Dec Honeymoon to NZ. Itinerary advice sought.

Old Aug 6th, 2010, 03:16 AM
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Dec Honeymoon to NZ. Itinerary advice sought.

Hi All,

We are going to New Zealand South Island for our honeymoon in early December. Based on the posts on this site and many others it seems like we are in for a really unforgettable experience. We have only 13 days at hand- arriving on 30th Nov afternoon, and leaving on 13th Dec evening. We want our trip to be relaxed in the beginning, but we don't mind the rigours of long drives on wonderfully scenic routes. We want to go whale watching, swimming with the dolphins, and diving with the seals along with Bungy Jumping, Skydiving, Zorbing, Kayaking.. But most of all, we want to see nature at its best and may hike a bit, but not too much.. We would also love to watch seals and penguins in their natural habitats.

We have come up with the following itinerary. We are not on a budget, though we are not too keen on splurging, unless absolutely warranted. Request your comments and advice on hotels/B&B/Vacation homes, eating places, MUST DOs, itinerary changes if needed.

30-Nov Arrive at Nelson (4:15 p.m.). Drive on to Marhau and stay the night.
01-Dec Enjoy Abel Tasman @ leisure. Stay the night.
02-Dec Enjoy more of Abel Tasman. Stay the night.
03-Dec Drive onto Blenheim via Queen Charlotte drive. Lunch, visit vineyards, sample and buy wine @ Blenheim. Drive onto Kaikoura to stay the night.
04-Dec Whale watching, swimming with the dolphins, diving with the seals. Drive off to Christchurch later in the afternoon to stay the night.
05-Dec Tranz Alpine Railway to Greymouth Drive on to the glaciers. Which one should we stay at? Franz Josef or Fox?
06-Dec Activities @ the glaciers
07-Dec Activities @ the glaciers
08-Dec The Really Long Drive day- Off to Te Anau, breaking at Wanaka. Night @ Te Anau.
09-Dec Onto Doubtful Sound. Leisurely drive back to Te Anau
10-Dec Onto Milford Sound. Leisurely drive back to Te Anau
11-Dec Queenstown
12-Dec Queenstown
13-Dec Leave NZ from Queenstown @ 5 p.m.

A few more questions:
1. Is it possible and advisable to pick up our vehicle @ Nelson, drop it off in Christchurch, again pick one @ Greymouth (or should it be @ the glaciers?) and drop it off finally @ Queenstown?
2. Are Rotorua and/or Mount Cook must-dos and if so what changes would you suggest in the itinerary to fit them in?

Thanks in advance for all your replies.
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Old Aug 6th, 2010, 01:20 PM
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Rotorua is on the North Island, so it won't fit in your planned itinerary.

Other than that, I can't help, but those who can will be along to answer your questions. Congratulations and have a wonderful trip!

Lee Ann
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Old Aug 7th, 2010, 04:55 PM
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niteshchandra -

I can't begin to tell you how refreshing it is to see a realistic itinerary! You've obviously done your homework and you've come up with an excellent plan that combines some of the best of the SI, allowing you time to enjoy the areas you're spending time in, AND ticking most of the boxes on your wish list.

My only suggestion - Dec 5 - I assume you're taking the morning train...this will give you sufficient time to make the 45 minute detour to Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks) before heading down to the glaciers.

Franz and Fox are both tiny, but Franz has more food/lodging options and a visitors center. It's also a short drive from Okarito, if that area appeals to you.

Which you choose really depends on you and what you want to see and do. Franz and Fox are only about 20-30 minutes apart, so you can easily explore both from one base - you've allowed sufficient time to spend a day at each. Basing yourself in Fox will cut your drive down on your long drive day to Te Anau, but only by about 20-30 minutes, so it really doesn't matter much.

I assume you're taking a Doubtful Sound day cruise?

Regarding the car rental - yes, it makes most sense to pick up Nelson, drop off Christchurch, pick up Greymouth and drop off in Queentown. There aren't any car rental companies at the glaciers that I'm aware of.

Adding Rotorua will completely alter your itinerary as it's on the NI. Mt Cook is a must for some, but IMO, you've got a fantastic itinerary as it is and there's just no way to fit everything into 13 days no matter how many changes you make.

I suspect that once you arrive in NZ, you'll think of this as your first trip and you'll soon be saying "next time..."
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Old Aug 7th, 2010, 08:18 PM
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melnq, Thanks a lot for your inputs.. We are definitely considering Punakaiki, the only problem is with timing the tides..

On other forums, we received some more advice -
1) Do an overnight cruise of Milford Sound and let go of Doubtful Sound.
2) Explore the possibility of taking a heli-hike from the glaciers/Wanaka to Mt. Cook to make it possible.

