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Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

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Atlanta, GA, USA
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Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

Hi all! Two friends and I (late 20s/early 30s) will be spending a few days on the North Island before heading down to the South Island for a week and a half. The two things that jumped out that I really wanted to visit on the North Island were the Rotorua area and Tongariro National Park.

I was trying to figure out what types of public transportation are available between Auckland and those areas, and frequency/cost of buses vs. us getting a rental car. We get in early Monday morning, and we need to get to Nelson Wednesday evening. I know people recommend not driving when you get in, though my experience has been that I don't have an issue with jet lag, often drive after 20+ hours of plane travel/layovers, & between 3 drivers and a few hours' driving time I'm not too concerned. But want to consider the pros & cons.

Since there are three of us, we have to consider the cost for 3 people plus convenience. Also, we'll be headed down to Nelson, so I'm debating getting back to Auckland to fly down there (better flight times available; we want to get into Nelson early evening, not earlier) or do more expensive, not as great times from Taupo or Palmerston (or, heck, drive down to Wellington and hop over?). Is it easy to get around by bus to/from and between Rotorua and Tongariro? Any advice you can offer? Landscape/scenery is biggest draw, seeing something a little different than we'll experience on the South Island (where we'll have more time to do cool adventure-y things). Any experiences that are a can't-miss? I'm not really into the cave stuff as much, but open to ideas.

Thanks!

Christchurch, New...
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1. Re: Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

Welcome to the nZ Forum - you simply don't have ti e to do what you want in barely 2 days.

Assuming you don't have jet lag (which is totally unsafe & foolhardy):

Monday: arrive early, pick up rental car & drive for 4-5 hr to National Park - what do you want to do there? It takes a full day of tramping to get to Mt Tongariro but you have less than half a day, depending on time of year & daylight hours.

Tuesday. Drive to Rotorua - 2:30hr so at least half a day to visit a thermal park & take in a Maori cultural evening.

Wed. Drive back to AKL, 3 hr. Fly to NSN

It is a lot of driving for very little sightseeing & would be difficult by public transport.

Atlanta, GA, USA
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2. Re: Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

Thanks for the quick response! For me (and I'd have to check with my friends to see what they think), if I had to pick either Rotorua or Tongariro National Park--and it sounds like you're saying we'd need to--I'd go with Tongariro. The crossing and the mountain (like the Mt. Doom kind of thing) and the Emerald Lakes just sound and look amazing, and not like something I've seen before. Rotorua looks awesome but I've spent fairly extensive time in Yellowstone here in the United States and so if I had to pick one to skip, I'd probably pick that. However, would we have to be worried that we wouldn't be able to do the crossing due to weather or fog or something? This will be in early October, around the 6th-8th.

So if we just focused on Tongariro area, is rental car the best way to go for three people? Is there a particular place we should stay down there, for one night or two? Thank you again!

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3. Re: Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

best not arrive in the country after a long-haul flight and immediately get behind the wheel of a car - jet lagged drivers kill themselves and others on the road.

With limited time why not arrive Auckalnd then fly directly to Nelson? The following day get your rental and begin exploring the South Island. At the end of your trip fly to Auckland and spend the last couple of days at Tongariro.

Hope this helps :)

Atlanta, GA, USA
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4. Re: Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

There are South Island sights that we're planning to see at the end of our trip (since for most of it we'll be confined to the Nelson area), then plan to fly out of Christchurch.

Rarotonga, Cook...
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5. Re: Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

Starshy.

I'm with the precautionary warnings provided by Zhuhai and WL, among others in your earlier thread.

To drive in unfamiliar conditions, after a long haul flight upon arrival is not good planning. Best to play it save and fly directly to Nelson soon after your arrival into NZ. Alternatively, stay in the CBD of Auckland to explore on foot or by public transport the Queen city and its fabulous harbour . Use a combination of the Explorer bus, ferry services, taxis, scheduled tours and Link buses to get about on your first day should you choose to stay put in Auckland. on days 1 - 3. Fly south on the afternoon/eve of your planned Nelson program.

Several posters have already suggested you visit Tongariro NP &/or Rotorua at the end of your NZ stay for potentially better weather and a more relaxed itinerary. The further into Spring you plan a Tongariro crossing, there is a better chance of improved weather conditions. With more daylight time to boot.

Edited: 18 May 2014, 05:46
Atlanta, GA, USA
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6. Re: Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

So we discussed it and I think it makes sense to fly into Christchurch, and then do the North Island bits at the end of the trip...initially we'd wanted to do the extra South Island sights at the end of the trip because we thought we'd have longer then, but now it's basically the same on both sides (2 1/2 to 3 days).

So, if we get up to Auckland from Nelson in the afternoon or early evening on Thursday the 16th, would it be feasible for us to go ahead and get down to Tongariro or Rotorua that evening, so we're well-situated to start seeing things the next morning? The other thing that one of my friends feels strongly about is doing the Hobbiton tour, so how/when could we possibly fit that in? We'd fly out midday on Sunday the 19th from Auckland in that case. Am I right in assuming that we'd still have to pick either Rotorua or Tongariro? I'm more interested in Tongariro but I think my friend really wants to see Rotorua, so we'd have to figure out how to pick.

Thank you so much for your help!

Rarotonga, Cook...
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7. Re: Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

Your revised plan makes better use of your time, including flying into Christchurch once you reach NZ.

If its possible to get a midday flight from Nelson to Auckland on the 16th, you could drive to Taupo the same day - it's a 4+ hour drive however. Aim for your Tongariro hike on the 17th, if the weather is favourable. Either return to Taupo on 17th, or stay nearer to Tongariro NP - Whakapapa or National park villages both have accommodation.

Use the 18th to drive to Rotorua first, followed by Hobbiton for late afternoon tour. Or just drive directly to Matamata (for Hobbiton) instead. Hamilton city has lots of accommodation (18th) and is an easy drive to reach Auckland airport by 9:30am for a midday departure on 19th.

Another approach would be to get an early flight from Nelson on the 16th, and visit Hobbiton before driving south to Taupo, or even Turangi, ahead of the crossing hike.

Christchurch, New...
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8. Re: Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

Personally I would bite the bullet & fly Nelson to Taupo. You have travelled half way round the world & have 3 days to explore. A little bit more money will save you half a day. You could then get a shuttle service to TNP next day. OTH it might be easier to get a rental car in Rotorua.

Atlanta, GA, USA
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9. Re: Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

We'll definitely explore flying into Taupo, or even Palmerston. I'm not too concerned about a slightly higher flight cost if it makes sense from a timing standpoint. I think our main concern was being able to get a decent rental car, or being able to get around the area. Is there easy public transport right in the TNP area that we could use instead?

Thanks!

Rotorua, New Zealand
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10. Re: Bus or rental car AKL - Rotorua - Mt. Tongariro

We have 2 National Bus companies here.

www.intercity.co.nz

www.nakedbus.co.nz

Both these offer cheap deals if you book ahead. Sometimes you can get $1 seats on Nakedbus.