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Allocations on number of days in Sydney and NZ

We will be flying into Sydney, plan to spend some time there and the surrounding area. Then we will fly into Auckland and head south to Queentown, and fly from Queenstown back to Sydney to catch a flight back to the US. It will be a total of 22 solid days beside traveling time. I would love some help on the allocation on how many days I should spend in Australia, north island and south island, in order to get the best out of the limited time that we do have . What are the must do-s, and what we should skip. . For example, should we just skip Auckland altogether because there is so much more to see in the rest of the country to not wasting time there?
Thank you so much for your help, so I can book my flight between Sydney and Auckland on the right day. I am just so afraid to commit and make a mistake.

Posted by
257 posts

I visited the North and South Islands on separate occasions, and I spent a bit over a week on each island. I had a car both times, and I spent more time in the country than in the cities. I like their cities, but to me they felt like smaller versions of Australian cities. It is their countryside that is very different from ours.

So in the North Island, I spent most of my time in the volcanic areas around Rotorua, and Tongariro National Park. When I visited the South Island, I spent most of my time in the Queenstown area, and along the west coast. When I was on the South Island we actually did a loop starting and finishing in Christchurch, and I admit that we did the Christchurch to Dunedin leg pretty quickly, and concentrated on the other parts. It sounds like you are just heading from north to south, in which case, I think you should take the route down the west coast.

Posted by
11677 posts

When are you going? That might make a difference in the recommendations for New Zealand.

When we went in January, 2015, we fly to Sydney for 3 nights, then to Christchurch for 17 days on the South Island before flying from Queenstown to Melbourne for 3 nights during the Australian Open (tennis). It was a great trip and we felt the timing was about right. WE were mainly interested in hiking and other outdoor pursuits so chose to spend all our time on the South Island. I would not want to try to see both North and South Islands in less than 3 weeks, myself.

For specific recommendations, assuming you will be there during their summer, some places we loved on the South Island were Lochmara Lodge (kayaking, hiking on the Queen Charlotte Track), biking on the Otago rail trail, and the inn to inn trek on the Milford Track with Ultimate Hikes.

We also enjoyed a one-night stay at Lake Tekapo (beautiful turquoise water) and two nights at Mt. Cook-Aoraki National Park. We thought Abel Tasman NP was overrated and would not recommend that unless you have time to spare. We did not make it down the West Coast but that would have been a better use of those days we spent getting to and hiking at Abel Tasman.

We mixed it up with respect to transportation: part train and one week of car rental. Driving on the left is stressful! Once we got to Queenstown the Milford track guides took care of the rest (transport to and from the trailhead by bus and boat).

Posted by
4120 posts

I recommend a minimum of 14 days for NZ, perhaps a little more.

We loved Wellington. Auckland is very nice, but we liked Wellington more.

For Australia, we loved Sydney and also Melbourne.

If you can do 4 nights at each, do it.

Don't miss the Blue Mountains near Sydney as well as a harbor cruise.
For Melbourne, the Great Ocean Highway and the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island.

Posted by
38 posts

Thank you so much for all of your recommendations. We have decided to have 4 full days in Sydney, flying out on a late flight to Auckland, sleep, pick up a car and spend 15 1/2 day in NI and SI, possibly 4-5 days on NI, depending if we want to stay longer if shorter once we get a good feel. Then flying back to Sydney, spend the evening in Sydney or Bondi, then the follow full day in Sydney for multiple beaches scenic roadtrip to see Kangaroos on Jervis Bay or anything that we wanted to see but didn’t get to prior our track to NZ, Then, fly back to the U.S, the next morning.

Do you think this is good?

Two more question on car rental. I saw a company named ACE off of the search on, it’s significantly cheaper, but not sure if that’s a steal or I need to avoid that company. We rented with Sixt when we travel to Europe, we great experience, but the review for Sydney and in NZ has low rating. Love some advice. Do you purchase the extra car insurance?

Thanks bunches!

Posted by
1036 posts

I would take about 4 days from NZ and add it to Cairns, Australia. The Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest just outside Cairns at Kuranda are definitely worth seeing. You would have to fly to Cairns as it is a long ways from Sydney. You didn’t mention the time of the year you would be going. It can be very cold in Queenstown in the winter. I would rather visit Australia and New Zealand around the end of February. Queenstown and Sydney were amazing.