Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Australia & the Pacific
Reload this Page >

South Island 2 week itinerary (no car) advice needed please.

South Island 2 week itinerary (no car) advice needed please.

Old Jan 11th, 2023, 04:29 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 82
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
South Island 2 week itinerary (no car) advice needed please.

Hello, I am hoping that the experts on this forum will help us come up with an outline of an itinerary for the South Island without a car...if that is possible. We are veteran travelers, but first time to New Zealand. Our focus will be gaining a relaxed and enjoyable overview of the South Island. Outdoor activities, beautiful scenery, and memorable moments are key, but we are not into activities such base jumping and the like. We will likely fly into Christchurch (or Wellington), include the TransAlpine train, and perhaps base ourselves in two (or three) places over the course of the two weeks so that we are not packing up every day or so. (We are each 66 years old.). October or November will be the timing for our travels. Would basing ourselves in Christchurch, Greymouth, and Queenstown over the two weeks work and is that a good plan? How would one travel between those three locations: Train, bus, air? I know that this is a bit lazy on our part instead of actually doing the research, but I have always trusted the ideas found on this forum. Any and all ideas and suggestions will be helpful
timjstark is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2023, 03:42 AM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 82
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Updated plan

How about this plan:



1. Fly into Nelson (from the US). Perhaps a couple of days in Aukland first to get over jet lag.



2. Spend a few days in Nelson. How many would you recommend?



3. Fly from Nelson into Christchurch. Spend a number of days in Christchurch including the TransAlpine train.



4. Fly from Christchurch into Queenstown. Spend a number of days in Queenstown including Milford Sound.



5. Fly back (open jawed) from Queenstown to the US.



How does this sound?
timjstark is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2023, 04:48 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 27,614
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
When I traveled in NZ I did it entirely by bus, aside from the the ferry between the islands and one train ride. That was a while back, but please reconsider those flights. However, do consider a flight over the glaciers - and a visit to Milton Sound.

My itinerary was: Christchurch - Franz Josef - Queenstown - Te Anau - Dunedin - Christchurch.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2023, 05:38 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 27,614
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
For buses see:

https://www.newzealand.com/us/buscoach-transport/

https://www.intercity.co.nz/

More info on overland travel in NZ here: https://www.seat61.com/NewZealand.htm
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2023, 05:45 AM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 82
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Awesome links...thank you so much!
I may have a few additional questions once I digest this information.
timjstark is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2023, 06:23 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 82
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Additional question

If I spend a few days in Auckland, then fly into Nelson, would it be a good idea to take a bus to Picton in order to experience the Coastal Pacific train into Christchurch as opposed to flying into Christchurch from Nelson? In other words, is the Coastal Pacific train experience worth the extra travel time?
timjstark is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2023, 07:52 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 27,614
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
I always think trains are worth extra travel time... But I don't think I took that one, I think I took the TranzAlpine (don't have time to look it up right now). However, there are details and photos here: https://www.seat61.com/NewZealand.ht...erry-and-train
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2023, 12:55 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24,585
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Unfortunately those who travelled pre covid and especially pre Lord of the Rings have no concept of how NZ tourism has evolved. The popular "tourist trail" is now understaffed and overcapacity and not at all "relaxing". Sit-down dining fully booked and allow two hours.

Consider that you will be fighting for space with everyone else who has been locked up and is now "revenge traveling". If you won't have a car then you also have less flexibility on staying a bit outside of the scrum.

Basing yourself somewhere doesn't work as well in NZ as elsewhere. I would do a bit more research about what you want to see and do and look into planning at least some legs with a rental car.

There are a lot of itineraries here as well as links to transport, accommodation, etc.
https://www.newzealand.com/us/trips-.../south-island/

Good luck.
mlgb is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2023, 12:58 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24,585
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What is worth seeing in the northeast part of New Zealand is Kaikoura, as well as the sounds that you can see by taking the ferry or by launch in Picton.

One option would be to fly into Christchurch and take the train round trip just to Kaikoura. If you want to do the whole thing, it may make more interesting to fly to Wellington, go to TePapa, and take the ferry/train combination.

