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Planning a 12-day trip to NZ in November

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Jun 6th, 2017, 11:24 AM
  #1
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Planning a 12-day trip to NZ in November

Hi,

I am planning a 10-12 day trip to New Zealand in the month of November for me, my wife and our 22 month (by then) old daughter. We are from India and I have been eager to see NZ since - yes, you guessed it - LOTR. I am yet to arrive at a working itinerary but wanted to get some views and feedback on some of the points that will help me put together a plan.

1) The primary reason to visit NZ is to enjoy the natural beauty and vast landscapes. Hence, I am thinking of doing the entire trip on self-drive. Further, since the trip is of short duration and to not put too much stress on myself (and the baby) driving long stretches, I am thinking of restricting myself to South Island for the trip. Is that reasonable or are there absolute must-dos up North?

2) In all likelihood, we will fly into Christchurch from India and fly out of Queenstown. Many people suggest to choose either the glaciers or Mt.Cook when choosing the path of drive from Christchurch to Queenstown. I am more inclined to choose a glacier (Fox or Franz Josef) over Mt.Cook. Am I missing anything by not seeing Mt. Cook?

3) Between Milford Sound and Doubtless Sound - which one would be better. Milford seems closer to Queenstown and hence lesser driving time I suppose. But some members seem to highly recommend Doubtless Sound!

I am going through a process of exclusion to arrive at my itinerary and hence will keep coming back with questions. Your patience will be appreciated!
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Jun 6th, 2017, 04:12 PM
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If you have 12 days, I would fly in and out of Christchurch. This would allow you to do a loop and see both FJG/Fox Glacier and Mt Cook.

You can get to Milford Sound by self-driving. Doubtful (not less) Sound requires a tour that involves 3 boat rides and 2 bus rides. It's best done as an overnight and I question whether that would be enjoyable for a 22-month old.
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Jun 6th, 2017, 04:20 PM
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The more time you can spend in New Zealand, the better.

If you're interested in seeing any Lord of the Rings filming sites, get a copy of Ian Brodie's The Lord of the Rings Location Guide and figure out what is near what you want to see. The area around Queenstown and Glenorchy has quite a few sites.

Here's a link to my trip report from last May, which you may find helpful. http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...-june-2016.cfm

Lee Ann
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Jun 6th, 2017, 04:59 PM
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Hey Skasse, how's it going?

1) I spent around 3 years based mainly on the South Island of NZ, and I'd say if you only have a shortish amount of time, focusing it all on the SI would give you the best bang for your buck in terms of things to see. Especially as your focus is on seeing the natural beauty and vast landscapes.

2) The glaciers are both fairly impressive to see (and worrying too, when you see how far back the Franz Joseph one in particular has retreated in recent years) but the main reason a lot of people stop off there is to walk on the glaciers. Because of a few incidents in the past and the fact that the glaciers are, by nature, unstable, they are only accessible via helicopter. You'll then need to get geared up with crampons etc to be able to explore it, and I'm not sure you'd really be able to do that with your young daughter. Out of the two, I'd probably recommend Mt Cook. There's quite a lot to do/see there and there are lots of short walks that will get you amongst a variety of awesome scenery. If you wanted to see a glacier, you can do a short walk (15mins) from Mt Cook to see the Tasman Glacier. Much the same as you'd see in Franz Joseph or Fox. This one has also retreated significantly over the last century or so and the scale of it is pretty daunting to see.

3) For similar reasons to deSchenke, I'd say Milford is your best option. Doubtful is a little less touristy and absolutely stunning, but it's a pain to get to and if you're limited for time, Milford is the one to see.

Hope that helps and if you need any further help planning your trip, just shout.

Matt
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Jun 7th, 2017, 11:22 AM
  #5
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@deSchenke, I really didn't think I'd be able to do a loop from-and-to Christchurch driving myself all the way. That's why I assumed it's a one way path. But thanks for the idea and I will map the distances and driving times before I assess the feasibility of doing a to and fro. And doubtless I sounded stupid mixing Doubtful with Doubtless! I'll probably go for Milford Sound depending on the time available.

@Lee, what a wonderful trip report! Lot of pro tips in it for me to take note of. Still going through the report ...

