North/South Islands New Zealand Feb 2012

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<p>In early planning stages for a trip with friends to N/S Islands of New Zealand. Four of us are 50-70 years old, traveling at a mid-priced point. We all like hiking/walking, food, crafts, music. Probably have 3 weeks, and would like to drive ourselves (willing to fly from one island to the other to save time if that helps). Any suggested itineraries for North and for South Islands would be great. Thank you!<br /> Nancy </p>

I did this itinerary in 2005:
Not suggesting you do this trip, but it's a good starting point. I'd recommend taking the ferry rather than flying - more interesting.

I spent two weeks driving both islands quite a few years ago. My experiences undoubtedly are out of date, but I'm equally sure that driving still must be the best way to enjoy NZ.
I agree that taking the ferry from Wellington to Picton makes sense. It's a picturesque trip and, once you add in the time getting to and from airports, may not take longer than flying.
But I also remember that some car rental companies would not let me take my compact car on the ferry. They wanted me to drop off one car in Wellington and then rent another one when I arrived on the South Island.
So I rented from a NZ company--McDonalds Rent a Car--www. They didn't have an office at the Auckland airport, but I phoned them when I arrived, they came to pick me up, and took me to their nearby office to do the paperwork and collect the car.
I could take their car on the ferry with me, so when we docked, I was on my way to Nelson almost immediately. They also were very understanding and cooperative when I couldn't return the car in Christchurch as planned because the road from Mt. Cook was washed out. In any event, I suggest you check with them when shopping for your vehicle.
Also, if you're foodies with a taste for the bizarre, consider scheduling your trip to coincide with the Wild Foods Festival in Hokitika, south of Greymouth, on the South Island's west coast. It's held during March. Hokitika also calls itself the "Greenstone Capital of New Zealand," so it also might appeal to your interest in crafts. I suggest you google the town and the festival to decide whether you want to adjust your schedule to include it. If you do, make a hotel/motel reservation early!

I have spent time in New Zealand on many occasions and have always driven a rental vehicle.

Others have commented that taking the ferry between North and South Island is a good idea and I agree as it is a spectacular trip.

It is true that most rental car companies require a separate car on each island and do not allow their cars on the ferry. This is not all bad though and operation is pretty smooth.

If one is permitted and does take the car across on the ferry, there is the extra cost of this of course, which is about $180. Having said that, occasionally a rental car company will offer a special on ferry crossing fees.

February is one of the busiest months for travel in new Zealand so booking ahead is a good idea.

I am happy to help with any planning or answering any questions - feel free to send me a PM


Moderator note: light editing