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14 day South NZ Trip

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Apr 20th, 2017, 06:22 AM
  #1
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14 day South NZ Trip

Dear all,

I will be going to South NZ for a holiday in mid June with my friend, her mom and her friends. I've done up an itinerary and would like to request the experts here for help on seeing whether the itinerary is doable.. We will be doing a self drive tour, starting from Christchurch, and ending back in Christchurch..

Day 1 - Land in CHC explore stay a night

Day 2 - Tranzalpine train to Greymouth, pick up car and drive to fox glacier. Will be staying two nights in fox glacier.

Day 3 - Drive to Franz Josef glacier in the morning, take 2 hour walk. Return to fox glacier for short rest before going to Lake Matheson in late afternoon.

Day 4 - Fox glacier walk in the morning. start drive to Queenstown in late morning/early afternoon. Stop by Wanaka for lunch.

Day 5 - Explore Queenstown, maybe go Walter Peak

Day 6 - Further explore Queenstown / Arrowtown Chinese Settlement if time allows. Start drive to Te Anau in the afternoon. Glowworm caves at night.

Day 7 - Milford sound

Day 8 - Doubtful sound

Day 9 - Set off for Twizel in the morning. Stop by Wrinkly Rams. Stock up on food in Twizel and stay one night

Day 10 & 11 - Spend in Mount Cook. go for walks.

Day 12 - Set off for CHC in the morning, stopping by Lake Tekapo for photos. Geraldine for lunch, Fairlie for Gem Alpaca Stud. roughly reach CHC at 8pm at night?

Day 13 - Last min shopping in CHC

Day 14 - Fly back to Singapore

Because it will be winter in June, we will try to cease driving by 5pm. except day 12 when we are going back to CHC. will it be safe to drive after 5pm ? I've read somewhere that its not that safe for first-timers driving in winter to drive after dark...

Thanks and really appreciate your help on this peeps. <3
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Apr 20th, 2017, 03:53 PM
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Yes, doable, weather permitting, but I suggest a few tweaks.

Days are short in June and I see you've taken that into account.

Also be aware of the potential for frosty roads and black ice, especially in the mornings.

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You must drive through Franz to reach Fox glacier, so you might consider staying in Franz instead of Fox thus trimming about 45 minutes off an already long day. The following morning you can drive to Lake Matheson for those early morning lake reflections, hike around Fox and return to Franz in the afternoon to hike and possibly soak in the hot pools.

This will involve some backtracking, but so does your current itinerary - impossible to avoid if you want to see both glaciers and Lake Matheson in a single day. Plus, the reflections at Lake Matheson are better in the morning.

This is all quite doable in a full day, weather permitting. I've done it myself several times.

Then the morning you leave Franz, you can just sail through Fox without stopping, saving about 45 minutes and freeing up more time to make other stops en route to Queenstown, which is a VERY full day as it is. You'll want to leave early.

Day 6 is a bit ambitious in June, but I guess it's possible if you get an early start and depending on how in-depth your exploration of QT and Arrowtown is - Te Anau is a two hour drive from QT, and not something you want to do after dark (you'll miss the scenery and weather could well be an issue). It'll get dark about 4:30-5 pm.

Curious why you're staying over in both Twizel and Mt Cook? They're less than an hour apart. Te Anau to Mount Cook is about five hours, long, yes, but you'll only be trimming off about 50 minutes by staying in Twizel.

Day 12 - Mount Cook to Christchurch can indeed fill a full day with stops but if you get an early start, you should be there long before 8 pm.

As for safety...driving in NZ after dark means you'll miss the beautiful scenery, and could potentially have trouble finding your accommodation...(I've done that very thing!) but it's not 'unsafe'. If you're a confident driver, take your time, follow the road rules and stay alert, you should be okay, especially on the route you're referring to. However, it can be very, very dark out in the countryside and the roads are very winding, so take it easy and don't rush.

The problem with tight itineraries like this is that there is no wiggle room for potential bad weather, which is quite possible in June. I've visited the SI in June myself many times and the weather can be lovely or downright awful, with downed trees, snow, flooding, you name it.

Expect anything, drive carefully, be flexible and you'll be fine
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Apr 21st, 2017, 01:39 PM
  #3
 
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Can i suggest that you consider what Mel suggested to us [but which in the end we didn't do for other reasons?]

instead of driving all the way from the glaciers to QT, stop at least one night in Wanaka, then drive to Te Anau, and back to QT, before Mount Cook which will cut down on the long drives.

this would give you this:

Day 4 - Fox glacier walk in the morning. drive to Wanaka for [you'll never get there for lunch BTW, early supper is more like it!]

