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New Zealand Trip - Solicit suggestions

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We are a young couple in our 30s planning a self drive 9 day trip to NewZealand from 18 January 2015 to 28 January 2015. Given below is our itinerary. We request you to suggest if this would be a comfortable yet fun plan.

18 January- arrive at Christchurch at 15.30 hrs
19 January- drive from Christchurch to Franz Josef
20 January- stay at Franz Josef
21 January- drive from Franz Josef to Wanaka
22 January- Stay at Wanaka
23 January- drive from Wanaka to Te Anau
24 January- stay at Te Anau ( Explore Milford Sound )
25 January-drive from Te Anau to Queenstown
26 January- stay at queenstown
27 January-stay at Queenstown
28 January - fly back

Request you to suggest how we can add a visit to Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook in our itinerary. will it be advisable to keep only for one full day in Queenstown though we have a lot of activities planned out there.
Thanks

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    nooooo - sorry, this will exhaust you. we had a similar itinerary, and ended up changing it half way round as it was just too much driving.

    C/C to FJ would be a very long day, [my trusty Pathfinder road atlas suggests it's 8 hours] and it's a least 6 hours from FJ to Wanaka, and another 4 from Wanaka to Te Anau. Even with days in between, the driving would be crippling, and you'd be too tired to stop and look at all the great things there are to see on the way.

    As for adding in Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook, I'd be trying to take things out of the itinerary, not add them in, though one way to do it would be to drive to Mount Cook from C/C, spend a night [o two?] there, then go to QT and use it as your base for all the activities you want to do, plus Milford Sound, Wanaka, etc.

    I think you need to set your priorities and then be a bit more realistic. Sorry!

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    I don't see any problems with this itinerary, other than a shortage of time at your chosen locations. Given your
    apparent time constraints, it's certainly doable, although rushed.

    In order to make this itinerary work, you'll need to be on the road very early, and embrace your drive days as just that, drive days with limited sightseeing and stops en route.

    The drive from Christchurch to Franz Josef is conservatively 5.5 hours of flat out driving - that doesn't take into account stops along the way, like at Arthur's Pass, Greymouth or Hokitika.

    If you leave Christchurch very early and limit your stops, you might find time to fit in the 45 minute detour from Greymouth to Punakaiki, to see the Pancake Rocks.

    This will make for a long, tiring drive day, but you've got summer daylight hours and youth on your side.

    I've made the drive from Franz Josef to Wanaka (and QT) many, many times. It's certainly doable, but there are many places to stop along this route for photos, short walks, waterfalls, etc, so be sure to get an early start and make a day of the drive.

    You're smart to make Te Anau your base for exploring Milford - this will give you the full day for Milford, which you'll need every minute of - once again, get an early start on your day in Milford - I suggest you drive there directly from Te Anau, take the earliest cruise you can, and then spend the rest of the day exploring the stops/overlooks/walks along Milford Road on your way back to Te Anau. This will keep you ahead of the bus traffic from Queenstown, as you'll be going in the opposite direction.

    Forget about Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook, ain't gonna happen.

    The West Coast route (glaciers) and the inland route (Tekapo/Mount Cook) are separated by a mountain range. There's just no way to do both in so short a trip.

    You've already got a workable, albeit a bit rushed plan - stick with it.

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    Melnq8 is the expert, but having just returned, I'm going to make a different suggestion. I took ten days to drive from Queenstown to Nelson, and while I saw some wonderful sights, I was exhausted, and frankly, sick of driving. This is not "relaxing" driving. Much of your time will be on narrow, twisting mountain roads. My suggestion: less driving. See fewer places--but enjoy them more.

    What would I do with such limited time? I’d fly into Nelson then drive to spend a couple of days each in Abel Tasman and Picton. Then I’d fly to Queenstown and enjoy all that area has to offer. From Queenstown you can take a bus tour to Milford Sound (or drive yourself); take a tour of Skipper’s Canyon; drive to Glenorchy; and do some “adventure” activities if that appeals to you.

    I'd skip Wanaka and Franz Josef. Wanaka is very similar to Queenstown--but not quite as "wow." But if you wanted to, you could easily drive to Wanaka, hike at Mt. Iron (gorgeous views), visit Puzzling World (which I was surprised to love), then return to QT. I've seen quite a few spectacular glaciers. The glacier at FJ did not impress me. Maybe I would have felt a little differently if it hadn't been gray, gloomy, and rainy. Lake Matheson (near FJ) was very beautiful, but I’d still eliminate the stop. FYI, with a 20-minute walk at the Blue Pools, and a couple of stops for flat whites (coffee), it took us more than 7 hours to drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef.

    Punakaiki was FANTASTIC—a highlight. But it’s such a long drive to get there. Good luck with whatever you decide.

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    Just to clarify my post above - if you forgo the glaciers you can fit in Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook, but you can't do both in so little time.

    An alternative itinerary:

    18 January - arrive at Christchurch - overnight Christchurch

    19 January - drive from Christchurch to Mount Cook stopping in Lake Tekapo en route - overnight Mount Cook

    20 January - Spend the day at Mount Cook - overnight

    21 January - drive from Mount Cook to Wanaka - overnight

    22 January - spend the day in Wanaka - overnight

    23 January - drive from Wanaka to Te Anau - overnight

    24 January - drive to Milford Sound, spend day, return to Te Anau - overnight

    25 January-drive from Te Anau to Queenstown

    26 January - Queenstown

    27 January- Queenstown

    28 January - fly back

    This routing allows you to see Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook, and shortens your driving a bit as it's a shorter route than via the West Coast.

    The drawback of course, is finding accommodation in Mount Cook at this late date. Twisel is an alternative, but only as a last resort. Lake Pukaki has a place or two, but I'd imagine they're booked out.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Songdoc on how exhausting the driving can be, especially for those unfamiliar with driving in NZ and driving on the left in general.

    We've limited our three week visit to NZ in February to four bases for this very reason, I'm tried of driving!

    Songdoc - have you visited West Matukituki Valley in Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park, via access from Wanaka? if not, you should - lots of WOW through there.

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