New Zealand south island

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Mar 17th, 2013, 12:45 PM
  #1
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New Zealand south island

New Zealand need some help first trip
We just started planning our trip. We only have 14 days in NZ so not a lot of time.. we will be in Australia first.. Melbourne for 5 days then will come to either Wellington and head south to Queenstown and then to Sydney for 3 days before going home.
I had wanted to see Able Tasman Park but may have to give that up due to time constraints as it seems it takes awhile to get from one place to another so if we don't do Able Tasman then we will be going from CC to Queenstown and cut out Able Tasman
Once in CC.. not sure how many days to hang there and what would be considered day trips from there. Thinking about getting from one place to another buy bus or train and then maybe renting a car to get around while we are in each home base the thing is not sure where home base should be for what.. Christ Church was one thought then take the Trans alpine train to graymouth and then head south from there.. we want to see some of the glaciers, Mt Cook, Milford sound.. possibly Wanaka and Te Anau we like to hike--photography --but not into extreme adventures We are not sure if one stays in one place and does some of these sights as day trips
So my questions are
what would make the most sense in terms of where to stay as a home base?..
what might be a good route to hit the sights mentioned ?
how much time would be advised (considering our limited time) to stay in each area?
Where would be advised to have a car and when can we bus it?
Any and all advice would be appreciated!
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Mar 17th, 2013, 03:11 PM
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You don't need any time in Christchurch itself. It's a city--and you're going to NZ for the breathtaking scenery.

My vote: don't miss Abel Tasman. It's absolutely gorgeous. There are no roads inside the park You take a water taxi to drop-off points and hike to another p/u spot. I liked it enough that I returned on a subsequent trip to NZ. I think you've got enough time with 14 days.

You can't see it all in 14 days, but you're going to love it whatever you do.
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Mar 17th, 2013, 03:21 PM
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It's very difficult to see the best of NZ using the home base concept, as attractions are well scattered and distances are much further than they appear on a map.

I suggest you rent a car and make a loop, beginning in Christchurch and ending in Christchurch. The best way to incorporate both the West Coast and the inland route (Mt Cook, Tekapo) is to make a driving loop. These routes are separated by a mountain range, so there's quite a bit of diving involved.

Something like this: Christchurch-Arthur's Pass-Greymouth-Hokitika-Glaciers-Wanaka-Te Anau-Queenstown-Mt Cook-Lake Tekapo-Christchurch.

I'd suggest stays in Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, Wanaka, Te Anau, Queenstown and possibly Mt Cook, although it's quite possible to drive from Queenstown to Christchurch via Mt Cook in a very long day.

How many days on the ground will you have for the South Island?

What time of year are you planning to visit?
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Mar 17th, 2013, 06:15 PM
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Take a look at indiancouple's trip report. They managed to pack a lot in.

I agree about skipping Chistchurch. You may consider flying into Queenstown, where you can skip a car for a few days). Queenstown works as a base for several excursions if you prefer not to drive. Don't miss Glenorchy, Skippers, Milford Sound, Dart Valley, Arrowtown.. I like Mt. Cook side over the west coast glaciers. Hooker Valley is a nice hike. You might also like one or both ends of the Routeburn.

Be prepared for sticker shock. I would try to book lodging with a kitchen if you dont mind cooking on vacation, or make use of the deli sections in supermarkets.
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Mar 18th, 2013, 06:30 PM
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If you want to see the varied areas of the South Island, I would just get a rental car and do a self drive through the countryside. It is so nice to stop and see things and not worry about time ,schedules,etc.Your car becomes your carry all for those souvenirs,groceries,suitcases you don't want to bring into your hotel for the night,etc.

How about flying into Wellington NI from Australia, then take the Islander ferry across the straits to Picton and pickup your car there? It is a lovely 3 hour ride through the picturesque straits from the North to the South Island. From there stop for lunch in Blenheim(wine country) and continue your gorgeous coast driving down to Kaikoura for a couple nights?
Kaikoura is gorgeous!It is where the mountains come down to the sea.Think Big Sur in California and because the two different ocean currents meet there, there is amazing marine life in that area. Numerous seal reserves along with a wonderfully well run and informative Maori Whale Watch that is well worth going on.

From there go to Christchurch(where I feel that you should stay for at least one night) and do the Red zone tour of the earthquake area(unbelievable,the way things are even two years later),the shopping area made from the ruins and shipping containers downtown along with the Christchurch museum (the Antarctica exhibit is the best!) and then head out to Mt. Cook and then down to Queenstown and Milford Sound. If driving back, then head over to Oamaru on the coast for a night to see the blue penguins and yellow penguins coming out on their nightly sojurn which is amazing and quite funny before heading back to Christchurch to leave?

