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16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)

CJK
6 posts
16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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Hi everyone! I'm currently planning my first trip to New Zealand from Canada with a friend in September 2024. The trip I have laid out is 16 days and I'm looking to get advice on my itinerary from anyone who's willing to help me plan the best trip possible!

For some background, I want to visit both the north and south island as I am a huge LOTR fan (Hobbiton is a must) but I also want to take in the incredible sights / hikes that the south island has to offer (Milford Sound, Mount Cook, etc). My friend and I are both in our late 20s and are fairly active (but we wouldn't mind getting in even better shape in preparation for this trip).

I've read a lot of itineraries online where people have overbooked themselves and setup too much driving for a single day, so I'm doing my best to not do that and make sure that my friend and I are not overexerting ourselves while still getting to see as much as possible. Currently, there are 6 days on this trip with 0 travel time and another 3 days with 160km or less of driving.

My itinerary with the total driving per day can be found below

Day 1 - Fly into Auckland and catch a connecting flight to Queenstown. Spend the day doing some light exploring and recovering from the long flight. (I've heard Fergburger is good!) (0km)

Day 2 - Take a bus tour* to Milford Sound. Take a boat tour of the fjords and then head back to Queenstown to sleep. (~600km of bus travel). This is the longest travel day of the trip and we understand that it'll be a big day

*In order to reduce the amount of driving we would have to do and allow for a bit of mental rest

Day 3 - Drive to Wanaka. On the way, stop at Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge to go bunjee jumping. Finish the drive and take in sights at Wanaka. (68km)

Day 4 - Drive to Mount Cook village and do the Hooker Valley Trek. (206km)

Day 5 - Stay at Mount Cook and do another hike (suggestions?) or a helicopter tour (worth it?). (0km)

Day 6 - Drive to Lake Tekapo and take in the sights of Lake Pukaki along the way. Visit the Church of the Good Shepard (104km)

Day 7 - Drive to Mount Potts area and stay at the Mount Potts Lodge. Hike Mount Sunday (AKA Edoras) (189km)

Day 8 - Stay at Mount Potts area and Hike mount Mount Potts (0km)

Day 9 - Drive to Christchurch and spend the afternoon taking in the sights (suggestions?) (225km)

Day 10 - Fly* to Wellington. Pick up a rental car at the airport and explore Wellington (1 flight)

*We figured this saves us quite a bit of driving, a ferry ride, and the flights are very cheap

Day 11- Stay in Wellington and explore the city some more (suggestions?) (0km)

Day 12 - Drive to Tongariro National Park and either do a small hike (e.g Tawhai Falls, Taranaki Falls) or just relax for the night. (295km)

Day 13 - Stay in Tongariro National Park and do a guided tour* of the Tongariro Crossing (0km)

*As far as I understand, in September, it is heavily suggested to take a guided tour

Day 14 - Drive to Matamata and relax / recover from the hike the previous day (214km)

Day 15 - Stay in Matamata and fulfil my boyhood dream of visiting Hobbiton! (0km)

Day 16 - Drive to Auckland and fly home (161km)

What does everyone think? I've tried to split up the rest days / minimize the travel on most days to ensure we're not just driving the whole time but I really want to hear from others who have travelled to New Zealand! Any advice on my itinerary is greatly appreciated and if anyone has suggestions of places to visit along the way or activities to do, please don't hesitate to throw them in the comments below!

Thanks and look forward to hearing from you all soon!

11 replies to this topic
Christchurch, New...
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1. Re: 16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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Looks like a good balance. You are quite right about saving time & money with the fight. I've struggled to get a road trip from AKL to QTN/Fiordland in under 15 days, but you've gained a day for hiking by taking that flight. Not sure about the hiking at Mt Potts. I've done a lot of tramping in mid-canterbury but never that route. Personally I'd drop that to 1 night & move on to Akaroa or Chch.

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: 16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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The itinerary looks good although like #1 I would shorten the stay at Mount Potts Lodge to one night as you don't have far to drive from Lake Tekapo.

The extra day could be spent elsewhere like Auckland or surrounds

San Diego...
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3. Re: 16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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As a LOTR fan, highly recommend doing the evening banquet at Hobbiton! It was so atmospheric and the food was great! As far as suggestions for Wellington, I really enjoyed Zealandia, Te Papa museum, and did a LOTR tour which went to some filming sites.

