Please critique our South Island, NZ itinerary

Jun 13th, 2015, 04:47 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 4
Please critique our South Island, NZ itinerary

We are a 65 year old American couple from Long Island, NY who have travelled extensively and are excited to visit NZ in February 2016 and ask for any suggestions for our South Island itinerary. We are fairly active, and would like to focus on sightseeing with an itinerary that allows for ample time to enjoy the scenery, people, and culture. Rather than extensive hiking or kayaking we’d prefer ½ hour hikes, boat and aerial sightseeing. This schedule is flexible since we’ve left several days at the end to drive back to Auckland or continue on the South Island. (Hopefully, we’ll be back to NZ for anything we miss!). We’ve reviewed the guidebooks extensively and know we cannot see everything. This is what we have planned so far with five days built in at the end:

Day 1: Arr. Queenstown. Rent car. Stay at Queenstown area “resort” 4 nights
Day 2: Visit Queenstown/ Wanaka
Day 3/4: Flight to and short cruise on Milford Sound. Or Flightseeing to Doubtful Sound/ Aspiring Mt.or Mt. Cook?

• Is it worth it to take an aerial tour of the region, then drive to Milford Sound (stay one night) and take a short cruise on the Sound?
• Is it worth a separate trip to Te Anu?

Day 5: Drive to Mt. Cook/ Lake Tekapo. Stay over.
Day 6: Drive to Franz Joseph Glacier. Stay two nights.
Day 7: Heli Glacier tour (Fox or Franz Joseph?)
Day 8: Drive to Hokitika. Stay over two nights.
Day 9: Explore Hokitka area. (Drive to Arthur’s Pass?)
Day10: Drive to Abel Tasman Park. Stay two nights
Day 11: Abel Tasman Park (Sailing tour).
Day 12: Drive to Picton. (Continue on South Island or take Ferry to North Island?)
Day 13-18: to be determined…

• Do we need more time to drive this itinerary?
• Is it worth travelling to Kaikoura for whale watching?

Thank you very much for your help and suggestions!
menicks is offline  
Jun 13th, 2015, 06:09 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,481

It makes more sense to drive in to Milford (bus), take a cruise and then fly out. There's not much to Milford other than the boat terminal, so not a lot to see/do on an overnight, unless you're considering an overnight cruise. The highlight is the scenery on the way in and out. A bus/flight combo would be an ideal way to see the area in a day. Pick your day well.

In your case, probably not. Were it not the gateway to Milford Sound, most people wouldn't visit Te Anau. I like it quite a lot, but I'm a big walker - it has some beautiful walking tracks. If you go to Milford, you'll stop in Te Anau on the way.

Last I heard, only Fox (I think!) was offering heli-hikes.

You've got quite a lot crammed into 12 days - personally, I'd add a night to Mt Cook (for total of two) which would give you a full day to explore the area. I'd reconsider staying in Hoki unless there's a specific reason you'd like to do so. I might stay a night in Punakaiki instead as a way of breaking up the drive from the glaciers to Abel Tasman. Granted, there's not a lot on offer in Punakaiki, but there are the Pancake Rocks, some lovely coastal scenery and some beautiful walks. I'd add two more nights to Abel Tasman area - loads to do up there. I'd spend 2-3 nights in Picton and spend some quality time exploring the Marlborough Sounds, either by boat or boat/walking or even driving Queen Charlotte Drive. Queen Charlotte Track is stunning on a pretty day.

Kaikoura makes sense if you're driving back to Christchurch, but would be a major detour if you plan to take the ferry to the NI from Picton. I've never taken the whale watching tour - not a rough water person - Kaikoura isn't on my personal list of SI favorites, but many people make a point of going there. It's a great place to see seals and coastal scenery, and there are some very nice tracks there, but only you can decide if its 'worth it'. Pick your accommodation well - the beach and coastline isn't accessible from accommodation on Beach Road!
Melnq8 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2015, 06:33 AM
Join Date: Jul 2014
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Both Fox and Franz offer Helihikes.

