New Zealand: Milford or Routeburn Track? 8 more days

Jan 31st, 2015, 06:32 PM
  #1  
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New Zealand: Milford or Routeburn Track? 8 more days

Hi,
My husband, son and I will be spending about 2 weeks on the SI before heading to Wellington for business. Son is 22 and quite experienced in the wilderness, husband is less excited about vigorous activity. I'm quite active, but 62, not 22! We arrive in Queenstown on Wed. and are thinking of doing a guided track, either the Milford for 4 nights leaving on Thurs. or the Routeburn for 2 nights leaving on Fri. So we will have 8 or 9 days left. At first we were planning to see the glaciers and continue north, take the transalpine train, then continue north through Kaikoura to Blenheim and Nelson. Some things on our list to see are Glenorchy, Milford Sound, glowworms, hiking, wineries, art and maybe sea life (dolphins, seals, penguins, whales). I know we can't do it all and don't want to spend all of our days in the car. Suggestions?

THANKS!
Ironsooz is offline  
Jan 31st, 2015, 07:23 PM
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Not this Wednesday I hope! What time of year?

I assume you realize that the Milford Track will need to be booked well in advance.

If you choose the Routeburn and plan to walk the entire 32 km, you'll either start or end in Glenorchy, so I suggest you arrange that accordingly and spend a couple days there at the beginning/end of your walk. Do be aware that accommodation in Glenorchy is pretty scarce and rustic - personally, there's only two places I'd consider staying there.

From there I'd suggest driving to Wanaka for a few days and then on to Mt Cook/Lake Tekapo and then up to Christchurch

OR

Glenorchy to Wanaka and up the West Coast via the glaciers, with perhaps a side trip to Punakaiki, then across Arthur's pass to Christchurch

Or

Glenorchy to Wanaka and then up the West Coast via the glaciers, Punakaiki and on to Nelson/Abel Tasman. You might consider flying out of Nelson (if possible) instead of driving all the way back to Christchurch, as this is a long trek, but you'll miss Kaikoura. Personally, this would be way too much for me in 8 days.

With only eight days, it's very difficult to include both the south and the north of the SI - the roads on the SI are narrow and winding, and it takes a whole lot longer than you might expect to get from place to place.

If you do the Milford Track you'll end up in Milford - from there I'd suggest driving to QT (via Te Anau four hours one way), then perhaps on to Glenorchy (45 minutes) for a few days and then continuing north via 1 or 2 outlined above.

You'll find glow worms in many places including Te Anau and the West Coast.

You'll find wineries around QT/Wanaka/Cromwell as well as near Christchurch.

You'll find hiking everywhere.

Art and crafts tend to be clustered around the Nelson/Golden Bay area, but you will find individual studios scattered here and there.

You'll see seals in the Milford area as well as around Kaikoura and at a few places along the West Coat (although I've never seen any there myself).

Whales are usually seen via boat from Kaikoura, but possibly elsewhere.

Penguins are scattered as well, but it's unlikely you'll see any without some sort of tour - Akarora is a good spot as is Dunedin, as well as Oamaru, the Catlins, Golden Bay and various spot along the West Coast.

Hectors dolphins can be seen in Akaroa via a boat and you'll also find them in Milford and the Marlborough Sounds regions amongst others.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2015, 11:11 PM
  #3  
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That was quick. Thanks for your response. You seem to be the go-to person for the SI. I meant to say we were going in April! We'd be taking the guided hikes for the tracks. There is still room, but after today's article in the Wall Street Journal, about the Routeburn Track, it might fill up quickly. They start in Queenstown, which is a shame because on both of them, we'll spend some time on a bus getting to the start. We're leaning toward Routeburn. We'll start in Te Anau and finish in Glenorchy. I was thinking we'd go back to Te Anau for several days to see more around there and go to Milford Sound. Then, perhaps go to Wanaka for a few days and then on to the glaciers and up to Nelson. But even that is feeling like a lot.
Ironsooz is offline  
Feb 1st, 2015, 12:23 AM
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If the guided hike on the Routeburn fills up, you can still independently walk a section of it as a day walk (or as two day walks, one from each end - we've done this several times). Same with Milford, although you'd need to take the boat from Te Anau Downs to the start of the track and then back. It's an alternative anyway.

Okay, so let's say you choose the Routeburn - that's three days. Then you'll need a day to drive back to Te Anau, which takes four hours, so that day could potentially be shot depending on what time you get back to QT from the hike, pick up a rental car and drive back. Then let's say two full days in Te Anau, before you drive to Wanaka, which will take about four hours. Then let's say two full days in Wanaka before you head up to the glaciers. The drive from Wanaka to the glaciers is a full day, so that's shot. Let's say you spend two nights at the glaciers, which gives you only one full day there.

I'm already up to 10 days and you're still a full day away from Nelson.
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2015, 07:30 AM
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Another track to consider even if the Routeburn and Milford Tracks are not filled up is the Hollyford Track. We did this 3-day guided tour a number of years ago and it was fantastic! One big advantage about this route is that it's not advertised as heavily as the others, so it's not traveled as much. In fact, we saw no other hikers on this route other than those in our group (fewer than 20).

If you want another hiking adventure, look at the self-guided Kaikoura Coast Track. We also did this and enjoyed walking through the amazing NZ scenery and meeting some of the locals on their farms. (The evening housing is via farmstay.) Due to the limited farmstay housing, only 10 walkers will be on the trail at any one time.

Hollyford Track Guided Tours: http://www.hollyfordtrack.com/
Kaikoura Coast Track: http://www.kaikouratrack.co.nz/
longhorn55 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2015, 07:39 AM
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With limited time I'd do the Routeburn. It is amazing! For what it's worth, here's my trip report from my 2010 hike on both the Milford and Routeburn Tracks (w photos):

http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...s-nov-2010.cfm
RalphR is offline  
Feb 1st, 2015, 01:54 PM
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Correction - QT to Te Anau is two hours not four, sorry about that!
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2015, 08:59 PM
  #8  
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Great report and photos, Ralph. Makes me excited for our trip. Thanks for the suggestion of Hollyford Track, Longhorn55. It appeals to me for several reasons. I was looking for a trip out of Te Anau, so we don't have to go back to see some things on our list. It seems less intimidating for my husband. It's less expensive. And it has great reviews. Also thinking about taking the overnight cruise on the Milford sound. Now I have to rework the whole itinerary and see how it works out.

If we go to the glaciers, anyone have any opinion, drive or take the train to Christchurch?
Ironsooz is offline  
Feb 1st, 2015, 09:47 PM
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I much prefer the drive over Arthur's Pass - the trains takes you through a lot of tunnels so less scenery IMO.
Melnq8 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 09:38 AM
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RalphR, I clicked on your link and note that you gave high marks to Ultimate Hikes. Their website appears to be non-existent -- have they possibly gone out of business?
sf7307 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 09:56 AM
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Another related question - on all of these guided hikes - Hollyford, Kaikoura, Milford, Routeburn, do you have to carry a full pack, or just a day pack?
sf7307 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 02:12 PM
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We did the Hollyford Track and the Kaikoura Coast Track. On the Hollyford Track, you carry a full pack on the first day only. On the Kaikoura Coast Track, you only carry only a day pack as they transport your bags for you between the overnight properties.
longhorn55 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 04:26 PM
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Here's an updated link. All seems well at Ultimate Hikes.

https://www.ultimatehikes.co.nz/en/g...FdgMgQodY78A2w

If you do the guided walk, all you need to carry are clothes, a sheet, personal items, and lunch (which is provided each day). Packs are provided if you don't want to bring your own.
RalphR is offline  

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