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New Zealand Trip Planning

Old Jan 24th, 2016, 07:33 PM
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New Zealand Trip Planning

I am an Indian presently in Sydney on a business trip. I am planning for a New Zealand south island trip in early march with my wife. I have been to Europe , Egypt, Tanzania. I have done few Himalayan Treks too(15000 Ft Altitude). Planning for a trip on moderate Budget(Not a luxury one

The must do's in the trip for me are
1. Adventure activities -- Bungee, speed Jet , may be paragliding, Gondola Rides
2. Penguins,Sea lions,Fur seals, Dolphins may be whales?
3. Milford sound
4. Nature and scenery: Lakes+ may be glacier walks
5. Scenic Drives
6. May be some camping ? - I love camping.

Note: We are in late 20's and recently married.

We are arriving CHC on 4th March at 6PM and returning back on 13th March 6PM.

Day 1 Christchurch landing 6pm and buy rental car
Day 2 Drve to Punakaiki --see Truman Trac,Pancake rocks
Day 3 Drive to Fox glacier -- Any sight seeing
Day 4 Glacier walk? and drive to Wanaka? -via Kuwarau Gorge
Day 5 Drive to Queenstown/Te Anau --- Scenic drive i guess
Day 6 Milfrod sounds tour - Te Anau -Queenstown
Day 7 Queenstown - Adventure sports

Option 1:
Day 8 Queenstown To Dunedin/Oamaru(Penguins+Seal)
Day 9 Dunedin/Oamaru to Christchurch
Day 10 and Flight back in the eve

Option 2:
Day 8 Queenstown To mt cook -Twizel --(Not sure about this)
Day 9 Twizel to Akaroa-CHC -- (Pengins+Seals)
Day 10 Flight back in the eve

Read a lot of forums here and written down tentative plan. Yet to book any tours. Planning to rent a car or a relocation car.

Few queries:
1. Is this doable?
2. I am somewhat uncomfortable Day 3-4 Glacier hikes are highly dependent on weather i think?
3. I am not able to include Kaikoura. Is it better than Dunedin/Oamaru for my wishlist?
4. I am also bit confused with the QueensTown on Day5th.
5. Should i book the activities in advacne? i found good deals on Bookme if i book just 1 week in advance .
6. Which days i should plan to visit Glenorchy and Arrowtown?
7. Can you suggest me some scenic camping sites along the same

I need help in optimizing this itinerary. Have i overlooked any places?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Jan 25th, 2016, 03:14 PM
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Hi Shivaprashanth -

Day 4 will be full on - it's a good six hour drive from the glaciers to Wanaka, because the roads are very narrow and winding and there are so many reasons to stop.

I always suggest two nights at the glaciers, which gives you a full day to explore them, with a drive day on either side.

I'd suggest driving from the glaciers to Wanaka, then to Te Anau, then to QT, in that order. More logistic sense.

I also suggest a minimum of two nights in Wanaka - the town itself doesn't take long to see, but as you enjoy walks and spectacular scenery, you'll want at least a full day to drive into Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park from Wanaka. You don't want to miss this, believe me.

Day 6 is also full on - you're looking at six hours of driving if you return to QT from Milford - I suggest you spend two nights in Te Anau, which will give you a full day to explore Milford and Milford Road - you don't want to rush this - it's gorgeous.

Both Option 1 & 2 are just too much - you're making the classic mistake of trying to cover too much ground in too little time. Youth and energy aside, you're just setting yourself up for spending your entire holiday in your car.

Have you considered flying out from QT instead of returning to CHC?

Yes, the weather in NZ is unpredictable, but March is generally a good time to visit, so don't worry about what you can't control. Just plan to wear layers, and throw on a rain coat if necessary.

I personally think you should leave Dunedin (and Akaroa) for another time - a long way to go for an overnight stay.

Booking activities in advance wouldn't be my choice, but then again as you only have a limited time within which to do them...I prefer to see what the weather is up to and go from there. You can pop onto a Milford cruise without booking - just turn up and get on. Flexibility is a very good thing in NZ.

<6. Which days i should plan to visit Glenorchy and Arrowtown?>

Which days indeed. You just don't have much wiggle room which is way I suggest you trim back.
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Old Jan 25th, 2016, 05:47 PM
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Did you mean Kawarau Gorge? Because Kawarau Gorge is in Central Otago, between Queenstown and Cromwell. To get from the West Coast (where Fox and Franz Josef are located) to Wanaka, you'll drive through Haast Pass and Mt. Aspiring National Park, and then past Lakes Hawea and Wanaka. It's a gorgeous drive.

