South Island Suggestions

Old Apr 7th, 2017, 04:39 PM
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South Island Suggestions

I am starting a new thread as advised, sorry please excuse my repeating myself!
I am spending almost a month in NZ with the first two weeks on the NI.

Day 0-3 in Auckland, first day to recuperate, 2 days to see the city
Day 4-5 in Coromandel, Rapaura Watergardens and then a night in Whitianga
Day 6 - 12 in Rotorua timeshare, plan on doing day trips from there.
Day 13 - Napier
Day 14 - 15 in Wellington

This is my projected SI trip, which has received some concern, so input greatly appreciated!

Day 16 - Ferry to Picton and then on to Nelson
Day 17 - Nelson to Greymouth, or other west coast city
Day 18 - Greymouth to Franz Joseph Glacier
Day 19 - 25 Glacier to Wanaka Timeshare, day trips from there
Day 26 - Timura, no reason, location only, NEED SUGGESTIONS
Day 27 - Christchurch
Day 28 - Fly Home

So as I said someone on a previous post, who I respect, has said Day 17 - 19 is problematic, so
I'm open for options.
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Old Apr 8th, 2017, 01:38 AM
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Thanks for reposting, now all responses to your thread will focus on your itinerary, your needs or interests.

You didn't mention your budget or particular interests (hiking, kayaking, skydiving, wineries, photography, family-friendly activities, action-adventure, wildlife viewing?). Knowing your interests will help others in making suggestions for you.

March 2018, right? Great. Lots of time to plan.

Just one night in Nelson, after ferrying in from Wellington and driving from Picton? You need at least another night here. What are your plans for Nelson? Nelson can refer to both the city of Nelson and the larger region around Nelson city.

Regarding your stay in Greymouth. Punakaiki is more scenic than Greymouth. It's home to one of the most interesting geological marvels of New Zealand, the Pancake Rocks. According to the Dept. of Conservation website, they were "formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures" and when "plants landed on the seabed about 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes."

The Pancake Rocks are in Paparoa National Park. Even if you find the Pancake Rocks just so-so, there are some nice walking tracks in Paparoa National Park. The coast is spectacular, with lovely beaches backed by native forests, and wonderful birdlife (including the Westland Weka, one of NZ's flightless birds), and sandflies (bring insect repellent or wear long sleeves and long pants).
The coast looks like this:

Greymouth offers more accommodation and dining options, shops, supermarkets, Monteith's Brewery. The western terminus for the TranzAlpine Railway is here. Not a bad town for those on a budget and it's about 40 minutes closer to the glaciers than Punakaiki.
Enroute to the glaciers, you'll want to visit Hokitika Gorge.

Do you plan on doing a heli-hike on the glaciers? If so, you need another night at the glaciers as well. In case of cancellation. Plus, you might want to see more of this area, such as Okarito, Lake Matheson.

By "day trips" from Wanaka, what do you mean? While there, do you intend to visit Milford Sound, Queenstown, etc.? You could visit Queenstown from Wanaka, but you can't easily visit Milford Sound from Wanaka.

This link to a drive distance calculator might help you in planning:

Timaru. I agree, "no reason." Timaru's attractions, such as Aigantighe Art Gallery, the South Canterbury museum, and Caroline Bay, are not normally a big draw for first-time tourists. From Wanaka, it would be best to spend one, but preferably two nights, in Mt. Cook village. Accommodation is limited in Mt. Cook, but you have the great advantage of planning early so you shouldn't have a problem.
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Old Apr 8th, 2017, 05:44 AM
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Hi again Tdiddy -

Diamantina has addressed why I mentioned earlier that your SI itinerary needed some tweaking.

I agree that Punakaiki makes a much more scenic base than Greymouth, but do be aware it's tiny, and accommodation is limited as are food options. It's an ideal place to break up that drive from Nelson.

Shame you don't have more time for Picton or Nelson - both have a lot on offer for visitors, including some spectacular walking tracks (especially Queen Charlotte Track near Picton), and the activities in/around Nelson can keep one busy for days. This is Abel Tasman country!

I always suggest a minimum of two nights at the glaciers, which only allows one full day to explore all that is on offer here = lots of walks - even if the glaciers aren't your main focus, there are some many beautiful tracks through the rainforest here.

It seems that you have plenty of time to work with, you've not just spread it out particularly well. I can't help but think you'd enjoy your trip more if you spend more time in places like Abel Tasman (Nelson/Picton), and less time in Wanaka.

