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Senga Mar 15th, 2007 12:48 PM

South Island 6 days only...
 
After reading all this information I'm thinking our decision to spend 6 days at the end of our Hawaii, South Pacific, New Zealand cruise wasn't such a great idea due to time constraints. We were thinking after travelling so far away we should make the most of our trip. Since we have such a limited amount of time I'm hoping, if I tell you a little about ourselves, you could direct us in what is comfortably achieveable.
We are in our late 50's, don't do any hiking or adventure trips and aren't keen on "history" (I know, shame on us!). We love nature, scenery, easy walks. We don't linger for ages when we find something we enjoy. I'm going to study all the trip reports but would like some idea of what we can reasonably fit in that we shouldn't miss. We are flying from Auckland to Christchurch on December 10th then from Christchurch home via Auckland on December 16th. It's a tall order but I'm hopeful you'll share your knowledge. Thanks.

jcasale Mar 15th, 2007 01:15 PM

If you love nature, scenery and easy walks, you can't find a better place than the South Island! Six days isn't a lot, but you can still get in some great days. You might want to consider taking the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth renting a car there. Drive down the west coast (plan to spend at least one night along the way - two if it is winter) and end up in Te Anau. Take a boat trip through Milford Sound (you can drive yourself to the boat rather than take a bus and that way you can poke your way back - it's a beautiful drive). From there you can make it back to Christchurch in one long day if you drive straight across. We took two days to get back (and I wish we had taken three) because we took the Southern Scenic Route. We had to race through most of the Catlins which I regretted. But we had a plane to catch back in Christchurch. Hope this all helps.

Melissa5 Mar 15th, 2007 04:09 PM

Oh, Senga, it just seems like a crime that you will fly to paradise and then only have 6 days to see it! Life isn't fair. We never get enough time to play.

jcasale's advice is good. The train ride would be relaxing after your long journey. I haven't taken it, but with your limited time, I think that would be relaxing. I have spoken to many people who enjoyed it. But I can also think of other options for you to consider.

I just finished my very long New Zealand trip report on the south island recently. I spent a LOT of time looking at itinerary options before our trip. So I will give you some ideas and you can do some research, get other people's input, and come up with something. Just make the best of your time!

First, I want to say that I have been to New Zealand twice, and my favorite parts of the South Island of New Zealand are, in this order:
#1 Fiordland
#2 Mt. Cook
#3 West Coast (especially the south-west coast, from Haast to Lake Matheson)

Here are some options for you to consider:

STAYING NEAR CHRISTCHURCH:

Considering your limited time, it would be logical and relaxing to plan to travel only within the areas that aren't too far from Christchurch. Following this logic, you would spend the first night in Christchurch, then rent a car to go to other areas. It would look something like this:

1 night: Christchurch

Leaving Christchurch:
Drive 2 1/2 hrs. from Christchurch to Kaikoura

1 night: Kaikoura:

Do the whale-watching cruise! You are 90% guaranteed to see whales or you get your money back! They are sperm whales...they eat giant squid...I wanted to do this but we couldn't fit it in. It's a day-cruise and you would only need a half-day to fit it in. Morning is best I hear as the seas are calmer...You also see other marine life besides sperm whales, but they are the highlight.

3 nights:
Choose a Place on NE or North-central side of the South Island of New Zealand

Consult melnq8, on this forum, to fill in this part as she is one of the experts for this area of the south island. Stick to the northern half of the South Island, not too far from Christchurch and Kaikoura.

1 night: Christchurch

Spend your last night back in Christchurch and see whatever you missed on your first night there.

FIORDLAND PLAN:

Since Fiordland is my #1 favorite, and is beloved by many travellers to New Zealand, if you want to venture away from Christchurch area, there are 2 ways you could fit in Fiordland:

FIORDLAND VISIT WITH QUEENSTOWN FLIGHT:

Add a flight from Christchurch to Queenstown. Your itinerary would look like this:
Fly into Christchurch and get flight to Queenstown.

2 nights: Queenstown:

(Activities: either spend a day in Queenstown and enjoy the gondola ride with views and shopping and a huge variety of dining options; or else spend your day driving to nearby Glenorchy area, just a 40-minute drive away, and enjoy the lovely scenic drive through a forested area with mountain views. Walk a short ways on the Routeburn track if you wish and return to your car. Have an advance reservation to have dinner at Kinloch Lodge, which is past Glenorchy. If you make the dinner reservation for Kinloch lodge, you can either pre-order in advance a gourmet 3-course dinner, or else just order from the delicious bar menu. You need a reservation. Then return to your Queenstown hotel.

