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Do we need to book hotels/tours in advance for NZ South Island in Jan?

Do we need to book hotels/tours in advance for NZ South Island in Jan?

Old Oct 20th, 2006, 07:53 AM
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Do we need to book hotels/tours in advance for NZ South Island in Jan?

We will be spending 2 weeks on the South Island in January and are touring by motorcycle. We don't want a set schedule and want to take things as they come and decided what we want to do day by day. I do have a concern that we will not find availibilty. Do hotels and tours fill up pretty fast at that time of year?

A few things that we want to do is whale watching and probably the overnight trip on Doubtful Sound. We know it would probably be easier to just book them ahead of time but we really don't want to be rushed to get from one destination to another.

Thanks, Lisa
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 08:54 AM
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Hi Lisa,
I would book ahead. We were there Jan 3-15 and most hotels were booked. Definitely book the Doubtful Sound cruise ahead, probably now.
Liz
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 09:32 AM
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Lisa,

you're going during a peak time, and I would strongly suggest that you book anything that's an "Absolutely Must Do".

If you had more flexability with your time; such as a week in the Queenstown area, for example,and could easily use a 2nd, 3rd or 4th choice of dates if the first one was booked, it would be different.

With your timeframe you should make reservations to avoid disappointment.

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Kiwi Specialist
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 12:51 PM
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wlzmatilida, would you recommend reserving hotels also. We don't really care where we stay as long as it is clean. We just don't want to be too set in our schedule. If we like Queenstown for example, we could stay a week or if we don't we can move on. But if you guys think there will be a difficult time getting accomodations, then I guess we will have to book some ahead.

Thanks for the info so far, Lisa
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 03:09 PM
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Lisa -

Bigger towns shouldn't be a problem, but smaller towns, like Franz Josef and Fox Glacier could present problems, especially if you're travling during NZ school holidays.

Check this site for NZ school holidays:

http://www.minedu.govt.nz/index.cfm?...ocumentid=3767

Highly recommend you book activities you don't want to miss as mentioned by Melodie, especially Doubtful Sound.
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 05:08 PM
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Hi Lisa,

I understand your desire for flexability, but with two weeks (and probably lots of things you want to see and do), you should have some sort of a rough schedule, which can still allow you some flexability.

Do a draft itinerary, and allow plenty of time to get from Point A to B (cuz it will always take you longer than you think)

Regarding hotels, I think it's a good idea to at least reserve your first and last night of your itinerary. In the middle, since you transportion and can get around easily, you should be able to find accommodation.

As Melnq said, no problem in larger towns; keep in mind the larger hotels will be booked with tour groups (that would be those 50 passenger coaches you'll see along the highway). But the smaller places, just outside of town will be your best bet.

Hope this is helpful!

Regards,

Melodie
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 08:41 PM
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Thank all of you so much. The info has been very helpful.

Melnq8, thanks for the website about the school holidays. I knew it was summer in NZ and that it was high season, but I guess I hadn't thought about school being out. We will be there during a school holiday. Jan 16-28. It puts things in a little better perspective. So thanks again.

We have decided that we are going to book the Doubtful Sound overnight cruise and the whale watching tour ahead. Also, we are very interested in scuba diving at Milford Sound with Tawaki Dive. Does anyone have any experience with this?

We do already have our first night booked at The Manor on Bealey in Christchurch. We will be touring on motorcycle and this is where the company will be dropping off our motorcycle.

We were thinking about doing the whale watching tour the last day we are there. Our flight leaves Christchurch around 8:45pm. We should have plenty of time to do the tour and drive to Christchurch right? Do these tours often get canceled due to weather or is the weather in that area pretty predictable. This is obviously a concern--if we book the tour our last day and it gets canceled then were out of luck.

Thanks again, Lisa
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 10:22 PM
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Lisa -

I didn't realize there was scuba diving at Milford - my husband will want to look into that!

Unfortunately, the whale watching trip IS weather dependent, sometimes being cancelled due to high winds.

The tour operator's own site states the following under the FAQ section:

What happens if the sea and weather conditions are not suitable?

Whale Watch tours are always dependent on sea conditions. Whale Watch staff constantly monitor the weather and respond professionally to any changes. This may mean a tour is cancelled or safety restrictions placed on children or passengers with medical problems. Passenger comfort and safety is always our priority. Passengers travelling to join us on the day of their tour are strongly advised to telephone the FREEPHONE number 0800 655 121 for a sea conditions update.

http://www.whalewatch.co.nz

Sorry, probably not what you wanted to hear.
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 05:15 AM
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Your right, not exactly what I wanted to hear but kind of figured that was the case. Maybe we will have to spend 2 nights in the area just incase.

