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New Zealand

Interested in a trip to New Zealand, any advice out there? Just started the big search, advice is welcome.

Posted by
13074 posts

What are your interests? We did a trip focused on hiking/walking/ active time on the South Island last January (2015) and I would be happy to share our itinerary and advice and itinerary if appropriate.

Posted by
288 posts

I have done a trip there also but it has been a while. We did trekking in a few hut systems, sea kayaking, wine drinking, and toured both on the North and South islands. It was a fantastic trip for us, very active and beautiful.

Posted by
567 posts

It's a long flight so go for as long as you can, I'd suggest three weeks at least. Try to attend a traditional Hangi, get all the way up north to 90 mile beach, see geysers around Rotorua and soak in a mineral pool. I didn't get down to the south island, but a cousin of mine worked there for a year near Christchurch and really enjoyed it. I think the ferry ride from north to south is several hours, though. I think parts of Lord of the Rings was filmed on the south island and you can visit the Hobbit town. Milford sound is supposed to be one of the more spectacular hikes on the planet, but it is also one of the wettest. A cousin of mine did it and said she thought she would never dry out. Access to the area is apparently limited so if you want to do it you have to book well in advance. Another thing I really enjoyed was a sheep dog demonstration, and a hike through a forest to see the largest Kauri tree. Also, stopped at a cultural heritage site and saw some interesting demonstrations. It's been a long time, now, so I can't recall the names of some places. It rains a lot in New Zealand, especially in their winter, I was there in November which is late spring and the ocean water still hadn't warmed up enough to swim in.

Posted by
203 posts

A few bits of advice
- don't underestimate travel times. People look at the size of NZ and assume travel will be quick. Most a narrow windy roads with a reason to stop for photos every 2.5 seconds!!!! Give yourself time.
2. Go overnight to Milford sound not on one of the day trips from Queenstown. Who will miss a lot on the day trip and are stuck on the lunchtime cruise with the other million day trippers.
3. Camper van is a great "experience" holiday (we did it for 3 weeks with 2 kids and we all loved it(, but it is quicker, cheaper and more convenient in a car and seperate accommodation.
4. In a overly simplistic view - north island is culture, South Island is beauty. (Having said that lake Taupo on the north island was incredibly beautiful and sitting in the thermal creek there in the middle of winter is my favourite memory).
5. Otago peninsula is awesome. Take at least 1 full day to explore.

How ever long you think you need for NZ, double it!!!!

Posted by
13074 posts

I agree with everything slavender said. A campervan may be tempting, but self-catering motels are everywhere, often less expensive. The roads are good but narrow; not something I would attempt in a cumbersome vehicle.

A highlight of out trip was the Milford Track walk.

Posted by
16 posts

WOW! Now I am motivated, South Island it is. Any suggestions on travel guides or web site you personally have used for your trip that was spot on? The camper van sounds wonderful, but understand it limits your "getting around and parking". Have to think that one out. It is costly too.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi all.

I'm Colin Mairs, a Rick Steves guide in Scotland. I'm now living most of the year, when not guiding "summers" in Scotland, in New Zealand. I have started guiding here too!

My website is www.ExcursionNewZealand.com and facebook is www.facebook.com/ExcursionNZ
I regularly post tips on traveling in NZ on my facebook page.

All good advice given by all contributors so far. As already mentioned, campervan vacations are really popular here but they are certainly not for everyone! You will know if you are the kind of person who doesn't mind living in the back of a van for two or three weeks. It can be an extremely enjoyable experience and a great sense of freedom but for some people it can just be plain uncomfortable and challenging.
To find campsites the main ones are DOC (pronounced 'dock'), Department of Conservation, sites, and also Top 10 sites.
DOC are usually in more remote locations and with less facilities.
Top 10 are proper holiday camps with laundry facilities, kitchen, wifi and showers!!!
There are other independent sites around the place too.

If going for hotels/ motels then of course you have to be more organised to make sure you reach each planned destination on time.

Public transport for reaching distant locations isn't great in NZ. But in saying that there are some beautiful train journeys. See http://www.kiwirailscenic.co.nz/?gclid=CI_sh8KLuM8CFYaXvAodF64Pdg

Another consideration if planning on driving is of course that we drive on the left. This can take a bit of getting used to if you haven't done it before. Allow extra time for your journeys, especially on the first few days and have at least one night's rest after arriving from your long flight. Sadly there are regularly news stories of visitors involved in serious road accidents often after just picking up their hire vehicles. Always drive fresh and alert. Also allow traffic behind you to pass.

For small group tours there are a few around offering various itineraries. http://www.relaxingjourneys.co.nz is a good place to compare them. I'm not yet organising small group tours, just private and contract guiding for now, but I hope to in the next year or two. Watch this space!