Do look at the brand new (as of December 2012), Aoraki Mt. Cook Motor Lodge in Mt. Cook village. Every unit has a private patio with kitchenette,whirlpool along with views of the mountains and glaciers that will make you want to sit with a glass of wine or coffee and just gasp!The beds are super comfy and every imaginable utensil you would ever need is in the unit for cooking. Just buy your groceries before you get to Mt Cook as the selection isn't that great and more expensive! Check it out on Booking.com or Tripadvisor.com for the fabulous reviews!
My daughter and I just did both islands at the end of January and February in 16 days so you will have enough time for one island. Have fun-its a wonderful place to visit but expensive!
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Mar 18th, 2013, 08:21 PM
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Australia is even more shocking price-wise Barbara, so going to OZ first might make NZ prices considerably less painful.

Even Switzerland seems like good value after living in OZ for a few years
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Mar 23rd, 2013, 05:52 AM
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wow I am blown away by the thought of the expense. I really thought aside from tours (which it seems they have for every sight--and are pricy-) that lodging and food would not be that bad. I have looked into vacation by owner and renting in some places apts so we can cook and trying to keep it under 150 per night which has not been difficult to find so far. we don't mind cooking and do a lot of timeshares for that purpose so we are used to it.
On to the the schedule.. the reason I was thinking to drive less was more that when you are the driver (which is my H) its much harder to taking in the scenery as you need to focus on the road I thought it would be more relaxing for him if where we could we bused it to-from. In some cases we can do tours but we will be on a budget so some things we will have to do on our own. So that was my hope to get to a particular area and then rent a car.. do day trips not that far drop the car and take the bus to the next major area to explore.. so we were thinking of flying into Christ Church rent a car and explore the surrounding area for a few days (check out the banks peninsula and akaroa then...moving west via the trans alpine then renting a car to go south to Fox and franz josef glaciers area.. but there is where my planning stopped because i was unsure if we would be better off going to Queenstown and then renting a car and doing the glaciers and mt cook from there
We were also interested in Milford sound which is in that area so that is what I meant by a home base.. but it seems its better to just drive to a sight explore and move on to the next one trying to do it in some circular fashion.. which would make sense if we wanted to hit Dunedin and Otago peninsula. 13 days will go fast
Also would like to hit Fiordland and Te Anau--oh so much New Zealand so little time
So wherever we can cut out driving we will as it seems buses go everywhere and then where we need to rent we will. MY H just does not want to spend the entire trip driving..
I will look at all your suggestions and the inidancouples trip report and if you all have any other thoughts on what I just said please say so.. we are not into extreme sports but like moderate day hikes.. do want to do a helihike...and photograph all the beautiful scenery and wildlife..
Thanks again for your time with all the tips
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Mar 23rd, 2013, 07:51 AM
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In Queenstown we took a "Nomads Tour" (with Fran) in a small van, and I was VERY glad I wasn't driving. It was in June and there was ice on some of the winding, twisting canyon roads. The sights were spectacular--and it was a perfect way to see them. From Queenstown we also took a bus tour to Milford Sound. There were several gorgeous stops along the way for photographs (Mirror Lakes was a highlight). So some bus tours are doable.

But on my upcoming return trip I'll drive from Queenstown to Christchurch (thanks Melnq8 !!!) because I do want the flexibility of walking and photographing where I want--and waking up in these beautiful spots.

Re: the costs ... remember that if you're coming from the US you can buy a NZ dollar for 84 cents -- so everything is 16% less than it seems. I'm not finding NZ prices to be high. But with an Aussie dollar costing us $1.04 ... OUCH.

Not that many years ago the NZ dollar cost around 60 cents and the AUD less than 80 cents US. We stayed at some great places!! ;-)
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Mar 23rd, 2013, 09:08 AM
  #9
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OK update --reading more and looking at the map we are looking at two possible routes..
Fly into CC
1.CC Banks/Akaroa
2.CC cc Lyttleton/ cc volcano area
3.Transalpine train to Greymouth then get car and drive to Fox or Franz
4 Glacier day (do we need more than one??)
5 Mt Cook
6.Wanaka
7.Queenstown (not sure how many days to stay here yet)
8. Te Anau (glow worms)
9. Milford sound
10 bus to dunedin
11.Otago/
12. bus back up to CC
13 fly to sydney

seems like a lot to pack in and not sure if we are doing justice time wise to the places I have listed.
Th alternative would be to eliminate the trip to Dunedin/Otago and loop back to CC and to just stay in the Queenstown area and spend more time there and fiordland then fly out of Queenstown to Sydney

I really need to make the decision on where to fly in and out of very soon because I see flights are already booking up for jan/feb when we will be going.

Again any thoughts would help on this as I really don't know how long we need in some of these places and we may need to cut out some items.. we really want to do the Tranzalpine train though so keeping that in mind.. also authors pass.. is it better to hang out there for 4 hrs or just pass through..as that will eat up half a day.
ok sorry for all the questions but we are getting a bit closer to having some sense of what to do..
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Mar 23rd, 2013, 09:21 AM
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Yo need to look at a map (Google Maps works)...there isn't a road that goes from the Franz/Fox glaciers over the mountains to Mt. Cook. That is why people do a loop. The next closest town after Franz/Fox is Wanaka.

