South Island Trip Report

Mar 13th, 2019, 07:43 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 445
South Island Trip Report

Just wanted to thank everyone so much for their help in planning our trip to the South Island. We had a fantastic time, and I could not have done it without all your generous and expert advice. Here’s a brief trip report, for what it’s worth.

Our flight. Since it’s such a long flight from Chicago, we decided to splurge on premium economy seats. I am now ruined. We were so comfortable and slept well. It’s going to be hard to go back to coach.

Our campervan. After much research, we also splurged on a Wilderness 2-berth campervan. We are in our 60’s and have never even been inside a campervan so I wanted to give us every advantage of having a good experience. I was very nervous about this aspect of our trip and wondered if we’d be able to handle 15 days together in such close quarters. I figured we could always spend a night in a hotel occasionally if we hated the van and could eat some of our meals out. As it turned out, we absolutely loved everything about the van and the campsites. We never stayed in a hotel. We only ate out once. The van had a comfortable permanent bed, lots of storage room, a big table, lots of windows and light. The campsites were incredible. We woke up to breathtaking views in the morning. It far exceeded our expectations. We stayed mostly in DOC and small holiday parks, with the occasional Top 10 Holiday Park. One of my favorite things was the communal kitchens and watching people from all over the world cooking wonderful healthy meals. We also loved being able to stop at so many beautiful picnic locations and make lunch. It was a bucket list experience that I will treasure always. That is not to say that there wasn’t a huge learning curve the first day, driving on the left-hand side of the road and remembering when to switch from gas to battery, etc. But we were in heaven and feel that it greatly added to our experience.

Our itinerary. So……..a lesson in flexibility. I am a serious planner. I have been planning this trip for a year and had every day mapped out with campsite and activity reservations, directions, and things to see along the way. On our first day there was a “slip” on Hwy 6 north of Fox Glacier, which was our destination for our third night, so the whole itinerary went out the window. (Thank you, Diamantina, for the heads up!!) I was completely jet lagged and at a loss as to what to do so I decided to just flip the itinerary and go clockwise from Christchurch instead of counter-clockwise. I cancelled and rebooked all our reservations with very little problem, although I had to do a little jiggling to fit in the Elm Wildlife Tour which was booked the day I wanted to go. That was a must-do on my list and the highlight of our trip. So a lesson there. Even though it was such a supposedly busy time of year, there really was no reason to book anything in advance.

I will say there was a lot of driving on this itinerary, and I wish we had had more time to take it a bit slower. We didn’t do half the things I was hoping to do because we just didn’t have the energy, and I got a bad cold the last three days. We seemed to get a late start in the mornings because we loved lingering over coffee at our campsites, enjoying the views, but that was part of the trip for us. We hit most of the highlights, except our kayak trip in Glenorchy was cancelled twice due to high winds, which was the only disappointment.

Here's how it worked out:
Christchurch – 1N
Mt Cook – 2N
Oamaru – 2N
Dunedin – 1N
Curio Bay – 1N
Te Anau – 2N
Glenorchy – 2N
Wanaka – 2N
Fox Glacier – 1N
Punakaiki – 1N
Christchurch – 1N

If I can answer any questions or offer any advice to anyone planning a trip, I’m happy to do so. It was a magical experience.

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