Need help with South Island Itinerary

Old Jan 8th, 2007, 09:01 AM
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Need help with South Island Itinerary

Family of 4 (2 teenagers).

We will be flying into Christchurch for a stay of 9 days total at end of March-beginning of April. Will recover from the long flight for 1? day, then would like to drive a loop: 1) Nelson; 2) Milford Sound; 3) back to Cristchurch.

We enjoy water activities, hiking, fishing, and general outdoors activities. We don't have to see everything and realize that our time is likely limited. We do not need spectacular accomodations and have considered renting or buying camping gear for the journey.

We are getting overloaded with the vast array of choices for activities and would appreciate advice regarding where to focus our energy. Also advice regarding the driving journey would be wonderful (what to expect for driving times, etc.)

Thanks in advance to any who reply.
If any
grosventre is offline  
Old Jan 8th, 2007, 02:34 PM
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We spent 16 days in NZ last Dec/Jan split between NI & SI. We flew into CC. Only had one night there - wish it was more. Be sure to see the Arts Centre, formerly the Univ of Canterbury. Fabulous artisans. Kaikoura has a lot to offer in wildlife, Blenheim - wineries, Nelson (stay in Richmond) and check out Abel Tasman Nat. Park. It's spectacular. Take the water taxi north and hike your way down. Westport/Punakaiki/Greymouth is beautiful. We stayed at the Wave Watchers Retreat a house on the beach in Punakaiki. We went across 73 through Arthurs Pass so didn't do Milford Sound. You're packing a lot of driving into 9 days. We found two days minimum gave us time to explore. Don't spend all of your time driving. The country is too beautiful. Good Luck, this is a great website to get travel tips.
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Old Jan 8th, 2007, 02:44 PM
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Travel times/distances are longer than they appear on a map. Most roads in NZ are two lane and are often very squiggly, so it might take longer than you expect to get from point A to point B.

Here's a NZ distance calender that will help you with your planning:

http://www.accommodationz.co.nz/distances2.html

You want to cover a lot of ground in your 9 days, so suggest you consider either flying from CH to QT to begin your trip, or from QT to CH to end your trip, thus preventing one day of driving.

Here's one possibility:

Arrive CH, leave immediately for Kaikoura (183 km), spend the night in Kaikoura, take a whale watching trip or just rest up.

Drive Kaikoura to Nelson (245 km) - spent at least two nights here. If your goal is Abel Tasman, keep in mind that it's another 88 kms from Nelson and there are many places to stop along the way. You might prefer to stay in Marahau, Motueka or Kaiteriteri if you plan to spend more than a day in the park as they're much closer.

Drive Nelson to Hokitika (330 km) or continue on to Franz Josef (469) - spend 1-2 nights (you'll need at least two if you want to take a helihike or glacier hike, etc.

Drive Hokitika/Franz Josef to Wanaka (426 km/287 km) or continue on to QT (543/404 km) - spend 2-3 nights

From QT you can make the very long day trip to Milford OR cut a day in QT and spend a night in Te Anau. From QT, Milford is a four hour drive one way, from Te Anau, it's only two hours.

Fly from QT to CH and connect with your return flight home.

I would think QT would be a big draw for two teenagers, so it might be a better choice than Wanaka. All depends on your particular interests.

Personally, the above itinerary would make me nuts, but for someone wanting to cover all you've mentioned in such a short time it might work for you.

One of the issues with planning NZ itineraries is the distance between attractions and the need to break up the driving. That's why I've included areas you haven't mentioned - you'll need to stop somewhere as the drive from Nelson to Milford is 1146 kms!

Hope this helps.
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Old Jan 8th, 2007, 02:56 PM
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For inexpensive lodging, we've had good luck with this chain which has locations throughout NZ:

www.bellavistamotels.co.nz/
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Old Jan 9th, 2007, 09:23 AM
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Thanks for suggestions, both of you, we now realize our error with the ambitious distances (inexperienced travelers).
We are exploring options. If we were to rearrange flights and fly out of Nelson, we would go to QT first, Nelson 2nd and skip the NE leg of driving. Alternatively, could go CC-Nelson-QT and skip the Canterbury drive.

