New Zealand Itinerary Options - 3 weeks (March 2019)

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May 17th, 2018, 02:27 PM
  #1
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New Zealand Itinerary Options - 3 weeks (March 2019)

Hello. Longtime NZ follower, first-time NZ poster. I have been reading and sorting through previous trip reports and using that information to come up with tentative itinerary options for a 2019 mid-March trip. We are 4 friends (active, seasoned travelers in our 40s) traveling for 3 weeks. From our arrival we have 19 days in country (20th day is our homeward flight). We are flying in and out of Auckland, and even though I have tried to persuade my fellow travelers to spend the entirety of our trip on the South Island, I have failed. Right now, we are thinking of driving from Auckland to Wellington to see/experience the beauty of the North Island (using only about 25% of our time here).

This will be our first trip to NZ and like everyone else, we are trying to see and experience as much as we can – while still allowing time to experience the amazing locations we are in. We know we can’t do it all and have to sacrifice some things now (and just come back again)! We will be doing a self-drive (supplemented by some in country flights) and don’t mind some longer drive days….we tend to be doers vs. relaxers. We also tend to appreciate unique experiences/scenery more so than spending a lot to time in larger cities. We like to do almost anything…light to moderate half-day hikes, bike riding, wine drinking, being outside just enjoying beautiful scenery/wildlife, boat rides, maybe a rafting/kayaking experience (maybe even skydiving). Oh, and we love food! I have done a few different versions of potential routes and transportation options (not sure if a ferry crossing is a mandatory experience), and would love any perspectives…that could be on the route itself, the specific locations, or the amount of time we have allotted in locations. Like everyone, I am trying to maximize the trip…and would love your expert opinions so I can be informed as I go back to my travel companions with recommendations.

I appreciate any thoughts and recommendations! (and, thanks for your patience with the long post!). Also, when possible, we prefer to stay in self catering houses/apartments, so if you have any recommendations for any locations, I will gladly take those! THANKS!!

Itinerary 1
Day 1 – Arrive in Auckland (6:30 a.m. from St. Louis, MO) / only day in Auckland
Day 2 – Leave Auckland drive to Taupo? Taurmarunui? Ohakune? – Probably leaning toward Taupo (would have loved to do Coromandel, but with limited days didn’t know if this was feasible; we don’t have a huge interest in Rotorua)
Day 3 – Drive onto Wellington (long travel day) / Wellington overnight
Day 4 – Wellington
Day 5 – Depart Wellington / Fly to Queenstown / overnight in Queenstown
Day 6 – Queenstown
Day 7 – Queenstown
Day 8 – Depart Queenstown / drive to Wanaka
Day 9 – Wanaka
Day 10 – Wanaka
Day 11 – Depart Wanaka / drive to Te Anau
Day 12 – Te Anau
Day 13 – Te Anau (looking at one of these nights being an overnight in Milford or Doubtful Sound)
Day 14 – Depart Te Anau / drive to Lake Tekapo (long travel day)
Day 15 – Lake Tekapo
Day 16 – Lake Tekapo
Day 17 – TBD; spend time in Christchurch/Akaroa? Extend time in previous location? Add new location? Add time to North Island at beginning of trip?
Day 18 – TBD
Day 19 - TBD
Day 20 – Fly from Christchurch to Auckland // Auckland to home (depart Auckland at 8:10 p.m.)

The main locations we are missing with Itinerary 1 are: Franz Josef and Abel Tasman

Itinerary 2
Day 1 – Arrive in Auckland (6:30 a.m. from St. Louis, MO) / only day in Auckland
Day 2 – Leave Auckland drive to TBD (same as above)
Day 3 – Drive onto Wellington (long travel day) / Wellington overnight
Day 4 – Wellington
Day 5 – Depart Wellington / Ferry to Picton / Drive to Nelson (long travel day)
Day 6 – Nelson / Abel Tasman
Day 7 – Nelson / Abel Tasman / or drive to wineries
Day 8 – Depart Nelson / Paparoa Natl Park / Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks (exact overnight location TBD)
Day 9 – Same overnight location as above?
Day 10 – Drive to Franz Josef (exact overnight location TBD)
Day 11 – Depart Franz Josef area / Drive to Wanaka
Day 12 – Wanaka
Day 13 – Wanaka
Day 14 – Drive to Te Anau
Day 15 – Te Anau
Day 16 – Te Anau
Day 17 – Queenstown
Day 18 – Queenstown
Day 19 – Queenstown
Day 20 – Fly from Queenstown to Auckland // Auckland to home (depart Auckland at 8:10 p.m.)

