New Zealand tenative 18 day itinerary

Old Nov 23rd, 2015, 08:13 PM
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New Zealand tenative 18 day itinerary

My husband and I, in our mid-50s, are leaving for our 18 day New Zealand trip in a few days. We only have a few hotel reservations at the beginning and end of our stay (plus a ferry reservation for Cook's Straight) because we are renting a campervan for 15 of those days. We are spending 6 nights on the North Island and 11 nights on the South Island. It is more rushed than we would like but we are going to make the most of it. We fly into Auckland and fly out of Christchurch.

The big decision is whether to go on the west or east side of the South Island. I'm leaning towards one side and my husband is leaning towards the other. There is some overlap in the itineraries. If anyone would care to chime in, here are the possible itineraries. We'd love to hear your feedback:

South Island Western version:
Night 1. Spend night somewhere near Nelson
2. Spend night in Hokitika
3. Fox Glacier
4 - 5. Queenstown
6. Te Anau
7 - 8. Wanaka
9. Oamaru
10 - 11. Christchurch

South Island Eastern version:
Nights 1 - 2. Kaikoura
3. Oamaru
4 - 5. Queenstown
6. Te Anau
7 - 8. Wanaka
9. Lake Tekapo
10 - 11. Christchurch

(I know the drive on the between Kaikoura and Oamaru on the Eastern version is a long one: 5.5 hours driving). We, of course, have plans for the days at each destination, and for in between most destinations. I've been studying the trip reports from indiancouple and An Autumn Month in NZ. I'm hoping to write a trip report and will try to keep good notes to share about our trip.
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 04:19 AM
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We had a similar trip to your a couple of years ago and took a similar amount of time - 17 nights albeit we divided our time with 4 nights on the NI and 13 on the SI, and stayed in B&Bs and motels, rather than renting a motorhome, of which I have zero experience.

so with those caveats, I have one major comment - it's too much. You have far too much travelling, too many one night stands, and not enough time to see what you are going for.

Personally I prefer to spend a long day driving and then the next day resting/sightseeing, rather than driving for part of every day, so looking at the west coast route, you could do this:

Day 1. Spend night in Nelson
Day 2. spend day in around Nelson [or drive to Abel Tasman, spend day there, overnight there]
Day 3. Drive to Fox/ FJ.Fox Glacier
Day 4 - Day at Fox/FJ
Day 5. Drive to Wanaka
Day 6 Drive to Te Anau.
Day 7. Milford/doubtful sound.
Day 8 - drive to QT
Day 9 QT
Day 10 drive to Oamaru
Day 11 Drive to Christchurch [you should get there by lunchtime, leaving the rest of the day for sightseeing, which was enough for us]

NB, that's only 10 nights, if you have another one add it to Wanaka.

We didn't get to Kaikoura, we just didn't have the time.

BTW, I would leave in Oamaru - it was one of the highlights of our trip!
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 05:55 AM
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oops - I note that I have in fact managed to squeeze it all in, but it leaves very little time for walking/exploring/just being.
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 08:09 AM
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Way too much. I tend to be quite vocal about what I feel are over-ambitious NZ itineraries, and since we're in the same age range, I suspect you'll find both of these options exhausting.

You've seriously underestimated the drive distances and more importantly, the time it takes to get from one place to another. The SI looks small on a map, but it's long, has limited narrow and winding roads (most of them one lane in each direction) and countless one way bridges.

In other words, it can be very slow going, particularly in season when you will encounter loads of folks like yourself, seemingly lost tourists slowly driving campervans ahead of you as they gawk at the incredible scenery and try to remember to stay left

Those drive distance calculators are helpful to a certain extent, but keep in mind they don't include stops for photos, loos, food and general poking about, which is what road trips in NZ are all about. Stopping to explore en route.

One thing in your favor - lots of daylight this time of year.

My suggestion? Don't even attempt to do both the north of the SI and the south of the SI in such a short trip.