Day 5 -Drive to Te Anau

Day 6 - Doubtful sound

Day 7 - Milford sound

Day 8 - Drive to QT, explore, maybe go Walter Peak

Day 9 - Further explore Queenstown / Arrowtown Chinese Settlement if time allows.

Day 10 Drive to Mount Cook

Day 11 - Spend in Mount Cook. go for walks.

Day 12 - Set off for CHC in the morning, stopping by Lake Tekapo for photos. Geraldine for lunch, Fairlie for Gem Alpaca Stud. roughly reach CHC at 8pm at night?

What think you Mel??
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Apr 21st, 2017, 02:07 PM
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Methinks that's a good plan annhig!
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Apr 22nd, 2017, 05:04 AM
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praise indeed. Thanks Mel!
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Apr 22nd, 2017, 08:56 PM
  #6
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Thanks so much Mel and Ann!! have taken what you guys have suggested / commented and made some changes...

Day 1 - Land in CHC explore stay a night

Day 2 - Tranzalpine train to Greymouth, pick up car and drive to franz josef glacier. Stay a night.

Day 3 - Franz Josef glacier in the morning, take 2 hour walk, (either that or the one hour grand transverse with Air Safari.. not everybody in the group wants to go for the scenic flight...)

Start drive to fox glacier in the afternoon, maybe about 1pm? If time allows, walk to the terminal face of fox glacier... and Lake Matheson in the evening if we are not too tired.

Day 4 - Lake Matheson walk in the morning (if we did not manage to catch the reflections the previous day.. or if we did not go at all the previous day).

Do you guys think we will be able to drive out to Lake Matheson at 6.30am in the morning? Its just a 15 min drive, right?

Maybe a light breakfast at Lake Matheson and start drive to Wanaka after that. (stop by Bruce Bay for food? Thunder creek pools, and Haast pass blue pools? anymore places that we should get down and go for?)

Wanaka tree if time allows, or national transport and toy museum?

Day 5 - Drive to Te Anau. Glowworm caves at night.

Day 6 - Milford Sound. we will be taking the coach - cruise- coach package by Mitre peak cruises.

Day 7 - Doubtful sound. With Real journeys picking us up at our accommodation

Day 8 - Drive to Queenstown. Explore. (Have not really see what we should go for there, any suggestions?)

Day 9 - Walter Peak. Is the BBQ lunch there worth going for? (I've checked, TSS Earnslaw is not available during the period that we are there...)

Day 10 - Set off for Mount Cook Village, stopping by Omarama for the sheep show. Stock up on food at Twizel. we will probably reach Mount Cook by 5 or 5+pm?

Day 11 - DOC Visitor center in the morning. Walks in mount cook village (Hooker valley / Tasman Glacier / Sealy tarns / Kea point - which one or two should i go for?)

Day 12 - Set off for CHC in the morning, stopping by Lake Tekapo for photos. Fairlie for Gem Alpaca Stud. and Geraldine for lunch. Since we are only stopping for about half an hour for Lake Tekapo, wont we have too much time before the Show at Gem Alpaca Stud starts?

Day 13 - Last min shopping / gondola / tram rides in CHC

Day 14 - Fly back to Singapore

Thanks people, please feel free to comment further.

Also, for Day 3 , is it very ambitious? if we go for the scenic flight, im choosing air safari because it's $370 for 50min. or should i really just skip franz josef totally and go for fox glacier only?

Have a happy sunday people!
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Apr 23rd, 2017, 03:35 AM
  #7
 
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yes, Lake Matheson is an easy drive though you might want a little more than 15 mins for photos etc.; from memory there is a nice cafe there but it might not be open at 6.30am! I think that we left FJ at about 9am and we were in Wanaka by late afternoon. if you like indian food there is an excellent indian restaurant there.

I can recommend a very nice B&B in Wanaka if you would like?

as for the glacier walks, I don't think that it's possible now to walk out onto the glaciers as they have retreated too far. so it's either a walk towards the glacier face or a heli-ride which I really wish that we had done.

http://www.franzjosefglacier.com/our...r-valley-walk/

http://www.foxguides.co.nz/fox-trail...nal-face-walk/

if you opt for the glacier face walk, I don't think that you'd want to do both. IMO you could easily do the walk in the morning and see Lake M in the afternoon - we did a glacier walk in the morning, had a long lunch, and then did Lake M and we had plenty of time and energy for that.

you have a great Sunday too.
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Apr 23rd, 2017, 07:10 AM
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It'll be dark at 6:30 am in June. Probably won't see reflections until 8 am or later, and only if the skies are clear.

I'm not aware of any food establishments in Bruce Bay. There is a small cafe at Lake Matheson - they open at 8 currently, not sure about their winter hours.

