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Rufina May 26th, 2015 07:09 PM

Need Advice for NZ winter trip itinerary
Hi everyone,

I'm from Indonesia and I will visit SI - New Zealand this July. I've made the itinerary and everything is booked, however I need some advice as it will be on winter. Is there any website to check on update weather and road conditions ? What is the best time to start driving ? And I also heard that some stores may be closed during winter. Is it true ?

my itinerary :
Day 1 - arrived at Christhchurch - stay at Christchurch
Day 2 - driving to Akaroa ( Alpaca's farm ) & strolling the city - stay at Christchurch
Day 3 - driving to Wanaka ( Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki ) - stay at Wanaka
Day 4 - driving to Te Anau - stay at Te Anau
Day 5 - Milford sound (if it's not closed) & driving to Queenstown - stay at Queenstown
Day 6 - Queenstown
Day 7 - Queenstown - Melbourne

Any suggestions ? Thanks!!

Melnq8 May 27th, 2015 03:31 PM

Hi Rufina -

In the winter months it's best to stay off the roads until around 9-10 am, as the roads can get frosty during the night and can be covered in black ice, which is a thin layer of ice you cannot see.

Road conditions can be checked here, and you're wise to check them a few hours before you set out on a day's drive:

Weather here:

You may encounter some closures during winter, but not necessarily stores - some small businesses do close, but fear not, you'll find plenty of places open and lots to keep yourself busy.

Regarding your itinerary - Christchurch to Wanaka is about a 5.5 hour drive, without stops. You'll want to get an early start (weather providing) as daylight hours are very short. Day 5 is also a very long day, and will be weather dependent.

This is a pretty full on itinerary for such little time. Any road closure or adverse weather could put the kibosh on your plans as you have no wiggle room.

At least you'll have plenty of experience driving on the left in your favor.

Rufina May 27th, 2015 06:07 PM

Thanks for replying. Yes, I'm really worry about the weather condition.
One more thing,o n day 5 - Milford Sound, is it safe to drive, or better to take a tour ? We prefer to drive by ourselves, as we need to be in queenstown before dark.

Melnq8 May 27th, 2015 06:28 PM

It's very unlikely you will be in QT before dark after spending a day in Milford - Queenstown is a four hour drive from Milford and a two hour drive from Te Anau, so you're looking at a six hour drive in addition to any time spent on a cruise, let alone exploring en route. Winter days are very short - it doesn't get light until 7:45-8 am and the sun sets around 5 pm in July.

If you take a bus from Te Anau, you're still looking at a very long day, but instead of stressing about the drive, you can soak up the scenery.

Being from Indonesia and unfamiliar with driving in snow and on ice can indeed be a safety issue. By law, you must carry snow chains in your car when driving Milford Road in the winter months. But if it's snowy enough to need chains, chances are the road will be closed anyway.

Keep in mind that sometimes the road is closed for several hours in the morning due to black ice and the clearing of snow/blasting for avalanches, so getting an early start may not even be an option.

Rufina Jun 8th, 2015 08:52 AM

Hi Mel, I have another question..Is Mt Cook is a must visit destination ? Actually I'd prefer Queesntown, but some says we should visit Mt Cook...

Melnq8 Jun 8th, 2015 01:02 PM

"Must visit" is subjective.

Mt Cook is NZ's highest mountain, but there's not much to do in Mt Cook other than hike and soak up the scenery. If you're not into that, then no, it may not be for you. Weather can be iffy, and often the top of Mt Cook is socked in by clouds and not visible anyway, so you could well get back there and not even see it. Mt Cook also gets a heck of a lot of rain, and as you're visiting in the winter, well, there's just no telling what the weather will do.

Queenstown is a vibrant, busy tourist resort town and will be hopping in July as it's ski season. It's beautiful and has something for everyone. In terms of peace and quiet, it's the polar opposite of Mount Cook.

Only you can decide which you'd prefer, but have you considered making the side trip to Mt Cook on your drive from Christchurch to Wanaka? It's not that big a detour and if you get there and the weather looks promising, you could pop into the village along the way. Keep in mind that days are short though and it'll be a very full drive day - you'll want to get an early start.

Melnq8 Jun 8th, 2015 01:05 PM

Getting an early start and staying off the roads until 9-10 am to avoid the frost will be problematic though!

Rufina Jun 12th, 2015 08:33 PM

Hi Mel, for our trip to Milford Sound, what do you suggest ? by tour or drive ourself there ? Using tour, will take 7-8 hours to get back to Te Anau. Do you think we can do faster if we drive ourselves ? Thanks!

Melnq8 Jun 13th, 2015 05:41 AM

I prefer self-drive Rufina, but it really depends on your personal comfort level with winter driving. If you're at all concerned, you should probably take the bus.

Driving yourself will allow you to fit more into your day, but only if you plan well and the weather is in your favor. You'll only have about nine hours of daylight to work with regardless.

Perhaps you could decide when you get there once you know what the weather is up to. It's quite easy to book a tour just a day in advance that time of year.

deSchenke Jun 13th, 2015 06:26 AM

>>>Using tour, will take 7-8 hours to get back to Te Anau. Do you think we can do faster if we drive ourselves ?<<<

Of course you could do it faster, but why would you want to?

July is not the time to drive yourself to Milford Sound. You could be blissfully on the cruise when an avalanche or rockfall closes the road, stranding you at the sound for who knows how long! You'll have to pay to get yourself and your rental car out. If this happens when you are on a tour, it's up to them to get you out - at their expense. And if you aren't accustomed to driving on narrow, winding, icy roads - Milford Road is not the place for you to be driving.

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