Proposed NZ south island itinerary -- input, please!

Old Jul 30th, 2009, 05:00 PM
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Proposed NZ south island itinerary -- input, please!

Hi everyone!

I’ve been pouring over travel books and these forums trying to squeeze together a 10-night itinerary for our first time to NZ in November. I wish we had more time -- there is so much to see!! Here is what I’ve come up with -- I’d love to hear comments. I’d also appreciate any enthusiastic lodging recommendations - our budget is roughly $100 - 200/nt (USD).

A bit about us: Husband and I both in our 30s. Looking for a well-rounded trip in the south island after spending three nights in Sydney -- ideally a mix of natural wonders with some social/adventurous activity. Interests include moderate nature hikes, kayaking, lush scenery, picturesque towns, animals and dining out. Would prefer staying in one place for a couple nights rather than driving hours to a new destination every day. I incorporated a couple of cheapish flights between Christchurch and Queenstown to cut down on our driving time.

Here is our proposed itinerary:

Day 1 - Fly into Christchurch in afternoon. Spend night.

Day 2 - Early flight from Christchurch to Queenstown. Local activities (gondola, shotover jet). Spend night in Queenstown.

Day 3 - Day trip to Lake Wanaka. 2nd night in Queenstown.

Day 4 - Day trip to Glenorchy and/or portion of Routeburn Track. 3rd night in Queenstown.

Day 5 - Local activities. Leave for Te Anau in evening. Spend night in Te Anau.

Day 6 - Early day trip to Milford Sound. Boat tour and/or kayak trip. 2nd night in Te Anau.

Day 7 - Early drive back to Queenstown and fly out to Christchurch. Evening drive to Kaikoura. Spend night in Kaikoura.

Day 8 - Dolphin swim. Recover from inevitable sea-sickness. 2nd night in Kaikoura.

Day 9 - Early drive to Abel Tasman. Winery stop in Marlborough region. Spend night near Abel Tasman (Kaiteriteri?).

Day 10 - Abel Tasman. Kayak. 2nd night near Abel Tasman.

Day 11 - Fly back home via Nelson in late afternoon.

What this list is obviously missing and why:

~Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers - Very intriguing, but the west coast drive is a big time/drive commitment and would take at least one or two nights from the rest of our itinerary. I also get really nervous with my footing when going downhill so I would be pretty anxious about doing one of the glacier hikes.

~Doubtful Sound Overnight - This was tough to rule out - the beauty and isolation of Doubtful Sound seem really appealing. But, in addition to the high price, the biggest con for me is the long hours on the bus - guaranteed to make my husband carsick and me antsy. I’m hoping Milford Sound is an acceptable substitute.

~Mt Cook / Lake Pukaki - We would have liked to see the stunning lakes and maybe do a hike around Mt. Cook. The problem is that we would then have to drive from Christchurch to Queenstown rather than fly. We probably couldn’t allocate more than 1 night in this area -- which means we would be rushed to squeeze in a hike after a 3 hour drive or hike in the morning before having to hit the road again for another 3 hour drive. A bit too rushed for me.

~Dunedin and the Caitlins - I love sheep, penguins and all things Scottish, but it just doesn’t seem like we have enough days to work this region into this trip. (Can we encounter sheep or penguins elsewhere? )

So…does this seem doable for 10 nights and a good fit given our interests? I welcome any comments or suggestions for improvement. Thanks!
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Old Jul 31st, 2009, 01:37 AM
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No shortage of sheep, don't worry about that one. You might see Fiordland Crested penguins and/or Little Blue penguins in the Milford Sound area.

I'm usually the first person to tell visitors to the SI to slow down, but I think you've got a workable itinerary and you've obviously done your homework. I don't see any cracks to point out, but keep in mind that the drive from Kaikoura to Abel Tasman is well over four hours, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time.

I can enthusiastically recommend The Croft in Te Anau, The Old Schoolhouse in Tasman and Maple Grove Cottages in Upper Moutere (both of which are located between Nelson and Motueka). If those options are further from Abel Tasman than you'd like, you might consider The Blue Moon B&B in Riwaka, which we enjoyed several years back, or the Ocean View Chalets right in Marahau at the doorstep of Abel Tasman. I personally haven't stayed at Ocen View Chalets, but I have yet to hear a bad thing about the place.

