Kiwi Help (South Island )

Jul 2nd, 2019, 11:03 AM
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Kiwi Help (South Island )

My husband and I will be making our first trip to New Zealand in February. We'll be with a friend on the North Island, so we're looking at developing an itinerary for the 2 of us on the South Island for 26 days. We will be taking the ferry from Wellington and will pick up a car rental in Picton. We're looking to focus on the outdoors and hiking. Knee problems prevent strenuous hiking these days, but we can do easy to moderate ones. We want to do an overnight cruise on the Doubtful Sound and there is limited availability so some of this is built around being able to reserve a cruise. I copied the itin off the driving NZ AA Traveller so the distance and hours driving are shown. Your comments are appreciated.
Picton, New Zealand (arrive from Wellington on ferry)
Show directions25.6km35m49s

Marlborough Sounds 2 nights
Show directions214km3h45m

Abel Tasman National Park, 3 nights Which town to stay in Kaiteriteri or Marahau closer to the park?
Show directions350km5h27m

Punakaiki, 3 nights
Show directions83.5km1h8m

Hokitika, West Coast 2 nights
Show directions134km1h45m

Franz Josef Glacier 2 nights
Show directions286km3h47m
Wanaka 2 nights
Show directions227km2h58
Te Anau, 4 nights Overnight on Doubtful Sound & day trip on Milford Sound
Show directions398km4h45

Mount Cook, 3 nights
Show directions309km3h52m

Christchurch - 4 nights - Is this too many?
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Jul 2nd, 2019, 02:20 PM
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Keep in mind I haven't visited any of the places on your list but based upon my own research and planning, 4 nights each for Christchurch and for Te Anau seems to be a lot, especially if you are not looking at a lot of hiking. We have 3 nights in Te Anau but plan to hike 2 of the 3 days. Like you I prefer not to have to move around too much, but you may want to look at a few nights in Dunedin between Te Anau and Aoraki Mt. Cook; I am attracted to Dunedin for the wildlife. The regulars will be able to give you more advice based upon their first-hand experiences.
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Jul 2nd, 2019, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by tripplanner001 View Post
Keep in mind I haven't visited any of the places on your list but based upon my own research and planning, 4 nights each for Christchurch and for Te Anau seems to be a lot, especially if you are not looking at a lot of hiking. We have 3 nights in Te Anau but plan to hike 2 of the 3 days. Like you I prefer not to have to move around too much, but you may want to look at a few nights in Dunedin between Te Anau and Aoraki Mt. Cook; I am attracted to Dunedin for the wildlife. The regulars will be able to give you more advice based upon their first-hand experiences.
hi tp -- Thanks! 4 nights in TeAnau will include first day, arrive late afternoon. Day 2 overnight cruise to Doubtful Sound, Day 3 return from Overnight Cruise, Day 4 - Milford Sound Day cruise and hiking. didnt see how to take away one night given we want to do both cruises. Dunedin is a possibility.
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Jul 3rd, 2019, 01:27 AM
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I'd cut a day in Hokitika and add a day to Wanaka. So many impressive walks in Wanaka!
https://www.lakewanaka.co.nz/things-...ng-and-hiking/
The West Coast is a favorite haunt of NZ sandflies, so you might want to bring insect repellent.

4 nts. in Christchurch seems like a little much to me, too. Maybe spend a couple of these nights in Akaroa. Here's a link to walks around Akaroa/the Banks Peninsula. I've not done any of these, but I'm sure Melnq8 has. If you need a break from walking, you can always do a cruise onto Akaroa Harbor, home to the rare Hector's dolphin. Little Blue Penguins are also often seen. Akaroa is a cute village in a striking setting, though it can get busy on cruise ship days.
Akaroa%20Cruise%20Ship%20Schedule%202019-2020_0.pdf

The Godley Head Loop Track is also popular:
https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-re...ad-loop-track/









.

Last edited by Diamantina; Jul 3rd, 2019 at 01:35 AM.
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Jul 3rd, 2019, 03:59 AM
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Diamantina - thank you! Another idea I had was instead of staying in both Punakaiki and Hokitika is to find a place somewhere along the West Coast between Hokitika and Punakaiki and stay 4 days. We could do a day trip to each place. Is that reasonable or would the driving back and forth be too much? We do enjoy driving esp in scenic places.
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Jul 3rd, 2019, 04:13 PM
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Hi yestravel. I'd stick with Punakaiki and Hokitika.

