South Island, West or East Coast?

Old Feb 27th, 2001, 06:27 AM
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South Island, West or East Coast?

I'm planning a 20 day trip in Dec to the South Island and I'd like to avoid a big loop driving round the island. I had thought of missing out the West Coast and West Coast Glaciers and taking a flight over Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers from Mt. Cook and perhaps seeing/landing on the Tasman Glacier by helicopter. I'm keen to see Mt . Cook because of the splendid summer flowers.Am I missing out heaps by not driving the west coast and glaciers and missing out on Haast pass etc??
Also in Dec how far ahead do you need to book for helicopter trips, whalewatching, milford sound cruises and hotels( all the guidebooks say booking ahead is essential in Dec)Is this really necessary??
Old Feb 27th, 2001, 10:29 PM
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The drive from Christchurch across Arthurs Pass and then south through Franz and Fox Glaciers is quite spectacular and worth doing, as is the Haast Pass. Make sure you go to Queenstown - lots to see and do - take the gondola up to the top of Bobs Peak for fantastic views across the lake.
I think you would be OK for hotels etc as long as you are not travelling in school holidays. We had a holiday there in November/December 1999 and had no trouble getting into accommodation.
Old Feb 28th, 2001, 09:34 AM
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Do yourself a favor. Book your accommodations before you leave home. Most hotels allow you to cancel by 6pm day of arrival without charging your account. Trust me, you don't want to arrive at a resort area with no room reservation.
Old Mar 1st, 2001, 12:20 AM
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Be sure to check out the school holidays - I believe they start shortly before Christmas and are a month long. It is less congested on the south island in the smaller towns than on the north island. We spent 3 weeks on the south island in 1999 and did the run from Hokitika to Christchurch - it was wonderful. Loved the Tasman Sea and the smaller towns both off the coast and on. We only booked our accomodation on the north island for the 1st week and then just booked as we went and had no problem. We didn't do the glaciers as we live quite close to Banff/Jasper and have seen glaciers before so it wasn't something that interested us. I found the pancake rocks very facinating.
Old Mar 1st, 2001, 08:27 AM
Mary Ann
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I would book accomodations in advance as recommended above. We were just there in November (Blenhieim, Kaikoura, Akaroa, Christchurch, Franz Jo, Queenstown, Dunedin). With tours etc, at least in two locations our first choice was already booked. We preferred smaller places, great views, quaint, type. Tours are another. The helicopter rides are pending weather. They have so many and fly sunrise to sunset that you can probably book when you get there. We were in Franz Jo for that and wanted to include the Mt. Cook but they had not been able to fly it for a couple days due to weather. Whale watching you can book in advance, it too is subject to weather but they do not charge you in advance.
We had Milford booked for a fly package it was canceled due to weather. We did not want the 10 hour bus ride so we did not go. Friends just back said that several trips were cancelled due to fog. If you want to be sure to get there I would consider staying in Te Anau. Only 2 hours from the sound and better if the weather breaks.
Old Mar 7th, 2001, 10:28 PM
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I'd say you would indeed be missing a great deal by not visiting the west coast. If you've got three weeks, doing a 'loop' trip really isn't going to be that onerous unless you convince yourself it will be.

The west coast sights are great--the glaciers are utterly spectacular for hiking, the rainforest scenery is superb, and the drives themselves in this area are thoroughly enjoyable. One thing I hadn't realized before visiting NZ is the variety of ecosystems on the South island especially--the real rainforest, for example, is really only found there on the west coast, and further inland there are areas that are near-desert. The contrasts are remarkably striking, and you won't really see them in you miss the west coast.

I would also recommend booking hotels in advance if you can.

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