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Just beginning - 10 days in the South Island New Zealand

Just beginning - 10 days in the South Island New Zealand

Dec 10th, 2011, 09:02 AM
  #1  
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Just beginning - 10 days in the South Island New Zealand

My husband and I, our 5-year old daughter, and my SIL and husband will be flying to NZ this March. We are meeting my in-laws there who will have been in Auckland for the previous 6 weeks. We have decided to focus our trip on the SI and am trying to figure out where to fly in/out. We are flying direct from LAX to AKL and want to fly somewhere closer to the SI. My in-laws will have a few days to drive and meet us or they can fly as well. I thought we might fly into Wellington and take the ferry over and head towards Abel Tasman then head down the coast past the glaciers, inland to mt Cook maybe, down to Milford Sound and end in Queentown and surrounding area. We could then fly out of Queentown to AKL to make our international flight.

I am just getting started with the planning, but does that sound like a good rough outline so I can go ahead and reserve plane tickets? Would it it be easier to access Abel Tasman from Christchurch?
metcarl is offline  
Dec 10th, 2011, 09:03 AM
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(meant Queenstown)
metcarl is offline  
Dec 10th, 2011, 03:30 PM
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You can reach the SI by ferry or you can fly...flight options include Christchurch, Nelson or Blenheim (small airport, limited flights).

If Abel Tasman is high on your list of things to see, taking the ferry makes sense. The drive from Picton (where you'd arrive on the ferry from Wellington) to Abel Tasman will take approximately 2.5 hours. Flying into Blenheim will only shorten that drive by about 25 minutes.

Reaching Abel Tasman from Christchurch takes considerably longer - it's about a six hour drive. Another option is to fly to Nelson and drive from there; Abel Tasman is about an hour's drive from Nelson.

From the Abel Tasman area you can backtrack towards Nelson and head down the West Coast via State Highway 6 to the glaciers and on to Wanaka, Te Anau, Milford and Queentown, the fly back to Christchurch or Auckland.

Adding Mt Cook to this itinerary is slightly problematic, as it's about a four hour drive inland from Queenstown (closer from Wanaka). Once you're in Mt Cook, you might as well continue driving to Christchurch and fly out from there, as it's only another 4:45 hour drive, vs turning around and driving back to Queenstown to fly out.

The only problem I really see with your itinerary is lack of time. Ten days isn't much time to see the large area you'd like to cover, but where there's a will there's a way.
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 10th, 2011, 09:09 PM
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I think your plan sounds perfect.
Diamantina is offline  
Dec 11th, 2011, 12:57 PM
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Just booked our flights from LAX to Auckland to Nelson and returning from Queenstown!
metcarl is offline  
Dec 11th, 2011, 05:20 PM
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Just back from NZ. For Abel Tasman, we flew into Nelson. If it's a meal time I'd suggest stopping at Mapua. There were some pricey, "fine dining" options, but we got delicious sandwiches from Hamish's and enjoyed them at a picnic bench overlooking a beautiful view.

Abel Tasman was INCREDIBLE, PHENOMENAL, GORGEOUS, and ...
HELP(!!!) I'm running out of superlatives ;-).

Be sure to also drive to Split Apple Rock Beach -- about ten minutes' drive, between Marahau and Kaiteriteri.

A full trip report will follow as soon as my brain arrives.
Songdoc is offline  
Dec 13th, 2011, 08:38 AM
  #7  
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So here's what I have so far:
Day 1 - Arrive in Nelson 12:20pm, drive to Abel Tasman
Day 2 - hike Abel Tasman
Day 3 - drive to glaciers/stop by Pancake Rocks
Day 4 - glacier(s) maybe a heli trip but unsure with a five-year old
Day 5 - drive to ????? (maybe base in Te Anau?)
Day 6 - Mt Aspiring or other
Day 7 - some of party goes fly fishing/remaining do something else
Day 8 - Milford Sound overnight
Day 9 - Milford Sound/QT
Day 10 - Leave QT 4:45 pm

Lodging in Abel Tasman: Wilson's Meadowbank Homestead or Awaroa Lodge or other?

Looking for a special place to stay on our open days 5-7 that is close to Mt Aspiring Park (or other attraction) where half of our party can go fly fishing one day and the remainder go sightseeing. A good place to fly fish can dictate the location since we have some avid fly fisherman in the group and this will be their only day to take a guided tour.