Greymouth is between Punakaiki and Hokitika, but I don't think you'd want to spend much time there. It's the largest town on the SI's West Coast, seat of the Grey District, home to services such as the regional hospital and district court. It has shops, restaurants, a couple of large grocery stores (Countdown and New World), pharmacies (chemists), rental car agencies. It has tourist attractions, such at Monteith's Brewery, Shantytown Heritage Park, and it's the western terminus of the TranzAlpine Railway, otherwise the town is geared more to locals than tourists. I once spent two nights in Greymouth and enjoyed its modest attractions, but, in my opinion, these can't compare to those of Punakaiki/Paparoa NP or Hokitika. Furthermore, it doesn't make a good base for seeing Punakaiki or Hokitika or Arthur's Pass. Because the drives between Greymouth and Punakaiki and Greymouth and Arthur's Pass are winding. The drive from Greymouth to Hokitika is easy but why drive back and forth? The weather should be fine in February, but in case it's rainy, you'd be even less enamored of drives that would require backtracking.

From Hokitika you can do a driving loop to Hokitika Gorge then return to Hokitika via Lake Kaniere. During the day, you can check out Hokitika's pounamu (jade) shops. You can watch the sun set from its beach. At night, you can check out its free glow worm dell. It's also home to the National Kiwi Centre and the West Coast Tree Tops Walks, neither of which I have visited. In early March, Hokitika hosts the popular Wild Foods Festival. The town was also the setting of Eleanor Catton's novel The Luminaries, winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize. Still, I think in view of the South Island's countless scenic attractions and fine walks, one day and night will do for Hokitika.

When driving from the Nelson-Tasman region to Punakaiki, I suggest you make a slight detour from Westport to the Cape Foulwind walkway and fur seal colony. Watch out for wekas and their chicks (native flightless hens)! Westport is a convenient place for filling up your petrol tank and for buying groceries.

You hadn't mentioned being interested in wildlife viewing, but I'll mention a couple just in case. From Hokitika to FJ, there's a white heron nesting colony. In Australia, white herons are known as great egrets.
White heron | New Zealand Birds Online
You can also see wild kiwis (or maybe just one wild kiwi) on a guided night walk in Okarito Forest, which is close to FJ.

Last edited by Diamantina; Jul 3rd, 2019 at 04:15 PM.
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Jul 3rd, 2019, 06:46 PM
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Diamatina- thank you so much for all the great info with links. I really appreciate it.

For the coast I was thinking of renting a house with a nice view and using it as a base for day trips. In the evening we would be happy to fix a light dinner and stay in. The appeal is staying in one place as we prefer longer stays. But I understand what you are saying about the drives.

I’m thinking of skipping Mt Cook. Instead we would drive up the East Coast to get to Christchurch. Maybe we could make a stop in Dunedin? Is that a nice drive?

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Jul 4th, 2019, 02:01 AM
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I can see the appeal of renting a house with a nice view as a base. Personally, I wouldn't enjoy driving back and forth. Your route along the West Coast lends itself to moving along in your itinerary every day or three. I could see using Christchurch as a base, much as you're using Te Anau as a base, to go to Akaroa one day, Arthur's Pass another day, to Waipara/North Canterbury wine country or as far as Kaikoura on another day--because all of these day trips are in different directions but your West Coast route has you moving along southwards to FJ. So using a town between Punakaiki and Hokitika seems less convenient or practical. But this is just my opinion.

I have lived in Dunedin for nearly 8 years, having moved here from the San Francisco Bay Area (Marin County). I love Dunedin/the Otago Peninsula and Aoraki Mt. Cook. But don't skip Aoraki Mt. Cook for Dunedin/the Otago Peninsula and a drive along the East Coast (the stretch from Oamaru to Christchurch is not at all scenic and busy with trucks and other traffic).

