South Island Itinerary

Jan 30th, 2011, 05:28 PM
  #1  
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South Island Itinerary

Hello,
I am planning a trip for November. Thanks to previous advice, I have made the painful decision to do the South Island only and have booked our tickets. We are flying in and out of Christchurch, and have 12 nights total. We want to hike, visit wineries, go whale watching, see glow worms, and see beautiful mountain scenery. We don’t care about nightlife on this trip. Here are a few ideas that I’d love some feedback on.

Tentative Plan 1 – Train/Plane Option
Day 1 – Arrive Christchurch 2 pm. Leisurely afternoon, overnight in Christchurch.
Day 2 – TransCoastal Train to Picton, arriving noon. Visit wineries? Overnight in Picton.
Days 3-5 – Hike the Queen Charlotte Track. Overnight Furneaux Lodge, Punga Cove, and Portage Resort Hotel.
Day 6 – Finish QC Track, overnight in Picton.
Day 7 – TransCoastal train to Kaikoura. Overnight in Kaikoura.
Day 8 – Whale watching. Afternoon TransCoastal train to Christchurch. Overnight Christchurch.
Day 9 – Fly to Queenstown, rent a car. 4 nights in the Queenstown area.
Days 10-12 – Te Anau, Milford Sound. Mt. Cook area? Is this possible?
Day 13 – Fly to Christchurch and on home.

Tentative Plan 2 – Driving Option
Day 1 – Arrive Christchurch 2 pm. Rent a car, drive to Kaikoura
Day 2 – Whale watching, drive to Picton. Overnight in Picton.
Days 3-5 – Hike the Queen Charlotte Track. Overnight Furneaux Lodge, Punga Cove, and Portage Resort Hotel.
Day 6 – Finish QC Track, overnight in Picton.
Day 7 – Drive to Hokitika? Mt. Cook area?
Day 8 – Mt. Cook/Glaciers. Overnight?
Day 9 – Drive to Queenstown area.
Days 10-11 – Te Anau, Milford Sound.
Day 12 – Drive to Lake Tekapo or somewhere halfway to Christchurch
Day 13 – Drive to Christchurch, fly home.

I am still worried about trying to pack in too much, but I hate to miss any highlights. Any advice would be highly appreciated. Thank you!
sealstep is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 05:45 PM
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You could also do the first half by train and the last half with a car. Picton and Queenstown will both have lots of choices and I'll bet if you drive Queenstown to Chch you won't have a drop charge. That would be the best way to work Mt Cook into the mix.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 05:57 PM
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Suggest you read the reviews on Punga Cove. We had an awful stay there many years ago, but their reviews are still all over the place.

Day 7 – Drive to Hokitika? Mt. Cook area?
Day 8 – Mt. Cook/Glaciers. Overnight?

These are on different routes, unless you're referring to a flight over Mt Cook instead of Mt Cook Village (?)
Melnq8 is online now  
Jan 30th, 2011, 06:09 PM
  #4  
 
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Regarding Option 1:

Days 10-12 – Te Anau, Milford Sound. Mt. Cook area? Is this possible?

Mt Cook village a 263 km (3:45) drive from Queenstown. It's best seen while driving to/from Christchurch.

It's a frequent dilemma, choosing between the glaciers (West Coast) and Mt Cook.

Regarding Option 2:

Day 12 – Drive to Lake Tekapo or somewhere halfway to Christchurch

This is where you should insert Mt Cook.
Melnq8 is online now  
Jan 30th, 2011, 07:32 PM
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I think this is where I am missing a good understanding of the area around Mt. Cook. It's more accessible from Christchurch than from the west coast? If we don't really care about the glaciers, Mt. Cook from the eastern side is easier?
sealstep is offline  
Jan 30th, 2011, 07:58 PM
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You can access Mt Cook from the eastern side only, sealstep. There is no road to Mt Cook from the West Coast, other than driving via Arthur's Pass or Haast Pass.

Rob.
kiwi_rob is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 10:13 AM
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You can use Google Maps for New Zealand now. It is not as reliable for drive times, but the roads will be fairly accurate.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 31st, 2011, 02:04 PM
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Excellent, thanks everyone. That explains a lot!
sealstep is offline  
Feb 1st, 2011, 09:41 AM
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So if we did Option 1, is it realistic to think we could base ourselves in one place somewhere around Queenstown and drive to Te Anau, Milford Sound, and Mt. Cook? Or would we need, say, one or two nights in Te Anau, and two or three nights somewhere like Wanaka, towards Mt. Cook? We fly out of Christchurch at 3 pm, so I'd need to stay the last night somewhere close enough to Queenstown to get a relatively early flight out.

