4 -5 weeks in new Zealand, 2 dcs, what would you do....

(37 Posts)
toomanywheeliebins Sat 16-Aug-14 20:56:49

We have been lucky enough to manage to work ourselves a long holiday before my eldest starts school and will forever be tied into school holidays. We have saved hard for this and have decided on NZ as it such a long way it seems worthy of a big trip.
Going in March. Two children four and two years old. Thoughts and recommendations of places to visit and stay really welcome.

( as well as how to survive the flights with the kids shudder

CitronVert Sat 16-Aug-14 21:05:15

Kids would live Rotorua on North Island. Hot springs, geysers, bubbling mud etc.

Also whale watching - I did it from Kaikura (I think).

NZ is beautiful and I wish I could afford to take my kids!!

toomanywheeliebins Sat 16-Aug-14 21:19:21

Thanks. Flights are mind boggling in expense but you only live once x

OneLittleToddleTerror Sat 16-Aug-14 22:08:06

I would do a car trip along both the north and south islands. For the north island go to northland (90 mile beach, Russell), Auckland, Rotorua, Lake Taupo. For the South Island, don't miss Christchurch, Queenstown, Mt Cook and the Lakes (Milford Sound etc).

The distances can be quite large but if you break it up it's not bad at all! Just don't make the mistake of trying to go from Auckland to Wellington by car in one day!

OneLittleToddleTerror Sat 16-Aug-14 22:16:16

Actually if you are going to cross by ferry a stop in Marlborough for the vineyards would be nice too. I haven't stopped there myself but I've heard it's beautiful.

I also forgot about Franz Josef glaciers in the South Island.

If you are into walking, think about doing one of the long hikes like the Abel Tasman in the South Island. Do it with one of the tour companies that will arrange accommodation and take your bags for you. It's the best way to see the country side.

OneLittleToddleTerror Sat 16-Aug-14 22:18:08

Doh just noticed your children are 2 and 4. Not teens. Then the walking is out. But it's easy enough to just drive with stop overs and stay in motels. Some people like mobile homes but I'm not sure it is actually cheaper.

NormHonal Sat 16-Aug-14 22:22:19

Yes to Rotorua and Lake Taupo.

There is the wonderful Aquarium in Auckland.

Beaches galore.

Consider renting a campervan - kids love them.

OneLittleToddleTerror Sat 16-Aug-14 22:27:06

I meant campervan when I wrote mobile home. Must be the lack of sleep! I don't like them and find them bulky to drive into town but some people do.

FairyPenguin Sat 16-Aug-14 22:33:40

We went for our honeymoon. Wanaka is beautiful. As is the Abel Tasman (where we went kayaking) and Nelson. Wai-o-Tapu wonderland at Rotorua was stunning. Also helicopter ride at Franz Josef glacier. All the food is tasty, esp the massive prawns and seafood. There are opportunities to see penguins, whales, dolphins, etc, which your DC might enjoy. Also speedboat rides perhaps. We loved it and hope to take our children there one day.

ememem84 Sat 16-Aug-14 22:52:42

Yes to whale watching in kaikoura. It's amazing.

Rotourua is great

We also went to Russell and paihia which were lovely from there you can get to waitangi where the treaty grounds are which, although boring for tiny kids are worth a visit as v interesting.

In paihia there's a chip shop on an old sailing ship (think it's called shippys chippys) which is fun - disclaimer it was there in 2012 on my last visit.

GrouchyKiwi Sat 16-Aug-14 23:04:54

As well as what's been said there are smaller towns along the main highways that have fun things to do. If they like penguins then there's a brilliant Little Blue penguin colony in Oamaru (on the road between Christchurch and Dunedin and thus close to Mount Cook/Aoraki). And that town also has masses of Steampunk related things since it's got a beautiful Victorian precinct with lovely architecture. The children might find that interesting?

I'd get a copy of Lonely Planet's guide to the country, or something similar.

