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Feedback please on 2 week road trip on NZís South Island

Feedback please on 2 week road trip on NZís South Island

Jun 21st, 2019, 02:22 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 347
Feedback please on 2 week road trip on NZís South Island


Iíve posted trip reports here aplenty but never asked asked for advice re itinerary and planning, but this is our first extended road trip (9 days in Iceland is the most weíve driven on any trip and itís a much smaller country), so looking for feedback from the NZ experts here to be sure weíre not being delusional in what we think we can do.

Weíre a couple in our early to mid 40s who enjoy nature, wildlife, walks and easy hikes. We tend to be more active on our vacations than most but do allow time to just wander and relax.

Hereís what Iím thinking we could do. Our trip will likely be the last 2 weeks in November.

Day 0: Arrive in Christshurch

Day 1: Christchurch to Punakaiki via Arthurs Pass o/n Punakaiki, stop at Castle Hill and at Arthurs Village, maybe an easy hike along the way?

Day 2: Punakaiki to Hokitika Gorge to Fox Glacier o/n (think we might prefer Fox given larger tour groups stay in FJ)

Day 3: Glacier Heli Hikes o/n Fox

Day 4: Lake Matheson walk, optional hikes o/n Fox

Day 5: Waiatoto River Safari in the morning, Haast Pass to Wanaka o/n stop along the way for easy walks

Day 6: Mt. Aspiring hike, Mt. Iron perhaps, relax o/n

Day 7: Lavender farm , Lake Hayes (walk), lunch at the lake, Te Anau o/n

Day 8: Milford Highway to Milford Sound w/ stops along the way, Overnight Cruise o/n on boat

Day 9: Key Summit Hike, drive to Queenstown o/n

Day 10: Glenorchy (Bobís Cove, Bennettís Bluff Viewpoint, Moke Lake) o/n Queenstown

Day 11: Queenstown Arrowtown + vineyards o/n Queenstown

Day 12: Drive to Mt Cook Village via Lindis Pass, Clay Cliffs of Omarama o/n

Day 13: Mount Cook Hooker Valley Track o/n

Day 14: Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapo o/n Lake Tekapo

Day 15: Drive to Banks Peninsula, Swin w/ Dolphins in the afternoon, drop car off at Christchurch airport o/n near the airport

Day 16: Fly out

Is this doable, ridiculous, need some edits? And, is this a good itinerary for the time of year weíre visiting?

Look forward to hearing from you!
Thanks so much, Seema
seemaskt is offline  
Jun 21st, 2019, 02:39 PM
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Hi Seema -

Things look pretty good until Day 5 - the drive from Fox to Wanaka is a very full one, with lots of stops along the way - I don't see how you're going to fit in a safari in the morning too. A quick Google search indicates the safari is 2.5 hours, correct? Long days will be in your favor, but IMO this is ambitious.

Day 15 is worrisome too - it'll take close to four hours to drive from Tekapo to Akaroa, under the best of circumstances and without stops. What time is the afternoon cruise? Then a 90 minute drive back to Christchurch. Long, busy day.

Otherwise, it looks pretty good to me.

Last edited by Melnq8; Jun 21st, 2019 at 02:44 PM.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2019, 03:01 PM
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Thanks so much for the quick response Melnq8 , appreciate it! Yes, the jet safari is 2.5 hours and I was hoping we could break up the driving/hiking with some wildlife spotting. There is a 10am safari so we could be back on the road by 1/1:30.

I was worried about Day 15. The swim is at 3 in the afternoon, so we could have a quick dinner afterwards and drive back to the airport to return the car. A long day for sure, I agree. Will need to reconsider. Anything I can cut out to accommodate a dolphin swim or penguin visit?
seemaskt is offline  
Jun 21st, 2019, 04:23 PM
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Well, you could re-consider that night in Lake Tekapo (night 14), and instead drive a bit further, putting you closer to Akaroa and making the next day more doable.

Maybe consider Geraldine instead? That would shorten your drive day to Akaroa to 2.5 hours.

You'd still have plenty of time to see the sights at Tekapo en route to Geraldine.

The drive from Mt Cook to Tekapo is pretty short (less than 90 minutes as I recall). And there's not all that much to see/do in Tekapo (assuming you're not going for the observatory, in which case you'd need that overnight).
Melnq8 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2019, 05:22 PM
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I concur with Melnq8, maybe cut the overnight in Tekapo to accommodate dolphin swim in Akaroa. I wouldn't cut it that tight, as something could come up, you could get a flat tire, whatever, and end up being late for your dolphin swim. It'd be better if you didn't need to rush or worry about being on time.
There won't be as many cruise ships visiting Akaroa this year, as nearby Lyttleton Port is now up and running, but, if you should happen to time your visit at the same time as the arrival of one the larger cruise ships, make sure to book your dolphin cruise well in advance.
Diamantina is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2019, 05:45 AM
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Thank you for the additional feedback, that trip re Geraldine as an option sounds very promising. I had picked the overnight in Lake Tekapo for the night sky but hadn’t decided if I wanted to do the observatory tour given the prices. It sounds like Geraldine is also within the dark sky reserve so we could enjoy the night sky here as well, assuming clear skies of course.

