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honeymoon trip to south island in february 2013...need suggestions

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Hi..me and my fiancee have planned our honeymoon to Newzealand (south island)..I am eagerly waiting to visit this beautiful country..This is my itienary...can you please suggest any changes to make our trip a memorable one...

we have chosen the self drive option..can someone also suggest me the best routes to travel between two places..

Also can you pl suggest things we should not miss in these places..thank you..Charu

Day 1 Arrival Christchurch
Day 2 Christchurch to Franz Josef Glacier
Day 3 Franz Josef Glacier ...Day at leisure
Day 4 Franz Josef Glacier to Queenstown
Day 5 Queenstown ...Day at leisure
Day 6 Queenstown to Milford Sound to Queenstown
Day 7 Queenstown to Mount Cook]
Day 8 Mount Cook to Christchurch
Day 9 Depart Christchurch

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    Hi Charu -

    Congrats on your nuptials and your choice of honeymoon location!

    As far as routing, you've already got it figured out.

    Day 2 - Christchurch to Franz Josef via Arthur's Pass - I highly recommend a detour to Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks) which is about 40 minutes north of Greymouth and can easily be fit into your day if you leave Christchurch early.

    Greymouth or Hokitika make a nice stop for lunch. Bonzai Pizzeria in Greymouth is good, as is Cafe de Paris in Hokitika. Several shops selling greenstone in Hoki too. If you have time, I suggest you make the detour to Hokitika Gorge - beautiful.

    Day 4 - Franz Josef to Queenstown - this drive will be via SH 6 - be sure to take your time on the drive and make plenty of stops - good options are Fox Glacier, Bruce Bay, Lake Paringa (salmon farm), Lake Moeraki (there's a walk down to the beach and penguin viewing in season), Knights Point Lookout, Haast, plus the Blue Pools and other waterfalls you'll see sign posted as you go. If you have time, detour to Wanaka too, to at least see the lake.

    There's a cut across from Wanaka to Queenstown that will shorten your drive a bit, via the Crown Range Road, or you can do this bit on your drive day from Queenstown to Mt Cook. Either way, I suggest driving one way on the way in and the other way on the way out, so you see both routes, as both are very scenic.

    Day 6 - This is done all the time, but do be aware that it's a full day. The drive to Milford is four hours each way from QT, and there a many reasons to stop en route, so get an early start.

    Day 7 - Very easy to do. Potential stops along the way include Cromwell (via SH 8). Cromwell is a wine growing region with some fabulous dry rieslings and pinot noir. You don't have to go far off the road to visit a few wineries.

    There's an interesting fruit shop there too that sells tasty ice cream with your choice of fruit mixed in, and I think there's a Prenzels outlet right next door, and a place that makes cider. Other good stops include Tarras (cute little place to stop for coffee and a break) ad a few wineries along SH 8. Omarama (the Clay Cliffs are intersting and a very short detour from town), and the salmon farm near Mt Cook, which is interesting even if you don't like salmon.

    Day 8 - This will be via SH 80 and SH 8. You'll drive right through Lake Tekapo, which is definitely worth a stop. At Fairlie, I suggest diverting on 79 to Geraldine instead of staying on SH 8. SH 8 will lead you up the east coast along the least scenic stretch of road on the entire SI.

    Geraldine is a cute little town and a good stop for lunch. Lots of food producers here, you might want to check out the cheese shop, the chocolate shop and Barkers, makers of jams, chutneys, etc. Nice little place.

    http://www.gogeraldine.co.nz/

    There are some nice walks around Geraldine in the Peel Forest too.

    From Geraldine, I suggest you take the scenic backroads of 79/72 back to Christchurch. This route will take you alongside Mt Hutt (more walks) and through the Rakaia Gorge, a beautiful area with a lovely gorge walk. It's a heck of a lot more scenic than SH 8.

