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Tentative South Island NZ itinerary--what do you think?

Tentative South Island NZ itinerary--what do you think?

Feb 7th, 2015, 04:57 PM
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Tentative South Island NZ itinerary--what do you think?

My husband and I are planning a trip to the south island of New Zealand in November. We spent a week on the north island in 2005 and have wanted to return to take in the beauty of the South ever since. We are flying from San Francisco to Auckland (restricted by frequent flyer miles) and will spend 2-3 nights there since we bypassed that city last time. Then we head to the south island for about 16 days. We hope to do day hikes, kayak, sample the cities, and enjoy what looks to be magnificent scenery.

We may consider camping/cabins for part of the time but definitely want to stay in some hotels/inns/b&bs as well. Accommodation budget for noncamping time--under US$200 (NZ 270) per night.. Recommendations appreciated.

Here's our first stab at an itinerary. Would love to have your feedback on whether it is too much to tackle. (This will likely be our final trip to NZ.) Also would appreciate advice on where we need to reserve, and how far in advance.

1. Fly to Nelson Airport, pick up rental car, and drive to area of Abel Tasman National Park--3 nights

2. Drive down the west coast; see Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers, descending from Arioki Mt. Cook--2 nights, perhaps in two different places (one near the glaciers, one further north)

3. Queenstown-Wanaka area; Arioki Mt. Cook from other side; stay in Arrowtown?--3 nights

4. Te Anau--1 night

5. Milford Sound--2 nights

6. East coast, staying in Dunedin/Otago Peninsula area--2 nights

What do you think?

7. North along coast to Christchurch/Banks Peninsula area--3 nights

Fly to Melbourne from Christchurch for 3 weeks in southern Australia, focusing on Melbourne area and Tasmania
aprillilacs is offline  
Feb 7th, 2015, 05:17 PM
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Hi April -

Have you checked flights into Nelson? I looked at flights myself recently and found that they're quite limited, and generally prop planes (which I personally avoid).

Keep in mind that Nelson is still about an hour's drive from Abel Tasman Nat'l Park. Good bases for seeing the park are Marahau (the closest), Kaiteriteri, Little Kaiteriteri or in/around Motueka.

November should still be relatively quiet, but I'd still book in popular areas like Abel Tasman and Mt Cook.

Before I continue, could you please clarify what you mean by "see Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers, descending from Arioki Mt. Cook"???
Melnq8 is online now  
Feb 8th, 2015, 08:18 AM
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Thanks, Mel. Hadn't looked bin to the flights yet--is there a better option than Nelson for flying into?

Good to know the convenient bases for visiting Abel Tasman. We are hoping to do some kayaking there if the weather cooperates.

Sorry for not being clearer about #3. Just meant that we would drive down the west coast past the glaciers, which descend from the mountains. Would love to hear your thoughts on the rest of the itinerary.
aprillilacs is offline  
Feb 8th, 2015, 03:49 PM
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Nelson makes perfect sense if visiting Abel Tasman, I just wanted to mention there may be some issues to consider such as schedules and type of aircraft. I just checked and there are direct flights from Auckland to Nelson and also flights that stop in Wellington first.

I suggest at least two nights at the glaciers - this gives you a minimum of one full day, which you need every minute of to see both glaciers, Lake Matheson and explore some of the tracks in the areas.


This confuses me as well. You can sometimes see Mount Cook in the far distance from SH 8 from between Omarama and Lake Tekapo, but don't count on it.

If you want to see Mt Cook, this is best done by driving there. It's about a 55 km drive from the turn on from SH 8

I think it makes sense to go to Wanaka first for a few nights, then head from there to Te Anau to spend two nghts.

Te Anau is the perfect base from which to explore the Milford Road /Sound, but you'll need two nights, which will give you only one full day to Milford Sound.

From there I'd go to Queenstown/Arrowtown. Then down to Dunedin and up to Banks Peninsula. Although having said that, I thinks this is a very ambitious itinerary with a lot of driving and not much time to spend at the places you're driving too. Keep mind that the east coast of the SI is it's least scenic.
Melnq8 is online now  
Feb 8th, 2015, 09:54 PM
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Thanks again, Mel. We are definitely going to drive to Mt. Cook!