@diamantina, yes, will definitely book the swim before we leave given its our last day so don’t want to risk it being sold out.

Have either of you done or recommend the Waiatoto river safari in Haast?

And any opinion on the overnight Milford cruise? I’m hoping it will be quieter on the sound after the day trippers leave and will make for a richer or at least more pleasant experience.

Thanks for all your help!
seemaskt is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2019, 06:04 AM
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I haven't done the river safari. Nor have I done the Milford overnight cruise, although I've taken day cruises many times.

For Milford, our MO is to arrive early, before the buses from Queenstown get there (they begin arriving around 11 am), take an early cruise (we don't usually book), then take our time driving back to Te Anau, walking tracks along the way. Or, take our time driving in to Milford, stopping to walk tracks en route, and arriving in Milford for the last cruise of the day and returning to Te Anau in time for a late dinner.

FWIW - the sound is quiet during the day too - it's just the drive in and the crowds at the ferry terminal that aren't. I've never felt the sound was 'busy' as the cruise boats are well spaced and the departure times are staggered.

I don't know how many people the overnight cruise accommodates, but I usually select a smaller boat for day cruises. Only once have I been on a big boat that felt too busy for me, and that was with Real Journeys.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2019, 06:09 AM
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I can recommend a good B&B in Geraldine too if you're interested.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2019, 03:26 PM
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I'd never even heard of the Waiatoto River Safari until you mentioned it--which is a good thing. I just read its reviews on Trip Advisor and looked at the following You Tube video:

It looks like it'll be fun, interesting, and take you off the beaten path that would otherwise be inaccessible. My personal concern would be the sandflies, but I doubt they'd get you while you were on the water and definitely not while the boat is moving. You'll mostly be covered up anyway, there won't be many surfaces to bite.

Please make sure you leave lots of time for the drive from Haast to Wanaka. It's a gorgeous drive. I especially love that stretch along Lakes Hawea and Wanaka. Oh my, the views on a clear day! You'll want to stop for photos or just to savor the moment (plus, you might not want to look and drive at the same time on this curvy, narrow stretch of road).

I've done the overnight Milford Cruise twice (weather was awful the first time, great the second time) and the overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound once. I've loved these experiences. You don't see anymore of the fiord than you would on a day cruise. Milford Sound is not that large. However, I enjoyed being able to kayak for an hour or so before dinner, going up to the top deck to look at the stars at night (on a clear night), seeing sunrise at the mouth of the fiord, watching the wildlife (in our case, dolphins, fur seals and albatross). The fiord is so dark and quiet at night; if the night is clear, the stargazing is wonderful. If you go up to the top deck to view the stars, they can turn off the lights in the wheel house/pilot house for you, making your viewing even better. There's usually an onboard nature guide, who'll give a talk about the fiord, Fiordland, and the wildlife.

There could be up to three boats on the fiord offering an overnight cruise, two from Real Journeys and one from Fiordland Discovery. But we only saw one other cruise boat, briefly, in the morning when we returned to the dock.

I asked my husband why he liked the overnight cruise (he was with me on the two overnight Milford Sound cruises, whereas I went alone to Doubtful Sound). He said he prefers to spend the night on the water, that is, on the boat, instead of on land, that the food was good, and that it was nice being able to spend more time on the water than having to turn around after a couple of hours and get in the car and drive again. He says he wouldn't think of returning to Milford Sound without doing the overnight cruise.

I've never found the boat crowded. In November, the boat might not even be fully occupied.

I also liked that we got back to the dock early enough (before 9 a.m.) to be able to take our time on the drive back to Te Anau. It gave us time to walk to Key Summit and make other stops.

Last edited by Diamantina; Jun 22nd, 2019 at 03:29 PM.
Diamantina is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2019, 05:33 AM
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Melnq8 i would definitely love to have the BnB recommendation for Geraldine, looks like such a pretty town. Thank you!

Diamantina exactly why I was in interested in both the river safari and overnight cruises. And if we have bad weather one day, gives us another opportunity for clear skies.

If we start back for Wanaka from Haast at 1:30 does that give us enough time for the drive back with photo stops? I expect to be at the hotel at 6:30 pm or so. I was hoping to do the 10am river safari which means an early morning start for us from Fox, but we’re usually jet lagged and up early anyway.

I really appreciate you both taking the time to provide such detailed responses. It’s been very helpful!
seemaskt is offline  
Jun 24th, 2019, 07:54 AM
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Thank you!
seemaskt is offline  
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