You are trying to see too much in 13 days.
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Mar 23rd, 2013, 10:10 AM
  #11
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ok good to know.. I do have a map but I think need a better one thanks
Looking at someone elses trip report they did quite a bit of what we are thinking of doing in a short period of time but if I did the alternate route and eliminated dunedin and just stayed in the Queenstown area which would give us more flexibility to really see that area.. but it seemed to me that we could fit Dunedin in there --other thoughts??
Fly in to CC
1.CC Banks/Akaroa
2.CC cc Lyttleton/ cc volcano area
3.Transalpine train to Greymouth then get car and drive to Fox or Franz
4-5 Glacier area 2 days
6 Wanaka
7. Mt Cook
8. Te Anau (glow worms?)
9 Milford sound
10 Hikes
11-12-13.Queenstown
14 Fly back to OZ
we would then have 3 1/2 days in Sydney before our trip back to NY
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Mar 23rd, 2013, 04:08 PM
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ABSOLUTELY.

It's also much cheaper to rent a car and keep it for the entire trip than it is to pick up one rental, drop it off, pick up a second rental a few days later, etc. Not to mention the time/effort/transportation involved in picking up cars in different areas - this eats into precious vacation time and will cost more in the long run.

Don't underestimate the travel time.

Lylleton to Franz Josef takes 5.5 hours (w/o stops)
- and that's driving. If you're taking the Tranz Alpine, it'll take longer as you'll be on their schedule. How do you plan to get from Lylleton to the Trans Alpine depot - by bus?

Mt Cook to Te Anau takes about six hours (w/o stops)

It takes about ~5 hours to drive from the glaciers to Wanaka (lots of reasons to stop en route), so by only staying one night, you'll not have time to do much (such as walks in Mt Aspiring Nat'l park, but you'll have time to see the lake and Wanaka town).

Having said that, I think your latest itinerary is a big improvement over your first one and will give you a good taste of what the SI has to offer.
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Mar 23rd, 2013, 05:30 PM
  #13
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ok we are getting closer it seems to a better route;.sorry I was not clear.. our thought was in CC to do day trips to lyttleton so would be staying in CC for two or three nights.. depending on where we feel we need to cut.
The Tranzalpine will get us to Greymouth mid day and then getting a car from there and driving down to Fox should get us there by evening so we can get an early start the next day.
We are early risers so if we are driving and get an early start then we should get to Wanaka with a half day to hike and then a half day the next morning.. then onto Queenstown.. I know I cannot do it all but at least this gives us some of the highlights. I was sorry to cut out Dunedin and Able Tasman but life is choices
I will check out rates for car rentals and see .. some say free drop off no additional costs.. so need to check that.
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Mar 23rd, 2013, 06:40 PM
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Just keep in mind that the hikes in Mt Aspiring are a good hour's drive from Wanaka. There are hikes right in town though, like to Mt Iron and along the Clutha River.

Sounds like a good plan.
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Mar 24th, 2013, 05:59 PM
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Don't know if this would work for you but I got a MUCH lower rate renting an older car from JUCY for a one-way rental Queenstown to Christchurch. Saved more than $200 over other quotes. The category I chose features cars that are 2005 and newer. There are even lower rates for older models, but I figured that was old enough, considering it will get quite a work out.

But the petrol still costs as much--and it's VERY expensive.
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Mar 24th, 2013, 07:41 PM
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APEX offers older cars too. They're particularly handy for those unfamiliar with driving on the left, because they've already been bumped and bruised.
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Mar 25th, 2013, 05:15 PM
  #17
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Trying to do a mix of driving and public transit where it may make sense but need to investigate that further..There are some routes where i want my H to see what is going by around him rather than having to focus on the road... so we will to the tranzalpine to get west and take a tour to Milford.. those routes that are particularly scenic.. although I realize just about everywhere in NZ is scenic
I will check out out JUCY and APEX and compare --good to know ..my H knows how to drive on the left he has done it before so I think will adjust.. he has driven when we visit Barbados.. are the cars steering wheel on the left as well.. that is the funny part.. you start pushing the windshild wiper when you want to signal rt or left
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Mar 25th, 2013, 05:19 PM
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I plan to work this schedule a bit more and post one more time as we are still trying to figure out how to get Mt Cook in whithout having to do a loop back to CC and with also doing the tranzalpine train west once we get to Greymouth we would like to travel south hitting all the main sights but since there is no road from Fox and Franz to mt cook it seems the only way to get there is from Wanaka or Queenstown.. any thoughts on how we can do Mt cook without the loop back to CC would be appreciated
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Mar 25th, 2013, 06:08 PM
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No, they're opposite of the US - on the right if you're sitting in the car.

Only one road into and out of Mt Cook - SH 80, which you turn off of from SH 8 coming/going to/from Lake Tekapo from the north or Twizel/Omarama/Lindis Pass from the south.

You could look into doing it as a day trip from Wanaka, but it's a long day as about three hours each way.
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Mar 25th, 2013, 06:12 PM
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I might have mentioned this before, but you can drive from Wanaka or QT to Christchurch via the inland route (Mt Cook, Tekapo) in a day. We've done this many times. It prevents backtracking, but won't help you if you're flying out of QT.
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