I assume you're spending so much time in Wanaka because of your time share, but in so doing, you're giving short shirft to many other places.

From Wanaka you can do quite a lot, but it will involve driving. I highly recommend the drive into Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park via Matukituki Valley - fabulous scenery and spectacular walking tracks - more info here:

You can also make a day trip to Queenstown, and possibly Glenorchy.

You can visit Arrowtown, there are some nice tracks there, plus the Chinese Settlement.

You can visit the wine area of Cromwell and Bannockburn.

Instead of Timaru, which is an industrial town along the least scenic stretch of road on the entire SI - why not break up your return journey to Christchurch in Mt Cook (and add a night if possible. giving you a full day to explore this beautiful area)?

Timeshares can be a good thing, but not if they dictate the course of your entire trip!
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Old Apr 8th, 2017, 01:18 PM
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Thanks for all of your replies! I appreciate it. We are not big trekkers, will do moderate hikes,but I have wanted to see New Zealand for ever. Budget is not a big issue but we save a dollar when we can, hence the timeshares. I agree with the timeshare statement from MeInq8 and I am able to trim off 2 nights from Rotorua which I could add onto our Nelson and Glacier stay. If we had a full day for Abel Tasman Park, what would you recommend doing, car trip or boat trip?

We can leave Wanaka early or go away mid stay if you think Milford Sound is a must. I would imagine there are tours out of Queenstown to Milford Sound, or drive?

No reason for Timaru, looked at the map and said "there". Will investigate Mt. Cook. Do you think there is a need to see the East Coast? Is it more "industrial" than the West Coast? Would you recommend going straight to Christchurch for a night after leaving Mt. Cook.

One last question, if you had to do one, Mt. Cook or Milford Sound which would you choose? I'm stuck with booking Wanaka for 7 days, but as I said above could not stay all of the days.
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Old Apr 8th, 2017, 02:22 PM
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For a day in Abel Tasman, I highly recommend taking a water taxi into the park, walking a section of the Abel Tasman Track, then taking the water taxi back out (example: water taxi from Kaiteriteri to Medlands, with a pick-up at Anchorage (about 10.6 km of walking, easy for the most part and incredibly scenic), pack a nice picnic lunch.

If that's too much walking for you, you might consider a kayak/walk combo or just a scenic boat trip.

You can't see much of the park via car, but you can certainly see some nice bits along the fringe.

Some ideas:

Drive out to Kaiteriteri Beach for a stroll. Then head over to Little Kaiteriteri Beach and walk the track to Stephen's Bay (about an hour return). Beautimus on a clear day.

And/or drive towards Marahau, making the detour to Split Apple Rock with a short walk to the beach.

Once in the tiny settlement of Marahau (situated at the southern entrance to Abel Tasman National Park), park and walk to Tinline Bay and back (about 90 minutes return).

Then drive over to Mapua Wharf at the mouth of the Waimea Estuary, about 25 minutes from Nelson for a meal or drinks and a stroll along the waterfront.

Can I come along?
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Old Apr 8th, 2017, 02:24 PM
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I'll let Mel and Diamantia address your SI problems, though I agree that your current itinerary there is very rushed and doesn't give you enough time to enjoy the places that you have travelled so far to see.

Rather I will suggest that your drive from Rotorua to Napier on Day 13, followed by a drive to Wellington the very next day is a lot of driving, and really a waste of the time taken to drive all that way to Napier. if you can't find another night at least to spend in Napier, I suggest flying from Rotorua to Wellington, which will give you another night to spend in Nelson.
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Old Apr 8th, 2017, 02:34 PM
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Yes, there are bus tours out of QT for Milford, but they're hellishly long - 13 hours - mostly due to drive time - it's four hours each way from QT to Milford.

I'm not a bus person, so I prefer to drive myself, but I find the better base is Te Anau - only two hours from QT.


Not unless this is your 4th trip to NZ and you're just curious. Seriously, other than Moeraki Boulders (which never has excited me all that much) and some nice buildings and penguin viewing in Oamaru, the east coast doesn't offer the casual tourist all that much, IMO.


Yes. Plenty of rolling pastures and sheep, but much more industry (keeping in mind that we're still talking about NZ here, so industrial is relative).


Yes, but I'd take the backroads, via Geraldine and Rakaia Gorge via 72/73. Allow the whole day for the trip, stop for a few short walks and flat whites and cake at a random small town cafe.

