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see_the_world7 Feb 20th, 2011 12:51 PM

Suggestions for specific things to see or do on South Island of New Zealand
Thanks for all the help we've received so far in planning our New Zealand trip. We've now booked flights and accommodations for our trip. For some locations we're staying multiple days to allow flexibility in case of bad weather, but are hoping we have great weather and more time than expected. We're looking for suggestions on things to do, places to go, and specific hikes/walks to do for a family with 2 children - ages 9 and 10. We've used guide books and gotten some suggestions, but would love specific ideas from people who have been there. We have basic ideas for each location, but would love more insider tips. We'd love to hear of places you stopped for hikes anywhere between 30 minutes to about 4 hours, and places or activities you considered a 'must-see' or 'must-do'. My husband's serious hobby is landscape photography. I know all of New Zealand is known for the beautiful scenery but if there are any special location that you really loved, please pass those along as well!!

We'd also like to go skiing one day, but aren't sure the best place to work it in. Ideas?

Our schedule is:
20 June - arrive Christchurch after flights from Heathrow.
staying 3 nights.
- 1 of these days we plan to drive of to Kaikoura for whale watching
- we're considering Akaroa one day ??
- what should we do in Christchurch itself??

23 June - drive Arthur's Pass - ending the day at Punakakai and Pancake Rocks
- where should we stop along the way for walks and photos

24 June - drive to Fox Glacier where we are spending 3 nights.
- we plan to stop at Franz Josef glacier on the way and just walk out to the glacier face
- We hope to do a heli-hike of Fox Glacier
- walk around Lake Matheson
- what else here?

27 June - drive through Mt. Aspiring Park to Wanaka where we are spending 2 nights
- nothing in particular planned but hope to hike or do activities on the lake or maybe ski?
- suggestions please? jetboating? (is jetboating better here or Queenstown?)

29 June - drive to Arrowtown where we are spending 3 nights
- plan to visit Queenstown (jetboating??) - gondola
- drive to Glenorchy for hiking
- walk around Arrowtown
- other recommendations?

2 July - drive to Te Anau where we are spending 4 nights
- Doubtful Sound
- Milford Sound (and the road to get there - Mirror Lakes, etc...)
- suggestions for hikes in/around Te Anua itself??

6 July - drive to Mt. Cook village where we are spending 2 nights
- hoping for nice views
- Hooker Valley hike
- we plan to helihike from Fox Glacier so would it be worth the helicopter flight from here. Would it be that much different to be worth the cost?
- other suggestions?

8 july - drive to Tekapo for 2 nights
- hikes? scenery? depending on weather at Mt. Cook we might spend most of the day there on the 8th.

10 July - drive to Rakaia Gorge for 2 nights
- hike the gorge
- other suggestions

12 July - drive to airport for flight home.

Thanks so much for the help!

kiwi_rob Feb 20th, 2011 01:29 PM

Hi, stw.
A few thoughts.

If you do the trip to Akaroa (easily done as a day trip from Christchurch), about half-way there is a little detour to Birdlings Flat. It is a shingle beach with a southern exposure and the surf crashing in on it can be quite spectacular, particularly when there is a southerly wind blowing. The beach is a great place for fossicking for coloured pebbles, etc. It is only 5 minutes off the main highway and is worth a look. Be sure to have a warm jacket, because the wind can be bitterly cold there.

Central Christchurch is best done on foot, and the Arts Centre, Museum and Botanic Gardens are worth a look if you are in to that sort of thing. The Antarctic Centre is a popular destination but, imho, it is overpriced.

On the drive to Punakaiki from Arthur's Pass, the stretch of road from Otira to Kumara is very pretty, but you will see plenty of pretty scenery on your trip. I suggest that, instead of going to Punakaiki via Kumara and Greymouth, you turn right just after Jacksons and follow the road to Moana and then Stillwater. Cross the Grey River at Stillwater to Taylorville and then head downriver from there until you meet SH6, which will take you to Punakaiki. You will go through Greymouth on your way down to the glaciers after you leave Punakaiki.

At Punakaiki, the Trumans Track walk (just over 1 kilometre north of Punakaiki) is worth doing. It is only 10 minutes or so each way. If the tide is low, go down onto the beach and look at the caves carved out by the sea.