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 12th, 2023 at 01:01 PM.
mlgb is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2023, 01:57 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 2,248
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I wouldn't spend a few days in Auckland at the beginning of your trip. Instead, continue to the South Island, as you only have two weeks for your entire trip. You can get over jet lag on the South Island.

I agree with thursdaysd that you should take the bus for part, or parts, of your trip, as this would enable you to see the wilderness and countryside between these main cities.The cities and towns have their charms, but this is the iconic scenery that the South Island is mostly known for (though Queenstown's lake and mountain vistas certainly fall into this category). Intercity also sells bus passes for multiple journeys by bus. From your more recent postings, it seems you are now more open to visiting more places, even if it means moving your luggage around more. This is what I would do and I'm older than you. I think flying, even domestically, can be more stressful and difficult in some cases..

You'd probably enjoy one of the Great Sights tours between Queenstown to Christchurch (or vice versa), via Lindis Pass, Aoraki Mt. Cook, Lake Tekapo. If you do this trip in November, then you might see the Russell lupin in bloom, which peaks from mid-November to December. Technically, it's considered an invasive weed, but it's very pretty! Great Sights was part of Intercity, though I'm not sure it still is.

If you look at the Great Sights website, you'll see these tours are currently "on hold", but are set to resume in October 2023.
https://www.greatsights.co.nz/new-ze...and-queenstown

Nelson is definitely more attractive than Greymouth. Plus, you can do a day trip to Abel Tasman National Park from Nelson. You'll have to check around, but I see that Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles provides bus transfers from Nelson to Kaiteriteri, where their cruises depart from.See: https://abeltasmanseashuttles.co.nz/
Not sure which other companies would provide this service. Intercity used to run a daily service between Nelson and Kaiteriteri, but they have discontinued this route. I understand another company has started to offer these trips. It'd be easy to find out.

I think Nelson bus to Picton train to Christchurch sounds good. I've not taken the NZ train, but the Coastal Pacific sounds appealing and have considered doing this trip. If you'd be interested in wildlife viewing (fur seals, whales, sea birds), consider stopping off in Kaikoura for a day or two. In October-November, the Coastal Pacific only run four days a week, so you'd have to get the timing right. The Intercity bus between Picton and Christchurch with stops in Blenheim and Kaikoura, runs twice daily.

Picton is also attractive. It's mainly an arrival/departure point for the interislander ferries (Bluebridge, Interislander), but it's also a destination in and of itself. It has nice walks and serves as a departure point for cruises into Queen Charlotte Sound, including wildlife cruises.

There's not much of interest to tourists in Greymouth itself. (My apologies to Greymouth residents.) However, Greymouth is 45-minute drive to stunning Punakaiki, with its iconic West Coast scenery (geologically significant Pancake Rocks, rugged coastline, native bush, Nikau palms, so on).. Intercity currently runs a every-other-day service to Punakaiki and every-other-day from Punakaiki to Greymouth, so you my guess is you'd have to spend at least one night in Punakaiki. But as you are not going in high season, you'll have to check what the bus service will be like in October-November. For a while, Intercity cancelled their bus route along the South Island's West Coast. They only recently re-instated it, maybe about a month ago, as more international visitors began returning. If you look at Intercity's route map, the route from Cromwell (50 minutes from Queenstown) to Nelson is indicated as a "seasonal service." My guess is this means they will not offer this route this service in winter, that is, June-August, but that they will offer from October on.. But this is only a guess. You might want to contract Intercity directly
https://www.intercity.co.nz/travel-info/route-map

I have some basic questions for you. You mentioned outdoor activities. Which outdoor activities? Hiking, kayaking, wildlife viewing, cruising, golf, fishing? If you are interested in walks/hikes, what kind of walks/hikes would you be interested in doing? Of what duration and would steep trails be okay?

Does weather matter to you? Though our weather is variable and unpredictable at any time of year. it's highly variable in October and November., as we tranisition from spring to summer. So you can expect sunny days and rainy days, maybe rainstorms. It'll still be cold but clearly not as cold as winter. In early October, you could get snow in Queenstown. Look at this day in Queenstown this past October:
https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/snow-s...g-around-south

The weather starts getting warmer in November and the days grow longer. October is the windiest month, followed by November and December.

Please note, school holidays run from Saturday 23 September to Sunday 8 October.

