Help with New Zealand Trip

Dec 25th, 2008, 10:05 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2
Help with New Zealand Trip

My wife and I are going to New Zealand, almost exclusively the South Island(we have to fly through Auckland), we had a few questions.

1. Is the Doubtful Sound overnight cruise run by Real Journey's worthwhile?

2. My wife and I are vegetarians, so it sounded like farm stays weren't for us. Did anybody have any suggestions for something similar?

3. According to the map tools, it takes 4 hrs to get from Frans Joseph Glacier to Wanaka. Is that a reasonable time estimate? And I was concerned about doing that late in the day on what appears to be a mountain road. Should I make sure to drive it in daylight?

Sorry for all the questions. Any input would be appreciated.
mAaron is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 12:46 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,482
Hi mAaron -

I'm not much of a meat eater and I have no problems finding plenty to eat in NZ as vegetarians are well catered for. Most cafes, restaurants and even pubs offer several vegetarian options.

I'm not sure what being vegetarian has to do with not wanting to stay on a farm, unless you're offended by the business in general or worried about what you'd be served for dinner if meals were included??? If it's the latter, I doubt you'd have any problems if you just told the owners that you're vegetarian up front.

There are many different accommodation options in NZ - farm stays can consist of anything from an isolated cottage on someone's country property to an actual working farm. We've stayed on a dairy farm a few times and it was great - we had no contact with the animals other than seeing them grazing in the field. We also stayed on a sheep farm in the Catlins, and other than being invited to watch the owners shear their sheep, we never saw them (the sheep that is).

In addition to farm stays, NZ has loads of cottages, apartments, B&Bs, baches, vineyard accommodation, hotels and motels to choose from. The choice of accommodation is really diverse and personally, I enjoy finding unusual places to stay.

If you tell us specifically which towns you plan to stay in, we Fodorites can be more helpful.

The drive from Franz Josef to Wanaka is about 287 kms and will take between 3.5- 4 hours, longer with stops. There are many reasons to stop along the way, so give yourself plenty of time.

I'd suggest making the drive during daylight so you can actually enjoy the scenery - it's a beautiful drive and you're really missing out if you make it in the dark. Yes, the roads are winding in spots, but it's certainly not trecherous if you take normal care.

I've visited Milford Sound three times, but have yet to take the Doubtful Sound cruise, so can't help except to say I've never heard a bad word about it. It's often the highlight of many a visitor's trip to NZ.
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 04:42 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
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I've done the Doubtful Sound cruise with Real Journeys in January 2007 -- just the day trip, not the overnight. It was, bluntly, the most beautiful place I had ever seen on the entire planet. At that moment I became jaded towards any other place that I will probably ever see in my life.

If you can do it, I heartily suggest it. The day that I went, it was drizzly and rainy. It was glorious. I almost cried, it was so beautiful. The rain created waterfalls and this fog that rolled through the Sound, through all of the hills. The captain shuts off the engines and tells everyone to be quiet, and you can (or at least I did) hear the place ... breathing. It was unforgettable. I have one particular photo of the hills of the Sound halfway in fog and all different colors of green that I am going to enlarge to poster size.

On the same tack, I took an overnight with Real Journeys to Milford Sound, mostly because of the kayaking. The sounds are quite different and if you are able it's good to see that one too.

So, yes, I would recommend Doubtful Sound. I bet waking up out there will be extraordinary.

As for FJ to Wanaka, I took a bus, but even so, it was a windy road and it was a bit freaky seeing how close the bus was to the edge -- and in NZ there are no metal railings on the sides of the roads. It goes through Haast Pass which is beautiful. I remember thinking I wish the bus would stop so we could get out and take pictures. You might want to do it in the daytime.

Hope this is helpful. You will not regret DS.
hikrchick is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 05:47 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 18,063
You didn't say when you are going to NZ but remember that it is now their summer, and it will stay light very late down south. I would avoid driving after dark, mostly because of wildlife crossing the road (especially the possums on the west coast).

I prefer Milford Sound for scenery to Doubtful Sound, but either one would be worthwhile.
mlgb is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 06:44 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,546
Hi mAaron-

We did the DS overnight, and thought it was very good. If you are interested, my report of my trip is at

I am a vegetarian, and as mel says, it is easy to do so. We stayed at a 'farm stay' near Waitomo, and I just needed to tell them beforehand of my preference.

