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33 solo days in Australia & New Zealand

Hello all,

On somewhat of a whim, I just booked a round trip ticket through Sydney in January/early February. I'm a 33 year old woman who will be traveling alone. I'm not entirely sure what I've gotten myself in to, so I'd love some tips. My (very rough) plan so far:

1 week in Sydney
1 week in Melbourne
4 days in Cairns
1.5 weeks on the south Island of NZ

Thoughts on the length of time in each place? I'm planning to fly between all of them, and would LOVE if I don't have to rent a car. Is that doable? I'd love to have a few days of wine tasting. Any tips to do that without a car? Am I crazy?

Thanks!

Posted by
6243 posts

I can't speak to Australia but I can say that exploring New Zealand, especially the South Island could be pretty difficult without a car. I went as a solo and rented a car because it was the only way I could get to the places I wanted to see. That was 12 years ago so I'm not familiar with what their train/bus system is like now. If you're concerned about driving on the left side, NZ is the perfect place to do it for the first time; it only took me a couple of hours to get comfortable with it (I rented an automatic to make it less painful) and NZ has quite good roads and sparse traffic once outside of a city so it was pretty easy.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks, Nancy. I was a little afraid I'd need a car in NZ. I've driven a manual my entire driving life, so hopefully that wouldn't be too difficult. You've made me feel better about it though!

Posted by
1856 posts

While I agree with Nancy that a car would be the best way to explore the South Island, you could manage without one if you based yourself in cities that are centrally located and offer reasonably cheap tours of the surrounding countryside. Recommended places would be Queenstown - from where you could tour Milford Sound, Te Anau, etc., Christchurch for the Akaroa peninsula, and Dunedin for the Otago peninsula and the penguins. Am sure there are plenty of tours to keep you busy and thus let someone else do the driving, but I'd still suggest just getting a car. It's a beautiful country...best seen with the freedom that a vehicle provides.
Your proposed destinations in Australia are all easily managed without a vehicle. Buy a weekly pass from Sydney ferries and use the ferries, buses, and trains as a hop-on, hop-off service to explore the beautiful city. The train will even take you out to the Blue Mtns. - a very nice day trip.

Posted by
14227 posts

I would try to add 2-3 days in Auckland. It's well worth seeing and there are good day tours from there to see more of North Island. A week in Sydney sounds good but a week in Melbourne is a lot, unless you are a tennis fan and get tickets to the Australian Open, beginning January 18.

Allow a day each way between the two countries. Those 3-4 hour flights are international, with all the time-consuming check-in and security procedures, plus getting to/from the airport.

Posted by
1856 posts

Chani makes a good point regarding Melbourne during the Open - accommodations will be very expensive during that period. Unless you're a big tennis fan and are going there specifically for the tournament it might be wise to consider an alternative. Brisbane and the Gold Coast are quite nice, especially the beaches around Surfers Paradise. Adelaide is one of our favorite places in Australia, and a side trip up to Uluru would be memorable. Qantas runs a low-cost subsidiary called Jetstar that offers affordable fares around the country - worth checking out anyway. Believe they have direct flights to Queenstown from Sydney, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast.

Posted by
859 posts

There are hop-on hop-off backpacker bus services in NZ. Kiwi Experience is probably one of the better organized (http://www.kiwiexperience.com/). Not as flexible as a car but more flexible than a guided tour and more direct to places of interest than public transportation.

DJ

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you all so much! You've convinced me to add Aukland and the north island to my trip and extend the NZ portion to two weeks.

I found an itinerary on the New Zealand tourism site that seems like a great trip with no driving!

http://www.newzealand.com/us/trips-and-driving-itineraries/all-nz/auckland-queenstown-no-driving-required/

I looked into those busses, but read some really awful reviews of them being full of young kids just looking to party, and I honestly feel like I'm too old for hostels now. So, we'll see!

Thanks again, everyone!

Posted by
977 posts

You will be well served by public transport in Sydney and Melbourne. From Melbourne you can book a day tour to the Great Ocean Road (a must see) and probably a day tour to a winery. For the ultimate wine tasting experience, come to South Australia. Agree with other posters, to get the most out of your visit to south island of NZ, a car is a must.