October can be nice for flowers and the birds they attract. Kowhai, the unofficial national flower, will be in bloom. Non-native rhododendrons peak in October. Harakeke, or NZ flax, will begin to bloom in late October and also attracts native birds. But there will always be some sort of flowers in bloom, even in the heart of winter!

There are plenty of attractions in Christchurch itself, but while there, you also might want to catch the French Connection to Akaroa/the Banks Peninsula.

There's plenty to do in and around Queenstown, too. The local bus goes to Arrowtown. Shuttles will take you to Glenorchy and Wanaka. Wanaka is not quite as touristy as Queenstown, but just as scenic. You might want to base yourself there for a few nights.

I think after you've done more research, you can come up with an itinerary that will cover your sightseeing priorities. Only you know what these might be.

Last edited by Diamantina; Jan 12th, 2023 at 02:28 PM.
Diamantina is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2023, 01:45 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24,585
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Wanaka was one of the places where we barbecued at the motel as we were all tired of the two hour dinners. Wanaka Archway (recommended) motel is one of many within walking distance to the town center and lakefront. The lake is nice but disagree about Wanaka being as scenic as Queenstown, it is just less hectic. However without a car, I think Queenstown is the logical choice so they can get on tours easily. Trading off relative peace and quiet for access.

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 13th, 2023 at 01:54 AM.
mlgb is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2023, 10:42 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 82
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
As I digest all of this awesome information that all of you have given me, I want to send out an initial thank you for providing it...people like you help restore my faith in humanity!
timjstark is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2023, 04:40 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 40
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We recently did Wanaka (instead of Queenstown) without a car and it was easier to get around without a car than we would have guessed. We took the Ritchie's bus from Queenstown airport, which was easy and great. (And better than driving through the mountains, which we've done before and I'm not crazy about doing it again.) Most everything within Wanaka was walking distance and when we went further afield, we relied on Yello Taxi, which worked well. I can also recommend Lakeside Apartments in Wanaka, which was new to us and a highlight of our trip. Stunning views and surprisingly affordable.

BTW, on a much earlier trip to Wanaka, we took a sightseeing plane from Wanaka Airport to Milford Sound. It was fantastic, although expensive--and this was quite a while ago. But worth the splurge in our book and a huge time saver vs making the drive (presumably bus, in your case) to Milford Sound. Could be worth the splurge.
magritten is offline  
Old Jan 21st, 2023, 04:59 AM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 82
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hello again to all,

A quick update:

After the wonderful answers given to us on our questions from all of you as well as many discussions between the two of us regarding our hopes for this trip as well as our "no rental car restriction" that truly limited us, we have decided to make a fair amount of compromises by booking in with a National Geographic (North & South) Island trip with a few “on our own” days at the outset in Auckland.

We rarely do group trips. Every trip (and relationship) requires compromises and our decision exhibits that fact.



This trip includes many aspects of NZ that we may not have experienced, allows us to let others take care of transport (including the Trans-Alpine train), and is limited to 16 or fewer people. But it lacks much physical activity, is likely quite “rushed” in the South, goes to Doubtful Sound instead of Milford Sound, and is expensive.



Big picture: We will obtain our first look at an amazing place and for that we are grateful.



So, thanks once again for all of your help that allowed us some of the background knowledge necessary to make our choice.

P.S. There are two spots on the itinerary that allow us some free time that I humbly ask for some help: Day 7 in Franz Joseph and Day 11 in Queenstown (Milford Sound???).

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/e...-zealand-tour/
timjstark is offline  
Old Jan 21st, 2023, 06:15 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 40
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I think it looks like a good itinerary. It's like buying the Beatles 1967-1970 instead of Abbey Road. Both are great listens. And so much of the enjoyment in traveling to New Zealand is the beautiful countryside and you'll be able to get a great appreciation of that with someone else driving. Enjoy!
magritten is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
Bashman
Europe
8
Apr 15th, 2022 01:16 PM
elb2018
Australia & the Pacific
19
Feb 19th, 2019 02:11 PM
AnneMarieOnVacay
Australia & the Pacific
13
Jan 26th, 2019 09:27 PM
jpham26
Australia & the Pacific
8
Dec 3rd, 2014 11:20 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -