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6 days Christchurch to Wellington by train--how to plan our time?

6 days Christchurch to Wellington by train--how to plan our time?

Apr 4th, 2019, 05:50 AM
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6 days Christchurch to Wellington by train--how to plan our time?

Hello Fodorites-- My husband and I (in our early 70s) will be ending our Mondumo tour in Christchurch on November 2, 2019. We are interested in wine and thought we'd add a few days to see Marlborough and to taste wine. I've also read that whale watching is fun in Kaikoura. We plan to take the Coastal Pacific railway and the Interislander Ferry to Wellington where we will fly home to California on November 9. Keeping the train and ferry schedules in mind, how should we plan our days? The train leaves Christchurch at 7:00am and arrives into Kaikoura at 10:15am, Blenheim at 12:45pm and Picton at 1:15pm. The ferry leaves Picton at 2:15pm, arriving Wellington at 5:45pm. Our flight out of Wellington is at 7:30pm, so I'm thinking that we should stay in Wellington for at least the night before. My questions are: How many nights to designate to Kaikoura? How many days in Blenheim to get a good feel of the wine region. If you know of a good personal guide or wine tour, we'd be very interested in that! Do we need more than an overnight and partial day in Wellington? I know that Marlborough Sound is lovely and it's a shame we don't also have time to walk some of the Queen Charlotte Track, but that will have to be on another trip. Thank you in advance for any information and help you can give us.
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Apr 4th, 2019, 02:24 PM
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Six days or six nights?

If it's six nights, I'd allow two for Kaikoura - because of your early arrival there, you'd have 1.5 days, which leaves sufficient time to take a whale watching tour and walk the Kaikoura Peninsula for views and seals, or just explore the beaches and vicinity. Having said that, there's not a whole lot to Kaikoura, so if you're not interested in a whale watching tour, you could well get away with just one night there.

Considering your tight connection between ferry and airport, I'd definitely allow at least a night in Wellington. Wellington is home to Te Papa Museum, which can fill a whole day IME, and there's definitely plenty else to do there - if you spend only one night in Kaikoura, you could spend two in Wellie.

Which leaves three nights for Blenheim - two full days to tour, dine at some nice winery restaurants, etc.

It all comes down to your particular interests of course and if we're talking about five nights, six days or six nights.

We took a winery tour in Blenheim ages ago, but I don't remember the company name - I'll try to find it in my notes. It was lots of fun - there were only four of us, but that was years ago, before NZ got so bloody popular.

In visits since, we've gone winery hopping on our own, but if you hope to visit several cellar doors, having a designated driver is definitely the way to go.

Last edited by Melnq8; Apr 4th, 2019 at 02:33 PM.
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Apr 5th, 2019, 01:44 AM
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Main1, do you get seasick? If so, the whale watch trip might not be so fun. I'll spare you the details of my experience of seasickness on the Kaikoura whale watch trip. I'm sure it's not always rough, but it can be. The first time I reserved a Kaikoura whale watch trip, it was cancelled due to rough seas. My husband and I ended up going for a swim with dolphins instead. The whales are found farther out, in rougher waters because this is where deep sea Hikurangi trench is. This deep sea trench teams with marine life, offering much food for the whales.

I live on the South Island of New Zealand, but used to live in San Francisco, then Marin Country. I've only done the Kaikoura whale watch trip once, but gone whale watching off the coast of California at least a dozen times. You'll see more whales off the coast of California, if this matters to you. The unique thing about Kaikoura is that you'll see primarily sperm whales, though other whale species are often seen.. Off the coast of California, depending on the time of year, you'll see mostly humpbacks, greys, blues, sometimes orcas and fins, and often lots of dolphins of various varieties. Kaikoura offers Albatross Encounter cruises as well. They chum the water, which attracts various species of pelagic birds to the boat. You can see lots of pelagic birds off the California coast as well, particularly around the Farallon islands Wildlife Refuge, which protects the largest seabird rookery in the contiguous U.S.

if you have your heart set on a whale watch trip, spend a minimum of two days/nights for Kaikoura. So if your whale watch trip gets cancelled, you'll get another chance to go out the next day.