We still need lodging near the glaciers as well. We do not need a kitchen, so would like a place near restaurants or that have their own food. Love quaint but somewhat cushy accomodations. Budget $150-300/night. We may splurge on a place if it offers something special. Misty Peaks looks nice but maybe just over our budget. We may want to splurge on the next place that we may stay for 3 nights.

Any converted churches or similar?

At the glaciers. Is a heli ride worthwhile or would a heli ride be better somewhere else along our route? Mt Aspiring? Milford Sound?

Any overnights in Milford that are better than the Mariner?
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Dec 13th, 2011, 04:36 PM
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I'm under the impression that Wilson's Meadowbank Homestead incorporates guided walks, not sure if you can stay there if you freedom walk? Walking the Abel Tasman is done easily on your own, but the guides no doubt provide excellent commentary.

Awaroa Lodge is accessible on foot (at low tide only) and via boat - it's only a five minute water taxi ride from the Totaranui side of Abel Tasman, longer from the Marahau side (but entering at Marahau involves considerably less driving). You might consider staying at Marahau if the logistics of the other two present problems. There's a place there that comes highly recommended - I'll post when I think of the name.

Do you plan to take a water taxi on Day 2 and walk a section of the track? What specifically you plan to do there will influence where you stay and will affect how long your drive to the glaciers is the following day.

We really enjoyed Glen Fern Villas in Franz Josef. There are a few B&B options in Franz and Fox Glacier that might suit you - I'll post back with some suggestions later.

A helihike/trip is very much worth it on a brilliant clear day at the glaciers. Not sure if they cater to five year olds though, you'd need to check. I'd imagine a helicopter ride over Milford on a clear day would be stunning. Unfortunately, I have no first hand experience with that.
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 13th, 2011, 04:40 PM
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The accommodation in Marahau (the gateway to Abel Tasman Nat'l Park) that I was trying to think of is Ocean View Chalets.
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 14th, 2011, 05:41 AM
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I think it does make more sense to stay in Marahau and the Ocean View Chalets look perfect. I think we are planing to take a water taxi and hike some of the track? Wildlife (seals) would be high on our list too.

Glen Fern Villas look nice and I love the Animal Park and that they cater specifically to kids. We were maybe wanting more of a B&B (at least for part of the trip, since Ocean View is not) where we could interact more with the hosts or other travellers. Activities for the next day may include kayaking and a helicopter tour (not helihike due to age requirements). The more adventerous may go ice climbing. Fly fishing may be an option here too. If so, we may stay an additional night.

Now I just need to figure out what to do between the glaciers and Milford Sound or should we just devote more time to either? Fishing in Fiordland might be good too. I was just beggining to look around here. Fiorland Lodge looks nice, maybe even some heli-fishing here!

I don't know if I was clear above, but our budget is about $150-300 per night per room - which will probably be 3 rooms for most places with 6 adults and 1 child.

Also, I imagine traveling with such a large party, it would be wise to might all of our reservations in advance for travel in late March?
metcarl is offline  
Dec 14th, 2011, 05:53 AM
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Never mind - Fiordland Lodge - too pricey!
metcarl is offline  
Dec 14th, 2011, 02:22 PM
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From Marahau, you can easily arrange a water taxi and walk a section of the Abel Tasman Track on your own, or walk in from the Marahau end and return via taxi. Kayaking is also a popular activity, and there's at least one organized seal swim. Give yourself at the very least, one full day to explore Abel Tasman.

Kaiteriteri (or Little Kaiteriteri) also make good bases from which to explore Abel Tasman, and have the added bonus of being situated along glorious beaches. Water taxi transport is easy to arrange from Kaiteriteri (kiosks right on the beach) and it's an area with many B&Bs.

Wanaka makes a good stop between the glaciers and Milford, or you could stay in Te Anau, which will shorten your drive to Milford the next day. The Croft in Te Anau is a lovely B&B with two cottages...not sure they can accommodate your group, but its worth a look.

Wanaka is a good base for visiting Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park, although you'll still need to drive about an hour to access it via the gorgeous Matukituki Valley. A river runs right through there, so fishing might be a possiiblity, but you'd have to check. We enjoyed our stay at the Alpine View Lodge in Wanaka. They offer an assortment of accommodation options.
Wanaka is home to the Clutha River which is world renowned for it's trout fishing and the little one might enjoy Puzzling World.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...kituki-valley/ tracks.

