Go Back  Fodor's Forum > Destinations > Australia & the Pacific
Reload this Page > Need advice for South Island New Zealand trip
Notices

Need advice for South Island New Zealand trip

Reply

Jun 16th, 2015, 06:03 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Need advice for South Island New Zealand trip

I am traveling from Atlanta to NZ for a business trip in Queenstown next February and my wife and I are planning a holiday around it. We are in our late 30s and leaving the kids at home. This board and Scott Cook’s NZ Frenzy have been very helpful in our planning. I would really appreciate any advice or suggestions on our proposed itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive Queenstown 10:35, +/- afternoon activity Wanaka or QT, overnight Wanaka
Day 2: Self-guided hike to Rob Roy Glacier, return rental car in Wanaka
Day 3-5: Gillespie Pass trip with Wild Walks
Day 6: Return to Wanaka from Wild Walks trip ~4:30, transfer to Queenstown
Day 7: Full day for activity in Queenstown
Day 8: Possible AM activity in Queenstown, meeting begins in afternoon
Day 9: Full day of meetings for me, wife on her own to relax, etc
Day 10: Meeting wraps up around lunch, transfer to Te Anau
Day 11: Stirling sunriser kayak tour of Milford Sound, +/- explore Milford road on drive back to Te Anau
Day 12: Doubtful sound overnight cruise
Day 13: Complete cruise, return to Queenstown
Day 14: Depart Queenstown at 2:30 and return to USA

I’m not sure about the most efficient way to organize the Milford/Doubtful portion of the trip. Scott Cook’s book recommends having a car to explore Milford road on your own. It sounds like rental options in Te Anau are very limited (one company?) but on the other hand I’m not sure I want to commit to driving back and forth from Queenstown (and paying for four days of a car we only “need” one day).

I’ve toyed with flipping the order of Doubtful and Milford and/or taking a scenic flight either to or from Milford. I’m nervous about the flight since I’ve read weather can ground flights for days at a time and I’d hate to try to arrange ground transportation last minute (especially to return to QT in time for our flight). Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

-Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 16th, 2015, 07:07 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,695
Hi Matt -

Do be aware that driving the road to Rob Roy Glacier is a rental car violation with most car rental companies. Regardless, we've done it more times than I can count, and usually in a Toyota, but we're old hands at driving in NZ and know what to expect. You must cross many fords to reach the trailhead - generally this isn't a big deal in February, but if there's been a lot of rain, you could well have issues. I suggest you rent a high clearance vehicle. Have you looked into non-rental car transport to the trail head? This would solve your rental car issues later in the trip.

Day 11 is full on - Milford Sound is a two hour drive from Te Anau, so to get there by sunrise, you'll be up very early, especially in Feb when it gets light early. I assume this is a tour of some kind?

I too prefer having a car to explore Milford Road, but it really comes down to your personal comfort level with driving on the left. Driving yourself gives you full flexibility, whereas a bus will only stop at a few given spots and you're part of a herd. There is smaller group transport as well, and pick up /drop off from some hiking tracks, but I'd have to do more research to be of any help there.

Have you checked the cost of renting in QT upon arrival and keeping the car for the duration? Longer rentals are generally less expensive than multiple short rentals. You might find it cheaper to keep the car parked at your accommodation in Wanaka while on our tour of the West Coast. Just ask them, I'm sure they'll accommodation you if they can.

The Doubtful Sound cruise departs from Manapouri, which is about 25 minutes from Te Anau. They have ample parking should you decide to drive. Yes, not much in Te Anau for rental cars - it's a small town with limited services.

Driving from QT - Te Anau is a piece of cake. Flat, easy driving for the most part. Te Anau to Milford is more challenging, but not nearly as bad as some would have you believe.

Milford weather is very unpredictable. The last time I took the bus to Milford they still had openings for the return flight, so it could well be possible to decide on the day. If the flight is cancelled, they will put you on the bus, same company, so no worries there.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 16th, 2015, 07:19 AM
  #4
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,695
I think if you weigh the cost of keeping a rental for the duration against the cost of those individual transport options, you'll find the rental cheaper. I suggest APEX - you can rent an older car and save some money.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 16th, 2015, 08:30 AM
  #5
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Melnq8-

Thanks so much for the tips. I read in Cook's book that self-driving to Rob Roy could take 2 hours if you're not aggressive on the unsealed portion. Alpine Connexions lists the time to the car park as 1 hour and looks like it would be $160 round-trip for two people. Adding in a QT to Wanaka transfer it would probably be cheaper to rent a car but since we usually drive on the ride side of paved roads the headache may outweigh the savings.