ShanghaiDiva Sun 17-Aug-14 01:08:18

I love New Zealand and can recommend the following:
Rotorua
Napier is a lovely town with an aquarium for the kids and lots of vineyards to visit in hawke's bay
Auckland - my dd enjoyed the zoo there when she was 3
Glow worm caves can be visited en route from Auckland to Rotorua
Golden Bay Area on South Island is lovely - saw baby seals here
Nelson
Kaikoura for whale watching and lots of seals along the beach here
Omaru for the blue penguins - watch them come in from the sea in the evening
Moreaki boulders are worth a look when traveling to Omaru and adults will enjoy fleur's restaurant in the town.
Akaroa is lovely and you can take a boat trip to see dolphins
I really like Dunedin and took dcs on a train trip there and they have a Cadbury's factory.
Wellington has an amazing museum( te papa )and my dcs spent 6 hours in there.

toomanywheeliebins Sun 17-Aug-14 12:56:34

Thanks for the suggestions _ really helpful. I think the animals- whales, glow worms, penguins sound amazing. I think Campervan for some of it would be really fun but my DH is not keen. Has anyone got experience of this?

rosierelala Sun 17-Aug-14 13:14:08

I did a month on south and north island visiting most of the main sites. Stayed in a mix of campsites,youth hostels, hotels and a campervan. Many campsites have huts or cabins which would be great for a family. I think kids would love the franz josef glacier area, pull into any carpark and the kea parrots will visit and entertain you.the best bits were all nature related, including visits from dolphins and seals to my kayak. Mount manganui, rotarua, able tasman nature park, queenstown...the list of places to visit is endless

Essexgirlupnorth Sun 17-Aug-14 13:38:17

Me and hubby hired a campervan for our honeymoon and it was fab. You can't just park anywhere like you used to able too so need to pay for sites which would be great for kids as most has playgrounds and some had pools. It is such a beautiful country the beaches are stunning and is loads to do.
Te Papa in Wellington is amazing. Christchurch has an Antarctic experience which is great and even has penguins. Dunedin has the cadbury's factory and the countryside around is beautiful. Wanaka has a puzzle museum and a beautiful lake. Queenstown has a good wildlife park, can do a boat trip to the sounds and a cable car that overlooks the town. There is a carting track down the mountain but your children are probably too young.
We vaguely planned a route and booked a ferry for a set date which got delayed. Had a book which had routes for road trips for ideas.

specialsubject Sun 17-Aug-14 17:55:27

campervan is not as idyllic as you think - March can be coolish at night and there is never a guarantee of no rain. That said, with small children the campgrounds are ideal, you won't be welcome in most hostels. Where you WILL be welcome is in motels which in NZ often have full cooking facilities.

NZ is about the size of the UK and driving ALWAYS takes longer than you think - google maps often gets the estimates half what they should be.

lovely beaches but you may find things cooling in March, also be aware of the sandflies which don't show in the photos! Also you can see and play on beaches a lot closer to home. I wouldn't build an NZ trip round beaches.

I have to disagree with some of the recommendations here. For instance, the LITTLE blue penguins don't appear until dusk so you can't see them! The yellow-eyed ones keep much more user friendly hours and can be seen from the distance you need to keep. I also don't think the multi-day hikes are at all practical with small children.

so how about this for some ideas. (not really in any order)
- arrive Auckland, couple of days there to get over jetlag when you shouldn't drive anyway. South to Rotorua (four hours) for lots of smelly volcanic stuff. While there is loads more to see on the north island I'd recommend the south for the rest of your trip for the real see-nowhere-else stuff. If you do want your NZ history, the Bay of Islands is the place but as noted it will bore the kids.

then fly to Queenstown and base either there or 90 mins drive to Wanaka which has a Lovely lake, play areas, little walks, Puzzling World.

perhaps Te Anau (Queenstown 3 hours). Beautiful lake, bird park where you WILL see the NZ bird life. Not sure about Milford Sound with toddlers but if you do the trip, do it from Te Anau NOT Queenstown.

I'd suggest south to the Catlins for wildlife - sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins, maybe dolphins. Then on to Dunedin where you will see the sea-lions at Aramoana, and the historic Taieri Gorge train ride might also be a hit. And yes, the chocolate factory. Call me a big kid but I loved it... Oamaru is indeed fun and very different with its whitestone buildings.

the glaciers are isolated on the west coast and it is a long drive from any of these places. You can't take kids that small on the glacier but you can walk to near the Fox glacier at the moment. BTW never feed keas! Check current status and remember it rains 2 days in 3 on this coast.