That's what I do anyway, but that's just me.
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Old Apr 8th, 2017, 02:41 PM
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Here's a link to my New Zealand pictures from May of last year. They may help you decide if Milford Sound is worth your time or not.

Lee Ann
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Old Apr 8th, 2017, 05:29 PM
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I don't understand time shares all that well, but I would say, don't let it tie you down to an itinerary that prevents you from enjoying the highlights of New Zealand. You shouldn't pass on visiting Milford Sound because you'll you feel obliged to spend a week sleeping in Wanaka. Wanaka is beautiful and it's a top choice for Kiwis looking for a relaxing or active week away, by the lake, near the mountains. But this is your chance to see more.

The South Island is a top "road trip" destination. A variable driving circuit around the South Island is comparable to the other great road trips of the world: California's Highway One (the Pacific Highway along the coast), Canada's Icefields Parkway, South Africa's Garden Route, Australia's Great Ocean Road are a few I can think of and that I've been on. But the South island offers a long winding string of great scenic drives.

The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of the South Island's famous drives, and you'd want to take your time with it, with the best option spending two nights in Te Anau, a very pleasant town by a beautiful lake, before and after your visit to Milford Sound. Even if you choose to take a bus tour from Te Anau to Milford Sound, I feel you'll enjoy this more, than driving to Queenstown super early to do a same-day tour to Milford Sound, and then driving back to Wanaka. What if it's raining when you get back? You wouldn't want to drive on Crown Range Road (Q'town to Wanaka) after dark in the rain.

Accommodation in Te Anau is very reasonable, you could probably find something for about US$100 a night.
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Old Apr 9th, 2017, 04:14 AM
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I'm not a "big trekker" and more a day walk person myself. The great news is, NZ has heaps of great day walks and the Dept. of Conservation rates them from "easiest" to "expert" and notes how long they take. Have a look at the Dept. of Conservation's "Must-see walks and tramps."
This is a key to the walking track symbol categories:

I omitted another Greymouth attraction: Shantytown. We drove here, but didn't go in. Seems like a good place for families, a gold rush era theme park. There are also gold fossickick areas near Greymouth.

Between Punakaiki and Greymouth, there's the small quiet settlement of Barrytown. We stayed at Barrytown Beach Hideaway:
It's self-catering, so, if driving down from Nelson, you'd want to shop for groceries at supermarkets in Westport because you won't find any in Punakaiki or Barrytown. It's useful to have an insulated freezer bag when traveling around New Zealand (they cost about NZ$5). You don't have to buy milk because most self-catering accommodations provide enough for your morning coffee/tea.

Cape Foulwind near Westport is worth seeing:

Embellishing the day trips from Wanaka that Melnq8 mentioned: Arrowtown and Amisfield Winery (great bistro); wine regions of Gibbston Valley/Cromwell/and Bannockburn (Mt. Difficulty Winery is a popular for lunch), Matukituki Valley to Mt. Aspiring National Park; and Glenorchy (the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy is spectacular) and Queenstown itself (Botanic Garden, Gondola, Skippers Canyon tour, Shotover Jetboat, TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise, shops, waterfront, etc.), and Wanaka itself (the lake, walking tracks, Rippon Winery for its view, Puzzling World if you have kids, Mou Waho Island, etc.). You could do a loop from Wanaka to Cromwell-Bannockburn (under 10 minutes from Cromwell to Bannockburn) to Gibbston Valley to Arrowtown then back to Wanaka, though the designated driver will have to limit their wine tasting.

Milford Sound in Fiordland offers entirely different scenery. Even if you have been to other fiords, this is unique to New Zealand, as is its vegetation and wildlife. One of NZ's great day walks is along Milford Road, the Key Summit Track. It takes about 3 hours return, with the first part being uphill. The views at the top are fantastic. There are many places to stop along Milford Road.

Fiordland National Park, Mt. Aspiring National Park, Aoraki Mt. National Park, and Westland Tai Poutini National Park are the four national parks that constitute Te Wahipounamu, a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. So if you visit the glaciers, Mt. Aspiring National Park near Wanaka, Milford Sound, and Aoraki Mt. Cook, you will have visited all four of these national parks.

