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one week in South Island - stay in North of South, South of South, or both?

one week in South Island - stay in North of South, South of South, or both?

Old Dec 23rd, 2018, 10:07 PM
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one week in South Island - stay in North of South, South of South, or both?

Hi there,

I'd so appreciate some expert opinion, as I've been overthinking this like crazy.

A last minute work trip to Melbourne has given me the opportunity to spend a week in NZ in January.

I'll fly from Melb to NZ on 26 Jan and will need to fly out back to US on 2 Feb. I think I'll just do South Island.

I'm struggling withe whether to focus on the south part of the island, the north part, or both.

My primary interests are Milford Sound, Wannaka, and wine. .... Generally, I thought I'd be interested in Marlborough, but I'm seeing now it seems like a big stretch to fit it all in, and I'm leaning toward thinking that I fly in and out of Queenstown, but I suppose just looking for some reassurance that I'm not really messing up by missing Marlborough - for the wine and the scenery. (I love Sauvingnon Blanc)... I also like a cool city, so I did try to map it out as flying into Wellington, ferry to Picton, then fly to Queenstown ... but, to do so, I'd have to fly back through Wellington, which just seemed silly.

Your Thoughts...? Focus on the south part of the south island and just trade in my sauv blanc for a pinot noir day? Or, Marlborough is stunning and don't miss it... just make it work.

Sorry, last question... if I do focus on south part of south island ... worthwhile to do a day trip or overnight to Mount Cook, and if so, any insight as to best way to experience that area in short time? Seems overwhelming and beautiful.

Thoughts so greatly appreciated. I know I'll be scrambling for accommodations no matter what. I also understand this is perhaps not as mapped out as it should be ... but, I've been pouring over the forums and trip reports and just a bit stumped and want to make the most of the opportunity. Feedback is greatly, greatly appreciated.

Thank you!
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Old Dec 24th, 2018, 12:48 AM
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Sounds like you're not interested in seeing or staying in Queenstown, but are considering flying into and out of it.
Definitely fly into Queenstown. Non-stop flights from Melbourne will be around 3 hours, 20 minutes. Then rent car and drive to Wanaka (a little more than an hour)
or Te Anau (2 hours). Take care driving as there'll be some winding road.
If you go to Marlborough for Sauvignon Blanc, fly from Queenstown to Blenheim, then Blenheim to Auckland when done.

Some sample itineraries (none including Queenstown), which you can play around with:
Jan. 26 Arrive Q'town, drive to Wanaka (a little more than an hour)
Jan. 27 Wanaka
Jan. 28 Wanaka
Jan. 29 Drive to Te Anau (3 hours)
Jan. 30 Te Anau, day-trip to Milford Sound
Jan. 31 Drive to Queenstown Airport, fly to Blenhem
Feb. 1 Blenheim, base for touring Marllborough wineries
Feb. 2 Fly Blenheim to Auckland to U.S.

or

Jan. 26 Arrive Q'town, drive to Te Anau
Jan. 27 Te Anau, day-trip to Milford Sound
Jan. 28 Drive to Wanaka
Jan. 29 Wanaka
Jan. 30 Drive to Queenstown, fly to Blenheim
Jan. 31 Blenhem tor Marlborough wineries
Feb. 1 Explore Marlborough Sounds
Feb. 2 Fly Blenheim to Auckland to U.S.

or

Jan. 26 Arrive Q'town, drive to Te Anau
Jan. 27 Te Anau, day trip to Milford Sound
Jan. 28 Drive to Cromwell/Bannockburn (2 hours, 40 minutes) for Central Otago wineries
Jan. 29 Cromwell/Bannockburn for Central Otago wineries
Jan. 30 Drive to Aoraki Mt. Cook (2 hours, 20 minutes), Aoraki Mt. Cook walking tracks
Jan. 31 Drive to Wanaka
Feb. 1 Wanaka
Feb. 2 Drive to Queenstown Airport, fly to Auckland, then U.S.