We don't mind the turboprop plane to Nelson and have found a really good fare from Auckland (NZ 79 each, one way), so I think we're going to go with that. WE also found a reasonable car rental fee with Apex for pickup in Nelson and dropoff in Christchurch, which we will probably try to book before too long.

Sounds like you are recommending against the east coast and advising more time in the other parts of the island. Am I correct? I do want to avoid spending the whole time driving so am willing to drop something if necessary. Dunedin etc.?
aprillilacs is offline  
Feb 8th, 2015, 11:43 PM
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I'm not a fan of Dunedin, but many visitors feel the need to go there. Fine if you've got the time, but otherwise I think there are better uses of one's time. Dunedin aside, the drive from about Oamaru to Christchurch is just not very pretty.

I think you'll find it very difficult to fit the north of the SI and the south of the SI into a 2-3 week trip (not sure how many days you actually have to work with), especially since you're making a loop instead of driving one way.

I personally find it difficult to fit just the top or bottom of the SI into two weeks, and this from someone whose been there a dozen times.

First time visitors tend to grossly underestimate travel times- and spend more time in the car than they expect.

I see you plan on spending two nights in Milford - curious what you hope to do there? Other than the boat wharf a café and a hostel there just isn't anything there. There are some fabulous walks along Milford Road though. If that's your goal, you might find staying at Knobs Flat is a better option - it's about halfway between Milford and Te Anau. We spent three nights there once, and while I wasn't thrilled with the accommodation, it's situated ideally for exploring the walks along Milford Road.

Have you considered flying from Auckland to Christchurch and then beginning your trip there - maybe go to Banks Peninsula first, then work your way up to Nelson and down the west coast to the glaciers, then on to Te Anau & Milford, then work your way back to Christchurch via the inland route (Mount Cook).
Melnq8 is online now  
Feb 9th, 2015, 09:42 PM
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Living in Nelson we fly to Wellington very regularly and quite often to Auckland never have a problem with the planes. I used to be a nervous flyer too but have flown these so often now that it is just routine. Nelson is also the 4th busiest airport in New Zealand so gets a lot of traffic. If flying from Auckland book a direct flight it takes about an 1 1/4 hours.
nelsonian is offline  
Feb 9th, 2015, 09:44 PM
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Sorry I just read that you had already booked your flight $ 79 is a great fare.
nelsonian is offline  
Feb 17th, 2015, 09:23 AM
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I'll leave it to Mel to comment on your itinerary, except to say that if there is a long route and a short one, I'd definitely pick the latter. When Mel says this:

First time visitors tend to grossly underestimate travel times- and spend more time in the car than they expect.>>

she is absolutely right. Despite Mel's excellent advice that's exactly what we did, and had to change our itinerary [and our accommodation bookings, which fortunately were on free cancellation terms] because we realised that we'd bitten off more than we could chew.

regarding the cost of accommodation, we never paid more than NZ$200 per night and the standard was excellent, both with motels and B&Bs. We preferred the latter but it was useful stopping at motels every so often as they tended to have in room laundries which we made good use of.

Enjoy your trip planning!
annhig is offline  
Feb 17th, 2015, 03:19 PM
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Thanks to all for your replies and good advice. We are moving forward with planning and have booked the Auckland-Nelson flight at NZ$79 each.

I hear and understand the advice about driving less and enjoying it more. We are used to staying 1-3 weeks in a place and exploring intensively before we move on, so I'm all for expanding the time spent in an area as much as possible.

As we plan I'm sure I will have more questions--we have a 4-week trip to Peru and Ecuador that comes first, so it's hard to concentrate on planning both. But we do want to book pretty far ahead at popular places, so we need to get a decent plan together that we could modify if needed as we do more planning.
aprillilacs is offline  
Feb 26th, 2015, 12:07 PM
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I am planning a similar trip, coming up very quickly next month. We have recently had an embarrassment of glacier riches in both Patagonia and Norway, so we won't be wanting to do glacier trekking on the west coast. What would be your favorites for doing in that area that did not involve going onto the glaciers?
pthomas156 is offline  

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