Need help planning 5 days in South Island

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Nov 14th, 2016, 03:13 PM
  #1
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Join Date: Nov 2016
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Need help planning 5 days in South Island

Hi everyone,

I'm planning a trip to NZ for 8 nights in December with 3 other friends. We've put together the following road trip itinerary and would love to get your advice to see if its feasible and if we're missing anything. I'm a big foodie and would love to get any restaurant recommendations and budget hotel recommendations since we're all in graduate school.

2.5 days/3 nights in North Island:
Day 1: Arrive late evening from the Cook Islands. Explore Auckland at night
Day 2: Drive from Auckland to Waitomo. Check out the glowworm caves. Drive to Lake Taupo and explore the area. Spend the night in Rotorua
Day 3: Explore Rotorua in the morning. Drive to Hobbiton and check out the sets. Drive back to Auckland for dinner.

Fly to Queenstown on Day 4 morning
5 days/4 nights in South Island
Day 4: Explore Queenstown (river rafting maybe?)
Day 5: Drive to Milford Sound and back. Spend the night in Queenstown or Wanaka
Day 6: Drive from Queenstown or Wanaka to Mt. Cook (maybe take a detour for wineries in Cromwell). Explore Mt. Cook area
Day 7: Drive to Lake Tekapo area. Explore the area. Spend the night near Lake Tekapo
Day 8: Drive to Christchurch (any short detours?. Fly to Sydney in the evening

Big decisions:
Should we do Mt Cook or Franz Josef. I'm leaning toward Mt. Cook right now
Can we fit Waiheke into our North Island itinerary
Any recommended activities for Queenstown, Mt. Cook, or Lake Tekapo area

Thanks!
akb3101 is offline  
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Nov 14th, 2016, 04:56 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2007
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When in December?
December, particularly mid-December on, is high season, so have a look at accommodation now to see what budget hotels are still available.
Lake Tekapo and Mt. Cook Village have limited accommodation. If you can't find accommodation in these areas, you might have to change your route. You might want to check Glentanner Park, as it's on the road to Mt. Cook Village. I take it your flight from CC to Sydney is booked.
There's loads to do around Queenstown and/or Wanaka. What kind of activities are you interested in?
If you plan on driving to Milford Sound, it's better to use Te Anau as a base, better to spend the night there, otherwise, you'll be doing a lot of driving on that day. It's a pleasant town on Lake Te Anau with lots of walking tracks, a bird sanctuary, glowworm caves, good restaurants, a popular pie shop (Miles Pies), and lots of accommodation.
No, I don't think there's any way you can visit Waiheke Island, given your current plans. You'll have little time for Auckland as it is.
Diamantina is offline  
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Nov 14th, 2016, 08:11 PM
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You are planning to visit NZ in peak time, it’s very difficult to book hotel at this period. As you mention you are foodie then I would like to recommend you few restaurants so you can enjoy …
Aucklandbr /> 1) The Foodstore and famous dishes are Bluff Oyster, Tuna Tartare, Smoked Raukumara vension lion.
2) Café Hanoi offers the number of perfect dishes Grilled Minced, Pork Spare Ribs.

Rotoruabr /> 1) Third Place Café is the little café with big lake views has been serving its signature dish fish and chips.
2) Fat Dog Café is famous for giant sandwiches.

Taupobr /> 1) Bistro Lago at the Hilton Taupo offers spectacular lake view and super fresh caprese salad.
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Nov 14th, 2016, 09:48 PM
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North Island is pretty busy few days - not sure how much of Auckland you would see at night after a late flight? Are you staying in the city or at the airport?
Day 2 is quite a lot of driving as Waitomo and Rotorua are not close together. I'd skip Taupo probably.
Day 3 traffic gets bad on the motorway into the city from about 3 to 7 pm. Stay at the airport so you can get the next flight more easily.
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Nov 15th, 2016, 08:19 AM
  #5
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Thanks all for the advice!
Diamantina - Our trip starts on 14 Dec. We have booked our hotels for North Island and beginning to book South Island now (will take into account your advice on limited accommodation near Mt. Cook).

We're interested in river rafting, possibly sky diving, kayaking, wine tasting, around Queenstown. Any operators that you recommend?

Should we take the tour bus or should we drive to Milford if we don't have the time to spend the night there?

If we had to pick to either explore Auckland or Waiheke, what would you recommend?
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Nov 15th, 2016, 10:33 AM
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Auckland or Waiheke - how much time do you have? Waiheke is beautiful but with an evening only there's no point going there in the dark.
There has been a major earthquake in New Zealand on Sunday devastating Kaikoura and the surrounding northeast corner of the south Island. Your travel plans will be fine but there maybe a flow on effect of other tourists having to change bookings as a result of this. I would get things booked quickly.
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Nov 15th, 2016, 01:42 PM
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If your hotels are booked for the North Island then stick with that. As I wrote before: "No, I don't think there's any way you can visit Waiheke Island, given your current plans. You'll have little time for Auckland as it is."

Consider the practicalities. You'll be arriving in Auckland late at night. Even though NZ and the Cook Islands share a special relationship (Cook Islanders are NZ citizens), you'll still have to pass through NZ Customs and Immigration, which can take a while. Then you have to get from the airport to the ferry terminal. Once you get to the ferry terminal, you'll have to catch the ferry to Waiheke Island's Matiatia Wharf, which takes about 40 minutes and costs $36 return. Then you'll have to get from Matiatia Wharf to your accommodation. Accommodation on Waiheke is fairly expensive in peak season and probably already nearly fully booked.

For Queenstown activities, have a look at their website. See:
https://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/
Have a look at Auntie_Em's trip report, as she booked activities at a discount through "bookme.co.nz":
http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...rip-report.cfm

There are a few wine regions close to Queenstown. The closest wine region is Gibbston Valley, which is about a 20 minute drive from central Queenstown. Enroute to Gibbston Valley, you can take a slight detour by turning off at Lake Hayes Road toward Arrowtown. Close to this intersection, you'll find Amisfield Winery, known for its wines and its bistro. If you'd like to eat in its bistro, you should book ahead.
http://www.amisfield.co.nz/
Here's a map for Gibbston Valley wineries:
https://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/conte...n_Wine_Map.pdf
I like Peregrine, Chard Farm, and Brennan's.
if you drive another half hour along SH6 through Kawarau Gorge from Gibbston Valley to Cromwell, you can visit more wineries in Cromwell and nearby Bannockburn. Wild Earth winery in Kawarau Gorge has a nice restaurant: https://www.wildearthwines.co.nz/
Mt. Difficulty in Bannockburn also has a popular restaurant with great views over the vineyards. The folks at the wine tasting counter are very welcoming. http://www.mtdifficulty.co.nz/
Carrick is another winery with good wines and a nice restaurant.http://www.carrick.co.nz/
There are too many good wineries in Cromwell and Bannockburn! This link has a downloadable map:
https://www.cuisinewine.co.nz/region...central-otago/
My favorite winery in Cromwell is Rockburn.
If you visit Wanaka, you'll definitely want to drive up to Rippon Winery, if only for the views. http://rippon.co.nz/

You might want to take a look at Cuisine Magazine Good Food Awards (though these restaurants won't be cheap):
http://www.cuisinegoodfoodawards.co.nz/results.html

While you're here, you'll also want to visit a farmer's market.
http://www.farmersmarkets.org.nz/
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