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Itinerary - 4 Week Road Trip to New Zealand

Our four week road trip around the beautiful country of  New Zealand began in the subtropical and volcanic North Island and then across to explore then sub Antarctic South Island before returning home to the UK via Australia (Sydney) and Dubai.

Four weeks is plenty of time to see all the best that New Zealand has to offer at a fairly relaxed pace.

Coromandel Walkway New Zealand
New Zealand Itinerary

Best time to visit New Zealand

We visited at the end of January – Summer time in New Zealand and the middle of Winter in the UK, making it a good choice if you want to avoid the cold Winter weather.  Maybe we were just unlucky, but we had an awful lot of rain while we were there.  The sun shone a lot too though – so you just have to be prepared for changeable weather and pack for every eventuality – a bit like a trip to the UK I guess, but the other way up!

Top Ten "Must-Dos" for a road trip to New Zealand

  1. Walk the Coromandel Coastal Walkway
  2. Tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  3. Take a cruise through the Abel Tasman National Park
  4. See the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki
  5. Visit Franz Josef Glacier
  6. See a Maori Cultural Performance
  7. See Milford and Doubtful Sounds
  8. To bungy … or not to bungy?!
  9. See a kiwi in Queenstown
  10. Go as far north as you can go – Cape Reinga Lighthouse

New Zealand - Best Hotel Award

Punga Cove Resort wins the best hotel award for this trip. The food in New Zealand was pretty good overall, but rather dull/lack lustre in our experience.  Punga Cove had by far the best restaurant as well as a drop dead gorgeous location tucked away in the depths of Marlborough Sounds.  Comfortable and peaceful – a retreat away from it all but with plenty to entertain you.  We wished we could have stayed a bit longer.

Punga Cove Resort Restaurant - cheeseboard
Punga Cove Resort Restaurant - cheeseboard

My Packing List for New Zealand

You need to pack for changeable weather.  We had a LOT of rain on this trip.  You also need to be prepared for long days hiking, so alternative shoes depending on the weather and how your feet feel are well worth the space in your luggage.  Shoes are the one thing it isn’t always easy to buy when you are actually on the trip./Don’t travel without:

  • Umbrella
  • Raincoat
  • Hiking Boots
  • Walking Trainers
  • Walking Sandals
  •  Sun hat
  • Daypack rucksack
  • Waterbottle
  • Insect repellant – there are a few mosquitos
Western Australia sun hat

New Zealand Flora and Fauna

New Zealand is all about the scenery.  There is flora and fauna there, of course, but – I definitely wouldn’t make it your main reason for visiting.

Once, although there were insects and birds here, there was only one species of mammal  – a small bat.  Many of the birds were flightless as there was no exposure to predators.  

Search for “Flora and Fauna” to find the relevant posts.

 

Flora

  1. Agapanthus
  2. Silver tree fern (ponga)

Fauna

  1. Queenstown Kiwi Sanctuary Kiwi – but they are nocturnal, so you will need to visit a dedicated sanctuary (e.g. at Queenstown). 
New Zealand Agapanthus
Beautiful blue agapanthus

New Zealand Foodie Firsts

Search for “Foodie Firsts” to discover more about the New Zealand Foodie scene – or click on the links below to take you to the relevant post and look for the “Foodie Firsts” heading.

Useful Websites

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Learning the Lingo

  1. Flip-flops are called Jandals here – and everyone wears them with a pair of shorts – all the time!
  2. Kia Ora = Hallo
New Zealand Jandals

Fascinating Facts

If you are into your facts and figures, search for “Fascinating Facts” to learn more about New Zealand.

  1. Only 40/500 tribes actually signed up to the Treaty giving rise to the expression “Hobson’s choice” for the rest.

  2. The ratio of sheep to people in NZ is 6:1 – the world’s highest ratio.  This is down from 22:1 in 1982.

  3. NZ’s heftiest ever fleece (27g) belonged to a ram named Shrek – who was shorn in 2004.  The heftiest fleece on record is 41kg, belonging to Chris an Australian sheep who overtook Shrek in 2015.  The average weight is 4.5kg.

  4. ​Fiordland covers a larger area than Yellowstone and Yosemite put together.  I have been to both – that is MASSIVE!

Tips for Future Travellers

  1. Fill up on gas at every chance you get on South Island.  We discovered that after Fox Glacier, there are no gas stations for the next 330kms!
  2. The most popular restaurant in the small town of Te Anau books up very quickly.  Reserve your table on red cliff_cafe@extra.co.nz or (03)249-7431.

  3. With hindsight, we would only have booked the boat cruise segment on Milford Sound with Trips and Tramps.  The Milford Road is twisty, but easily drivable and the tramps section would have been better done independently than in a group.

Highlights and Lowlights

There is a whole lot to love about New Zealand:

  1. It is at ease with itself – a peaceful, tolerant and law abiding place.
  2. The scenery is absolutely stunning.
  3. Kiwis are thrill seekers and it’s a great place to go for adrenalin pumping sporting activities – but my blog probably isn’t the best place to find out about these in any depth as it isn’t really my scene.

There are some downsides too though:

  1. It is pretty busy at peak times – all the popular hikes were fairly crowded when we visited.
  2. Don’t go for wildlife – there really isn’t that much to see there compared to other destinations.
  3. Bring your umbrella!

Read my full trip to New Zealand:

Tongariro

Think Tongariro?

We have been training for a few months to ensure we were fit enough to complete the 19.4km Tongariro Alpine Crossing, motivating ourselves with a…

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Puzzling World Wanaka

Puzzling World

The weather turned chilly, very windy and promised rain in the afternoon.  We managed a leisurely stroll around the lakeside and then paid a visit…

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Waiarapa …

Today, we took a cruise into Milford Sound.  It was raining which added to the beauty of this remote region immensely.  When it rains, all…

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Fountain show - Dubai Mall

Do buy Dubai

With increasingly alarming reports coming in of the scale of damage at home while we have been away, our energy levels for exploring Dubai were…

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