Is your list of "must-dos" in order of priority? Because if seeing wildlife is number 2, then you would enjoy Dunedin. But Melnq8 is right, you'd need two nights here, or you could spend one night in Dunedin, and another in Oamaru or the Catlins, which are also excellent for wildlife viewing. Then your drive to Dunedin would be short, around 90 minutes from either Oamaru or Kaka Point (in the Catlins).

Also consider Melnq8's suggestion of flying into CC and out of Queenstown on vice versa. Can you add a day or two to your trip?

Dunedin's Otago Peninsula is home to the Southern Hemisphere's only mainland albatross colony. The first of this season's endangered Northern Royal Albatross are hatching now and will be on nests until October. To see chicks, you must take a tour, but adult albatrosses can be seen flying above the Taiaroa Head colony, which also has a Little Blue Penguin colony. These penguins swim ashore in the early evening. They're common along NZ and some Australian coastlines, but it's easier to see them where lights have been installed.
http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/36...s-get-cracking
http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/37...ss-chick-world

I recommend the Elm Wildlife Tour. They have access to private wildlife viewing areas, with endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins, endangered New Zealand Sea Lions, and a large NZ Fur Seal colony. They'll also bring you to wetlands, where you can see wading birds and to Taiaroa Head to spot albatrosses and rare Stewart Island shags. They'll pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation, which you'll appreciate after seeing the Otago Peninsula roads.

Rare Tuatara, endangered Otago Green and Brown Skinks, Takahe (a highly rare NZ bird), and many other birds can be seen on a nice warm day at Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

The weather can be cold and windy in Dunedin, but March tends to be a milder month (no guarantees). You're not likely to see whales or dolphins in Dunedin/the Otago Peninsula. Kaikoura is a much better choice for whale and dolphin cruises, and Akaroa is good for dolphin cruises. You might see dolphins and perhaps Fiordland Crested Penguins on your Milford Sound cruise.
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Old Jan 25th, 2016, 05:51 PM
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Forgot to include this link to reviews for the Elm Wildlife Tour:
https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Attrac...th_Island.html

As I wrote before, the weather can be cold and windy, sometimes drizzly or foggy, but the wildlife is around rain or shine. Make sure to bring a wind/waterproof jacket and a light fleece or wool sweater to wear beneath it--just in case.
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Old Jan 26th, 2016, 04:35 AM
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Thanks for the detailed reply.

Considering the inputs from you both. I have changed the plan to the following. I still have 2 options. Just reading about it .

Unfortunately i cannot change the reservation. Regarding Dunedin, I have never seen penguins, Dolphins and Seal. And its a really rare thing for us coming from India ..

@Melnq8
I read few of you other forum messages and have changed Day 2 to Glacier instead of Punakaiki.

@Diamantina Thanks for the detailed replay about Dunedin. loved reading about them.

Plan 1:
Christchurch landing 6pm and buy rental car
Day 2 Drve to Fox Glacier--- detour Punakaiki
Day 3 Fox glacier
Day 4 Drive to Wanaka
Day 5 Wanaka
Day 6 Queenstown
Day 7 Queenstown - Te Anau
Day 8 Milford sound tour
Day 9 Te Anau to Dunedin/Oamaru
Day 10 Dunedin/Oamaru to CHC and fly back 6pm


Plan 2:
Christchurch landing 6pm and buy rental car
Day 2 Drve to Glacier--- detour Punakaiki
Day 3 Fox glacier
Day 4 Drive to Wanaka
Day 5 Wanaka
Day 6 Drive to Te Anau
Day 7 Milford sound tour
Day 8 QT
Day 9 QT to Twizel
Day 10 Twizel to CHC and fly back 6pm


I have to drive back QT to CHC. More inclined towards Plan 1. Trying to figure out which suits me the best. What are your Suggestions on these ? Is it too much for 9 days?
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Old Jan 26th, 2016, 04:11 PM
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Day 2 will be a very full day - leave early and plan well.

Be prepared for lots of winding roads and slow going. Do take care, especially if not accustomed to driving on the left.

Pancake Rocks are best viewed at high tide, so check tide charts, although with so little time to spare you might not have much of a choice in the matter.

You might consider staying at Franz Josef instead of Fox Glacier - this will reduce your drive day by about 45 minutes. The drive between the two is very winding and quite tiring, so best not to do it late in the day.

Why Twizel? Just a little country town. Why not stay in Mt Cook?

