NZ South Island 14 day advice

Jan 13th, 2016, 07:51 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 4
NZ South Island 14 day advice

Hi Everyone,

I have read so many posts and replies on this forum and was hoping for some expertise on what will be a special trip for us as its the first time as a couple we have been away on a trip without our kids. We would greatly appreciate any advice!

We have done our research into our April NZ trip and have read other itineraries and trip reports and have come up with a rough itinerary for the 14 days. We are hoping for some advice in terms of places to see on the itinerary and any other places that we may have overlooked but are easily achievable in the time frame. We have looked at the road distances and think they are all achievable without driving tired - but we realise the road conditions can change what looks like a short distance on a map.

In terms of us and our interests - we are a couple in our 40s and have a moderate budget. Firstly and foremost - we love the outdoors, bush walks, hiking, scenery etc. Its what we do most here in Australia. In towns/cities we like good food and art/culture while we are there. We don't mind a bit of adventure and hope to get some kayaking/cave tours/boat trips in but we also want to relax and enjoy ourselves as well on a few occasions.

Our flights are booked - into Christchurch and out of Queenstown so they are the only restrictions. Happy to completely rearrange if it works out better going in another direction.

Any advice?

April/Day 1 - Christchurch - collect hire car - explore local area - stay in Christchurch

April/Day 2 - Explore Akaroa – stay in Christchurch again

April/Day 3 - drive to Kaikoura (could add a night after here to stay in Nelson to visit Abel Tasman National park - take off the 4 nights in Queenstown...researching this at the moment)

April/Day 4 – Kaikoura to Hokitika via Arthurs Pass

April/Day 5 – stay Hokitika

April/Day 6 – Drive to Franz Joseph

April/Day 7 – Stay Franz Joseph – visit FJ.Glacier

April/Day 8 – Drive to Wanaka

April/Day 9 – Stay Wanaka – Visit Mt Aspiring NP

April/Day 10 – Drive to Te Anau

April/Day 11 – Te Anau Overnight Cruise/day cruise undecided – Doubtful Sound or Milford sound?

April/Day 12 – Queenstown (could use 2 of 4 nights in Queenstown to stay longer elsewhere...just put 4 here as a guide)

April/Day 13 – Queenstown

April/Day 14 – Queenstown

April/Day 15 Queenstown – Fly out midday
wesley100 is offline  
Jan 15th, 2016, 01:47 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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Consider staying in Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks) instead of Hokitika. Even if you stick to your plan of overnighting in Hokitika, you wouldn't want to miss Punakaiki as it's one of NZ's most striking geological wonders. Besides the pancake rocks and blowholes there are many other nice walks around here.
Walks brochure:

In Hokitika, you'll want to visit Hokitika Gorge. You can drive a loop that also takes in Lake Kaniere. The Hokitika I-Site (tourism info office) can provide you with details, directions, a basic local area map. After dark, you might want to pop into Hokitika's glow worm dell. It's just a couple of minutes walk from the main road, not hard to reach.
Hokitika Gorge link:
About the glow worm dell:

In Kaikoura, don't fail to drive up to Ohau Point and Stream to see NZ Fur Seals (a species that can also be found on the south coast of Australia). In April, you might see seal pups swimming in the waterfall pool at the top of the stream. See:
Don't miss walking on the Kaikoura Peninsula walkway. Many fur seals around here as well. Please stay 10 metres back from fur seals.

If you visit Doubtful Sound, I'd recommend an overnight trip, otherwise, it'll make for one long busy day. Because to get to Doubtful Sound, you'll have to drive to Manapouri (under 30 minutes), then you'll board your cruise across Lake Manapouri (gorgeous), then you'll have to take a bus across Wilmot Pass, before you board your Doubtful Sound cruise. Imagine having to turn around and do this all over again in one day. On the other hand, if you do the overnight trip you can kayak on the sound, enjoy an onboard three-course dinner, go on the top deck after dark to view the stars (providing the night is clear), spend more time on DS. It'll be much more relaxed. It's such a peaceful, quiet place.

I've also done the Milford Sound overnight cruise. You might consider doing an overnight Doubtful Sound trip and a day cruise of Milford Sound. But I understand how this would stretch the budget. Note that prices for these overnight trips drop in April.

