There are a few things you need to consider to maximize your visit
Seasons, unlike the other part where winter falls on December, winter in NZ falls in June - Aug. I don't have any choice since I mostly am able to take annual leave during Eid Fitr holiday only. This means our day is shorter, activities and time need to be arranged wisely
Accommodation price, for sure winter is not option for most of people to visit hence the price is lower than summer. You may choose camper van to save some accommodation cost especially if you travel in group, you can download CamperMate apps in your phone to find free or paid camper site along the way
Transportation, for a rural area like NZ, normally driving is the best option to save time to do the whole lot especially we only have approximately 6 bright hours in a day. Driving in New Zealand for Indonesian is easy as we drive on the same side of the road, you either get your local license translated or get an international license. But you really need to learn all the sign as you don't want to go home with a bunch of fine bills in your credit card.
As a first timer visitor, I would like to explore as much as possible so all the itinerary is packed to all that WE WANT. Loads of information are floating in the internet, made it very hard to decide what destination is a must and what destination is not important hence not worth to visit at all. The best is using google maps to define the routes and timing, but bare in mind that New Zealand offers amazing views along the way, unless you can close your eyes while driving, spare time in between is very much recommended.
A tough decision but we came up with max 2 wishes per person, made to the list are Hobbiton, Edoras (lord of the ring), aurora in The Catlins, Church of God Shepherd in Lake Tekapo, castle in Dunedin, Milford Sound and unavoidable heli ride, which means north to south and those are 3,600 km in total driving with only 2 drivers *scratch my head*.
Budget and season wise, we chose car instead of camper. We pre-booked Vehicle 2 weeks prior type Styla with Jucy Rentals and we got Hyundai i3, although is low season but price went up with times so be wise to decide as fast as possible. There is an option of relocation service as lower as 1 NZD/day for driving backward such as from Queenstown to Wellington or Queenstown to Auckland in certain days, but you still can extend the renting period to suit you on extra charges, still save a lot as the below one costs us $28.8/day
Itinerary was packed but there were surprising along the way till we have to cut our route, so pre-booked accommodation for the entire trip is so not recommended, although the price might be a bit higher but this will save your cost when you change your itinerary, and on a road trip it happens all the time.
Auckland - Waitomo - Hobbiton - Rotorua - Waiotapu - Taupo - Wellington - Picton - Punakaiki - Hokitika - Franz Joseph Glacier - Fox Glacier - Wanaka - Queenstown - Glenorchy - Te Anau - Milford Sound - Lake Takapo - Edoras - Christchurch
All highlighted were the destination while others we pass by or need to rest a night. Full and fun enough right? Proven to be right, our routes from Auckland to Christchurch then fly back to Auckland for our homeward bound were left with these above, means The Catlins and Dunedin were scraped from the initial list on actual trip, so no chocolate factory and Aurora ..damn!! How come??
Landed in Auckland International airport, we face no different with its neighbour, Australia, a long queue for quarantine and inspection service line. We simply declare all those foods we brought just to make sure nothing slipped out to be fined as the fine is hilarious, 400 NZD *shocking*. All things are good apart from the cooked pork meat, bye bye rendang T_T. We are not a good role model for this, basically all have to be commercial package to be able to pass their quarantine border, something with meat, honey, dairy even dirt on your shoes, that is a no no, I guess this is one of their way to take good care of their people.
We booked hotel one by one night means after arriving in one town, we are thinking of next day plan and book the hotel accordingly.
First night in Auckland we booked Quadruple room in City Lodge Accommodation before departure from Jakarta, as first night with 5 hours different adjustment and after 21 hours flying and transits, is needed to make sure we are fresh and ready for tomorrow road trip. Normal check in hour in NZhotel is 3pm and check out is 10am, which not a benefit when we have our car picked up at 2pm, lucky we were able to change to 12 pm instead. Full itinerary and cost of our trip you may find in Itinerary for 11 days road-trip in New Zealand.
We spent only 4 days in North Island visiting Hobbiton, the only one worth visit in North if you are a fans of Hobbiton Movie, Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Lady Knox Geyser, Huka Falls, Lake Taupo and heading to Wellington to cross interislander ferry to South Island. None of them excite us much as the story told by others that NZ is a must visit country. Lesson learned, nothing spectacular, I am not going back for New Zealand.
Waitttttt.... since when I told you that North Island is beautiful? didn't you hear what I told you, South Island darling bla bla bla...... Alrite mate, let's move down as soon as I imagine my friend start yapping in my ear. *hallucinating*
Moving down to Wellington for Interislander Ferry to Picton took us 7 hours (with some stops), not to mention driving down to Franz Joseph Glacier for our next itinerary, Helicopter ride. You may choose to fly to Queenstown to maximize your days but the point of road trip is sightseeing although we didn't expect to spend most of our time in the car as happened, welcome to reality.
As quoted "a picture is worth a thousand words", pictures are arranged in order to itinerary mentioned above.
What do you think? we covered all? Nope...not even half of South Island yet. But that were whole lot for 11 days.
My advise, maximize timing in one go is good but memories are priceless so spend more time enjoying the scenery. Pictures here are nothing compare to what my eyes enjoyed for 11 days road trip and sometime I really want to stop for more time in one place. Have fun in New Zealand. and South Island, see you very soon. How many more leaves I have? Oh no *sick*