How much time to see Australia/NZ?

Okay I know the REAL answer to this question is “3 months / as long as you can”. But my fiancee and I are set on Australia and New Zealand for our honeymoon in September 2007 and just don’t have the time/money/inclination to spend half a year touring down under.

So my actual question is, for those familiar with the region, what’s the minimum amount of time you’d recommend to have a solid good time down there without feeling rushed (or like we missed a million things)? On the high end, I also don’t want to get burned out and homesick (neither my fiancee nor myself are backpackers in any sense of the word).

Let’s start the bidding at 1 week in NZ, 2 weeks in Oz, for a three-week total. What do you think?

I spent 2 weeks in New Zealand doing the mad, rushed, “if it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” kind of touring and missed at least 3 major regions (not to mention cities and landmarks in areas that I was in and just didn’t have time to see). I need to go back - I loved it there.

So for NZ alone, at least 3 weeks of non-stop movement. If you want to sit back and relax, it’ll take longer.

I did New Zealand earlier this year as part of my honeymoon.

2 weeks, North Island only.
Reckon another week would have been adequate for full North Island exploration.
Not sure how much there is on the South Island.

From friends that have been to Australia 4 weeks was an okayish amount of time but still not enough.

So I’d either go to Oz for the full 3 weeks or NZ for the full 3 not try and do both.

Remember: you don’t have to go everywhere in either Australia or New Zealand. Figure out exactly what you’re interested in doing or seeing there, and pick destinations based on that.

For example, when Mr. Neville and I went to Australia, we were most interested in wine tasting, seeing Australian animals (especially kangaroos), and seeing southern-hemisphere stars. So we picked places to go that had those things (Sydney, Adelaide, and Alice Springs, as it turned out), and just went to those places. Yes, I’d like to go back and go to some other places in Australia, but at least I got to see a few places.

Trying to do both on 3 weeks won’t work. I’d do one or the other, but not both. Remember, they’re separated by 1000 miles of ocean - few Western Hemisphere people realize how really far apart they are.

When I went to NZ, I spent, what, 10 days there, on the North Island alone. Didn’t even try for the South Island. Made for an excellent vacation.

Hell, I spent 6 months in Australia in 1999, and I *still *missed Adelaide. I was studying abroad, so school got in the way, but still.

Yeah, that’s the range of answers I was expecting. (Why must you be so fun, Oz + NZ?!) Basically I’m more than willing to skip out on a few destinations, but we DO want to have a nice range of experiences (Sydney, Outback, wine) without feeling like “We only saw like two things.” I guess we should start by picking our most important stops and work forward from there. If it gets to 6 weeks or whatever, we’ll know we’ve got to make sacrifices!

I agree that three weeks is barely enough time to do justice to either country, let alone both. If you want to do both, **Anne Neville’s ** advice is very sound: focus on the destinations that really interest you.

It’s true that the two countries are over 2000km apart, but it’s still only a three hour flight between Australia’s east coast and New Zealand. If you limit your destinations appropriately then visting New Zealand and Australia’s eastern states would involve less travelling than trying to get all around Australia.

I should note that we flew between destinations in Australia when we went. I didn’t want to rent a car, because I don’t think I could deal with driving on the left. Trains can be nice for relatively short distances, but Australia is not known for those.

You should think about what you’re willing to do, transportation-wise. If you’re renting a car, you’ll have more options for going to small, out-of-the-way places, but it will be harder to go to several widely-separated destinations like we did (unless you’re prepared to rent a car at each stop, which is a hassle). Note: if you rent a car, and you’re planning to go wine-tasting or drive to restaurants or pubs, designate a driver- their legal limit for drunk driving is 0.05, not 0.08 like ours.

With only 3 weeks, I’d say skip Australia.

Last year I did 4 weeks in Australia, 3.5 weeks in NZ. In retrospect, I wish it had been 2 weeks in Sydney alone, and 5.5 weeks in NZ.

Sydney was fantastic, one of the best cities I’ve ever seen. But Brissy was a bit of a dump. Byron Bay was nice. The bits in between seemed to shut down at about 7pm every night. I was quite disappointed. I didn’t have time to explore the Outback. If I did, I think I’d have wanted at least a couple of months, and checked out the west coast too.

New Zealand, however, was small enough to comprehend, and to travel around a good bit of it. I absolutely loved pretty much everything I saw. Went to Christchurch, drove around South Island a good bit and had my mind blown by the scenery in the centre, did Milford Sound, then up the west coast, then flew to Taupo and explored a bit of North Island, ending up in Mt. Manganui for a few days, then a couple of days in Auckland. Just a fantastic country, couldn’t fault it, great people, and seriously considered emigrating…

I’ve got another take on this. I think honeymoons should be more laid back and relaxing. Leisurely dinners, dancing, meandering walks, being together, sleeping in, breakfast in bed. The emphasis on romantic things, not on sightseeing, a rushed schedule and trying to cram in as much as possible. You will want to look back on this trip and recall intimate moments not on how many things you saw.
I would think a week in some scenic location w/o too many planned activities would be much more memorable than a hectic three weeks trying to accomplish as many things as possible. JMO.

FWIW, Mrs. Pagan and I did exactly what you’re proposing: three weeks split between Oz and NZ.