You will have a great trip.


longhorn55 Feb 20th, 2011 01:51 PM

Unfortunately, most of the hiking we did in NZ was multi-day self-guided (Kaikoura Coast Track) and guided (Hollyford Track), and that won't help with your itinerary. But I do recall doing the Devil's Punchbowl Falls hike at Arthur's Pass with our kids and it was a good one. Also, if your travels take you to the east coast (which they don't appear to), we walked amongst the Moeraki Boulders south of Oamaru. The boulders are fascinating and we had the entire beach to ourselves (which is likely in winter). Our children (now young adults) still talk about going there. This place would also make for interesting photos I would think.
For sightseeing with kids in the places you are going:
1. Christchurch--Canterbury Musuem. This museum is free and has some excellent exhibits, especially on Antarctic explorers and exploration.
2. Christchurch--International Antarctic Center: The admission here is rather pricey. (We were there when the US dollar was stronger.) But there are some neat things to see and experience, such as a room where you can don jackets to see what it feels like on Antarctica.
3. Glaciers--If you get fogged out of the helihike (which happened to us), consider doing the half-day hike on the glacier. It was a fascinating tour and our kids still talk about this too.
4. Wanaka-Go to Puzzling World. It's a lot of fun and great for exercising those brain cells.
5. Queenstown--If the luge is open at the top of the gondola, you have to do it. It was incredible and a ton of fun!
6. Queenstown--Drive out to Kawarau Bridge to watch the bungy jumpers. It's absolutely riveting to watch and be prepared for the kids to beg to try it.
7. Te Anau--Take the tour to the island for the glow worm cave.

Melnq8 Feb 20th, 2011 02:49 PM

Hi see_the_world -

I'm curious where you plan to stay while you visit Rakaia Gorge...we've gone out of our way to hike the Rakaia Gorge Track, but we based ourselves in Christchurch to do it. Accommdation options are sparse near the gorge, but if conditions are cooperative, this might be a good opportunity for you to ski at Mt Hutt.

Other ski areas near Christchurch/Canterbury:

Some walk suggestions for Arrowtown:

Lake Hayes Walkway, a five mile circuit around Lake Hayes. Accessible via Speargrass Flat Road.

Sawpit Gully -

One of our top three favorite hikes from our last trip. It's a 4.5 mile, 8 km loop, with a few steep bits. The views of the river and gorge are fabulous. There's also a nice short track along the Arrow River and the two mile Bush Creek Trail, which leads to a waterfall.

From Wanaka:

Rob Roy Glacier track, Diamond Lake (10 minutes) which connects to the Rocky Hill Summit Circuit, with fab views of all of Lake Wanaka and a few islands. Rocky Hill should be avoided in wet weather. Both are accessible from Mt Aspiring Road.

Between QT and Glenorchy:

The trailhead to Mt Crichton/Sam Summers is located in the Mt Crichton Scenic Reserve just off Glenorchy Road between Wilson Bay and Bob’s Cove. This is a wonderful walk with incredible views of Lake Wakatipu.

Between Greymouth and Punakaiki -

Charleston Scenic Reserve - there's a nice easy loop walk to an overlook at Constant Bay.

From Te Anau (weather dependent of course):

The hike to Key Summit (Routeburn Track accessible from The Divide on Milford Road)

The hike to Rainbow Reach (Kepler Track) - a tame section of the track that follows the Waiau River through beech forest. The track continues on to Mt Luxmore if you're looking for a challenging hike.

Tekapo -

There's a nice hike up to Mt's been a few years since we hiked it, but we enjoyed it.

From the glaciers:

Chalet Lookout Walk is fantastic - it's accessible from Glacier View Road (Fox Glacier)

There are also some nice walks accessible from Okarito, which is just north of Franz Josef:

Okarito Trig Viewpoint, Three Mile Lagood and Pakihi Walk

see_the_world7 Feb 20th, 2011 10:12 PM

Thanks for the tips. I'll print these out and take a look at our map.
Melnq8: At Rakaia Gorge, we plan to stay at Washpen Falls Chalet. We found it on holidayhouses here: and when they responded they pointed us to their website

mlgb Feb 21st, 2011 10:43 AM

Between Chch and Arthurs Pass, as you reach the Porter's Pass area you'll see the Castle Hill "Narnia" scenery. There are some paths (on the left hand side heading toward Arthur's Pass).

Arthur's Pass--stop in any parking lot and you will likely attract Kea parrots. They can often be found waddling across the road near the "Wobbly Kea", and near the parking lot at the top of the pass (worth a stop for some snaps).

Fox/Franz if you have time you can drive out to the coast near Okarito. Ask at the ranger station where you can walk to see glow worms at night. This is also a good spot for easy rainforest walks (sorry can't remember the specific trail names).

For an excursion up the Dart River (but from Glenorchy, not Wanaka)

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