The kayak trip on Day 11 is with Rosco's and the "sunrise" part is marketing. It leaves Milford lodge at 9am and returns at 2pm so I assume would require being on the road around 6:30 am.

I will definitely look into the long-term rental, whether for the whole trip or half the time. Do you know if APEX allows their vehicles on Milford Road? I have read elsewhere that many companies exclude it similar to the Rob Roy situation you mentioned.

Thanks again,
Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 16th, 2015, 03:17 PM
  #6
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,695
Two hours from Wanaka to Rob Roy Glacier is a safe bet. I don't suggest being aggressive (here or elsewhere!)- it can be pretty rough and slow going, particularly if you stop for photos every five minutes like I do. There's often stock on the road which can slow you down too. If the fords contain significant water, tread carefully - there are quite a few of them and you can bottom out/flood your vehicle; expect concealed rocks. Unlikely to be a major

>

Yeah, 7 am latest. You could probably make it in 90 minutes (we have), but I suggest you allow at least two hours, so you can park and get your bearings, etc.

APEX definitely allows their vehicles on Milford Road - as I mentioned earlier, Milford Road gets a bad rap, it's not bad, it really isn't. It's the gawking, first time inattentive left side drivers and bad weather that are the problem, not the road. You'll be fine, just take your time. I've never run across a rental company that excludes Milford Road and we've been renting vehicles on the SI petty regularly for 22 years.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 16th, 2015, 03:17 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,695
PS - Milford Road is paved
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 16th, 2015, 03:20 PM
  #8
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,695
Lost part of my sentence there - meant to say, fords are unlikely to be a major issue in February, but weather in NZ is unpredictable, so one never knows.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 17th, 2015, 11:31 AM
  #9
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Well, he who hesitates is lost. I was on the verge or booking our flights last night but lost my nerve. Today our planned departure date jumped in price so we are leaving a day later. This leaves two obvious options:

(A) Drop Rob Roy Hike day:
Day 1: Arrive Queenstown 10:35, +/- afternoon activity Wanaka or QT, overnight Wanaka
Day 2-4: Gillespie Pass trip with Wild Walks
Day 5: Return to Wanaka from Wild Walks trip ~4:30, transfer to Queenstown
Day 6: Full day for activity in Queenstown
Day 7: Possible AM activity in Queenstown, meeting begins in afternoon
Day 8: Full day of meetings for me, wife on her own to relax, etc
Day 9: Meeting wraps up around lunch, transfer to Te Anau
Day 10: Stirling sunriser kayak tour of Milford Sound, +/- explore Milford road on drive back to Te Anau
Day 11: Doubtful sound overnight cruise
Day 12: Complete cruise, return to Queenstown
Day 13: Depart Queenstown at 2:30 and return to USA

(B) Drop the pre-meeting day in Queenstown:
Day 1: Arrive Queenstown 10:35, +/- afternoon activity Wanaka or QT, overnight Wanaka
Day 2: Self-guided hike to Rob Roy Glacier, return rental car in Wanaka
Day 3-5: Gillespie Pass trip with Wild Walks
Day 6: Return to Wanaka from Wild Walks trip ~4:30, transfer to Queenstown
Day 7: Possible AM activity in Queenstown, meeting begins in afternoon
Day 8: Full day of meetings for me, wife on her own to relax, etc
Day 9: Meeting wraps up around lunch, transfer to Te Anau
Day 10: Stirling sunriser kayak tour of Milford Sound, +/- explore Milford road on drive back to Te Anau
Day 11: Doubtful sound overnight cruise
Day 12: Complete cruise, return to Queenstown
Day 13: Depart Queenstown at 2:30 and return to USA

I had liked the idea of doing Rob Roy first for several reasons: (1) a buffer day before an expensive multi-day hike in case of severe travel delay, (2) one of the South Island's top day hikes, and (3) a "warm-up" before the intense hiking of Gillespie pass. However, that would leave us with even less time for activities in Queenstown unless we shorten the Te Anau / Milford portion.

