1. Spend a month there. Seriously. If you’re going to go to the other side of the world, you ought to make it worth it. If not, spend two weeks on the North Island or two on the South Island. North was more developed, things were closer together. South had lovely scenery. We tried to do both in two weeks and spend more time driving than we really wanted to.
2. If you want action, go to Queenstown
3. My favorite adventure was Dragons Blackwater Cave Rafting though it’s more crawling through a river in a cave. The raft was just a tube that you float on for a few minutes in certain parts of the cave. The post-trip hot tub was HEAVEN.
4. We were fine to book hostels about a day in advance though we did go in low season
5. Learn to drive stick. Or ahead of time, make sure the car is automatic! After a stressful hour or so of Alex giving us a crash course, we ran back to the rental place begging for automatic….and got the last one.
6. When reserving the ferry from North to South islands, make sure you also reserve the TIME you want to go 😛
7. Use http://www.newzealand.com to get an idea for where things are and what you want to do
8. Just because it has a webpage, doesn’t mean it’s anything more than a side of the road bungalow
9. There are phone booths all over the place in the major towns but it was nice to have a cellphone. Adjusting Beth’s for use in-country was more trouble than it was worth though, we ended up backtracking to Auckland in horrible traffic to rent an NZ cell. Mostly we used it to call ahead about the activities we booked, as recommended.
10. Once they get the plane set up to go to Milford Sound, use it, because there’s a whole lotta nothin in between and you don’t want to waste that kind of time just driving
11. Fill up. Gas stations can be few and far between, especially on the South Island
12. Beware of crazy New Zealand drivers! They are speed demons =o Polite, always polite, but ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM
13. I dunno that I would bring a laptop. Some places had guest computers, others had pay-to-use computers but I can’t remember seeing a lot of wi-fi hot spots
14. Bring a raincoat 😉
15. Keep snacky food in the car as restaurants can be few and far between and keep odd hours. Unless you’re in one of the bigger cities, a LOT will close around 5pm
16. Worship the I-SITE! There’s one in every city, even small towns, and it has all the information you need.
17. Many bridges can only fit one car at a time. The fatter arrow means that direction has the right of way. I think.
18. DRIVE ON THE LEFT! You get reminded of this constantly though plus reminders not to fall asleep.