For destinations to visit someone already mentioned the north island has more culture and the South Island more impressive scenery. That's definitely true. For Maori culture check out Rotorua. You'll most likely fly into Auckland so it's worth spending a day or two here to check out NZ's largest city's museums, galleries, city beaches and the west coast - Piha, Waitakere etc. There are plenty of tours offering day trips.... Including myself!

With an extra day in Auckland head over to Waiheke island (40 mins by ferry) and tour the wineries and soak up the artistic (hippy) vibe.

In the South Island my picks would be Milford Sound, Queenstown, Central Otago and the Glaciers (Franz Josef and/or Fox). Sadly Christchurch has lost a lot of its charm with the 2010/2011 earthquakes but has a positive vibe with the rebuild underway. It's worth checking out a lot of the cool 'pop-up' zones that have appeared since the Chch quakes - street food, markets and public art.

Be sure to try the following while in NZ - fish and chips, L&P, Pinot Gris wine (note: not Pinot Grigio), hokey pokey ice cream, Whitakers chocolate, eggs benedict with salmon and avocado for breakfast, flat white coffee, feijoa fruit, pineapple lumps, pavlova (invented in NZ, not Australia ;) ...)

If you need any more info just get in touch through my facebook :)

Posted by
379 posts

Another consideration if planning on driving is of course that we drive on the left. This can take a bit of getting used to if you haven't done it before.

I drive a manual in the US, and rented an automatic in NZ so that I didn't have to shift gear with my left hand. But old habits died hard. Every time I flipped the "turn signal" stick, the windshield wipers came on.

The best decision I made was bringing my GPS loaded with NZ map, a life saver.

Be sure to try the following while in NZ - fish and chips, L&P, Pinot Gris wine (note: not Pinot Grigio), hokey pokey ice cream, Whitakers chocolate, eggs benedict with salmon and avocado for breakfast, flat white coffee, feijoa fruit, pineapple lumps, pavlova (invented in NZ, not Australia ;) ...)

How dare you leaving out the green lipped mussels :-) Plum, fresh and inexpensive. Not to mention the freshest salmon and tuna in the supermarkets, at a fraction of US' cost. So was the lamb chops. But the biggest surprise was the tasty beef steaks, grass fed?

Posted by
3 posts

Of course staynsavor the super-sized green lipped mussels! How could I forget those! That was just a few I thought of off the top of my head. Plenty more culinary surprises in NZ :) Certainly all seafood is good, being an island nation. Lamb and beef all grass fed and very tasty, if you can bring yourself to eat them after seeing so many in the fields! Dairy and tourism are now the two biggest industries of NZ. Dairy overtook sheep farming in the late 1980s and tourism pulled level with dairy just last year.

Another food I also forgot to mention before is Manuka honey, from bees that pollinate the native Manuka bush. With a million and one beneficial uses (healing sore throats, digestive illnesses, curing Staph infections and gingivitis....). The higher the UMF number (Unique Manuka Factor), from 5 to 20, the more Manuka goodness is in the honey.... and the higher the price!

Posted by
13074 posts

A few random thoughts---

We noticed a lot of venison on menus. It is farm-raised. My husband vouches for the quality and taste.

Fortunately automatic transmissions are the norm in rental cars--or at least very easy to find ( unlike Europe).

If you are taking hiking boots or shoes to do some trekking, make sure to clean them before you gone-- remove all dirt. They will be inspected when you enter New Zealand. I cleaned mine thoroughly but overlooked a small pebble lodged in the lugs of the sole--- earning a mild scolding from the inspections officer.

Posted by
379 posts

I was most impressed by NZ's ranches and farms. Huge, and everyone meticulously kept. Fields look like lawns, without a shed of debris in sight. Some at the foothills of mountains shrouded in mist. Sheep would graze half way up; didn't know they could climb that high. I just had to stop at each and snap a photo.

Posted by
379 posts

Lots of tourists are present in the big cities, but they pretty much disperse or disappear once out of the cities. By far more enjoyable than in Europe in that regard.

Posted by
30 posts

Any advice on best way to get mo ey while in New Zeland?
Dorothea

Posted by
1804 posts

For guidebooks, I really liked using Rough Guide New Zealand.

Not sure when you are traveling, but if it is during their winter, you may want to note that if you are driving some roads on the South Island can be shut down if there is a great deal of snow.

Despite having traveled extensively around the North Island, South Island and Stewart Island, I really preferred the South Island the most. I loved the areas around The Catlins (especially Nugget Point), Abel Tasman National Park and the Glaciers (Franz Josef and Fox). Although the town itself is quite touristy for a small place, Kaikoura still deserves a visit if you want to see some really amazing marine life clustered in one area. It's the only place I've ever seen fur seals hanging on the beach and multiple whales and enormous pods of dolphins swimming off-shore.

Go Zorbing if you get a chance.

Posted by
379 posts

Did you mean money? I withdraw cash from ATM using a debit card that has no transaction fees and refunds ATM fees.