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South Island Itinerary

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Jan 4th, 2013, 09:39 AM
  #1
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South Island Itinerary

Hi guys,

Just joined. A couple of us are planning a trip to South Island NZ in December for 3 weeks, we'll be renting a campervan and driving. I realise this is early but still not sure if we'll do the Milford Track and have heard that bookings begin 12 months in advance. Is it definitely worth doing?

The itinerary below is assuming we do not do it and the dates are estimates (we haven't booked flights yet). In brackets are estimated driving times from place to place:

December
14th ARRIVE CHRISTCHURCH
15th CHRISTCHURCH
16th (2h15) KAIKOURA
17th (3h00) NELSON
18th NELSON (ABEL TASMAN)
19th NELSON (ABEL TASMAN)
20th NELSON (GOLDEN BAY)
21st (4h00) PUNAKAIKI
22nd (3h15) FRANZ JOSEF
23rd FRANZ JOSEF
24th (5h00) QUEENSTOWN
25th QUEENSTOWN
26th QUEENSTOWN
27th (0h40) GLENORCHY
28th (2h40) TE ANAU
29th TE ANAU (MILFORD SOUND)
30th (5h20) MOUNT COOK
31st MOUNT COOK
1st (4h15) CHRISTCHURCH
2nd DEPART CHRISTCHURCH

How does it look? Are we missing anything important, or is anything not doable? Also please advise whether we should spend a quiet New Year in Mount Cook, or if its worth getting down to Christchurch. We are both males mid-20s.

Last question, excluding flights, would about £2000 each be enough?

Thanks guys!
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Jan 4th, 2013, 01:36 PM
  #2
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PS I'm sorry looking around I do realise there are a number of such threads in the past!
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Jan 4th, 2013, 01:47 PM
  #3
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but still appreciate your input!
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Jan 4th, 2013, 03:47 PM
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Hi riskandreward -

Your itinerary is well thought out and perfectly doable.

Keep in mind that Glenorcy is only a 40 minute drive from Queenstown, so if you're going there just for a day hike, there's no need to change accommodation (I can't tell if you plan to spend the night in Glenorchy or QT?). Having said that, I adore Glenorchy, but it's tiny, and other than two pubs there won't be much for a couple of 20 somethings to do at night, unlike QT. Unless your plan is to stay at Kinloch???

I'm happy to see someone spending some time in Te Anau instead of just driving through. There are some wonderful tracks in the area and plenty to see and do.

Te Anau to Mt Cook is closer to a six hour drive, and Franz to QT can easily take up to seven hours, depending on stops (and there are many reasons to stop).

The only places you've 'missed' is Wanaka and Lake Tekapo. You can stop in Wanaka on the day you drive to Mt Cook for a look-see (at least stop to look at the lake) and you can stop at Lake Tekapo on the day you drive from Mt Cook to Christchurch. Tekapo has an observatory, but you'd need to be there at night for that.

If you're wine drinkers, you might want to use one of those QT days to explore the surrounding wine region (Cromwell, etc).

You might consider deleting that last full day in Christchurch and adding it elsewhere as you'd already have spent time in Christchurch at the beginning of your trip.

I can't help with total budget, but if you do a search here, you'll find several NZ trip reports that I've written, and I always include costs, so it might give you an idea.

Can't help with NYE either, but I'd imagine it'll be pretty quiet. Christchurch is a city, vs the tiny village of Mt Cook, so it would stand to reason there'd be more going on in Christchurch.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 03:54 PM
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Your itinerary looks wonderful. Though, if it were me in my 20s, i'd want to fly into Wellington, see the city a bit and visit Te Papa Museum, and then catch the Interislander ferry across to Picton, where you can rent your campervan and start your planned itinerary of the South Island there. But you would be doubling back a bit (in order to see Kaikoura). By flying into Christchurch, you wouldn't need to double back, but could just travel in a circle, so I do see the wisdom of your choice.

Is that the best time for you? Because it will be high season: higher prices, more folks on the roads and in the campgrounds. Not only will there be a lot on international travelers visiting NZ at that time, a lot of Kiwi families will be traveling, as this time coincides with school holidays. And could you add a few days to your trip? This would allow you to also see the Southern Scenic Route and add the Catlins (Curio Bay, Porpoise Bay, Cathedral Cave, Nugget and Kaka Points, just to name a few of the lovely spots there) and Coastal Otago (Dunedin-the Otago Peninsula-Moeraki--wildlife galorei).

One of the rewards of traveling in off-season, is that you can be more spontaneous with your schedule, which would be handy if the weather takes a turn for the worse at some point. You'll still need to book the popular Milford Track, but you needn't worry as much about booking other activities (like a glacier heli hike or Milford South Cruise) and accommodations so far in advance.

