Three Week SI Trip Comments on Itinerary

Jan 6th, 2016, 04:38 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 9
Three Week SI Trip Comments on Itinerary

Hello all,

I just came across some trip reports on this forum and they made for some very enjoyable reading, especially details on stay and meals. My DH and I just turned 60 and our trip to the SI is planned for March-April 2016. Here is our planned itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive Christchurch, explore
Day 2: Drive to Kaikoura, walk along the Peninsula Walkway
Day 3: Drive to Picton and take water transport to Marlborough Sounds. Nature Cruise in the afternoon.
Day 4: Explore Marlborough Sounds
Day 5: Drive to Kaiteriteri and take water transport to Abel Tasman Park lodging. Lunch and some time in Nelson?
Day 6: Explore Abel Tasman
Day 7: Drive to Punakaiki
Day 8: Drive to Franz Joseph, perhaps take in Hokitika Gorge?
Day 9: Short walks and Lake Matheson
Day 10: Drive to Wanaka
Day 11: Wanaka in am, drive to Te Anau later in the day
Day 12: Milford Sound coach-cruise-coach
Day 13: Doubtful Sound coach-cruise
Day 14: Drive the SSR to north Catlins, taking in sights along the way
Day 15: Drive to Dunedin and spend the rest of the day at the Otago Peninsula
Day16: Drive to Lake Tekapo via Oamaru and Twizel
Day 17: Explore Lake Tekapo
Day 18: Drive to Mt. Cook, explore
Day 19: Drive to Queenstown, explore
Day 20: Queenstown scenic drives
Day 21: Depart from Queenstown

We will be traveling from Monterey, California. I do not drive so it will be just my DH driving on this trip. We plan to use a rental car and use varied accommodation: hotels, lodges, B&Bs etc.

Thanks very much for your comments!
vnar is offline  
Jan 6th, 2016, 04:45 AM
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I forgot to put in our trip dates: March 20 arrival in Christchurch and April 9 departure from Queenstown. Would we see any leaf colors in early April?

Thanks again!
vnar is offline  
Jan 6th, 2016, 07:42 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi vnar -

You're off to the right start by allowing three weeks on the SI! Good on you!

A few comments:

Your itinerary looks very promising (and I don't say that often here as many first time visitors to NZ are way too ambitious!), but Day 5 doesn't make sense to me, particularly if you're staying at a lodge inside Abel Tasman Park. Why go to Nelson once you're in the park? How do you plan to get there?

Your itinerary gets a wee bit wonky at Day 14 - it's logistically sound, but rushed.

Driving to Dunedin to spend only half a day then turning around and driving to Lake Tekapo the next day (a 3.5 hour drive w/o stops) would be a bit of a squeeze for me, and I've been visiting the SI routinely for many years. I'm not a fan of one night stays, as I find them disruptive, although I do appreciate that in some locations spending one night 'in transit' makes perfect sense.

Keep in mind that driving in NZ is a challenge and can be quite tiring, as the roads are narrow and winding, there are copious one way bridges, lots of caravans and plenty to slow down what appears to be an easy drive day - livestock on the roads, etc. Not to mention a gazillion reasons to stop en route, such as photo ops, etc.

You'll also be visiting over the long Easter weekend, which runs from Good Friday through Easter Monday. This is a very busy weekend for locals - you'll need to book accommodation NOW if you haven't already and if you'll anywhere near Wanaka over Easter you're probably in a bit of strife with accommodation unless already booked, as Warbirds over Wanaka takes place that weekend and is extremely busy.

Knowing your exact dates would be helpful.

If it were me, I'd either add a night to Dunedin and scratch that night in Lake Tekapo (not a lot to do there other than the observatory, visit the chapel, walks on Mt John and in the vicinity). OR change that Tekapo overnight to Mt Cook (assuming you're not staying there to visit the observatory and assuming accommodation isn't booked out).

You'll have longish days and fewer people (other than Easter weekend) in your favor and, with some luck, good weather that time of year.

And yes, there should be some good leaf peeping, particularly in April.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2016, 07:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Oops, just saw the dates in your second post!
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2016, 09:58 AM
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Hi Mel,
Thanks much. I have been reading all your reports and I wish I had come across them sooner in my planning process. We are originally from India and enjoyed your reviews of the Indian restaurants on the SI. Looking forward to Little India and Paragonia.
I thought Nelson was on the way when driving from Te Mahia to Kaiteriteri and was wondering if if would be a good stop for an early lunch and perhaps some wandering around before we head to AT. Is staying at a lodge within the park okay or should I be looking at Motueka for a better day of exploring the park?
I will look at your suggestion for Lake Tekapo but we may have a penalty for changing our accommodation there.
Our accommodations are booked...I ran out of options at a couple places so I rushed and completed everything.
Hopefully this is only the first of many trips to the SI: we are looking forward to the scenery, photo ops, walks and good food!
vnar is offline  
Jan 6th, 2016, 11:10 AM
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Hi vnar -

Glad to hear you found my reports helpful.

You're correct, you will pass through Nelson on your way to Kaiteriti. I'd misunderstood your intentions, sorry for the confusion.

It's about a 2:40 hour drive from Picton to Kaiteriteri, so yes, plenty of time for lunch in Nelson (and I highly recommend Little India there!) and a poke through town.

Staying at a lodge within Abel Tasman (assume you're referring to Awaroa Bay or are you booked on a tour with Wilson's?) is a good option if you're interested in walking some of the track or kayaking.

I personally prefer staying in the countryside around Motueka/Upper Moutere, but only because I usually stay for several days at a time. It's a good central base for exploring a much wider area - Moutere, Abel Tasman, Kaiteriteri, Nelson, Mapua, etc. The town of Motueka itself isn't anything to get excited about.

If your goal is to see Abel Tasman Nat'l Park and you have limited time as you do, staying within the park is a very good idea.

I'm glad to hear your accommodation is booked.

We stayed in Tekapo for three nights once, but we were there to hike. Most first time visitors don't give it more than a few hours, but I'm sure you won't run out of things to do - there are some decent walking trails in the area, the observatory, the café at the top of Mt John, as well as the nearby Lake Hawea area (although you'll pass right by it on the way to Mt Cook anyway).

You can always hop in your car and just explore the surrounding countryside - we do that quite a bit - some of the highlights of our trips to NZ are just wandering around, following roads to their end, etc. We drove up to the nearby ski area, Roundhill, just because it was there.

I suggest leaving Tekapo early for your day in Mt Cook so you can fit in some of the lovely hikes there (weather providing of course).

Some more Tekapo ideas:
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2016, 12:11 PM
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Thanks again Mel. Walks at Mount Cook are definitely part of our plan if weather permits, particularly the Kea Point walk.

I am counting down the days and hope to publish a report upon my return!
vnar is offline  
Jan 6th, 2016, 01:31 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,112
I'll look forward to reading it. Have a great trip!
Melnq8 is offline  

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