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South Island Itinerary - What are the "can't miss" places to visit?

South Island Itinerary - What are the "can't miss" places to visit?

Old Sep 27th, 2005, 09:13 AM
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South Island Itinerary - What are the "can't miss" places to visit?

My husband and I will be visiting New Zealand from November 16-December 2. Due to the short amount of time we have, we've decided to only visit the South Island. We're flying in and out of Queenstown, and 4 of our 17 days will be spent doing the Milford Track.

We're trying to plan the remainder of our itinerary, but can't decide between all the great things to see on the South Island! So, we're trying to figure out the important things to do, and how long to allow for each. Some of the things that interest us are swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura, sea kayaking up in the Nelson/Marlborough region, wine tasting in Marlborough, and spending time in Queenstown and Christchurch. But we've also heard that Dunedin and the Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers and Mt. Cook are "can't miss" destinations.

Is it realistic to fit all of these in to the time we have? Can we drive to all of these destinations or would it make more sense to fly to some?

We like a mix of outdoorsy/adventure activities combined with good eating, wine, sightseeing and history/culture. I would like to have some warm weather/beach time, and my husband likes the mountains more. We land in New Zealand the evening of Nov. 16, start our Milford excursion in Te Anau on November 26, finish the track on the 29th, and fly out of Christchurch on the evening of Dec. 2.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!
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Old Sep 27th, 2005, 09:50 AM
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Are you flying in/out of Queenstown or Christchurch? You first say Queenstown but later say you are flying out of Christchurch.

It is very unlikely that you will have beach weather in the South Island in November. (Someone please correct me if I am mistaken...)

Have/would you consider(ed) wine tasting in the Central Otago region instead of Marlborough, and kayaking in Fiordland instead of the Nelson/Marlborough region?

If so, then you could drive a loop of the South Island, either from Christchurch or Queenstown, visiting Christchurch, Kaikoura, Glaciers or Mt. Cook, Queenstown, Fiordland, and Dunedin within your timeframe.

Good luck with your planning! It's half the fun. And please post a trip report when you return! We leave about a month after you.
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Old Sep 27th, 2005, 11:01 AM
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My mistake! We do fly in and out of Christchurch--sorry. Thanks for the advice!
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Old Sep 27th, 2005, 01:25 PM
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Hi, Jonesey,
Well done, Tim and Liz - it is definitely not beach / swimming weather while you are here. As to swimming with dolphins and sea-kayaking - did you consider doing both in Akaroa, which is about 90 minutes out of Christchurch? Our German 'daughter' did this three years ago and loved the experience, saying it was almost the highlight of her 7 months in NZ. (Apart from living and travelling around with us, of course! and seeing some of The Lord of the Rings sites) There are companies who offer both, although not on the same day, which would possibly necessitate a stay overnight in Akaroa, which is in itself an interesting historic place.
The trip to Kaikoura is 2 hours driving time one way, and unless you are whale watching as well, in my opinion it's not worth going there just to swim with dolphins. I typed 'Swimming with dolphins in New Zealand' into google and found there are plenty of choices for both Christchurch and Kaikoura. Good luck with your planning. Enjoy your time here.
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Old Sep 28th, 2005, 10:23 AM
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Good advice from Tim and Liz (I am looking forward to their trip report!)

I agree that it's not really "beach weather" that early, although the Abel Tasman area is beautiful even if you can't swim.

For wine tasting, there are some good choices between Kaikoura and Christchurch, and Gibbston Valley area east of Queenstown is another choice. In Christchurch don't miss the Canterbury Museum.

My #1 choice of the other places you mention would be the west coast road & Glaciers (in clear weather).

Mt. Cook & the lakes would be #2 for me. It wouldn't take much more than another day if you travel inland from Christchurch to Queenstown. Time your visit to be in Fairlie at mealtime for the Library Cafe. If Mt. Cook looks clouded up, I advise not driving into the park and continuing on the Queenstown. I've only been lucky enough to see Mt. Cook once in three tries.

#3 would be Dunedin (for golf, wildlife, the train station & brewery tour).

#4 I'd probably skip Akaroa on a first trip. It takes most of the day to do as a round trip from Christchurch and is quaint, but not really worth nearly a full day if you are feeling short on time.
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Old Sep 28th, 2005, 12:26 PM
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I very much liked Akaroa, but there is the time component. However swimming with dolphins would be pretty nifty! It was on my list of things to do BUT I just got back recently and of course the water is even colder now so I decided to leave it for a summer trip.

We didn't see dolphins (bummer) but we did see a blue penguin! and what a sight that was - to see a boat full of about 40 people, all on one side, craning their necks and snapping photos of one lonely little penguin.

Our boat stayed a respectful distance but still, we were following him and to an outside observer it would have looked funny. poor little guy - flap flap flap to get away. (we really didn't come very close, just so no one is offended, but I am sure he knew what was going on!)

we also saw seals and cormorants.
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Old Sep 28th, 2005, 12:27 PM
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ps. definitely go jet boating, and, if Queenstown offers zorbing (I am not sure) DO NOT MISS OUT. the most giggling I've done in ages. you can't control yourself.
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Old Sep 28th, 2005, 07:02 PM
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Agree with mlgb about the Fairlie Library Cafe - a real dining treat. Have never been lucky enough to see Mt Cook in many visits, which is why I would avoid it.
West Coast is an awesome trip and would be a good place to spend a couple of days - lots of places to see and things to do.
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Old Oct 28th, 2005, 10:32 PM
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South Island is the most beautiful place on Earthand here are some not to miss ideas-
- the journey from christchurch to greymouth - either drive or on the Tranzscenic
- Fox Village (stay at Rainforest Motel and consider the half-day glacier walk - dont miss Lake Matheson)
- Queenstown (the dart river safari, bungee, skiing on the remarkables)
- Dunedin (try a nature tour to see albatross and penguins -its an out of the world experience)
- Kaikoura (a whale watch is a must)
- Blenheim (a wine tour is highly recommended)

I missed Nelson/Abel Tasman National Park and the Southern Scenic Route - if you have the time, do include these in your itinerary.
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