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    punakaiki ( pancake rocks) is worth a look...nicely done walk takes you round to view stacks of limestone formation
    (we spent about an hour there)

    we didnt really stop in Greymouth..friends had told us there wasnt much of interest there ..i did take a pic of Grey river lol

    we chose not to go to hokitika and sadly missed the gorge...we shouldve kept driving south but chose instead to go for arthurs pass near kumara junction..i think thats the only bit of our itinerary id change because ive seen videos of the hokitika gorge on youtube and it looks achingly beautiful!
    arthurs pass is a must..we also did haast pass and if we only had to choose one, itd be arthurs..the highlight for me was when we drove to the viaducts lookout ...deaths corner not far from north gully bridge...we had the most delightful encounter with keas ( the gorgeous alpine parrots that are the most delightful larrikins to behold...at least tourists think so...locals seem to detest them for the damage they do)

    we had no idea where to stay that night so ended up at flock hill lodge...about 15mins past lake grasmere..we were in a motorhome so only used their facilities ...really enjoyed seeing the farm animals and the surrounds were beautiful

    we took the inland scenic route72 to mt hutt after stopping at springfield the next morning
    on the way we stopped at rakaia gorge bridge...really nice photo opportunities here
    stopped at methven...took a pic of the famous brown and blue pubs and moved on to geraldine which is quite a touristy area..
    we stopped at the big sweater store ( biggest sweater on record i think ) and bought some deli goods from a few shops before heading to fairlie
    accidentally ended up in timaru due to my poor navigating ..we shouldve stayed on the 79 route from geraldine so we incurred an extra 42km...ahh well

    fairlie is a pretty town and has the dog and shepherd statue
    next was lake tekapo and we were lucky to catch it at its brilliant blue ( stayed right on the lake that night)
    had a great walk from the campground to the church of the good shepherd which was just being locked up as we approached around 730pm

    we drove to mt cook the next day but missed seeing the mountain due to the cloud but we did visit twizel on the way back and that was a really nice little town ( great bakery - yum)
    Lake pukaki is gorgeous too..about 214km from queenstown which was our ultimate destination this trip

    we headed to omarama not knowing where we would be staying that night..either fox glacier or franz joseph
    we drove through lindis pass on past otago goldfields, tarras ( which has 24hr fuel yay!)and past the wanaka turn off
    it was incredibly windy..so much so that the big motorhome we were driving was being swept across the road!
    we drove along muir road to lake hawea ( with the intention of coming back via wanaka)
    wanaka was 15km to the left of us

    we passed makaroa and pressed on to fox glacier
    theres a walk at blue pool but we didnt really have the 30 mins to spare at that point so we went on past haast then onto the glacier hwy

    some good pics can be taken at knights point and theres a monument to the opening of the road back in the 60s which finally joined haast to the otago region
    the road goes inland after knights point until bruce bay
    wove past lake paringa but couldnt see much
    we didnt stop at bruce bay til our return trip but it looked like a great little spot for a cup of tea sitting in the motorhome and watching the rough surf and looking at the cairns- little piles of rocks tourists leave, some with names and messages

    we braved the extra 23km to franz josef and decided to bunk down there and do fox on the way back...good choice for us..
    we had a wonderful meal at the very atmospheric monsoon restaurant which is in the grounds of the rainforest retreat camp ground in cron st
    great mussel and yummy lambshanks and enormous complimentary drinks for those who stay in the grounds

    spent the next day visiting the glacier and the wildlife centre where we saw kiwi chicks ( very expensive tour - 50 dollars each but we are birdlovers so just seeing a gorgeous chick was worth it for me)
    i really liked the franz joseph walk...the approach to the glacier is an easy walk and really something different for someone who hasnt grown up round mountains and snow

    we left at 2pm for mathieson lake but it was choppy so no reflections to be seen
    did the fox glacier but i think i prefer franz joseph//marginally... the walk to fox is a bit more adventurous with a few mini- stream crossings ..easy enough

    by 5pm we were on the road back to haast...husband wanted to press on to wanaka but that was going to be another five hours on the road and there was no point in doing night driving ( it got dark between 830 and 9pm in november)
    we were forced to camp at makarora...not many options along this route
    but we did squeeze in our afternoon tea at bruce bay and that was really quite a highlight,,,but there were sandflies!

