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Trip Report Sun, sandflies & sauvignon blanc: A short trip to the spectacular NZ SI

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We just returned from our first and long-anticipated trip to New Zealand, with a focus on the South Island. It will take some time to sort through all of our photos from four devices and create a proper trip report, but that will come in time. For now, we can share a few highlights and impressions. Thank you to all who post here—as always, this site was a key resource in putting together and executing our plans.

A bit of background:
Three years ago, we hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, and we have enjoyed various other hiking experiences while on vacation (Dolomites, etc.). We decided we’d like to take another similar trip—okay, perhaps one that didn’t involve camping and toilet-tents this time. New Zealand has long been on our wish list, and a multi-day walk that bills itself as the “finest walk in the world” (the Milford Track) sounded exactly like the sort of thing around which we wanted to build such a trip.

Timing:
With that in mind, we did some research on weather and seasonality, and we targeted late February to early March as ideal timing. As the Milford Track books up well in advance, we began looking into this early last year and were ready to act when we found the right combination of trek availability and business class upgrades to/from the United States. All that fell together last May.

Available time:
Altogether, we had two weeks for this trip, including travel. Between work (both), aging cat, and aging parent issues (ms_go), this is a long trip for us to be taking at this point. Unfortunately, it isn’t a lot of time to truly dive in to what New Zealand offers, but we decided to make our plans and do and enjoy what we could in that amount of time.

Itinerary:
We booked the international air and trek concurrently, leaving us with three nights before the trek and another five nights after (12 nights total on the ground). Here’s how it all worked out:

Day 1-2: Chicago-San Francisco-Auckland-Queenstown
Day 3: Queenstown (wine tour)
Day 4: Queenstown (self-drive to Glenorchy and surrounding area)
Day 5: Milford Track
Day 6: Milford Track
Day 7: Milford Track
Day 8: Milford Track
Day 9: Milford Sound cruise and return to Queenstown
Day 10: Queenstown to Haast via Arrowtown, Wanaka and Mt. Aspiring National Park
Day 11: Haast-Jackson’s Bay area (river trip, hiking, beach and the semi-famous Craypot)
Day 12: Haast to Hokitika via glaciers area, with helicopter ride/landing and a hike at Lake Matheson
Day 13: Hokitika to Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass, late afternoon flight to Auckland
Day 14: Auckland-San Francisco-Chicago

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