Leaving Queenstown: Drive 2 1/2 hours from Queenstown to Te Anau.

2 nights: Te Anau

(Drive down scenic Milford road, take short walks to see places like the Mirror lakes right from Milford Rd., and take a Milford Sound day-cruise on Milford Sound.)

Leaving Te Anau:
Drive 4 hours from Te Anau to Dunedin

1 night: Dunedin

Book the last tour of the day for the Penguin Place. But first, find out if you will be able to see any penguins in December...I think that is a good time, but find out first. We went in early February and saw baby penguins, and their parents. We saw the male penguins returning from their day fishing at sea. Great! The last tour of the day is best, otherwise the adult penguins will be fishing at sea and you won't see as much.

Leaving Dunedin: Drive 5 hours from Dunedin to Christchurch

1 night: Christchurch

The problem you have is that, if you don't fly into Queenstown, and you only want to drive, you will have to do a very very long drive somewhere on your route. The above driving times are from the AA site for New Zealand. In reality your drives will take you longer than the time given, because you are a tourist and will want to stop to take photos, or to see that river, waterfall, or view right on the side of the road...also you can never drive fast in NZ because the roads are mostly 1 lane in each direction, the roads are often winding, and often you get stuck behind a slow truck or slow camper which refuses to pull over. I looked at my list of driving times, which I still have from my trip-planning phase, and if you try to go to Fiordland with only 6 nights total, you will end up with a 9-hour drive somewhere along your route. Keep in mind that this 9-hour drive is really an 11 or 12-hour drive, as you will want to stop for lunch, snacks, photos, site-seeing, etc.

Just to give you an example, the drive from Te Anau to Christchurch is 9 hours and 20 minutes. Remember that this is a minimum time, and most tourists take longer than this. It is really more like an 11- or 12-hour drive, depending on how many and how long your stops are.

I think the best 2 solutions you have are either:
1) Plan to see sites closer to Christchurch and avoid the very long drives
2) Or add in a flight between cities, to save you some driving time and to gain more time to see the beautiful sites.

good luck! Wow, I guess I must want to plan a third visit for us to NZ, since I just spent a lotta words figuring out YOUR trip!

Senga Apr 20th, 2007 09:36 AM

After reading the responses and checking out information I'm now thinking of flying Auckland to Queenstown since most of what we want to see is on the west coast. We want to see Mt. Cook/Lake Matheson, Milford Sound, Ten Anau, Glenorchy & Paradise and Haast Pass. We'll then drive north to Highway 73 and over to Christchurch for our flight back to Auckland. I'd appreciate comments on the best areas to stay to accomplish what we want to see. Also, if we have to decide between spending one day in Auckland or one day in Christchurch, which would you recommend. Thanks in advance.

Melnq8 Apr 20th, 2007 05:50 PM

Since you're flying into QT, suggest basing yourself there while you visit Glenorchy (40 minute drive from QT) and Milford. The trip to Milford (via Te Anau) is a long one from QT, but it can be done if you get an early start (approx 4 hour drive each way).

You'll need a full, and I mean FULL day to visit Milford from QT. You'll need a second day to visit Glenorchy and Paradise so you're looking at a minimum of two full days in QT.

From QT you can reach either Haast Pass or Mt. Cook in about 3:30. Problem is, the roads to each location branch off in different directions near Cromwell. If you took the Haast Pass route (SH6) you could continue on to Fox Glacier to see Lake Matheson and overnight there (approx 6 hour drive from QT). If you took the Mt Cook route, you could also visit Lake Tekapo, which isn't on your wishlist, but it's on the way back to CH and it's a gorgeous lake.

If you're determined to see both, you'll have to do quite a bit of backtracking as a mountain range separates the two and you'll be spending all your time in the car.

I've found the following site pretty accurate with drive times/distances:

ttp://www.accommodationz.co.nz/distances2.html

Good luck with your planning. I'm currently struggling with a 22 day SI itinerary and I've been to the SI several times before - it never seems to get any easier! So much to see and do, never enough time.


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