itinerary HELP!

Old Jul 26th, 2010, 07:07 PM
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itinerary HELP!

Trying to figure out the route for our NZ trip in early DEC to the beginning JAN. 24 full days plus the arrival/departure days. (Note: travelling with 2 toddlers - ages 14months and 3 years!!). we plan to hire a car and travel across from Aukland to the south island.

or have the option of doing the other way round - south to north. which is better?

We have booked a return flight to Aukland. So we will be getting an internal flight from either Christchurch or Queenstown(at extrcost of NZ$200 for family) back to Auckland. Which is the better option? Christchurch or Queens town? (looking at the map - as Queenstown is the southernmost in the map it seems that it makes more sense to drive via Christchurch and end up in queenstown for the return flight to Aukland/or make it the starting point) but most itineraries don't do that.?? Why is that?

I based my route on "Indian couples" route given that our aim is also to see as much as possible in our limited time, as this may be our only trip to this wonderful country.

Please let me know if i should skip any of the places, if it is not practical to visit with kids.

Would love to do as much trekking as possible (i suppose 1/2 days walks at the longest given we are travelling with little ones), kayaking is out( same reason as before) but boat rides, other activities where ever possible. also would like to incorporate fruit picking and farmstays (some of the accommodation recommended by indian couple were farmstays so will look in to that! after ironing out the itinerary.)

However if it makes more sense to fly back from Queenstown to save on driving time, would appreciate help in rerouting the destinations. Also, have some trouble figuring out how I can fit in Blenheim/Kaikoura.

So heres the rough itinerary below.

DEC10 - Arrive in Auckland in the afternoon- rest (1N at Aukland)

DAY1 - Depart Aukland in the morning to Rotura - see the WaiO tapu(If the lady Knox explosion is a must - we will do it the next morning??) /Maori show - (1N at Rotura)

DAY2 - (see the WaiO tapu/lady knox in the morning.)?Late morning drive to Tongario National Park viaLake Taupo/Huka falls/ Do a short lake walk (1st N at Tongario)

DAY3 - Do some short treks in the morning and evening in Tongario park (2nd N at Tongario)

DAY4. - Morning another short trek in Tongario ? Afternoon drive to Napier - relax. (1st N at Napier)

DAY5 - See some wineyards and some apple orchards for fruit picking. (2nd night at Napier)

DAY6 - Drive to Wellington early morning - see the museum/explore the town (1N at Wellington)

DAY7 - Late Morning Ferry to Picton. Take a boat cruise in Marlborough sound? or should we skip the cruise?
Evening Drive to Nelson. (1N at Nelson)

DAY8 - Early morning do a day trip to Abel Tasman to do the short trek plus boat ride/walk option (mentioned by indian couple) (2N at Nelson)

DAY9 - See the town/ farms. and Late afternoon Drive to ................

***Heres where we get stuck!!
The rest of their itinerary says to go via Punaikaki to Hokitika to Fox glaciers. Where would Blenheim/Kaikoura fit in??we would like to see both Kaikoura and the glaciers.***

..............................Belhiem (1N at Blenheim)

DAY10 - See the Marlborough wine country (2nd N at Blenheim)

DAY11 - Early morning drive to Kaikoura -do tour for whale/dolphin watching (1st N at Kaikoura)

DAY12 - Relax on the beach/seal Colony. any activities for kids?? (2nd N at Kaikoura)

DAY13 - Late morning drive to Christchurch. Explore town - cherry picking (Kaituna Orchard) - (IN at Christchurch)

DAY14 - Take the tranzalpine scenic train to Greymouth. 8.15 to 12.45pm. Pick up a rental car and morning drive to fox glazier via Franz Joseph glazier - self walk to near the glazier (1N at Fox glazier)

DAY15 - Lake Matheson.Do the Fox glacier tour (2nd night at Fox glazier)

DAY16 - Late Afternoon drive to Wanaka - spendsome time and then continue to Queenstown via Hasst pass (1st N at Queenstown)

DAY17 - Shot over, do the Luge in the morning. Evening drive to Arrowtown/explore (2nd N at Queenstown)

DAY18 - Morning Drive to Te Anau - See glow-worm caves. Short trek.(1N at Te Anau)

DAY19 - morning Drive to Milford - Do the afternoon boat cruise. - drive back to Te Anus (2nd N at Te Anau)

DAY20 - Morning drive to Mt Cook - do a short trek. (1N at Mt cook)

DAY 21- Do the glazier explorer tour (Can we do this?) Relax. (2nd night at Mt Cook)

DAY22 - Morning drive to Christchurch via Lake Takapo and Lake Pukaki. (route #72 to) (IN at Christchurch)

DAY23 - Afternoon flight back to Aukland (1N at Auckland)

DAY24 - Aukland - (2nd night at Auckland)

DAY25 - Flight back.