I also think Golden Bay is lovely, and you can go up to Farewell Spit for more wildlife. In between the two (glibly dismissing some LONG drives) there is Hokitika which has a Kiwi centre, the only way to see these nocturnal birds. There is also a glow-worm cave on the road outside the town, and it has a great pebbly beach (not swimmable though).

bit random here but hope it gives you some ideas. I strongly suggest getting the Rough Guide to NZ (the lonely planet one isn't very good)

HettyD Sun 17-Aug-14 18:09:51

There is the most fabulous motel with accommodation in loads if different vehicles/planes etc...it is unique but can't remember its name. Sorry to be vague but it wS amazing!!

OneLittleToddleTerror Sun 17-Aug-14 19:10:21

I don't like campervans but that might just be my bias! I forgot that British might not know motels have cooking facilities, until specialsubject mentioned it. Basically it's accommodation where you are guaranteed a car park, small fridge, stove and own toilet and shower. There used to be a AA guide to motels and also the AA road map. The map has travel distances between all the major towns. NZ roads are very simple and I never got lost using just a paper map. (I got so lost the first time I tried a trip along the south coast in the UK. I ended up at the M25)!

Haven't done campsites but I know there are cabins and huts you can hire. So you can alternate between campsites and motels. March should be quiet enough so you don't really need to book ahead. The local tourist information centres can help you find accommodation. Or you can ring one stop ahead with the accommodation guide (and online info now I bet).

OneLittleToddleTerror Sun 17-Aug-14 19:11:59

Oh I remember the penguin colony in Dunedin. I can't remember where it exactly is, but it must be the one in oamaru.

toomanywheeliebins Sun 17-Aug-14 21:28:28

Thanks all. Getting really excited now! Didn't know that about motels so very useful. Very good itinerary Special subject. We were thinking going South Island first as it's march and then going north afterwards - does this cause any problems

toomanywheeliebins Sun 17-Aug-14 21:42:48

Hetty - do you mean this
www.woodlynpark.co.nz/planemotel.html

GrouchyKiwi Sun 17-Aug-14 22:00:00

Dunedin has an albatross colony and there are usually loads of seals around there too. It's at Tairoa Head if you want to look that up. I remember loving that as a child.

Motels in NZ are great, nothing like the US model you see on TV. The UK needs to do something similar.

ShanghaiDiva Mon 18-Aug-14 08:59:06

Re driving distances there is a New Zealand web site that was pretty accurate. Google nz driving distances. I think it was an AA one, but may be wrong.

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 18-Aug-14 09:17:34

South Island first in a reverse order could be a good idea. If I recall correctly it's cheaper picking a car up in Christchurch and dropping off in Auckland, compared to the other way round. More people go north to south.

And go with special subject suggestions. I came from NZ and never did it with kids! It's just things I remember as interesting. Like the sand dunes and the 90 mile beach. I remember sliding down them in a sledge! Like kids do here when snowing.

And she suggested flying from from the middle of the north island down straight to queens town area. You can do the reverse ofc. But if you are flying, would it be more likely you want to start and end in Auckland? Forgot about Te Anau. Really beautiful there too. There are just so many lovely lovely places in NZ! I don't remember it being far from queenstown but do check distances because I know toddlers are bad with car journeys. I could easily sit 4 hours in a car without stopping but I can't imagine my 3yo doing that.

And the roads could be very isolated without anything to eat in between major towns. I remember the South Island is especially bad for it. Even the north island is more remote than anywhere in England (not done Scotland so don't know how it compare). For example we travelled lots from Auckland to the in laws in New Plymouth. It's just over 4 hour but there are only 2 stops with food enroute. (Not counting before Hamilton as it would be pointless to stop so soon). One is only a tiny shop, the other is a proper little town. You are driving in wild country side mostly.

We are thinking of doing a road trip there when the DC is older. So looking forward to it!

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 18-Aug-14 09:26:02

This must be the modern equivalent of the AA maps and motel guide

www.aatravel.co.nz/accommodation-newzealand/new-zealand-motel.php

The travel map/distances is probably the one shanghaidiva referred to.

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