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jpham26 Nov 23rd, 2014 01:07 PM

New Zealand (South Island) 10 Day Itinerary - Need Advice Please
Mid 30’s couple from Southern California are spending our honeymoon in the South Island of New Zealand. We arrive in Queenstown on 24th of December at 12pm and out of Queenstown on the 3rd of January at 2:30pm. That gives us 10 days to explore. We have booked our first two nights in Queenstown and a rental car to get around.

We would like to avoid long drives everyday (husband’s request since he’s driving!) so we can spend more time exploring an area rather than traveling. We are also not into overly touristy environments but are aware it can’t always be avoided. Some of the things/places we are interested in:

- Hiking
- Wine tasting
- Stargazing
- Glow worm caves
- Amazing views (obviously)
- Mt Cook
- Lake Takepo
- Wanaka
- Milford Sound

We are open to other areas not mentioned above as well. Any itinerary and driving route suggestions for the 10 days are much appreciated. The main part we are struggling with in planning is how many days to spend in an area and the driving route. There’s so much to do and see! We are very excited and can’t wait for our adventure.


longhorn55 Nov 23rd, 2014 03:10 PM

Becuase: 1) you only have 10 days for this trip and 2) there are not a great number of connecting roads on the SI, you are going to find it difficult-to-impossible to visit all the places you have listed. New Zealand is a country better savored than rushed, so I would recommend limiting yourself to no more than 2-3 destinations.

Based on your stated interests, I would allow at least 4 days in Queenstown and one of those days could be a day trip to Te Anau to cruise the Milford Sound. You can do the top 5 things on your list in/around Queenstown.

Then choose 1 or 2 more destinations. Personally, we enjoyed Wanaka very much--very scenic--and a place that was one of our favorites, Franz Josef, is one you might want to consider. While lakes and mountains are nice, where will you get to see glaciers and even hike on them? (We did an amazing glacier hike on Franz Josef and one of my relatives did a fantastic heli-hike there.)

Melnq8 Nov 23rd, 2014 03:17 PM

It's quite easy to fit your wish list into a one way drive from QT to Christchurch, but as you've already booked flights into/out of Queenstown, the only way to fit in Mt Cook and Tekapo will involve quite a bit of backtracking.

Backtracking is a complete waste of time IMO and not an efficient use of so little time, but unless you're able/willing to change your departure flight, you're kind of stuck.

So, given those parameters, I suggest something like this:

QT - two nights (I'd consider extending to three if you can)

QT - Te Anau at least two nights, which will give you one full day to explore Milford Sound (suggest you leave Te Anau early, drive the two hours to Milford for an early cruise, then explore Milford Road on your return to Milford - this way you'll miss most of the bus traffic)

Te Anau - Wanaka - two nights (at minimum)

Wanaka to Mt Cook/Tekapo - you only need to stay at one or the other, if the observatory is of interest, Tekapo makes the better option

Mt Cook/Tekapo - back to QT for departure

Drive distances here:

jpham26 Dec 2nd, 2014 11:02 PM

Thank you very much longhorn55 and Melnq8! Your suggestions are very helpful.

Do you suggest cutting out Takepo/Mt Cook to avoid backtracking? Any other suggestions if we do? If there's plenty of things to do and see around Queenstown/Wanaka/Milford Sound we're ok with it. I'm sure it won't be our last visit to NZ.

We can also look into Franz Joseph if that's a better option. But that appears to involve backtracking as well.

Melnq8 Dec 2nd, 2014 11:18 PM

Franz Joseph is even further than Mount Cook - about a 6-7 hour drive from Queenstown ONE way. Not practical at all.

Mount Cook is a four hour drive from Queenstown one way.

I'm afraid you might have trouble finding accommodation at this late date, particularly in Mount Cook.

Honestly, with your limited time and already booked flights, I'd stick to Queenstown, Wanaka and Milford (based in Te Anau) - that's more than enough to keep you busy, especially considering all the side trips you can make from Queentown like Arrowtown & Glenorchy, etc.

You need to book your accommodation yesterday though.

jpham26 Dec 3rd, 2014 11:09 AM

We have accommodations booked for our time in Queenstown and will book the rest tonight. We're going to take your advice and remove Mt Cook from our itinerary as well. A million thanks for helping with our trip planning!

Melnq8 Dec 3rd, 2014 02:24 PM

No worries jpham26, enjoy your trip.

jpham26 Dec 3rd, 2014 09:14 PM

Melnq8, do you have any website suggestions to book accommodations? Thanks.

jpham26 Dec 4th, 2014 12:20 AM

Please disregard last message. We are all booked now.

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