Please help with weeks South Island New Zealand

Dec 30th, 2017, 11:23 AM
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Please help with weeks South Island New Zealand

We changed our itinerary and decided we will concentrate on the South Island.
At the moment we are thinking of 3 weeks (not including fly days)

Another thread has been helping me with wineries to visit, now concentrating on areas on the South Island.

We love driving scenic roads, mountain passes, seeing quaint towns, wineries, historical sites.

We're not really "beachy" people unless there are awesome cliffs, rocks, or mountains behind.
Or incredible tidepools with animals and shells.
We can appreciate beautiful bays and crashing ocean, would prefer it's not flat.

I can't do slippery steep hikes, so looking for easier/moderate hikes or walks, probably no more than 4 hours out and back.
Love Switzerland and Austria where the cable cars take you up, you hike pretty much horizontally at the top, walk or cable car down.

I have some of these roughed out as I'm not sure how many days we would need in these areas

Day 1 ~ Arrival day in Auckland, then fly to Blenheim. Pick up rental car and stay Blenheim for 1 night so we can crash without driving far

Day 2 ~ sleep late, vist a winery or two (or three) then drive to Picton, stay 1 night

Day 3 ~ Leave Picton, drive the Queen Charlotte Road/Track (are these different?) to Nelson, stay 2-3 nights. A winery/vineyard or two and ???

So this is where I need help on this first part

Should we take a boat from Nelson to Abel Tasman for the day and hike/walk a little?
Or should we drive to Abel Tasman stay 2 nights to explore and walk

I'm having trouble getting ideas/an understanding of Abel Tasman, so would love your ideas on this part before I continue with thoughts for the rest of the trip

We will have a car so driving to the north part of Abel Tasman is fine
wrenwood is offline  
Dec 30th, 2017, 02:01 PM
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Good choice - spending all your time on the SI. You'll be glad you did.

What time of year?

Yes. The Queen Charlotte Track is a 71 km, multi-day walking track.

Queen Charlotte Drive is a winding road that links Havelock to Picton. It offers some lovely views of the sounds, but it pales in comparison to walking a section of the track IMO.

Your options for walks are endless - I strongly suggest you add a night to Picton, take a water taxi to Ship Cove, walk the Queen Charlotte Track to Furneaux Lodge, then catch the water taxi back to Picton. An ideal way to spend a day in the sounds.

If you're not up for the walk, another option is to take the mail boat.

Plenty to do in/around Nelson - there's a beer trail, loads of wineries, some good walks, etc. Nelson is a vibrant arts and crafts area too.

I prefer staying closer to Abel Tasman than Nelson - Kaiteriteri, Upper Moutere, Mapua, Tasman...lots of small communities around Motueka that offer easy access to Abel Tasman without having to make the drive from Nelson. Here you'll find some great accommodation options - vineyard cottages, a schoolhouse converted to accommodation, B&Bs, farmhouses, etc.

From Kaiteriteri, you can catch a water taxi into the park and walk a section of the Abel Tasman track, then water taxi back out. There are several options, I can provide more details if you'd like.

When you say 'drive to Abel Tasman' I assume you're referring to staying closer to the park? It's a large area, so lots of options. Marahau is right at the entrance to the park, so many people choose to stay there, but as I said earlier, I prefer the places mentioned above.

And then there's the Abel Tasman access point from the Golden Bay side near Takaka. Fewer international visitors seem to come at the park from that side (which is why I rather like it).
Melnq8 is online now  
Dec 30th, 2017, 02:04 PM
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A couple of my trip reports from visits to Abel Tasman that might help:
Melnq8 is online now  
Dec 30th, 2017, 04:55 PM
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Brilliant advice from Melnq8 as usual. She can make some great suggestions for Central Otago and Waipara wine country accommodations (which I mentioned in your other post).