I haven't fully discussed with my wife but I am leaning towards dropping Rob Roy. 50 km and 1000 m of elevation over 4 days is probably plenty of hiking. Perhaps a third hybrid option is best:

(C)
Day 1: Arrive Queenstown 10:35, afternoon activity QT
Day 2: Full day for activity in Queenstown, transfer to Wanaka
Day 3-5: Gillespie Pass trip with Wild Walks
Day 6: Return to Wanaka from Wild Walks trip ~4:30, transfer to Queenstown
Day 7: Possible AM activity in Queenstown, meeting begins in afternoon
Day 8: Full day of meetings for me, wife on her own to relax, etc
Day 9: Meeting wraps up around lunch, transfer to Te Anau
Day 10: Stirling sunriser kayak tour of Milford Sound, +/- explore Milford road on drive back to Te Anau
Day 11: Doubtful sound overnight cruise
Day 12: Complete cruise, return to Queenstown
Day 13: Depart Queenstown at 2:30 and return to USA

This preserves the "buffer" and avoids the Wanaka transfer after all that flying. It also may add some flexibility to the length of the activity that first afternoon. One downside is an extra "orphan" hotel night but maybe we can turn that into a positive and arrange to store some luggage we won't need in Wanaka.

I would welcome any advice on these options or the potential of shortening the Te Anau/Milford portion by a day.

Thanks,
Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 17th, 2015, 05:08 PM
  #10
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,695
Don't overthink it (this from an overthinker). Book your flights, then go from there. It's all good.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 17th, 2015, 05:28 PM
  #11
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,695
Here's a thought from Mr. Melnq8...how about ditching Rob Roy in favor of a shorter, easier drive to Glenorchy (40 minutes from Queenstown), where you can then continue on to Paradise for a spectacular short walk, or forge on to the start of the Routeburn Track for a four hour return walk (for us oldies anyway) to the first hut and back.

Much easier to reach, but still within Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park, fewer fords (or none if you only go as far as Paradise), spectacular mountain views, fewer people, less strenuous and our personal favorite place on the South Island. You'd prevent that drive to/from Wanaka, plus the long side trip to Rob Roy, but the scenery is as beautiful or better.

There's also Mt Crichton between Queenstown and Glenorchy, and the longer, more strenuous hike to Lake Rere. Lots of tracks in the Glenorchy/QT area. You're spoiled for choice, and all doable as a day trip from Queenstown, so no need to change bases.

While you're there, check out the Dart River Safari.

So much to do, so little time, don't stress, just think of this as your first visit to NZ.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 19th, 2015, 03:44 PM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 227
There aren't any rental car hirers in Wanaka that I know of and only one or two in Te Anau. So you are limited to those in Queenstown.

As to where you can and cannot go with a rental, be sure to read the Terms and Conditions, specifically the section for "Exclusions to Insurance Cover". Apex is very strict. They won't allow you to drive to Raspberry Flat Carpark (Rob Roy Glacier), nor will they allow you to drive to Paradise. Other car companies do not have such restrictions.

We booked Ace from Queenstown and only had restrictions from Skippers Canyon Rd and driving on beaches (or any other unformed road). Note that some car companies will refer to "metal" or "metaled" roads and that, by definition, are gravel roads.

We've used 4 different car companies and 2 different campervan companies in New Zealand and only Apex had such strict exclusions.
deSchenke is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 20th, 2015, 03:55 AM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Melnq8: Thanks for the advice. I did go ahead and book the tickets (now trying to decide if it's worth 50 USD per person per leg for "preferred" seats in economy). I appreciate the other suggestions for day trips. Rob Roy certainly enjoys a great reputation but as you say there are many other great options that are easier to reach.

deSchenke: Thanks for the car hire tips. In Wanaka I've found http://www.wanakarentacar.co.nz/ and http://www.adventurerentals.co.nz/

The pricing doesn't look as competitive as QT, especially if you pay for QT airport pickup. In Te Anau the only place I've found is Rent-A-Dent. It looks like longer term out of Queenstown may be the best bet. I still need to decide just how many days I really would enjoy the freedom of having a car vs relying on other transportation with fixed schedules.
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 20th, 2015, 06:31 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 50,348
Adding in a QT to Wanaka transfer it would probably be cheaper to rent a car but since we usually drive on the ride side of paved roads the headache may outweigh the savings.>>

I appreciate that your plans have changed a bit but driving in NZ really isn't difficult as apart from the odd town like QT, there's usually only one way to go! There is a 60mph max speed limit, and in towns and round the many road works, it's a lot less than that, so no fast traffic to cope with while you're getting used to driving on the left.

