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Where to start... How to see it all...

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Where to start... How to see it all...

My husband and I would like to take a 3 week trip to New Zealand. We are still at the beginning stages of planing and are interested in hearing from people who have "been there and done that". We will be traveling with another couple and we're interested in adventure, hiking, sightseeing, etc. We will probably rent a car, starting in the north island and working our way down to the south island. Any suggestions on places to stay, things to see, must do's...

Thank you!


New Zealand
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for South Island
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1. Re: Where to start... How to see it all...

Welcome to the forum Christy :)

Best to start by reading the many 3 week itineraries posted here on the forum. Most visitors with 3 weeks allow one week for the north Island and two weeks for the larger South Island, but you will need to be selective in where you go as NZ is far larger than it appears on the world map, You can't see it all in such a short time frame.

Once you know where you hope to go post here for our comments.

Happy planning :)

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2. Re: Where to start... How to see it all...


You will need several lifetimes if "you want to see it all".

In three weeks as WL says you can obtain a "taste" of both islands or see a little more if you stick to just one.


Ballarat, Australia
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3. Re: Where to start... How to see it all...

Three weeks isn't enough to see it all. I think the first thing you need to decide is, are you likely to come back? If not, you'll want to see all the biggest highlights, and there won't be much time for hiking etc or relaxing. If you think you will probably come back (assuming you like the place, of course!) then you can think more about what activities appeal most and focus more on designing what you would consider a great holiday, without worrying so much about what you might be missing.

Nelson, New Zealand
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4. Re: Where to start... How to see it all...

Yes do one week in North Island and two in South. With two weeks you could hire a car, drive down the east coast of SI and back up the West Coast. In those two weeks you'd get to see alot of sights!

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5. Re: Where to start... How to see it all...

Obviously I can't see it all but am hoping to see as much as possible and still enjoy my vacation. There are so many options and I don't want to waste the little time I do have over there. Here's my itinerary so far...

Day 1 Arrive in Auckland

Day 2-4 Fly to Nelson. Rent a car, hike Abel Tasman, Nelson Lake, maybe check out some wineries.

Day 5 Fly to Queenstown

Day 6 Explore

Day 7 Drive to Te Anau (glow worm caves)

Day 8 Milford Sound (possible overnight cruise??)

Day 9 Drive to Wanaka

Day 10 Explore (Mt Aspiring National Park, Diamond Lake)

Day 11Drive to Lake Tekapo

Day 12 Explore Mt. Cook

Day 13 Drive to Christchurch

Day 14 Explore

Day 15 Drive to Akaroa

Day 16 Explore

Day 17 Fly out of Christchurch to Auckland. Drive to Bay of Island

Day 18 BEACH

Day 19 SAIL

Day 20 Fly home.

Here are a few questions? Are we spending to much time in Nelson? Are we going to regret skipping the Fox/Franz Joseph Glaciers? Is it worth it to throw in a day trip from Christchurch to Punakaiki? I know it'd be a long day...

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6. Re: Where to start... How to see it all...

I think you have a very sensible itinerary as is. My only comment is you should reverse days 11 and 12. Actually, you should spend 2 nights at Mt Cook and stop for a look and/or short hike at Lake Tekapo when driving to Christchurch. Lake Tekapo isn't worth the overnight unless you intend to do the stargazing tour. In which case, one night Mount Cook, one night Lake Tekapo.

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7. Re: Where to start... How to see it all...

To answer your other questions, I don't think you have too much time in Nelson. You might give some thought to driving to Golden Bay the day you arrive and spend a night there. Then drive back to Nelson (or Kaiteriteri) the next day so you can access a water taxi to take you into ATNP for your hike. Then a day free to explore wineries and/or Nelson Lakes.

You could forfeit Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo (and the day exploring Christchurch) if you want to see the West Coast. Spend two nights in the glacier area, one night Punakaiki, then travel Arthur's Pass to Christchurch. But then you might regret not seeing Mt Cook/Lake Tekapo. ;) Which appeals to you?

Christchurch, New...
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for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
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8. Re: Where to start... How to see it all...

You are sensible to fly instead of drive some of the long legs. Have you decided what time of year you are coming to NZ and looked at flight schedules? Be aware that the small airports like Nelson & Kerikeri (BoI) only have small planes (called "Link" services) to/from the nearest major airport (AKL in the case of BOI & WLG for NSN) so you will spend a lot of time in airports.

If you wanted to include Punakaiki you'd be better driving there from Nelson & perhaps driving on to Chch next day and flying CHC-ZQN, but I don't know where the extra day would come from. Perhaps consider doing the SI in reverse:

2-4 Nelson

5. Punakaiki

6. Chch

7-8 Akaroa

9. Drive Akaroa to lake Tekapo

10. Tekapo to Mt Cook

11. Drive to Wanaka

12. Explore Wanaka

13. Drive to Te Anau

14. Milford Sound

15. Drive to QTN

16. Explore QTN

17. Fly ZQN-AKL to BOI

18 & 19. BOI

20 Fly BOI-AKL-home

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9. Re: Where to start... How to see it all...

Thank you so much for the suggestions! They have been very helpful. We will definitely change the night in Lake Tekapo and spend 2 nights at Mt Cook instead. We will be traveling in Feb. and don't want to spend more time then necessary in an airport so I think we'll drive from Nelson to Punakaiki and then on to Christchurch.

10. Re: Where to start... How to see it all...

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