Recommendations from experience?
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Old Jan 9th, 2007, 02:10 PM
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Nelson has limited service, but this site might help:

http://www.nelsonnz.com/transport/

I'm not sure I understand your new post - would you fly to QT, then drive to Nelson???
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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 04:56 PM
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Fox Glacier to QT is do-able in half a day or so, so no need to spend a night in Wanaka, IMO. We left Fox about noon, got to QT 6 or so after some stops in Haas Pass.
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Old Jan 11th, 2007, 08:46 PM
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To explain the flights....we're flying out from CH to AUK. I was proposing changing to departure from QT or Nelson....however, the restrictions on the tickets are too prohibitive.

We are considering lopping off the Nelson visit...Heading over Arthur's Pass, then south to QT, Te Anau, etc. Will arrive CCH March 25 AM and depart CCH on April 03 PM.

We get one shot at this for a long while and are finding it hard to give up anything.

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Old Jan 12th, 2007, 01:24 PM
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I feel your pain - too much to see, not enough time.

It would be a shame to miss the north of the SI, but many tourists do, as there never seems enough time to do it all.

Narrowing your options is definitely the way to go - you'll have more fun if you're not madly rushing about on your holiday.

No matter what you decide, you really can't go wrong.

Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 03:12 PM
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I just returned from the South Island. Initially, I had similar ambitions to see it all. But even in the 15 days that I had, that would have been nuts.

I cannot emphasize enough that you don't want to spend so much time in your car -- not only are driving distances longer than you'd think but given that you are driving on twisty roads, sometimes along high cliffs, it can be exhausting. Also, you'll want to stop along the way to take in the scenery and go for short walks that start along the road.

Here's what I would advise:

Christchurch

Hokitika via Arthur's Pass (the town is not much but there is beautiful scenery on the coast as you make your way to the glaciers.

Fox Glacier (a half-day glacier walk was incredible and gave us great views since it's along the ridge line)

Wanaka -- this is a small resort town with great hikes and water sports. the views are some of the most memorable from my trip.

Queenstown -- it's very touristy but makes a good stop for breaking up the trip to Te Anau.

Te Anau/Milford Sound -- you need to stay in Te Anau at least two nights because you want to be poised to wake up in Te Anau and start your day early. I recommend an early cruise in Milford Sound before the throngs arrive. On the way back there are great hikes off the main road. The drive itself is about 2 hours but you'll want to enjoy it slowly. And you never know what could come up. On my way to the Sound there was a huge sheep crossing that took 15 mins. to pass.

Are you able to fly home from Queenstown or do you need to drive all the way back to Christchurch?



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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 05:27 PM
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You might look at the driving itineraries on the NZ tourism website: www.newzealand.com.

Motels in New Zealand are ideal for families, they usually have separate kitchens and sitting rooms, as well as outdoor bbqs. There are also Holiday Parks which have cabins and fully equipped kitchens, you don't have to rent camping gear to save money.

There are very few highways on the South Island where you can drive the speed limit, maybe only along the southeast coast which isn't exactly the most exciting part. I doubt that I averaged more than 50 mph, allowing for very frequent photo stops. There are also a lot of roadworks and slow vehicles, with little opportumity for safe passing. So don't overestimate the distances that plan to drive in a day. I think I would drop out Nelson, as mentioned you could to to Kaikoura as a short leg out of Christchurch, or, there is Gore Bay which is north of Christchurch and even closer.
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Old Jan 25th, 2007, 04:19 PM
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The info you've been given is top rate. 9 days to do the lower half of the South Island is ideal. Seriously, don't plan on driving everyday. You'll regret it. I never imagined we'd go back to NZ, but the first trip was so short (4 days in Queenstown - flew in and flew out and did heli-fishing in the back country) Second visit 16 days, and our next visit will be at least a month. The country is so incredible you will go back. I'd stay even longer in each spot. It's so nice to be able to relax and enjoy the city/country towns. Not having to get up early every morning to hit the road. Your teenagers will dread that. The roads are fairly good, but two lanes everywhere, lots of curves, especially along the coast. 50mph mostly and yes, lots of photo stops. Enjoy!
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