Plan 1 just doesn't make sense to me - why spend the day driving to Dunedin just to turn around the next day and drive to Christchurch? You're significantly underestimating travel times. Te Anau-Dunedin-Oamaru is close to a six hour drive.

Why do you have to drive back to Christchurch? You can easily catch a flight from QT.

<Is it too much for 9 days?>

IMO, YES.
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Old Jan 26th, 2016, 04:12 PM
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Or, you can catch a flight back to CHC from Dunedin.
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Old Jan 26th, 2016, 04:14 PM
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Here's a link to a drive distance calculator for New Zealand:
http://www.aatravel.co.nz/main/time-...calculator.php

According to the distance calculator, the drive from CC to Punakaiki would be 3 hours 50 minutes (without stops). Keep in mind, you must drive carefully on winding roads, both mountainous and coastal. For the most part, there will be one lane in each direction, with the occasional passing lane. If you should encounter rain, then this could add to your stress.

Then the drive from Punakaiki to Fox would be 3 hours 20 minutes (without stops). It is too much to drive from CC to Fox in one day. You don't want to rush, you'll want to stop along the way (which, of course, will make it even a longer journey).

You could consider overnighting in Greymouth or Hokitika after visiting Punakaiki (Hokitika is more interesting, as you can go look at glow worms after dark). There are restaurants, shops and supermarkets in Greymouth and Hokitika.

Are you planning on doing a heli-hike in Fox Glacier, that is, do you hope to walk on the glacier? Here's a link to their webpage:
http://www.foxguides.co.nz/
While in Fox, don't miss a walk to Lake Matheson. It's an easy, short walk.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Matheson
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...matheson-walk/

Regarding penguins, seals, and whales. You might see them in Sydney.
http://www.manlywharf.com.au/see-do/fairy-penguins/
http://www.whalewatchingsydney.net/
https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Attrac...uth_Wales.html

Why don't you pose another question asking about seeing wildlife from Sydney? I'm sure the Sydney experts will be happy to help you.

By the way, I'd be surprised if you did not see NZ Fur Seals on the Milford Sound cruise.
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Old Jan 26th, 2016, 07:50 PM
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Thanks for the input.
I removed Dunedin Plan and have the modified plan

Christchurch landing 6pm and buy rental car
Day 2 Drive to Glacier/Hokitika --- detour Punakaiki
Day 3 Fox glacier
Day 4 Drive to Wanaka
Day 5 Wanaka
Day 6 Drive to Te Anau
Day 7 Milford sound tour
Day 8 QT
Day 9 QT to mt Cook
Day 10 mt cook to CHC and fly back 6pm

I will check out flight ticket from QT to CHC. otherwise this looks fine now.

I am not sure about Heli trip around glacier as it costs a bit more than my budget.

i think i will have to read a bit more on activities on the way.
Should i book a stay well in advance for any of these places?
Also do you have any suggestions on Campervan hire? Or should i book a Sedan?
Shivaprashanth is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2016, 05:42 AM
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Heli trips at the glaciers are indeed expensive, and weather dependent. You might consider booking a few days in advance, once you know what the weather looks like, so you're not disappointed. There are plenty of other things to do if you can't/don't want to take the helicopter trip - plenty of great walking tracks that you can explore on your own.

Driving a regular car on NZ roads can be challenging enough, are you familiar with driving on the left and driving campervans? Only you can make that decision.

I personally prefer to rent a car and stay in motels/B&Bs, etc. I find a car much more flexible - some roads in NZ are not appropriate for campervans, but as long as you stick to the main roads, take care and stay left you should be fine.

I would make hotel bookings at the glaciers and Mt Cook soon. These are small villages with limited accommodation.
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Old Jan 27th, 2016, 06:24 PM
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>>I will check out flight ticket from QT to CHC. otherwise this looks fine now.
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Old Jan 28th, 2016, 01:05 PM
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Hi Shiv,

because the glaciers have receded so much, you can't now do a glacier walk except by helicopter. So what Mel says about checking out whether the helicopters are going to be able to fly makes a lot of sense [as does everything else she writes!].

anyway here's the link to the Franz Joseph tour company so you can compare with what's on offer at Fox:

http://www.franzjosefglacier.com/our.../ice-explorer/

Listen to what Mel and others say about driving - it takes much longer than you think to get from one place to another.
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Old Jan 28th, 2016, 05:09 PM
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As you're from India, you'll be used to driving on the left, however, you might want to review NZ road rules as many tourists, including some who are used to driving on the left, have been involved in serious road accidents. Please look at this link to learn some basic facts about driving in NZ:
https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/reso...ving-in-nz.pdf

