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ez1 Mar 19th, 2010 03:53 PM

a proposed itinerary
Dear Fodorites,
We are a couple in our late 50's planning a trip to NZ for my nephew's wedding in mid December, and have decided to spend the first two weeks touring the south island. Any thoughts or recommendations on our proposed itinerary would be greatly appreciated as there is still time to change everything. Also, I hate sandflies but not sure wether they can be avoided.
Fly from San Franscisco through Aukland to Blenheim - spend 3 nigthts at Bay of Many Coves - hike Queen Charlotte track, kayak etc.
Spend Day 4 biking in wine country and stay overnight at Stonehaven Homestay.
Drive to Christchurch - and spend 2 nights in that area
Drive to arthurs pass and spend 2 nights at the wilderness lodge
Drive to Fox Glacier - spend a night at Misty Peaks (or some other place)
Drive to Wanaka - hike 1/2 day, then do Rob Roy Glacier walk the next day with another night in Wanaka
Drive to QT - spend the day and one night - next night on overnight excursion to Doubtful Sound (from QT)
Return to QT for 2 nights and then leave to North Island for wedding
One concern is whether we'r e spending too much time in Marlborough Sounds area... and whether we should travel down the east coast instead of west... except we would really like to spend a few nights at the wilderness lodge. Thanks a lot for your thoughts!

Melnq8 Mar 19th, 2010 10:16 PM

Hi ez1 -

Let me start by saying the Bay of Many Coves is an excellent choice, my favorite place in the Marlborough Sounds. Last I heard they had new owners, but I think the same managers are there, lovely people. I assume you know that you must take a water taxi from Picton to the resort, and that Picton is about 28 km from Blenheim? I also assume you know that the Bay of Many Coves isn't on the Queen Charlotte Track, so you'll need to take a water taxi to access it (or subject yourselves to a couple of hours of very steep hiking above the resort just to reach the track).

One night in Fox Glacier on either side of longish drive days won't give you much time to explore. I always recommend at least two nights at the glaciers, but only if you hope to do some hiking, or take a helihike on a glacier, etc. If you're stopping just to break up the drive, no worries.

Wanaka is 364 km from Fox, about four hours, so you'll need to get an early start if you hope to hike 1/2 day in Wanaka. Keep in mind that most of the hikes near Wanaka, aren't that close to town, so you'll need to allow some drive time on that end as well.

The west coast of the SI is MUCH prettier than the east!

As for how much time to spend in the Marlborough Sounds, you essentially have two full days. You can easily fill both of those days walking different sections of the Queen Charlotte Track or perhaps walking the steep track from the resort to an overlook. Then there's kayaking and general lazing really depends on what you're interested in doing. Other than walking, relaxing, fishing and various water activities, the Bay of Many Coves is pretty much a relaxing kind of place.

Melnq8 Mar 19th, 2010 10:26 PM

PS -

By east coast I mean the drive from Christchurch to Queenstown via Timaru and Oamaru (my least favorite drive on all the SI). The drive from Blenheim to Christchurch via Kaikoura is pretty, but I personally still prefer the scenery of the West Coast (and unfortunately, the sandflies prefer it too).

ez1 Mar 20th, 2010 08:21 AM

Thank you very much for your input.Yes I know about the water taxi, and track proximity. I was wondering whether the day biking in wine country and night in Blenheim is a good choice. Also, whether two nights is too much in CCH. Perhaps that extra night should be added to Wanaka and/or I should add a day hike on the Routeburn trail from the Milford Side. So many decisions...

Melnq8 Mar 20th, 2010 03:24 PM

I personally like Blenheim - not the town so much, but the surrounding countryside and vineyards - I think it'd be the perfect place to explore by bike. There are some lovely vineyards around Blenheim and as I recall the terrain is pretty flat, so it should make for easy biking.

Two nights in CHCH only gives you one full day plus a bit on the day of arrival, so it really depends on what you want to do. I've discovered some gems in/around CHCH on my last few visits, but the city itself doesn't do much for me. Then again, I'm not a city person, so take that with a grain of salt.

ez1 Mar 20th, 2010 04:11 PM

Melnq8 Thank you so much. Have you reported on your CCH "gems" on this site? I think I might plan to stay just one night in CCH (as a stopover) and head to arthur's pass. That would give me an extra day at the lodge (altho 3 nights is pricey), or extra time in Wanaka or to climb summit peak on the routeburn track. Have you done an overnight on Doubtful Sound and if yes, is it a long bus trip from QT?

Melnq8 Mar 20th, 2010 04:53 PM

I haven't done the Doubtful Sound overnight trip. The drive from QT to Lake Manapouri (where the boat to Doubtful leaves from)is 171 km, about two hours, give or take.

My Christchurch gems can be found here on Fodor's. Just click on my screen name, scroll down to Trip Reports and take a look at some of my NZ reports (there are several). I usually start the report with a recap of where we went, which saves you from having to read through all the stuff in between.

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