Roads on South Island

Old Mar 27th, 2007, 06:18 AM
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Roads on South Island

We are planning our trip for October/November 2007. We want to rent a car and have driven in AU, Ireland, Scotland, and England so the driving on the left is not a problem. My husband does not do well on steep hilly stretches of road with no guardrails. Where might we encounter those so we can make alternate driving arrangements. Thanks!
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 09:19 AM
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Greetings mirsy:

We just go back a few days ago from 9 weeks in NZ, mostly on the south island.

We drove about 6000 km in all, from Christchurch and south to the Catlins, then north and west from Balclutha through Haast to Greymouth, Nelso [5 weeks there] and on to Picton.

We took the ferry to Wellington then drove Wellington to Lake Taupo and on to Auckland, leaving our car at the airport.

Of course we did a lot of touring from the various stops on this trip, as we usually do.

Yes, the roads are curvy, hilly and no guardrails in some places but well marked reflective posts where there were no guard rails.

However the roads are very good and I drove a bit slower than the population is accostomed to. Mostly I drove at about 80km/hr and less at times. When I could, I would pull off the road to let the accumulated traffic pass me.

I live in western Canada and our road shoulders are much wider so driving on the left for me on narrow roads was uncomfortable. To compound this, I rented a Nissan Bluebird [larger vehicle].

I would suggest that you rent a smaller vehicle if it will suit your need and one with a larger engine if you can.

The smaller vehicle will 'fit' better and a larger engine will give you the power to move or accelerate when you feel the need.

I found that SH1 on the north island, Taupo to Auckland was quite busy and the traffic moved faster than the speed limit. Our B&B host in Lake Taupo recommended that we use SH27 to Coromndel rather than SH1 in that area and we found it to be better, except near Coromondel after we left SH27.

Renting a vehicle gave us the freedom to go and see when and where we wished. New Zeland is a great country and in my opinion many of the drivers are just fine.

Take it slow and easy, start your driving day after the work rush hour if you can. Restrict your driving on Friday and Saturday nights to avoid the week end 'howlers' who take their parties to the road and limit your own alchohol intake while driving but DO NOT DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE BEST VACATION YOU CAN HAVE.

Out last trip was the fourth for us and I look forward to number 5. I have driven myself on each trip and came home alive and well.

Go for it and have fun.

Best wishes,

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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 05:09 PM
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Woodie -

Was it you that stayed at Harris Hill Cottages in Nelson? If so, I'd very much appreciate your impressions, as we're considering a week long stay there in August.
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Old Mar 28th, 2007, 09:18 AM
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Thanks so much for the info on the roads. Hopefully it will make my husband feel better about the driving.
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Old Mar 28th, 2007, 09:51 AM
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Hi, Woodie here.

Yes, we stayed at Harris Hill for 5 weeks on this last trip to New Zealand.

Here are a few of my observations and I hope it gives you the information you want.

Harris Hill is located just outside of Nelson [north end] and not really long by car to get into town. It is off Marybank Road so that might help you find it on a good city map.

Harris Hill REALLY IS A HILL. After leaving SH6, one drives up a medium grade hill along Marybank Road, I would guess about 1.5 to 2 miles and then the turn off to their property is reached.

Here, a sharp left turn takes you on to their private road. A line of trees blocks the entry view so one should approach with caution. That first section of the road is narrow, one car only and the left edge has a sharp deep ditch, no curb. Very soon after, comes a sharp right turn and then a left turn. From entry to upper level area is 1 mile. This one mile is gravel for half way and pavement for the other half. There are several sharp turns and for much of the way, there is room to move partly off the road to allow another vehicle to pass.

I drove the first half in 2nd gear [automatic transmission] and the upper half once I was on the pavement, in #1, the lowest gear. On the drive down, I was on the brake the whole way. Have a car in good order.

I was not comfortable driving up after dark, not because I would have difficulty seeing an approaching vehicle, but because I was aprehensive of the road edge to allow another vehicle to pass.

Returning near sunset put the sun in my eyes on parts of that last mile.

Arriving at the top, there is a level approach for some distance, passing buildings to the main house. Close to this main house there is a sign pointing to the various cottages. These cottages are quite far from one another so we did not have neighbor's noise to contend with.