Loads more Qs
1. Tongario - Is there doable treks in Tongario with kids. Any recommendations on treks/tour operators?
2. Napier - can we probably see any apple orchards in early December for fruit picking?? is that still too early?
Is it worth doing both Napier and Marlborough wine country or should we pick one? if so which is better? . We are not wine buffs but have never seen wineyards plus would be nice to see/understand the process.
3.Is Marlborough wine country a highlight or should we pick between Napier/Marlborough
4.Abel Tasman - Indian couple -would appreciate if you could advise your tour operator for Abel Tasman. or any other suggestions?
5. can we drop off our rental car and pick-up a new one from Greymouth?? Is the trans alpine recommended? (We live in SAsia and have not experienced snow etc.) or should we give this a miss given that we will be going to the glaziers/Mt cook area.
6. Can we do the fox glazier tour with the kids?
7. Any recommendations for Cherry/berry picking in an around the towns we are going to.
8.Mt cook - can we take the glazier explorer tour with the kids - or maybe its not worthwhile coming to Mt Cook we cannot do the tour? - maybe reduce a night and add somewhere else?

also, should we drop a destination or two and add a few days to the others. any recommendations (note: this is our only trip to nz,) may be one of the wine destinations or Tongario national park or Transalpine train.

Your input is much appreciated.!!! thanks.
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 09:15 PM
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Ah, planning a NZ itinerary. It's never easy, and I've done it many times.

A few comments about the SI portion:

There's also fruit picking in/around the Nelson/Motueka and you'll find plenty of wineries there.

Really no need to do a Marlborough Sound cruse, as you'll be going right the sounds on your trip from Wellie to Picton.

How about going to Blenheim the day you arrive in Picton - it's only 28 kilometers. You could spend that night (or two as you've indicated) in Blenheim, then head to Nelson the next day (116 km). BUT...are you interested in Blenheim? It's a wine region yes, and a good one, but as the SI goes, it's not that exciting.

From Nelson (or Blenheim) you can work your way down the west coast via Westport and Punakaiki (about 3.5 hours from Nelson longer with stops). From Punakaiki, you can head to Hoki and the glaciers and then on to Wanaka, QT, Te Anau and Milford.

Kaikoura is more problematic...have you considered spending your time in Christchurch at the end of your trip and making the trip to Kaikoura from there? You can do the Tranzalpine in reverse, dropping your car at Greymouth and picking one up in Christchurch.

Regarding Day 16 - Haast Pass is located between Wanaka and the glaciers. Do you mean the Crown Ridge Alpine Scenic Route via Cardrona to Queenstown?

This travel distance/time calculator might help too, I use it when planning all my NZ trips.

here:http://www.aatravel.co.nz/main/td-calculator.php
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 09:19 PM
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Forgot to mention that I have several detailed trip reports posted here on Fodor's - they cover most of the places you're planning to visit on the SI and might give you some ideas regarding possible routes.
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Old Jul 27th, 2010, 09:50 PM
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I can't comment on the South Island portion of your itinerary, but in general I would urge you to slow down a bit. Your kids might get really sick of spending lots of time in the car.

Lee Ann
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 05:54 PM
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You have indicated a LOT of driving...keep in mind driving in NZ takes much longer than you'd expect.

Our experience with hertz was that we could drop of our car at one end of the train trip and pick up another at the end, but it was actually cheaper to have two separate reservations. Other car companies may vary.
There are a lot of boat operators at Abel Tasman they all seemed about the same (to us at least)

You are going in high season so except for the glaciers I would guess you wouldn't see much snow. We were underawed by Mt Cook - EXCEPT for the clear night where we had a star map and identified many constellations- which is not that kid-friendly.

