5 days in South Island

Jan 18th, 2017, 03:08 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 46
5 days in South Island

Dear everyone ,

We are planning a holiday in New Zealand in March last week.

After doing few research we have finalized to stick to South Island only .As we have very less time we want help on Itinerary so that we can see some good scenic place with less time. Please suggest a good Itinerary .

I want to know which place to make our base and cover the near by places ? Christchurch or Queenstown ? or any other place ? We would love to drive for couple of places , but we dont want to drive for 5 days continuously as NZ trip we are planning after few days in AUS. So it might be little tiring for us . In and out flight from Sydney .

as of now we have planned -
1- Flight from Sydney to Christchurch
2- Stay in Christchurch for 2 nights
3- Stay in Queenstown for 3 nights
4- Flight from Queenstown to Sydney
SmitaSurya is offline  
Jan 18th, 2017, 07:34 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,758
Your proposed itinerary is possible, but you'll have to limit your stops.

For example, you can drive from Christchurch to Queenstown directly in about six hours, but this won't give you much time to sightsee along the way. This is the shortest driving route (487 km), but unfortunately, its also the least scenic, via the east coast. It won't give you much time to stop enroute, or make detours to Mt Cook, etc.

As I see it, your five days look like this:

Day 1 - arrive Christchurch, overnight
Day 2- full day Christchurch, overnight
Day 3 - full day drive to Queenstown, overnight QT
Day 4 - full day Queenstown, overnight
Day 5 - Depart Queenstown for Sydney

So, where is the third night in Queenstown?

If your flights to Christchurch are already booked, I highly recommend that you fly from Christchurch to Queenstown and spend all of your time there, then fly back to Christchurch for your departing international flight.

If not yet booked, look into direct flights from Sydney to Queenstown. and avoid Christchurch.

I personally could fill many weeks just in the Queenstown area - it makes a good base for short trips. From QT, you can visit Wanaka (90 minute drive), Arrowtown (25 minute drive), and Glenorchy (45 minute drive). These places alone will fill your limited days.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2017, 12:36 PM
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 631
Just go to Queenstown.
There is so much to do there and as Mel says places to visit within a short drive.
I wouldn't waste time driving when you could be up on a mountain from the gondola trip admiring the amazing views or on the lake in a steamship.
tasmangirl is offline  
Jan 19th, 2017, 02:43 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 46
Awesome suggestions.. A big thank you to both of you !

After going though so many forums I was just wondering the same thing - Why people go to Christchurch and again come back to Christchurch to take return flight ?? May be less flight options from Queenstown .

My flight not yet booked, so I will book for Queenstown. As suggested you guys We will make Queenstown our base and will cover the near by places .

Please suggest a 5 days Itinerary which can be done staying at Queenstown and may be we can stay 3 nights in Queenstown and 2 nights somewhere else nearby ? Please suggest !

Folks you are the best !!!
SmitaSurya is offline  
Jan 19th, 2017, 08:30 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,758
People fly into/out of Christchurch because they're generally doing a bigger driving loop of the SI than you are - it's a very good option for those with more time to fly into Christchurch, drive down the West Coast via Arthur's Pass, visit the glaciers, visit Wanaka, Milford and Queenstown, then drive back to Christchurch via the Inland route, visiting Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook on the return. They can see a big chunk of the SI this way, but you need time to do it.

Christchurch is the logical starting point for many SI visits, but in your case, you've just got no time, so sticking to Queenstown and vicinity makes more sense.

If I were you, I'd just book all five nights in Queentown, and not bother to split it up. Unless of course, you want to spend some time closer to Milford in which case a two night stay in Te Anau would work.

My suggestion:

Five nights QT

From there, you can see QT and all it has to offer, plus make day trips to Arrowntown, Wanaka, and even make the full day (13 hour) trip to Milford Sound. There is so much to see and do in the area, and you really only need one base and a car. You don't need an itinerary, just wing it as you go.

There are buses from QT to Milford, but it is a VERY long day. It's a long day if you drive too, and you may find the bus ride more relaxing than the drive. You also get a commentary from the bus driver, who acts as your tour guide. These trips include a cruise on Milford Sound and usually lunch.

If you'd prefer not to see Milford in a very long day from QT, I suggest you drive from QT to Te Anau on your day of arrival (two hours), spend a night in Te Anau, and then dedicate the next full day to your self-drive to Milford Sound. You will need a full day if you want to explore some of the tracks enroute and take a cruise in Milford. You can avoid the bus crowds if you get to Milford before 11, take a cruise and then visit the tracks and overlooks on your return to Te Anau.

Just keep in mind that Milford gets a whole lot of rain year round, so you may want to wait to book until you see what the weather gods are up to (or if self-driving, just turn up at Milford and hop on a boat).

On the third morning, you can take a leisurely drive back to Queenstown (two hours) and spend the remainder of your time in QT.

Which you choose, depends on what you hope to see while you're there and how you want to devote your time.

There are no right or wrong answers, it just depends on what YOU want to see and do.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2017, 03:40 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 46
Thank you so much for your suggestions.

We are planning to extend 2 more days in SI.

Plan as of now

- Fly to QT
- Visit near by Place : Night stay in QT -
- Take a whole day trip with cruise to Milford Sound- Night stay in QT
- Take a trip to Glaciers - Night stay in QT
- Drive to Tekapo. Visit Mt Cook. -Night stay in Takepo.
- Drive to any stop(Please suggest) to take Tranz-Alpine Train to Christchurch .
- Take return flight from Christchurch.

Please see if its OK.