Itinerary 2 has more driving and not sure if we are spreading ourselves too thin? There is no wiggle room.

Itinerary 3
Day 1 – Arrive in Auckland (6:30 a.m. from St. Louis, MO) / only day in Auckland
Day 2 – Leave Auckland drive to TBD (same as above)
Day 3 – Drive onto Wellington (long travel day) / Wellington overnight
Day 4 – Wellington
Day 5 – Depart Wellington / Ferry to Picton / Drive to Kaikoura (stay overnight)
Day 6 – Spend morning in Kaikoura (maybe whale watching tour) / Drive to Christchurch (stay overnight)
Day 7 – Leave Christchurch midday / Drive to Lake Tekapo
Day 8 – Lake Tekapo
Day 9 – Lake Tekapo
Day 10 – Drive to Wanaka
Day 11 – Wanaka
Day 12 – Wanaka
Day 13 – Drive to Te Anau
Day 14 – Te Anau
Day 15 – Te Anau
Day 16 – Drive to Queenstown
Day 17 – Queenstown
Day 18 – Queenstown
Day 19 – TBD – fill in day somewhere within itinerary
Day 20 – Fly from Queenstown to Auckland // Auckland to home (depart Auckland at 8:10 p.m.)

The main locations we are missing with Itinerary 3 are: Franz Josef and Abel Tasman

Thanks so much!!
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May 17th, 2018, 06:17 PM
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Did you already buy your domestic flights? Because I'd suggest you connect to the South Island after arrival in Auckland and start your trip in the south. You're going to be tired on this first day, so might as well keep going. Plus, what if you get to your Auckland accommodation and can't check in until 2 p.m. or later? You'll want to get settled, shower, change, etc.

The domestic flight from Auckland to Queenstown would be around 1 hour 50 minutes; Auckland to Christchurch 1 hour 25 minutes. Give yourself at least 2.5 hours between flights.

With such limited time to see a bit of both islands it will be difficult to choose between Lake Tekapo and Franz Josef because they are separated by the Southern Alps. Is there a special reason for seeing Lake Tekapo? Many travelers spend just make a brief stop here before continuing on to Aoraki Mt. Cook, which is considered more scenic. This being said, Lake Tekapo is the best place to go stargazing and one of the top places for astrophotography because it is an International Dark Sky Reserve (the only other IDKR is on Great Barrier Island near Auckland).

Here's a suggestion (no Christchurch, Kaikoura, Tekapo):

1 Auckland-Queenstown
2 Queenstown
3 Queenstown
4 Te Anau
5 Te Anau (day trip to Milford Sound0
6 Wanaka
7 Wanaka
8 Franz Josef
9 Franz Josef
10 Punakaiki
11 Abel Tasman /Nelson
12 Abel Tasman/Nelson
13 Abel Tasman/Nelson
14 Fly Nelson to Wellington (35 minute flight)
15 Wellington
16 North Island
17 North Island
18 North Island
19 North Island
20 leave
If the above seems like too much time for the North Island, add a day or two to one of more of your destinations in the south. If you want to do the overnight cruise on Milford Sound do it on Day 4 because the cruise doesn't leave the dock until the afternoon so you'd have plenty of time to drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

Here's another suggestion (not much time for the North Island):

1 Auckland-Christchurch
2 Christchurch or day trip to Akaroa
3 Lake Tekapo
4 Queenstown
5 Queenstown
6 Queenstown
7 Te Anau
8 Te Anau (day trip to Milford Sound)
9 Wanaka
10 Wanaka
11 Franz Josef
12 Franz Josef
13 Punakaiki
14 Abel Tasman/Nelson
15 Abel Tasman/Nelson
16 Fly to Weliington
17 Wellington
18 North Island
19 North Island
20 leave
If you omit that second day for Christchurch/Akaroa, this would free up a day.

