And so our New Zealand trip comes to an end.
We handed our hire car back on the South Island with around 3,300 additional kilometers on the clock which in addition to the 2,000 on the North Island means we’ve driven over 5,000 kilometers since we arrived in NZ a little under a month ago.
I’m not sure whether we are sad to finish the trip. When we reflect back in the days and weeks ahead I am sure we will but at the moment we are slightly exhausted! When we first started planning this trip over a year ago, a month felt like a long time particularly as neither of us has had any significant time off work in the last 25 years. But in reality we have barely scratched the surface. Over the course of 30 days every day has had a purpose, every day has had an itinerary and there have been almost no times where we have sat back with nothing to do (or if we have we have been thinking about the things we could or should have been doing).
I’m glad we structured the trip the way we did. Our longest stay in one place was three nights and we’ve had a few where we only stayed one day but by so doing we’ve covered a lot of the country and identified those areas where we’d like to spend more time but also those where we would not go back. We’ve also inevitably missed out some places which we may include on a future trip. More of all that below.
When we come back (and we will definitely come back) I think there are two possibilities. Either pick two or three locations and spend 10 days in each getting to know the locality in a lot more detail or take a much longer trip (maybe three months) and adopt a much more relaxed attitude (with plenty of days “off”).
Although we’ve had unseasonably cold weather in some places, overall I think the weather has been pretty fair and what we hear from the locals is that the timing is good relative to January / February which are exceptionally busy. Certainly we’ve never had a problem booking anything and congestion has never been a problem. On a future trip we might stick to the same timing although we have also heard that end of March and April is a good time to get good weather and avoid the crowds.
We toyed with the idea of renting a campervan and for some that’s the way to go irrespective of the economics or other practicalities. It is the iconic trip after all. However, I think our decision to stay in premium B&B’s has overall been vindicated. Although it’s been expensive, we’ve met some fabulous people and stayed in some really nice places and I think we’ve spoken to enough campervaners to know that the reality often does not live up to the romance. I think there is some merit in mixing and matching with part of the tour in a campervan and part in fixed accommodation and I suspect that’s the route we would follow for a future trip.
Our number one location for the trip has to be Queenstown, it has the best combination of vibrant town life, spectacular scenery, interesting people and a mind bending array of activities that could easily form the base for a month long holiday in itself. In second equal would be Abel Tasman and the Bay of Islands, both of which would merit a longer exploration for which we did not have the time budget. A notable mention for Tongariro where we would certainly next time take on the alpine crossing. No future visit would be complete without some wildlife and for me a few days in Kaikoura and Akaroa would likely tick most of the obligatory boxes.
We don’t regret any of the places we visited although we would not be passing through Rotorua again and (for those of us who live in any event close to mountains) I cannot see us visiting Franz Josef on a future trip. Finally, it was not worth taking the scenic route from Dunedin to Te Anau as there is simply not enough scenic things to see (with one caveat that we have been advised a trip to Stewart island is worth a detour).
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that, with some exceptions the “paid for” trip we have done have not been highlights for us, with the exception of our jet boat trip on the Buller river (thanks Mark!) and our final boat trip on Akaroa Harbour. There’s so much to see that’s free that on future trips we would certainly spend less and be more selective. We regret that we did not have enough time to tackle the great walks in any meaningful way. We sampled enough of those walks to know that we would like to do more next time. Finally, we missed out Wellington and the Bay of plenty and we would like to fold those into a future trip.
We’re in the Melbourne area for the next couple of days before we head back to Europe but today we are mostly tired!