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New Zealand Trip- Last Minute Trip-Need Help With Itinerary

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Nov 13th, 2010, 06:36 PM
  #1
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New Zealand Trip- Last Minute Trip-Need Help With Itinerary

Hello Friends,

We might be the worst travelers because we plan last minute, but that is sometimes the best part. However we love to travel!

We just decided and booked our tickets to NZ two weeks ago. We (my husband and I) are flying from LA to Christchurch via Auckland. We will reach Christchurch on December 21st morning. We have already booked a rental car and planning to drive the South Island. This is where I need help with itinerary before I book accommodations. We will be flying back from Christchurch on December 31st. So we have 10 nights and 11 days on the island. We do understand it will be a lot of driving. Here are two plans. Please suggest what makes sense and please add or delete if you have time.
PLAN 1:
Dec 21- Christchurch
Dec 22- Early morning drive to Wanaka
Dec 23- Drive to Queenstown
Dec 24- Day trip to Milford than back to Queenstown
Dec 25-Drive to Fox Glacier
Dec 26- Drive to Punakaiki
Dec 27- Drive to Motueka
Dec 28- Drive to Blenheim
Dec 29-Drive down to Kaikoura
Dec 30-Drive back to Christchurch
Dec 31- Christchurch and fly back

PLAN 2:
Dec 21- Christchurch
Dec 22- Drive to west coast to Punakaiki. Stay overnight at Greymouth
Dec 23- Drive to Fox Glacier
Dec 24- Drive down to Wanaka
Dec 25- Drive to Queenstown
Dec 26- Day trip to Milford
Dec 27- Drive to Te Anau
Dec 28- Drive to Dunedin
Dec 29-Drive to Mt. Cook
Dec 30-Drive back to Christchurch
Dec 31- Christchurch and fly back

So what do you say Plan 1 or Plan 2?? Should I delete some places and add some other. Please advise.

I know we will be coming back for more of NZ. This will just to get our feet wet.

Any feedback will be helpful. Also any accommodation recommendation around the above area will be helpful.
Thank you
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Nov 13th, 2010, 09:55 PM
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You say you plan to "drive the South Island". Indeed, that's pretty much all you'll be doing.

Do you really want to drive every single day and stay in a different hotel every night?

You haven't allowed time to DO anything. NZ looks small, but the roads are narrow and winding, so it takes longer to get from Point A to Point B than you might expect.

I suggest you check travel times/distances here if you haven't already:

http://www.aatravel.co.nz/main/td-calculator.php

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way...

Regarding Plan 1:

The day trip from QT to Milford is eight hours of driving, four hours each way, you'll need to get an early start. Because it's Dec 24, I'd suggest you verify that cruises aren't on a reduced schedule.

If you plan to do anything in Fox Glacier you'll want to check to see if tours are operating on Christmas Day/Boxing Day, although it might be a moot point as you've not allowed yourself time to do much.

Also be aware that most businesses in NZ charge a 10-15% surcharge on public holidays. Dec 25 & 26 are public holidays. It's also NZ school holidays, so you'll definitely want to book ASAP.

I'm curious why you're going to Motueka...this is the jumping off point for Abel Tasman, but you've left very little time to explore it, as you'll be driving both days on either side.

Also curious about Blenheim - fantastic wine region, but IMO this time (and I use that word loosely) could be better put to use elsewhere.

Are you planning to do a whale watching tour in Kaikoura?

Regarding Plan 2:

You will be driving right through Te Anau when you take the day trip to Milford from QT on Dec 26, so why do you want to drive back from QT to Te Anau (two hours each way) on Dec 27?
You're backtracking, this makes no sense to me.
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Nov 13th, 2010, 11:35 PM
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Perhaps I misunderstood your intention on Dec 26 (Plan 2) - do you plan to spend the night at Milford?
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Nov 14th, 2010, 01:48 AM
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I'll go with Plan 2...but some points of note.

Dec 21- Christchurch
Dec 22- Drive to west coast to Punakaiki. Stay overnight at Greymouth
Dec 23- Drive to Fox Glacier

*Dec 24- Drive down to Wanaka
I presume u are planning to do the Fox glacier morning hike. Do check if they are operating on the eve of Christmas.

Dec 25- Drive to Queenstown
Take SH89 through the Crown Range. You will have a spectacular view. Visit Arrowtown before arriving into Queenstown.

*Dec 26 - late afternoon Drive to Te Anau (stay Te Anau)
*Dec 27- Day trip to Milford Sound(overnight at Te Anau)

Dec 28- Drive to Dunedin
Arriving into this city after noon and departing next morning (if you are planning on some hiking on Mt Cook), leaves you with little time to enjoy Dunedin and the Otago Pennisula. I suggest you visit the Otago Pennisula first then check into Dunedin for the night. You can take in the city at night or briefly next morning (don't miss Baldwin Street) before deaparting for Mount Cook.

