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south island New Zealand

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Advice and help with itinerary to south island,we arrive in Christchurch on 19-12-2016 at 2 pm after a long flight from UK. We have booked 24-26 in Queenstown so would like heplwith where to go we are going to hire a car.
Thanks You


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    so do i have this right -

    19/12 - arrive C/Church 2pm.

    20/12 - ?

    21/12 - ?

    22/12 - ?

    23/12 - ?

    24/12 - QT

    25/12 - QT

    26/12 - QT

    27/12 - ???

    allowing yourselves a day to recover from jet lag, you then have 3 nights/4 days to get to QT. You could easily spend that time between C/Church & QT by going to Mount Cook for a night or two, and then Wanaka - it's about 4 hours drive to Mount Cook, and then another 2 to Wanaka, and a further hour or so to QT.

    Where are you going after QT?

  • Report Abuse

    Thank you both, the plan I've thought of so far is this:

    19 Christchurch
    20 Tranz Alpine to Greystone Hire a car
    21 Drive to Hokitika
    22 Drive to Franz Josef
    23 Wanaka
    24 Queenstown
    25 Queenstown
    26 Queenstown
    27 Te Anau Milford Sound
    28 Dunedin
    29 Lake Takapo
    30 Christchurch Kaikoura Whale Watching
    31 Christchurch
    1 Home

    What would be your advice on driving times?


  • Report Abuse

    my initial reaction is that you're trying to do too much. we had an itinerary a little like that [we hadn't listened carefully enough to the wise words of people here, Melnq8 in particular] and quite soon into the trip we realised that we'd got it wrong.

    in particular a series of "one night stands" will leave you exhausted, not to say frustrated as you won't have had a chance to see anything when you get to your overnight destination.

    I would cut out Dunedin, and go straight from Wanaka to Te Anau, then back to QT and from there to C/C via Mount Cook.

    The fact is that unless you are going help skiing, you can't see much of the glaciers on the west coast any more [i think that we were there in the last year when you were able to actually walk up onto a glacier, which was 2013] so that with limited time, you may be better off concentrating on Mount Cook.

    [Mel may disagree with me of course, and I would always defer to her as she has been to the SI many, many times].

  • Report Abuse

    ts216 -

    Agree with annhig that all those one night stands are exhausting and leave little time to see the places you've come so far to see.

    You'll arrive in Greymouth around mid-day after the Tranz Alpine, so I suggest you pick up that car rental and keep on going. You'll have long days in your favor - sunrise around 6 am, sunset after 9 pm!

    If you plan well you can make the detour up to Punakiki to see Pancake Rocks and still get to Hokitika (or better yet the glaciers) before dark.

    That would give you one night in Hoki and two nights at the glaciers, or two nights glaciers and an extra night somewhere else, in which case I'd suggest Wanaka.

    From Wanaka, I'd go to Te Anau, then Dunedin (about a four hour drive, then Queenstown (about a 3:35 drive).

    Then I'd suggest you fly out of Queenstown back to Christchurch for your departing flight.

    Or skip Dunedin, and do as annhig suggests, go back via the inland route, visiting Mt Cook and Tekapo enroute.

    Trying to fit Dunedin and Kaikoura into such a short trip is problematic. They're 534 km apart.

    Should Kaikoura be important to you, you'll need to cut back somewhere else, as you just don't have time.

    One possibility is this:

    Christchurch - overnight

    Drive Kaikoura - return Christchurch overnight (five hours of driving though, not my idea of fun). Not much time to work with in Kaikoura.

    Christchurch-TranzAlpine-Greymouth collect car OR drive yourself over Arthur's Pass - drive to Hoki or glaciers and continue as above


    OR, from Kaikoura, continue driving via Hanmer Springs and Reefton to Greymouth, then then continue as above.

    You'll miss the Tranz Alpine this way though and will need to forgo Dunedin.

    Keep in mind that the Tranz Alpine is s train that spends most of its time in tunnels, so you won't be seeing much scenery. The drive is much prettier than the train, believe me.

    Should you want to drive, you can just pick up a car in Christchurch and follow the first itinerary I've suggested.

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    The TranzAlpine will depart CC at 8:15 a.m. and arrive in Greymouth at 12:45 p.m. I'd go with Melnq8's suggestion to drive up to Punakaiki (not to be missed if you're renting a car in Greymouth).