A much more leisurely route would be to fly into Christchurch, drive down the West Coast to the glaciers, then on to Wanaka, Te Anau and Milford, then back to QT where you can catch a flight out to Auckland.

Or continue driving from QT to Christchurch via the inland route (Lake Tekapo/with possible side trip to Mt Cook).

This second option is still a heck of a lot of driving, but it allows you to see many of the SI's 'highlights' while making a driving loop.

BUT, as it seems you're determined to take the ferry and start from up north (having already booked ferry tickets), and your question is more about east vs. west than feasibility, I have to wonder what YOU most want to see?

The east coast of the SI is it's least scenic IMO, particularly from Christchurch to Oamaru. I much prefer the West Coast, although the drive times tend to be longer. I know that annhig is a fan of Oamaru, and she knows that I'm a fan of the West Coast, so you're going to see some bias in our answers.

So, it really depends on what YOU most want to see. What is attracting you to each route?

A few comments about your specific itineraries:

Itinerary 1 -

You don't have any time built in to see Abel Tasman, which is the big draw for most people.

Hoki is a convenient overnight stop due to its location, but it's certainly not a highlight of the SI. Have you considered Punakaiki to make this drive day shorter?

One night at the glaciers gives you very little time to actually see them. I always suggest two nights as a minimum.

The glaciers to QT is a very full drive day (plus lots of reasons to stop en route), so that leaves you one full day in QT, which is giving it short shrift.

Itinerary 2 -

You will arrive from the ferry into Picton - Picton to Kaikoura is a 2:25 hour drive w/o stops.

Yes Kaikoura to Oamaru 5.5 hours - that's w/o stops

Oamaru to QT is about four hours drive

Regarding Day 6 - is your plan to drive from QT to Milford and then return to Te Anau for the night? Keep in mind it's a four hour drive from QT to Milford then a two hour drive back to Te Anau. That will really cut into your time to see Milford. Although people do it all the time, it certainly wouldn't be my choice.
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 08:37 AM
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Mel is right as always. IMO your itineraries are doable but you'll wish you had taken her advice as we did about 3 days into our trip when seriously reviewed an itinerary like your west coast one and re-jigged it to cut down on the driving.

We ended up with this:

Day 1 - arrive Auckland - drive to Thames [at southern end of Coromandel peninsular] Stay on night. [needed at least 2]

Day 2 - drive to Napier. This turned out to be a drive of about 6 hours and completely exhausted us, leading to a rapid change of plan.

Day 3 - stayed Napier. [thank goodness]

Day 4 - morning trip to Gannet colony, then drive to Wellington - further than we thought but OK because we'd had a rest the day before.

Day 5 - morning in Wellington at Te Papa Museum, then ferry to Picton. drive to Nelson.

Day 6, 7, in Nelson - one day trip to Abel Tasman on the bus, the other a winery tour etc by ourselves. could have stayed longer.

Day 8 - Drive to Fox. Long day but doable because of the rest we'd had on the previous days.

Day 9 - glacier walk then trip out to see lake Matheson

Day 10 - drive to Wanaka - long drive but ok because....you get the picture. plenty of scenic stops and walks along the way.

Day 11,12 - time in Wanaka. [the original plan had been to go straight to Te Anau from here, stay 2 nights there and then head back to QT - we were so glad we didn't]

Day 13, 14,15 - Short Drive to QT - stay 3 nights. one day trip to Doubtful sound, another day QT and wineries.

Day 16 - drive to Oamaru - arrived early afternoon, had enough to time explore the town and in the evening to see the fairy penguins. Highlight of trip! [I know you're not with me here, Mel, but along with the gannets we loved this day the best; the wine we'd drunk with dinner might have had something to do with it I'll admit]

Day 17 - drive to C/Church. arrived early afternoon. Enough time to see the city and get thoroughly lost trying to find our car in a "bomb sight" car park.

Day 18 - early flight to Sydney.

