New Zealand South Island in 8 days!

Jan 18th, 2015, 08:03 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 3
New Zealand South Island in 8 days!

Hi all,

A friend of mine and I are traveling from the States to New Zealand in Feb. 2015 (just a couple of weeks!). We are flying into Wellington because we have a friend who lives there (who it turns out we are missing!) and then I am flying out of Christ Church 10 days later. We plan to spend the majority of our time on the south island, but we need help with our itinerary. Here's what we have, which I know is insane, but I don't know how to fix it - all suggestions welcome - we like hiking, biking, glaciers, etc. generally being outdoors.

Days 1-2 Wellington and thereabouts.
Day 3-4 take the ferry to Picton, rent a car and drive to Marahau. Stay one night, possibly two?
Day 5-drive from Marahau to Fox and Franz Jose Glacier - is this to far to drive in a day? We would like to hike around a bit and spend the night
Day 5-6 - drive to Wanaka and stay over 1 night
Day 6 drive to Te Anau and stay two nights, do Milford Sound, hike etc
Day 8 fly from Queenstown to Christchurch and back to the U.S.

I am beginning to think that this is totally insane and even though I want to do the ferry from the north island to the south and see Nelson and that area, we should just fly directly to Queenstown area (everyone says not to stay there in particular) and do day trips from there to Milford sound, Wanaka, etc. Is there a better way to get from Marahau to Wanaka than driving?

Thanks in advance for all of your help!

Runger is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 10:48 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 4,039
Yes, I have to agree with your assessment that this is an insane itinerary. You aren't allowing enough driving time or enough sightseeing time in any one place. Also, trying to fit the Franz Josef/Fox Glacier area into this itinerary really messes everything up because it is SO far away from both Picton and Queenstown. I would, reluctantly, recommend you drop it. (Better to enjoy a few places than be rushed in a lot of places.)

Since your friend isn't even going to be in Wellington, have you considered flying directly from there to Queenstown or just spending 1 day there? Wellington is a nice city, but with the short amount of time you have, I'd concentrate it on the South Island.

Here's the itinerary I'd propose:

Day 1 Fly Wellington to Queenstown
Day 2 Queenstown
Day 3 Te Anau
Day 4 Te Anau
Day 5 Wanaka
Day 6 Wanaka
Day 7 Queenstown
Day 8 Fly Queenstown to Christchurch

This itinerary gives you plenty of places for amazing scenery, hiking opportunities, fun "touristy" activities, etc.

Also, I don't know why "everyone" says not to stay in Queenstown. I've spent time there on 3 separate trips to New Zealand and have enjoyed being there very much. Yes, it may be more crowded and "touristy" than other places, but that doesn't mean it isn't an enjoyable town. Pretty much every place in NZ is going to be busy in February.
longhorn55 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 01:54 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,482
Definitely insane.

Longhorn has given you some great advice.

I'd suggest driving directly from QT to Te Anau upon arrival though to prevent breaking up your QT stay into single nights - less moving around and unpacking this way.

Arrowtown, Glenorchy and the outskirts of QT make great bases too if you're not interested in staying in QT proper.

The closest airport to Marahau is Motueka - I guess you could fly from there to Wanaka, but it won't be cheap or straightforward as these are very small airports with limited services.

Long day yes - over six hours w/o stops.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 01:55 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 3
Thank you so much Longhorn this is very helpful feedback. I was afraid we were trying to do too much. Do you have recommendations of companies to go with for day hikes and for Milford Sound, biking, etc.?
Runger is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 03:37 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,482
If you're just looking for day hikes, which given your time constraints I assume you are, there's absolutely no need to use a company - most tracks in NZ are easily freedom walked. Just rock up and go.

As for boat companies in Milford Sound - I've used several over the years and they're essentially the same - it's the same sound afterall. There are some minor differences in boat size and services offered, but you really can't go wrong, just pick the one that best works with your schedule.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 04:34 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 3
Thank you Melnq8 - this is very helpful. Do we need to make arrangements in advance - reservations for hotels or boat companies for the Sound?
Runger is offline  
Jan 18th, 2015, 04:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,482
While February is high season, the kids have gone back to school, so it's not as busy as say January.

I always book accommodation, regardless of time of year, but if you're not fussed about where you stay, you could probably wing it, although do be aware that some places (such as Mount Cook and the glaciers) have limited accommodation and are often booked out.

In all my trips to NZ, I've only once booked a Milford Sound cruise (and bus) and then only because we only had one day to work with, so waiting didn't really serve any purpose.
Melnq8 is offline  
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