*Dec 29- morning Drive to Mt. Cook (suggest overnight at Lake Tekapo)
If u are planning for the Hooker Valley Track, it's a 4hr return trip. Start early as the drive to Mt Cook will take about 4hr, and about 1hr 30min to Lake Tekapo for the night. Enroute, stop at Moeraki Boulders, allowing maybe 30-40min return walk along the beach.

Dec 30- Drive back to Christchurch
Dec 31- Christchurch and fly back

I think it'll work out well. But if you don't mind missing the Punakaiki Rocks (the drive up the west coast is nothing fantastic), you can drive down to Fox Glacier via Arthurs' Pass on the 2nd day, giving you 1 more free day to either extend at Dunedin or Queenstown. I'll prefer to extend at Dunedin. It's a charming city and you should not miss the Otago Pennisula.

Have fun!
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Nov 14th, 2010, 05:22 AM
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“I know we will be coming back for more of NZ. This will just to get our feet wet.”

If that is the case, why such a rushed itinerary. Why not cut back on the geography and spend more time exploring what you do cover. For example, limit your visit this trip to -
Christchurch[2], Queenstown[3], Te Anau[1], Dunedin[2], Mt Cook[1] & Christchurch[1] or
Christchurch[2], Fox Glacier[2], Queenstown[3], Te Anau[1], Mt Cook[1] & Christchurch[1].

Whatever you decide, just keep in mind that sometimes less is more & enjoy your trip.
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Nov 14th, 2010, 08:21 AM
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Hello All,

First of all thanks for your inputs/suggestions. I have added more details to our itinerary, and looks like we won't be driving as much as it looked initially. Let us know what you think about this:


1. Arrive Christchurch – stay 21st night (1)
2. Drive to Punakaiki on 22nd morning via Arthur’s Pas:
3. Punakaiki - stay 22nd night at Grey mouth (1)
4. Drive on 23rd morning to Fox Glacier:
5. Fox Glacier - stay 23rd night (1) take trekking tour on 24th morning
6. Drive on 24th afternoon to Queenstown via Haast Pass and lake Wanaka to:
7. Queenstown – Stay 24, 25, 26 nights (3)
8. Milford Sound- 26 – Day trip from Queenstown
9. Drive on 27th morning to Dunedin:
10. Dunedin – Stay 27, 28 - night (2)
11. Drive on 29th afternoon to Mt. Cook:
12. Mt Cook Street, Twizel – Stay on 29 (1 nights)
13. Drive on 30th to Christchurch:
14. Christchurch - stay 30 night (1)
15. Fly Back on 31st evening.


Also, let us know if any of these places might be closed during Christmas

Thanks a lot.
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Nov 14th, 2010, 02:35 PM
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How long does the trekking tour last? The drive from Fox to QT will take you close to seven hours, not including a stop at Wanaka. From Wanaka to QT, you might consider taking the Crown Ridge Road, an alternate way to get to QT. It might be shorter too, although I can't swear to it.

I assume you're going to drive from QT to Dunedin via the shortest route, Cromwell, Clyde, Alexandria, etc...

Instead, you might consider spending the night of the 26 in Te Anau (after your Milford visit) or even continuing on to Invercargill...Te Anau to Invercarill is just over two hours, which is very similar to the time it takes to get back to QT. Going to Dunedin via Invercargill will take you through the Catlins via the Southern Scenic Route, a beautiful windswept section of the SI.

Mt Cook Street?
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Nov 14th, 2010, 02:36 PM
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Google is your friend.
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Nov 14th, 2010, 05:13 PM
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Melnq8,

I checked google maps and trip from Fox Glacier to QT is 4 hours. Why do you think it would take 7 hours? Traffic?

I meant Mt. Cook, not Mt. Cook Street.

Thanks
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Nov 14th, 2010, 05:44 PM
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First hand experience.

We've never made the drive in less than six hours. No way can you make it in four - it's ~380 km of winding, single lane road with several one way bridges. It's also gorgeous, with lots of places to stop along the way. Even if you drove w/o stopping, you're probably looking at a bare minimum of 5.5 hours. You can get to Wanaka from Fox Glacier in about 4 hours, but then you're looking at another 90 minutes to get from Wanaka to QT.
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Nov 14th, 2010, 06:35 PM
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Thanks Melnq8. That leads to the next question. We are planning to trek the glacier on 23rd afternoon, -- will drive from Greymouth. Do you recommend Franz Joseph or Fox Glacier. We have already booked our room near Fox Glacier, because it is further south and our next stop is QT.

Also, google maps is showing 3 hour drive from Greymouth to Fox Glacier, is that true?

Thanks,
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Nov 14th, 2010, 09:10 PM
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Yes, Greymouth to Fox will take about 2.5 - 3 hours (~200 km).

