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Our NZ Itinerary so far - welcoming suggestions fr the rest

Our NZ Itinerary so far - welcoming suggestions fr the rest

Oct 4th, 2009, 02:50 PM
  #1  
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Our NZ Itinerary so far - welcoming suggestions fr the rest

For our 6 week itinerary of NZ starting mid-Dec, I 've got it planned for the first 3 or so weeks, as we have a fixed date for the Milford Track that we needed to work around. Unfortunately, it's in the busiest season, but that's when our friends were available. Some days there's a fair amount of movement and other times for hanging out (especially around Christmas when I assume many thing will be closed).

Day 1 - Arrive Christchurch and wander about
Day 2 - To Kaikoura for o/n
Day 3 - Whalewatch and amble down to Ashburton for o/n
Day 4 - Up to Mt Cook and down near Twizel for o/n
Day 5 - over to the east coast and explore on way to Dunedin for o/n
Day 6 - explore around Dunedin and Otago Peninsula (albatross, etc) - o/n Dunedin
Day 7 - drive down the Catlins and o/n Curio Bay
Day 8 - explore more and end up in Bluff o/n
Day 9 - catch ferry to Stewart Island and o/n
Day 10 - hike around or go to other island(s) and o/n
Day 11- wend our way to Glenorchy for Xmas eve and o/n
Day 12 - Xmas lunch at lodge in Glenorchy and o/n
Days 13 - 15 Queenstown and environs and prep for hike
Days 16 - 20 Milford Track and to Wanaka o/n
Day 21 - amble over to Franz Joseph through Haast Pass
Day 22 - hope weather cooperates for heli-hike on glacier and o/n FJ
Day 23 - up coast to Greymouth to drop off friends at the train - Punakaiki o/n
Day 24 - maybe horseback ride there and off we go

But to where??? I didn't want to box myself in, so after this point I wanted to go up to Nelson, Abel Tasman and Marlborough area for wine tasting and general unwinding. Would love suggestions on how long to stay in this area before taking the ferry over to Wellington and spending some time on the NI. We love art gallery rambling and minor league outdoorsy stuff, so recommendations for things to do, see and where to stay around this area would be great. After I get that figured out, I'll tackle the NI, which I would like possibly to include Te Papa, some more wine tasting, Tongariro Crossing, Rotorua and whatever else I have time for. I considered going north of Auckland (our return flight is from there), but so many of our trips revolve around scuba diving, that going out on a boat around pretty islands is lower on my list than things I don't often get around to.

Any thoughts? Thanks.
susncrg is offline  
Oct 4th, 2009, 03:48 PM
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Just a few comments, which you're probably already aware of:

Bluff is tiny. I assume you're staying in Bluff to catch a morning ferry to Stewart Island; if that's the case, you could stay the night in Invercargill instead which is a short drive away and offers more to do.

You might consider adding a night to the Catlins - lots to do there and it's rather spread out.

From Punakaiki you might do something like this:

Drive Punakaiki to Takaka via Westport (350 km, five hours) - spend a few days exploring this side of Abel Tasman and Golden Bay, Pu Pu Springs, Wharariki Beach, walk a section of the Abel Tasman track from this side or explore the Heaphy Track, maybe drive to Collingwood and take the 4X4 tour out to the Farewell Spit.

Drive from Takaka to Marahau (or Motueka, or Kaiteriteri, or Upper Mouture - all make great bases for exploring Abel Tasman) - spend at least two full days in the area to explore Abel Tasman, the wineries, etc.

Drive from Marahau or wherever to Nelson - spend at least two full days here exploring the arts and crafts trail, the World of Wearable Art Complex, more wineries, the cafes and winery restaurants, etc.

OR, stay somewhere in between Nelson and Marahau/Motueka, such as Upper Moutere or waterfront Mapua, spend several nights there and explore both the Nelson area and the Abel Tasman area from one base. I'd allow at least four nights for this, more would be even better.