I was originally going to suggest Glenorchy for in between the glaciers and Milford, but you might have trouble finding decent accommodation for a group your size. Glenorchy is situated in a overwhelmingly scenic spot a stone's throw from Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park - it offers easy access to many tracks and rivers and is surrounded by snow covered peaks year round. The problem is accommodation. I know of a fabulous B&B there, but it only accommodates two.

However, I just remembered this place...never stayed here, but I definitely would - you can hire the entire house, which might work for your group;

http://glenorchylakehouse.co.nz/
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 14th, 2011, 02:43 PM
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A couple of listings for B&Bs in Franz Josef and Fox Glacier -I have no personal experience with any of them. We stayed at a lovely B&B in Fox Glacier years ago, but unfortunately, they're no longer operating as a B&B.

http://www.bnb.co.nz/west_coast/resu....html?lid=1877

http://www.glaciercountry.co.nz/dire...p?AccomCatID=3

http://www.franzjosefaccommodation.com/

http://www.foxguides.co.nz/our-location/accommodation
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 14th, 2011, 02:59 PM
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The following excerpt from my soon-to-be-posted trip report might help you with Abel Tasman. It'll give you my thoughts on Kaiteriteri as a base.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

After all this work, we deserved a break. We wanted someplace beautiful, where we could take long walks and enjoy the nature--and not feel compelled to drive a lot, explore, or get involved in activities. While we'd loved Queenstown, we knew that if we returned, we’d wind up driving to different areas every day—and probably return to Milford Sound. We needed a place to rest—so we decided to spend our five days off in Abel Tasman.

On a previous trip there, we’d loved staying at Ocean View Chalets in Marahau. It’s not fancy—more of a rustic cabin, but a perfect location (walking distance to the park entrance)—and we’d been lucky to snag a cottage (#6) with an exceptional view. Unfortunately, it was booked solid.

The owners recommended a few other places, and we found an opening at Abel Tasman Stables. Not sure why it’s called “stables” – because I didn’t see any stables or horses. But we were very pleased. Again, not “fancy” or luxurious, but it worked perfectly for us. The cost was $135 (NZD) per night for the self-contained little cottage. The host (George) was very accommodating, and we enjoyed his garden, and the lovely, peaceful views, and bird-watching from our patio. The birds—and their songs—were amazing.

I absolutely loved our time in Abel Tasman. It was just what the doctor ordered. With its crystal clear, turquoise and emerald bays, and lush ferns and foliage, I think Abel Tasman must be one of the most beautiful places on this earth.

On my first visit, I was confused and nervous about the logistics. Here’s the deal: From Marahau, you can walk into the park – and then turn back when you’ve walked enough – OR you can take one of several water taxis from Marahau or Kaiteriteri to one of several drop-off spots within the park, and either walk back, or walk to a pre-arranged pick-up spot.

FYI, these are easy walking trails—not demanding, treacherous hikes—and the trails are clearly marked.

Most days, we simply walked in—then backtracked after a couple of hours of soaking in the exquisite views. We especially loved Tinline Bay – about a 30 minute walk from the park entrance.

But a highlight of the trip was taking a water taxi to Bark Bay, and walking several hours to be picked up at Torrent Bay. During the “taxi” ride, we spotted a penguin paddling by the boat, and numerous seals lounging on the rocks. The driver took a short detour to show us “Split Apple Rock.”

The beaches at both of these bays were incredibly beautiful—and the color of the water never stopped seeming amazing. We took every little side trail—and each one offered views that were as good as it gets. This particular walk crosses a swinging bridge, and I’m told it includes some of the best scenery in the park. I don’t doubt that. (You’ll see the pictures!)

Another day, we took the short drive (approximately 20 minutes) to Kaiteriteri. On the way, a turn off for Split Apple Rock Beach became another highlight. It was a “moderate” 10 – 15 minute walk down to the beach, where more incredibly beautiful views waited. (I’m running out of superlatives!) There were wonderful tide pools and rocks covered with mussels and other sea life. Cormorants posed perfectly with the gigantic rock in the background. Then … DP found a cave just begging to be explored. It was great fun—and the views of the beach from within the cave were serious Kodak moments.

