Queenstown excursions (Milford)

Old Sep 28th, 2005, 04:15 AM
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Queenstown excursions (Milford)

Any advice about bus excursions from Queenstown - are the liable to be full in early November and need pre-booking? Or would it be flexible enough to wait til morning of trip to watch weather, show up, etc? Some of these are very expensive; I don't suppose they have discount coupons or special deals in town to entice those who didn't book?

And for Milford daytrip, it looks like most folks take a ridiculously short 90 min cruise with http://www.realjourneys.co.nz/Main/DaytimeCruises/
Is there some reason not to take the longer
http://www.kiwidiscovery.com/index.cfm/milford ? I'm afraid the latter is such a small operation, they don't react easily to stresses in the system such as too few folks or weather (I heard realjourneys can switch you to Doubtful Sound if a problem for instance). Yes, I know realjourneys has some slightly longer cruises although with a focus like wildlife, but I don't want to stay put at some seal rock - just soak in the big picture slowly.

Is the Dart river jetboat tour worth the rather high price on their web page? Or is this a retail price that is discounted by booking at some other agency site? Thanks
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Old Sep 28th, 2005, 04:52 AM
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Can't answer most of your questions, but IMO, the Dart River Jet Boat Safari was definitely worth the money. You'll want nice weather though.

We called in the morning and were able to book for the same afternoon, but we were there in September, which is low season. Don't know of any discounts, but if you have a car, you can drive yourself to Glenorchy and save a few bucks. The added bonus is that you have more flexibility for exploring the area before or after the safari - you're not tied to the tour bus schedule.
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Old Sep 28th, 2005, 08:34 AM
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It is a matter of personal taste, but I thought the Dart River Safari was good, not great. I'm not sure if it is worth it. I can't compare it to the Shotover Jet which may satisfy your jet boat urge.

The savings for going to Glenorchy is NZ$20, but it is a long ride.

It would be reasonable to book a trip as soon as you know when you would want it. Check out the cancellation policies, which are usually very liberal.
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Old Sep 28th, 2005, 07:42 PM
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I think you would be well advised to pre book the Qtn/Milford/Qtn tour. it leaves Queenstown at some uncivilised hour, I think about 7 - 7.30 am, and the booking offices probably won't be open.
The cruises on Milford are 1hr 40min for the scenic cruise, and 2hr 30min for the nature cruise. The reason they are this length is that this is how long it takes to sail the length of the sound and back. The nature cruise takes the same route, but in a slightly slower boat, and they will stop if(when) they see seals, dolphins etc, whereas the scenic cruise keeps steaming.

Another factor is that the driving time from Queenstown to Milford is 4 hours minimum each way, so you have at least 8 hours on a coach, plus whatever time you spend on the sound, and probably about 1 hour getting to and from the boat, going to the toilet, mucking round, whatever. Add that up and you have a 10-1/2 to 11 hour round trip. In fact the coach usually gets back to Qtn about 8pm, and the last passengers are dropped off at their hotels after 9pm.
Some operators use Mitre Peak Cruises boat. This goes further out into the Tasman Sea, and the boat is a bit slower, so their trip takes 2 hours 20 minutes.
I'm not familiar with Kiwi Discovery tours, although I have seen their coaches flashing by. If they spend longer on the Sound, they either leave Queenstown earlier, or return later. The driving time is the same for everyone.
I wouldn't pin my hopes on getting discounts, although Avis Rental cars usually have discount books, and Real Journeys and Red Boats often have 10% vouchers in them.
Real Journeys may substitute Doubtful for Milford, but this would only be if there were spare capacity on the Doubtful Tour, and as their capacity at Milford is aproximately 700 passengers per sailing x 3 sailings per day, and Doubtful is 100 passengers x 3 sailings per day, I wouldn't get too excited about this possibility either.

Your best option for seeing Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound is to base yourelf at Te Anau, and either drive yourself to Milford, or take the coach. The driving time is 2 hours each way, and you will have time to stop along the way and enjoy some of the scenic spots along the road. There is plenty to do in Queenstown without trying to see Milford Sound as well.
If this is not an option you should consider taking the coach in, and flying out, or flying both ways. Flying in and Coach out is also an option, although not as good, because you still get back to Queenstown about 8pm, although you do have a later start, and you could assumedly check the weather in the morning before you booked.
November is the start of our high season, so you can expect to see lots of people such as yourselves enjoying our lovely country. There will be some pressure on the most popular spots, such as Queenstown, Te Anau and Wanaka, but not as bad as later in the year, or in February and March.
So now you are totally confused, and wished you never asked. Wecome to the club. Most visitors are blown away by our lovely country. Be assured that whatever you decide, you can't go wrong. Even the worst day in New Zealand is better that the best day anywhere else.
Have a great time. Cheers.

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Old Sep 29th, 2005, 07:52 PM
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We were there the end of December. We booked the fly/cruise/fly trip through Milford Flight. It was great. We flew through the snow covered mountain tops, landed at Milford, did the 2 hour cruise and flew back. You see glaciers up close and beautiful scenery. We prebooked for the 31st, but due to the weather (low cloud cover) we could not go. They told me to call back the next morning. I called at 7:00 a.m. on January 1 and they told me they would pick us up at 7:15. This was a great way to see Milford Sound and the glaciers and it only took 5 hours total. That leaves time to do other things. By the way, since we couldn't go to Milford Sound on the 31st, we ended up going on Skipper's Queenstown Adventure. It was an all day trip on a 4 wheel drive vehicle in the gold mining areas, following along the Shotover River. We also did the Walter Peak High Country Farm. The cruise was fun, the dinner was great and the sheep dog and sheep shearing were really fun to watch. I wish I was going back. Have fun.
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Old Oct 28th, 2005, 10:27 PM
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I used Real Journeys last year and it exceeded every expectation - remember that Milford Sound itself is not very large so 90 minutes is by no means abrupt - the drive from Queenstown is longish and integral to the overall experience (and Rwla Journey's bus drivers are very entertaining and extremely knowledgeable about the areas). I also did the Dart River Safari by directly booking on their site - its worth every dollar - the fare quoted on the site is what I paid.
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