Depending on how many days you'll spend up in the Tasman-Nelson district ("top of the south"), you might want to make a driving day trip over Takaka Hill to Golden Bay, to visit pretty Wharariki Beach, Cape Farewell and Pillar Point Lighthouse. Beautiful views and coastal rock formations ("awesome rocks, cliffs"), fur seals and other wildlife (photo below is of Wharariki Beach):
For more info.:
Brochure with map here:

There are also some easy short walks you can do on the way there (or on the way back), such as Grove Scenic Reserve and Te Waikoropupū Springs ("Pupu Springs").

Note: The drive over Takaka Hill is steep and curvy.

I think if and when I return to this region, I'll probably stay at Kina Beach Vineyard cottages myself! Looks great.

When driving to the West Coast from the Tasman-Nelson region, consider staying in Punakaiki along the way, home to the interesting Pancake Rocks (very "awesome rocks"). This part of the coast is stunningly beautiful: forested and sparsely populated.

The drive from Tasman to Punakaiki will take at least 4 hours without stops, is curvy at times, and goes through Buller Gorge (along the Buller River). As you reach the coast, you'll go close to the town of Westport. If you have time to spare (and you might not), there is an interesting side trip out of Westport to Cape Foulwind walkway and fur seal colony. You can also visit Cape Foulwind Lighthouse.

Apart from fur seals, you're also likely to see wekas (a native flightless bird) along the West Coast. They hang around parking lots, hoping to scavenge human food. So take care when pulling into parking lots (and there could be chicks around at this time of year) and take care to not leave food scraps or crumbs behind.

You might have read about NZ's annoying sandflies.

The drive from the glaciers to Wanaka is beautiful, especially as it opens up to views of Lakes Hawea and Wanaka. My other favorite scenic drives on the South Island:
Queenstown to Glenorchy
Milford Road (of course)
Mt. Cook Highway (SH80)

You might to turn off the sound if you look at the You Tube videos.

If you stay in Wanaka, you might also want to drive on Wanaka-Mt. Aspiring Road to Matukituki Valley (if you car contract allows you to drive beyond the Treble Cone access point). There's gravel road beyond this point and eventually you might have to ford some puddles, but you don't have drive so far to appreciate the pretty views out this way. This area seems so unspoilt and remote (despite the many tourists).
Along the way, you can stop at Rippon Vineyard:

There are a lot of nice walks around Wanaka, but many are steep (but shouldn't be so slippery).

Part of drive from Queenstown to Te Anau is also scenic (the Devil's Staircase portion along Lake Wakitipu).

The drive through Kawerau Gorge from Gibbston Valley wine region to Cromwell wine region is scenic and historic (old gold mining area). Wild Earth Wines and Kitchen is in Kawerau Gorge:

There are so many scenic drives on the South Island, I better stop now because I could be here all day! (And it's New Year's Eve!)
Diamantina is offline  
Dec 30th, 2017, 05:00 PM
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Have you seen this link?
Diamantina is offline  
Dec 31st, 2017, 09:34 AM
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Hi Mel

I have read several of your NZ Trip Reports already and have copied and pasted pertinent information into my NZ file. I have found this method works well for me!

~ not sure about another night in Picton. I chose it mainly because once it was suggested to me on my other thread, and when I saw the Queen Charlotte Drive, I thought that would be a great way to head north. I think I would rather have an extra day near Abel Tasman then 2 days in Picton

I don't think the Queen Charlotte Track will work for me, several reviews on TA mention "steep", and I looked at some you-tube videos. Also, I like to be able to turn around if the going gets rough for me.
*From TA
*5 hour walk to Furneaux Lodge. The first thing to point out is that the walk involves some very long and steep climbs, some of it on uneven tracks. It is described as suitable for all abilities but some people would definitely struggle.
*Have hiked the whole thing and parts of it, has quite a lot of steep climbs and descents, but decent views.

So back to Abel Tasman. I said in the original post

What about both?
Am I correct that one can drive to the southern part of Abel Tasman and there are walks from parking lots? Or a boat from Nelson to the southern part?
And then we would drive to the northern part of the park and stay for 2 nights Takaka or???