You better refer to a roadmap of your routing. There is no direct road from Mount Cook to the West Coast. The best you can do is drive via Wanaka, which is a two-day trip.
deSchenke is offline  
Jun 13th, 2015, 07:49 AM
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My mistake. Hiking up the glacier is the problem, not the helihikes. Air landings are currently the only way to set foot on the glaciers.

Details here:

You can certainly walk to the terminal face of each glacier, but the best views are from on top.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jun 18th, 2015, 01:55 PM
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Posts: 4

We can’t thank you enough for taking the time to help us with our itinerary. We sent for a more detailed map and made adjustments on our “Draft 1” Itinerary with your very helpful comments. We also booked tentative hotels according to the “Draft 2” Itinerary since it was already too late to get accommodations in some areas-- (e.g.couldn’t get a hotel in Punakaiki)…

As you suggested (thank you!!), we did add a night in Mt. Cook . We are especially grateful to learn your suggestion to take the bus up to Milford and fly back out. We never would have known that.

Figured we’d skip Franz Joseph & Fox Glaciers since it took us well out of our way. Appreciated the suggestion to explore Marlborough Sound but since we live on the water and boat quite a bit, thought we’d best spend some time on the North Island to appreciate the Maori culture and get a better sense of the entire country.

If you have the time, any comments on our Draft #2 Itinerary would be appreciated. We know it is still a bit of a rush, but not sure if it’s doable or should we drop something?

Thanks again for your help. It is much appreciated!

Mary and Jerry

New Zealand Itinerary (Draft 2)

Day 1: Flight to Queenstown. Rent car.

Day 2-4: Queenstown/Wanaka/Milford Sound

Day 5: Drive to Mt. Cook.

Day 6/7: Explore Mt. Cook Area. Flightseeing tour of Mt. Cook & Tasman Glacier

Day 8: Stay at Lake Tekapo. (one night)

Day 9: Drive to Arthurs Pass. (one night.)

Day 10: Drive to West Coast. Stay at Karamea (one night)

Day 11: Drive to Motueka (Abel Tasman Park). (two nights)

Day 12: Explore Abel Tasman Park (Sailing tour).

Day 13: Drive to Picton. Stay Picton. (1 night.)

Day 14: Ferry to Wellington. Wellington area. (one night)

Day 15-17 Explore North Island. Stay Taupo/Rotorua area (two nights)

Day 17-19: Drive to Auckland; Stay two nights. Fly home.
menicks is offline  
Jun 18th, 2015, 02:04 PM
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Posts: 4

Thanks so much for your advice on Franz Joseph Glacier--it was very helpful. So were the websites. We're very appreciative!
menicks is offline  
Jun 19th, 2015, 06:17 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I see some issues with Draft #2. First off, there are a lot of one night stays, which I personally try to avoid as it leaves very little time to explore the area you've driven to.

Day 8: Stay at Lake Tekapo. (one night)

Day 9: Drive to Arthurs Pass. (one night.)

Day 10: Drive to West Coast. Stay at Karamea (one night)

Takepo is only ~55 km from Mt Cook - unless you're interested in MT Cook Observatory, there's really no need to spend a night here - I'd stop here for a few hours on he way to Arthurs Pass, then keep on going. Keep in mind the east coast of the SI (the route you'd be taking to get to Arthurs Pass, is the SI's least scenic. The scenery gets dramatically better as you turn west though.

Karamea is well off the beaten path - while there's nothing wrong with that, it's a long way to go for an overnight (about four hours from Arthurs Pass and over four hours from Motueka) just to turn around and drive back out to head to Motueka (the road ends at Karamea). I've spent time in Karamea - it's popular with trampers and there are some interesting limestone caves, but you'll have little or no time to see them with only one night there. Lots of sandflies too. Westport or Murchison would make more sense, unless you're just keen to see Karamea.

I still think you should add 1-2 nights to the Abel Tasman area and a night to Picton and give up a few of those one night stays.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2015, 10:46 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2015
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Thank you! We took your advice and lengthened our Mt. Cook, Abel Tasman and Picton stays. Changed Karamea to Westport. It all works great now. We really appreciate all your help!!
menicks is offline  
Jun 21st, 2015, 05:25 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,481
Happy to help menicks - I hope you have a wonderful time.
Melnq8 is offline  
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