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bk3 Aug 26th, 2007 05:07 PM

SI Logistics Help...Please?
I need some help trying to determine the best order in which to spend @10 days (on the SI (mid-end of Jan 2008).

i've got some flexibility adding a day or maybe even 2 if necessary, but that would probably be at the cost of knocking Rotoarua off the itinerary.

Things I would really like to do:

keep driving to a reasonable minimum (really scenic routes or where flying, train or ferry just doesn't make sense).

This has more to do with my going solo and having to do all driving myself rather than other side of road issues.

Overnight Doubtful Sound cruise. - Real Journeys website seems to put single folks in "quad cabins". Does anyone know what those are like? There really aren't any good pictures and the single supplements for the other accomodations are pretty steep.

Milford Track (Guided walk) - i've only seen 5 day walks and sadly i don't have that kind of time. I think i've seen a 1 day walk but can anyone suggest a good guide co?

Other scenic guided walk, especially if Milford is a no go. Since I'm going solo it would be nice to have some company and get out from the car and get some excercise.

Queenstown, Te Anau and/or Wanaka - not sure how many days/nights each

I'd also like to see the Fjordlandss if possible but again it seems like a long drive assuming i'm coming from around Queenstown etc.

If i can work Wellington in that would be great since i think i know folks who will be there at the same time but it's not a must.

Finally, the end point on SI should be near airport as i will likely need to fly back to NI (AKL) to catch my flight home.

Looking forward to seeing what the experts here suggest!

Thanks soi much!

mlgb Aug 26th, 2007 05:25 PM

I don;t think the Milford one-day walk at the Glade House end is worthwhile, the scenery is similar to what you see along Lake Te Anau. If you decide to drive yourself to Te Anau, you can do a day hike at the west/south end of the Routeburn to Key Summit that will take you up above the forest for some great views. Dont' worry about hiking solo, there will be so many people around it won't be a problem. Same thing if you want to do a day hike on the Glenorchy end of the Routeburn.

If you want to reduce driving you can fly from the North Island to Queenstown, and book one of the bus/cruise combinations. It is a long drive Queenstown to Milford Sound and I don't recommend it as a solo drive. Then pick up a car, you can drive Queenstown to Christchurch, either around the west coast via the glaciers and Arthur's Pass, or up the east side of the S. Alps stopping around Mt. Cook.

There are some nice day hikes inside Mt. Cook, the YHA's at Queenstown, Mt. Cook and Lake Tekapo are all good places for solo travelers. You might meet some people to go hiking with.

vbca Aug 27th, 2007 02:02 AM

The Milford Track guided walk is 5 days, and there is no way to shorten it.
You can do the same walk as a 'Freedon walker", which you arrange through DOC. It is one of the 'Great Walks", and normally takes 3 days on thge track, and one overnight at Milford Sound It is possible that you could do it quicker, however this would depend on getting the reservations at the huts, as well as on your fittness.
If bookings on the track were heavy, as is usually the case between January & the end of March, it is unlikely you could skip a hut, as the whole operation is geared to moving groups of about 50 trampers per day, from one hut to the next, and there are no spare bunks. If there are spare bunks, this then brings up the question of whether you are able to complete two days walk in one day. It's certainly possible, and has been done many times, however it ceases to be a pleasurable walk, and becomes an exdurance race.
The Quad cabins on the Navigator are 4 bunk cubicles off a common cabin. THis is the cheapest accommodation. You can also get en suite twin/double cabins. If you pay a single suppliment you get sole occupancy, however if you opt for twin share, you will be allocated a cabin with another male or female. If there are no other single passengers you may be lucky & get sole use, but don't count on it.
IMO the quad cabins are good value if you are young, since you will propbably be up partying most of the night. If, like me, you prefer to retire early, then you would be better paying for the en suite cabins, and keep your fingers crossed for sole use.

BillJ Aug 27th, 2007 02:52 PM

The quad cabins on the Doubtful Sound ON are remindful of so called back packers lodges. My son and his girl friend were bunking with two men. the showers are singly enclosed, and used by all. the cabins are small, and much gear (backpacks, suitcases, etc.) are left in the center common area of the deck.
I agree with vcba, but I am older and want my privacy.

bk3 Sep 25th, 2007 08:52 AM

Thanks again for the DS cabin info.

Following up on the suggestion to drive between Queenstown, the Glaciers and the TranzAlpine. it seems I'm more confused than ever about the order/direction in which to travel and timing budget so that sights outweigh a possibly tiring SOLO drive.

Coming to the SI, from either AKL or WLG, ......

How would you split 10 days if you definitely wanted to:

-Take overnight Doubtful Sound Cruise.

- Stay in Queenstown (@3 days - flexible)

- see either Fox or FJ Glacier (do some sort of mini walk/hike)

- Take TranzAlpine

NOW the questions:

1. Should I take the bus option to Doubtful Sound?

1a. f yes from Te Anau or Queenstown?

2. If I don't take the bus, where along the route to/from Queenstown and the TranzAlpine, should I fit in the DS cruise?

3. Where enroute is best place to stopver for a glacier vist? (I'm still open to either)

4. I've read conflicting reports on the TranzAlpine and wonder why folks might choose to:

a. cut out Greymouth and just do the Arthurs Pass to/from CHC

b. travel o/w via the TranzAlpine and the other via bus?