@Matt, thanks for the detailed feedback. Yes, the initial attraction for the FJG/Fox glaciers is the possibility of going close to or walk on them. Since that seems to be out of the question and heli-hike may be too expensive for us, your suggestion of seeing the Tasman glacier near Mt. Cook makes sense. Will do some more research to finalize this.
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Jun 11th, 2017, 12:12 PM
  #6
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Hi,

Based on some of the trip reports and feedback, I have put together a basic itinerary for the trip. Please do give your comments on whether it's ok or it's too rushed.

Date Day Activity Night in
-------------------------------------------------------------
11 Nov Saturday Start from Mumbai -
12 Nov Sunday Reach Christchurch Christchurch
13 Nov Monday Day trip from Christchurch? Christchurch
14 Nov Tuesday Leave for Mt. Cook Mt. Cook
15 Nov Wednesday Leave for Queenstown Queenstown
16 Nov Thursday Any activity in Queenstown Queenstown
17 Nov Friday Leave for Te Anau Te Anau
18 Nov Saturday Milford Sound Te Anau
19 Nov Sunday Leave for Wanaka Wanaka
20 Nov Monday Leave for Fox Glacier Fox Glacier
21 Nov Tuesday Check out Fox Glacier and Lake Matheson Fox Glacier
22 Nov Wednesday Leave for Hokitika Hokitika
23 Nov Thursday Leave for Christchurch Christchurch
24 Nov Friday Leave Christchurch in the morning -

Originally I had planned to spend more time at each place with less driving overall. So, I thought of doing only one-way trip of either from Christchurch to Queenstown or vice-versa. But the flight times and cost are just not worth it.
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Jun 14th, 2017, 12:08 PM
  #7
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The itinerary looks all jumbled as I pasted it from Google Docs. Will try and put it in a better format. I also took help of the AA New Zealand's time and distance calculator to map the distance and driving times on the days I am moving from one stop to the next.

11th Nov - Leave Mumbai for Christchurch
12th Nov - Reach CHC - Local sightseeing/recover from jet lag
13th Nov -
14th Nov - To Mt Cook (333 Km, 4:15)- Night stop at Mt Cook
15th Nov - To Queesntown (263 km, 3:15)
16th Nov - Activities in Queesntown/drive to Glenorchy
17th Nov - To Te Anau (173 km, 2:10)
18th Nov - To Milford Sound and back (117.5 km, 1:40)x2
19th Nov - To Wanaka (225 km, 2:55)
20th Nov - To Fox Glacier (262 km, 3:15)
21st Nov - Checkout the glacier and Lake Matheson
22nd Nov - To Hokitika (157km, 2:10)
23rd Nov - To Christchurch (247km, 3:20)
24th Nov - Fly out to Mumbai

1) Between 17th to 20th, I am driving daily for close to 3 hours each day. I am wondering if there's a break somewhere there. For eg., can I stay in Wanaka one more night and leave for Fox Glacier one day later? In which case, I need to adjust one day before or later since my days of flying in and out are almost fixed.

2) Since the flight tickets and times for Mumbai-Christchurch-Mumbai are far more economical and shorter durations than Mumbai-Christchurch & Queenstown-Mumbai, I am being forced to do a loop. Instead is there a way to do the one-way drive from Christchurch to Queenstown touching all the major hotspots (i.e., Mt Cook AND Fox/FJG) and then catch a flight from Queenstown to Christchurch and then fly out of the country from there?

Look forward to your suggestions and feedback.
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Jun 14th, 2017, 12:31 PM
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Also, the drive from Christchurch to Mt Cook village seems to be the longest of them all. Is it better the choose Twizel for staying overnight instead of Mt Cook since that seems to be only about an hour away from Twizel?
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Jun 14th, 2017, 02:48 PM
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While it is possible to do a loop in 12 days, it's an awful lot of driving with one and two night stays which are challenging enough for adults, let alone adults travelling with small children. It's a lot of checking in and checking out of accommodation, which takes time and can eat into your holiday.

But if you're set on doing it, I advise the following:

Scratch that day trip from Christchurch and head to Mt Cook on Nov 13.

Add that extra night to Queenstown or Wanaka.

It is possible to drive from the glaciers straight back to Christchurch, via Arthur's Pass, but it will take you at least 5.5 hours. It would prevent another one night stay though, which would be my personal preference.

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Not really. The glaciers and Mt Cook are separated by a mountain range, so hitting both on a one way trip would involve some major driving and backtracking and it's just not an efficient way to do it, especially with so little time as it is.

