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How do I decide where not to go!?

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How do I decide where not to go!?

We are going to be spending 12 nights in NZ in early to mid May. So far our itinerary is... arrive into Queenstown airport, driving to Te Anau (Milford Sound)- Wanaka- Glaciers- Abel Tasman- Nelson- Wellington-Hawkes Bay-Rotorua, and then straight to the airport in Auckland to catch our flight back.

I'm thinking we're trying to do too much. I need suggestions on what to cut out. What are the best places to visit during this time of year? I would also love to spend a little time at Mt Ruapehu or Taupo but don't know what to give up instead. We'd like to do some day hikes, some wine country, and I'm also an amateur photographer... any suggestions?


San Antonio, Texas
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1. Re: How do I decide where not to go!?

Hi Kreddy...It sounds like you're planning a trip VERY similar to the honeymoon my fiance and I are planning. We're not sure if we're going north to south or south to north yet (two weeks in July). As far as your question, I've never been, but I've been reading a lot about NZ lately and the caves around Rotorua sound like the most fun thing to me so far. Lonely Planet has excellent guidebooks, and there are a few suggested itineraries from pages 16-20 in their NZ book. Sorry I couldn't really help with your question, but I'm excited for you!

New Zealand
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2. Re: How do I decide where not to go!?

Hi Kreddy,

All those places are fantastic and I think you've planned a very wise trip, that includes most of New Zealands main highlights. It will be packed though as it can take up to two days driving to get up the South Island and one day to get up the north to Auckland.

Definately go to Milford, it's fantastic. You can do a bus/boat tour which is only one day long but worth every cent.

It leaves from Te Anau and the road from Te Anau through to Milford is almost as breathtaking as Milford itself. There is a beautiful little stopover on the way called Mirror Lakes. You have to keep an eye out for it as it involves a short walk through the bush. On a still day, the mountains reflect perfectly

in the water and provide a beautiful photo op.

If the person in the last post is refering to the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, Te Anau has similar Caves which I think are almost as good. You wouldn't need to do both.

Nelson is a lovely city and right in the heart of wine country. There is a small place on route to Nelson called Hamner which has some lovely thermal springs. Great for a night stopover. However as your going up the West on the country you may bi-pass it.

Do you have any interest in extreme sports such as Bungee Jumping, White Water Rafting etc? If yes stay a few nights in Queenstown. If not, stay just one day and then head straight for Wanaka as it's arguably less comercial and equally as beautiful. Also there's a gorgeous little place just out of Queenstown called Arrowtown, which is at least worthy of a brief coffee stop.

Haven't been to Abel Tasman or Glaciers, so sorry I can't comment on these. Have heard how beautiful they are though. I have only ever travelled Up the East of the South Island (via Christchurch and Kaikoura) as these roads are easier and quicker to travel. However, despite their beauty, they probably aren't as stunning as the West Coast.

Give yourself a few nights in Rotorua to experience the cultural shows and the natural thermal mud pools. Also about half an hour out of Rotorua are two lakes, blue lake and green lake. They are very peaceful and a lovely place for a picnic. Lake Taupo is also stunning, but if you are pressed for time, just stop there for a few hours on route to Rotorua.

Lastly, I think you are very wise to head straight for the airport when you get to Auckland. I have nothing against Auckland as I live here. But with little time, you sound like you would prefer to see our beautiful scenery than our big cities. I wouldn't stay long in Wellington for the same reasons.

Hope this helps. Am happy to answer any more questions if you have any.

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3. Re: How do I decide where not to go!?

We have been going to NZ every two years for two weeks, and usually plan 3-4 different stops each time. I don't like to rush around. We have yet to spend a night in Auckland, in fact, we have not seen much of the North Island. The South Island is magnificent. My advice: on the west coast go to the smaller of the glacier towns - I forget whether it's Fox or Franz Joseph - fewer people (although you are certainly going off season). We did a heli-hike, which was fun and extremely scenic. In Abel Tasman, we did a kayak/hiking trip (just 2 days) with Ocean River Adventures. That was our first night in NZ and it was landing in heaven. I'll never forget it. Spend a night at the Awaroa Lodge in Abel Tasman. It's been redone now, but was slightly rustic with a wonderful cafe. Since we live near Napa Valley, we don't do wine country stuff in NZ. In mid-May you will be heading into winter, so bring warm clothes. I love to talk about NZ, so ask questions and I'll help if I can!

Auckland Central...
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4. Re: How do I decide where not to go!?

Hey Upgrade queen - as a New Zealander I just wanted to say thanks for the great comments about my country! Every two years for two weeks? how fantastic! How much of the North Island have you done? There's plenty of amazing stuff up this way too!

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5. Re: How do I decide where not to go!?

