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Critique/questions about final itinerary for NZ South Island

Critique/questions about final itinerary for NZ South Island

Old Sep 12th, 2011, 07:02 PM
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Critique/questions about final itinerary for NZ South Island

We've been doing a lot of searching of sources and reading all the Fodor posts to plan our trip for February 20-March 3, 2012. We know that it is a busy season; however, we're intending to escape our midwest winter by visiting the area at a time when we hope that it's warm. Because of the busy season, we think that we had better book ahead, although our style is usually to play it by ear a bit more.

Before we actually reserve our lodging, we have a few questions. We'd appreciate any suggestions:
Day 1 Arrive Christchurch- 1 overnight on day of arrival
Day 2,3 Arthur's Pass to Punakaiki-considering 2 overnights
at Punakaiki
Question: Because we found a B&B which
seems perfect for enjoying the
ocean coast and R & R, we're
wondering if there is enough to
explore in the area to warrant 2 nights?
Day 4,,5 Franz Josef Hoping to have a chance to do
a heli-hike
Day 6 Wanaka
Day 7,8 Queenstown
Day 9,10 Te Anau-Milford Sound
Day 11 FREE-flexible-another night in TeAnau

Day 12 Queenstown to Mt. Cook area
Question: Is there any other nice lodging suggestion for this
area besides the pricey HERMITAGE?
Day 13 Travel back to Christchurch
Day 14 Return flight
Thanks to all for any suggestions or ideas! We value the opinion of others who have visited the South Island.
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 09:36 PM
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Two nights in Punakaiki is technically just one full day, and there's plenty to do there if you enjoy walking/hiking and coastal scenery. It's a tiny settlement - the main attraction of course is Panacake Rocks, which doesn't take much time to explore. Even if you're not interested in the tracks, a drive up to Westport is worthwhile...lovely coastal stops along the way and there's a seal colony near Westport, which is just a 45 minute drive north of Punakaiki.

We spent three nights in Punakaiki a few years back. If you're interested in track info, let me know and I'll pull up my notes.

You might consider adding that extra night to Wanaka, particulary if you're intersted in any walks (I have a one track mind, I know).

Glentanner and the Alpine Lodge are the only other two Mt Cook accommodation options I'm aware of. Alternatively, you might look into Twizel or better yet, Lake Pukaki...I've run across a cottage listing or two near there.
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Old Sep 13th, 2011, 11:40 AM
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Thanks, Melnq8, for your helpful and prompt reply, esp. in regard to the Punakaiki area. We're still searching for other accommodations. We've done a lot of traveling, but for some reason are surprised to find planning this itinerary in the South Island more challenging. We don't want to end up staying in fleabags or one step up from Econo-Lodges, but the somewhat nicer places seem to be a lot more expensive than we had envisioned. Did you experience this in New Zealand?

One question about the Mt. Cook area. We're aware of the weather issues there. . .may be fogged in, etc. Considering that we'll have one night in the area before we make the trek back to Christchurch, would you think Lake Tekapo would be an OK location in which to stay? We're beginning to think that, with the distance between Queenstown and Mt. Cook, even if we leave Queenstown early, we might not have sufficient time to reach the Mt. Cook peak area and enjoy the view. Perhaps have lunch there. At optimum, do a helicopter ride. Since it's their summer, we're wondering how much daylight we would have to drive to Lake Tekapo for the overnight. Any thoughts on these concerns would be appreciated.
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Old Sep 13th, 2011, 05:16 PM
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In my ten trips to the SI I only recall staying in one truly bad place...I've had very good luck with accommodation and have found some gems.

NZ isn't the inexpensive destination it used to be, true, but after three years living in Western Australia, our most recent trip to NZ felt like pretty good value. The accommodation we booked was in the $120-$230 range and of a very high standard. We felt we got much more bang for our buck there than we do here. Keep in mind you're not paying tax either, so the price you see is the price you pay.

Motels are a great option and very unlike motels in the US. They're good value, clean, comfortable and generally well equipped. If you provide your nightly budget, I might be able to make some recommendations.

<would you think Lake Tekapo would be an OK location in which to stay?>

Absolutely.

It is possible to drive from QT to Mt Cook, see the peak (which can be seen right from the village), have lunch and then drive to Christchurch all in a day (I've done it). Adding a hike or a helicopter ride makes this more difficult, but spending the night in Lake Tekapo solves this problem and makes your drive to Christchurch the following day shorter (I highly recommend the scenic route via #72, which takes longer, but is SO worth it). Tekapo is a 90 minute drive from Mt Cook.

The sun sets between 8-8:30 in Feb/March, so this is definitely in your favor.
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Old Sep 14th, 2011, 07:40 AM
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Again, many thanks, Melnq8. Since our last post, we've re-read some trip reports, and noted yours where you listed some of your lodgings with prices. Very helpful! We've followed through on a couple in locations on our itinerary. We're aiming for the price range which you described.

Appreciate the confirmation about Lake Tekapo area. Since we have more daylight, that should work out great for our day in Mt. Cook. And we'll definitely note scenic route #72 for our return to Christchurch.

One more question around which we have curiosity is in regard to our choices for this trip. You certainly do seem to like NZ as you've been there a number of times! As noted in our first post, we're using FF miles and so have some constraints. After our flight and about 9 days in AUS, only in Sydney (with a couple of day trips. . .Blue Mountains, etc.) and Port Douglas, we could have chosen to spend the remainder of our time exploring more locations in AUS. But considering the vast size of AUS, we opted to visit NZ, South Island. We've traveled to the US of our country and Canada (mostly national parks) a number of times and really appreciate natural beauty. However, we also like to expand our cultural horizons in travel. Having lived in AUS, would you agree with our choice? At this point, we probably could make some flight changes/additions. (At a cost, of course!) Do you have any thoughts in this regard? We'd appreciate your opinion.
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Old Sep 14th, 2011, 04:27 PM
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I think you've made a wise choice selecting Sydney & Port Douglas and dedicating two weeks to the SI. It's a good mix, and each is vastly different from the another.

If you ever find yourself in Western Australia, you must head to the Great Southern of this vast state. National parks galore, towering karri and tingle trees, deserted beaches, sand dunes, wineries, good food - it's a wonderful place and deliciously quiet in the off season. I've just returned from yet another trip down there and I still haven't gotten enough.
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Old Sep 14th, 2011, 05:02 PM
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Melnq8, thanks for reinforcing our itinerary choices for this first foray into your part of the world. We've read a few more of your posts. . .trip reports. . .and really loved your Trip Advisor video! We learned that, although you are originally from Colorado,you now live in AUS. Being from the midwest of the US, we love to travel to special cities and scenic areas throughout N.America, much more accessible to us. And we really like Europe. For the past two years, we've spent part of our winters in Asia, so now we're looking forward to exploring a bit of your area, hoping that this will not be our last visit. You've been very helpful to us in our planning, and as the time gets closer, our enthusiam for our trip will surely grow. Funny thing, we're leaving in a couple of weeks for a fall trip to Northern New England and Quebec City, Canada, and have plans for spending Christmas week in Paris. But neither of these trips required the amount of time to plan that we've spent on AUS-NZ. We're sure it will pay off. Thanks again so much for your help!
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Old Sep 14th, 2011, 05:50 PM
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No worries tomarkot, best wishes for a lovely trip!
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