I am concerned that I have way too many one nights stays already, but I just don't want to cut more out. Argh.
sealstep is offline  
Feb 1st, 2011, 03:32 PM
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You can drive to Te Anau and Milford using QT as a base, but it's a very long day - two hours to Te Anau and then two more hours to Milford - ONE WAY. This is done all the time by people staying in QT who want to see Milford - Real Journeys runs bus/cruise transport. The bus makes the obligatory stops along the way and of course a cruise of the sound is included, but there's no time to hike or explore. It's a 11-13 hour day.

As I mentioned previously, Mt Cook village a 263 km (3:45) drive from Queenstown - ONE WAY. I suppose if you're really determined, you could base yourself in QT and make a day trip to Mt Cook, but with 8 hours of solid driving, you'll not have any time to do anything once you arrive.
Melnq8 is online now  
Feb 1st, 2011, 04:00 PM
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Okay, you're right, too much. How about fly into Queenstown, drive Te Anau, do a glow worm tour, stay the night there, do Milford Sound the next day and overnight again in Te Anau. The next day drive to the Wanaka area, (are there wineries to stop at along the way?) for two nights somewhere in that area.

What about Mt. Aspiring Natl Park instead of going up to Mt. Cook? It would be closer, and also looks lovely. Would we be missing out if we didn't get to Mt. Cook?

I truly appreciate all the advice, I feel like I'm getting close! Thank you.
sealstep is offline  
Feb 1st, 2011, 11:06 PM
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That would work nicely sealstep. By staying in Te Anau, you'll have an entire day to explore the region, and stop at points along the way to hike, say, to Key Summit. If you want to hike, I suggest you get an early start from Te Anau, do your hiking early in the day, then head to Milford late in the day. We did exactly that the last time we were there...as we headed into Milford, all the buses were heading out. We practically had the place to ourselves (last cruise boat of the day). Sweet!

You could also do it in reverse, get to Milford early before the buses, then hike afterwards.

Mt Aspiring/Wanaka is a good idea too...lots of nice hikes there. In fact, we're returning to Wanaka ourselves to walk a few tracks that we missed last time. The hike to Rob Roy Glacier is a good one, as is the Rocky Hill Summit - fantastic views of Lake Wanaka.

Regarding wineries around Wanaka...Rippon Winery is right there on the outskirts of Wanaka on Mt Aspiring Road (the road that leads to many of the hikes). There are wineries near Arrowtown, Bannockburn and Cromwell, which you'll go right past as you drive to Wanaka.

I personally don't think you'd be missing out too much by skipping Mt Cook...yes, it's a major attraction, but that also means lots of tourist traffic and if the weather is bad (which it often is back there), then you can't see it anyway. There are plenty of mountains around Te Anau/Milford/Mt Aspiring. Besides, you just don't have time to do it all, something has to give...only you can decide that one.

Keep in mind that I'm a bit jaded as I'm from Colorado, home to 54 mountains over 14,000 feet.
Melnq8 is online now  
Feb 2nd, 2011, 06:15 AM
  #13  
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Thanks so much. I like this last idea. I can always see the big mountains elsewhere, and it does look like the Mt. Aspiring area would be perfect for scenery and hiking. Now I can start looking for places to stay
sealstep is offline  
Feb 5th, 2011, 07:59 PM
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We went to the south island in March. While in TeAnau there was a storm and the road to Milford Sound was closed. We ended up buying a tour ticket to Doubtful Sound which was fantastic. I believe the weather can be unpredictable there.
We were planning to stay in Twizel and do a day trip of Mt. Cook but found there was a rowing regatta on near Twizel and all accommodation was booked out for miles. We found a room at Mt. Cook fortunately. While at Mt. Cook we took a tour to the Tasman Glacier. That too was good. You could actually go down to see the icebergs yourself if you had a car and knew where to go. On the road up to Mt. Cook not far from the village there are a couple of roads off to the right. If you take these you can drive right up to the icebergs.
manlygirl is offline  
Feb 5th, 2011, 08:06 PM
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We found driving in the south island really easy. We hardly saw any cars on the drive up to Mt. Cook. Maybe there are times when it was busy but it wasn't in March. Also we were told it was expensive to buy food there. It was just normal prices for us at the cafe at the Hermitage where everybody goes. We are from Melbourne. Perhaps it is expensive for New Zealanders and the Aussie dollar is really good right now.
manlygirl is offline  
Feb 12th, 2011, 07:47 PM
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When you return to Christchurch at the end of your trip, if you drive instead of flying, you can go back by way of Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo. The view of Mt. Cook over Lake Pukaki is absolutely stunning. We did not find the time to drive all the way up to Mt. Cook, but were so glad we had done the drive.
Bonn is offline  

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