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Eyedealtarheel May 15th, 2012 09:52 AM

Driving around the SI of New Zealand - where to go
I could appreciate some suggestions/feedback on a ~16 day trip to the SI in December/January
Driving route, must see places, activities in these areas, whatever you would like to share. thank you

Arriving either at Nelson or Christchurch and renting a car for the entire trip
Places I would like to visit but know I will need to eliminate some places due to time

Abel Tasmen park - hiking
Kaikoura - whale watching
Farewell Split
Fox and Franz Josef glaciers
Paparoa Park
Aoraki/Mount Cook Park
Fiordland Park
Te Anau
Dunedin - for the kilt stores
Otago Peninsula

Activites I would like to do
Heli-hiking to the glaciers
Hot air Balloon Ride
swim with marine life
whale watching

Melnq8 May 15th, 2012 03:24 PM

That's a mighty big wish list for 16 days. Here's a mileage calculator to get you started:

Flying into Nelson a possible route could be:

Nelson/Abel Tasman (would suggest you stay in Marahau or Kaiteriteri or Motueka if Abel Tasman is your main focus)

Drive from Abel Tasman area to Collingwood & on to Farewell Spit

Drive from Collingwood to Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks & Paparora Nat'l Park)

Drive from Punakaiki to glaciers

Drive from glaciers to Wanaka

Drive from Wanaka to Te Anau

Drive from Te Anau to Milford and return

Drive from Te Anau to QT

Drive from QT to Dunedin

Drive from Dunedin to Mt Cook (pick your route wisely, otherwise you'll be backtracking on the same roads)

Drive from Mt Cook to Christchurch (assume you depart Christchurch?)

This is just a suggested route, I'm certainly not suggesting you actually drive every day. How many nights you spend in each area will depend on what you want to see/do.

I've left out Kaikioura though.

Or you could do something like this if you arrive/depart Christchurch:

Christchurch-Kaikoura-Abel Tasman-Collingwood-Punakaiki-Glaciers-Wanaka-Te Anau/Milford-Queenstown-Dunedin-Mt Cook-Christchurch.

You'll drive right through Haast on both routes.

Eyedealtarheel May 16th, 2012 10:58 AM

Thanks for the feedback...I,too,think its ambitious and I know I don't want to be driving everyday at least not more than a couple of hours and some days really not at all

I'll go back through what I think are my top 5 places and what I'd like to do there and post again.

Thanks again

Eyedealtarheel May 17th, 2012 07:08 AM

Ok So I've mapped each suggested route and off the top of my head the second route (start/end in Christchurch) seems most appealing but a lot of we know.
What would be two/three places you would suggest to skip this trip? As long as I can get sea kayaking with marine life, kayaking in general, hiking and glaciers I'm set. I can often overplan a trip (don't want to miss anything) but I really don't like spending so much time just getting from one place to another.



Melnq8 May 17th, 2012 06:51 PM

Both routes involve a lot of driving. You're trying to incorporate the far north and the far south of the SI, and both the West Coast and the inland route, which is difficult to accomplish without quite a bit of driving and plenty of time.

I personally would skip Christchurch, Kaikoura and Dunedin. You'll get <sea kayaking with marine life, kayaking in general, hiking and glaciers> elsewhere.

Christchurch and Dunedin are cities and the best of the SI is well outside of the cities. I never have seen the allure of Kaikoura (whales, I know, but I get the impression that some visitors are disappointed in the whole whale might want to do some reasearch to see if it appeals to you).

The town of Kaikoura is a bit dreary IMO, completely tourist centered. You can see seals at Ohau Point, about 22 km north of Kaikoura. Just pull off the road and look down towards the rocks. Pretty incredible. I'm told seal pups can be seen at Ohau Falls, one km north of Ohau Point.

If you're arriving from a long international flight, a night in Christchurch makes a lot of sense, but after getting some rest, I'd move on.

You can still see'll drive right through there on your way to Abel Tasman, but Christchurch to Abel Tasman is a long drive day, so your time in Kaikoura will be somewhat limited unless you decide to spend a night there.

I think itinerary two is quite doable if you concentrate on Abel Tasman-Collingwood, glaciers, Wanaka, Te Anau/Milford, Queenstown, Mt Cook.

Punakaiki can be seen enroute, but you'll probably want to break up the long drive to the glaciers somewhere...Hokitika is a possibility - there's a brilliant gorge there, about ~25-30 km from town, glow worms, etc. There are some lovely hikes near Punakaiki though and considerably fewer tourists as the sun sets.