You do have a lot of treks with toddlers which I assume oyu have done but it will be strenuous.
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 07:18 PM
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thanks for the replies. pls keep them coming.

we've decided to drop napier - giving us 2 extra nights to add some where else - where should i add them to?

also wil do blenhiem from picton and then continue onto nelson as recommended and gov via Punaikaki to Hokitika to Fox glaciers. and the rest of the itinerary to finish up in christchurch and do kaikoura from there. is this a better plan?

but then we miss the tranzalpine train! coming from a tropical country alpine scenary will be a highlight. so is there an alternative rec?

so should we skip mt cook?? i guess we will get there only towards end december and the there will be no more snow??

may be we should do the whole trip in reverse order, is that better?
plus havent stil figured out if we should take the flight back to AUK from christchurch or QT. going on the basis that CH is better.

we've done some easy treks in vietnam,sapa region when the elder one was 7mnths - but then we took the stroller. i guess this is not an option for treks in nz?

ur advice is very much appeciated. even with guidebooks, a trip to nz seems really difficult to plan out.
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 07:55 PM
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Sorry nikidi, this is giving me a head cramp.

Would you mind posting a list of places you absolutely don't want to miss and we can go from there?
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 08:05 PM
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Hi nikidi
Have to start by saying that I have never been to New Zealand, but we are going for the first time in November. It's taken me months of poring over posts and guide books and maps to get the trip planned, and the advice I got here has been a huge help. There was so much we wanted to see: we ended up stretching our schedule to 9 days in North Island and 14 days in South Island.

Our NI priorities are different from yours, so I won't list them here -- but SI itinerary is somewhat similar (though we are not hiking or going to glaciers, just couldn't fit that in with everything else. Also, we're a newly retired couple, so different circumstances and priorities! Here's what we have ended up with after minimizing any to and fro-ing:

Ferry from Wellington to Picton, then drive to Abel Tasman for 2 nights.
Back to Blenheim to visit wineries and eat mussels -- 2 nights.
On to Christchurch: see Akaroa and take the TranzAlpin round trip to Greymouth and back.
From Christchurch to Methven area, high country sheep station.
Next to Dunedin and Otago peninsula, I really want to see albatross!
Drive via the Catlins to Te Anau, stay while we visit Milford and Doubtless Sounds.
Then finish in Queenstown with a flight back to Auckland and then back to the US.
Phew.

We've tried very hard to stay at least 2 nights in one place, so we avoid "Where are we now?" syndrome.

It's not my call because you know your own family best -- but unless your children are a lot more patient than mine were, I think you have a very ambitious schedule for a trip with little ones, and a LOT of car time. I don't think NZ hikes would accommodate a stroller, but I'm sure a local expert will chime in on that. Maybe a backpack kid carrier? Not sure how happy I'd be doing that either!

I totally understand the urge to go there, but your children are very young for a trip like this, and probably won't remember any of it. Are you certain this is your only chance to go? It would be a whole different story to take them in, say, 6 or 8 years. Just MHO, of course. Hope everything works out and you have a wonderful trip, whenever you decide it's right for you.

Happy trails!
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 11:21 PM
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thanks for the input sb_trv. sorr about giving ou headcramp melnq8

i guess its difficult to give up an places when u know its ur onl visit to the country. anyway i figured that driving to most places would be 2-3 hrs and onl a few would be longer. am i wrong in thinking that.

so the must sees -

aukland - visitng family
rotura
tongariro - not sure about this!!is it a must see?
blenheim - wineyards (not so much the wine drinking!)
nelson for orchards/abel tasmen
glaciers - fox/fran joseph
milford sound
mt cook - again not sure??
kaikoura for whales/dolphins/seals


we are from asia, so alpine scenary/snow etc will be a highlight.
plus apple/cherry/berry fruit orchards for fuit picking.
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 11:31 PM
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So....

You're arriving in Picton via ferry and departing from Christchurch via plane and you have 16 days to work with on the South Island?
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 11:52 PM
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we 24 days in full to be split between north and south island! flight from south island to aukland can be either from christchurch or Queenstown.
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Old Jul 29th, 2010, 12:02 AM
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Given your wish list on the SI, I'd suggest something like this:

1) Arrive Picton via ferry, drive to Nelson. From Nelson you can explore Abel Tasman (about a 45 minute drive from Nelson), explore wineries and vineyards, and pick fruit in/around Nelson and Motueka, so I'd suggest at least three nights in this area.

2) Drive from Nelson to Blenheim, stay or not, depending on your interests

3) Drive from Blenheim to Kaikoura, stay to take a boat trip to see dolphins, etc. Seals can often be seen right off the highway south of Kaikoura.

