NZ South Island Loop - does direction matter?

Old Apr 9th, 2012, 02:06 PM
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NZ South Island Loop - does direction matter?

Hello - I'm planning a trip to the South Island of New Zealand for the Fall. I plan to start in Christchurch and end there about 2 weeks later. My question is: does it matter which way I do the loop? My plan was to go: Christchurch to Grey Mouth to Franz Josef/Fox to Wanaka to Queenstown to Te Anau/Milford Sound to Dunedin to Christchurch.

Or, would the reverse be a better plan (i.e., head to Dunedin after my first night in Christchurch)?

Thanks for your thoughts on this!
gerie is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2012, 07:18 PM
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We just returned from the "Land Down Under". Part of our trip included two weeks spent on the South Island. We enjoyed the places you mentioned, with the exception of Dunedin. Before deciding our itinerary, we did get a lot of ideas from Fodorites. Our trip report is posted below. New Zealand, South Island, is Pt. 2 of our report.
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Old Apr 11th, 2012, 01:39 PM
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gerie -

The direction only matters if you're trying to maximize potential warm weather, in which case I'd suggest heading south first.

FYI - The east coast of the SI from Christchurch to about Oamaru is the least scenic drive on the SI, so I suggest you give this section a miss if possible.
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Old Apr 17th, 2012, 09:56 AM
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We sort of did it in the opposite direction over a month in a campervan. Seemed to work ok for us although, annoyingly, I recall that the Lonely Planet guide did it in the opposite direction which made it a bit awkward looking up wher to go next - maybe they know something I don't! A link to our blog detailing our trip - NZ starts at entry #39
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Old Apr 18th, 2012, 03:29 PM
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I think tomarkot meant that he didn't visit Dunedin (not that he didn't enjoy it!)

The direction of the loop matters if you don't prebook everything. Usually it will be raining on one side of the alps yet dry on the other. If you can sync yourselves with the storm fronts, you may have clear weather the majority of the time. If not, you may spend two or three days seeing a lot of rain and not much else, especially on the west coast. you mean October/November? If so that is springtime in New Zealand. The weather is extremely changeable that time of year and I see no real reason to plan everything down to a tee.
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Old Jan 11th, 2013, 10:57 AM
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bumping this thread back up for a quick question: I am planning to do the south island, including Milford Track, tentatively in November, starting and ending from Christchurch.

We will likely take hop on/off bus travel instead of driving, and timelines will likely be tight 1-2 days in each place. I am trying to plan dates for Milford Track and wonder if there is any advantage weather wise/road closure wise to going clockwise (towards Queenstown/Milford first) or counterclockwise (towards Kaikoura). I would hate to be heading towards Milford Sound the "long" way (counterclockwise), be held up because of road construction or what not, and miss my pre-booked tramp! Or is that not really an issue anyway?
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Old Jan 11th, 2013, 12:12 PM
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You can't predict the weather in NZ in November. It can be really rainy and windy, and even snow is possible.

Generally the west side is wetter.
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Old Jan 11th, 2013, 06:20 PM
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Impossible to stay what the weather will do, but generally speaking, it'll be warmer north than south. As summer progresses, it will get warm south.

However, there will likely be fewer trampers on the Milford Track in November than in December, as it's not yet high summer season.

It'd take some really bad luck or poor planning to miss your Milford walk. I wouldn't worry about road construction - there's the odd chance that you'll run into some road maintenance work or something, but if you allow enough time, it shouldn't be a factor.

In other words, it probably doesn't matter. Do what works for you.
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Old Jan 11th, 2013, 09:16 PM
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if you had flexibility then id just watch the weather and head towards the better weather
naturally lol

milford might be the only if-y place..we missed out cos of a within 30km and that was that

also depends if you want to see wildlife
i only saw one albatross at the albatross centre on the otago peninsula( near dunedin) because it was nov when we went and theyre all on eggs..the one i saw was probably a young male sent out to get chocolate

so ..research when the best time is to see the things you need to see...also check out festivals etc
we were caught short of accommodation in omaru cos it was their annual victorian festival and whilst it was good that we saw it...we nearly didnt get a place in the caravan park...everything was booked solid and the next place wouldve been a pain to find in the approaching dark

otherwise we have no regrets not having anything but a rough idea of where to go...we had the campervan and we just asked info centres along the way for the best route to take and what was reasonable driving distance
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Old Jan 11th, 2013, 11:16 PM
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You'll need to book the Milford track huts well in advance. They sell out very quickly.
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