Brochure for Aoraki Mt. Cook walking tracks:
https://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/pa...ki-mt-cook.pdf
The Hooker Valley track
https://www.christchurchnz.com/walk-...hooker-valley/

About Central Otago wineries:
Central Otago Archives - Cuisine Wine
Marlborough:
Marlborough Archives - Cuisine Wine

If you opt to go to Central Otago, make a booking for lunch at Mt. Difficulty Winery. Great views, great wine, including a Central Otago sauvignon blanc. But as you know, Pinot Noir is the star of Central Otago. The rieslings are also outstanding and they range in taste from bone-dry to sweet.

It will be hardest to find accommodation in Aoraki Mt. Cook.

Last edited by Diamantina; Dec 24th, 2018 at 12:51 AM.
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Old Dec 24th, 2018, 05:08 AM
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With only a week, and primary interests of Milford, Wanaka and wine, I'd fly into and out of QT and just concentrate on those general areas - you could easily fill a week - Cromwell and Bannockburn should be at the top of your list if you're a wine lover, and trust me, it's not all about the Pinot Noir - the region produces some fabulous dry Rieslings, of which Mt Difficulty's is my favorite and you'll also find Sauvignon Blanc. Just google Central Otago and Sauvignon Blanc - you might be surprised.

I absolutely would not try to fit in Marlborough this trip.

I like Diamantina's third option. It's a bit full on for me personally, but is probably the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck without exhausting yourself. I suspect you'll have trouble finding accommodation at this late date however. Which is why I suggest you consider exploring QT area wineries and Wanaka from a base in Cromwell or Bannockburn, and Milford from a base in Manapouri (this is what we do, and we don't even travel in high season!). I can suggest specific accommodation if you'd like.
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Old Dec 24th, 2018, 06:25 AM
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This is extremely helpful, thank you SO much. I think I'll go with your option 3 or around that. I overlooked Queenstown a bit, but, I probably will try to spend a day / night there... I'll probably just go ahead and finalize the flights and fill in. Thank you SO much for the time, I really appreciate it!!
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Old Dec 24th, 2018, 10:21 AM
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Marlborough isn't even "stunning" scenery-wise, don't worry about missing it.
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Old Dec 24th, 2018, 02:29 PM
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Anne Marie, you'll definitely get your "cool city" with Melbourne.

There are still lots of cheap direct flights on Air New Zealand from Melbourne on Jan. 26 to Queenstown and from Queenstown to Auckland on Feb. 2, so I'd book these now. Do you already have your international ticket from Auckland to the U.S.?

Next, I'd check on availability for accommodation in Aoraki Mt. Cook. If you can't find accommodation there, Twizel is the closest town, about 47 minutes away, or you can drive all the way to Wanaka. The days will be long at the end of January, with the sun rising around 6:30 a.m. and setting after 9 p.m. This'll mean a lot of driving in one day, but at least you'd be waking up in Wanaka. The next day, you'd have a full day in Wanaka, and if you want to squeeze Queenstown in, you could move to Queenstown for your last day. There are great wineries near Queenstown, in Gibbston Valley and, even closer, Amisfield Winery, which has one of NZ's best restaurants (fixed Trust the Chef menu, bookings necessary). Queenstown will be busy and crowded, but it has a beautiful setting and, and, as you'll be flying out of Queenstown, closer to its airport.

Don't fail to visit Rippon Winery in Wanaka. There are also some wineries around Tarras and Luggate (near Wanaka), such Maori Pt. Vineyards and Archangel Winery.

If you stay in Te Anau, consider doing a late afternoon/early evening glow worm tour. It's touristy but interesting to see the glow worms that inhabit this underground cave system, especially if you've never seen glow worms before.
https://www.realjourneys.co.nz/en/ex...lowworm-caves/
I like Te Anau's Redcliff Restaurant (nothing fancy, just good local food). If you stay in the village, you can just walk to it, have a couple of glasses of wine and not worry about having to drive back to your accommodation.

I think you're making the right choice sticking with the southern areas around Queenstown. And a more economical and convenient choice in terms of flights.