Aoraki Mt. Cook and the greater Mackenzie region are stunning. This is what travelers to NZ hope to see (although it has become quite busy as a result). Mackenzie Country is home to glacial lakes (Pukaki, Tekapo, Ohau) with turquoise waters made nearly iridescent from glacial flour (fine-grained, silt-sized particles of rock). The road from the main highway (SH8) along Mt. Cook Highway (SH80) to Aoraki Mt. Cook village is one the prettiest yet easiest drives on the South Island. As for Aoraki Mt. Cook village, you're in a valley surrounded by 19 peaks that rise more than 3000 metres (or 10,000 feet) around you. Imagine sitting in a bowl whose sides are composed of high glaciated mountains.The walks in Aoraki Mt. Cook are fabulous and most quite easy. Some of its walking tracks traverse swing bridges over fast-flowing rivers, offer views of glaciers and glacial lakes (with icebergs) and fauna and flora unique to NZ's alpine ecosystem. Here's a link to a brochure for its walking tracks.
http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/par...ki-mt-cook.pdf

Its landscape is different from the lush temperate rainforest around Franz Josef. There's little forest here, but more than 300 types of alpine plants. You can learn more about the biology of this region here:
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...-conservation/

Mt. Cook Lily (it's actually the world's largest buttercup)

The mountain also has tremendous historical and spiritual significance. Kiwi Sir Edmund Hillary prepared for his historic Mt. Everest Climb by practicing on Aoraki-Mt. Cook and these neighboring mountains. The Ngai Tahu, the main tribe (or iwi) of the South Island regard Aoraki Mt. Cook as the most sacred of their ancestors. You can read more about their beliefs here:
http://www.doc.govt.nz/about-us/our-...ki-mount-cook/

I would say the Otago Peninsula is a must for those interested in seeing NZ wildlife. It's also beautiful, if you're lucky to be here in fine weather. The beaches and walks offer terrific coastal views. There are also many attractions in urban Dunedin. Some people come to see the colonial architecture and the city's attractions (the Railway Station and its lively Saturday morning Farmers Market, the fine regional museums, the great breweries, the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, Glenfalloch Gardens, Olveston House, Baldwin St., Tunnel Beach, Orokonui Ecosanctuary, the city's lovely long beaches, and its ever-expanding street art). The city has some of the finest heritage buildings in NZ, as it was NZ's first great city, made rich by the Central Otago gold rush of the 1860s then by the first shipments of frozen meat from NZ to Britain. Dunedin is home to NZ's oldest university, NZ's oldest medical school, NZ's oldest and only dental school, NZ's oldest public botanic garden, NZ's oldest public art gallery, and NZ'a first secondary school for girls. At the same time, it also looks forward. The city leads the country in electric car ownership, it has the country fastest internet broadband service ("Gigcity"), and its University of Otago does groundbreaking scientific research and is a leader in conservation and wildlife studies. This week the city's council declared a climate change emergency and committed to accelerating efforts to become a carbon neutral city.

A lot of people drive from Te Anau to Dunedin and then up to Aoraki Mt. Cook. Aoraki Mt. Cook is only a 4 hour drive from Dunedin. Or they go from Wanaka to Dunedin then to Te Anau, followed by Queenstown. The Catlins also make their way into these itineraries as it's part of the Southern Scenic Route and can be visited between Te Anau and Dunedin.

Driving from Wanaka to Aoraki Mt. Cook, you'll drive through Lindis Pass. Many people are quite impressed by Lindis Pass. It's not one of my favorites (except in autumn and I think it must be beautiful when it's covered in snow in winter).

Last edited by Diamantina; Jul 4th, 2019 at 02:42 AM.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 06:21 AM
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Oh my gosh! so much info to digest. Again, thank you, this is very helpful. What a pretty little buttercup.
Ok, we'll keep Mt. Cook. Sounds beautiful.
Good idea about using Christchurch as a base. I hadn't gotten that far in the specifics for that part of our trip.
I get what you are saying re the West Coast. My husband actually loves driving winding, narrow roads! His eyes lit up when I told him that would be the case if we did a house on the coast. Still researching and deciding and I do appreciate your opinion.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 02:50 PM
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Hi yestravel -

My two cents (have only skimmed the previous responses, so bear with me if I repeat):

Two nights in Marlborough Sounds - lots to do in the vicinity. One full day will allow you to water taxi/walk a section of the Queen Charlotte Track, but not much else. The mailboat is a great option, but will also pretty much fill a day. This leaves no time to visit Blenheim (Marlborough wine!) but that may not interest you? There's more to Picton than meets the eye.

Three nights Abel Tasman is good - I prefer 4-5, but that's just me, I'm a big walker. I like Tasman, Upper Moutere, Mapua or Kaiteriteri as a base. Many first time visitors like to stay in Nelson, but I personally don't find it the best base for Abel Tasman, although Nelson is a nice little city in its own right.

