Nelson to Queenstown

Nov 2nd, 2018, 11:39 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 4
Nelson to Queenstown

Hi All-

We officially have all of our lodging/accommodations booked for the South Island this December. With that being said, we are looking for any tips or “must-do” sights/attractions while we are in each town/city. We are renting a car to travel from Nelson to Queenstown—so keep that in mind.

Flying into Nelson.
Spending 3 days in the Golden Bay area.
Spending 3 days in the Fox River area
Spending 3 days in the Fox Glacier/Aoraki area
Spending 4 days in the Glenorchy/Queenstown area
Flying out of Queenstown.

Lastly, do you have any word on the weather forecast for December? What would you recommend packing, clothing wise?

Thanks in advance!


Last edited by amar0304; Nov 2nd, 2018 at 11:41 AM.
amar0304 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2018, 12:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,482
So much to see and do, but just to clarify, you're arriving in Nelson and then driving to Golden Bay, and planning to base there?

By Fox River are you referring to Punakaiki? Do you plan to base there?

I assume you realize that the village of Mt Cook (Aoraki) is separated from Fox Glacier (West Coast) by a mountain range? You can certainly see Mt Cook on a clear day, and there are helicopter trips, etc. There's loads of things to see and do along the West Coast, particularly for those of us who like to tramp - any interest in exploring some of the many tracks?

The weather is anyone's guess, but you'd be wise to expect anything - layers are a wonderful thing - and I'd personally never go to NZ without at least one waterproof layer - regardless of time of year.
Melnq8 is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2018, 05:36 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,874
I agree with Melnq8, bring a waterproof layer. The West Coast is one of the wettest regions in the country. Bring insect repellent, too, for the sandflies along the West Coast. I think it's always best to bring a product you're familiar with or already have at home, rather than shopping for a new one here, but this is certainly an option.

NIWA (the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) is predicting a warm, dry summer for the East Coast and inland Otago (around Queenstown) due to El Niņo, but not sure about the West Coast.

So also bring your sunscreen, swimwear and shorts (and I hope you'll get to use them).

Even during a largely warm and dry summer, we can be affected by storms. Some of these are ex-cyclones that come in from the South Pacific. December is cyclone season in the South Pacific.

A follow up to Melnq8's question: Where will you be arriving from when you touch down in Nelson? Will you be well-rested enough to drive to Golden Bay (if that is where you are intending to spend your first night)? Because the drive over Takaka Hill might be a chanllenge for a tired driver.

Because you have chosen to stay in Golden Bay, I'm assuming you have some idea of what you'll want to do there. I'd say don't miss the drive to Wharariki Beach and Cape Farewell:
Here's a link to walks in Golden Bay/Takaka:

Have you previously been to the South Island? I'm wondering if you are planning on visiting Milford Sound (which many visitors with limited time do as a coach tour from Queenstown).

Last edited by Diamantina; Nov 3rd, 2018 at 06:12 PM.
Diamantina is offline  
Nov 5th, 2018, 07:44 AM
Original Poster
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Posts: 4
Hi Melnq8 & Diamantina-

Thanks for your insight so far!

So to answer your question… we will be flying into Queenstown (staying the night) then flying from Queenstown to Nelson first thing the next morning (so we are well rested).

Once in Nelson, we will rent a car and drive to Golden Bay (takaka area) then continue on our drive (see below) until we reach Queenstown—where we will fly out of:

We are staying in rental homes at each of the locations we are stopping in:
  • Flying into Nelson and renting car
  • Spending 3 days in the Golden Bay area (close to Takaka)
  • Spending 3 days in the Fox River area (in-between Punakaiki and Charleston)
  • Spending 3 days in the Fox Glacier (Franz Josef area)
  • Spending 4 days in the Glenorchy/Queenstown area
  • Flying out of Queenstown

Also—I see you said Fox Glacier and Aoraki are separated… since we are staying in Fox Glacier, do you think it’s worth the drive to Mt Cook? Or what is there to do in Fox Glacier/ Franz Josef area?

Let me know your thoughts!


amar0304 is offline  
Nov 5th, 2018, 10:55 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,482
Your'e flying into Queentown, then flying to Nelson, then driving to Queentown and departing from there?

Curious as to why you chose this particular route. Flying into Queenstown eats up an extra night and means driving to/from the airport, and then again on return. Seems an unnecessary hassle. I assume it's too late to change your flights?

Also—I see you said Fox Glacier and Aoraki are separated… since we are staying in Fox Glacier, do you think it’s worth the drive to Mt Cook? Or what is there to do in Fox Glacier/ Franz Josef area?

It absolutely does not make sense to drive to Mt Cook from the West Coast with so few days. They are separated by the Southern Alps, some 6-7 hours apart - one way!

Take a look here (scroll to second page for map of the SI):

Visitors with time as limited as yours usually find themselves having to choose between the inland route (Aoraki/Mt Cook) or the West Coast (glaciers), as to do both one generally needs at least two weeks to make a quasi-figure 8 loop of the South Island (beginning and ending in Christchurch is a popular option).

As far as I know, there are scenic flights from the West Coast (Fox, Franz Josef Glacier) that incorporate Mt Cook, but visiting Mt Cook Village is a whole different animal. Because you're coming from Punakaiki, the West Coast makes the most sense, as you'll already be there. But, you might want to look into scenic flights if Aoraki/Mt Cook is of interest to you - as I mentioned upthread, you can see Aoraki from the West Coast on a clear day - nice views from Lake Matheson as well).

From a Fox/Franz Josef base you can see quite a lot - there are some fabulous tracks in the area and the scenery is stunning. I'd have thought you'd have researched what there is to see and do before you booked, but here are some suggestions:

Visitor Guide Fox Glacier & Franz Josef Glacier Accommodation West Coast New Zealand

Last edited by Melnq8; Nov 5th, 2018 at 11:02 AM.
Melnq8 is online now  
Nov 5th, 2018, 11:00 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,482
Also, you mention days - I tend to plan in nights, so curious if your three days means four nights?
Melnq8 is online now  
Nov 6th, 2018, 02:47 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,874
Good to know you'll be well-rested for your drive over Takaka Hill.

While in Golden Bay, take a walk around Te Waikoropupū Springs, a freshwater springs known for its ultra clear water.
I also enjoyed the short walk through Grove Scenic Reserve, with its gnarly tree trunks, Nikau palms, and narrow passages though limestone.

When driving from Golden Bay to Fox River, you might want to make a detour to Cape Foulwind Walkway, outside of Westport. You'll want to buy your groceries for Fox River in Westport. It has a New World Supermarket and a petrol station.

I've never stayed in Fox River, but it's only 12 km from Punakaiki, so have a look at the walks for Punakaiki:

Another practical tip: Before going to Fox Glacier township, buy groceries in the New World Supermarket in Hokitika. You might want to bring an insulated cooler bag (you can also buy them here for about NZ$5) for transporting perishable food from place to place.

You must visit Lake Matheson if staying in Fox Glacier township. Mornings and afternoons are best for reflections.
And the Fox Glacier Valley Walk, which many choose to do as guided walk. This will not get you onto the glacier, for this you must do a "helihike".
Guided valley walk:
Conditions are constantly changing and access to the Fox Glacier Valley Walk is not always possible. For instance, it's closed right now:
Please always heed warning signs and advisories and don't go beyond the barriers.

Fox Glacier Helihike info:

Lots to do in and around Queenstown. Glenorchy is a 45-minute drive from central Queenstown
Diamantina is offline  
Nov 7th, 2018, 01:43 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,874
You can check weather forecasts and severe weather warnings on Metservice:
Road information at:
Diamantina is offline  
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