    we stopped at haast beach - very rugged and the petrol station was closed at 7pm..goes to show you need to always fill up whenever you can
    by 830 we were pulling into makaroa for the night with a little light to spare
    the next day we chose to go down the crown range drive through the cardrona valley and on to frankton near queenstown ( the alternative route is through wanaka and lake dunstan)
    this road is very steep and winding...but the motorhome handled quite well...very little talking went on...driver had to concentrate!
    with lake hayes on our left we made it to frankton and on to queenstown and the beautiful remarkable mtns and lake wakatipu

    we stopped at athol for a coffee...at the lazybones cafe which was lovely
    that night we camped at lake te anau and bought tickets for doubtful sound and milford sound..we planned to do doubtful cruise..and then quickly drive to milford for the night and then do the morning cruise and then drive back to queenstown

    we did indeed enjoy the long doubtful sound cruise but we never made it to milford
    ignoring the 'hollyford road closed' sign we headed down the road to milford and finally just 30km from the sound we came upon the barrier blocking the road...boooooohooooo!( we didnt realise that the hollyford road was the route to milford..i still dont know why we didnt twig to that one!)
    luckily we found camp gunn and stayed there ( we heard the explosives as the boulder ( from a landslide) that was threatening to fall on the road was blown away - so the ranger told us next morning) ..the road remained closed the whole of the next day but the good news was that when we made it back to lake te anau we got a full refund for the accommodation and cruise at milford-yippee! and it wasnt a complete wasted trip..we did see the beautiful mirror lakes and took some great shots

    we had 18 days in all on the south island and the driving is slow...the roads are so winding and we also had the weight and bulk of a six berther to manouevre but we certainly packed it in...husband doesnt mind driving so in general we do cover a lot of kms per day..it's not for everyone i know
    we usually got going by 930 each morning and would stop any time between 4pm and 830 depending on the destination

    gooc luck with your trip...have a memorable honeymoon!

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    lanejohann -

    The keas are definitely destructive - one was so bold as to start eating our car (rubber molding) with us standing right there.

    Famous brown and blue pubs? I've never heard of these, could you share more details (for next time!)

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    Mel..methven is known for the blue pub and brown pub

    been there for yonks apparently

    my husband was there when he was younger and commented that they were still there...thats why i took the pics ..not much more to the town for me cos i dont ski

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    Love New Zealand, and some really fantastic suggestions above!

    I'll add a few of mine:

    - If you have time on day 2 you could make a short and very cute stop at castle hill on the way to arthur's pass - it's got an alice-in-wonderland like feel to it with amazing limestone formations in the rocks. You can climb them, play around them, slide down, or just take great pictures.


    Day 4 - I second Lake Matheson - Try to arrive as early as possible in the morning to see it in its mirror-like state.

    For day 7 - The clay cliffs near omarama get my thumbs up too. A slightly longer detour (30 min drive east of omarama) would bring you to Benmore - it's a power plant that sits on a dam between lakes benmore and aviemore. Yes, a power plant - which was the most surreal and beautiful place in our 3 month visit to NZ. The lakes and the island right on top of the dam are just incredibly beautiful, with turquoise waters and trees and the sun it's an unparalled view. You can go for a short visit and admire it from the top of the dam. If you can spare more time, though, there's a small hill there with a track that you can climb - it's an easy 2 hours or so to climb up, around and down the hill - but so worth it for the panoramic views of the lakes and everything all around (there's even several benches around the top). On a good day you can see mt. cook from the top of the hill too, poking up above the lakes.

    For day 8 - Mt John Observatory overlooking lake tekapo also has amazing views all around the area.


    Have fun!

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