I've heard of people making day trips from Queenstown or Wanaka to Mt Cook, but it's not something I would recommend, as it's a 3.5 hour drive each way. I guess you could drive there from QT, spend a night and then return to QT or Wanaka, but it's not an efficient use of your limited time IMO.

You might look into bus travel if this option appeals to you - it'd give you a break from driving, but would split up your car rental, which is usually more expensive.

Yes, it's possible to fly out of QT and back to Christchurch, but then you'd have to fly to Auckland for your flight back home (most international departures leave from Auckland).
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Jun 14th, 2017, 02:55 PM
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Staying in Twizel will only cut 45 minutes from your drive. You'd still have to drive to Mt Cook and back out the following day, which will make your drive day to Queenstown longer.
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Jun 15th, 2017, 11:14 AM
  #11
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Unfortunately I don't seem to have much of a choice. But thanks for all the feedback. I'll cut the day trip from Christchurch and probably add a rest day in between the 4 day driving stretch.

I will also try to make an itinerary with only one way drive, which means I have to sacrifice one of Mt Cook or the glaciers. Most probably with the west coast for the drive.

Thanks for all the inputs.
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Jun 15th, 2017, 11:47 AM
  #12
 
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Or you could add a few days? That would help a lot.
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Jun 23rd, 2017, 09:29 AM
  #13
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Hi,

I have another itinerary which has us flying back from QT to CHC at the end instead of driving a loop. Please give your views:

11th Nov - Leave Mumbai for Christchurch
12th Nov - Reach CHC - Local sightseeing/recover from jet lag
13th Nov - Reach Hokitika (247 km, 3:20)
14th Nov - Reach Fox glacier (157 Km, 2:10)- Night stop at FG
15th Nov - Check out FJG and Lake Ma theson
16th Nov - Reach Wanaka (262 Km)
17th Nov - Wanaka activities (?)
18th Nov - Reach Te Anau (225 km,2:55)
19th Nov - To Milford Sound and back (117.5 km, 1:40)x2
20th Nov - Reach QT (173 km,2:10)
21st Nov - Explore Glenorchy
22nd Nov - Explore Arrowtown/activities in QT
23rd Nov - Fly To Christchurch
24th Nov - Fly out to Mumbai

Specific questions:

1. The only reason I am stopping in Hokitika is to break the journey. Is there anything must-see in Hokitika? Or should i do the long drive to FG on that day and gain an extra night to be added to FG or any other location down the trip?

2. What are the must see/do items in Wanaka?
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Jun 23rd, 2017, 01:40 PM
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Hokitika makes sense for a stopover.

There's the beach, Hokitika gorge, Lake Kaniere, the Kiwi Center, green stone shops, etc.

Lots to do in Wanaka too - hike to the top of Mt Iron, Puzzling World, Wanaka Beerworks, Rippon Winery, drive into Mt Aspiring and hike to Rob Roy Glacier or one of the many other tracks in the area, Diamond Lake....
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Jun 23rd, 2017, 02:12 PM
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14th Nov - Reach Fox glacier (157 Km, 2:10)- Night stop at FG
15th Nov - Check out FJG and Lake Ma theson
16th Nov - Reach Wanaka (262 Km)

Fox is the town and glacier furthest south. It's a five-minute drive from Fox (town) to Lake Matheson.

Franz Josef town and glacier are the furthest north. It's only a 20-25 minute drive between the two towns, but the road is really winding and it's not one you want to do more than once. You can check out Lake Matheson on the morning you depart for Wanaka if you are spending both nights at Franz Josef Glacier.
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Jul 9th, 2017, 03:19 AM
  #16
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Hi, thanks for the feedback. Have chosen and booked accommodation for 2 nights at FJG instead of FG.

Coming to a different aspect of the trip - while almost all the hotels seem to offer free Wi-Fi, I want to know the best way to get mobile data while travelling. Which company offers the best connection through out the island and large data plans for a 2 week period?
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Jul 10th, 2017, 02:30 PM
  #17
 
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We used Vodafone; as far as I can remember, we never had a problem with connections (except at Milford Sound), and it was plenty of data as well. http://www.vodafone.co.nz/travel-sim/

If you need to make phone calls home, you might want to make sure you have Skype or Viber installed on both your phone and the phones of whoever you want to talk to at home.

Lee Ann
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