Thanks, Lisa
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 05:39 AM
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Lisa,

can't depend on the weather (anywhere); mI have clients are currently in NZ and earlier in the week they emailed to say that their tour of swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura had been cancelled due to weather. They will get a refund, but no dolphins, which is too bad.

Regards,

Melodie
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 08:28 AM
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Cavorting with dolphins can also be cancelled if there are babies in the pod. Happened to us up in Bay of Islands in March. I'm glad they control things like that. We want to see, but not intrude.
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 10:49 AM
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If you book through the internet, it is easy to book advance or you can amend the booking any time you want , you just make sure about the cancellation deathline when you making the reservation, you might ask the reservation before you making the reservation about the cancellation policy.

For booking the hotels / resorts in the destination that have a few number of properties (especially in Island), you should reserve the room in advance , may be a couple of months because the peak period, almost properties are full occupancy (Fully booked).
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 02:20 PM
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I completely understand. Definately wouldn't want to put ourselves or the animals in a compromising situation. Is there a chance of seeing the whales from the shore?

Can anyone recommend the best scenic drives on the South Island. Are there any "must drive" scenic routes?

Thanks again
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 04:28 PM
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Must Drive scenic routes: I would nominate Arthur's Pass and Haast Pass. Both give you full exposure to glacial valleys and glacially carved landscapes. Wide, cold, and very clear swift running streams and rivers. Very reminiscent of parts of Alaska. Travel times shown in books and guides are misleading. Too many places to stop and absorb or trek about a bit.
I have one other, on the way from Wanaka to Queenstown. Over the pass on a two- (some times one)lane road. Can't recall the route number, will get out my file and come back with it. Dynamic views from the top where there is an ample pull out for pictures. The ride down on the QT side is well, some would say white knuckle. I found it exciting without being too much. But some books caution for "experienced" drivers.
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 04:59 PM
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The SI has many scenic drives, so you'll be spoiled for choice. One of my favorites is off the beaten path a bit - leaving from Kaikoura, take SH 1, then watch for 70 , which I think you can pick up just past Hawkswood. This is the cut across to 7A, which then heads to Hamner Springs.

Another personal favorite is Queen Charlotte Drive to Picton. This is a very squiggly road, but itís a gorgeous drive, with nice views of the Marlborough Sounds, several picnic areas and an assortment of B&Bís and arts/crafts studios.

Yet another favorite is the Motueka Valley Highway, which originates in Motueka. Here you'll see orchards, snow capped mountains, sheep, red deer farms, meadows, etc Ė gorgeous drive!

BillJ - are you referring to 89 via Cardrona?
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 05:12 PM
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Just thought of another one - the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy (6A)is very scenic - the road follows Lake Wakatipu and is fringed by snow capped mountains.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2006, 10:40 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions--keep them coming This has been so helpful in planning our trip.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2006, 12:38 PM
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Is Hanmer Springs or the drive through Lewis Pass worth the trip? We are now looking to drive from Christchurch to Kaikoura and stay our first night in Kaikoura. This way if the whale watching gets cancelled, we can try again the next day.

Would we be missing out by not driving to Hanmner Springs/Lewis Pass? As of now, I think we will head up to Picton insead. What do you think?

Thanks-I have been planning this trip since Feb, I guess I should start to finalize some plans. Time sure flies by fast.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2006, 03:07 PM
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The scenic drive I mentioned is a road from Wanaka to Queenstown via Cardrona Valley. It is referred to as the Crown Range Road. MelnQ8 if that is #69, ok. Can't find my map.
It is the highest elevation wise road in NZ at 1119 meters. It was not completely sealed until last year or so.
From Wanaka, you drive through a pretty valley with obvious mining history, but now lots of cattle, deer and even one elk farms. The pull out at the top gives a view all the way to Lake Wakatipu. The road down from there is the most exciting, as it features multiple hairpin turns, primarily single lane and on a pretty steep grade.
Fun to drive, much more interesting than the major highway that goes around. And, about 20 minutes shorter. Wouldn't have done it any other way!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2006, 04:16 PM
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Bill - yep, I think we're talking about the same road. We were eyeballing it on one trip, but changed our minds for some reason. Sounds like we missed out and will have to go back!

Lisa - Probably a good idea to visit Kaikoura first to improve your chances of whale watching.

No, you're not missing out by not driving to Hanmer Springs and Lewis Pass. It is a pretty drive, but there are so many pretty drives on the SI that it really doesn't matter! Hanmer Springs is a small thermal resort about 90 minutes from Christchurch. We've stayed there a few times, and while I personally like it, it's definitely not a "must do" kinda thing.
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