4 nights in Sydney (bus pass for everything)
3 nights on Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef (no vehicles)
4 nights in Tasmania (rental car - good place to start driving on the left)
7 nights on NZ’s South island (rental car)
2 nights on NZ’s North island. (different rental car)

All the things mentioned above were true: sure we missed some stuff, it was rushed at times, etc… But we haven’t regretted what we did, because we experienced a lot and learned enough to know where we’d want to focus next time. If we had taken more than three weeks we would have probably returned to unemployment… more than three weeks is just not a practical option for most any employed American (sad to say).

Keep in mind: real life intervenes. It’s been 11 years, and we have yet to find a way to get back there. I would hate to think that we had been over there and not visited one or the other… for all I know I’ll croak before we ever get back.

We are more into the outdoors, so very much liked Tasmania, and NZ’s South Island. I also liked Sydney becuase my grandmother was born there and I found her birth certificate while we were there. :slight_smile: Tasmania had all the native wildlife we had wanted to see - at our lodge we all but waded through them. The South Island is simply stunning from a scenery standpoint. If we had to do it again, we’d probably skip the North Island… but that’s just a function of our tastes.

I don’t have much more to add to the rest of the advice here.

Remember that Australia is a very big country, similar in size to the US. When you get away from the east coast, there is a lot of nothing between towns and cities. A hire car would probably be impractical unless you were concentrating on a small part of the east coast.

If you are going to spend only one week in NZ, I’d definitely recommend focussing on one of the islands only. Have a look at what each has to offer and make a decision. Personally I much prefer the South Island, but I’m just a rugged, mountains and lakes kind of guy. Even if you extended NZ to two weeks, I’d still spend that time exploring one island rather than trying to do both.

On my first trip, my itinerary went something like this: 8 days in the top half of South Island. 6 days in Tasmania (Launceston, Cradle Mtn and Freycinet National Park). Then on to Sydney for 4 days and a 3-day trip to the Blue Mtns.

After that, I had to go back–I spent a month on that trip. And I still haven’t had my fill.

What exactly do you want to do? I spent 5 weeks in NZ, mostly hiking, and barely scratched the surface. We didn’t really spend any time in cities. What type of activities are of interest?

I lived in NZ for 18 years, and honestly, there’s bugger all of interest (in the North Island) outside Rotorua. Auckland has to be the most boring major city on the planet, and while Northland is very nice, there’s nothing there that isn’t in Australia.

The South Island is lovely, though- mountains, lakes, scenery, and lots of arty, crafty, outdoory things to do. Make sure you take the TransAlpine Express from Christchurch to Greymouth (and back!)- it’s one of the world’s premier rail journeys and has the most breathtaking scenery.

As for Australia? There’s miles and miles of bugger all between the major population centres, but Sydney and Melbourne are must-see places.

Brisbane isn’t very exciting, but Queensland itself has lots of palm trees and beaches, and you really should try and see the Outback if you can- there are trains running from Brisbane to various Outback destinations that have won awards and are supposed to be excellent.

I haven’t been to Tasmania yet, but from what I’ve seen it’s almost exactly like the South Island of NZ, so you can probably skip it.

Bear in mind getting around Australia and NZ is expensive- internal flights in NZ cost a fortune, and there are massive distances to cover in Australia which necessitate flying.

Still, I’m sure you’ll love it here! They’re certainly unlike anything in the US…

While I remember, check out Bill Bryson’s book Down Under A great read, and a good preparation for a trip to Australia.

**1920’s Style … ** makes an excellent point - Australia’s big. When I went, I was surprised at how few Americans were aware of how really large it is. I’d tell 'em that it’s the size of the Continental U.S., and their eyes would get big. “It’s not that large, is it?” Yeah, it really is. Remember to factor in travel times as well, if you’re going to do a lot of travelling around. Jetting between Sydney and Perth, for example, will eat up half a day, so you’ll want to be sure to include it so you can hit what you want to see. (And don’t fly from Perth to Auckland. Sure, it was a non-stop flight, but I wasn’t really expecting the jet lag to hit me so hard. I suppose I should’ve; it’s a 7 hour flight.)

If you stay on the east coast of Australia, there is an overnight ferry that goes to Launceston, Tasmania, from Melbourne, that’s highly worth the trip. You can book rooms, or there’s also a hostel-type option where you’ll get a bed in a common room (the option I took). It’s an excellent way over. Tassie, in general, is highly worth the trip (at least in my opinion). I wasn’t all that taken with Melbourne, but I liked Brisbane a lot. To each his own, I 'spose.

Oh! And driving on the left is no worries, really. You might want to avoid it in the cities (and in Melbourne in general - how the hell they pull that off I’ve still no idea), but I drove in Sydney without too much hassle (I had a lot of help). Outside the cities, you’ll find it easy. Roads are very similar to those in the U.S.; they’re not the narrow ones of Europe. Driving in Tassie, however, can be fun.

Not in my experience. The South Island is much more dramatic and wild. Tasmania reminded me more of New England, comfortable and rustic. If I were visiting Australia with limited time, it probably wouldn’t make the list. I happened to go there because I had friends living there.

Wellington is a very interesting city to visit. Napier too.

I can only agree with this to a point. Like NZ’s South Island, Tassie has a relatively wild western section. Also, while the South Island is indeed breathtaking, we actually found Tassie’s flora and fauna to be more interesting. To each their own.

Grass is always greener dept.: We pulled into our tiny motel in Te Anau, New Zealand, and the owner’s car had a vanity license plate which spelled out BIG SKY. Turns out he would close down shop every winter (our summer) and bug out for Montana.