As for walks in Mt Cook, our favorites were the Tasman Glacier Lake track to Blue Lakes and Kea Point. We also enjoyed the short and sweet Governor’s Bush Track, a nice walk through the only remaining native forest in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

I took one look at the 'just 1,810 steps left’ sign to Sealy Tarns track next, and my knees began to cry.

Chances are, you won't be able to walk to the top of Sealy Tarns anyway, due to snow.

The Hooker Valley Track is the most popular track in the park, but it was my least favorite.

I think Day 3 is fine.

You can walk to the terminal face of both Franz and Fox on your own, no tour operator needed.

I think your itinerary is looking busy, but good.
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Apr 23rd, 2017, 06:15 PM
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These are the sunrise/sunset times in New Zealand:
https://www.rasnz.org.nz/in-the-sky/sun-rise-and-set

In mid-June, the sun won't rise until about 8:20 a.m., so there's no point in driving out to Lake Matheson at 6:30 a.m.—unless you'd like to stargaze while you wait in the cold or rain, but I think it's better to get an extra hour of sleep. Also, will you be staying in Fox or Franz Josef for the two nights, or will you stay one night in Franz Josef and the second night in Fox? Because the drive between the two, while it only takes about a half hour, is very curvy, not wise to drive it in the dark in possibly frosty conditions or poor weather.

From the center of Fox village, it's another 7 or so minute drive to Lake Matheson. Then from the parking area, you'll have to walk out to the viewing area.
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...matheson-walk/

Like Melnq8, I don't remember a place to eat in Bruce Bay. Though I remember lots of sandflies that were eager to snack on me. Better to pack a lunch. I recommend buying a chilly bag in the supermarket—they cost about $5—early on your trip and using this to transport food/snacks from one location to the next, assuming you'll be staying in motels with mini-fridges or fridges (best to check accommodation reviews on Trip Advisor before booking accommodation and/or to check with posters on this forum). The best place to shop for groceries enroute to the glaciers is Hokitika, which has a New World Supermarket. Hokitika is south of Greymouth. While in Hokitika you should make the detour out to pretty Hokitika Gorge.
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...ka-gorge-walk/

The willow tree in Wanaka is easy to see as it's close to the centre of town, along the lakefront to the left. If you zoom in on a map of Wanaka on google maps, it'll even tell you where the "Wanaka tree" is.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...edia-sensation

In Queenstown, go up to the Skyline Gondola, walk around the Botanic Garden and along its lakeside track. You could drive out to Glenorchy (45 minute drive on a curvy road). If you go to Arrowtown and would like to stop at a winery, you can stop at Amisfield enroute. They have a great bistro. http://amisfield.co.nz/
A lot of folks also enjoy the big buffet dinner at the top of the Skyline Gondola.
http://www.skyline.co.nz/queenstown/restaurant/
I loved the Skippers Canyon jet boat tour. So fun.
https://www.skipperscanyonjet.co.nz/
Queenstown's Midwinter Festival is at the end of June:
https://www.winterfestival.co.nz/

With one day in Queenstown you won't have time for everything, so you'll have to be super-picky.

Wanaka also has Rippon Winery with great views over Lake Wanaka, but you might not get to Wanaka before it closes. No worries, you'll see plenty of other stunning views on your drive.

I think Mt. Cook's Hooker Valley Track is magnificent (despite its tremenedous popularity). It takes you past three swing bridges, where you can marvel at the fast flowing waters beneath you. There's a terminal glacier lake at the end of the track. The track is easy, most flat or gently climbing. It's well-maintained and some of it consists of boardwalk.
http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/par...ki-mt-cook.pdf
You Tube video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuWJKVpGmfc
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Apr 23rd, 2017, 06:18 PM
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Stargazing is a top winter activity, but not if it's cloudy or raining. Mt. Cook is part of the NZ's International Dark Sky Reserve.
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Apr 23rd, 2017, 11:18 PM
  #11
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wow thanks so much for all your input, guys. they were really helpful!!

@annhig Please do recommend the nice B&B! i will go google for the indian restaurant.. and nope we are not going for the heli-hike..

i think i will just stay at fox glacier for both nights, and walk to the terminal face of the fox glacier if time allows. might go for the scenic heli ride which will bring us over fox glacier and FJ glacier...

