June in New Zealand
January 23, 2018 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Any and all advice for a first time visitor to New Zealand!

I will be flying into Auckland and then spending about two weeks on the North and South Islands. What places would you recommend I visit and for how long? What modes of transportation would you recommend? Any must-have items for my packing list or recommended luggage? How about favorite sites, shops, restaurants, and more? I would appreciate your suggestions, however specific or general!

FWIW, I'm an experienced solo female traveler in my mid-30s from the US. I love meeting new people, eating good food, visiting museums and other cultural sites, and more. I enjoy being in nature but would prefer a day hike or afternoon at the beach over a long backpacking trip or high adventure excursion.

Two more thoughts: I have thought about flying to Melbourne or Brisbane for a long weekend; it's not ideal but would be a chance to have a first taste of another place so far away from home. Most people would say just to stick to New Zealand -- hardly enough time to see much there even -- but if you have a good argument for the side trip, I'd love to hear it. Also, I am a schoolteacher for teens and would love to spend a day at a school or university if possible. I will look into this but please let me know if you have any tips or leads.

Thank you!
posted by smorgasbord to Travel & Transportation around New Zealand (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (And, yes, I am also reading up on the many wonderful NZ travel previous questions and answers on AskMeFi!)
posted by smorgasbord at 2:33 PM on January 23, 2018

Best answer: Stay in NZ - there's more than enough to keep you occupied here for ... months. Melbourne's a wonderful place that needs two weeks on it's own.

Seriously consider basing yourself in one place in NZ - travel times here are long, roads are ... variable to say the least and passenger rail is more or less non-existent away from Auckland.

Wellington is great for walking, has best museums and lots of cafes and nooks - but weather can be wild. Ditto Dunedin but we have a lot more wildlife and music and with the increasingly erratic weather Dunedin seems to be getting the best weather for a change.

There are a few tourist honeypots like Queenstown which I would avoid. Although Walter Peak is amazing for tourists and locals.

Listen here for NPR type things about culture https://www.radionz.co.nz/series

Other NZers here may beg to differ but I don't recommend hitchhiking here for females.
posted by unearthed at 2:44 PM on January 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I took a bus tour of NZ 2 years ago, with tents as accomodation and loved it. Hot springs, black water rafting, ocean kayaking, sand hill sledding, Hobbiton. The company I went with does both islands but I'd spent a week in Queenstown and also went to Doubtful Sound (do not miss!) So I just did the North Island with my tour group. Remember its winter in June in NZ, and in the height of summer in Queenstown, there were snowflakes, so it's going to rule out some activities. Let me know if you want info about the tour.

Come to the Gold Coast after NZ to warm up. Even though it'll be winter here as well, you'll be able to get around in singlet and shorts, go swimming, walk our miles and miles of pristine beaches. Try our rainforest in the hinterland (O'Reilly's, Mt Tambourine) .
posted by b33j at 2:50 PM on January 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: we spent 10 days on the North Island, and admittedly we were on our honeymoon so were OK with going a bit slower. We went in April.

These are big places- I get the impulse to drop into Australia, but stay in NZ.

We flew in to Auckland, 1 day there, a good chunk of that was sleeping off the jetlag+not sleeping on the plane.

Rotorua was great. Hobbiton was fun, but extremely touristy- the best bit was the Green Dragon at the end. We liked the glow worm caves at Waitomo. Coromandel peninsula was gorgeous, we really enjoyed that, we had a house for a few days. Oh we also had a night in Raglan on the west coast. That's about all we did! We hired a car from Auckland.

Remember June will be cold, as it's winter. It's a wet cold too, not dry cold.

Heaps to do, but remember, as small as it looks on the map, it's actually quite big.
posted by freethefeet at 7:00 PM on January 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would say to come visit me, but I probably won't be home this June. However, I will say that you should definitely get north of Auckland - a lot of visitors don't. Though 2 weeks is hardly any time at all.

