Driving on South Island in August

Jul 13th, 2005, 02:14 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 220
Driving on South Island in August


My family is planning a last minute trip to NZ in early august, a detour from Adelaide after attending a wedding. I was wondering whether driving in winter is advised, as in, is it worth the road journeys, whether it's dangerous on the roads etc. Trip is likely to cover Christchurch, Franz Josef, Mount Cook, Te Anau, et al and back to Christchurch.

Will do more research later but just want to find out if a self-drive trip is advised first.

Much thanks!
JannaG is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 10:50 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,116
Did a self-drive on the South Island last July-Aug. Maybe we were lucky, but the weather was mostly gorgeous - cool, clear and crip. No snow on the road anywhere, even on the drive to Milford Sound from Te Anau. I was also there in Aug 1986 and had a similar experience.

I say go for it.
RalphR is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 04:11 PM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 8
Trav_lin is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 10:37 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 220
We're from the same side of the traffic as NZ so that's not a problem. I think we'll go ahead, thanks for the encouragement.

How's the itinerary below? Issit do-able?

Day 0-Arrive Christchurch in the late afternoon from Adelaide.

Proceed to Lake Tekapo area? August skies should darken early right? Maybe we should wait till the next morning.

Day 1- Christchurch -> Lake Tekapo/Twizel/Mt Cook. Overnight.

Which is a better option for winter? As in activities/scenery that would fill our afternoon and morning of the following day?

Day 2 - Proceed to Queenstown (reach evening).

Day 3 - Queenstown

Day 4 - Queenstown daytrip or drive to Te Anau/Milford Sound.

Day 5 - Queenstown to Franz Josef (Is Fox Glacier better?)

Break drive at Lake Wanaka? Or any other scenic spots?

Day 6 - Franz Josef

Day 7 - Franz Josef - Christchurch

Day 8 - Christchurch

Thanks for any and all comments. As this is quite last minute, I'm feeling a trite panicky (feel responsible that I should plan a good trip for us all).
JannaG is offline  
Jul 14th, 2005, 09:21 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 220
I just need 1 or 2 assurances and we're set to make the final arrangements. Someone please comment? Just briefly?

Many thanks!!
JannaG is offline  
Jul 14th, 2005, 01:14 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 424
Hi, JannaG,
Welcome to New Zealand in anticipation!
Would recommend leaving travel to Tekapo till the next morning. Light starts to fade around 5:00pm although it is not dark for another hour or so.
This way you will enjoy the scenery on the way down!
As to the return via Franz Josef / Fox glaciers - from Queenstown to FJ is a trip of approximately 8 hours straight driving. We have done this trip several times, and allowing for stretch-stops, coffee breaks, oohing and aahing over sights, etc, it usually takes us a good ten hours.
My husband and I are doing this trip in January in reverse (Greymouth to Queenstown), and are stopping overnight in Haast to allow us time to explore the area, even though we have travelled this road many times. Perhaps you might consider dropping a night from Queenstown and doing the same thing. Whatever you do, do stop at the Haast bridge - you'll know when you are there.
From FJ to Christchurch is again going to be a long trip time-wise - approximately 7 hours driving time via Arthur's Pass. However, having said all this, both trips are through beautiful countryside and well worthwhile!
I'd look at heading for Tekapo and staying there overnight. Mount Cook could be 'iffy' at that time of the year, and there is nothing worse than arriving there to torrents of rain, no view of the beautiful mountain, and a feeling of disappointment. We found that in the middle of summer two years ago! Luckily we just went there for a day trip, which is what you could do on the way to Queenstown the next day.
Hope this diatribe has been of some help to you.
dotty is offline  
Jul 14th, 2005, 07:57 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 220
Dotty - thank you, thank you! I am much reassured now.

Queenstown to the glaciers take 8 hours? Wow online research mostly says 5 hours (~370km) - with sightseeing and stops, I was thinking it'd take up to 8, didnt realise it might hit 10 hours. But since you've done it yourself multiple times, I'll use your experience as a benchmark.

