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New Zealand and the Fam
we are in the early planning stages of a trip to NZ over Presidents holiday in Feb., 2018. Our age range is 28-60 with 5 of the 7 adults being active young adults, who all enjoy good adventures. What are the high points for 9 days of actual vacation? Would it be advised to use a trip advisor and have access to assistance in the same time zone, should we have a snag? Can we get both islands in without running ragged? I want the parents, me, to conclude (extra time) in a hut someplace over the water and would love a personal recommendation. Lots of questions I know. With your input I have a better chance of getting it right. Mary
With young, active adults you’re going to want to spend some time in Queenstown, on the south island, which is the adventure capital of NZ. Loads of fun stuff for active folks as well as some nice things for those not-quite-as-active folks. Taking the steamship over to the sheep station and enjoying a nice dinner over there comes to mind. And the town itself it pretty walkable and is on the shore of Lake Wakitipu which I’m sure is lovely in the summer (only been there in the winter myself). Oh and the jet boat rides are quite thrilling – speedboats on the river doing 180s between canyon walls while floating on minimal water (they can operate in water as shallow as 3 inches). There’s horseback riding, cycling and all other kinds of fun stuff in the area. Also if you’re into Lord of the Rings there are tours for locations used in the films. A side trip to Milford Sound is quite scenic and includes a boat ride with lunch. Our hotel’s concierge was able to book us with any of the activities that looked interesting.
I wish my trip had included time on the north island too, but it did not.
Keep in mind that you’ll lose 1+ days going down (ex. leave Mon night, arrive Wed morning) and will have a very long travel day on the return. I think if I were to do both islands I would go to the south island first so that you could finish up in Auckland, where the flights to/from the US depart. No need to make that last travel day any longer than it has to be.
I did 8 nights in New Zealand in February 2016 and honestly felt rushed. I spent 2 days around Auckland, explored the city and did the glowworm caves around Waitomo. The North Island is where you’ll find the major Lord of the Rings filming sites, if you’re interested in that.
From Auckland, I flew to Blenheim (wine country) for 36 hours. From there, flew again to Christchurch and rented a car. Spent the rest of the trip driving from Christchurch to Queenstown, where I flew home from there (via Melbourne).
If you’re looking for adventure (hiking, national parks, water sports), I’d recommend skipping the North Island altogether.
Renting a car was key for us (only 2 people), since it gave us a ton of flexibility. 7 people may be better to do something organized. I’d definitely focus on Queenstown though, as that is the adventure capital.
Also, keep in mind that overwater bungalows will be tough to find in New Zealand. You’ll probably need a 3-4 hour flight from Auckland to get to any island. Very realistic, just make sure you factor in the extra travel time.