And here's another:

1 Auckland to Queenstown
2 Queenstown
3 Queenstown
4 Te Anau
5 Te Anau
6 Wanaka
7 Wanaka
8 Aoraki Mt. Cook
9 Lake Tekapo
10 Christchurch/Akaroa
11 Christchurch/Akaroa
12 Kaikoura
13 Kaikoura
14 Picton (hike, or take a boat ride, or go wine tasting in Marlborough)
15 Ferry to Wellington
16 Wellington
17 North Island
18 North Island
19 North Island
20 Leave

Last edited by Diamantina; May 17th, 2018 at 06:20 PM.
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May 17th, 2018, 06:20 PM
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I like Itinerary 3.
BUT choosing to drive from Auckland to Wellington is madness. It's a long way and just not worth it for what you will see on the way. Either stay a night in Taupo (as in Itinerary 1) to break up the trip or fly from Auckland to Wellington. Watch out for the Ironman weekend in Taupo as there will be no accommodation for miles!
Itinerary 2 is just crazy. Way too much driving and not enjoyable.
Just before you get to Taupo visit Orakei Korako. It's a lovely remote thermal park (or maybe not as you are not interested in Rotorua?)
Lake Tekapo probably does not need 2 days but others will give their opinions as it's a long time since I was there. Add a night to Kaikoura and Christchurch.
I have found with our trips anywhere (but mainly the USA) one night anywhere is never enough. Something always happens to 'spoil' it like a train delay or weather and you get somewhere with just enough time check into your accommodation, have dinner and a walk around. Then it's pack the bag and check out the next morning and it's all a big rush. I think I'd rather miss a place than rush through and regret it! I'm thinking of Kuranda (when we were on a cruise) we were rushed through the gorgeous little village when I really wanted to have a good look around.
Driving here is slower than you might think and takes time. March is a great time to come here. Are you visiting Milford Sound with the time in Te Anau? There is plenty to do in Queenstown for another day. Go on a wine tour if that's your thing. Likewise the day in Auckland you could head over to Waiheke Island.
Save the West Coast and Abel Tasman for another trip.
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May 17th, 2018, 06:26 PM
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Lol I was posting the same time as Diamantina! She is our 'expert' and between us we can cover NZ quite well as she lives in Dunedin and I live in Auckland.
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May 18th, 2018, 02:15 AM
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Thanks for your kind words of praise, tasmangirl. I'm no expert. I mostly know this little corner of the South island and a bit about stargazing and viewing wildlife, especially birds, so I can often help with that, too. For sure, Melnq8 has traveled around the South Island more than me. It's funny, when I lived in California, I'd vacation in New Zealand and try to see as much as was comfortable in the small amount of time I had, now that I live in New Zealand I tend to vacation overseas! I think it must be some form of island fever. But I'm not yet done with seeing New Zealand--there are so many places on my "must see" list. And I've learned a lot about the North Island from you.

TraceeC, I should have been clearer about the International Dark Sky Reserve. It's not just Tekapo but this entire Mackenzie Region, which also includes Aoraki Mt. Cook. So you can do a stargazing tour there as well, though the ones offered by Earth & Sky on Lake Tekapo's Mt. John are more renown. Mt. John is also home to the University of Canterbury's astronomical observatory. The daytime view from Mt. John is fantastic, too. Other attractions in Tekapo include the photogenic Church of the Good Shepherd and nearby sheepdog memorial, and Tekapo Springs.
Earth & Sky - Home
Pools
Tekapo is right on the main road that cuts through the middle of the South Island, so it can get very busy during the day. Most of these travelers are just stopping briefly and then continuing on.

Last edited by Diamantina; May 18th, 2018 at 02:25 AM.
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May 19th, 2018, 02:17 PM
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Thank you so much for taking the time to respond! This is great information! We have not booked the domestic flights yet. I have tried to convince my travel companions to push on directly from Auckland Airport to head to the South Island to maximize time...but, they are not up for it (although I do still have some time to try and convince them...maybe once I share this thread/information, they will reconsider. For now, based on being outvoted, it looks like we will be doing the North Island visit on the front end).

To answer your question, the main reason for choosing Lake Tekapo was to break up the drive from the northern Christchurch area to the southern area (either Wanaka or Te Anau). Totally open to suggestions if Franz Josef is a better location/more scenic and still works with driving routes...definitely want the most scenic and top recommended sights! And, the only reason I had 2 nights dedicated there was to try and not rush through...with too many one night stops and no time to actually see/do anything. While we don't want a lot of one night stops, a couple throughout the trip will work for us! If we did stay in Lake Tekapo area for 2 nights as a home base, would we be able to do a day trip to Franz Josef?

