South Island Trip Report

Mar 13th, 2019, 08:07 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 447
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. Heres a brief trip report, for what its worth.

Our flight. Since its 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. Its 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 60s 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 wed 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 wasnt 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 didnt do half the things I was hoping to do because we just didnt 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, Im happy to do so. It was a magical experience.
blackmons is offline  
Mar 13th, 2019, 12:00 PM
Join Date: May 2004
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Glad you had a great time. We loved our Wilderness van too.
crellston is offline  
Mar 13th, 2019, 12:19 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Glad you had a good trip blackmons! I'm always preaching flexibility, but it usually falls on deaf ears. Happy to hear things worked out in the end.

Now you can start planning your return visit!
Melnq8 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2019, 03:18 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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Laurie, I'm glad it all went great, despite some crazy weather! Sorry you couldn't kayak in Glenorchy, but it might have been a harrowing experience if you had gone out. It was extraordinarily windy in Central Otago this summer. The wind caused power outages and knocked trees over, in some cases, causing serious injuries. Surfers were riding waves on Lake Wakitipu.
What did you do in Oamaru for two days/nights? Did you enjoy that drive from Aoraki Mt. Cook to Oamaru?
So if you make a return visit to NZ, would you once again travel in a campervan?

Last edited by Diamantina; Mar 13th, 2019 at 03:26 PM.
Diamantina is offline  
Mar 13th, 2019, 06:35 PM
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Hi, Diamantina. Our plan originally was to spend one night in Oamaru, but because the Elm Wildlife Tour was booked the next day, we ended up staying two nights as they had availability the second day. We arrived in the evening and stayed at Harbourside Holiday Park the first night. We had the good fortune of being able to watch a blue penguin return to her waiting babies at the park as she had built their nest under the deck at the park. Quite a thrill for us, watching the babies pacing back and forth in excitement as they waited for their mom. We spent the following day in town, admiring the Victorian architecture, visiting Steampunk HQ, picking up cheese at Whitestone Cheese, and trying to find wool yarn to bring home. Unfortunately their big yarn shop, TOTE, was closed due to a staff shortage. We could have spent the second night in Dunedin but were able to get a reservation at Fleur's Place for the following day so we stayed at Herbert Forest Campground the following night. We also preferred staying in a scenic park rather than at Portobello. Fleur's Place is incredible. We loved it. So it all worked out. The drive from Mt. Cook to Oamaru was gorgeous. If we were to make another trip to New Zealand, we would absolutely rent a campervan again. We loved it that much.
blackmons is offline  
Mar 14th, 2019, 03:07 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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Your time in Oamaru sounds like perfection. How great to see Little Blue Penguin chicks waiting for their feeding
I agree, Fleur's Place is lovely. I love the drive from Aoraki Mt. Cook to Oamaru, so I'm glad you did, too.
I hope the Elm Wildlife tour lived up to your expectations, the weather was awful around that time, hit and miss.
Diamantina is offline  
Mar 17th, 2019, 08:53 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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I remember your planning threads. I agree about being flexible, you never know what the weather has in store for the Wild West Coast.

I ate at Fleur's once, and Fleur herself waited on me since they were short-staffed. She even asked ME if I knew what the soup of the day was.

So neat that you were able to have that penguin experience.

I was just in Cape Town and their African Penguins bed down in some crazy places..I saw one hunkered down in a storm drain, and another under a parked truck. My Airbnb included a warning to always check under your car before heading out for the morning.

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 17th, 2019 at 08:58 AM.
mlgb is offline  
Mar 17th, 2019, 05:40 PM
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The Elm Wildlife Tour was fantastic, although the wind practically knocked us off our feet. Like I say, it was the highlight of our trip.

Capetown! Also on my bucket list. Some day....

So saddened about the atrocity in Christchurch. My heart goes out to all.
blackmons is offline  
Mar 18th, 2019, 07:05 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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Probably the most fun pengie-viewing I've experienced, outside of the Falklands which is a lot harder to get to!

February is a pretty good time to go to South Africa, blackmons. Mostly outside of "festive season" and we scored some great airfares from the west coast on Virgin Atlantic via LHR. Still takes forever to get there (like NZ) but worth it.

Combined with Kruger first and then flew a local carrier return to JNB. Lots of baby animals. Due to a long term drought all of the warnings about "not being able to see anything because of long grass" were false and I think out of our group of 9 there was one mosquito bite in the far north (we all took malaria prophylaxis anyways but might have gotten away with just DEET).

Anyways, back to your report....
mlgb is offline  
Mar 19th, 2019, 03:19 AM
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Laurie, I'm glad you enjoyed the Elm Tour and you were forgiving of the weather. It's windiest in summer. Very sneaky winds that spoil the sunniest days. By March, they start to die down.

I agree Capetown is fantastic. We spent a month traveling through South Africa from mid-May through mid-June in 2007. It was the best vacation ever. Up until then, Australia had always been our favorite destination. We spent days and nights in a private safari camp in the Timbavati Game Reserve, in three different rest camps in Kruger National Park, in White River, Hazyview, Nelspruit, Port Elizabeth, two different rest camps in Addo National Park, at a rest camp in Mountain Zebra National Park, drove along the Garden Route, spending nights in Jeffrey's Bay, Tsitsikamma National Park, Hermanus, then inland to the wine country of Franschhoek, and ended our trip in the Capetown suburb of Camps Bay. So much to see in Capetown! The Chapman's Peak Drive to Simon's Town (Boulders Bay/Foxy Beach penguins) and onward to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is a must.
Diamantina is offline  
Mar 19th, 2019, 06:55 AM
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,304
Thanks for the feedback on Elm. We are looking at going out with them too when were in Dunedin.

Agree with Diamantina and mlgb on Southern Africa. We loved our visit there - not just South Africa but also Zimbabwe and Botswana.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 07:47 PM
Join Date: Aug 2006
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Blackmons, we stayed at the Harbourside Holiday Park in Oamaru also, but didn’t see the blue penguin or the chicks. I did go out looking for them. What time did you see them?

We are in Dunedin now, went to the Royal Albatross centre today, that was fascinating. Saw three two month old chicks, and an adult and a juvenile flying around. Also went to Lanarchs castle, walked up to the Soldiers monument, and checked out the steepest street in the world, Baldwin St.
nelsonian is offline  
Mar 24th, 2019, 04:50 PM
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Hi, Nelsonian. Glad you're having a good time. We saw the mother penguin swimming to shore at dusk, but she stayed hiding by the rocks for quite a while. Once it was dark, the babies came out from their nest under the deck and were excitedly pacing back and forth, waiting for their mother. I would say it was close to 10:00 before the mother came waddling through the campground. At this point though, maybe the babies have left the nest since this was almost a month ago.
blackmons is offline  
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