Please suggest car drive route, if more places can be covered ?
SmitaSurya is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2017, 07:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,758
Visiting the glaciers as a day trip from Queenstown isn't doable. It's a 6-7 hour drive EACH WAY. Not a good idea at all.

The drive from QT to Mt Cook is 3-4 hours, so while doable with a night in Tekapo, it's still a long drive day that won't leave much time for sightseeing.

From Lake Tekapo to Greymouth (where the TranzAlpine leaves for Christchurch is a five hour drive AND takes you over Arthur's Pass, so you'd drive over the pass, and then board a train in Greymouth to go back the way you've come. It makes no sense.

I really think you need to sit down with a detailed map. There aren't all that many roads on the SI - there are only a few ways to get from one side to the other - the West Coast and the inland route are separated by a mountain range.

There is just no way you can drive both the West Coast and the inland route in so few days.

First off, how many NIGHTS do you have? Seven days is six nights.

It would help to know what time of day you arrive and what time of day you depart. Arrival and departure days are basically shot, as between the airport shuffle (getting on and off the plane, collecting luggage, picking up rental car, checking into accommodation and getting your bearings) you won't have much time (or perhaps energy) left to explore.

Also, is Sydney your starting point, or are you arriving into Sydney from an international flight? Whether or not you're jetlagged will have a great impact.

If you have six nights, how about something like this:

Arrive Christchurch - overnight
Drive Christchurch to Mount Cook via Lake Tekapo- overnight Mount Cook
Day Mount Cook - overnight Mount Cook
Drive Mount Cook to Queenstown via Wanaka - overnight Wanaka or Queenstown
Full day Queenstown
Drive or take bus from QT to Milford Sound - overnight Queenstown
Depart Queenstown

Or this, if you prefer the West Coast:

Arrive Queenstown - overnight QT
Full day Milford - overnight QT
Drive Queenstown to Fox/Franz Josef Glacier - overnight
Full day glaciers - overnight glaciers
Drive glaciers to Hokitika or Greymouth, overnight
Take train from Greymouth to Christchurch or drive over Arthur's Pass yourselves- overnight Christchurch, depart next day
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2017, 07:12 AM
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Regarding Lake Tekapo to Greymouth, take a look at this and you'll see what I mean:

Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2017, 01:19 PM
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 631
Mel has good suggestions. You have far too much planned. Also have a Plan B - last week Arthur's Pass was closed because of slips (NZ has had some terrible weather lately)it's planned to reopen today.
Queenstown/Wanaka/Milford looks a good option.
tasmangirl is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2017, 01:53 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 311
Yes, that 2nd itinerary won't work. With so few days I recommend flying into QT and doing stuff around there ... QT, Wanaka, Te Anau. Skip the Greymouth-to-Christchurch bit and do the northern part of the SI on another trip.
paulg is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2017, 10:13 PM
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Posts: 46
Dear everyone , First of all big thank you to all of you for your reply.

Thanks Melnq8 for drafting a trip plan for us.

Now we have extended our stay in NZ . We have full 8 days in total and 7 nights. If any route is difficult driving we would definitely want to avoid the same. We are spending one week in sydney and GC and going to NZ , so jet lag wont be there for NZ I guess.

We have heard that QT is more beautiful . So we would be using Christchurch just to fly in or out.

As of now - we just need to finalize where to do night stay ? So accordingly we can book it from now. Please help on this.

Also we want the trip to be not only a driving trip for 8 days - for few days - to few places we would like to drive and for few places we would like to take paid tours (if possible) . Thats why we want to do the TranzAlpine - so that we can sit and enjoy the scene from the train.

How about this plan ?

-Arrive in QT early morning
-Explore QT full day- Night stay QT
-Take Milford Sound Full day Tour - Night stay QT
-Suggest what to do - may be near by places - Night stay QT
-Drive to Mt Cook - Night Stay in Mt Cook.
-Explore Franz Josef - Glaciers and Mt Cook - Night stay in Mt Cook or Franz Josef - Glaciers - Please suggest for night stay
-After this what to do ? Clueless for another night ? where to stay?
SmitaSurya is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2017, 04:04 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,935
You need to look at this touring map of NZ:

You'll notice there's no road directly linking Franz Josef and Mt. Cook Village. They're only close "as the crow flies." From Mt. Cook Village, you'd have to backtrack to Wanaka and then drive to the West Coast from there. So with your limited days, do one or the other, but not both.

If you decide to spend a night or two in Mt. Cook Village (or nearby Glentanner), book the accommodation soon. Because accommodation is limited and it's a popular destination.
Diamantina is online now  
Jan 23rd, 2017, 05:59 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,758

This has been addressed several times already. There is a MOUNTAIN RANGE between the two. You must choose one or the other.

-Arrive in QT early morning
-Explore QT full day- Night stay QT
-Take Milford Sound Full day Tour - Night stay QT
-Suggest what to do - may be near by places - Night stay QT
-Drive to Mt Cook - Night Stay in Mt Cook.

How about a second night in Mt Cook - this will give you a full day to explore the area - there are some nice walking tracks in the area

Then drive to Christchurch and spend a night there before your flight?

You can take your time driving from Mt Cook to Christchurch stopping at Lake Tekapo en route and then heading towards Geraldine - from here you can take the 'back way' to Christchurch via Rakaia Gorge and avoid the less scenic east coast - much prettier. You can stop along the way and explore some small NZ towns, and some pretty walking tracks.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2017, 10:52 PM
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Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 46
Thanks Melnq8 and all others who are really helpful to finalize plan .
SmitaSurya is offline  
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