    Here's a distance calculator for NZ drive times:

    It says Greymouth to Punakaiki takes 35 minutes. I'd say it's at least 40 minutes (the road is twisty at times). Luckily, you're from the UK so used to driving on the left! Give yourself an hour to walk the track around the Rocks. Look out for weka (endemic flightless rail) in the track's parking lot. Some say it's more scenic at high tide when you'll view blowholes. I wouldn't worry about this, the rocks themselves are a geological marvel. They're currently reparing damage caused by recent storms but all should be repaired in time for your visit. See:

    Is there a reason you'd like to overnight in Hokitika? Because, if not, then do as Melnq8 suggested and push on to Franz Josef, so that you'll have two nights in FJ and two nights in Wanaka, which is a very nice town. However, enroute, stop in Hokitika town, pop into a jade/pounamu shop, maybe visit the I-Site Tourism office, pick up some groceries at the New World Market should you need them for FJ, then drive to Hokitika Gorge. The drive from Hokitika town to the gorge is around 35 minutes. The walk to the gorge itself is short, Again, look out for weka in the parking lot.

    Greymouth to Hokitika is 30 minutes (easy drive), Hokitika town to Franz Josef is 1 hour 45 minutes. As Melnq8 mentioned the sun won't even set until after 9 p.m. so you can be in FJ well before dark.

    Dec. 27 is going to be a busy day. See:
    I would spend two nights in Te Anau to make this portion of your trip easier and more relaxed. This way you wouldn't need to worry about stopping along Milford Road, and taking lots of photos and walks along the way.

    You could cut Dunedin from your trip. However, I'm wondering why you wanted to come to Dunedin to begin with. If it's to see wildlife, you are coming at the best time for wildlife viewing on the Otago Peninsula. If you take an Elm Wildlife Peninsula Encounters Tour (departs mid-afternoon from the city center) your chances of seeing endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins chicks and adults, endangered NZ Sea Lions, endangered Northern Royal Albatrosses, endangered Otago Shags (a cormorant), and NZ Fur Seal pups and adults are excellent. You'd see many other bird species as well. Dunedin is known for its awful weather, but on a sunny day, the Otago Peninsula is stunning. As for the wildlife, the penguins and albatrosses fare much better in cooler weather.

    Te Anau to Dunedin will take slightly under 4 hours. If you left Te Anau at 9 a.m., you'd even have a chance to see a bit of Dunedin city, such as the Octagon and the Railway Station, before going on your Elm Wildlife Peninsula Encounters Tour. So while it would be a busy day, Dunedin is doable in a day (in summer).

    I think Kaikoura is beautiful, it's sandwiched between the Kaikoura mountains and the ocean, and the wildlife viewing is great, but it would be out of your way. Also, whale watch cruises are sometimes cancelled due to weather. So you could drive up there and then learn that it's too rough for boats to go out. This happened to us the first time we went to Kaikoura. The second time we visited Kaikoura, our 10 a.m. whale watch cruise did take place but I got tremendously seasick. The sea was so rough, they cancelled the day's remaining whale watch trips. We saw two juvenile sperm whales, which was great, but I've seen many more whales (not sperm whales, but humpbacks, blues, and greys) on trips off the California coast.

    If you had one or two days more for your trip, i would say absolutely go to Kaikoura, but given your limited days, I'd recommend you skip it. If you go to Kaikoura and your whale watch cruise is cancelled and you can't arrange to go dolphin or seal swimming or pelagic bird watching, you could drive to Ohau Pt. to see the large fur seal colony and/or walk the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway (and see the Pt. Kean fur seal colony).

    FYI: The last time we went to Kaikoura, it took us 7 hours to drive there from Dunedin, plus one hour or so we spent wine tasting in Waipara (small wine region between CC and Kaikoura).

    If you skip Kaikoura, I'd stay in Mt. Cook Village (not Lake Tekapo) after Dunedin. It'll take you a little more than 4 hours to drive from Dunedin to Mt. Cook Village without stops. But you'll want to stop, particularly at Moeraki Boulders and in Oamaru. You can visit Tekapo on the morning you depart from Mt. Cook and drive to CC. Then again, i don't know your reasons for wanting to visit Tekapo. If it's for stargazing, maybe it would be better to overnight in Tekapo than Mt. Cook Village, but if you'd care to do some walking and see some splendid scenery, Mt. Cook Village offers more.

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