Tourists drivers caught violating road rules or whose driving is thought be potentially dangerous, have also had their rental cars taken away, forcing them to continue their journeys by bus. Instead of concentrating on driving, drivers can be distracted by the beautiful scenery. See:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/news...ts-from-public

If you'd like to get an idea for what some of your drives will look like, you can check You Tube videos. This one is for the drive from Franz Josef to Wanaka. It has been speeded up. Note the one-lane bridges and cyclist on the road. This video was shot in winter when there's hardly any traffic on the road. It will be busier in March.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgnZmrc7LNA

Fox Glacier town doesn't have as much accommodation as Franz Josef, so you might find it easier to stay in FJ. If you have trouble finding accommodation in Mt. Cook Village, check Glentanner, which is on the road to Mt. Cook.
http://www.glentanner.co.nz/

For information about hiking/tramping tracks, check the Dept. of Conservation website. Here's their brochure for walks from Mt. Cook Village. I highly recommend the Hooker Valley Track. It's easy, takes 2.5 roundtrip.
http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/par...ki-village.pdf

A popular hike from Milford Road is the walk to Key Summit from "The Divide." It's easy, steep in parts, takes 3 hours roundtrip.
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...-summit-track/

About Milford Road.
https://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/sh94-milford-road/

Don't forget your insect repellent.
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Old Jan 29th, 2016, 03:11 AM
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and if the sand flies do get you, roll-on deodorant works a treat.
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Old Jan 31st, 2016, 10:12 PM
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Thanks everyone for the information . .been reading these for a while now. I am planning to buy few camping stuffs in Christchurch once I land. . So will buy a insect repellent too . .

I am used to driving on left side . .I drive a sedan . .I am not confident enough to drive a camper van . .so might go with a normal car . .

Any camping or farm stay recommendations ?
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Old Feb 1st, 2016, 01:13 AM
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I have been researching on a NZ trip myself and in my opinion, you can skip Christchurch entirely and plan your entire trip around Queenstown. NZ is a country which is scenic at every turn and anything you would enjoy around Christchurch can be had around Queenstown as well.

In my opinion, you will make better use of your limited time spending a few days around Queenstown and Rotora in the north (if you are planning there as well)
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Old Feb 1st, 2016, 03:55 PM
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I posted a reply yesterday, but for some reason, I don't see it here. I'll try to remember what I said.

If you plan on driving around in a sedan and camping, does this mean you'll be buying sleeping bags and mats, a tent, camp stove and cooking supplies, lantern/torch, and bringing towels with you? And then taking these when you leave? Before you do this, consider your accommodation options. Remember, you'll be spending several days on the West Coast of the South Island, which can get rainy, and where you can get bitten by sandflies during the day and mosquitoes at night.

Hopefully, you'll have fine weather when you're here, but the weather can change quickly in New Zealand, catching campers off-guard. Read about what happened to campers on the North Island over the New Year's holiday:
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/ar...ectid=11568406

The NZ Dept. of Conservation operates basic campsites throughout the two islands. See:
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...to-do/camping/
Map of sites:
http://maps.doc.govt.nz/mapviewer/In...ed%20campsites
The Dept. of Conservation also operates wilderness huts.

"Holiday parks" offer tent sites/non-powered campervan sites with shared cooking/washing facilities, powered campervan sites, backpacker lodge, cabin and self-contained motel-style accommodation. "Top 10 Holiday Parks" is a chain with locations throughout New Zealand. This should give you an idea:
https://www.top10.co.nz/accommodation-options/

Look at the "Seven Weeks in a Campervan" trip report by Crellston in the column to the left. They stayed in holiday parks throughout New Zealand, often in "Top 10 Holiday Parks." Albeit, they traveled around and slept in a comfortable campervan, rather than a tent.

Just "google" the place you'd like to stay (for instance, Franz Josef) and "holiday park" to see more of your options. Then do the same with "farm stays."

You might want to check hostels and backpacker lodges as well. See:
https://www.wotif.com/
http://www.backpackerboard.co.nz/index.php
https://www.bbh.co.nz/
https://www.yha.co.nz/
Many offer double rooms at reasonable prices.

You can buy camping supplies at the Warehouse after you arrive in Christchurch:
http://www.thewarehouse.co.nz/red/ca...tdoors/camping
Or at specialized outdoor stores, such as Kathmandu or Macpac.
http://www.kathmandu.co.nz/

You'll find Kathmandu in Australia as well.
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