Posted by
14227 posts

One of the best things I did in Melbourne was a day trip (afternoon/evening) to Philip Island to see the fairy penguins. It included getting up close and personal with wallabies at a refuge and an optional helicopter ride that was fantastic.

Posted by
703 posts

that time of year should be 'warm' ( depending upon where you are coming from) bring your swimmers.
Australia is a huge place ( like the states) so it really depends upon how much flying you are prepared to do . So your plan looks doable, particularly if you want to take a 'relaxed' look around. while the cities are good, try and get out into the nearby country as as mentioned catch the train or public transport. within a few hours travel of Sydney there are vineyards, dolphin/whale watching, the blue mountains and limestone caves etc etc and some of the best beaches in the world. so you don't have to travel too far.

The North Island of NZ is very much like Australia, so I would stick to the south Island to see some different scenery ( read beautiful mountainous), rather than 'more of the same' as OZ .Driving around NZ is OK , if you can handle that side of the road.( eg not too much traffic and only 'small' towns and not huge distances between places)
Australia and NZ are pretty 'relaxed' so getting round by yourself should be very doable.
Look at Jetstar and Virgin for discount airfares between cities.

Hope it helps

Posted by
5646 posts

Quantas used to (and may still) have a fare allowing travel jumping around the country something like a rail pass. The distances are huge and there are so many interesting places to visit, all far apart.

Posted by
7 posts

I've written down all of your suggestions, but still have a fairly skeleton itinerary (aside from a ticket to see David Sedaris in Melbourne!) I have flights and places to stay in all three Australia spots, but can't seem to settle on my NZ plan, aside from flying in to Aukland and out of Queenstown, giving myself a day back in Sydney.

I know renting a car is probably the right thing to do to NZ, but I'm mentally fighting it. I drive a manual in the US and have almost caused accidents in an automatic, so I'm not sure which way to go. Is it best to go the 'easier' route of an auto, or go with what I know, even if it's on the other side.

What wonderful problems to have...

Thank you all for your suggestions, and keep them coming!

Posted by
7 posts

After hearing you all say so much about renting a car and hearing the same thing from friends, I've decided to do it! I also asked my mom to join me so I won't be driving alone, which was my biggest hang up.

I've extended the NZ portion to 2 weeks, and we'll drive from Auckland to Queenstown. Thank you all again for your suggestions!

Posted by
703 posts

as others have mentioned the south island, particularly around queenstown has so much to offer, so much varied terrain ( glaciers etc) in such a small area. give yourself some time to explore that part of NZ. Whereas the landscape around the north part of the north island is similar to Australia NSW etc.

hope you have a great trip.

Posted by
356 posts

I'm researching a solo trip to NZ as well, and I'm equally concerned about driving on the left side. But I have yet to come across a single reviewer having a problem with it. In fact, most reviewers seemed to be able to adapt to it quite easily. I also drive a manual, which I understand are available in NZ rentals. I find this link about driving in NZ quite helpful, and many NZ info at the site:

http://youngadventuress.com/2014/08/new-zealand-road-trip.html

For itinerary review and suggestion, I head over to TA:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g255104-i125-New_Zealand.html

Good luck, to all of us :-)

Posted by
203 posts

Just a quick thought for those concerned about driving on the left. Most people have no problem. I live an work in a rural area between Sydney and Melbourne and the only issue overseas drivers commonly have is underestimating how tiring it is to drive the long distances in Australia. New Zealand distances aren't as big but it is windy and every 5 minutes you turn a corner and say "Holy Cow, look at that view, we better stop for photos", so it takes time. We have had a few accidents here with overseas drivers who have pulled over because they are tired (well done) but are still tired when they start again and with little traffic to prompt them they hop onto the wrong side of the road and don't realize until they run head on into oncoming traffic. Not trying to scare you off driving, I personally think it is the only way to see Aus and NZ but just be aware of the fatigue on long drives and don't try to cram to much ion to a short time.