Thanks!
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May 19th, 2018, 02:32 PM
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Hi! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your insights! I am in complete agreement about trying to rush and get too much in with only one night in locations. I was thinking that if we had 2 to 3 nights in most locations, we can use that as a homebase and do day trips. We don't mind back tracking here and there if it makes sense and allows us to relax/be comfortable in a space a little more.

In focusing in on Itinerary 3 - we were planning on breaking up the drive from Auckland to Wellington either in Taupo or somewhere else. Would Taupo (or somewhere else) be worth 2 nights instead of just one? Or adding another night in somewhere else prior to Wellington? Maybe near Tongariro Natl Park?

Thanks for the head's up about the Ironman...we will be there 2 weeks after so we will miss that craziness! And, I have added Orakei Korako to the list of things to do/see on our drive, if we go this route!

Do you have a perspective of the Auckland > Taupo > Wellington + ferry route versus doing something like Auckland > Coromandel for 2 nights and then maybe flying into Christchurch (so missing Wellington and the ferry)? I am sure there is no wrong decision...but wasn't sure if there is something that i am not considering about the limited time on the North Island and then getting to the South Island.

Yes, we are planning to visit Milford Sound with the time in Te Anau (potentially the overnight cruise...but I would love to hear anyone's perspective in comparing the daytime cruise vs. overnight). We LOVE boats and water...and will hopefully be taking more than one boat ride in various locations!

It is breaking my heart to miss the West Coast and Abel Tasman on this trip - but in spending some time on the North Island and then with the driving/flying routes, it is feeling like we may have to!

Thank you so much! The information on this forum is so helpful!
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May 19th, 2018, 02:38 PM
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I just looked at the map and discovered that, NO...a day trip to Franz Josef from Lake Tekapo isn't a viable option .
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May 19th, 2018, 02:46 PM
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Wondering about...Itinerary 4 (using Itinerary 3 as a basis but swapping out Lake Tekapo for Franz Josef):

Itinerary 4
Day 1 – Arrive in Auckland (6:30 a.m. from St. Louis, MO) / only day in Auckland
Day 2 – Leave Auckland drive to TBD (same as above)
Day 3 – Drive onto Wellington (long travel day) / Wellington overnight
Day 4 – Wellington
Day 5 – Depart Wellington / Ferry to Picton / Drive to Kaikoura (stay overnight)
Day 6 – Spend morning/early afternoon in Kaikoura (maybe whale watching tour) / Drive to Christchurch (stay overnight)
Day 7 – Christchurch
Day 8 – Leave Christchurch / Drive to Franz Josef (long travel day; stay overnight)
Day 9 – Franz Josef
Day 10 – Drive to Wanaka
Day 11 – Wanaka
Day 12 – Wanaka
Day 13 – Drive to Te Anau
Day 14 – Te Anau
Day 15 – Te Anau
Day 16 – Drive to Queenstown
Day 17 – Queenstown
Day 18 – Queenstown
Day 19 – TBD – fill in day somewhere within itinerary - another day on North Island or maybe additional day in Queenstown
Day 20 – Fly from Queenstown to Auckland // Auckland to home (depart Auckland at 8:10 p.m.)
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May 19th, 2018, 07:53 PM
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I'm still puzzled by your urge to drive all the way from Auckland to Wellington? Flying will get you there in ONE HOUR! It's quite nice from Auckland to Taupo and through the Desert Road but after that it's a bit dull and a long long drive.
You have not allowed enough time for Franz Josef. Any holdups or delays and you are more or less driving there just to have a quick look and move on. Take a day from Wanaka or the Wellington stops.
Some holidays require choices to be made. Like that box of chocolates pick out your favourites and then put the lid back on firmly!
If you forgot the ferry and Kaikoura you can fly to Nelson from Auckland, see a bit of Abel Tasman and then drive more leisurely down the West Coast. I would not rush out of the way for Coromandel as there are no major airports nearby so you'd need to return to Auckland to fly somewhere else. The ferry is a lovely trip but quite time consuming really compared with flying.
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May 19th, 2018, 08:21 PM
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Tracee -

Greetings from the South Island - we're three weeks into a month long visit that has just flown by. If there's one thing I've learned in my 14+ visits to the SI, it's SLOW DOWN. Distances may look short on a map, but NZ presents numerous driving challenges, the least of which is driving on the left. Roads are narrow, winding and these days, quite busy. The South Island has had a bad year for road slips and damage as well, so please don't bite off more than you can chew.

Your plan of 2-3 nights per location is wise - we have a three night rule ourselves, and it has served us well. We do make the occasional two night stop, but keep in mind that two nights only gives you one full day, so you'll want to choose wisely.