I've stayed in Franz Josef several times and Fox Glacier once. The only real difference is size - Franz is bigger and has a few more services...a tiny grocery store, a visitor's center, a few more restaurants, more accommodation. Fox Glacier has the added attraction of Lake Matheson, Franz Josef is closer to Okarito.

I personally don't have a preference for one over the other. Franz probably gets more tourist traffic.

You might want to explore Franz Josef on the drive from Greymouth to Fox. If so, leave yourself plenty of time. The walk to the terminal face of Franz takes about 1:20.

I just looked at one of my trip reports...it took us 7.5 hours to drive from QT to Franz Josef, making stops at the Blue Pools, Thunder Creek Falls and Fox Glacier (for lunch).
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Nov 15th, 2010, 12:38 AM
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Bearing in mind the likely stops on the Haast Pass:
a) Thunder Creek Falls - 10min track
b) Gates of Haast
c) Fantail Falls (roadside)
d) Blue Pools Walk (30min return)
e) Hasst Pass

Enroute to Haast, there is a Salmon Farm and Knight's Point(viewpoint) which you many wish to have a look.

We took about 6 hours to arrive into Wanaka from Fox, including the above stops. Non-stop driving will be around 4hr as melnq8 mentioned.

Driving onwards to QT via the Crown Range (we did) takes slight over an hour but you'll want to stop at the peak for the view. So it's realistic to say a journey of 1.5hours.

So there....I second with melnq8: 7.5hours from Fox to QT.
--------------------------------------------------------------
You might as well spend the night at Te Anau after Milford Sound, why backtrack to QT?

The Southern route is scenic but it rains a lot in the region. If you are fighting for time (your itinerary suggests so), I don't encourage it. You will never make Te Anau- Invercargill - the Catlins - Dunedin in a day. We drove it and made a break at Curio Bay.
Te Anau - Invercargill - Curio Bay : driving time 5hr;
Curio Bay - Dunedin: driving time 5.5hrs
And we spend equivalent amt of time tracking/sightseeing as driving.

Just aim to reach Dunedin as fast as possible after Te Anau or QT so you can have more time in that city and the Otago Peninsula.
--------------------------------------------------------------
After Mt Cook, why not stay at Lake Tekapo - it's north of Mt Cook along your journey back to CHC. If you are travelling the reverse direction, I'll say to stay at Twizel which is further south.
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Nov 15th, 2010, 01:11 AM
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Chenoa is right, you don't have enough time for the Catlins. Forget I ever mentioned it.

I just look at another of my trip reports - it took us nine hours to drive from Oamaru (115 km north of Dunedin) to Fortrose (within the Catlins), where we spent three nights. It then took us six hours (with stops) to drive from Fortrose to Te Anau.

Leave this area for next time, you've got enough on your plate as it is.

NZ is not a place you want to rush around. Relax...enjoy the beautiful scenery and the lovely people...
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Nov 15th, 2010, 09:45 AM
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Thanks Melnq8 and Chenoa. I am so glad you all respond and share your experiences.

I have taken up on your advice(s) and here is what we will do:

1.)Leave in the morning from Greymouth to Fox Glacier and do a afternoon trek.
2.)Next day morning we will leave for QT from Fox Glacier, so that will give us plenty of time to stop and enjoy the scenic ride.

3.) We plan to stay at Te Anau on our way to Milford sound, so we don't have to back track to QT.

4.) From Te Anau to Dunedin, we don't plan to take the southern secenic route ---- time constraint as you mentioned. But if we were to go direct via HWY 94 and HWY 1, how long will that take? Google maps shows 4 1/2 hours.

Thanks again for all your input.
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Nov 15th, 2010, 02:35 PM
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The drive distance calculator I use (and trust) indicates Te Anau to Balclutha (94 & SH 1)is 220 km, about three hours. Balclutha to Dunedin(SH 1) is 80 km, about 1:10, so yeah, approximately 4.5 hours.
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Nov 15th, 2010, 05:27 PM
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Melnq8,

Is your distance calculator online?

I would like to calculate distances for my trip?
Christchurch to Punakaiki
Grey Mouth to Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier to Queenstown via Haast Pass and Wanaka
Queenstown to Miford Sound
Te Anau to Dunedin
Dunedin to Mt. Cook
Twizel to Christchurch

Thanks
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Nov 15th, 2010, 05:38 PM
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I provided the link in my first post above.
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Nov 16th, 2010, 03:56 AM
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I used the distance calculator last time too, it's reliable. For places that do are not shown on the calculator, I used 60km/h to plan my journey, and the driving time always comes close to it. Even if we were travelling at 90km/h, there will be places that we felt like stopping for a photoshoot or two, and when u are near/in towns the speed will slow to 50km/h, so these leverages the speed.
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Nov 28th, 2017, 05:13 PM
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Hello-we are looking to do the exact same trip-can you advise how it went and if there’s anything you’d change? Thank you so much!
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