Help with NZ South Island itinerary

Old Jan 28th, 2017, 12:14 AM
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Help with NZ South Island itinerary

We are traveling with our 2 teenage daughters to OZ mid July to mid August. Out of which, we can spend in the NZ Southern island around 7-9 days top. (We will be arriving from Sidney).

I would appreciate some help with the itinerary.
We are very much into wildlife, so whale watching and baby seals are a must.
I was thinking about a one way driving trip, from Queenstown to Christchurch, or the other way around. (What would you suggest?).

I have some question:
1. Is Akaroa (Dolphins) worthwhile?
2. Wanaka- We saw there are sled dog trips. Would you recommend?
3. What would you recommend in between? We love nature and beautiful scenery.

How would you build the itinerary?
Thanks so much for your help!!!
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Old Jan 28th, 2017, 02:14 AM
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Nine nights or nine days, eight nights? Of course, nine nights would be better, because the more time the better, you'll be able to see more, go at a more relaxed pace, stay longer at each of your destinations. If you book a tour and it's cancelled due to weather, you can reschedule for the next day, but if you have just one day in each place, you won't be able to do this. It'll be winter, so you must allow for any delays caused by bad weather. Daylight hours will also be shorter. But even nine days does not assure a leisurely trip between Christchurch and Queenstown, especially if you want to go to Akaroa, Kaikoura, Wanaka, Queenstown, and somewhere between Christchurch and Queenstown (most scenic and practical is Mt. Cook Village). If you spent one night in Christchurch, and two nights each in Akaroa, Kaikoura, Wanaka and Queenstown, that's already nine nights. If you spend one night in Akaroa, then you'll free up a day to overnight in Mt. Cook Village enroute to Queenstown or Christchurch. And if you drop a night in Wanaka, you'll have an extra day for Queenstown. There is so much to do in or around Queenstown, not the least of which is a all-day trip to Milford Sound (weather permitting).

Yes, Akaroa is worth it. Black Cat Cruises will take you to see Hector's Dolphins, which are unique to New Zealand. They're beautiful, one of the world's smallest dolphins, with rounded dorsal fins. They're rare and endangered. You might also see White-Flippered Little Penguins swimming around in the water, and seabirds. Black Cat Cruises also offers a "Swimming with Dolphins" experience. See for more information. About Hector's Dolphins:

Akaroa is about 1 hour, 20 minutes from Christchurch. It's a charming, historic village with a scenic location.

The main whale watch destination is Kaikoura, which is 2.5 hours north of Christchurch (I think, as I haven't been on this road post-earthquake). The earthquake lifted Kaikoura's seabed, which has affected the times whale watch cruises can sail. Currently, they can't sail low to mid-tide because the depth of the water is too shallow. Please continue to check their website:

There used to be a place, Ohau Stream and Waterfall, 27 km north of Kaikoura, where you could see young seals swimming in the pool. But it was damaged by the recent earthquake. However, there are encouraging signs and local residents have been attempting to restore the habitat.
See the recent alert:
My advice is to keep checking the above link.

There is, however, a large fur seal colony with pups at Point Kean on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, which, I believe, was not severely damaged by the quake.
There are no alerts on its Dept. of Conservation webpage:

I don't know anything about Wanaka dog-sledding, but there are many reviews on Trip Advisor:
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Old Jan 28th, 2017, 02:25 AM
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Here is a link to the AA Drive Distance Calculator:

Sunrise/sunset times:

In winter, it is wise to wait an hour or so after sunrise before you drive as there can be ice on the road. Watch out for shady roadways or shady parts of roadways, where ice can linger through the day.

After you arrive in New Zealand, you'll want to check weather forecasts at Metservice
and road info at

I-Site (tourism offices) in towns and major tourist destinations will also have up-to-date road information.
Diamantina is offline  
Old Jan 28th, 2017, 03:11 AM
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You have been very helpful. Thanks!!
I didn't know the baby seal's waterfall was closed. Didn't find it anywhere.
irenek is offline  
Old Jan 28th, 2017, 03:55 PM
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You're welcome. Keep checking the Dept. of Conservation link above about Ohau Stream because things might change. You'd still see plenty of seals at Point Kean on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway (it's a beautiful walk). See recent reviews on Trip Advisor:

For your own safety and for the safety of the seals, please read the Dept. of Conservation guidelines for seal viewing:
"Always stay at least 20 metres [65 feet] from seals. Allow them space if they are active.
Do not disturb seals. Don’t make loud noises or throw objects in their vicinity.
Always keep small children under control and away from seals.
Never attempt to touch or handle a seal. They can be aggressive if threatened.
You can also catch diseases from seals through their skin, sneezes, coughs and barks, and you may also carry diseases that can transfer to them and make them ill."

You can read more about fur seals here:

Your biggest concern will be how to fit the things you'd like to see and do in the amount of time you'll have, you might have to eliminate something. Or try to extend your vacation by a couple of days. Remember, winter can throw obstacles your way, possibly causing last-minute changes to your itinerary.

Do you have a touring map? If not, here are some useful links:

When you arrive in New Zealand, you can pick up free "Jason's Route Planner" maps in the airport. You can even order them ahead of your trip.
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