CJK
6 posts
4. Re: 16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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Good to hear you agree with the flight! At first I hadn't even considered it but then I had a "eureka!" moment after a few days of initial planning! 😄

Interesting! So I definitely wanted to head to the Mount Potts region to see Edoras (Mount Sunday) and I figured since I was there, Mount Potts looked like a neat range to hike.

I'll keep that in mind though since someone suggested to maybe check out the Castle Hill (or look at Akaroa as you've suggested). It was also suggested to maybe add another day to Queenstown to allow for a bit more rest / exploring of the city. What do you think about moving the rest day from Wellington there?

What do you think of the driving overall? I've really tried my best to not push it too much each day (and even on the Milford Sound day to take a bus to avoid any unsafe driving).

Thanks for responding zhuhai2007 and appreciate any more feedback you have!

CJK
6 posts
5. Re: 16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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Hi greytravellerSydney! Thanks for your input! I'm starting to see a pattern here, so if that's the case and you feel that I should only spend one day there at Mount Potts (Mount Sunday is the must see place there for me), what do you think about moving the day to Queenstown to allow for sightseeing / rest there? I could also move it to Milford Sound and stay there the night but I'm not sure.

Once again, first time planning a trip to New Zealand, so more than happy to accept any input / help from the community on this! 😄

One thing to note that I just wanted to add! The drive is only ~190km but says it will take 3:30hrs on Google Maps. Does that change your recommendation on only staying there one night?

Christchurch, New...
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6. Re: 16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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That is odd - when I put in Lake Tekapo to Mt Sunday Car park I get 185Km but only 2:30hr which sounds more reasonable.Often you will only average 75kph due to many bends with 35-55kph advisories even if the posted limit in 80-100kph. The walk will only take you 1 hr & then you can return to the lodge overnight & move on next day. If you put Mt Potts & the lodge into Satellite view you'll see it is a rather unappealing & rugged looking climb!

Edited: 11 December 2023, 10:01
CJK
6 posts
7. Re: 16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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Hi again zhuhai2007! Yeah, I feel like I looked it up again and saw the same thing. I know that the end of the drive is on a dirt road, so maybe that's why?

It's a good point that since Mount Sunday is only about 1hr to do, we could probably squeeze in more exploring around the region that same day (even if it's not mount Potts in particular).

Maybe I got a different sense for it but I thought the view from Mount Potts looks incredible and gave me major LOTR vibes which I loved LOL but regardless, I think you may be onto something since we can still have an entire afternoon there if we leave Lake Tekapo at a reasonable hour!

Since you said you've done so much exploring around the region, do you have any other recommendations for the day at Mount Sunday? I

know that you can see Helms Deep in the distance which seems pretty cool and since it's such a wide open space, it could be a good time to just pick a direction and go exploring (while being safe of course)

Thanks again for the insight! Learning lots :)

Sydney, Australia
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8. Re: 16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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CJK I had a thought as you are drivining from Mt Cook to Lake Tekapo (day 6) why not have a look at the touristy things in lake Tekapo in the morning and have a coffee in town then head via Burkes Pass (don't forget to check out the little attractions there) head to Fairlie for lunch and the famous pie shop and overnight in Geraldine which will then give you a shorter drive the next day

New York
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9. Re: 16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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Fergburger had an astonishing line when we went, so be warned of that.

The other thing I would add is to get reservations for helicopters on both your Aoraki/Mt Cook days, if you've got foggy weather on day 2 but day 1 was nice you might be really regretful. There's also a decent uphill walk behind the Hermitage, it's not long but steep and the views are great. I also like the hike over to the Tasman glacier overlook and surrounding area, you can make it a bit longer by taking the ridge over to the right and back down for a nice little loop.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/eBL3uFrtp5jNLGmU7

Enjoy Hobbiton, see if you can include some glow worms into some part of your trip, they're really beautiful. We also really liked Eco Wanaka's tour of Mao Waho, that's a fun hike too.

CJK
6 posts
10. Re: 16 day New Zealand Trip Itinerary Advice (September 2024)
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Hey greytravellerSydney! That's an interesting suggestion! It definitely would cut a solid 1hr or so for the drive the next day which is great but my concern is that we wouldn't have much time in Lake Tekapo which looks like a stunning location to spend the evening in. Am I maybe overhyping the spot?

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