Anyway, as long as you don't mind some cold damp nights and driving on the left on some twisty roads, I recommend hiring a campervan. It's a great way to travel NZ!

However you end up getting around, make sure you stop at the toilets in Kawakawa.
posted by inexorably_forward at 9:29 PM on January 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you decide to not join a tour group and do plan on doing outdoorsy things, I recommend getting your own vehicle, either a car or a campervan. NZ roads are pretty easy to drive on (even if you are not used to being on the left side), and all four or five holiday parks we stayed at were at least decent while some were really nice. They are like a hybrid of motels and campgrounds. We spent some nights in rooms and some nights in tent sites.

The two hostels we stayed at were also fine. Better than my average US hostel experience.

I hesitate to recommend most of the things we did because I'm really not sure if they are good for winter time...

Weather is really variable: we went in March and had one overnight hike canceled (to the Pinnacles) because the entire area was closed due to a storm (flooding, washouts), one 2-night hike turned into a 1-night hike because of extreme strong winds at Tongariro, and one 1-night hike where we couldn't see anything because of heavy fog the whole way. But we still loved the trip :)
posted by bread-eater at 11:59 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Take the ferry from Auckland to Waiheke Island and enjoy wine tasting or just hop the public bus for $3 and tour the island. Was the best $3 I ever spent on travel in my life.
posted by thorny at 4:26 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hi,

I'm in Australia, and even I would say to just stick NZ if you're going for two weeks - though if you end up flying via an Australian city, it might be nice to break up the travel with a day or two I suppose.

I can mostly speak for Canterbury (the region on the south island around Christchurch) as I've taken a couple of ski holidays there recently. Christchurch sadly is still a bit post-apocalyptic and a mess after the earthquake.

I've always rented a car going to the south island. For better or worse it is just so much more flexible and convenient. Try a rental company out of Christchurch city rather than from the airport terminal, a lot of them are cheaper and do free shuttles transfers from the airport.

I really like Arthurs Pass and it would be worth spending a day there if you go though that way. There are plenty of short walks quite close to the highway. If you're really keen though, you could hike up to the Temple Basin ski club mountain hut for lunch or even stay the night, if they're open. They have live music and events up there, it's a cool experience. The train trip from Christchurch through to the west coast would be awesome if you are a train buff, expensive though as trains are. I can recommend Smylies Accommodation in Springfield (the last town before you cross the Alps heading out of Christchurch). I like them, husband & wife owners. I've also stayed at the YHA at Arthurs pass, they're acceptable.

And of course you should go to Aoraki/Mt Cook National park, and Lake Tekapo! Lake Tekapo is supposed to have the clearest skies and is known for astromony and stargazing. I think (though I'm not sure) there is some cheap/backpacker accomodation in the little Mt Cook town itself inside the national park, that would be amazing, and there would be plenty of short walks around the place to get a variety of views. I loved mountaineering museum there (but I love mountaineering history, so YMMV I guess!)

If you can afford it, a scenic heli or small plain flight around Mt Cook sounds incredible. I've never paid up, though my parents did it for an anniversary and loved it.
posted by other barry at 5:23 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, more.

A couple of different locals also recommended the town of Akaroa if staying in the area - it's a small town just outside of Christchurch city on the Banks Peninsula, very lovely apparently. Never made it there myself though.

Recommended reading is Samuel Butler, "The Way of All Flesh" of course, but try the very topographically relevant "Erehwon" or even "A first year in Canterbury Settlement" for an interesting historical account.
posted by other barry at 5:30 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I went to NZ in June from the US, I was (of course) expecting winter & packed for cold weather, but was weirdly blindsided by the drastic decrease in the number of hours of daylight, essentially going from summer to winter solstice. Practically, it could matter in terms of planning outdoor activities or driving schedules; I felt like it also added another layer to the jet lag. It seems obvious but I remember being surprised by it so thought I'd mention!
posted by yarrow at 10:27 AM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you very, very much to everyone!
posted by smorgasbord at 10:47 AM on January 27, 2018

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