What to reserve in New Zealand
June 12, 2019 7:26 PM   Subscribe

A friend and I are off to New Zealand in September. We generally make up trips as we go, but there are some items (like Hobbiton) that require a little more planning in the form of long term reservations. What restaurants/lodges/experiences should we be booking three months out?
posted by Tell Me No Lies to Travel & Transportation around New Zealand (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The most amazing experience possibly of my entire life was taking the overnight Doubtful Sound cruise (South Island). I also went on a 7 day tour of the North Island and went dark water caving with glow worms, open ocean kayaking, saw a geyser (it blows after they put soap in it), 100 degree celcius hot springs with amazing colours, and watched my travel companions slide down sand-dunes (I have an arthritic knee). I was 49 at the time and not super fit (not fit at all) and none of this was an issue. Hobbiton was gorgeous but let me disappoint you in advance, there is nothing behind those doors but dirt, and you're dragged along in a group with another group you try not to catch up to, and a group behind you try to keep ahead of, so getting people-less shots is tricky. Doubtful Sound: magical, amazing, pristine, prehistoric, silent, oh and there were dolphins frolicking beside the boat and seals when we reached the open ocean. Once in a lifetime experience and you get perfect photos even if you take them blindfolded.
posted by b33j at 1:23 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh and it's going to be colder than you expect (unless you live somewhere that snows) at least on the South Island. I went in the middle of summer and there were snowflakes on the outskirts of Queenstown.
posted by b33j at 1:26 AM on June 13, 2019

If you are here in late September, one thing to think about is that a two week school holiday starts on Sept 28th -- things are more likely to be heavily booked or crowded that weekend and for the two weeks following.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:28 AM on June 13, 2019

If you are interested in New Zealand's Great Walks, they can book out quickly.
posted by tavegyl at 6:03 AM on June 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

I came in to reference the great walks as well - I did four of them during a month long visit to New Zealand and they were definitely the highlight for me - and it was great having a spot in a cabin. That being said, September is going to be cold so don't know if any of them would be good options - looking quickly the Abel Tasman coast track looks like a potential option and I loved that hike.
posted by slide at 7:37 AM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Good answers above, but it also really depends on where you're going to be and what sort of things you like doing, and how long you'll be in the country....can you give us more information?

One thing I'd think about - travel times might be longer than you expect: the roads often aren't particularly built up, and flying between smaller centres can be time-consuming because you'll have to take two flights (e.g. Hobbiton to Queenstown would mean drive to Hamilton, fly to Auckland or Wellington, fly to Queenstown - or drive to Auckland, fly to Queenstown). You probably don't want to be doing that at the last minute.

A quick look at your profile suggests you like hiking, so I echo the Great Walks (link for hut booking) and specifically the Abel Tasman as a good option for September - it's coastal, easy, and in a more temperate part of the country.
posted by Pink Frost at 2:07 PM on June 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Unfortunately my travel partner has a keen sense for when the word "walk" actually means "hike". I came so close to convincing him. Next time I’ll bring someone a bit more outdoorsy.

What sort of things you like doing, and how long you'll be in the country....can you give us more information?

We’ll be there for a couple weeks. If we keep to form we will plan our day around seeing a few waterfalls and end up spending more time doing something random along the way. Random covers a lot of ground, but I’m guessing there are very few things period that require reservations 3 months in advance.

One thing I’m hoping to find is something like Crater Lake Lodge or The Ahwahnee, which is to say a nice hotel in a stunning location.

One thing I'd think about - travel times might be longer than you expect: the roads often aren't particularly built up

I’ve driven around the North Island without any problems. Is the road system on the South Island in bad shape?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:05 PM on June 13, 2019

South Island roads are not markedly worse in my experience, although the petrol stations can be sparse: when a sign says last petrol station for 100km, they mean it. But yeah there are lots of roads that are wiggly, have steep dropoffs with no shoulder or safety barrier, have blind corners, single lane bridges,the wrong camber on a sharp corner, all sorts of hazards that might be tricky for people from more developed countries. Just because the speed limit is 100km/h doesn't mean it's a good idea (although recently NZTA has been lowering the limit to 80km/h on some roads).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:09 AM on June 14, 2019

If you are intent on visiting the Hobbiton set near Matamata, I recommend that you book the dinner package. The visit occurs later in the day, fewer crowds, and the dinner is rather expansive and delicious. The deal definitely requires advanced booking. (Dinner ends late in the evening, so it would be best to have lodging as nearby as possible.)

If you find yourself in the north part of the South Island, you might consider booking a tour of "wine country."

If you are interested in the glow worm caves (mentioned above) in Waitomo, I'd also recommend booking that in advance and as early in the day as you can manage (since sometimes they will shut the caves if the CO2 levels get too high).

New Zealand is a beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage that I hope you'll take time to explore and learn about.
posted by Quaversalis at 6:24 PM on June 14, 2019

« Older dear internet, please lend me your common sense...   |   Seeking walking advice for disgruntled small... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.