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Tamika Dec 29th, 2010 04:13 AM

Ten days in New Zealand with teenagers - help with itinerary please?
We are a family of four and are flying into Christchurch in late January and want to spend 10 days exploring the south island. We will spend the first night in Christchurch then we are thinking of doing the following:

Day 1 Arrive and explore Christchurch
Day 2: Drive to Hamner Springs and spend time enjoying spa etc and then on to Kaikoura and stay 1 night there
Day 3. Swim with dolpins and drive back to Christchurch and stay night there
Day 4 Fly to Queenstown and stay 2 nights . Explore, enjoy
Day 7 Trip to Milford Sound. Late afternoon cruise. Stay night in Te Anau
Day 8 Do a walk in Te Anau
Day 9 Drive to Lake Tekapo stay night
Day 10 Drive to Christchurch
Day 11 fly home

Can you please advise me whether this is a good itinerary? We are not particularly interested in seeing the glaciers as we were fortunate to visit friends in Switzerland a while ago an spent time mountain climbing and seeing glaciers there.

Would we be better off leaving out the trip to Hamner Springs and Kaikoura and just concentrating on the south regions given we only have ten days? We are very keen to visit Milford Sound.

Advice would be very much appreciated. We want to enjoy the trip and I wonder if less is more?

Also what is the best way to see Milford Sound - cruise or kayaking?

mlgb Dec 29th, 2010 08:29 AM

I would agree to drop Kaikoura and particularly Hanmer Springs. If you wanted to dolphin swim Akaroa is closer to Christchurch anyways. Maybe do it at the end of your trip. With 4 people, I'm not sure I'd spend the money to fly to Queenstown. Driving isn't that difficult. Spend at least one night at Mt. Cook, coming or going. Methven is another option if you get a late start.

Milford Sound I would include, can't help with the kayak advice though.

Don't stay in Lake Tekapo, bad hotels and nothing you can't see in an hour while on the road on Day 10. If you have time I'd say do a half day to Mt. Cook, stay there and walk Hunter Valley. A good family option is the Alpine Lodge if you can get it. As a backup, stay in Twizel, and only go inside the park if the weather is clear (However the reason I like staying at Mt. Cook Village is because the mornings and evenings are often clearest and the lighting on Mt. Cook at sunset is beautiful).

Lots of good adventure activities around Queenstown, you'll have a hard time narrowing things down. I like Dart River and Skippers Canyon. Be sure to drive out to Glenorchy and beyond to Kinloch even if you don't do the Dart River . I'm not as keen on Te Anau as a lot of other people on the boards.

mlgb Dec 29th, 2010 08:32 AM

Link to trip report

BTW I also like the Dunedin area but really you'd want two weeks to add that.

longhorn55 Dec 29th, 2010 04:16 PM

We took our then-teens to New Zealand a few years ago. We had more time to spend on the South Island than you, so we included 2 nights at Hamner Springs to go to the hot springs pool and to do some hiking in the area. We enjoyed our time there very much. We then continued up to Kaikoura where we did the swim with the dolphins and it was one of the highlights of our trip, especially for our kids.
I will say that the experience was very different from the "swim with the dolphin" experiences that you can have at places in the U.S. and other countries. At Kaikoura, you are not allowed to touch the dolphins and if they swim with you--great. If they don't, too bad. The dolphins are treated like the wild animals that they are. They found a good pod of dolphins for us and they swam very near to us and we got very close to them, so we had a great time. I mention this only so that you aren't surprised by the experience as I have heard that many people are.

Melnq8 Dec 29th, 2010 04:19 PM

Hi Tamika -

Hanmer Springs isn't generally considered a highlight of the SI, but if your goal is to get to Kaikoura to swim with dolpins, it makes sense to see Hanmer on the way. The coastal drive to Kaikoura is pretty and there's a good chance you'll see plenty of seals on the rocks right off the highway. The drawback of this itinerary however, is that you'll have to backtrack, which seems a shame with so little time.

I agree with mlgb that Akaroa is easier to reach, and would involve less backtracking. Banks Peninsula is a unique spot, with an assortment of water and land activities, It's also a good opportunity to see penguins, dolphins and kayak.

I'm seeing three nights in QT on your itinerary, not two???