4) Drive from Kaikoura to Greymouth or Hokitika via Arthur's Pass - stay overnight to break up the drive to the glaciers

5) Drive from Greymouth or Hokitika to Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, you'll reach Franz first, Fox is another 45 minutes south, stay a few nights

6) Drive from the glaciers to Queenstown - this is a long drive, at least six hours - stay however long, based on your interests. You can take the very long day trip to Milford from here, or continue on to Te Anu and visit Milford from there (two hour drive from Te Anau) whatever works best for you

7) Drive from Queenstown to Mt Cook - stay a night or two

8)Drive from Mt Cook to Christchurch, visit Lake Tekapo along the way (this is another long drive day) - spend a night or two here, depending on interests

Everything on your wish list is satisifed this way, you just need to figure out how much time you want in each place.
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Old Jul 29th, 2010, 12:29 AM
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thanks so much.

it definitely covers all the destinations. would u recommend driving from kaikoura to gremouth via arther's pass instead of the tranzalpine? it sure gives us the flexibilty to stop on the way, which is a huge plus.
can we still drive the SH6 (or part of the) supposedly one of the best coastal drives in the world which was also highly rec in this forum.

you've been such a great help!!thnx again.
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Old Jul 29th, 2010, 02:16 PM
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you should check out this time/mileage calculator - it was very helpful to us in planning our trips

http://www.travelplanner.co.nz/driving/smlcalc.html
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Old Jul 29th, 2010, 02:31 PM
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nikidi -

I personally prefer driving over Arthur's Pass, but you can certainly take the Tranzalpine if you arrive in Christchurch early enough or perhaps spend a night in Christchurch so that you can. You'd just need to drop off your rental car, and then pick up another one in Greymouth - you'll want to book the train and the car in Greymouth in advance.

I assume you're referring to SH 6 along the west coast...yes, the route above takes you there as well as along a coastal section of SH 1 (Kaikoura-Christchurch).
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Old Jul 31st, 2010, 09:32 AM
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that sounds a solid plan!thanks a lot.

would it be better to do blenhiem after arriving in picton(as is only 30km from there) and continue on to nelson, Hokitika,glaziers...end up in mt cook, christchurch (via arther's pass if possible??) and do kaikoura from there. would that reduce the driving or have u given a shorter route?
thatway, we dont need to backtrack from nelson and also drive across the south island from kaikoura to greymouth.i've no idea of the routes, but just asking by looking at the map.

if not, is arther's pass worth the extra drive?
but as everyone keeps saying we are driving too much in a short time i'd like to try and minimise the driving as much as possible.

also, would you be able to advise on how tongariro rate compared to rest of the detinations. should we skip that and try to add those days somewhere else to slow the pace of the trip. or is it really worth while visitng?

thnks again for your very helpul replies!
its really hard to figure out what to skip and and what to keep as the guide books say that most detinations are worth visitng!
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Old Jul 31st, 2010, 09:57 AM
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also , so its better to fly back to aukland from christchurch rather than queenstown? it seems it doesnt make sense to drive south to Qt and then up again to CH, but i'm just saying this by looking at the map!!

but it is what everyone does!
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Old Jul 31st, 2010, 09:54 PM
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That head cramp is back.

Christchurch to Kaikoura is 183 km (2:35 one way), and will involve backtracking to Christchurch. There are two routes, so you can mix it up a bit on the return if you want.

Nelson to Blenhaim is 116 km, 1:40. You can mix it up a bit by taking the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive from Picton to Havelock (very pretty drive) then continuing on to Nelson.

Driving 'across the SI from Kaikoura to Greymouth' must happen somewhere...Lewis pass or Arthur's Pass. My suggestion was for Arthur's Pass. You have to cross over to the west coast one way or another...the route depends on what you want to see and do.

I suggest you compare the routes via a mileage calculator and see what makes most sense to you.

I think flights to Auckland from Queenstown stop in Christchurch, but you'll have to check.

Driving back to Christchurch will allow you to drive down the west coast (glaciers) one way and back via the inland route (Mt Cook) on the return. If you fly, you can only do one or the other.
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Old Aug 1st, 2010, 08:27 AM
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i think i should be able to figure out the route now. u've been tremendously helpful. thanks again!!!
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Old Aug 1st, 2010, 04:45 PM
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I'm late to jump in so will speak to your question regarding Tongariro. We did the crossing. Do not do this trek with children the age of yours, and it is totally weather dependent. You could get there and not be able to hike due to winds, snow, etc. We also did a short, pleasant hike in the park with good views that you could manage with your wee ones. However, given your schedule, I would recommend skipping Tongariro and giving yourself some down time. Traveling, driving and riding in a car can be very tiring.

You can click on my name to see my NZ trip reports. I see that you have already taken advantage of Melnq8's great advice. Her trip reports served as the basis of our first trip to NZ.
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