Hi ScottyGirl! Well, on our first trip we went to Huka Lodge but it was so fancy and we felt like we could have been in California, and we prefer the more uncrowded roads and dramatic scenery of S.I. However, on the last trip we stayed one night in a spectacular guest house called AkaRoa (I think), not sure where - somewhere near Bay of Islands? ANyway, wonderful hosts & took care of us after our car mishap. But the S.I. still has my heart. Ah... Wanaka.... River Run.... Matukituki Valley... I just hope and pray the Americans aren't ruining your country and all the wonderful friendly NZers. (We have that effect on people.)

NZ at present!
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6. Re: How do I decide where not to go!?

only found this forum today when surching for facts for my own travelling but your plan sounds very similar to the trip i have just doneso had to reply. I'm living in the coromandel (north island) at the moment (loving it of course!). My partner came out to visit a few weeks ago and i took two weeks of work to travel with him.

My first piece of advice is New Zealand is never ending: as the last person said they just keep coming back, there is soo much to see and do that you can't do it all. Don't make the mistake that i think we did of trying to pack it all in, trying to see everything that the "tourist" should and then finding that you feel exhausted at the end of it! That's not the real new zealand: this is a stunning scenic country and you will get more from taking time to enjoy the few places you pick rather than driving like mad things to cover al that milage.

secondly if photographer have heaps of film on you at all times and always have your camera. New Zealand is fab for photo opportunitys, the number of times i have even driven home from work, seen a stunning view etc and wished i had my camera!

We had 11 days in the south island in a car/campervan:

Milford sound: Go when it rains!!! it's superb then waterfalls go uphill! we drove ourselves from queenstown, early start but more freedom to stop and the fiorland park has some great places to divert off too. Some good hour tramps (hikes). Not sure i could have coped with a packed coachride also a bit like herding cattle when you arrived at the fiord!

Would recommend Te Anau as a base for trip to milforsd and then to stay on return that night also, less of a long day. Doc (department of conservation) great for advise on tramp times and also organised tramps if you want that security.

Recommend Clyde vineyard outside queenstown on way to Wanaka. If in a car drive the pass over the ski fields, if open, it is lovely! We only stopped for lunch in Wanaka but wished we had had more time, loved it there. Queenstown is big tourist attraction and packed! If you want to do white water rafting we did the shotover in queenstown but were a bit dissapointed, recommend doing some up the west coast instead.

I agree with the comment on Fox Glacier it is less crowded, however we did a heli hike, already to go and then the cloud came in! so we were on the phone and then shot over to Franz Joseph and managed to get the last heli hike up before the cloud came in too. The heli hike is awesome and if you can afford it the best of all options. But be prepared your plans will change, most attractions in new zealand are out door based and governed by the weather. Most guide books recommend twio days at the glacier to cover for weather changes. On a tight schedule like you have you cannot afford that so you just have to take your chance. We had one day and were just lucky! Franz Joseph is a busy place and book your accomodation in advance, wee couldn't get any and had to free camp further up the coast but turned out to be awesome and the best thing!

Abel tasman is a must! Get a guided Kyake trip and you can also do a half kyake half walk option. We went with kerikeri kyakes and would recommend them. We did free kyaking on our own but were restricted and couldn't go as far into the park as you can with a guide.

Golden Bay, above the Abel Tasman, is lovely and very chilled out. If you like mussels the "mussel Inn'" there was fab and a real find. No tourists all locals just off the main highway. The famous "mussel boy" restaurant in Havelock was a diappointment and not half as good.

Nelson was good very quiet, on a sunday though, think i would recommend time in the marlborough sounds as a different option. You can get water taxis that will drop you off at the start of a track, you walk to the end and they pick you up. will also be on the way to Picton to get the ferry to Wellington.

Lots of vineyards in Marlborough, we sampled a few, Montana is my favourite.

Not done Wellington yet so can't comment, seems those who love it stay, those who don't live in auckland!

The big Taupo / Rotarura debate. I love Taupo and rotorura smells1 but my workcolleague finds taupo boring and loves the buzz of rotorura. You can do both on you route as very close. Of course the thermal areas are very interesting and i was glad i went, but rotorura is very expensive and touristy. Not that taupo isn't too but it is a litte more relaxed.

another point is that people always come here and forget the north island. A shame as there are some real jems in this bit. hence i'm in the coromandel, it's stunning.

hope that helps! sorry i wrote soo much. I'm not sure that you will have much time to do day hikes though. And although i had an unforgetable time it was hectic with little chill out time to do all that in 11 days!. Regretted that afterwards. Take time to expereience the real new zealand and don't feel the pressure to take photos of the things that your friends at home will expect you to see! please don't take that the wrong way, just my experience from living here for a while and being a traveller at the same time.

Waitomo caves by the way are cool. suggest black water rafting on an inflatable tube! but you can also abseil, do a nature walk etc. But again costs $$!!

what ever you decide have a fabulous time here.

ps. coming in may you may want some warm and water proof gear.