4. For my route, is the r/t is worthwhile or does a o/w make more sense, if so does direction matter?

5. Is my impression correct that a car is not essential while in Queenstown?

Thanks again,

p.s. sorry if y'all are sick of these basic ?s it's just that reading distance maps it's hard for me to get a grip on the best routing and how much time is needed to really enjoy the ride and the sights.

mlgb Sep 25th, 2007 11:36 AM

I would use an "open jaw" type flight from the North Island. Fly into Queenstown and leave from Christchurch, or vice versa, depending on which flight schedule is most convenient.

Assuming you start in Queenstown: After a few days in Queenstown (no car is necessary, really), and visit to Doubtful Sound, then rent a car and drive up the west coast to visit the Glaciers. You can drop the car off in Greymouth and take the train (one/way) the rest of the way to Christchurch. You don't need a car in Christchurch.

I have done a day trip to Doubtful leaving from Queenstown. If going solo, I don't think it makes that much sense to pay for the car rental while on the overnight, especially if you are just doing a roundtrip back to Queenstown.

That question on Fox vs Franz gets asked all the time. If no one has recent advice, a search here should help.

Melnq8 Sep 25th, 2007 04:32 PM

How about something like this:

Fly to QT from Auckland or Wellington

Bus from QT to Lake Manapouri for Doubtful Sound cruise

Bus back to QT - three days in QT

Regarding car rental, we always rent, but we spend most of our time around QT, not actually IN QT. Whether you rent or not really depends on what you want to do. Do you plan to stick around town, or would you rather drive to Glenorchy to hike a track, visit the wineries near Cromwell, etc?

Bus/rent car and drive from QT to glaciers - couple of nights here

Regarding which is better - again, depends on you. Fox is tiny, Franz just a wee bit bigger and feels more touristy. Both offer glacier hikes, helihikes, etc. Fox is near Lake Matheson, which has a nice walk around the lake, Franz is near Okarito, which is good for bird watching and hiking. Fox and Franz are only 45 minutes apart, so you can do both. If you plan well you can even walk to the terminal face of each glacier (on your own) in the same day (1:20 return to walk to Franz Josef from the car park, 1 hour to walk to Fox from the car park), so it's really not a big deal which village you choose to stay in.

Bus/car from glaciers to Greymouth, drop off car if renting, TranzAlpine train to CH. OR drive from Greymouth to CH via Arthur's Pass.

bk3 Sep 26th, 2007 09:05 AM

Thanks so much your replies really helped give me a much better picture.

Y'all confirmed my confusion over where to fit in the DS overnight. Looking at the maps made it hard to tell what would be too much backtracking.

So I can now safely assume that the solo drive from QT to the TranzAlpine can easily be done in 6 days?

Is that w/only the 1 stopover by the glaciers?

After reading several threads, I had been considering staying in Te Anau and/or Wanaka.

I appreciate all the help and now that I have a better idea of timing, hopefully my plan will start to fall into place.

mlgb Sep 26th, 2007 09:39 AM

Te Anau does not connect to the route to the glaciers. The trip to Doubtful Sound is basically an out and back trip, (same for Milford). You get a bit closer to the sounds by overnighting in Te Anau or Manapouri. If you decide to take a bus round trip, it really doesn't matter if you overnight in Queenstown, you just have a longer travel day and slightly higher tour cost.

You can shave about an hour from the west coast drive (maybe more with traffic) by staying in Wanaka on the night before leaving for the glaciers. Nice to do some of the short walks along the highway that goes thru Haast Pass and the west coast if you have time. Blue Pools, etc. You can get from Wanaka to Fox in a day, then overnight, then drive up thru Arthur's Pass. However you might want to overnight in Arthur's Pass and then continue the next day to Christchurch. I would not try to drive thru the pass at night, you will miss too much. I highly recommend the cottages at Mountain House (part of the youth hostel). is a detailed online map that can help answer some of your routing questions.

Melissa5 Sep 29th, 2007 04:16 PM

bk3, have you booked your overnight on Doubtful Sound? In my opinion, I wouldn't do that if I were going alone, because in our experience it was mostly couples, which was fine with us as we were celebrating our 25th anniversary. In my opinion it's too expensive to do on your own as an overnight unless you are celebrating an occasion with your significant other...I would seriously consider just doing the day-trip on either Doubtful sound or Milford Sound.

Unless you have found a cheap deal on the Doubtful Sound overnight...the one we took with REal Journeys was really expensive (we had a twin cabin for the 2 of us), but since it was a special occasion it was worth the splurge.

Nearly everyone on our overnight on Doubtful Sound were couples celebrating either special birthdays or anniversaries.

Sorry I only skimmed everyone else's replies, but have you considered a day-hike on the Routeburn track, which you can do in either direction, from either Queenstown or Te Anau? It's beautiful and you can turn around whenever you like, or you can book an overnight in a bunk if you wish. The whole Routeburn track is 3 nights if you wish. (We did it as a day-hike from both ends.) Ahhh...I just read down the replies and I see mlgb is also suggesting the Routeburn track.

Have a wonderful adventure in New Zealand!

mlgb Sep 29th, 2007 06:18 PM

Overnight trips on Doubtful Sound are set up to include "quad single" bookings, check with Real Journeys for the Fiordland Navigator.

Not the best way to spend a honeymoon cruise!

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