We eventually dragged ourselves away to continue on to Kaiteriteri—with several photo stops along the way. The Kaka Pah lookout was exceptional—and views of the enormous beach below were “wow.” When we arrived at Kaiteriteri, I found the promised, long, beautiful beach, but I was disappointed to find more of a bustling, resort atmosphere than is my cup of tea. We only stayed a few minutes before returning to the sense of peace and solitude back at our cabin.
Songdoc is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 05:48 AM
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I'm back again after the holidays.

Here's what I have so far:

Day 1 - Arrive in Nelson 12:20pm, drive to Marahau (Ocean View Chalets)
Day 2 - hike Abel Tasman (water taxi)
Day 3 - drive to glaciers/stop by Pancake Rocks (stay in Fox or Franz)
Day 4 - glaciers - maybe a heli ride, kayaking, walk around Lake Matheson
Day 5 - drive to Wanaka (3 nights Waiorau Homestead)
Day 6 - Mt Aspiring or other
Day 7 - some of party goes fly fishing/remaining do something else, maybe horseback riding (nearby stables allows young children)
Day 8 - drive to Milford Sound/overnight cruise
Day 9 - Milford Sound - overnight Te Anau or QT
Day 10 - Leave QT 4:45 pm (drive to Glenorchy?)

My only concern is the drive from Abel Tasman to the glaciers. I think it is about 7 hours without stops. Is that too much for one day? But - it allows us to get to our destinations quicker to spend more time there. The other option would be to overnight in Punakaiki and cut out the last night in Te Anau or QT. That would mean we would leave from the overnight Milford Sound cruise and go directly to QT for our flight out later that last day.
metcarl is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 10:27 AM
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I think that you proposed drive straight through from Abel Tasman to the glaciers is unwise, metcarl. You will be passing through some wonderful scenery and it would be a shame not to have the opportunity to stop and do some walks on the way. I suggest that you do look at spending a night at Punakaki and trim a night from somewhere else -- Te Anau seems the logical one.
Rob.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 06:18 PM
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kiwi_rob,
I think I'm starting to lean towards a stopover in Punakaki, which would also allow us to drive to the Hokitika Gorge. Part of me wants to trudge onward down the west coast and have more time to explore Milford Sound/Te Anau area. Melnq8, what do you think? Is it feasible and not too hectic to drive from Milford Sound at 9:30am (after the overnight cruise) to catch a 4:45 international flight in QT (QT to AUK to LAX+).
metcarl is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 09:04 PM
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Yeah, Marahau to Franz Josef is a haul, at least seven hours. If you stop at Punakaiki enroute, you'd probably want a minimum of an hour there, so that makes for a pretty long day w/o even considering other stop options. It's a pretty drive through the Buller River Gorge too, lots of photo ops.

Day 8 concerns me a bit. The drive from Wanaka to Milford is 394 km, about 5:40, probably a bit less from your Cardrona accommodation, the cruise leaves at 4:30 pm. That doesn't leave much time for stops, but I realize you have to compromise somewhere.

Since the Milford cruise gets back early in the day, I think I'd recommend exploring Milford Road (lots of walks, photo ops, etc) on the return (instead of on the way in). I'd also suggest just pushing on to QT for the night before your flight. This will give you time to drive to Glenorchy for a few hours on your day of departure. But there goes your night for Punakaiki...I see your dilemma.

I guess it boils down to your comfort level with driving four hours on your day of departure, potentially missing out on some pretty awesome stops on the Milford Road and missing out on Glenorchy altogether, vs a long drive day from Abel Tasman to Franz Josef and missing out on Hoki Gorge.

I know what I would do.

It's never easy is it?
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 05:03 PM
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"I know what I would do"

Which option?

I think we could relax at the end of the trip better if we could overnight in QT, then drive to Glenorchy the next day, only 1 1/2 hours round trip plus stops.
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Jan 5th, 2012, 05:37 PM
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OK - the other voice in my head just told me to stopover in Punakaiki. My husband had a good point, that when we first arrive, we will want to stop everywhere. At the end of the trip, we leave the overnight cruise and the trip is mostly over. We drive to QT and board our flight. With a little cushion, we have to drive 4 hours and have 2 hours for stops. It makes me a little nervous, but it seems reasonable. It leaves us little time to see Milford Sound, but we'll have to be satisfied with the cruise.
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