Regarding your most recent itinerary option - taking the ferry from NI to SI isn't a good use of valuable holiday time In your case - sure, if you want to see the top of the SI and just happen to be coming from Wellington, it makes sense, but you're not spending any time there, you're essentially just passing through, so I wonder why you don't just fly to Christchurch and save yourself some significant drive time?.

In all my trips to NZ I've yet to take the ferry - it's just not how I want to spend my time. To me, it's just transportation. I'd rather see the places I'm traveling to, rather than look at the water getting there.

You seem to have lost the battle with your friends - if they're hell bent on incorporating the North Island, this will limit what you can fit into your SI trip. It's feasible to make a quasi loop in two weeks on the SI, but to do this, using Christchurch as your starting and ending point makes the most sense. If you do this, you can see both the inland route (Mt Cook) and a good chunk of the West Coast in two weeks.

But by starting way up in Picton, you've limited your optioins. More time will be spent in the car, less at the places you want to see.
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May 20th, 2018, 01:15 AM
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TraceeC, when I first looked at your itineraries and saw so little time for your North Island drive, I thought, "Why not just take the train from Auckland to Wellington or vice versa?" I've not done this myself but I've been told it's a very nice trip (by one of my best and most well-traveled friends whose opinion I trust). And recently, I read an article by the train travel expert "Man in Seat 61" on his top 10 rail trips; the Northern Explorer made his list. Have a look:
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2...man-in-seat-61
The North Island has a lot of beautiful scenery, too. But you will be severely limited if you only have a couple of days to drive from Auckland to Wellington.

Another reason I think it might be a good idea to finish up your trip on the North Island (as your group is committed to visiting both islands) is because you'd be closer to Auckland International Airport for your departing flight. Not often, but occasionally, flights from Queenstown can be delayed due to high winds or fog (though fog is more a problem in the coastal cities such as Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin). I also think you could manage flying into Queenstown after arrival in Auckland and being able to do without a car for a couple of days, which would give you more time to recover from jetlag before renting a car. On the your first day in Queenstown, even if you couldn't check in until 2 p.m., providing you stay someplace central, you could walk down to the waterfront, have lunch, stroll through the Botanical Garden and lakeside track, later walk to the Skyline Gondola to enjoy the fabulous view from the top, that night have an early dinner. On your second day, you could take a tour to Skipper's Canyon (includes a jet boat ride), or a Shotover Jet Boat ride, or a tour to Glenorchy, or a bungy jump (they'll pick you up and bring you to the the bungy), or a cruise onto Lake Wakitipu, or rent bicycles to peddle over to the wineries, or take the local bus or a taxi to Arrowtown. You'd have so many "no car needed" options.

You said you aren't as interested in big cities, so why start your trip in Auckland? (I'm assuming you mean downtown Auckland.) Auckland has many fantastic areas, but the city center is without a doubt bustling and busy. And then you'd rent a car on your second day to drive through its traffic? If you leave Auckland for the end when you'll have a car and you've already gotten used to driving on the left, you can spend your last couple of days in one of the less hectic areas of Auckland--maybe its West Coast (beautiful black sand beaches and wineries) or Hauraki Gulf's Waiheke Island (beautiful beaches and wineries).

Last edited by Diamantina; May 20th, 2018 at 01:24 AM.
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May 20th, 2018, 02:29 AM
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Sorry, I meant to write top 5 rail journeys of "Man in Seat 61".
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Jun 2nd, 2018, 02:29 PM
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Hi all,
It has been a little bit since I posted, but I have been working out some new options...because your advice paid off and once my travel companions read the chain, we have moved away from the idea of driving the North Island at all. Everyone has agreed that it seems to make the most sense to push on from Auckland upon arrival and get to the South Island. THANK YOU so much for your expertise, @Diamantina and @Melnq8 and @tasmangirl!! Just a couple of quick reminders as to us and our trip...mid-March 2019 for 3 weeks (March 17 - April 5). We are a group of friends in our 40s who love being outside and seeing beautiful things...along with all sorts of activities! Here are a couple of things that are priorities for us...Abel Tasman National Park (this is a must as it is a bucket list item for a companion), Te Anau (we would really like to do both Milford and Doubtful Sounds - on separate days, of course), Queenstown/Wanaka areas...also, we would love to do some stargazing, but we are assuming almost anywhere we go (outside of Queenstown) will be pretty darn spectacular. So, we are now just trying to figure out the best way to get all of these things - and as many other "must sees" as we can...again, knowing we can't do it all!