I found a great place to stay in Nelson with incredible views, and one can walk 10 minutes to The Boat Shed Restaurant which I think annhig and someone else mentioned.

I would REALLY love to stay at that converted schoolhouse, but I think Nelson looks like a nice town. Abel Tasman and wineries would be the focus.
And if I plan our flight arrival carefully, we might be able to make the Saturday Market!

I love those links so well done and informative. And we are staying 3-4 nights at Punakaiki. And scenic roads, we have the "Top Ten" highlighted on our Map

So here's the rough itinerary at the moment
Note, we love scenic driving and we are not above taking a scenic drive twice if the weather is not so good one day.

Day 1 ~ Arrival day in Auckland, then fly to Blenheim. Pick up rental car and stay Blenheim for 1 night so we can crash without driving far

Day 2 ~ sleep late, vist a winery or two (or three) then drive to Picton, stay 1 night

Day 3 ~ Leave Picton, drive the Queen Charlotte Road to Nelson, stopping in Havelock for Mussels at The Mussel Pot?Any other recommended stops along the way?
Stay 3 nights in Nelson (Days 3,4,5) Abel Tasman and wineries would be the focus, and maybe Saturday Market and ???

Day 6 ~ Saturday Market in Nelson if it works out we leave on a Saturday, then drive to north edge of Abel Tasman, stay 2 nights (Days 6,7) ?stay where?

Day 8 ~ leave Abel Tasman area drive to Punakaiki, stay 3-4 nights in self catering (translates to washer and dryer) Pancake Rocks, walks in Paparoa National Park, drive Arthurs Pass

Leave Punakaiki stay 2 nights near Franz Joseph Glacier area

Leave Franz Joseph Glacier area drive across Haast Pass stay 1 night Wanaka or Glenorchy

Leave Wanaka or Glenorchy, stay 2-3 nights Te Anu or Manapouri (Fjordland and Milford)

Leave Te Anu or Manapouri stay 6 nights self catering on outskirts of Queenstown

Fly Queenstown to Auckland and Auckland back to US

This gives us 21-23 days. We're still not sure about our dates, and we haven't been able to pull up flights that far ahead, hopefully will be able to in a week or so.

If you think I should change the number of days somewhere let me know.

I realize it would make more sense to stay in Queenstown before we stay in Te Anu or Manapouri, but since we are flying out of Queenstown to head back home, I have it this way at the moment

Of course we could go from Queenstown first, then to Te Anu or Manapouri , and book a Hotel near the Airport for 1 night before we fly out, but if I do it by staying in Te Anu or Manapouri before Queenstown, that gives me a chance to stay 1 night in Wanaka or Glenorchy as the drive from Franz Joseph area to Te Anu or Manapouri looks just too long.
wrenwood is offline  
Dec 31st, 2017, 09:35 AM
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Another question ~ should I skip the northern part of Abel Tasman or Franz Joseph area and add in Twizel? Looks gorgeous
wrenwood is offline  
Dec 31st, 2017, 01:39 PM
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Fair enough wrenwood - although I'd only consider the first hour of the Ship Cove to Furneaux section steep - and I'm no spring chicken - it's definitely a commitment, some 14 km.

I'm not familiar with boat transport from Nelson to Abel Tasman. There are tour operators who will take you by bus from Nelson, then connect to a water taxi in Kaiteriteri - is this what you're referring to? If so, why not just drive yourself to Kaiteriteri and make a day of it?


There are a few options, yes. You can walk into the park from Marahau, which is the main gateway into the park. You can walk as far as you want, but you'll have to backtrack. The walk to Tinline Bay and return is an option, it'll take about 90 minutes and give you a small taste of the park.

En route to Marahau you can walk down to the beach to view Split Apple Rock and there are few other stops here and there.

You can also walk into a section of the park from the Golden Bay side, but it involves a bit of a drive - first you go to Takaka via the very squiggly Takaka Hill aka Marble Mountain. Then you drive past Takaka to Totaranui - this is where most walkers coming out of the park end their walk - this is the final stop for boat services at the north end of the park.