Marahau is a tiny settlement at the doorstep of the park. Very convenient, but not much there, certainly wouldn't be my first choice. A good spot for say, one or two nights, but any longer than that I'd be be heading elsewhere, personally.

Three nights Punakaiki will seem like a whole lot, unless you plan some serious walking/hiking. The village is basically a spot on the road, but lots of great walks in the area.

I think I'd trim a night in Hoki and add it to Wanaka, unless you have specific walking plans.

Four nights in Te Anau sounds perfect for what you have in mind.

Three nights in Mount Cook will give you two full days of hiking. If that's too much, cut back to two. Not much else to do there other than walk and organized activities.

Four nights in Christchurch would be two too many for me.

Last edited by Melnq8; Jul 4th, 2019 at 02:54 PM.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 04:18 PM
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I just read through the previous posts - I wholeheartedly agree with Diamantina that making trips to/from Punakaiki/Hoki isn't even a remotely good idea. The roads are winding, narrow and seriously exhausting. Backtracking makes no sense and is a waste of precious time.

The South Island isn't well suited for base city/town visits (with the notable exceptions of Christchurch, Queenstown and Nelson). It's a small island, but it takes much longer to get from Point A to Point B than most first time visitors appreciate.

The east coast of the SI is the least scenic part of the entire South Island.

Happy to help with specific walks/hikes once you finesse your plans.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 05:30 PM
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Sorry if I didn't make myself clear, I wasn't suggesting Christchurch as a base or that you make those day trips from it. I was citing Christchurch as an example of a place than made sense for making those day trips as all of those places are in different directions. But, if you want to quickly see those day-trip destinations around CC, maybe it would make sense for you. Personally, I'd rather spend two nights in Kaikoura or two nights in Akaroa than make a quick day trips from Christchurch, which has too much traffic for me. I would stay in Christchurch specifically to see the urban attractions, such as the museum, art gallery, botanic garden, so on (attractions I could easily walk to), or to be close to its airport (that is, if I had a morning departure from there). If given a choice over 4 nights in Christchurch or 4 nts. in Wanaka, my choice would be the latter any day

I see you're not going to Queenstown. Do you intend to visit it from Wanaka ?Yes, Queenstown would be super busy in February (though luckily the holidays, Chinese New Year/Spring Festival/Lantern Festival will end by Feb. 8). But Glenorchy and the 45-minute drive from Queenstown along Lake Wakitipu to Glenorchy are worth seeing. There's also stunning scenery and walks beyond Glenorchy.
More info here:
Queenstown to Glenorchy scenic drive - New Zealand Travel Insider
https://www.aa.co.nz/travel/must-dos...lenorchy-road/
https://www.queenstown.com/blog/acti...-and-glenorchy
Walks around Queenstown and Glenorchy:
https://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/pa...s-brochure.pdf
https://www.doc.govt.nz/globalassets...e-wakatipu.pdf

Your husband will find ample winding narrow roads on your trip. Please be careful. You'll be sharing the road with drivers who might not be as careful, or as experienced. as you.
Maybe you should visit Dunedin and its Otago Peninsula if you like narrow winding roads.

When tried posting this I noticed some words had been omitted from my post and some odd spacing, too. Seems to be a glitch with this system. It may happen again.

Last edited by Diamantina; Jul 4th, 2019 at 05:51 PM.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 07:35 PM
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Thank you, both!
Diamanita, thanks for clarifying re Christchurch. Correct, we weren't planning on going to Queenstown. At this point, we have 4 days after leaving Mt Cook. i would like 2 days in Christchurch to see the "city stuff." We're big museum people. What to do with the other 2 days? i'll look over your links and read about the options you mention.

melnq8 - we are adding a night to Wanaka. I wish we had more time to visit everything everywhere. Trying to see as much as we can in 26 days. Love drinking wine and certainly looking forward to NZ wines. That said, not particularly interested in wine country. i'm hoping to get in 2 days of walks in Mt. Cook weather permitting.

Once we get our plans sorted out i will appreciate suggestions on walks/hikes.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 10:06 PM
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Christchurch's Canterbury Museum has a good Antarctica collection. It's on the edge of the Botanic Garden, close to the Arts Centre and not too far of a walk from the Christchurch Art Gallery. The Cardboard Cathedral, also known as the Transitional Cathedral, is also within walking distance. Two days is enough for Christchurch's urban attractions.