Drive from Nelson to Blenheim - spend a few days visiting some of the many wineries, etc

Backtrack from Blenheim to Picton/Marlborough Sounds - spend at least two full days in the area exploring the Sounds - perhaps stay at a resort in the Sounds (such as Bay of Many Coves or Craglee Lodge, both only accessible by boat or on foot) - walk a section or two of the Charlotte Track, or just relax at the resort

Take the ferry from Picton to Wellington

OR, if you're interested in seeing a part of the SI that few visitors have ever seen, you might consider driving from Punakaiki to Karamea - a tiny town - staying a night or two and walking a section of the Heaphy Track from this side - then backtracking to Westport and heading up to the Abel Tasman area.
Melnq8 is offline  
Oct 4th, 2009, 07:27 PM
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Wow. All great ideas Melnq8. I'll get out the map and figure out the lay of the land. It looks like your suggestions would be a week at the least, which is about what I was thinking. A lot of the hiking part will depend on whether my back makes it through Milford OK (here's to hoping).

As you surmised we are staying in Bluff to catch the morning ferry. I considered Invercargill, but decided that if we really want to, we can see it before heading down to Bluff by nightfall or on the way back up. I had also considered one night at Nugget Point and one at Curio Bay to spend more time in the Catlins, but I actually ran out of days since I had already made reservations on Stewart Island. How spread out is the Catlins area in terms of how we might want to divvy up the time? I gather yellow eyed penquins, petrified forest and other things are of interest. What in particular do you recommend?
susncrg is offline  
Oct 4th, 2009, 07:47 PM
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Is the Kaikoura whale watching trip for the benefit of your friends as well, or just for you? If your friends aren't fussed about the whale watching, there could be an alternative way for you to tackle that after you have dropped them off.

Do your friends particularly want to take the train from Greymouth to Christchurch? If not, there may be some merit in looking at reversing the direction of travel and heading off to Punakaiki with your friends at the start and then dropping them off in Christchurch after Mt Cook.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Oct 4th, 2009, 08:03 PM
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Thanks Kiwi Rob, but we did the direction of travel because the friends are meeting us in Queenstown for Milford and only have the next few days with us and wanted to go to the glaciers, therefore, we are doing the east side first and starting the west with them. They have to get back to Auckland. Any other thoughts about how to divvy up the rest of the trip?
susncrg is offline  
Oct 4th, 2009, 08:42 PM
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Ok,susncrg. You could consider:

Day 1 As is.

Day 2 Over to Akaroa for a day. A pretty French-influenced town on Banks Peninsula, about an hour's drive from Christchurch. Stop at Little River and have a poke around the gallery there.

Day 3 To Mt Cook and o/n there (or at Lake Tekapo or Pukaki). Do the Glacier Explorer trip at Mt Cook if you get the chance.

Day 4 To Dunedin

Day 5 Dunedin and Otago Peninsula

Days 6 & 7 As per your itinerary, but spend an extra night in The Catlins, as per Mel's suggestion

Days 7 to 24 As per your itinerary (subject to the loads of advice that you are bound to receive).

After Punakaiki, you could head up to the Nelson/Golden Bay area and spend whatever time you like up there but, instead of heading straight across to Blenheim, you could backtrack a wee bit down through Murchison and over Lewis Pass to Hanmer Springs for a night and then up to Kaikoura for the whalewatching bit. Kaikoura is then an easy two hour drive from Blenheim, right in the middle of the Marlborough wine region. The drive up the Kaikoura coast is stunning.

This does seem a roundabout route, but it seems that you have the time (and the inclination) to meander, and you would see some parts of the South Island that you otherwise be missing.

Rob.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Oct 4th, 2009, 10:50 PM
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Regarding the Catlins:

We spent a full day exploring the North Catlins and a full day exploring the south - we preferred the North Catlins - here's a bit of what we did:

North:

Cathedral Caves - only accessible two hours either side of low tide.