You can either take a boat from here into the park, or you can walk around the headland from Totaranui to Whariwhwharangi hut (2 hours) and then on to Wainui (1.5 hours). I've done this myself.

I can recommend a cottage near Takaka if you're interested.

I've spent some quality time in Punakaiki, but I have to say, 3-4 nights there is quite a lot unless you're a hardcore hiker, which I'm getting the sense that you're not. There's not much to do there other than hike. You can easily hit the highlights in a full day.

You plan to drive to Arthur's Pass from Punakaiki and back to Punakaiki? This doesn't make logistical sense.


Wanaka yes, Glenorchy no. This is a full driving day just to get to Wanaka. You're really pushing the envelope by going as far as Glenorchy.

And Twizel instead of Abel Tasman or Franz Josef? Heck no. Nothing there. Twizel is only on most people's radar because it gets the overflow from Mt Cook - when Mt Cook village is fully booked, people stay in Twizel instead.


It is. Trust me on this.

Actually, staying in Te Anau first makes a lot more sense than staying in Queenstown first. I often suggest this to people coming from Wanaka.

I'd cut that QT stay to five nights and add a night to Picton.

You're giving short shrift to the Marlborough Sounds. It's a beautiful area of the SI, it really is.
Melnq8 is online now  
Dec 31st, 2017, 02:13 PM
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wrenwood -

A few more suggestions.

If you're not interested in exploring the Marlborough Sounds, you might consider spending your first two nights in Blenheim instead.

This will give you a full day for the wineries, which in my experience isn't nearly enough (!). I think you'll find that quite a bit of time will be lost getting your bearings, having just arrived the previous night, so one full day is going to fly by. And, it will give you time to take a proper winery tour, visiting several and having a nice lunch, thus allowing more imbibing and no driving.

Because Blenheim is only 25 minutes from Picton, you can easily do a bit of looking around on the day you drive through to Nelson, yet avoid another one night stay (I personally dislike one night stays immensely).

I mentioned earlier that I think 3-4 nights in Punakaiki is entirely too much. I really think this time would be better spent in Wanaka or Glenorchy. Two nights in Punakaiki will give you sufficient time to see just about all you can without some seriously long treks.
Melnq8 is online now  
Dec 31st, 2017, 02:25 PM
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Just the thought of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc sent me downstairs to retrieve an ice cold bottle of Villa Maria...even though it's only 18 F here, I shall enjoy it! Ah, the power of suggestion.
Melnq8 is online now  
Dec 31st, 2017, 03:54 PM
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There are two Boat Shed cafes. The one I referred to is in Mapua and was convenient for where I was staying in Upper Moutere and it'd be closer to Kina Beach cottages.
I think the one annhig referred to is in Nelson town itself.

I agree with Melnq8 that two nights in Punakaiki, maybe even one night in Punakaiki as you are not a hiker, could be sufficient time to see the Pancake Rocks and do a bit of easy walking through the magnificent scenery. It's a great way of breaking up the drive from Abel Tasman to Franz Josef.

Punakaiki doesn't have much in the way of services. No supermarket, so you'd have to shop for groceries in Westport, which you'd pass on the way (it's north of Punakaiki), or in Greymouth (it's a 40-minute drive south of Punakaiki, so impractical for a grocery run). During the day, sandflies can be a problem. Their presence is unpredictable, but the West Coast is one of best places to meet them.

Punakaiki is also a busy tourist hub.

I'd take at least one of those days in Punakaiki and add it to scenic Wanaka, with its many services. Everyone loves Wanaka--in summer, it's almost smothered in love (see article below). Nonetheless, I'd go back there anytime.