The drive on Milford Road to Milford Sound is wonderful, weather permitting. Many nice places to stop, such as Mirror Lakes and the Chasm. As you enjoy hiking you would certainly enjoy the walk to Key Summit.
Info about Key Summit:
About Milford Road:

April is my favorite time of year because of the autumn leaves. While in Queenstown, visit nearby Arrowtown to view its fall colors (its autumn festival will be from April 21st though 25th). Honestly, ALL of Central Otago is stunning at this time. There are too many things to see and do in Queenstown. My must-dos are: road to Glenorchy, Skyline Gondola, Queenstown Botanic Garden, Skippers Canyon tour, Central Otago wine country (Gibbston Valley, Cromwell, Bannockburn).

Gibbston Valley, which is also home to the famed Kawarau Bungy, is only 15 minutes drive from Queenstown (Amisfield Winery and Bistro is even closer). Cromwell is 45 minutes away, but to get there you must drive through curvy (though beautiful) Kawarau Gorge. Bannockburn is less than 10 minutes drive from Cromwell.

Here's a link to a brochure for walks near Queenstown:

In Wanaka, don't miss driving up to Rippon Winery to see its great view. If you're headed to Matukituki Valley or the closer Diamond Lake Track, you'll go right by it.

Weather forecasters are predicting warmer El Niño conditions through April. This being said, NZ's weather is highly unpredictable and changeable. Before setting off on a long walk into the mountainous terrain, please check with the nearest DOC (Dept. of Conservation) office first. They can advise you of any hazards. Here's a list of them:

Note NZ school holidays will be from Saturday 16 April through Sunday 1 May.
Diamantina is offline  
Jan 15th, 2016, 05:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Wesley -

Diamantina has given you excellent advice.

One night in Abel Tasman won't help you much, as you'd want at least a full day to explore the park, so a two night minimum. Visiting Abel Tasman from Nelson adds about 45-60 minutes of driving each way, so if you do want to incorporate Abel Tasman, I highly recommend you stay closer to it - Marahau, Kaiteriteri, Little Kaiteriteri, or somewhere in the vicinity of Motueka.

By driving to Hoki via Arthur's Pass from Kaikoura you will be backtracking - you might consider driving via Murchison instead - and if you do you will pass right through Punikaiki, which as Diamantina suggested, would make an ideal overnight stop. Kaikoura to Punakaiki is a six hour drive w/o stops, a long day for sure, but you'd see more of the NZ countryside and coastline this way. Your drive to Franz Josef the following day will take under three hours.

I'm not a fan of one night stays as I feel they don't give me sufficient time to see a place, but you might consider spending the night of your Akaroa visit in Akaroa and then heading out to Kaikoura the next day from there. It's about a 3:45 drive to Kaikoura from Akaroa w/o stops.

A full day in Hoki will allow you see Hoki Gorge and take the walks mentioned by Diamantina, but as someone who's done this, I feel this day could be better spent elsewhere, such as adding a day to Wanaka or even Punakaiki, which will give you a full day to explore the many bushwalks in the area, as you won't have much time for walking after your six hour drive.

You're on the right track though, your itinerary is quite doable, something we don't usually see here on the forum.
Melnq8 is online now  
Jan 15th, 2016, 07:55 AM
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 227
Just an FYI: access to the waterfall at Ohau is currently closed.

Seems the Mums have made it their breeding ground this season and the bulls are very protective of their harems. All this could change by April, but thought I'd give you the heads-up.
deSchenke is offline  
Jan 15th, 2016, 04:44 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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April is three months away and the fur seal pups will be older. Normally, pups are not found in the waterfall pool as early as January, hence this temporary closure, which is understandable. Pups are generally born between the beginning of December and the 3rd week in January, then they're suckled and closely guarded by their mothers for up to the first month. Yes, bulls are more territorial during mating and pupping season (late November to mid-January), and have been observed as reacting faster and more aggressively to human disturbance during this critical time.

Here's a link to an article from the Marlborough Express from April 2013:

Personally, I think the pups need all the help they can get. Last year, there was a high rate of mortality among pups along the East Coast of the South Island.

There are so many fur seals at Ohau Pt. itself, that your visit would still be rewarding. Plus, the coast line here is beautiful. As you expressed an interest in food, you might look for the popular crayfish stand, Nin's Bin:

In my earlier post, I neglected to give you this link to sunrise/sunset times for New Zealand to give you an idea of how to budget your daylight hours:
Remember, daylight saving ends on the first Sunday of April, so the days will get darker earlier. Coming from Australia, this shouldn't be too much of an adjustment.
Diamantina is offline  
Jan 16th, 2016, 01:44 AM
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Thanks Diamantina, deSchenke and Melnq8. We have taken it all on board!

