). You'll be back in Queenstown later anyway, so there isn't too much point of going there just for one night.

It's good that you are staying a few nights in Franz Josef, as the glacier tours are highly weather dependent. Even with three nights there, consider that you may not be able to get to the glacier, even in sunny weather (due to wind).

You'll be going through Te Anau to get to Milford sound, so it does seem like an inefficient thing to do both on separate days whilst staying in Queenstown every night. Maybe you can combine the two somehow?

Last edited by CPMaverick; Oct 11, 18 at 10:32 pm
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Old Oct 11, 18, 10:28 pm
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That is a lot better;- fewer places and more time at each.
Activities in Milford & Franz Josef can be subject to (bad) weather.

Going to Wanaka for the first night is a good idea. Queenstown has a lot of international tourists, and priced accordingly, whereas NZer's tend to go to Wanaka.

I assume you are returning the rental car in ZQN to avoid the high one way hire fees.
Instead on the bus Queenstown to Chc (day 12) you could get a "free" or almost free one way relocation rental car ZQN-CHC from Transfercar NZ for 1 or 2 days.
There is almost always a surplus for rental cars at southern rental depots, especially Wellington & Queenstown.
Looking now there are 317 cars in ZQN to be relocated of which 105 are for Christchurch. Hence cheap one way relocations to the north.
Could then stop at Mt Cook village in way north instead of the organised bus tour (day 10). Queenstown to Mt Cook is a reasonable distance.

Map link Queenstown to Christchurch (travel time now 5:49hr for the 487km) https://goo.gl/maps/3hSxJnLHZJK2

Last edited by Mwenenzi; Oct 13, 18 at 12:21 pm
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