For future reference, I agree that Marlborough wine country is not as beautiful compared to other wine regions around the world, but it is sauvignon blanc nirvana (and NZ's largest wine region) and nearby Marlborough Sounds is beautiful. So if sauvignon blanc is your favorite, make time for it on a future trip. And, yes, Wellington is a cool city, too. You'd love WOW, an annual wearable art show held for a few days each spring.
https://www.worldofwearableart.com/

Last edited by Diamantina; Dec 24th, 2018 at 02:46 PM.
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Old Dec 26th, 2018, 07:46 PM
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thank you!

Originally Posted by Melnq8
With only a week, and primary interests of Milford, Wanaka and wine, I'd fly into and out of QT and just concentrate on those general areas - you could easily fill a week - Cromwell and Bannockburn should be at the top of your list if you're a wine lover, and trust me, it's not all about the Pinot Noir - the region produces some fabulous dry Rieslings, of which Mt Difficulty's is my favorite and you'll also find Sauvignon Blanc. Just google Central Otago and Sauvignon Blanc - you might be surprised.

I absolutely would not try to fit in Marlborough this trip.

I like Diamantina's third option. It's a bit full on for me personally, but is probably the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck without exhausting yourself. I suspect you'll have trouble finding accommodation at this late date however. Which is why I suggest you consider exploring QT area wineries and Wanaka from a base in Cromwell or Bannockburn, and Milford from a base in Manapouri (this is what we do, and we don't even travel in high season!). I can suggest specific accommodation if you'd like.

Melnq8 - thank you so much, I really appreciate the time. I think I will go pretty much with option 3. I will be driving myself as little as possible - a bit prob, but not too much, so I don't think I'll be able to stay in Manapouri... will prob do Te Anau (if I can) and take the tour from there, as I don't think I want to do the long day from Queenstown.

But, this reassurance is so helpful -- thank you very much. Any specific tips / accommodations / places to stay greatly appreciated!

I was hoping to find a biking wine tour. Seems most are self guided... which is fine, although probably prefer guided, but, I think I'll research that a bit more. Otherwise, specific favorite winery suggestions totally welcome!

Really appreciate your time!
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Old Dec 26th, 2018, 11:03 PM
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I just noticed you didn't mention anything about being interested in walks or hikes in your original posting. So if you are interested in visiting Aoraki Mt. Cook for the scenery, but not particularly interested in doing any walks there, you can just take a Great Sights day tour from Queenstown, if space is still available, and if you decide to spend two or three nights in Queenstown. This way, you don't have to worry about driving or finding accommodation there (which would be hard to find at this point). I think this tour allows time for walking around a bit
https://www.greatsights.co.nz/new-ze...om-queenstown/

If you don't want to drive to Te Anau, there are many companies that offer all day (13 hours in all) coach tours to MIlford Sound (including the cruise) from Queenstown.

Amisfield Winery and Bistro is a 15 to 20 minute drive from downtown Queenstown. If you don't want to drive and drink, you could catch a taxi to it. The local bus even stops there.
https://www.orc.govt.nz/public-trans...t-to-arrowtown

Beyond Amisfield, the closest wine region to Queenstown is Gibbston Valley. This is a small wine region. Have a look at this map.
http://www.cuisinewine.co.nz/wp-cont...tral-otago.pdf
It'll show you the wineries of Gibbston Valley, including Chard Farm, Gibbston Valley Wines (also has a restaurant and cheese shop and a shuttle that goes to and from Queenstown), Peregrine, Mt. Rosa, and Brennan's. Gibbston Valley Wines and Peregrine are on the main road (SH6 or Gibbston Hwy.). Chard Farm is at the end of an unpaved narrow road (Chard Road) off the main road. Brennan's and Mt. Rosa are on Gibbston Back Road, off the main road. Two Gibbston wineries I've not been to are Mt Edward and Coal Pit, both on Coal Pit Road. Coal Pit is not open to the public, but you can try their wines at Kinross Cottages on the main road. They all make wonderful wine. Lots of Pinot Noir, but your desire for Sauvignon Blanc will also be fulfillled.