Save for the last 2 days, we interspersed long driving days with "stay put" days or ones that did not require a lot of driving. I think that had we tried either of your itineraries, or our original one, we'd have been on our knees by the end of the trip. My best tip - listen to what Mel says.
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 03:08 PM
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>

A good wine infusion never hurts!
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 03:43 PM
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Thanks so much annhig and Melnq8! I really appreciate your input. When we first thought of going to NZ (a few months ago), we thought 18 days would be plenty - but we were wrong. We booked our flight (into Aucklund, out of Christchurch) before planning our itinerary, so we are going to stick with the NI/SI tour. But what we see on that tour may change. My husband and I will look at your input and try to see where we can cut driving time and can add to "staying put" time. We need a time machine!

I think we should cut out a day or two from the NI....
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 04:04 PM
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Or...you could fly into Auckland and keep on going to the SI, spend all your time there. That's what I would (and have done, over and over and over again).
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 10:52 PM
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You could let the weather determine which way you go when in the South Island.

When it's nice on the east coast, it's generally not flash on the west coast. To get the most out of the glaciers and mountains, I think you need a break of decent weather. I know a lot of people like waterfalls etc...but low visibility and rain can be pretty hard work when you're on holiday.

At the moment, I'm enjoying long daylight hours and sunny warm days here on the east coast. It's lovely tonight. Check out www.metsevice.com. I know that Fox is in constant cloud.

I like Oamaru, but I wouldn't drive 4 hours out of my way when time is tight. Skip it this time.

So, I think I like option 1, but without Oamaru. You could add in Tekapo on the way to Qtown instead of on the way back.

Driving south from Picton to Kaikoura (which can be slow with trucks coming off the ferry and nowhere to pass), good stops are Kekerungu (The Store) for coffee and cake and the best views of the coast from the verandah and of course the seal pup nursery and waterfall at Ohau Point. SO CUTE!

Actually, another great coffee and cake stop is Amberley - Little Vintage cafe. Great cake.

Also, while I'm taking food stops...Fairlie bakehouse for pies and bakery food on the way to Tekapo. The best pies.

But, there's probably no such thing as a wrong decision here.
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Old Nov 29th, 2015, 10:12 PM
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Thelittlestkiwi: You seem to have hit the nail on the head. We've just arrived and have had a wonderful first day here in NZ! I just logged in and read your reply out loud to my husband. He said "yes" several times while I was reading your advice. I think he really wants the sunnier weather and the slower pace. Although we'd both love to go to Oamaru, we will cut it out to simplify. We are also cutting our NI stay a day short so we can spend it in SI.

But I do have a question if you or anyone has the time to help. Is there a way to make it to Queenstown from Kaikoura (with 1 or 2 night stops along the way) and then back from Te Anau to Christchurch without too much backtracking on the same route?

p.s Also thanks for the coffee and cake stop suggestions! We'll try to hit those too.
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Old Nov 30th, 2015, 05:32 AM
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>>

You can drove from Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs to Reefton to Greymouth then on to Hokitika and the glaciers. From there you can continue driving to Queenstown. This route will take you over Lewis Pass.

Its still a lot of driving, but you could do it with two overnights, although that'd not give you much time to explore the glaciers.

Once in QT - you could continue on to Te Anau and from Te Anau, you could drive to QT-Wanaka-Tekapo (with a detour to Mt Cook) and then head up to Christchurch. You'd need some time to do it though. The only backtracking here would be from QT to Te Anau (return) and Te Anau-Milford (return) which is inevitable, as there's only one road.

You would cover both the West Coast and the inland route this way, but it's a lot of driving. I suggest you take a look at a map and work out the drive times involved.
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Old Nov 30th, 2015, 09:33 AM
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mhgr - I hope that you are having a wonderful time. sometimes it can be a real relief to cut something out so of course Oamaru must go - this time. You will find a lot of other wonderful things to see and do, especially if you follow the advice of those above like Mel and thelittlestkiwi.

have a great trip!
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Old Nov 30th, 2015, 11:26 AM
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Thanks again to all of you! you're wonderful to give your time and expertise! I foresee another trip to NZ in my future - and that time we will stay longer.
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