Lake Wilkie - a nice little walk, about 15 minutes

Old Coach Road*/Tahakopa Bay Loop Track, which is located on the north end of the Tahakopa River Bridge, not far from Papatowai. A nice hike of about 2-3 hours.

*Not to be confused with the Old Coach Road walk, which begins in Waikawa, South Catlins.

Surat Bay - nice walk down to the beach (about 45 minutes return). This is a beautiful area – rugged, wild and windswept. Great place for seeing Hooker sea lions.

Walk to Jack's Blowhole, a massive 55 meter deep hole 200 meters inland from the sea located in Tunnel Rocks Scenic Reserve. Accessible from Jack's Bay.

Things we didn't have time for but want to see/do next time:

McLean Falls, Matai Falls and the Catlins River Track. I would also have liked to walk from Cannibal Bay to Surat Bay.

South Catlins:

Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail - Waipapa Point, the site of New Zealand’s worst civilian shipping disaster, the wreck of the Tararua. The lighthouse here was undergoing restoration, when we visited, but is probably finished by now. Nice walks along the beach here - more Hooker sea lions.

Slope Point, which is seven kilometers further south than Bluff and the southernmost point of the South Island. The trail to Slope Point crosses a sheep pasture and leads to the top of a cliff overlooking the sea (35 minute return, 1.2 miles, about 2 km).

Waipohatu Recreation Area - nice walks through here, including the three hour waterfall route.

Curio Bay, site of “one of the world’s finest fossil forests”.

Porpoise Bay overlook – nice views of the bay

Niagara Falls, a Kiwi joke.

I found this site invaluable in planning our stay in the Catlins:

http://www.catlins.org.nz/index.htm
Melnq8 is offline  
Oct 5th, 2009, 07:57 AM
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I won't comment too much on the first half other than to ask, why Ashburton? The inland route from Chch to Tekap etc is much more scenic since you're closer to the S. Alps.

I do like the landscape on the northwest coast, toward Karamea and the south end of Heaphy Track (to Scott's Beach), there's also a little track to Oparara Arch
http://www.karameainfo.co.nz/oparara-basin/

After Karamea you backtrack and can head up to Abel Tasman/Golden Bay etc, on to Nelson for the art scene (there are a lot of galleries along this stretch on NZ so I would research the stops along the way). I'm not the expert on this stretch but it could easily eat up 5 nights.



If you're interested in a farmstay this is good one, in Karamea (I lucked out and found them from a card in an I site before they were in the bnb.co.nz guide) You will want to add days here, great family

http://www.westcoastbeachaccommodation.co.nz/
mlgb is offline  
Oct 5th, 2009, 10:55 AM
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mlgb - Farmstay looks nice. That's a real possible.

Why Ashburton? Good question. I'm doing most of the bookings myself, but the travel agent who booked the Milford Track for us (who was recommended by our friend's sister who lives in Auckland), recommended and booked this accommodation for us. It's called Akanui and it seems to be a place where people often stop for a look at their garden So I'm taking her word for it. Will I pass part of the inland route you're talking about as we drive from there up to Mt. Cook? Unfortunately, I'm finding that I want to see everything I hear about and that's clearly not going to happen.
susncrg is offline  
Oct 5th, 2009, 12:02 PM
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I agree with the comments made about Ashburton. If you were arriving there late at night as a stopover, with the intention of moving on early the next morning, I could understand that booking, but it is, essentially, a supply town serving the surrounding farming district and not, usually, a travellers' destination.

If you do go up to Karamea, be sure to do the side trip to Denniston if the weather is fine. It is about a half hour each way from the main road, and the views down the coast are superb. The Denniston Incline displays are very interesting too.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Oct 5th, 2009, 06:30 PM
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Rob- Is there a route you would suggest that would have us go from Kaikoura to Ashburton (should we keep this booking) and get there just for a late night stopover. Or, should we bag Kaikoura altogether and just head south from Christchurch spending an extra day elsewhere?
susncrg is offline  
Oct 5th, 2009, 07:57 PM
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I think that you should flag the Ashburton booking altogether, susncrg, but I would certainly not suggest that you bag Kaikoura. You will see a lot of beautiful coastal scenery on the west coast part of your trip, but I consider the drive up the Kaikoura coast to be one of the best that I have seen anywhere, including the Great Ocean Road and Big Sur. What's more, for a lot of it, the road runs right along the sea shore and the are ample places to stop and take in the views or have a walk.