And I agree that the Haast pass is not a road but a treat, and best done starting early in the day.
Jed is offline  
Dec 28th, 2008, 02:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2
We have been reading everybody’s replies, previous trip descriptions and really want to thank everyone for the fantastic ideas and travel logs. We are arriving in New Zealand in late February- 09 and know we need to move quickly for reservations. We like beaches (swimming), wine-tasting, beautiful scenery and walking/hiking. Below is our proposed itinerary.
ChristChurch 2 Days 2/20/09 - 2/22/09

Akuroa 2hrs 2/22/09

Waipara (region) 1 day 2/22/09 - 2/23/09

Nelson 1 day 2/23/09 - 2/24/09

Abel Tassman 2 days 2/24/09 - 2/26/09

Hammer Springs 1 day 2/26/09 - 2/27/09

Arthur's Pass 2 days 2/27/09 - 3/1/09

Frans Joseph
Glacier 1 day 3/1/09 - 3/2/09

Arrowtown 2 days 3/2/09 - 3/4/09

Te Anu 2 days 3/4/09 - 3/6/09

Dunedin 1 day 3/6/09 - 3/7/09

Oamuru 2 days 3/7/09 - 3/9/09

Finish in Christchurch

What do you think? Any accommodations you would recommend along the route? We have some ideas but would appreciate any input. Thanks.
mAaron is offline  
Dec 28th, 2008, 04:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 18,063
I'm not sure about the travel time to Akaroa. It might be more than 2 hours round trip.

You might find the west coast a bit rushed with only one night in Franz Josef, although not too bad if you leave Arthur's Pass fairly early. Then you'll have part of the arrival day to do something.

Don't think you'll want more than one night in Oamaru (and that's just to see the penguins), I might do 2 in Dunedin instead. Or stop partway in the Catlins between Te Anau and Dunedin.

Overall it might feel a bit rushed. Unless you have a special interest in wildlife maybe drop Dunedin-Oamaru and come back from the Queenstown area via Mt. Cook to Christchurch. One over night round Twizel, Tekapo or Mt. Cook Village.
mlgb is offline  
Dec 28th, 2008, 05:50 PM
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Hi again mAaron - I agree with mlgb that your itinerary seems awfully rushed.

The drive from Christchurch to Akaroa is about 1:10 each way, and you could easily spend a full day there. Waipara is in a different direction from Christchurch (about 45 minutes north) so you might be hard pressed to see both Akaroa and Waipara in the same day.

It would be a better use of your time to see Waipara on the way to Blenheim, as you'll be driving right through there anyway. FYI - Waipara isn't a spot most first time visitors try to fit in - it's a wine growing area, but there are only a handful of cellar doors and winery restaurants as I recall. The wine growing regions of Nelson and Blenheim are more developed and have many more wineries to visit and since you're going there anyway...

It seems that you've not taken into consideration travel times - for instance, the drive from Christchurch to Nelson will take a minimum of six hours, and that's only if you drive straight through. If you want to spend time in Waipara and Blenheim on the way to Nelson, and perhaps make a side trip to Picton, it's going to be a heck of a long day and it won't leave you any time to see Nelson once you get there. It took us 9 hours to drive from Christchurch to Nelson on our first visit to NZ because we kept getting sidetracked.

Take a look at drive times here:

So, you'd basically sight-seeing on your way to Nelson, spending one night, and then getting up and driving to Abel Tasman the next day.

I assume your reason for backtracking to Christchurch is to see Arthur's pass, which I can understand. Another option would be to drive from Nelson to Westport and then down to Punakaiki and on to Franz Josef, but I don't suggest doing it all in one day.

I usually suggest at least two nights in Franz Josef or Fox Glacier for anyone wanting to take a helihike or glacier hike. Staying two nights allows a full day to see the area without having to rush back to the car to continue driving.

Agree with mlgb about Oamaru too - it's an interesting enough town with its old buildings, but the penguins are the main draw and one night has always been enough for me (and I don't even like one night stays!)

Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2008, 05:59 PM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 764
Akaroa is about an hour's drive from Christchurch. It is a flat road for most of the way but there is one significant hill to climb with winding road to get over from Little River to Akaroa Harbour.

kiwi_rob is online now  
Dec 28th, 2008, 06:00 PM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
New Zealand takes a bit more time for travelling about than most people appreciate mAaron for a lot of the roads away from SH1[and some of SH1] are narrow with plenty of curves, a far cry from US interstaters.

Whilst you have given yourself a reasonable spread of time and stops, it seems a bit light on down the southern part around Queenstown way where many attractions are.

I'd suggest that you could make the travelling distances/time a bit shorter by flying Auckland into Nelson and then heading south towards Westport, cutting back to Hanmer Springs and then Christchurch before heading across Arthurs Pass to the westcoast and on to Wanaka/Queenstown/Doubtful Sound etc.

If you did your look around CC region on the pass through, you could fly back Auckland from Queenstown or Dundedin.

As for travel times to be allowed between points, use a Ctrl.Click on distances on and then click on link and you should get a map with a scroll distance/time feature.

Sing out if it doesn't work.
Bushranger is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 02:52 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 147
Akaroa is beautiful and most unusual being half English and half French. You need at least a whole morning or afternoon just there let alone the travel time.
I think it all sounds rushed. It is such a stunning country.
I'm going to Queenstown in a couple of weeks, have been to Christchurch last year, which i loved, and been from Auckland to Wellington a few years ago.
All different and all places I'd love to return to but I went at a much slower pace so I could drink it in.
moonrise is offline  
Jun 9th, 2009, 10:24 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 392
tagging these tips!
GillsinEurope is offline  
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