@Melnq8 and @diamantina I think i will go for Lake Matheson after 9am on day 3 instead of day 4, after the sun rose. hopefully it wont be too windy on that day..i've checked, the cafe opens at 8am. so maybe we could have our breakfast there before going for the walk..

maybe we will go for the hooker valley track and the tasman glacier track to kea point...

i dont think i have got the time to stop by Hokitika on day 2. it will be 1pm by the time we reach Greymouth? grocery shopping, maybe. I would love to but i dont think we've got the time to detour to the gorge... the sun sets pretty early, right?

we might just skip Glenorchy and stay in queenstown to just "chill" though.. hahahah winter festival in queenstown starts on the day i leave for mount cook though...

hmm might not go for the stargazing tour... anyhows... stargazing on our own is free, right? >D

Thanks for taking the time out to reply me guys!!! <3 <3
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Apr 24th, 2017, 06:37 AM
  #12
 
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http://www.criffelpeakview.co.nz

is the great BnB in Wanaka. it's run by two exceptionally nice women who offer tea/coffee and cakes every afternoon [a bit like a ski chalet which in effect it is in the winter] and a communal breakfast table in the morning. They will recommend and book restaurants, activities etc as well. As we were staying 3 nights [originally it was meant to be one but we realised that we'd bitten off more than we could chew and amended our schedule] they put us in the self -catering flat that they have at the top of the garden but they also have rooms in the house for shorter stays.

it's a 5 minute walk down into the town.

this is the Indian restaurant :

http://spiceroom.co.nz/gallery/
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Apr 25th, 2017, 03:09 AM
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The Mt. Cook walks brochure is useful, describing how to prepare/dress, how long the walks take, where they start, if they're easy to do, what altitude you'll cover over what distance, and what plants and animals to look out for. You can download the .pdf to your mobile device or pick up the Dept. of Conservation brochure from and I-Site or DOC office after you get to NZ.

Yes, you can just go out and look up at the stars. Because there's no light pollution there, you can see many stars if it's clear. You don't need a tour. There are numerous apps you can download that will help you identify the planets and constellations. You can also check this site for a star chart from the University of Canterbury (maybe their .PDf download will work by then). https://www.rasnz.org.nz/in-the-sky/the-evening-sky

I picked up a laminated glow-in-the-dark New Zealand Night Sky star chart from a bookstore for $5. Not sure if they're widely available.

Try to get away from lights (from the accommodation, headlights from the road, etc.), and give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness. (I learned this when stargazing on Hawaii's Mauna Kea). You won't see as many stars when the moon is full, because the contrast is not as great. But it'll still be nice, if the night is clear.

Yes, there are two supermarkets in Greymouth, Countdown, which is close to the train station, and New World Market.

I second annhig's recommendation of Spice Room. Their restaurant in Queenstown is good as well.

Good point. I can see why you might not have time for Hokitika Gorge. Afterall, your main objective is to spend your afternoon in Franz Josef. It'll take you about 2 hours, 20 minutes to drive from Greymouth to Franz Josef if the weather and road conditions are okay.

The TranzAlpine website says the train arrives in Greymouth at 1:05 p.m. Then you have to pick up your rental car.

Regarding your question about sunset, here's that link again:
https://www.rasnz.org.nz/in-the-sky/sun-rise-and-set
Sunset will probably be around 5 p.m.
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Apr 25th, 2017, 10:45 PM
  #14
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@annhig thanks for your recommendations!! ive checked the bnb though.. they are fully booked for the whole month!!! must be really good...

i will check out the indian restaurant then, since both of you recommends it. hehe..

@diamantina thanks! i will go look for the brochures and downlaod them.. thanks so much for the tips to stargazing! maybe we will do all our grocery shopping at greymouth before setting off.. we dont have much driving time in winter.. we will definitely be able to stop by the gorge if we are going during summer. perhaps another trip then.. haha. too much to see, too little time...
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Apr 26th, 2017, 06:34 AM
  #15
 
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Another thumbs up for the Spice Room, although the QT location isn't as good as their predecessor Little India, IMO.

I can recommend these places in Wanaka:

http://www.clearbrook.co.nz/

http://www.alpineviewlodge.co.nz/
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Apr 26th, 2017, 07:43 AM
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shame that the B&B is booked, cyanyan, but I'm sure that anywhere Mel recommends will be good. of those two, alpine view looks the more appealing, but it does seem to be quite a long way out of town - I'd not want to walk it if I were full of curry!
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Apr 29th, 2017, 06:08 AM
  #17
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Thanks so much!!! I'll go check them out!!!
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Apr 30th, 2017, 09:40 AM
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I was about to second the Criffel Peak View B&B recommendation, which is where we stayed last year. You'll be back to NZ again (that's my guarantee of the week) so you'll have another opportunity to stay there.
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Apr 30th, 2017, 10:30 AM
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that's nice, paulg - what time of year were you there? We stayed there in December which was pretty busy but the "girls" still had plenty of time for everyone.
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Apr 30th, 2017, 03:58 PM
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We were there in Feb over Chinese New Year, so also very busy. Caroline and Suzie were great ... Suzie was a bit busy with something else, but Caroline took great care of us.
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