Milford can be done in a day from QT, but it's a very long day, and not what I recommend. I think seeing Milford from a Te Anau base makes more sense and gives one more time to explore the wonderful hiking tracks in the Milford/Te Anau area. You can kayak at Milford and elsewhere in the vicinity.

Don't miss Glenorchy, my new favorite place on the SI. Only a 40 minute drive from QT, but worlds away from the tourist insanity. Stunning scenery, incredible tracks.

Eyedealtarheel May 18th, 2012 06:23 AM

Thank you! This is exactly the type of feedback I am looking forward. I definitely would rather spend time out in nature and not in some tourist town or on potential lame exercusions.

I'll go back to the 'drawing board' to tweak a new route.

Thank you again

ThomasW May 22nd, 2012 04:46 AM

The quickest route from Christchurch to Nelson does not go through Kaikoura, but rather over the lewis pass, probably a hour and a bit quicker.

I do feel Kaikoura is worth visting, while you can see marine life elsewhere Kaikoura does have a lot of it, and its probably the best place to see a whale. But a day is all that you would need.

You could even leave Christchurch early in the morning, its only about 1 3/4 hours to Kaikoura. Go whale watching or Seal swimming or kataking ect... See the road side attractions, then drive onto Blenheim or Nelson that afternoon/evening.

I love Golden Bay and it has same decent attractions (Pupū Springs, Harwoods holes, Caves, Farewell spit) but its worth skipping if you do not have the time.

Eyedealtarheel May 23rd, 2012 06:08 AM

Again thank you both for your feedback.
Here is my next attempt at an itinerary

Start/End Christchurch
Arrive Dec 27
Day 1: Freetime in Christchurch
Day 2: Drive to Picton with a stop at Kaikoura
Day 3: Drive to Abel Tasman National Park take a 1 or 2 night kayaking camping trip
Day 5 or 6 (depending on length of camping trip) explore Golden Bay - Pupu Springs, perhaps Farewell Spit
This will be NYE and I am traveling with a 22 yr male..wonderign if worth driving to Nelson for the night. Thoughts?

Day 6 or 7 Drive to Punakaiki

Day 8 or 9 Drive to Glaciers

Day 10 or 11 Drive to Te Anau - spend 2 or 3 nights here

Day 11 or 12 - drive to Queenstown (explore Glenorchy)

Day 12 or 13 drive to Mount Cook

Day 13 or 14 drive to Akaroa (son is a french major in college) and leave from here to the airport in Christchurch

Wow, I'm a bit exhausted just typing this all out
I don't want to miss any of the good parts....but there is a lot of driving, but my son can help with that
Thoughts please!

Melnq8 May 23rd, 2012 05:01 PM

Regarding Nelson on NYE..while it's a city, keep in mind that the combined urban areas of Nelson and Richmond only have a population of 60,000. It's not what I'd call a happening town, but perhaps Nelsonian could better clarify what to expect there on NYE.

You have some long drive days are you probably realize. Day 10/11 is particularly long, close to 8 hours I'd reckon.

I usually recommend at least two nights at the glaciers if one plans to do any hiking or a helihike there. Otherwise, there's not much time to do anything, particularly with a long drive the following day.

You'll need a full day to do a Collingwood Spit tour.

I count seven one night stays...I personally try to avoid one night stays unless I'm in transit, as there's just no time to do anything. One night stays = lots of driving and no time to visit the areas you're going to.

Eyedealtarheel May 24th, 2012 04:09 AM

Thanks are correct. I either need to add more days to the trips or adjust the itinerary.

At this point it looks like we will do this trip in reverse of what I listed...starting in Akaroa and ending in Christchurch via Picton.

Is Akaroa worth visting? Any suggestions on what to see/do there?


Melnq8 May 24th, 2012 04:44 PM

Yes, Akaora is worth visiting, but only if you have time. Dolphin watching, Pohatu Penguin reserve, some nice little French themed restaurants, water activities, walking opportunities, pretty scenery, a cheesery, etc.

More info here:

ThomasW May 26th, 2012 01:21 AM

I found Akaroa boring the only time I visited. Just a small New Zealand town with a few French words on the street signs. Was low tide, so got a good look at the mud flats. But others seem to love it.

Nelson would be decent on NYE, the bars would be full and they would have some kind of countdown celebration. Many people flock to Golden and Tasman Bay for their summer holidays, so even small places like Takaka would have quite a festive atmosphere.

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