I am really trying to not do a ton of one night stays - but we don't mind a couple - especially if they break up a scenic drive so we can spend more time enjoying the journey (and lots of stops) along the way! We are also pretty experienced international drivers - but obviously not in New Zealand, so a couple of "longer" drive days are okay, but looking to minimize where we can and do day trips from our "homebases".

I have done 3 new routes (with one still having a bit of time on the end of our trip outside of Auckland, if relaxing after our travels and seeing a bit of the North Island is of interest to my companions. But, most of the options focus primarily on the South Island. I think I am leaning towards Option 6...but what the heck do I know .

All South Island – Option 5 – (missing Arthur’s Pass...and moving more often)
1. Arrive Auckland >> Nelson >> Kaiteriteri overnight
2. Abel Tasman (Kaiteriteri overnight)
3. Abel Tasman (Kaiteriteri overnight)
4. Leave Kaiteriteri, drive to Punakaiki (Punakaiki overnight)
5. Leave Punakaiki, drive to Franz Josef (Franz Josef overnight)
6. Franz Josef
7. Leave Franz Josef drive to Queenstown (Queenstown overnight)
8. Queenstown
9. Queenstown
10. Leave Queenstown, drive to Te Anau (Te Anau overnight)
11. Te Anau – day trip to Milford Sound
12. Te Anau - day trip to Doubtful Sound (potential overnight on boat)
13. Leave Te Anau, drive to Wanaka (Wanaka overnight)
14. Wanaka
15. Wanaka
16. Leave Wanaka; drive to Mt Cook/Aoraki (Mt Cook/Aoraki overnight)
17. Mt Cook/Aoraki visit Lake Tekapo
18. Mt Cook /Aoraki
19. Leave Mt Cook; drive to Christchurch
20. Christchurch >> late afternoon flight to Auckland >> Auckland evening flight home

All South Island – Option 6 (missing Franz Josef and Christchurch, but driving Arthur’s Pass – this could be reversed and fly into Queenstown from Auckland, leaving Abel Tasman for the end of the trip)
1. Arrive Auckland >> Nelson >> Kaiteriteri overnight
2. Abel Tasman (Kaiteriteri overnight)
3. Abel Tasman (Kaiteriteri overnight)
4. Leave Kaiteriteri, drive to Hokitika (seeing Punakaiki) (Hokitika/Greymouth overnight)
5. Hokitika area
6. Leave Hokitika, drive via Arthur’s Pass (somewhere on the way overnight)
7. Leave Arthur’s Pass drive; drive to Lake Tekapo (Lake Tekapo or Mt Cook overnight)
8. Lake Tekapo / Mt Cook
9. Lake Tekapo / Mt Cook - maybe too much time here??? Reallocate the overnight stay to somewhere else? Recommendations?
10. Leave Tekapo, drive to Wanaka (overnight in Wanaka)
11. Wanaka
12. Wanaka – winery day
13. Leave Wanaka; drive to Te Anau (Te Anau overnight)
14. Te Anau – day trip to Milford Sound
15. Te Anau - day trip to Doubtful Sound (potential overnight on boat)
16. Leave Te Anau, drive to Queenstown (Queenstown overnight and potentially drop off car rental?)
17. Queenstown
18. Queenstown
19. Queenstown
20. Queenstown late afternoon flight to Auckland >> Auckland evening flight home

Option 7 - South Island (minus Mt. Cook / Christchurch) + Auckland/Waiheke Island to rest from travel before home - route could be reversed
1. Arrive Auckland >> Nelson >> Kaiteriteri overnight
2. Abel Tasman (Kaiteriteri overnight)
3. Abel Tasman (Kaiteriteri overnight)
4. Leave Kaiteriteri, drive to Punakaiki (Punakaiki overnight)
5. Leave Punakaiki, drive to Franz Josef (Franz Josef overnight)
6. Franz Josef
7. Leave Franz Josef drive to Wanaka (Wanaka overnight)
8. Wanaka
9. Wanaka
10. Leave Wanaka, drive to Te Anau (Te Anau overnight)
11. Te Anau – day trip to Milford Sound
12. Te Anau - day trip to Doubtful Sound (potential overnight on boat)
13. Leave Te Anau, drive to Queenstown (Queenstown overnight)
14. Queenstown
15. Queenstown
16. Queenstown
17. Leave Queenstown >> Auckland >> Waiheke Island overnight
18. Waiheke Island
19. Waiheke Island
20. Leave Waiheke Island >> Auckland evening flight home

@Melnq8...I know you just returned from your trip! I hope it was amazing and you discovered something new to you!!