Have you seen this cycling website:
https://queenstowntrail.co.nz/maps-a...-bridges-ride/

You might be interested in The Winery on Beach Road in downtown Queenstown:
https://www.thewinery.co.nz/
https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Attrac...th_Island.html

Last edited by Diamantina; Dec 26th, 2018 at 11:20 PM.
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Old Jan 15th, 2019, 08:40 PM
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Hi there,
Wondering if I could trouble you to take a look at where I've settled on my itinerary? I still have some flexibility, and suggestions are welcome!!
I aimed to minimize driving, and also packing up and moving a bunch. If I could avoid the drive to Mount Cook, I would, but the bus timetable looks fairly limited.

Mount Cook.. I'm not sure if I'm alotting enough time, but I don't think I want to do a big hike really ... just look around a bit perhaps some short walks.

I'm a bit nervous about driving ... would the roads necessary on this route be fairly managable.

This trip is soon .. January 26 - February 2. I've got tours in mind and accommodations set (but can move them around still), just not booked the car from Wanaka... which I'm hoping to return in Queenstown, or with a stop in Wanaka.

Feedback tremendously appreciated!

Saturday 26
Arrive Queenstown midday
Relax, explore
Overnight - Queenstown

Sunday 27
Milford Sound tour from Queenstown
Overnight - Queenstown

Monday 28
Morning Intercity Bus to Wanaka
Explore
Overnight - Wanaka

Tuesday 29
Roy's Peak
Overnight - Wanaka

Wednesday 30
Pick up Rental Car in Wanaka
Drive to Mount Cook
Explore
Drive to Tekapo
Stargazing Tour
Overnight - Tekapo

Thursday 31
Leisurely Drive to Queenstown
Overnight Queenstown

Friday 1
Wine Tour / Hang out in Queenstown
Overnight

Saturday 2
Fly out of Queenstown
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Old Jan 16th, 2019, 02:43 AM
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If you won't have a car Tuesday Jan 29 , Ritchie's runs a shuttle to Roy's Peak Track.
Wanaka ? Ritchies New Zealand's No.1 transport provider

From Wanaka to Aoraki Mt. Cook, you'll have to drive over Lindis Pass. It's winding and you'll have to be careful passing its lookout at the top as sometimes drivers who've stopped to look at the view will re-enter the roadway without looking the correct way. The last time I passed through Lindis Pass, there was a warning sign that read: "Slow Down. High Crash Rate". Lindis Pass is more hazardous in icy wintery conditions, but there have been some serious accidents here in summer as well.

You'll also have to be careful at the intersection of SH8 and SH80, where you'll turn off the main road for Aoraki Mt. Cook.

Seems like a lot of driving on Wednesday Jan 30, but it's doable as the days are long. If the night is clear, stargazing should be good on Jan 30 as the sky will be very dark, as you'll just have little bit of moon. The new moon will be on Feb 5. There's also stargazing at Aoraki Mt. Cook, but I guess you couldn't find accommodation there at this late date.
https://www.hermitage.co.nz/en/the-s...ky-stargazing-

I wasn't sure Wanaka Rent a Car would allow you to do a one-way rental, pick up in Wanaka, drop off in Queenstown. But their FAQ page indicates that this might be okay. https://www.wanakarentacar.co.nz/faq
Did you already buy your Intercity bus ticket? If it looks like the one-way rental from Wanaka will cost too much, you might want to look into renting a car in Queenstown on Monday Jan 28 and driving to Wanaka instead of taking the bus.

Last edited by Diamantina; Jan 16th, 2019 at 03:04 AM.
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Old Jan 16th, 2019, 07:36 AM
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Thank you Diamantina!

I am now thinking maybe pick up the car in Queenstown and return to there would be good.

I am a bit nervous about driving, but the bus times seemed a bit limited.

I appreciate your insight on where to look out / be safe - thank you. Maybe a dumb question -- is there appropriate space / barriers to the mountainside itself? That Lindis Pass lookout mostly wondering on that I suppose.

