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New Zealand Priorities

Hi there,

I'm at the end of a trip in New Zealand, having driven around the south island for 10 days, and am running out of time to make stops on the way from Christchurch to Auckland (by car, and taking the ferry). I have about 5 or 6 days, and am prioritizing between the following: Wellington, Napier, stopping at a winery, Rotorua mud pools, Hobbiton in Matamata, seeing some Maori culture, Waitomo glow worm caves, a day in Auckland, and a day-long bus tour from Paihia to Cape Reinga and 90 Mile Beach.

Any input and/or suggestions would be great! I'm travelling with my dad and his wife, and we don't mind long days. I'd like to find a balance between culture, cities, and nature.


Posted by
6514 posts

Let me preface this by saying that I enjoyed everything I did and saw in New Zealand. With that being said if you have to prioritize I would put a couple of things on the bottom of the list so if you don't get to them, it won't ruin your trip. Also a lot depends on what you (and your travel partners) like.

Winery - if you're totally into New Zealand wines then you could squeeze in a visit just before the ferry to the North Island, otherwise skip it, there are wineries everywhere. Most of the wineries are on the north end of the South Island so convenient for the ferry.

I was in NZ before the Lord of the Rings movies came out so there was no "hobbiton village" but from what I can see it looks like something that kids would enjoy. I don't know about adults unless you're real LOTR fans.

The Rotorua mud pools and geisers were amazing but if you've been to Yellowstone in the US, they are skipable.

It's only a personal opinion but I would put these toward the top of the list:

Wellington, very interesting capitol building, good museums, a ride up the funicular to the top of the hill to the wonderful public flower gardens.

Napier if you're at all interested in Art Deco architecture

We went to the Maori cultural experience at Tamaki, near Rotorua. You could do the geothermal sites during the day and the Maori Hangi (dinner and folklore show) in the evening if you're staying near Rotorua.

Definitely save a full day for Auckland and if you like getting out on the water, take a harbor cruise.

Paihia is a beautiful area and we did the bus tour to Cape Reinga and the 90 mile beach (it's actually not 90 miles long but who's counting it was fun). The bus usually has a race on the beach with another bus so there's some competition there which was fun. We also stopped at some sand dunes that you could slide down on sleds (like snow sledding in bathing suits and shorts).

We didn't get to the Waitomo glow worm caves but it looks interesting.

Posted by
203 posts

Like the above answer, I loved everything, so regardless of which you choose you will have a great time. But personally my preferences were:
- Wellington at the bottom of the list - its a city - not that exciting.
- Rotarua was fun - great Maori evening, and personally loved the toboggans. I liked the natural springs at Taupo rather than Rotarua.
- We enjoyed the glow worm caves.

I would make sure I had a couple of hours (I personally would want a couple of days (but all travel has some compromise) in Taupo to soak in the creek, and a day or two in Rotarua, and then anything else you get time for is a bonus. The ferry was lovely as it leaves the south island.

Have fun

Posted by
29 posts

My wife and I are starting to plan for trip to NZ in Feb. or March of 2016. We plan to spend about 3 weeks there and will not include Australia on this trip, but, other than that, I have made no plans. I have been on multiple Rick Steves Tours and my wife and I like that type of travel. If there was a "Rick Steves New Zealand" we would do it. That being said: Does anyone have tour suggestions for NZ? If there are none we are prepared to plan our own trip. Opinions on that? What are good suggested tour books with which to do research? I am looking for reliable guidance about travel there and just do not know where to begin? Suggestions?


Posted by
6514 posts

Sders, start with this website: for information on both tours and doing it on your own. It helped me a lot when I was planning my time in NZ - I was joining a 14 day tour with a private group but added a week on my own with a rental car before I met the group. I went quite a while ago and have since gotten rid of my guide books but I know I had the AAA guide to NZ and Fodor's NZ, but used websites (including town websites) to find accommodations.

New Zealand is easy to drive around by yourself. They do drive on the left but that was easy to get used to in a very short time and the roads are mostly good and traffic is pretty light, just need to get used to those traffic circles (roundabouts). I was alone without any GPS or a second person to navigate and I never got lost once, just get a good map.

Whether you spend more time on the South Island or the North Island depends entirely on what you like to do. I'm partial to nature and wildlife and outdoor activities so spent a little more time on the South Island. I also found all the main cities worth visiting - Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown, Napier, Dunedin, etc. - but my favorite was Queenstown because of the beautiful location and all the outdoor activities that abound there.

You have lots of time to research and make your choices, enjoy the planning.

Posted by
313 posts

Our favorites have been Napier, Rotorua, Wiatomo glow worm caves and some time spent in Auckland. We went in and out of Wellington but didn't feel the need to spend any time there.

I must say the wineries are great (but that's a personal/business preference).

You'll have a great trip!

Posted by
1 posts

Hello everyone.

I am very interested in this conversation. My husband and I are starting to plan a trip to NZ and Australia. We are planning on spending about a month in each country. How do I go about planning such a huge trip. I am looking for suggestions as to what to see and where to stay. We are trying to keep our housing portion of the trip on a lower budget.

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated

Posted by
6514 posts

85tornado, the first thing you need to do is visit a library or bookstore and get a couple of guidebooks for each country so you can see what's there you might want to see. Second thing is to visit the websites of each country's tourism department:

Then you can come back here with specific questions or recommendations for hotels, restaurants, etc.. However, this forum is more focused on Europe so you might want to check other travels forums also, especially Trip Advisor which has destination specialists and country forums for these two countries that might be a little more helpful.

Posted by
6951 posts

I have just begun research for a January, 2016 trip to Australia and New Zealand--traveling between the two via cruise ship. We were gong to stay in New Zealand for a few days before flying home.
But the prices of flights from the U.S. West Coast just increased about $700--pricing me out of the trip. We prefer to stop coming and going in Honolulu to break up the trip.

We'll hang back and watch prices of flights to see if airfares drop back to normal levels. Otherwise, we'll be going back to Europe for far less money.

Posted by
15075 posts

Tornado - I suggest you start a new thread. That way you can be notified by email every time someone posts to it.