South Island from the east coast

Oct 7th, 2018, 02:54 PM
  #1  
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South Island from the east coast

We did the west coast of the South Island in 2008 so we’re hoping to see other parts of the island that we missed. We’ll only have 5-6 nights since our main focus this trip is the North Island. We’ve got some ideas from a recent similar post, but didn’t want to hijack that poster’s thread.

Our interests: beautiful scenery, nice drives and options for short hikes. Seeing the ocean is always a plus. The Dark Sky Reserve also intrigues us. (We live in LA where the only stars we see are from the movies.) But we know we can’t do it all.

Our timing: first week of December.

Our starting point: Christchurch, since we can fly non-stop from Rototura. (Also, my wife is a landscape designer and I think she would enjoy the Botanical Garden there.)

It seems like one option from Christchurch is to curl through the Mount Cook area and end in Wanaka (favorite place on our last trip) to catch a flight out of Queenstown (but skipping the city this time). Potential con: not much coastal time.

An alternative would be either to head back to the coast after the Mount Cook area and fly out of Dunedin. That would give us more coast time, but we’d give up some of the nice drives we remember from the Wanaka area.

Or perhaps we could just hang on the east coast the whole time—head up to Kaikoura and fly out of…well, I’m not sure where we’d fly out of.

If there are things we’re not taking into account, or you have any suggestions, please let us know!

Michael
magritten is offline  
Oct 7th, 2018, 04:51 PM
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IMO the drive along the east coast from Christchurch to Oamaru is the least scenic area on the entire South Island.

With so few days to work with, I think your idea of driving from Christchurch to Wanaka via Mt Cook is a good one, albeit inland (and quite busy these days).

Alternatively, you could drive up the east coast to Kaikoura, perhaps fly out of Nelson (or potentially Blenheim, although I have no first hand experience on what flights might be available from Blenheim) - or drive from Christchurch to Arthur's Pass and head north along the West Coast (not clear on how much of the West Coast you covered previously), then head inland and depart from Blenheim or Nelson.

Are we talking about December this year? Might already be an issue with accommodation - NZ has become very busy in the past few years.

Keep in mind that SH 6 around Kaikoura is still a mess from the earthquake - at least it was when we were there in May - this area will probably be slow going, especially in the summer.
Melnq8 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2018, 08:09 PM
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Thanks Melnq8 and you also answered an "unasked" question that I had--at this time of year, how much advance planning do we need to do? In our previous visit--November 2008--we freelanced accommodations the whole way and were very successful. But I realize we're later in the season (although assuming the first week of December is not yet *fully peak* season) and it sounds like I can also expect more visitors than what we experienced 10 years ago. (FYI, I read your your most recent trip report that stresses that fact--and the earthquake damage around Kaikoura.)

We very much appreciate your expertise and hope we get a few other experienced opinions and additional food for thought...
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Oct 8th, 2018, 05:23 AM
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magritten -

Diamantina will probably be along shortly to give you some great info - she lives in Dunedin and is a fountain of knowledge.
Melnq8 is offline  
Oct 11th, 2018, 07:07 PM
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Here is where we're leaning for our six nights:

2 nights in Christchurch (and we may do a same day trip on the Transalpine railway)
2 night in Lake Tekapo, where we booked a B&B called Tekapo Heights (thank you Melnq8 for pointing out that rooms go fast up there--there weren't many choices). Hoping for a clear night and a potential visit to the Mount John Observatory.
2 nights in Wanaka, with a flight out of Queenstown the next day.

A possible variation is if we drop our last two nights on the North Island in Napier...if we did that then we would spend those two nights in Dunedin and and do this itinerary in reverse--Dunedin-Wanaka-Tekapo-Christchurch over 8 nights.

Any additional comments are very welcome.

Michael
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Oct 12th, 2018, 08:18 AM
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It works. If it were me, I'd add as many days to the SI as possible, but I assume you have a reason for visiting Napier.
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Oct 12th, 2018, 11:20 PM
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Hello, Michael. Sorry I could.not respond sooner as I’ve been traveling and dealing with unexpectedly stressful situations. Actually, I’ve been in your part of the world, Hermosa Beach and now Palm Springs. Anyhow, I haven’t much to add. Dunedin also has a beautiful public botanic garden, NZ’s oldest, and you would probably enjoy the gardens at Larnach Castle as well. Larnach Castle is on Dunedin’s Otago Peninsula, about a half hour’s drive from downtown Dunedin. On this forum, someone recently asked about gardens, I provided more details about Dunedin gardens on that post.

if you decide to visit Dunedin, you’ll also want to see the historic Railway Station for its small but beautiful garden that gets replanted with each new season. Saturday morning’s Farmers Market at the Railway Station is colourful and fun.

