travels to new zealand in october

Jun 12th, 2007, 11:17 AM
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travels to new zealand in october

My spouse and I will be traveling to Australia for 4 days business in October at the University of South Australia in Adelaide.

We are taking the opportunity to make a stop for 9-10 days in New Zealand before going to Adelaide. In reading the postings here and seeing photographs, the south island seems to match our desires as far as terrain and culture, and it looks so wonderful. I have read many of the reports here (the detailed of nevermindís, Melnq8, Billjís and others). Unfortunately, we would only have the 9 days to explore due to jobs (those things!), but we would like to see as much as we can within reason and quality time. We are leaning toward visiting the south island only, flying into and out of Christchurch, renting a car and driving to explore. I understand that the north island is more compact and easy to tap many cities, but I think it is not what we want, being avid outdoor, ready to take on mountains and plains and whatever else within reason.

We will be in New Zealand October 1 through October 9 and would like to know what the weather will be like then, that is by season anyway, because I understand it changes and can change daily, if not hourly. The temperatures in spring are what in New Zealand? I think it will be spring there.

I am more confused the more I read, but I am understanding that any short trip by car is actually longer due to roads.

Should we use Christchurch as our base vs. another southern island city (has to be an airport city)? do a glacier loop that I see most people do? Take alpine tranz for the first part then get a car? Is the reverse order just as nice (excluding what others said about going west to east over Arthurís pass not being too exciting)? How could it not be exciting over a mountain pass?

Is the glacier walk worth the $90/half day, assuming weather is good?

Would you recommend traveling as far as Queenstown? - Or even starting there and going to Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound? Again, we will be there in early October.

When in Adelaide, we will be seeing some of the vineyard country and environs so I did not want to do the north part of the south island where I understand are vineyards.

Any and all tidbits of insight would be welcome. We also do not need a five star place to stay, but I understand it is good to have reservations, although that could tie us down if we cannot cancel. Are there many B&B places? We hope to keep our cooler full of local goods along the way. Thank you in advance for all your help. Linda in Florida, flat lands on the beach and will welcome the Alps!
atthebeach is offline  
Jun 12th, 2007, 04:33 PM
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Hi atthebeach -

With nine days, limiting yourself to one island is definitely the way to go. For an idea about what to expect weather-wise in October, suggest you take a look at this site:

Keep in mind that weather in NZ can change in a hurry regardless of time of year, so it's best to be prepared for a bit of everything. I've been to NZ in September several times, but not in October. I'd think it'd be a good time to visit - shoulder season with temps warming up a bit, spring flowers in bloom, etc.

I prefer visiting in the shoudler season as one can avoid the summer "crowds" and find good deals on accommodation.

I've found the following site to be very helpful with travel times and distances in NZ:

As far as what to see, well, that's really subjective, but there are several standard "must sees" that first time visitors usually try to fit in. Sounds like you've done your research and have already figured out what those are.

Because you only have nine days, you might consider working your way down south from Christchurch, end in Queenstown, then fly back to CH from there to catch your outbound flight. We've done this several times and it's worked well for us when short on time.

With the notable exception of Queenstown, it's difficult to apply the base city approach on the SI. QT does make a good base for exploring Milford, Te Anau, Wanaka, Arrowtown, and Glenorchy. Using other cities as a base is a bit more difficult due to distances between attractions.

Suggest you consider the Tranz Apline one way from CH, pick up a car in Greymouth and head down the west coast. This route comes up often as it makes sense and it gets visitors where they want to be in relative ease.

The trip over Arthur's Pass is the same both ways - perhaps someone suggested sitting on a particular side of the train on the way over for better views? There's certainly no need to take the train both ways - we did this on our first trip to NZ, but I wouldn't recommend it to others.

I hope this gets you started. Planning a NZ itinerary can be daunting due to the number of options and the limitations on time, routes, etc, but don't be discouraged, it can be done!

Melnq8 is online now  
Jun 15th, 2007, 12:33 PM
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Hi atthebeach
i'll just give some quick answers as i got to go
IMHO Catlins is a must !!
i would say that Kaikura is too in my opinion.

i've been in October too & was quite lucky but it is all chance (2 weeks without rain in south island, but if i had done it in a reverse mode i'd have rain almost every day

galcier worth it? - what is your glacier experience?
if the weather is fine take a helicopter

enjoy it

aby is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 02:08 PM
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I'd agree the base city idea will not work out well for a 9-day trip. You will find that you do too much backtracking over the same roads. The best idea is to do a driving loop (or train and drive loop) from CChurch, over Arthurs Pass to Greymouth;
Down the west coast to the Glaciers;
Queenstown, Te Anau, and Fiordland;
Mt. Cook and return to CChurch.