Definitely give yourself one full day in Wellington. Early morning, ride the Cable Car from the CBD to the top, which comes out near the top of the Botanic Garden. If you'd like to see native birds and an ancient reptile unique to New Zealand, take the free shuttle from near the top of the Cable Car to Zealandia, an ecosanctuary. When done, you can take Zealandia's free shuttle back down to the city center. It lets you off at the I-Site (tourism info office) which is a few blocks from Te Papa Museum. If you're not keen on walking the trails in Zealandia, just enjoy the Botanic Garden. You can walk down through the Botanic Garden to the city center or just walk around the top of the gardens and return to the CBD on the cable car. Wellington's attractive waterfront is also a great place for strolling.

I see you can also do wine tours from Christchurch to the Canterbury wine region. This wine region is much smaller than Marlborough, but I doubt it would disappoint.

Last edited by Diamantina; Apr 5th, 2019 at 01:53 AM.
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Apr 5th, 2019, 06:09 AM
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Diamantina and Melnq8, thank you for the great information--it's just what we need. Yes, we have six nights to work with. All good points about the whale watching for us Californians. Sperm whales? We've never seen those. We might have to chance being seasick! Thank you both for taking the time to respond.
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Apr 5th, 2019, 04:32 PM
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Main1, my husband and I never tire of seeing whales, so even though I became very seasick I don't regret having spent the time or money to take this cruise. Though I wish I could have enjoyed it. I'm in my mid-60s now, and have noticed my seasickness has become worse as I've gotten older. You might enjoy reading the article on sperm whalese from New Zealand Geographic magazine:

I'd say my favorite sightings were watching humpbacks off Land End's in San Francisco and off Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County. No boat required or fear of seasickness!
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Apr 6th, 2019, 03:04 PM
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You can check recent reviews of the Kaikoura Whale Watching cruise here:
And I just came across this travel article about Kaikoura this morning

Just in case Mondumo Tours fails to tell you this, please prepare for all kinds of weather in November. Anything goes. It's not likely to snow (though it can; snow sometimes falls in higher altitudes), and it not likely to be very hot, either (but there are exceptions).
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Apr 7th, 2019, 06:35 AM
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Diamantina, again thanks for the links. That article about Kaikoura was very interesting. What a heartbreak that big earthquake must have been. Living here in California earthquake country, we have seen much devastation and recovery over the years and can relate to the struggles of rebuilding. We too have enjoyed whale watching from shore in California and Oregon. A few years back, we happened to be in Monterey, CA when they were filming Big Blue Live. Wow, what time! Thanks again for your all your advice. We are so looking forward to our trip to New Zealand!
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Apr 7th, 2019, 05:17 PM
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Main1, you reminded me so much of "home", of the earthquake drills we had to regularly practice from kindergarten on up through high school, and of the many times we had to employ those lessons. I grew up in a Victorian that had survived San Francisco 1906 earthquake. I was working in the newsroom of the Hearst newspaper in San Francisco during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The printing press was next to the newsroom, so when the shaking started I just thought it was the printing press acting up, sending its vibrations through the walls and floor--until the shaking got stronger. The light bulb in my head finallly lit up when I noticed everyone else ducking under their desks. Even though the newspaper had a back-up generator, most of the electronics weren't working, so we initially learned of the earthquake details on a battery-powered transitor radio. The only phone that worked was the one attached to what I think was an ancient teletype machine. I remember the city editor was trying to reach his parents who lived in Hollister, near the epicenter. It was a surreal, shocking night, as I marched many miles in the dark along with hundreds of others from downtown San Francisco to my home in Bernal Heights. None of the streetlights worked, citizen-traffic monitors were doing their best to direct traffic and prevent road accidents.

You wrote, "Living here in California earthquake country, we have seen much devastation and recovery over the years and can relate to the struggles of rebuilding." So true. The 2011 Christchurch earthquake occurred a few minutes after I'd just taken off from Christchurch Airport enroute to Dunedin and I was horrifed to hear off the earthquake during the Super Shuttle ride home. As they'd already had an earlier 7.1 earthquake in 2010, I knew this one would be doing even more damage. But having lived through the Loma Prieta earthquake, I knew in my heart and mind that Christchurch would bounce back stronger than ever. Kaikoura will, too. it's been a wake-up call. These earthquakes have also forced other cities around NZ to carry out seismic upgrades of historic buildings.

You also reminded me of many wonderful whale sightings off the Oregon Coast! I'd forgotten about those. I will have to keep an eye out for "Big Blue Live". Thanks for the heads-up!

I hope you have a wonderful time in NZ.
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