Any thoughts or recommendations are welcome (and so appreciated).

As always, thanks so much!
Tracee
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Jun 2nd, 2018, 03:44 PM
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All these options are making my head spin, but I'll give it a go.

Option #5 and Option #7 look great

Opton #6 is kind of a mess.

If you stay in Hokitika, you will have to backtrack to access Arthur's Pass. Not a huge distance though.

You will not need an overnight between Hokitika and Arthur's Pass. It's less than a 90 minute drive (not including stops of course). There is accommodation in Arthur's Pass, but it's very limited. You will need to book early.

Arthur's Pass to Lake Tekapo is about a four hour drive. Add about an ~hour to get to Mount Cook.

Three nights in Mount Cook is a good amount of time if your group are trampers/hikers. Two nights will give you sufficient time to see pretty much all there is to see, plus take a walk or two and do some star gazing.

I suggest you keep that car in Queenstown - lots to see in the vicinity that you might want a car for - wineries, walks, Glenorchy, Arrowtown, etc.

Yes, we got home Wednesday night and are now battling jet lag. It was a great trip.

Last edited by Melnq8; Jun 2nd, 2018 at 03:49 PM.
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Jun 2nd, 2018, 05:46 PM
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Is Arthur’s Pass worth seeing at the cost of missing Franz Josef?

Some reviews had said that if time was limited seeing Franz Josef and Mt Cook may be unnecessary. Of you were only going to see one in that late march time frame, do you have a reco? Or should we just do both (Option 5 or a variation of that)?

Good to know we wouldnt need to stay somewhere along Arthur’s Pass and we can press on to Lake Tekapo...if Arthur’s Pass is a must (or should do). And that we wouldnt necessarily need 3 nights in thr Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook area.

Thanks!
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Jun 3rd, 2018, 10:03 AM
  #17
 
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That's a difficult question to answer TraceeC, but to me, Arthur's Pass is more of a 'see it on the way to somewhere else' kind of place unless you plan to buckle down and do some serious hiking. You'll get the gist of the place during the drive, stopping at the overlooks and with a stop at the visitor's center in the village. Otherwise, it's a spot on the road.

If you don't want to miss Arthur's Pass, it is quite possible to drive up there and back as a day trip from Greymouth or Hoki, and then continue down the West Coast the next day. Backtracking, yes.

As to missing Franz Josef - I've gone through there on almost every trip I've made to the SI, but that's because I love the West Coast. The drive is much prettier IMO than the drive over Lindis Pass towards Mt Cook, but that's completely subjective. The glaciers themselves have receded to the point that there's not much to see from the ground other than grey ice - we were shocked at how much both had changed since our last visit, let alone our first. The best views will be had from a helicopter. Having said that, there are some lovely walks in the area and some fantastic views of Mt Cook on a clear day. Not to mention that the drive along the West Coast is spectacular, especially on a pretty day (not so much in the rain!)

Nothing is 'necessary' - it just comes down to what you want to see most.

I said you will not need an overnight between Hokitika and Arthur's Pass - I assumed you were staying the night in Arthur's Pass. The drive from Hoki to Lake Tekapo is more of a haul - it's just over five hours - without stops. You might want to break this one up, as that's a long day even without stops and the whole idea is to stop in Arthur's Pass en route, no? However, doing so means another one night stay somewhere.

I really think you need to give Option #6 a pass. You've done really well with the other two.

Don't make yourself crazy - it's all good.

Last edited by Melnq8; Jun 3rd, 2018 at 10:07 AM.
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Jun 3rd, 2018, 10:14 AM
  #18
 
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Tracee - I'm working on my NZ photos right now. I'll post a few photos in a bit, see if that helps you or not.
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Jun 3rd, 2018, 10:54 AM
  #19
 
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Mount Cook from near Fox Glacier


Franz Josef Glacier from overlook


Fox Glacier from overlook
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Jun 11th, 2018, 04:50 PM
  #20
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
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We just did a three week driving trip to both islands last March. One of the highlights was a sea-kayaking tour in Abel Tasman. If possible, do not miss this location.
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