You can then decide if you have time to go off the loop to visit Punakaiki, the Caitlins, Dunedin, Kaikoura, etc.
ALF is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 04:20 PM
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I also LOVE the Catlins and the Otaga Peninsula, but given that this is your first trip and you only have 9 days, I would not recommend you go there this time. I think if you fly into CH and out of QUE and focus on Mt Cook, West Coast, Queenstown, Fiordland, Wanaka and Glenorchy, you will be totally thrilled with your trip.
wannabakiwi is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 04:29 PM
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Hi Atthebeach,

ah..the same old problem, there's just never enough time, is there?!

Eveyone's has provided you with very good suggestions and Melnq makes a very good point about weather - who knows WHAT it will be like. I've been in NZ on several trips and you can never "bet" what it will be like. Melnq also suggested the train, which is a very good option.

From Christchurch you could do a day trip to swim w/dolphins, board the train and then head down the coast, ending in Queenstown, and fly from Queenstown to Auckland and then home. This way you're not backtracking.

Hope this is helpful!


Certified Kiwi Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 06:51 PM
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finally have some time to get bacl=k to planning. been so very busy at work and will welcome the travels to nz.
so we will arrive in christchurch on a tuesday at 10:35 am.
tuesday - take the day, see the sites, spend the night.
wednesday - take the early (only) tranz alpine to greymouth (arrive 12:45 pm) and rent car. drive to hokitika and spend night. or maybe go all the way to franz joseph or fox glacier and spend night.
thursday - do half day glacier walk, see surrounding sites, stay the night.
friday - travel leisurely to wanaka, stay the night, see the sites in area, stay the night.
saturday - off to queenstown for part of day and stay the night.
sunday - off to mt cook, stay night.
monday - the back onto mt cook. or possibly queenstown, do the same (sites and night).
saturday -
atthebeach is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 07:27 PM
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You lost me at Mt Cook....

If I understand your itinerary correctly, it's all one night stays - that means a lot of unpacking, repacking and moving around.

The problem with one night stays is that you won't have much time to do anything in the area you're visiting. If you just want a driving holiday where you see NZ from the car, it might work for you, but personally I don't find that approach very relaxing.

Suggest you decide what you want to see the most, then go from there.
Melnq8 is online now  
Aug 9th, 2007, 06:16 PM
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sorry about that, my computer went offline last night. anyway, i understand that we cannot see it all, this time that is, but i do have the tranz alpine and west cost as definite areas that we want to see.

starting of course our first day and night in christchurch. can you recommend a good place in christchurch that is near center city, with a private bath (my other half insists on that) and how far is it to the tranz alpine train station in christchurch, considering it departs at 8:15 AM the next morning. can we take a taxi/bus/tram/ to the station that early in the AM?. how much are taxis? is it far? we plan to have the tickets prepurchased and in hand. think the train would be good option to driving since we will be driving so much. from other postings, it looks quite nice as an option. so that part is good.

we plan to rent a car in greymouth and travel south along the west coast. can you recommend a place in hokitika for overnight second day or is it much time distance to go all the way to fox or franz joseph and stay two nights in that area.

the train gets to greymouth at 12:45 PM. what is a good reliable car rental company? and a company for half day/full day glacier hike tour company?

then we plan to drive to wanaka (3rd or 4th day, depending if we do two the second night and third night in glacier area. we plan to hike in lake wanaka area as i still have the hikes in the wanaka area that were recomended by Melnq8. they seemed good and variety - maybe do a half day early AM hike then head to queenstown for late afternoon and dinner and return to wanaka. how far is that distance? any places to recommend in wanaka area, and oh, in the prior glacier area?

is queenstown a good side trip from wanaka, maybe we could skip that and do two nights in wanaka, then head back to CHC via mt. cook.

is the trip to mt cook summit area a good option vs. taking that time to do a doubtful or milford sound trip. up to lake wanaka we would have one night CHC, two nights in glacier area, two in lake wanaka area.

we do not have to leave CHC for sydney until 3:45 on the the following tuesday. we arrive on tuesday, depart on tuesday.

thank you in advance for your help. insight and advice.
atthebeach is offline  
Aug 11th, 2007, 01:24 AM
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Regarding the hikes in Wanaka Melnq8 "recommended" - please note that I haven't hiked these yet - I gave you a list of hikes I've compiled for my own trip to NZ (for which I'm currently in the Changi Airport awaiting my flight to Christchurch!)

As for your other questions, not sure I can help much. It's been years since we took the Tranzalpine, so I don't remember logistics. I'm sure someone else here can help though.

Personally, I'd stop in Hoki on the way to the glaciers for a look-see, but I wouldn't stay overnight there. Having said that, we have stayed in Hoki, but when pressed for time, forging on to the glaciers seems a better option.

We took a helihike with Alpine Guides out of Fox and I can recommend them, but I doubt there's a big difference between the tour operators in Franz and Fox.

If memory serves the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown takes approximately 1:30 to two hours.

Must defer to my fellow Fodorites to help with your other questions, as I'm craving a nice glass of wine before I board my flight.

