In my opinion, this is the most fun part of the preparation :). I started collecting all types of information; travel brochures, the Lonely Planet, the Capitoolgids (typical Dutch), watching NZ travel documentaries, talking to others who had been there and a newer source of information: instagram (caution: makes greedy!). I noted all the must-see’s, must-eats and must-do’s and saved the corresponding locations in google maps.
Based on the roundtrips that were offered by the travel agencies and travel guidebooks I looked at what was reasonable for 6 weeks. We wanted to see both the North and the South Island, so we had to decide how much time we approximately did want to spend on each of the islands. Because we had more locations ‘pinned’ on the South Island, we decided to stay about 4 weeks there and 2 weeks on the North Island.
In my previous blog I mentioned one of the reasons to travel from South to North, but another reason was that the North Island has a more tropical climate and we figured that we’d like to end our trip on the beach. The third reason, of less importance, was that it would make the return trip a bit shorter.
For the planning of the first days, please be kind to yourself :). You will have jetlag, you have to get used to the left-hand traffic, the roads in NZ and driving another (bigger) vehicle. Also for the rest of the trip: it will take longer to get from A to B, because of the state of the roads, because of the weather, because you want to stop every now and then etc. On average we drove about 300 km’s a day, with a max of 600 km’s and we didn’t drive every day. Cruising through the landscape is a big part of the NZ experience, so you better enjoy it.
In Excel I developed a planning tool to play a bit with the different locations we wanted to visit and what would be feasible given the amount of time on both islands. It’s just a guideline, because you don’t have to book a lot in advance. We visited NZ during the high season and we were not once confronted with overbooked camping sites. The only thing we did book was a kayak trip in the Milford Sound, which was cancelled due to bad weather :(.
Tip: If you want to do one of the great walks during the high season, especially the Milford Track, the Routeburn Track or the Keppler Track, you have to book at least half a year in advance.
We roughly did the route I had in mind, but just go with the flow, get surprised, ask locals for recommendations and don’t be too strict regarding a, probably overbooked, schedule.
The route we eventually did in 6 weeks was: Christchurch – Lake Tekapo – Mt Cook – Wanaka – Te Anau – Milford Sound – Invercargill – Owaka – Dunedin – Cromwell – Fox Glacier – Punakaiki – Murchison – Springcreek – Renwick – Abel Tasman National Park – Picton – Wellington – Masterton – Taupo – Oakura – Tongariro – Waitomo – Matamata – Coromandel Peninsula – Orewa – Aroha Island – Maitai Bay – Matakohe – Auckland
To read more about our experiences during this trip, read my other blogs!