I would rent a car in QT and use it as and when required. I agree with Mel that your accommodation will most probably look after it for you if you are away for a night or two, but even if they won't, NZ is a very safe place, and it'll most probably be absolutely fine just left on the street.

BTW we did the Doubtful Sound day trip and really wished that we'd gone for the overnight option. Go for it!
annhig is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jun 20th, 2015, 06:45 AM
  #15
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,695
Just be aware parking in QT can be a royal pain (very limited), so best to choose accommodation that provides parking.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 22nd, 2015, 05:26 PM
  #16
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Thanks for the advice. You guys have me pretty sold on renting a vehicle. I will add free parking to our list of filters for hotels. Wild Walks discouraged hiring a car and offered to arrange private transfers for $140 each way. Not sure how much fuel will be but it looks like a week rental from Ace would be about $250 so pretty cost neutral to have the freedom to alter departure times assuming I can park for free.

Any advice on parking situation in Wanaka? How likely will a hotel let the car sit for 4 days between our overnights there?

Thanks again,
Matt
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 22nd, 2015, 05:57 PM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,695
Short term parking in Wanaka is generally easy and free. Parking along the Main street and parking near the lake can be a challenge during business hours and there are time limits as I recall.

To park for four days though, your best bet is accommodation located outside the town center - non-hotel/motel accommodation is probably best for this purpose, as privately owned accommodation will most likely be more flexible - B&Bs, apartments, cottages, etc.

I'd suggest asking your accommodation prior to booking - even if they can't provide it, my guess is they have an easy solution.
Melnq8 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 26th, 2015, 03:11 AM
  #18
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
Thanks for the tips. We settled on Real Journeys as our Doubtful operator. Based on their availability we will do the overnight cruise first and kayak second. My wife would like to limit the number of different hotels we use throughout the trip (we did an East Africa trip that was thrilling but felt like we had to unpack and repack our luggage every other day). With that in mind I would appreciate any advice on lodging permutations of this latest itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive Queenstown 10:35, afternoon activity QT
Day 2: Full day for activity in Queenstown, transfer to Wanaka that evening vs early next morning*
Day 3-5: Gillespie Pass trip with Wild Walks
Day 6: Return to Wanaka from Wild Walks trip ~4:30, transfer to Queenstown
Day 7: AM activity +/- PM activity in Queenstown, meeting begins in afternoon or evening
Day 8: Full day of meetings for me, wife on her own to relax, etc
Day 9: Meeting wraps up around lunch, transfer to Te Anau that evening or next morning**
Day 10: Drive self to Manapouri by noon (from Te Anau or QT**) for RJ Doubtful overnight cruise
Day 11: Return from cruise at lunch, leisurely drive to Milford with stops to hike/explore. O/N Milford lodge
Day 12: Morning kayak with Rosco's, return to QT that afternoon/evening***
Day 13: Possible AM activity, depart Queenstown at 14:30 and return to USA

Questions:

*Original plan for days 1-2 was one night QT, one night Wanaka. Would we be better off with two nights in either Queenstown or Wanaka? Two nights in QT leaves plenty of time to do activities there but may make for a hectic start to day 3. Two nights in Wanaka leaves us a bit short on time for QT activities.

**We could potentially overnight in QT on day 9 (especially if we start with 2 nights in Wanaka) and avoid an "orphan" night in Te Anau. I don't think that would make the morning of day 10 too stressful but I don't know which option makes the most of our time. This depends on when the meeting actually ends, but are we better off leaving QT the afternoon of the day 9 or first thing on day 10?

***I don't love the idea of hopping in the car for 4-5 hours after our kayaking on day 12 but I'm nervous about trying to drive all the way on the morning of our flight (plus only Milford lodge options that night are $395 chalet or dorm bunk). Do we perhaps break the trip up and overnight in Te Anau? This could give us more time to explore the Milford Road but may make it difficult to do much in QT that last morning.

What combination makes the most sense for these dilemmas?
99mkw is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 08:24 AM.