Being an absolute newbie in driving trips, one other aspect that I keep thinking about for this trip in NZ is this: On the long road trips, would we have to specifically detour to find lunch stops, petrol stations, and sightsee or would we be passing through all these as we go along. Specifically, I'm asking for Queenstown to FJ and FJ to Christchurch.

Heh I think I sound abit like a moron.
JannaG is offline  
Jul 15th, 2005, 07:03 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 424
Hi, JannaG,
No moron would have the trip so far organised as you have!!
I have the Automobile Association road map for the Queenstown / Fox trip in front of me to check my info! The AA allows 7 hours 45 minutes for someone averaging 80 - 100 kph on open stretches. In this time frame is a small allowance for petrol stops, refreshments and traffic delays. I seem to recall someone in a previous posting discovering the travel time was much longer than expected. Some of our roads in this area are quite windy (not straight as opposed to suffering from strong blasts of wind!) and therefore you are not able to go at a high speed. And of course the scenery is just awesome, requiring several stops!!
Anyway, to your second question re refreshment / loo stops, etc:
you will get petrol in Lake Hawea township, and possibly at the Haast Village. Certainly there are cafes / tearooms along the way, although I can't remember exactly where as it is three years since we were over that way. There has to be some though as I need my coffee fix regularly! As for scenery - it's everywhere! There are signposts in advance letting the traveller know in advance of special places to see. One place you should visit from Fox Glacier, which will require a very early start, is Lake Matheson. Best viewed first thing in the morning to see the magnificent reflection. (We are going to do that in January as I have never seen it although my husband has several times in his youth.) Trip from Fox to Christchurch will be fine as far as petrol and refreshments are concerned.
Our local Automobile Association has great trip maps which you might be able to obtain if you belong to a similar association in your country. Might be worth checking out, as the maps have information about the region on one side and a detailed map on t'other side.
The maps you would require for the trips you are doing are: Discover New Zealand; Westland; South Canterbury and Mount Cook; Southern Lakes and Fiordland; and perhaps Canterbury. Hope this helps a little more. Will watch this space in case you require any further info.
dotty is offline  
Jul 15th, 2005, 07:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,896
Janna -

We've also driven from Queenstown to Franz Josef and vice versa several times. Our latest trip in May took us 7.5 hours and included a stop at the Blue Pools, where we took a short hike and spent some time gazing at the pools, a stop at Thunder Creek Falls, a stop for ice cream in Makarora and a stop for lunch in Fox Glacier. How long it takes you will depend on how many stops you make, but the drive can easily be done in 6-8 hours if you don't stop at every opportunity.

Between Queenstown and Franz Josef there are a few places to stop for lunch and petrol - Cromwell, Wanaka, Makarora, Haast and Fox Glacier are your best bets.

Between Franz Josef and Christchurch you'll have even more choices.

Have a great trip!
Melnq8 is online now  
Jul 16th, 2005, 04:40 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 220
Let me just thank the two of you first for the great replies. I'm very grateful. If I have any more queries, I'll definitely post again.

I'm now researching accommodations - with 2 young adults and 2 um senior adults, it can add up to quite a bit, so it's a bit of a headache - we're not exactly in the backpacking group
JannaG is offline  
Jul 16th, 2005, 02:37 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
Don't underestimate New Zealand hostels; many of them are more like staying in someone's home. We had lovely experiences at two of the three we stayed at on the North Island; the third hostel was fine, but it was bigger so it felt a little more institutional. Many hostels have double rooms with ensuite baths, so they're similar to a hotel room at a reduced price.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jul 16th, 2005, 04:28 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,896
Janna -

NZ is also a great place to rent cottages, apartments and holiday houses. You'd be surprised at how many affordable options you have for accommodation.

Here are some sites that might help:

Melnq8 is online now  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:19 PM.