Good luck with your travel plans and have a great trip!
Melnq8 is online now  
Aug 11th, 2007, 07:09 AM
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An option might be flying into Dunedin or Queenstown. From there you can take public bus to Te Anau where you can go to Doubtful (my preference) or Milford Sounds, then to Queenstown. You could fly out of Queenstown or Dunedin. We like pleasant public bus system which allowed us both to soak in the scenery... South Island buses are clean, spacious, driver usually shares history and scenic high points, on time, etc. Rental car works better if you have more time and want more flexibility...i.e. change your itinerary, extend time, shorten time at different places, head into countryside off beaten path. Plus you meet some interesting travelers on the bus...

Dunedin has Larnach Castle, Albatross, Yellow-Eyed Penguin, etc. Two days is not too many...

Personally I am not interested in $90 glacier stroll. Nice stopping place en route but suspect lots of people would not go if it were not on the BEATEN path from Queenstown to Greymouth to Christchurch.

Inside NZ flights are relatively inexpensive also. Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch, Auckland, Wellington...

But stick to the South Island first time !
theheadysmiths is offline  
Aug 11th, 2007, 07:16 AM
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Don't overlook Freedom Air, Virgin Blue or Jetstar for possible flights between Australia and New addition to Qantas and AirNewZealand...
theheadysmiths is offline  
Aug 12th, 2007, 01:02 PM
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I'm afraid I can't answer your accommodation questions. We stayed in hostel..( loved them).

I think your itinerary is good. BUT, I'd settle for a "drive by" look at Mount Cook on the way back to Christchurch, and make time for the Doubtful Sound overnight cruise. Amazing! If you do decide to make time, don't just do the day trip to Doubtful Sound. THe people on our bus had to turn around and head back, just as it was getting really good. I felt bad for them.

We moved on every day, and felt we had enough time to enjoy everything on our drive down the west coast. We didn't feel every day was rushed.
My friend did the glacier hike and enjoyed it. I just did the free walk up to the base of the glacier.

kodi is offline  
Aug 20th, 2007, 11:58 PM
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Hokitika is only a short drive from Greymouth and, although the scenery is ok, it is nowhere near as good as the the other sights that you will be seeing. I suggest that, on picking up your car in Greymouth, you drive north to Punakaiki (about half an hour's drive) to see the Blow-holes and Pancake Rocks before heading down to Hokitika. The out-and-back scenery is worth the drive and Punakaiki can be really spectacular if the sea is a bit rough.
Be sure to pack a good insect repellant!
kiwi_rob is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 05:02 PM
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very excited about our first trip to nz, but have last minute details to iron out.

please advise me of a good car rental company to use to pick up a car at train station in greymouth (in the station itself), return to queenstown airport (not city).

also would you recommend fox or franz joseph glacier (most we have is half day) and should we book this in advance? - or do it on our own w/no tour (to face of glacier)? in either glacier town, what is a modest but good accomodation?

what would be the best tour company to take a ride at milford for half day? we would travel there by car. should be book this boat ride in advance? where would you stay, again modest but good in te anau for two nights?
thank you very much in advance for your help, as you have all helped me weeks ago on other details.

best regards

atthebeach is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 08:01 PM
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atthebeach -

We were in NZ a few weeks back and we took a couple of those hikes near Wanaka mentioned earlier - I can now vouch for the Rob Roy Glacier walk and the Diamond Lake/Rocky Hill walk. Details of these hikes and many others can be found under "Three weeks in Paradise - NZ trip report" if you're interested.

We've rented with Budget a few times and were quite happy with them - not sure if they have an office in Greymouth, but I'd be surprised if they didn't. We've also used National in the past - no problems there either.

Can't really recommend one glacier over the other, but when we walked to both in 2005, the trail to the Fox terminal face was more challenging (hilly, rocky, and treacherous in spots). The walk to Franz was advised against during our latest visit due to changing river conditions, but I suspect that's always the case and walkers assume the risk.

I highly recommend walking to Peter's Pool at Franz Josef - it only takes about 25 minutes return and offers nice views of the glacier reflected in the pool. Even if you don't walk to the terminal face of Franz, you can get some nice views by taking the 30 minute return walk down to the viewpoint.

Same for Fox - there are several nice walks that offer diffferent views of the glacier.

You don't need a tour to walk to the terminal face of either glacier.

As for accommodation - we stayed at Punga Grove and Bella Vista in Franz Josef and Matheson Motel in Fox. We liked all of them. Be sure to walk around Lake Matheson if you have time in Fox.

If you're looking for something more upscale, Te Weheka in Fox gets very good reviews.

We liked the Explorer Lodge in Te Anau.

I suspect the Milford Sound tour operators are all very similar - Real Journeys is the big player.

Have a great trip.
Melnq8 is online now  
Sep 20th, 2007, 04:05 AM
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thank you melnq8 for the tips and info. we are not big on tourist approaches to sites, so the walks and hikes will be good. you seem to know so much and how grateful we all are for you to pass things along.
i do think we will do the boat ride as it would be a good way to see the terrain.
thanks again and have a good day!
we are so excited and counting down the days
best regards
atthebeach is offline  
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