Glenorchy is more easily visited from Queenstown. It's kind of a cul-de-sac. The road to Glenorchy starts in downtown Queenstown. It takes 45 minutes to drive to Glenorchy, then you return back the way you came. This popular drive is curvy and narrow, and extremely scenic (you might say, distracting). I've seen a couple of fender benders along here. You can drive beyond Glenorchy to see more of the scenery and take walks. I suggest the Lake Sylvan track, as it's flat and easy and meanders through native beech forest.

I agree with Melnq8, Twizel is not the place to stay unless you can't find accommodation in Aoraki-Mt. Cook. Aoraki-Mt. Cook village is stunning, as is Mt. Cook highway (SH80) that leads into Aoraki Mt. Cook village. The Hooker Valley walk takes 3 hours return is quite easy, only gently climbing, parts of it are board-walked. You walk along three swing bridges over fast flowing streams. The track ends at Hooker Lake, which is dotted with small icebergs. The You Tube video link I included in my earlier post does a great job of showing off the Hooker Valley Track.

Glacier Explorers offers small boat cruises on Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake:

If the night is clear, The Hermitage Hotel at Aoraki-Mt. Cook offers stargazing through telescopes. I've not done this tour myself:
The Mackenzie Basin (Twizel-Aoraki Mt. Cook-Lake Tekapo) are part of an International Dark Sky Reserve.

Scenic helicopter flights leave from Glentanner about 20 from Aoraki-Mt. Cook village on Mt. Cook Highway (SH80).
Diamantina is offline  
Dec 31st, 2017, 04:28 PM
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I've been buying NZ wines at our local Wegmans, will check out Total Wines at some point they probably have more.

That's a great idea about Blenheim, I think I will do that.

I'll take Punakaiki down to 3 nights, the self catering cottage is right on the Tasman Sea, we'll use any extra time as chill time. Sauvignon Blanc and sunsets.
Besides, the first night would be after driving from Abel Tasman/north, so we only have 2 full days. The day we leave ~ is driving up and back on Arthurs Pass and on towards Franz Josef area too much for a day?

One reason we're spending 6 nights in Queenstown is that should the weather be miserable when we stay in Te Anau or Manapouri, we could drive to Milford Sound from Queenstown.

And I think we'll go to Mt Cook as a daytrip from Queenstown. Scenic drive and we can hopefully choose a good weather day.

I would love to hear about the cottage near Takaka

The whole walking thing with me is problems with hips, lower back, foot problems and bronchial spasms if the air is cold. (My goodness sounds like I'm headed to the hospital!) I've found 4 hours is about my limit in hiking, and if I stress myself too much one day, I have more problems the next day.

Marlborough Sounds looks pretty, but I guess after spending time in Norway's Fjords 2 years ago, and a week with National Geographic through fjords near Patagonia this past October/November, the boat-through-the -fjords thing isn't resonating with me. The views of the Sound from high up look gorgeous, but I'm not sure how I'd get up there.
Do you have any more suggestions on that area?

By the way, for anyone else reading this to get ideas I would again totally recommend the website that Diamantina mentions above

You can pick your region, and what you want to do. For instance from a drop down menu you can choose a region and then choose walking and tramping. Once it takes you to that page, choose the duration of a walk or hike you want, and the difficulty of the hike. Great site.

We have you beat tonight, it's 10F here. My glass is filled with cold Pinot Grigio, I guess I need to change countries!
wrenwood is offline  
Jan 1st, 2018, 02:14 AM
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If you'd like a beautiful view of the sound from Picton, drive up to Karaka Point. When you get there, you only have to walk about 10 minutes. It's also an historic site, as it was once the site of a Maori fortified village.
Diamantina is offline  
Jan 1st, 2018, 03:58 AM
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Punakaiki to Arthur's Pass will take you about two hours. Arthur's Pass to Franz Josef will take you about three hours. It's certainly doable, but a lot of driving. I misunderstood your intentions. I thought you were making a day trip from Punakaiki-Arthur's Pass and back.

I'm curious about the cottage on the Tasman in Punakaiki - do you have the name? I ask, because we stayed in one once that we thought was on the sea, but it was behind a seawall and there was absolutely no view.