I like museums, too. Museums tend to be my first stop when I visit a city, usually art museums and natural history museums, but really all kinds of museums. In fact, I'll often plan my vacations around museums I want to visit.

Dunedin has two museums you'd probably enjoy. Toitu Settlers Museum tells the history of Otago's settlers from the time of the Maori to present day (the first humans only arrived in NZ in around 1250–1300 AD). The Otago Museum is more focused on the natural history of the south of the South Island. Its highlights include NZ's largest fossil, NZ's largest collection of articulated Moa skeletons, NZ's only Easter Island Moai (it's a small one), a Moeraki boulder, a planetarium, a Maritime Gallery with model ships that were actually in use and a fin whale skeleton, the Southern Land, Southern Peoples gallery, which relates the geological and natural history of Otago and how its natural resources have been used by the people of the south. Otago is the region that includes Dunedin, Queenstown, Wanaka, Oamaru their surroundings.

Last edited by Diamantina; Jul 4th, 2019 at 11:04 PM.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 11:08 PM
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Of course NZ's best museums are the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Te Papa in Wellington, both of which you'll surely visit with your friend.
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Jul 5th, 2019, 06:24 AM
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Diamantina -- thanks for the museum info.

Should we stay in Manapouri the night before we do the Doubtful Sound overnight cruise? We will arrive in the area late afternoon, do the cruise the next day/night and then go to another Hotel in Te Anau for our final 2 days. It shows Manapouri and TeAnau 16 minutes apart. Does it make that much difference where we stay the first night?
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Jul 5th, 2019, 07:27 AM
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It's a very easy drive between Manapouri and Te Anau. We've used Manapouri as a base for the entire region. A bit away from the hustle and bustle (such as it is in Te Anau, that is) and easy access to Te Anau and Milford, not to mention some fabulous walks.

If you choose the same accommodation for both ends of your Doubtful Sound trip, you might get a better rate. But it really makes no difference whether it's in Manapouri or Te Anau. More options in Te Anau of course.

Last edited by Melnq8; Jul 5th, 2019 at 07:30 AM.
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Jul 5th, 2019, 01:27 PM
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The Doubtful Sound overnight trip departs at 12:30 p.m (or about midday), so you'll have heaps of time for the short drive from Te Anau to Manapouri. As I recall, you're not allowed to bring big suitcases onto the Doubtful Sound overnight cruise (overnight bag is okay), so if you'll be bringing suitcases along on your trip, you'll have to leave these in the boot of your car, or have the company you're sailing with (Real Journeys?) store them, or you can leave them in luggage storage at your accommodation (if you'll be returning to the same accommodation).

Last edited by Diamantina; Jul 5th, 2019 at 01:37 PM.
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Jul 6th, 2019, 01:00 PM
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Got it! I'll see what I find in either place. thank you both for all your help-- I so appreciate it.
I'm slowly making my way thru the itin trying to book places. Many places are already full on our days. If you have any suggestions of place, love to hear them.
One aspect of this that I didn't mention is this is part of a larger, longer trip. Before getting to NZ we have 2 weeks in Sri Lanka and after we leave NZ we have 6 days in Malaysia. All in all its ~9 weeks. Part of the reason for my interest on the 4 night stay on the West Coast is that with these longer trips we do enjoy finding a nice place and kicking back.
Based on the comments I've made a few changes
Marlborough Sounds 2 nights

Abel Tasman National Park, 3 nights (Staying near Kaiteriteri )

West Coast (still thinking about the 4 nighter)
Punakaiki 2 nights
Hokitika, West Coast 2 nights

Franz Josef Glacier 2 nights

Wanaka 3nights

Te Anau, 4 nights Overnight on Doubtful Sound & day trip on Milford Sound

Mount Cook, 3 nights

2 nights somewhere maybe Banks Peninsula?

Christchurch - 2 nights
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Jul 6th, 2019, 02:42 PM
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A few accommodation suggestions (from the rather vast list of places we've stayed, but I'll have to look most of them up as my head is like a sieve):

Picton -
https://www.bayvistapicton.co.nz/

Hokitika -
https://www.accommodationwestcoast.co.nz/
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