A few of us were also discussing the fact that the weather can still be a little fickle in December through early January (actually anytime here in NZ). Last week, on the South Island we had terrible storms. People were stuck on snowy mountain passes and in flooded areas and had to be rescued. Trampers were stuck on Milford Track. A bridge on the West Coast of the South Island was partly washed away. But today, we're back to our sunny summer weather with temperatures in the high 20s. Here in Dunedin, nearly everyone's at the beach: walkers, kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding, swimming. But the storms are to return next week. Fickle weather.

I have never traveled in a campervan, but I do know that if you rent a campervan with your own toilet facilities, you will have more possibilities to "freedom camp" (park your campervan overnight outside of camping grounds/caravan or holiday parks). The fines can be steep for illegal freedom camping.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 04:29 PM
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Oops. Where's my mind? I forgot because you will be traveling in a campervan, you won't need to worry about higher priced accommodations. I don't know if campground or holiday park prices go up in summer/high season.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 05:11 PM
  #7
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I knew this forum was the best place to post. Thank you both for the very informed responses.

Melnq8- I think we'll just do Glenorchy as a day trip from QT then, if I'm not mistaken the road to Te Anau would have to pass back to QT anyway from Glenorchy.

Also I realised that my driving times are very ambitious! Realistically you are right I think an hour or two should be added on to most.

And thank you, I will make sure to look at your trip reports to get a better idea of cost.

Diamantina- Exactly, I thought it would be easier to do a roundtrip from Christchurch and to just rent a campervan from there.

Unfortunately because of the nature of my job and when I am permitted to take annual leave it looks like December would be the only possible time. Thanks for the heads up about the weather because I didn't realise it could be so variable.

One of the tough decisions I had to make was to cut the very south of the island out (e.g. Dunedin, Otago, Catlins) etc even though there is some real beauty there, purely because of time.



Just have a couple of more questions, would you say freedom camping is quite common? As in just parking on the side of some road, are the authorities quite on the look out for this?
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Jan 4th, 2013, 05:28 PM
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Yes, Glenorchy and Te Anau are in opposite directions, so you'd have to go back towards QT to get to Te Anau.

Authorities have clamped down on freedom camping in NZ over the past few years.

Unfortunately, like most things, the few have spoiled it for the majority, by not disposing of their waste and rubbish properly.

You might find these helpful:

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...eedom-camping/

http://www.camping.org.nz/

http://www.rankers.co.nz/respect
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Jan 5th, 2013, 04:10 AM
  #9
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thank you, very useful, especially the last link!
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Jan 6th, 2013, 02:07 PM
  #10
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OK so theres had to be a change of plans. My firend is going to be in Queenstown for New Year so have to meet him there. Now the itinerary now looks like this:


16th ARRIVE CHRISTCHURCH
17th CHRISTCHURCH
18th (3h00) KAIKOURA
19th (4h00) NELSON (ABEL TASMAN)
20th KAITERITERI (ABEL TASMAN)
21th KAITERITERI (GOLDEN BAY)
22nd (4h40) PUNAKAIKI
23nd (3h45) FRANZ JOSEF
24th (4h00) WANAKA
25th WANAKA (MOUNT ASPIRING)
26th (4h00) TE ANAU
27th TE ANAU (MILFORD SOUND)
28th (3h00) GLENORCHY/ QUEENSTOWN
29th QUEENSTOWN
30st QUEENSTOWN
31st QUEENSTOWN
1st (4h00) MOUNT COOK
2nd MOUNT COOK
3rd (5h00) CHRISTCHURCH
4th DEPART CHRISTCHURCH

Bear in mind I live in the UK, and must be back at work on 6th January.

Two real questions:

1) Is it worth doing both Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring?
2) Ideally I would rather stay in Queenstown to recover on New Year's Day, but that would mean only spending one night at Mount Cook. Is this worth it or will it be fine to travel on New Year's Day in the afternoon?

Thanks again.
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Jan 6th, 2013, 02:45 PM
  #11
 
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1) Yes, but keep in mind that Mt Aspiring is a rather sprawling National Park - a spectacular one at that - you can see the mountain top from many places, such as on the drive from Wanaka to the Roy Roy Glacier Track, but unlike Mt Cook, the experience is more about the park than the actual mountain.

You can access Mt Aspiring from Wanaka and Glenorcy, so really no need to do both if time is an issue (and it always is). It's different from Mt Cook in that you don't park yourself at the bottom of it and look up. Also keep in mind that Mt Cook is often socked in with clouds.

2) One night in Mt Cook is plenty unless you have some walking/activities planned. There's not much to the village itself, accommodation is limited and expensive. It can be seen as a side trip on the drive from QT to Christchurch - we've done it that way several times.