In fact, our spot, Meg's Cottage was very quiet and we enjoyed that a great deal.

Meg's was not large but adequate size for two people. A bedroom with a door to close off from the rest of the cottage. The bed was firm but they had a rubberized under sheet which I removed and left off for our stay. I find it to be very hot to sleep on. We left it loose on the bed when we left.

There is no bed warmer and the covers were exceedingly heavy, a quilt of sorts and a white knitted blanket. It was the white one that was so heavy. With that removed the bed was quite comfortable.

Clothes storage are some small basket style drawers in a metal frame and a rack to hang garments.

We had two night tables but one reading lamp. We asked for and got a second lamp.

A short hall leads from the bed room to a sitting/kitchen/dining room. This hall also leads to a bathroom with toilet, sink and shower as well as an entry door to the cottage.

The bathroom shower was very good with lots of hot water. Two hotel size soaps were provided and no replacements for the 5 weeks.

The sitting/dining/ kitchen area had a small table with three wooden chairs, not too comfortable to sit on and an immitation two seater couch, not much more comfortable.

The kitchen has a small microwave, electric kettle, and otherwise sparse appliances and cooking items. Example, no measuring cup, no collander and other such items.

The knives are very poor as I find in many places. We always take our own large carving knife and one small paring knife.

The fridge is a very small unit and was well frosted so I suspect it lacked efficiency. We shopped for groceries more often that we otherwise would have.

Dishes enough for two people.

They have a TV but very poor reception with only about 4 channels and they were mostly 'snow'.

An electric heater is in the sitting area and I would turn that on for about 5 to 10 minutes first thing in the morning.

Our car park was at the front door where there were two outside chairs, one needing repair. Looking out of the other side of the cottage, our view was spectacular. We had an excellent view of Nelson city and harbour. We watched ships arrive and leave. A large wooden deck is outside at this view with a table and four chairs plus a barbecue, no umbrella.

Meg's Cottage has a mobile telephone with our own private number. We found this most convenient.

On our last week we asked to loan two canvas folding chairs and they were gladly loaned to us. We could have had them earlier, had we known.

We opted to service the cottage ourselves since my wife is very particular and would likely do it over again in any case.

Linnen was changed once a week and we usually had to ask for it. I feel it should have been delivered automatically.

A clothes hanging rack, iron and ironing board were provided and on several occassions we left clothes outside to dry while we were off for the day. If it looked like rain or excessive wind, someone at the main house came to move our clothing into the shelter of our cottage and another time my wife called and asked them to and they obligingly did so.

Two dogs live there and they came to visit from time to time and collect scraps. Chickens run all over the place and sheep are abundant. We were invited to watch sheep shearing as it was being done during our stay. They also have a few goats some cows and a pet pig named Daisy. Daisy got our daily scraps when the chickens did not get there first.

There is a rooster [or more] who must be foreigners as they crawed in the afternoon so I suspect that they were living in a different time zone.

I do not think that Harris's take credit cards. We elected to pay once a week in cash and since ATM withdrawls are limited in the amount a person can take out at a time, once a week worked out well for us.

Having had my own small business for many years, I know that a 2% charge by the credit card company [of the gross amount] represents much more to the bottom line for a business than it may sound. My empathy is NOT with the bank so I am happy to pay in cash. My bank does not pay interest to me on a current or savings account so there is no loss to me if I use the ATM, other than the withdraw fee. But each credit card transaction is also charged for so the net difference to me is very little if any and I prefer to support the small merchant.

The accommodation otherwise usually get paid at the end of a visit.

We found the Harris family friendly and helpful within the bounds of their normal life style.

The best thing that we liked about Harris Hill and Meg's cottage was the view and the quiet. The worst thing was the long steep and narrow drive up. Between? Well, it was not the most comfortable stay but we were not unhappy there.

I hope that you find this description true and fair if you do stay there. What appeals to or displeases one person may not do so for another. I would not like to be unfair to the Harris family or deprive a visitor due to any personal bias I would have.

I hope this answers you questions about Harris Hill Cottages.

Have a great trip to NZ, we sure did.

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Old Mar 28th, 2007, 05:50 PM
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Thank you woodie for your comprehensive and helpful reply!
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