South Island Visit Planning Please Help!

Old Nov 8th, 2004, 10:25 AM
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South Island Visit Planning Please Help!

We are planning on a March vacation on New Zealand?s South Island and would appreciate any and all help! We are a couple in our late 40s, sorta fit, and we like a range of activities, are early to bed, early to rise types, but are not exceptionally outdoorsy (we like hiking, we don?t like camping). We have been dithering about this vacation for over a year, and we are ready to commit, but are still finding ourselves incapable of coming to a final decision. Below is our very sketchy plan. If you have any comments, I?d really appreciate it:

Day 1-2 ?Los Angeles to Christchurch.
Day 3-4 ? Drive to Dunedin. Visit Albatross, Penguins.
Day 5-6?Queenstown
Day 7-11 ? Milford Tack (Guided)
Day 12 Queenstown
Days 13-14 ? Make our way to Picton up the west coast
Days 15-18 ? Enjoy staying in one place for a while. Walk on Queen Charlotte Track, winery tour, etc.
Days 18-20-- Christchurch again.
Day 21 -- Home

As I say, this is very sketchy. We have also kicked around flying from Christchurch to Queenstown and doing the Milford Track 3 days after we arrive, spending the rest of the time exploring mostly the East Coast and the Marlborough/Nelson areas.

Our usual vacation is to go to England, stay with family, and then rent a cottage somewhere for a week. We don?t want to move around every day, and are willing to miss some things, but will we miss too much if we do not visit the West coast? Is Picton a nice place to stay for a while, or would Nelson be better? I really, truly appreciate any opinions! Thanks!
Jodes is offline  
Old Nov 8th, 2004, 10:55 AM
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My husband and I went to New Zealand's
South Island in April, 2003. We are in our early 50's. We flew into Queenstown, rented a car and drove to Milford Sound and took the cruise. Then we went through the Catlins and on to Dunedin. I loved the Albatross visit, and the penguin tour was our absolute favorite thing in a trip filled with wonderful experiences. Hamner Springs was as far noth as we made it, and it was beautiful. I didn't know how long the driving would take, or how much time we'd want to spend in one place, so we only had reservations the first and last nights and had no trouble finding places to stay. We were there 8 days and wanted to see alot, so we moved every day which worked ok for us.
Whatever you do, you'll love New Zealand.
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Old Nov 8th, 2004, 11:40 AM
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People visit NZ for different scenery, action sports, fishing, bushwalking.
No doubt you have a map of NZ, I would suggest a trip which involves a number of the above "reasons". You would need a rental car, and if offered a 4WD vehicle by the company, take it, as it will get you off the beaten track, more so than an ordinary motor car.
I am not sure why you would to spend so much time in Christchurch, utilise this time for the scenic countryside.
I would suggest the following places to visitbr /> * The inland road to Queenstown, with Lake Tekapo, Mt.Cook & Lake Pukaki, Lake Hawea, Lake Wanaka (very scenic)
* Queenstown for action sports & scenery.
* One of the Passes, eg. Haast, Arthurs Pass, etc. (great scenic driving roads)
* Milford Sound & scenic road leading down to the Milford.
* Catlin Forest & coastline for birdlife.
* Fox & Franz Joseph Glaciers.(unless you seen glaciers before)
* Abel Tasman National Park.
* Boating or fishing trips in the Marlborough Sounds.
* Staying in a lodge near Arthurs Pass & trout fishing.
* Kaikoura (sea trips & great mountain background.)
* Tasting the best Sauvignon Blancs in the world, in the Marlborough Region.
If you can devise a trip around all of those mentioned above, I am sure you will have a great time.
I really think that NZ's main attraction is its scenery (perfect locations for filming Lord of the Rings)
tropo is offline  
Old Nov 8th, 2004, 12:11 PM
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Thanks for your replies. tropo, perhaps we are spending too much time in Christchurch, we'll look at that.
krisz, We've thought about flying into Queenstown, but are worried about the length of the flight and changing planes before we get to our destination. Did you find going directly to Queenstown a difficult flight? Thanks!
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Old Nov 8th, 2004, 04:29 PM
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Jodes -

You might want to consider flying to Dunedin since you're beginning your holiday there. That would save you some drive time, and you wouldn't be spending time in CH on both ends of your holiday. Or, you can start in CH move north first (Picton, Nelson), then fly out of Queenstown or Dunedin (via CH) at the end of your trip.

We've flown to and from Queenstown and Dunedin several times - both are short hops and our connections have always worked well.

If you want to walk some of the Queen Charlotte Track, you might consider staying at a lodge or cottage within the Marlborough Sounds instead of in Picton. Picton is busy during the day due to the ferry traffic, but it's a sleepy town the rest of the time. It's a nice little place, but you might get a better feel for the Sounds if you take a boat and stay somewhere within the Sounds - some places are situated right on the track. You can walk a portion of the track and have a boat take you back to where you started if you're so inclined (arrange this before you start your walk). You can also do this from Picton if you'd prefer staying in town.

Nelson is also a pretty town, but it's quite a bit larger than Picton. I love the north end of the South Island and I'm partial to Ruby Bay. It's a short hop from Nelson, near Motueka, and right in the middle of wine country. From here you can also get to Abel Tasman or you might want to consider spending a few days in Takaka/Golden bay if you want to be even closer to Abel Tasman.

There's loads of cottage accommodation in this area.

Here are some sites that might help you decide where to stay:

Hope this helps - have fun!

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Old Nov 10th, 2004, 03:50 PM
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We flew from LA to Auckland and then Auckland to Queenstown. I don't remember the transfer being difficult altough it was two different airlines.
I do remember the flight to Queenstown was short and pleasant.And I'd second not spending too much time in Christchurch. We enjoyed the sights there but a day and a half was enough.
I love remembering my trip to New Zealand, the next best thing to being there.
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Old Nov 14th, 2004, 09:35 PM
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If you fly into Queenstown from Auckland, try to do it during daylight hours. My husband says they should charge extra for the fabulous scenery flying into Queesntown. It is truly amazing and one of our favorite sights in New Zealand of which there were many. Also the drive from Queenstown to Mt. Cook was just awesome.
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Old Nov 15th, 2004, 10:06 PM
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Just returned today fro two weeks in NZ (mostly in teeh south island). Have to agree that CC is a pleasant place but 1.5 - 2 days is enough. We flew from Auckland to Dunedin (because of other routing concerns), but I am so very thankful that we drove from Dunedin to Queenstown. The drive through Catlins in spring with the endless vistas of deep green rolling hills dotted everwhere with sheep and new lambs, deer etc just about ate up a weeks worth of video and film.

I know it is herasy, but I could pass on the west coast, there are good views - but having seen glaciers elsewhere in the world, I was not impressed by eitehr fox or franz (nice but not impressed). What little time I did have in the north part of the south island did create and interest to come back for a further look.
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Old Nov 16th, 2004, 05:15 PM
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Thank you so much for your replies! We have just booked a flight to Queenstown! We'll stay a few days, do the Milford Track (5 days) and get a car and drive to Dunedin. We'll then proceed up The east coast (and stay no more than a night or two in Christchurch!) I really appreciate all your responses. And WA--thanks for the validation!...The jury is still out on the West Coast, but I think we may soak up the beauty on the Milford Track and then spend some time having fun in the Marlborough region. I'd rather swim with the dolphins than hike on a glacier, if I have to make a choice.
Thanks again, everyone!
(and I am typing this directly, instead of cutting and pasting...sorry about those irritating ? in my original post!)
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