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2 weeks in New Zealand (south island) - need advice

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we're just starting to plan a 2 wk trip to new zealand for jan/feb of 2012. since we've only got 2 weeks (including travel to & from the us), we've decided to just focus on the south island. we're in our 30s - like hiking, kayaking, wineries.

would appreciate any thoughts on how to divide our time (days per place). thanks!

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    Are you flying into Auckland, or can you fly directly to Christchurch? The North Island, especially from Auckland north, gets just too hot and humid in summer. With a shorter trip I will usually suggest that if you have an early morning Auckland arrival, that you just continue on a domestic flight that same day to the South Island. The Abel Tasman and Fiordland areas are hot spots for kayaking (I am not a kayaker myself). For wineries you'll be spoiled, but I think between Kaikoura area and Queenstown area there is a good combination of hiking and wine. The Routeburn is a great track you can do on your own, if you do want to independently hike the Milford Track you need to book ahead.

    I am a bit bored by the scenery around Blenheim, but if you visit Abel Tasman and are driving it's convenient for the wine enthusiast. It's dead flat so maybe biking is an option.

    If you had three weeks I'd suggest that you drive from Auckland with a stop for the Tongariro crossing, and then there are some good winery areas closer to Wellington. I enjoyed Martinborough because you can stumble along between wineries without worrying about drunk driving. I stayed at Oak House (www.burings.co.nz) which is worthwhile if not just to meet Chris and sample his own wines with dinner.

    Or just plan to return!

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    Two weeks is sufficient to do the standard tourist loop, which looks something like this:

    Arrive Christchurch-drive down the West Coast via Arthur's Pass-Franz/Fox Glacier, Wanaka, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown, return to Christchurch via Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo.

    Lots of hiking along that route, plenty of wineries between Wanaka and Queenstown (Cromwell is a good spot), kayaking opportunities in Te Anau/Milford Sound.

    As for how much time to allow...if you're arriving from an overnight flight into Christchurch, I'd suggest not driving more than two hours your first day, or staying the first night in/around Christchurch.

    From there, I'd suggest two nights at the glaciers, which will give you a full day for a helihike, guided glacier hike, or just some freedom hiking. Then perhaps two nights in Wanaka - lots of wonderful hikes there in Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park, but it takes a good hour to access the best ones. Then on to Te Anau/Milford, again, I'd suggest at least two nights in Te Anau, before moving on to Queenstown for a few nights. If QT is too touristy for you, but you'd like to be close, Arrowtown is a good alternative. From there, you can work your way back up to Christchurch, stopping for a couple of nights at Mt Cook, before returning to Christchurch.

    FYI - NZ school holidays end between Jan 30 and Feb 7 next year. School holidays can be quite busy, so you'll want to book your accommodation ahead of time if you'll be in NZ while the kiddos are loose.

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    We spent 3 weeks in the South Island of NZ 6 years ago. One of those weeks was spent doing the Milford Track, which was a real experience, but I'll let you know our favorites.

    Many will cry foul, but we skipped the west coast altogether, partly on the advice of some people we met who live there. Apparently, it is very rainy. Obviously, if you want to do the glaciers, you'll need to go.

    We spent a few days in Nelson, which we loved absolutely. It is easy from there to take day trips to the wineries and to go to Abel Tasman for kayaking.

    Another thing that I cannot reccomend highly enough is swimming with the dolphins in Kaikoura. We went with Dolphin Encounter--this is not swimming with tame dolphins in an enclosed space. They take you out in the ocean and follow the pods and drop you in the middle. It is awe inspiring.

    Whatever you do, I'm betting you will fall in love with the country. When we cam back we immediately looked into immigration! We can dream, can't we?

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