Would love to have your thoughts on the same.

And definitely even before reaching NZ and experiencing it, I know I am going to be back there, again and again!!
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Old Aug 7th, 2010, 08:23 PM
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Le Ann- Thanks for your wishes!!
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Old Aug 7th, 2010, 09:31 PM
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Hi again niteshchandra -

I think Punakaiki is worth a stop regardless of the tides, especially as you'll be so close. The rock formations themselves (stacked like pancakes) are pretty interesting IMO.

I can't comment on Doubtful vs Milford, which is an ongoing debate on just about any travel forum. I've taken Milford day cruises three times, but have yet to venture to Doubtful.

I've taken a helihike on Fox Glacier, but haven't done the helicopter excursion over Mt Cook. I've no doubt that on a clear day it's a beautiful sight.
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 12:31 AM
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Melnq, Thanks again for your wonderful inputs. Now, we are definitely going to Punakaiki. We are letting go of Doubtful Sound in favour of a night cruise at Milford Sound. Additionally, we are spending a day especially in the Marlborough region (spending the night in Blenheim). Here's how the itinerary now looks like:

Nov 30- Land in Nelson, Drive onto Marahau. Stay the night.
Dec 1 - Experience Abel Tasman, stay the night.
Dec 2 - Experience the Marlborough region, stay the night at Blenheim.
Dec 3 - More experience of the Marlborough region, drive on to Kaikoura to stay the night (also the famed evening walk).
Dec 4 - Activities at Kaikoura, drive onto Christchurch to stay the night.
Dec 5 - 8:15 a.m. TransAlpine Railway to Greymouth, visit Punakaiki, drive on to Franz Josef to stay the night.
Dec 6 - The glaciers
Dec 7 - The glaciers & Mount Cook
Dec 8 - Onto Wanaka at a leisurely pace. Experience the area & stay the night.
Dec 9 - On to Milford Sound. The overnight cruise.
Dec 10 - Back to Te Anau at a leisurely pace. Experience the area & stay the night.
Dec 11 - Queenstown
Dec 12 - Queenstown
Dec 13 - Fly away

Hoping for the weather Gods to be kind to us. And thanks again for your lovely guidance.
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 01:15 AM
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Uh-oh, you're giving in to temptation, trying to spread it a little thin.

An observation...

You've gone from 2 one night stays to 6 one night stays. That's a lot of unpacking and packing, moving from hotel to hotel, which eats up precious time.

I assume by Mt Cook on Dec 7, you're referring to the flight over Mt Cook? Keep in mind that the West Coast gets a lot of rain, and flights are often cancelled. I personally wouldn't want to shell out the $$$ unless the conditions were ideal.
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 04:45 AM
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Melnq, you are right.. NZ is virtually temptation land.. What we have weighed are driving too much every day versus staying each night in a new place. Wherever possible, we have tried to limit our traveling time to less than 4 hours per day. Thus Blenheim and Wanaka stops come in (which were not there earlier). In addition, letting go of Doubtful Sound lets us stay one night in Te Anau and another in Milford Sound (which was earlier 3 nights in Te Anau). Your point about and unpacking every night is valid, but we have tried to ensure that as far as possible, these one-nights are spread apart. In that sense, maybe the Blenheim night may be better spent in Marahau itself. The temptation of Marlborough needs to be resisted!!

Do share your thoughts on balancing the itinerary better.

Thanks a ton!!
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 04:50 AM
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Another could be missing Wanaka and driving all the way to Te Anau (as originally planned).This has the disadvantage of missing out on fully enjoying the stunning scenery from the glaciers to Wanaka.. The temptations, ah!!
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 05:07 PM
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niteshchandra -

Believe me, I feel your pain. I still struggle with my NZ itineraries, and I've made some nine trips to the SI.

I understand your reasoning. It makes more sense to stay in Blenheim than Marahau on that third night if your goal is to explore Marlborough, especially if you're visiting vineyards...if you return to Marahau, you'll be backtracking.

There's certainly plenty to keep you busy on your drive from Marahau to Blenheim, which you can easily turn into a full day of touring. If it's wine you're after, be sure to explore Upper Moutere (between Nelson and Motueka) in addition to Blenheim. You can easily incorporate Ruby Bay and Mapua too. Mapua is home to a wonderful bakery and two really good restaurants, in addition to some nice bay views.

If time allows, you might consider taking the mail boat into the Marlborough Sounds from Picton - this will give you a nice taste of the entire region. You've already mentioned the drive along Queen Charlotte Drive from Picton to Havelock which will give you even more gorgeous views of the sounds.

