NZ South Island Advice - Glaciers or Abel Tasman?

Old Nov 30th, 2016, 06:58 PM
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NZ South Island Advice - Glaciers or Abel Tasman?

My husband and I are going to NZ for 11 days in March, and we're flying out of Auckland. We want to focus the majority of our trip on the SI but are having trouble prioritizing what to see, as it all looks so gorgeous and we want to do it all. We definitely want to do Milford Sound, Queenstown, and Wanaka/Pukaki/Tekapo, but we cannot decide between the Abel Tasman/Nelson area and the glacier area. I don't think we will have enough time for both. Which would be the better option? The goal is to see a variety of sights, yet not overextend ourselves. These are the two itineraries I've been toying with:

Option 1:

Day 1 (Thursday 9th): Land in the morning; explore Auckland
Day 2 (Friday 10th): Rent car and drive to a beach near Auckland
Day 3 (Saturday 11th): Drive to Hobbiton
Day 4 (Sunday 12th): Fly to Christchurch in the morning, explore the rest of the day
Day 5 (Monday 13th): Tranz Alpine Train to Greymouth, rent car and drive 2 hours to Franz Josef Glacier. Explore glaciers and Lake Matheson. Spend night in the area.
Day 6 (Tuesday 14th): Drive down to Wanaka and spend the rest of the day in the area. Spend the night there.
Day 7 (Wednesday 15th): Drive to Queenstown and explore the city the rest of the day.
Day 8 (Thursday 16th): Milford Sound tour
Day 9 (Friday 17th): Queenstown/Glenorchy
Day 10 (Saturday 18th): Bike ride or hike near Queenstown
Day 11 (Sunday 19th): Fly back to Auckland in the morning before flying back to SF in the evening

Option 2:

Day 1 (Thursday 9th): Land in the morning; explore Auckland and visit local beach
Day 2 (Friday 10th): Day trip to Hobbiton, spend night in Auckland
Day 3 (Saturday 11th): Fly to Queenstown in the morning, explore the rest of the day
Day 4 (Sunday 12th): Milford Sound day tour
Day 5 (Monday 13th): Bike ride or hike near Queenstown, visit Glenorchy
Day 6 (Tuesday 14th): Drive up to Wanaka and explore that area; spend night there
Day 7 (Wednesday 15th): Drive to Pukaki and Tekapo and then drive to Christchurch
Day 8 (Thursday 16th): Quick flight to Nelson and then drive to Abel Tasman Park
Day 9 (Friday 17th): Abel Tasman
Day 10 (Saturday 18th): Explore Nelson area - Charlotte Track
Day 11 (Sunday 19th): Fly back to Auckland from Nelson in the morning before flying back to SF in the evening

Are we trying to cover too much ground? I would greatly appreciate any advice people have. Thank you!!
Julia687 is offline  
Old Nov 30th, 2016, 11:11 PM
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You can't do it all in 11 days.
So add more time for the trip or cut back.
Your choices are good with Milford Sound/Queenstown and Wanaka/Tekapo but you have left out Mt Cook?
You are driving or flying every day with not much time to see any sights.
Spend more time actually there and less time getting there!
Option 1 is better organised but still pretty fast paced.
Option 1 Day 2 - skip the beach day and add it to the West Coast and glaciers. 1 night there is not enough.
Day 4 - are you flying from Rotorua? Going to Hobbiton eats into your time in the South Island.
Option 2 - all over the place. I love the Abel Tasman National Park but you are only there for one day so it's not worth it. If by Charlotte Track you mean Queen Charlotte track that is in the opposite direction in the Marlborough Sounds/Picton so more driving to get there.
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Old Dec 1st, 2016, 08:42 AM
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Thank you Tasmangirl for your great advice. I tend to get overzealous with trips like these because there is so much we want to see. I think we will cut out Abel Tasman as it seems to be too far away. As for your question about Hobbiton, we were just going to make it a day trip from Auckland - but maybe we will fly out of Rotorua instead. I didn't realize that would be an option.

Now we are trying to decide whether or not to focus on the glaciers route or the Mt. Cook/Lake Tekapo route instead. Given our time constraints I don't think we can do both. Which is the better option? If we were to do Mt. Cook/Lake Tekapo, I'm thinking our itinerary would be: Auckland/Hobbiton, fly down to Queenstown, do a few days there plus Milford sound, then make our way up through Wanaka, Mt Cook, Lake Tekapo, up to Christchurch, and then fly from Christchurch back to Auckland.
Julia687 is offline  
Old Dec 1st, 2016, 02:14 PM
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We are all the same when planning trips!
The Mt Cook/Tekapo itinerary works will in terms of 'travel flow' and no unecessary time just getting places.
Not that the West Coast is not scenically splendid and worth visiting it is a 'one road in and out' area so there are no short cuts to make a quick visit.
Plan on returning as they say.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2016, 12:01 PM
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Hi Julia -

As with most fist time visitors, you're trying to fit way too much into too little time.

I think both itineraries are entirely too ambitious, but if I had to choose one, I'd go with #1 because #2 makes no sense.

Abel Tasman just won't work - it's on the wrong end of the rest of your must see list. Queen Charlotte Track isn't near Nelson, it's near Picton.

For what it's worth - I always recommend a minimum of two nights at the glaciers, which only gives you one full day to explore. What do you hope to see/do there in just 1/2 a day?

Lake Matheson can be seen on your drive day from Franz to Wanaka via Fox, but you'll want to get an early start. There will be very little time left to see Wanaka, as you're looking at a 5-6 hour drive from the glaciers and that doesn't include the Lake Matheson walk. Days are long in March, but not that long!

My suggestion? Pick one island. Then pick a one way route and fly back to your departure point. For example, fly into Christchurch and out of Queenstown or vice versa. Don't even try to make a loop - you'll be spending most of your time in your car.

As for which is the better option - Mt Cook or the glaciers - it comes down to what you want to see. They're both good. Which has more appeal to you? NZ's highest mountain or glaciers and rainforest that meets the sea? I know which I'd choose. FWIW, the drive to Mt Cook is shorter than the drive to the glaciers.

Where are you traveling from? What you see on a regular basis might influence your decision.
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