Thanks Diamantina especially for the links - some great info in there!

The advice you have given us is invaluable. We have looked at the route and locations and decided we do want to spend more time at Abel Tasman NP/around that area....however, time is going to make the decision for us!

We can find two days - stay only one night at Punakaiki (replace the two nights in Hokitiki) and take one day off Queenstown (3 nights instead of 4) and have two days to explore the Abel Tasman NP area. Thoughts? There is really no other choice as we need the two nights there to do a full day walk/possibly kayak, I agree.

The other changes we made was night 2 in Akaroa instead of driving back to Christchurch and going via the Murchison instead of Arthurs Pass (with a new destination to Abel Tasman it makes sense too).

again - many thanks!!
wesley100 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2016, 05:45 AM
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Sounds good to me Wesley, let us know if you need accommodation suggestions.

Do you plan to take a whale watching trip while in Kaikoura? If so, you'll want to check sailing times to see if they fit into your itinerary after your drive from Akaroa.

You might still have time to visit Hoki Gorge on the day you drive from Punakaiki to Franz Josef as it's a short drive day.
Melnq8 is online now  
Jan 21st, 2016, 01:07 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,811
Good suggestion from Melnq8 about overnighting in Akaroa. It's quaint, charming, scenic and its harbor is home to Hector's Dolphins, NZ's endemic dolphin and one of the world's smallest cetaceans. Black Cat Cruises operates Akaroa Harbor Nature Cruises and the Swimming with Dolphins trip (Sept. through May for the dolphin trip). Seabirds, such as penguins, are also seen on their trips.

In addition to whale watch trips in Kaikoura, you can swim with Dusky Dolphins, or Fur Seals, or take a Pelagic Bird Cruise. If you're prone to seasickness, and decide to go out on a Kaikoura boat trip, I highly recommend you take seasickness medication.

Because you're interested in art, you'll be interested in knowing the Christchurch Art Gallery has reopened (I'm looking forward to seeing it, too).
Christchurch also has some great street art (installations and murals), Shigeru Ban's Cardboard Cathedral, the Re-Start (Shipping Container) Mall; the Christchurch Museum, which is adjacent to the lovely Botanic Garden.

More wineries in Waipara between Christchurch and Kaikoura, in Marlborough of course, and around Nelson.
Diamantina is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2016, 04:24 AM
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Posts: 4
Thanks Melnq8 and Diamantina for your replies - again, very valuable info. I do get seasick and so we might give the whale watching a miss, but thanks for the suggestion!

we would love to hear any suggestions on Accommodation in the following towns:

Christchurch, Akaroa, Punakaiki, Franz Joseph, Wanaka, Te Anau and Queenstown.

Also, for a day walk on the Abel Tasman - staying overnight (2 nights) - which town do you think is best? we considered all the suggested towns and can't really split them.

thanks again!
wesley100 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2016, 04:44 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,094
I'll get back to you on accommodation (need to find my notes), but as far as Abel Tasman, I always suggest staying in Marahau (right at the door step of Abel Tasman) or in nearby Kaiteriteri (Beach) or in the town of Motueka. Mouteka has the most services of these places, but is just a town, so not terribly exciting. There is an vast assortment of accommodation in the areas surrounding Motueka though including private rentals, converted school houses, etc, which make great options for longer stays. Staying in Nelson is always an option, but as it's about a 45-60 minute drive from Nelson to the start of Abel Tasman, it's more time consuming.
Melnq8 is online now  
Jan 22nd, 2016, 05:00 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,094
Ok, a few accommodation suggestions. We've stayed all of these, my particular reviews can be found on TA here:

Christchurch - Merivale Manor, Roma on Riccarton (there have been others, but these are the most recent) also Delago Motel Apartments

Akaroa - Criterion Motel

Franz Josef - 58 on Cron, Glenfern Villas

Wanaka - Clearbook Motel, Alpine View Lodge

Te Anau - Assure Amber Court, Birchwood Cottages, The Croft

Queenstown - Villa del Lago

Some good sites for locating private rentals:
Melnq8 is online now  

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