Location wise, Kaiteriteri would be a great option as well, but I don't have any personal recommendations for it.
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Old Aug 1st, 2009, 03:05 PM
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Thanks! I will check out those hotels. Also happy to hear about the sheep.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2009, 12:50 PM
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I still might consider driving between Christchurch & Queenstown in lieu of the day at Wanaka. You could spend the night at Twizel and go into Mt. Cook if you feel up to it. You would still see the lakes. It isn't necessary to do any hiking at Mt. Cook to get the great views of the Mtn, just drive into the Mt. Cook Village area. It really is a beautiful drive.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2009, 01:33 PM
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We drove from Christchurch to Queenstown, staying in Twizel en route. Before continuing on to Queenstown, we spent a morning driving into Mt Cook (along the shore of Lake Pukaki) and doing one of the short walks from the Mt Cook village. The August weather was cool and crisp; the scenery was absolutely magnificent(!) with snow covered mountains, blue, blue water and brilliant sunshine. Lake Tekapo is another beautiful attraction along the way. Definitely worth considering this drive.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2009, 09:54 PM
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The pictures of Mt. Cook and the lakes do look amazing. I'm just concerned about all the hours being spend in a car. With all the great scenery, do you all find the substantial time spent driving to be more of a pleasure and less of a chore?
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Old Aug 3rd, 2009, 10:13 PM
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I just checked out the Croft's website - so charming! And they even have their own sheep. ;-) Thanks for the tip!
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Old Aug 4th, 2009, 01:48 AM
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Here is a link to our blog covering many of the places you are considering. Entries 39-50 cover the south island which may help in making choices.

http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog...tml#ENTRY_LIST
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Old Aug 4th, 2009, 04:53 AM
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The drive between Christchurch and Twizel/Tekapo is not a difficult one. The first bit thru Main Hwy 1 until Geraldine isn't the best scenery but it is fast, after that the scenery is fantastic. If you take the main South Hwy 1 out of Christchurch, then turn off around Geraldine for Route 79, and you'll reach Fairlie (good lunch stop) in less than 3 hours. The Hwy 8 to L. Tekapo is beautiful over Burke's Pass (a low pass, not difficult). Twizel is another 100 km, a little over an hour but you will stop for photos at Tekapo & along the way. If you decide to go into Mt. Cook Village it is an hour each way.

The next day leaving Twizel, it is about 3 hours to reach Queenstown thru Lindis Pass, another beautiful section, but there is alot to see along the route.
You pass Kawarau Gorge, also some of the premier wine growing areas are near route 6. When I go this way, I'll usually take my time going thru this stretch and stay in Arrowtown rather finishing in Queenstown. Arrowtown has some of the best restaurants in the region.
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Old Aug 5th, 2009, 05:17 PM
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Your day trip to Glenorchy shows that you did more research than I did (but it was a lucky find!).
My suggestions, for what they are worth:
-in Queenstown, we stayed at Peppers at the Beacon and really enjoyed it. A short walk to the action. I recommend the lamb at Roaring Meg's restaurant.
Oh, yeah, and a trip to AJ Hackett bungy is fun. We ended up jumping, but it was neat to watch.

-I recommend a night in Wanaka, my favorite place that I have visited. Quiet and laid-back compared to Queenstown. We stayed at Clearbrook, which was fine- the staff was so nice. Good restaurants in town- Bluff oysters are delicious. The scenery outside of town was truly amazing. A great, fairly easy hike is Mt. Iron, a few miles away. Wonderful views. There is also a little island preserve in the middle of Lake Wanaka that you can take a trip to (we went with Eco Wanaka). A great hike there, with rare birds (weka) and the chance for you to plant a tree- the experience overall was a highlight.

-In Te Anau, there didn't seem to be much nightlife. But there is a theater, the Fiordland Cinema. They show Ata Whenua, which was a surprise treat. A big screen view of NZ landscape highlights.

We went on a day cruise to Doubtful sound, rather than an overnight. It rained like the dickens, but it was still so tranquil. We didn't go to Milford, so I can't comment on how it would compare.
You really can't go wrong in NZ, as long as your camera memory card is big enough. Hope you have a wonderful trip.
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Old Aug 6th, 2009, 09:04 AM
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Thanks for all the advice. I may try to remove one night in Queenstown for either a night in Twizel or in Wanaka. I'm glad to hear there are some great places to eat in Wanaka and Queenstown.

Peppers Beacon looks great. The only downside I see is it seems we'd need to book a 2BD room to get a lakeview balcony - this would be more than we need. Is there a comparable hotel I should consider? I'd love to have just a normal room with a scenic view balcony and still be within walking distance to the center of town.

I don't think we plan on doing too much or staying too long in Te Anau. I really just want to do the twilight kayak on Milford and then have a quiet and pretty place to return to within reasonably close driving distance. The Croft looks perfect.
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Old Aug 12th, 2009, 11:00 AM
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May be dated--
Three years ago in January I stayed in Te Anau and took the Trips & Tramps tour with 2 hr Milford Sound cruise and Key summit hike. Seven of us and Dave in a van, stopping at viewpoints, picnicing on rocks in the river, hiking up to Key Summit, boat on the Sound (maybe 20 people on the Mitre Peak boat) up into the waterfall, running with the dolphins.

I stayed at Antler Lodge B&B--clean simple place with friendly hosts about 10 minute walk from center.

I did not rent a car, so I used the tour from Te Anau and Atomic Shuttle bus to Queenstown Airport.

The walk around the end of the lake in Te Anau to the wildlife center to see the birds was OK.

Glowworm/lake trip was interesting.
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