Queenstown to Mt Cook is about a three hour drive - each way.

It wouldn't be my choice for a day trip, but evidently its done quite a lot by people who want to see it but are short on time. It's better incorporated in a quasi driving loop of the SI, but because you're leaving from QT, I understand your thought process.

My other suggestions for Picton include the mailboat, Edwin Fox Museum, the Picton Village Bakkerij, and the Snout Walking Track.

I'm also fond of a few out-of-the-way drives in the area (such as the back way to Blenheim which can be a thrill ride as well as scenic), but I doubt you have time for that.

This is the place we like near Takaka - have stayed there 3-4 times:
Melnq8 is online now  
Jan 1st, 2018, 08:47 AM
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Diamantina ~ that looks like a great place to stretch ones legs and get a great view! It looks on the map like one can walk further if you want?

And Mel, Snout Walking track looks good.

Should we still stay in Blenheim 2 nights, or go back to original plan for Blenheim 1 night and Picton 1 night? Wineries and Vineyards are not as important as scenery.

Takaka cottage looks great, looks like nice views? Where did you eat dinner?

This is the place at Punakaiki, there is a road in front and a short fence, doesn't look obstructive from the pics. Mist of the pics are under Accomodation Details

So here is my current itinerary

Day 1 ~ Arrival day in Auckland, then fly to Blenheim. Pick up rental car
Blenheim for 1 night and Picton for 1 night (Snout Walk & Karaka Point)
Blenheim for 2 nights

Day 3 ~ Leave Blenheim or Picton, drive the Queen Charlotte Road to Nelson, stopping in Havelock for Mussels at The Mussel Pot

Stay 3 nights in Nelson (Days 3,4,5) Abel Tasman and wineries would be the focus on the 2 full days, and maybe Saturday Market when we leave

Day 6 ~ Saturday Market in Nelson if it works out we leave on a Saturday, then drive to north edge of Abel Tasman, stay 2 nights Takaka? (Day 6,7)

Day 8 ~ leave Takaka drive to Punakaiki, stay 2 nights in self catering (translates to washer and dryer) Pancake Rocks, walks in Paparoa National
(Days 8,9)

Day 10 ~ Leave Punakaiki drive Arthurs Pass stay 1 night at Arthurs Pass

Day 11 ~ Leave Arthurs Pass stay 1 night near Franz Josef/Fox Glaciers * Note, we are not really interested in seeing the Glaciers, looked like long walks to see dirty receeding glaciers. Having just seen increduble glaciers in Patagonia, we think we'll pass on the walk to the glaciers. We do want to do the Matheson Lake walk

Day 12 ~ Leave Franz Joseph Glacier area drive across Haast Pass stay 2 nights Wanaka (Days 12,13)

Day 14 ~ Leave Wanaka drive to Mt Cook, stay 1 night (could stay 2?)

Day 15 ~ Leave Mt Cook, drive to Te Anau stay 3 nights (Days 15,16,17)

Day 18 ~ Leave Te Anu drive to Queenstown, stay 6 nights self catering on outskirts of Queenstown (Days 18,19,20,21,22,23)

Day 24 ~ Fly Queenstown to Auckland and Auckland back to US
wrenwood is offline  
Jan 1st, 2018, 10:22 AM
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We like Wholemeal Cafe and the Brigand in Takaka. I don't think Wholemeal Cafe is open in the evenings though, not sure.

We also like Penguin Cafe and Bar in nearby Pohara.

For a true Kiwi experience, you might want to check out the Naked Possum - although I just googled and their website is down. I know one of the owners passed away a few years ago, so perhaps it has closed. It's well off the beaten track.

There are also a few pubs in Takaka that serve meals.

One night in Picton isn't a good use of your time IMO. I'd stick to two nights Blenheim, then set out early in the day to do a bit of an explore of Picton before you head to Nelson. I see no benefit in breaking it up into two one night stays.