Real Journeys (just one of the companies that offers same-day trips to Milford Sound from Queenstown) says, depending on which cruise you would like to do, they generally leave between 6:55am and 7:15am. from Queenstown. The return time is generally between 7:30pm and 8:15p. This time is divided between time on the coach, time on the Milford Cruise, and time at scenic stops along the way. You also have the option of flying back from Milford Sound, but the weather can derail such plans, and you might have to return by bus. The sun sets at around between 7:45 and 8 p.m. in mid-March, so you probably wouldn't end up driving back to Wanaka in the dark. But it would be a very long day.

According to AA Drive Distance Calculator, the drive between Wanaka and Milford Sound take 4 hours, 40 minutes, without stops (virtually impossible to not stop).

The drive from Wanaka to Mt. Cook will take 2.5 hours without stops (again, you'll probably want to stop in Lindis Pass and at Lake Pukaki). Still, you'd get into Mt. Cook Village with enough time to walk on one its tracks (in case you can only spend one night here). The drive into Mt. Cook village is wonderful. There are a few restaurants in Mt. Cook, but no supermarkets, so if you plan on self catering, you'll need to shop in Wanaka or Twizel.

I wouldn't say the East Coast of the South Island is industrial. Timaru's not a factory town, more like an agricultural and port town. It has some small-scale food manufacturers (potato chips, flour, juice, fish processing), a busy port, maybe a few other small-scale manufacturers. The local volcanic bluestone is quarried and fabricated here. It's not a tourist town, but a regular small city of 29,000 with all the services you'd expect in a city of its size.

Rather, the East Coast of the South Island is home to far more people than the West Coast, with some larger cities, notably Christchurch (pop.: 375,000) and Dunedin (pop.: 127,000), and some small cities, such as Timaru and Oamaru (pop.: 13,850). Some of the first settlements were along this coast owing to its natural and artificial harbors (by 1881, Dunedin, Wellington, Auckland and Lyttelton were dealing with 80% of overseas trade). To give you some context, the South Island is 32 percent larger than the North Island but has only 23 percent of the country's 4.7 million population.

The East Coast of the South Island has many scenic highlights: Kaikoura, Akaroa Peninsula, Oamaru, Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula, the Catlins and the Southern Scenic Route to name a few. But the mainly inland drive from Oamaru through Timaru to Christchurch is not considered scenic. It's a major transport route, busy with trucks, some busses and many cars. It's flat and mainly straight, flanked by fields, and more businesses and communities as you get closer to Christchurch. It's the fastest route from Dunedin to Christchurch or from Oamaru to Christchurch, hence it gets busy.
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Old Apr 9th, 2017, 06:25 AM
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As usual Diamantina has done a stellar job in describing the SI.

To clarify my comments about the east coast - I was referring to the drive between Christchurch and Oamaru via SH 1. The drive from Christchurch up the east coast to Kaikoura is a whole different animal, and definitely worth the time and effort (although currently closed due to major earthquake damage).

Sorry if I confused matters.
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Old Apr 9th, 2017, 06:55 AM
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Wow! This gives me so much great information. Quick question,if you go to Milford Sound from Queenstown, do you end up driving through Te Anau? It doesn't look like there is a direct route. As suggested by Diamantina, we could go to Te Anau the day before Milford Sound and stay there after Milford Sound and we can decide to do a bus from there or drive. How long is the drive from Te Anau to Milford, and can you pick up a water tour from Milford Sound, I mean I know they leave from there, but do you generally book them in Queenstown or Te Anau. Now I'm thinking taking a day from Wanaka to QT and then on to Te Anau for an early start to MS! THen back to Wanaka after another night in Te Anau like suggested.
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Old Apr 9th, 2017, 07:21 AM
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>>>although currently closed due to major earthquake damage
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Old Apr 9th, 2017, 01:12 PM
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Two hours. Longer with stops.


With the exception of one time when we took the bus, I've never booked a cruise in Milford. We just turn up and hop on a boat.

Granted, I don't usually visit in the height of summer, but I'm not a fan of booking anything until I know what the weather has in store.

If you book the bus, you will automatically be booked on a cruise. It's a package deal.
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Old Apr 14th, 2017, 10:38 PM
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I don't know your exact dates, but these March 2018 events might interest you.
In Rotorua:
NZ Pipe Band Competition:
This event is at the end of March/beginning of April:
Warbirds Over Wanaka (March 30, 31, April 1)

Chinese Lantern Festival (marks the end of Chinese New Year holidays) March 2
Good Friday, March 30, 2018 (national public holiday)
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