Hmm... I actually hadn't seen that Mount Cook Stargazing Tour. There is still a couple of rooms in MOunt Cook... perhaps I should do that instead and nix Tekapo all together?

Thanks for the Roys Peak tip!!
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Old Jan 16th, 2019, 03:17 PM
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I'd find out how much a one-way rental from Wanaka to Queenstown would cost and compare this to the cost of renting a car in Q'town and returning it there.
If you rent a car in Q'town, then you can drive yourself to the Roy's Peak parking, other walking tracks, little bays, and to Rippon Winery.

FYI: You have two options of how to get from Q'town to Wanaka. The fastest and most direct is over steep, winding and scenic Crown Range Road. This way would take a little more than an hour.
​​​​​​The other way would be through Gibbston Valley (wine region), then through scenic and winding Kawarau Gorge (goes along the Kawarau River), to Cromwell (a wine region, that's also just minutes from Bannockburn wineries). From Cromwell, you'd drive north along Lake Dunstan through more wine growing areas to Wanaka. This route in good conditions would take around an hour and a half, but there are currently roadworks along this route, so it could take much longer. About the delays: https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/queens...uthern-highway

As you drive along Lindis Pass there will be advanced warning of the scenic lookout. You'll pull off to park. Then you have to walk up to a platform, where you can take photos over Lindis Pass. I have to confess this is not among my favorite views, the landscape looks so arid, but many find it hauntingly beautiful. You'll be able to find lots of videos of this Lindis Pass drive on You Tube. Here's just one of them:
You can find videos of most of NZ's scenic drives on You Tube.

I've never done the stargazing tour at Aoraki Mt. Cook so I wouldn't be able to compare the experience to Tekapo's Earth & Sky. I think you should check reviews. Because staying in Aoraki Mt. Cook would certainly make things easier for you and give you more time there. I loved the Earth & Sky stargazing experience but took the cheaper and smaller-group Cowan Observatory tour. We have great night skies where I live, but it's a privilege to have access to a great telescope and someone knowledgeable, pointing out celestial highlights. The other thing you could do is download a stargazing app to your device, and go out and look at the stars on your own, thereby saving some money. Remember, you need clear conditions not just a super dark sky.

It sounds like you'll be a careful attentive driver. My guess is it's the careless, inatttentive/distracted, hurried, reckless, non-law-abiding drivers who risk getting into and causing accidents. As a solo driver you don't have the advantage of a co-pilot to remind you to keep to the left. It shouldn't be hard to remember when there are many other drivers around as you can just follow their lead.in keeping to the left. You'll have to remind yourself to keep left if you're ever alone on the road (when there are no other cars around). Remember the middle of the road is close to the driver's side. There are also arrows on the road that serve as a reminder in certain "hot spots", that is, where visiting drivers are more likely to forget, say, near scenic pullouts or in front of roadside businesses.
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Old Jan 20th, 2019, 01:12 AM
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Some opinions: a lot of NZ roads and highways are challenging but they are not in the Queenstown/Wanaka/Mt Cook/Christchurch Area, this is easier driving.

Mt Cook has poor visibility over half the time, and it’s really not worth visiting unless the weather is clear. So you need a few days there to wait out the clouds or be flexible to go only when you know the mountain is “out.” There are live web cams to verify visibility.

I’d reconsider the value of visiting Tekapo, looked super dull and only marginally pretty to me.

Roys Peak is a really exhausting shade less crowded hike but the views are nice. I could only finish shuffling my feet sideways as my toes couldn’t take any more compaction from downhill walking. I was kind of a wreck the next 2 days.

Queenstown is really busy (like traffic gridlock) and Kiwi-free due to housing costs so although pretty I would limit time here.
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Old Jan 26th, 2019, 09:27 PM
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I'm not sure how far along in the planning process you are, but we just came back from a trip to the south island. We were not impressed with Milford Sound and I would concentrate more on other parts of the island--I think the north of the south-- with Abel Tasman National Park is stunning. Hokitika Gorge is beautiful. So is punakaiki pancake rocks. Blue pool walk in Mt Aspiring NP is also nice.
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