If you really want to see Picton though, I suggest at least two nights there, as that's only one full day. But I fully appreciate that time is at a premium.
Melnq8 is online now  
Jan 1st, 2018, 10:36 AM
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Forgot that when I was looking for more pics of the Takaka Cottage when I found this on Facebook

Ashlea Downs
March 27, 2016 ·
Thank you everybody for your wonderful support over the last 17 seasons . We have met and made friends with so many wonderful people. We have decided that we are "going to put our feet up" and cease operating as holiday accommodation. We will miss meeting so many people from so many corners of the world but looking forward to getting away in our motorhome more often!!! ������ thank you everyone. Stu. Lynley and Pj.

Sent them an email.
wrenwood is offline  
Jan 1st, 2018, 12:53 PM
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When going across Hasst Pass, are the Blue Pools that different from Hokita Gorge?
wrenwood is offline  
Jan 1st, 2018, 04:15 PM
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Wrenwood, you can plug the location of Wave Watchers Retreat into Google Maps, then go to satellite view, then take the little yellow figure and place it on the map for street view. Looks like it's right at beach level with unobstructed views (aside from that little fence). Street view will show you the beach in front of the cottage and the surrounding area. This image might work (as Wave Watchers Retreat is close to Punakaiki Beach Hostel):!7i7680!8i3840

I'm happy to report that many if not most motels and self-contained cottages will have a washer and dryer. In the case of motels, it might be a share laundry room.

While you're in Nelson, you might want to visit the World of Wearable Art Museum.
I've not visited the museum. Didn't feel I needed to since I've seen collection highlights at Te Papa Museum in Wellington and here in Dunedin at the Otago Museum. I've also attended the WOW show three times in Wellington, so felt this sufficed. But you might not want to pass up the chance to see the amazingly wacky, creative and beautiful wearable art.

Just curious, what do you hope to see and do in Franz Josef if you aren't interested in seeing, walking on, or flying over the glacier? Other attractions include a West Coast Wildlife Center, Okarito Forest Kiwi Tours, Lake Mapourika, Okarito Beach and Lagoon, Glacier Hot Pools (which I didn't care for, but many enjoy). There's a short walk you can take at night, the Terrace Walk, to see glow worms.

On our last visit to Okarito Beach there were so many sandflies, we had to hightail it back to our car. On a previous visit, there were none.

Franz Josef Glacier is actually advancing (for now).
If you're going to be in Franz Josef anyhow, you might as well drive to Peter's Pool, a small reflecting pool, where you should be able to easily see the glacier almost meet the temperate rainforest. From the parking lot, it's a super-flat easy short walk to Peter's Pool.

Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier village is considered a must-see.

I think you'll enjoy staying in Aoraki Mt. Cook, even for a night, and it will make your drive easier than trying to do all that driving as a day trip (the 3 hours each way that Melnq8 mentioned). The weather could be awful in early December, but this applies to nearly all of New Zealand.

There aren't many places to stay. Aoraki Court Motel is a favorite with many, as it's fairly new, the outer rooms have beautiful views, and self-catering, though cooking of strong odored foods, such as fish or curries, isn't allowed. I feel obliged to mention this as you'd pass some salmon farms on the way, and might be tempted to pick some up for dinner.

From Queenstown to Aoraki Mt. Cook, you'll pass through great scenery, such as Lindis Pass, which many people love, and Lake Pukaki, perhaps the most beautiful of NZ's alpine lakes, which is a distinctive blue due to its content of glacial flour (finely ground rock particles from the glaciers). Found this online photo taken from Peter's Lookout on Mt. Cook Highway:

I'll say more about the appeal of Aoraki Mt. Cook and why I love it so much in a separate post.

Are you still thinking about staying in a vineyard cottage close to Queenstown? Melnq8 could probably suggest one.
Diamantina is offline  
Jan 1st, 2018, 04:37 PM
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Thanks for letting us know about Ashlea Downs. A shame for us visitors, but good on Stu and Lynley.
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