Tekapo is a sensible stopover point after your ~six hour drive from Te Anau, but be sure to make the detour to Mt Cook along the way, or heck, just spend the night in Mt Cook (do be aware that lodging is limited and can be pricy).

True, the highlights of Tekapo can easily be seen in an hour or so, but if you prefer in depth exploration, there are some nice hikes, and an observatory that offers tours, but I doubt you'll have much time for this given your drive schedule.

I'm one of those people who really likes Te Anau. Not the town so much, but the surrounding area. There are some fantastic hikes, lake activities, etc. Make sure to see Ata Whena when in Te Anau, it's spectacular.

Tamika Dec 30th, 2010 01:39 AM

Thank-you all so much for your advice - it's so helpful. We have decided now not to go to Hamner Springs or Kaikoura but to concentrate on heading south from Christchurch to spend time in Te Anau, Milford Sound, and then Queenstown. We will take MLGB's advice and go to Mt Cook on the way back to Christchurch as there is accommodation available at the Lodge then. If we have time left we will go to Akaroa at the end of our trip.

Can you please recommend where to stop on the way to Te Anau driving from Christchurch? It is too long a trip for us to do in one day and we will be heading to Mt Cook on our return trip.

MLGB thanks very much for the link to your trip report. Great pictures and music - I love Gin Wigmore!

Melnq8 Dec 30th, 2010 03:41 AM

I realize you're not interested in the glaciers, but the drive down the west coast from Christchurch via Arthur's Pass and Franz Josef/Fox Glacier is gorgeous. Hokitika or the glaciers make the perfect overnight stay, even if you're not interested in exploring the area.

HOWEVER, it takes about 5.5 hours to drive from Christchurch to Franz Josef, and another eight hours to drive from Franz Josef to Te Anau.

I'm looking at my SI map and it appears that Christchurch-Palmerston-Queenstown might be an option, with an overnight in QT. It looks to be an eight hour drive though. The drive from QT to Te Anau the following day would be close to two hours. This involves driving down the east coast via SH1 (not a pretty drive unfortunately) and crossing over at Palmerston via 85. I don't think I've ever driven via Palmerston, perhaps a Kiwi will pipe in.

Or, you could FLY directly from Christchurch to Queenstown, pick up a rental car and head to Te Anau. I'd suggest doing'll free up more time.

Tamika Dec 30th, 2010 01:01 PM

Thanks very much Melnq8. I have just read your trip reports and they are great. Totally revised trip itinerary now having read more about the wonders of the West Coast and the glaciers. I wondered what you think of this:

Day 1: Arrive and explore Christchurch
Day 2: Hire car and drive to Akoura, explore then stay in Christchurch another night
Day 3 Fly to Queenstown, hire car and drive to Te Anau and stay 2 nights. Explore Milford Sound
Day 5,6 & 7 Drive to Queenstown, treat teenagers to some fun
Day 8 & 9 Drive to Fox Glacier and stay 2 nights
Day 10 Drive to Christchurch, return hire car
Day 11 Fly home

With this itinerary we are missing Mt Cook but we can't do everything.

longhorn55 Dec 30th, 2010 01:34 PM

On the way to Fox Glacier from Queenstown, I believe you will drive through Wanaka. I recommend that you set aside some time to visit Puzzling World there. Our teens had a great time trying to figure out the Great Maze and we found all the optical illusions interesting.

Melnq8 Dec 30th, 2010 02:32 PM

Thanks Tamika. I think it's a good itinerary given your limited time.

Depending on flight schedules from Christchurch to QT, you might even consider staying that second night in Akaroa instead of Christchurch, then just drive from Akaroa directly to the airport. It's roughly a 90 minute drive.

PS - Some rental car companies in NZ will drop off a car to your hotel, or pick you up and take you to their depot

Tamika Dec 30th, 2010 05:10 PM

Thanks very much for your help. You are quite an expert on NZ. I have been reading some of your suggestions re accommodation in response to others questions on the site and found them helpful too. Happy New Year!

mlgb Dec 30th, 2010 05:30 PM

I think it's a shame that you are going via the west coast glaciers rather than Mt. Cook. Especially since you could have had the lodge.

Especially since you mentioned not being particularly interested in glaciers! I would look at some photos of those particular glaciers on the west coast before deciding.

Melnq8 Dec 30th, 2010 05:41 PM

Cheers Tamika, enjoy NZ.

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