I’d recommend staying at St. Clair Beach or on the Otago Peninsula. If you stay on the Otago Peninsula, and you’re lucky to have a clear night, head over to Hoopers inlet to view the night sky.

Dunedin has many attractions: the rare wildlife of the Otago Peninsula, Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Tunnel Beach, Baldwin Street (world’s steepest residential street), breweries, a few fine regional museums, many great surfing beaches, and so on, but the wild card is the weather.

Please be aware that Dunedin won’t have as wide a range of rental car companies as Christchurch, Auckland or Queenstown, but you would be able to rent from Hertz, Jucy, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Thrifty, or Ezi at the airport.
Diamantina is offline  
Oct 13th, 2018, 07:51 AM
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Hi Diamantina...thanks for the response and no worries about timeliness...you already have a lot of great SI info out there, particularly Dunedin (including the gardens post). We also appreciate the advice on what part of the area to stay in.

Melenq8: as to our Napier vs Dunedin question, Napier just seems like a nice sunny place to wind up the North Island part of our trip and relax for a couple of days before heading south. We also have a recommendation for a very nice (although rather expensive) place in Napier to do that. OTOH, if our goal is to see the parts of the South Island we haven't seen before, it would be great to add Dunedin to the list and there's clearly lots to do there.

Two questions: what's the drive from Dunedin to Wanaka like? (Looks like about 3.5 hr without stopping, according to AA traveler.) And...what would the weather in Dunedin typically be like in the first week of December?
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Oct 14th, 2018, 12:29 AM
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The drive from Dunedin to Wanaka takes between 3.5 and 4 hours. There are 3 different routes to choose from. The northern route proceeds north of Dunedin through Palmerston then inland through Ranfurly (SH85, also known as the Pig Route). The middle route passes through Middlemarch and the Rock and Pillar Range (areas also seen from the Taieri Gorge Railway) (SH87) before meeting up with the northern route. The southern route travels south from Dunedin then turns inland near Milton and then passes through Lawrence, Roxburgh and Alexandra (SH8).All of the routes pass through Clyde and Cromwell. The route through Middlemarch is the least winding.

Sorry, Dunedin’s weather at the beginning of December would be impossible to predict. It could be sunny or rainy and cold. Napier would be more likely to have sunny and warmer weather at this time of year. We often get four seasons in a day weather.

Last edited by Diamantina; Oct 14th, 2018 at 12:33 AM.
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Oct 14th, 2018, 08:24 AM
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I thought that's what you would say about Dunedin's weather! I see the average December high is 63 degrees (F), but I figure that's pretty much the midpoint between highs that could be between 50 and 76 degrees. I would guess that consistently warm temperatures and penguins are mutually exclusive.

During our last South Island visit in November, we started with coolish rain and ended up with glorious sunshine as we moved south down the west coast. It was gloriously sunny in Milford Sound, so we may have used up all of our good weather quota.

BTW, in your earlier post you mentioned Hermosa Beach, we live one beach town over in Redondo Beach...
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Oct 14th, 2018, 09:13 PM
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Here are a few other things you may want to consider - cruising the Hauraki Gulf, visiting the two volcanoes in Tongariro Alpine Crossing, visiting Whakaari, the crater shaped island. Each of these is a sight worth seeing. Cheers!
lavanyaramesh is offline  
Oct 14th, 2018, 10:32 PM
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So true, Dunedin’s Yellow Eyed Penguins and Northern Royal Albatrosses don’t do well in unusually warm Dunedin weather. The Little Blue Penguins are less affected down here but many of them died last breeding season up around Auckland due to warmer seas caused by La Nińa weather patterns. As for the sea lions, they seem to love the warm days, when they can be seen basking on sunny beaches. The NZ sea lion is larger than the California sea lion and, according to the World Wildlife Fund, the rarest sea lion species. We also have NZ fur seal colonies here. If you make it to Dunedin, I highly recommend the Elm Wildlife Tour. Wish I could offer you a guarantee of warmish weather. Even on sunny days, when the sun goes down, it gets cold

Redondo’s great. Our friend who we’ve been staying with in Hermosa and Palm Springs used to live along The Strand in Redondo. The view from his house was like a never-ending movie. I’m originally from San Francisco, but always have a fun and interesting time in LA.
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Oct 16th, 2018, 03:04 PM
  #13  
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Thanks to all for the information and recommendations. Now we just need to make some decisions!
magritten is offline  
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