Given your interests and the objectives for your trip, I really can't find fault with your revised itinerary. If the one night stays don't bother you and you're looking more at touring than hiking and in-depth exploration, it'll probably work very well for you.
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Old Aug 9th, 2010, 05:47 AM
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Well, hate to admit it, but we shall be 'tourists' on this trip.. Hiking and an in-depth experience will have to wait till next year when we plan to come for a healthy 3-month stay in NZ.

All your recommendations find their way into my planning spreadsheet (which I will eventually commit to memory). Can't thank you enough for helping me plan the contours of the trip.

Now getting down to more details, which I will eventually post here detailing all the Hotels, prices, activity plans etc. Look forward to your inputs there as well.
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Old Aug 9th, 2010, 04:04 PM
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Three month stay? I'm so jealous!
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Old Aug 10th, 2010, 11:21 PM
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Well, the inspiration is your '9 or so' trips.. Why don't we meet up if you are there on your 10th trip (or more) around the end of 2011?
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Old Aug 11th, 2010, 12:06 AM
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Oddly enough, we've been toying with that 10th trip, but it's just so expensive to get to NZ from Perth...it's actually cheaper to get there from the US, how weird is that?
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Old Aug 11th, 2010, 04:18 AM
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Have an idea which may work out for you.. u can it with a trip to Malaysia/Indonesia/Thailand. There are cheap tickets (e.g. Air Asia) from those places to sydney/melbourne/christchurch.. and from sydney/melbourne to CHC/AKL as well, a lot of good offers from Air NZ. The only hitch maybe the cost of that ticket from Perth to these South East Asian countries and the return journey to Perth. Could also consider a Trans- Australia road trip from West to East or vice-versa and combine it with the South East Asian trip. May just make it a lil more palatable, hopefully!
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Old Aug 11th, 2010, 04:51 AM
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Just noticed some JetStar deals in Nov end for 710 USD, Perth to Christchurch return..
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Old Aug 11th, 2010, 04:58 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions niteshchandra. One problem is indeed getting from Perth to Asia - we pay close to $1K to fly from Perth to Singapore on SIA, yet it's only about $600 to fly from Singapore to Perth, also on on SIA. Annoys me to no end.

I'll look into flights from Perth to Indonesia though, as I'm also checking fares to the US, and I know I can get to Indonesia cheaper than I can to Singapore, but if it means flying Garuda, forget it. I survived four years of that airline and I'm done with them.

Another problem is the golden handcuffs of Star Alliance. We'd like to earn miles, but even Air NZ, a Star Alliance partner, doesn't offer miles on their best fares.

It's a dilemma. I'm off to check those November Air NZ fares.
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Old Aug 11th, 2010, 05:57 PM
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Melnq, I see some good deals for Bali: http://www.sidestep.com/r/OYc5FW (return for $ 350) and for CHC: http://www.sidestep.com/r/NsVIxG (return for $750)

Not sure about their 'mileage' status though.. Hope you can have it all!!
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Old Aug 12th, 2010, 07:38 PM
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Melnq, have redone our itinerary. Flying in and out of CHC as we are getting a really good deal on the flights. We are letting go of the Tranz Alpine Railway and an extensive Marlborough experience, spending more time in Abel Tasman, Fiordland and a proper trip to Mount Cook too. Do let me know your views on the latest itinerary versus the earlier one.


30th - Arriving in CHC at 3:15 P.M. Taking rented car to Kaikoura. Renting from Apex, any better recommendations? In Kaikoura, staying the night at Dylan Country Inn (is it good? any other you will suggest?) Try to sleep early.

1st- The activities in Kaikoura, drive to Picton after lunch, mail-boat ride (if possible, too greedy I know!) and then off to Marhau for 3 nights. Bypassing Blenheim altogether (will do our bit of wine tour in the Upper Motueka region). Also missing the walk around the Cape in kaikoura.

Staying in Ocean View chalets in Marhau (any idea whether they are good?)

2nd & 3rd- Explore abel tasman.

4th- Leave for Franz Josef, stopping in Punakaiki for a while. Any accommodation recommendations for the glaciers, Te anau, Queenstown and Mount Cook?

5th & 6th- Experience the glaciers.

7th- Leave for Te Anau. Drive from glaciers to Wanaka at a very leisurely pace enjoying the scenery. The stretch from Wanaka to Te Anau- not so leisurely. Stay the night at Te Anau. (acco recos again, please)

8th- Early morning cruise at Milford. A very leisurely drive back to Te anau with all the mandatory detours and stops. Stay the night at Te Anau.

9th- A cruise to Doubtful sound (if lucky!) and then drive to Queenstown for the night.

10th- Queenstown

11th& 12th- Mount Cook

13th- Drive back to Christchurch for the late evening flight.

What do you think?
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