If you do still intend to do the Kaikoura bit at the start of your trip (In this regard, see my 12.42 post on 5 October), Kaikoura to Christchurch is an easy 2.5 hour drive and, within another 2 hours you could be well down the inland route on the way to Mt Cook -- somewhere around Geraldine for an easy hop or as far down as Pukaki, etc, if you want to do a bit more on that day. I think this would be a far better use of your time.

Rob.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Oct 5th, 2009, 08:46 PM
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If you stay in Ashburton the next morning you can cut inland on Route 79 and head thru Geraldine.

When I did a whale watch in Kaikoura I didn't make it very far that day (I think only to Methven) but I like taking the backroads to Hwy 77. It may be too long a day for you, however.

As you are passing thru Amberley I would recommend a stop at the Norwester Cafe on the main road. Excellent. I think they have one some Cuisine awards.
mlgb is offline  
Oct 5th, 2009, 09:06 PM
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Ah. I had overlooked the fact that you would be travelling south on the same day that you are doing the whalewatching, so you may not want to be travelling so far on that day. I would still suggest that you by-pass Ashburton and, instead, veer inland at Rakaia along the road known as Thompsons Track (a very straight, sealed, country road) to Mt Somers and overnight there at Stronechrubie (www.stronechrubie.co.nz). That is not much further than Ashburton and you would avoid the boring stretch of the Main South Road between Rakaia and Rangitata.

We occasionally pop down to Stronechrubie for a weekend, and we enjoy the country setting and the cosy restaurant.

And yes, Mel, the Norwester has won some awards for best cafe in recent times.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Oct 5th, 2009, 10:25 PM
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Thanks all, you have given me food for thought and I'll drag out the map tomorrow and see what can be done about some changes.

One clarification Rob - Do you prefer the drive to Kaikoura from Christchurch as being more scenic than the alternate suggestion you gave of approaching Kaikoura at the end of the trip via Blenheim?
susncrg is offline  
Oct 5th, 2009, 11:27 PM
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The alternative that I was suggesting, susncrg, would have you coming down from Nelson or Motueka (where-ever you last stay up there) via Murchison to Hanmer Springs for a night, then from Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura and Kaikoura up to Blenheim. This is on the assumption that you do the Kaikoura bit at the end rather than at the beginning of your trip. That way, you will get to see the whole of the Kaikoura Coast.

The first two hours of the drive from Christchurch to Kaikoura is through farmland with a few hilly bits before you hit the coast about half an hour south of Kaikoura.

Have fun as you pore over the map. I really enjoy the planning stages of any trip when there are so many possibilities open.

Rob.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Oct 8th, 2009, 01:54 PM
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Hi, sushcrg, I would certainly recommend the trip around Motueka, Wharariki Beach (look out for the great seals especially in the cave)and Puponga before heading down the West Coast that Melnq8 suggested. It is a beautiful natural part of NZ that I have been around several times and never tire of its sheer beauty. We spent several hours exploring Wharariki. The Denniston area is another visit-if-possible place.
Dot
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Oct 8th, 2009, 05:22 PM
  #18  
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I got out the map this morning and it does look like there's a lot to do around that northwest area. Hadn't heard of Denniston but will look it up. Thanks.
susncrg is offline  
Oct 9th, 2009, 05:38 PM
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LOVED Abel Tasman -- and highly recommend the Ocean View Chalets -- especially if you can get one with an unobstructed view.
Songdoc is offline  
Oct 9th, 2009, 09:48 PM
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I suggest you go up to auckland. it is a magnificant place. also, Pihea is a great place. A list of great places is available at www.aboutnz.info
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