I don't understand this:

19th (4h00) NELSON (ABEL TASMAN)
20th KAITERITERI (ABEL TASMAN)
21th KAITERITERI (GOLDEN BAY)

Do you really plan to stay in a different place each night or are these day trips? If the later, do be aware that Nelson is at least an hour's drive from Abel Tasman, and by that I mean Marahau or Kaiteriteri. Likewise, Golden Bay, as in Takaka, is about an hour's drive from Kaiteriteri, which is a beach on the Motueka side of Abel Tasman. Golden Bay and Kaiteriteri are separated by a Marble Mountain and a very squiggly road. If your main focus is to walk the Abel Tasman Track or kayak within the park, you'd do best to base yourself in Kaiteriteri or Marahau.

I still think you should lose a day or two in Christchurch.

Only one night in Franz Josef won't give you time to do a glacier hike, heli hike, or much of anything really, as you'll have two long days on either side of your Franz Josef stop.
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Jan 6th, 2013, 03:57 PM
  #12
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Melnq8, thank you really appreciate your advice. Based on what you said I will base myself in Kaiteriteri for all three days since it seems a good base for both Abel Tasman and Golden Bay. I have also taken everything else you said into account so have changed the plan to this:

16th ARRIVE CHRISTCHURCH
17th (3h00) KAIKOURA
18th (4h30) KAITERITERI (ABEL TASMAN)
19th KAITERITERI (ABEL TASMAN)
20th KAITERITERI (GOLDEN BAY)
21st (4h40) PUNAKAIKI
22nd (3h45) FRANZ JOSEF
23rd FRANZ JOSEF
24th (4h00) WANAKA
25th WANAKA (MOUNT ASPIRING)
26th (4h00) TE ANAU
27th TE ANAU (MILFORD SOUND)
28th (3h00) QUEENSTOWN
29th QUEENSTOWN (GLENORCHY DAY TRIP)
30th QUEENSTOWN
31st QUEENSTOWN
1st (4h00) MOUNT COOK
2nd (5h00) CHRISTCHURCH
3rd DEPART CHRISTCHURCH
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Jan 6th, 2013, 04:02 PM
  #13
 
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Looks like a good itinerary to me - you've fit alot in, but you're not rushing from place to place. I hope you enjoy NZ as much as we do.
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Nov 24th, 2013, 09:51 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
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guys this is my other account, I am riskandreward. so this date is rapidly approaching and I just had a couple of questions RE campervan parking.

1) How much does it cost each night?
2) I have researched and seen sites such as Top 10 campervans, do we have to park in these camping grounds or is there still some scope for freedom camping as such?


Thanks in advance, appreciate it.
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Nov 30th, 2013, 09:18 PM
  #15
 
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Guidelines differ between those that have their own toilet facilities and those that do not.
Your campervan or caravan company can offer you general advice. Jucy, for example, has this webpage:
http://jucy.co.nz/useful_stuff/freedom-camping.aspx

When you cannot freedom camp, you will have to find a holiday park and rates differ. Here is a website to help you locate holiday parks. It also lists prices for powered and non-powered campsites.
http://www.holidayparks.co.nz/Welcome

A good rule of thumb is to enquire about freedom camping at the I-Site office of each area you visit. I-Sites are the official tourist offices of the NZ government, where you can pick up brochures, and make bookings free of charge, for activities and accommodations, including campsites. The I-Site offices are a great resource and are a good example of "asking a local." They will be aware of the newest rules regarding freedom camping.

I know you are not visiting Dunedin, but as an example, here the Dunedin City Council publishes a brochure with a map of all the places where you can freedom camp. You can pick this up at the I-Site. As another example, here is a link to the Queenstown Lakes District Council page regarding freedom camping:
http://www.qldc.govt.nz/freedom_camping
And the map that they put out of freedom camping sites:
http://www.qldc.govt.nz/images/conte...Maps_-_All.pdf
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Jan 9th, 2014, 03:08 AM
  #16
 
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I would just like to thank you Melnq8 and Diamantina for your help. I have just returned from this trip and it was unbelievable. The itinerary was perfect and some of the advice you gave was excellent, Kaiteriteri and Wanaka ended up being two of our favourite places we visited on the island.

Thanks again
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Jan 9th, 2014, 03:47 AM
  #17
 
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Woo-hoo! Another happy customer. Glad you enjoyed your trip.
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Jan 10th, 2014, 02:10 AM
  #18
 
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Glad you had a wonderful first trip to New Zealand's South Island!
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Jan 10th, 2014, 03:12 AM
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"First" being the operative word of course.
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