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Where to go in South Island?

Dunfermline, United...
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Where to go in South Island?

At last we are going to NZ for a month in late Jan-Feb 12, we are visiting friends in Auckland and staying in their lodge at Lake Rotioti. Then we are off on our own down to South Island; so O experienced ones:

Where should we go, where should we not miss? We are not young backpackers or bungee freaks we just want to see the beautiful sights and wildlife (not the people kind!).

What is a good itinerary, how long would it take and is it best to travel by car and B&B or a camper van?.

This may be our only litime visit so I would really like to maximise the experience and would appreciate any advise.

Christchurch, New...
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for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
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1. Re: Where to go in South Island?

Car vs camper van is a very personal thing. Campers are expensive in peak season so only work out if you do quite a bit of self-catering. If you want to eat out you'd be better off with a car & motels/ hotels/ B&Bs.

Work out how much time you have left and a budget then search the many suggested itineraries here for 2-3 weeks. Come back when you have a rough draft & the experts here will help you fine-tune it.

NZ
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2. Re: Where to go in South Island?

Dear Panda,

You didn't say how long you have to see some of the Sth Island.

Assuming you have 2-3 weeks some of the must see as far as I'm concerned are as follows:

Queenstown 3-4 nights with day trips to either/both Doubtful or Milford Sounds or you could do an overnight cruise on either of these. Probably more wildlife on Doubtful (have a look at Real Journeys website)

Wanaka - Amazing lakes Hawera and Wanaka (can also do day trips from Queenstown to here. There's also Arrowtown too.

Haast Pass to the West Coast - one of the most scenic drives in the world (on the West Coast there is never more than 48 kms between mountains and sea so the views are spectacular) - which could then take you onto -

Fox or Franz Josef Glaciers (or both). My preference is Fox - it's larger and easier to get to then there is also Lake Matheson @ Fox which you can walk around in 1 1/2 hours and see the reflection of Mt's Cook and Tasman. Can also Heli-hike to Mt Cook from either.

You could either carry on up the West Coast to Nelson - stopping in places like Hokitika (pretty town with mountains and sea views also Jade & Gold carving factories) or Westport area, which not only have some amazing scenery but fabulous rainforests and wildlife walks or even caving to see the glow worms. My husband and I did the caving and we are 53 & 60 with average fitness, it was amazing.

There are also the Pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki. Go @ high tide.

Nelson has the wonderful Abel Tasman National Park to explore - if you are into art there are wonderful galleries or the Museum for World of Wearable Art. or you could go onto the Marlborough Sounds.

From there you could travel from Picton or Blenheim to Kaikoura on the TranzCoastal train to see the Whales and then on down to Christchurch

Or the other route you could take from the West Coast is from Greymouth take the TranzAlpine train across to Christchurch then travel up the East Coast to Kaikoura - Blenheim - Nelson. This is the most popular route but to my mind though you then miss the wonderfully wild Northern West Coast area which I think for wildlife is the best part.

As far as car versus campervan goes either are good but you can also go via Intercity coaches (we do) and just sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery without having to concentrate on the very winding roads. There are always tours or walks to take. We even stayed in a Westport B&B where the host offered us her own car to sight see with!!!

If you are driving you have to bear in mind that there are only 3 passes from coast to coast in the Sth Island - Haast, Arthur's or Lewis otherwise you have to drive around the Alps and this makes for long journeys sometimes.

These are just a few suggestions because where ever you go in the South Island there is wonderful scenery and wildlife so you can't go wrong with any itinerary. Have Fun.

South Island
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3. Re: Where to go in South Island?

Good report KitkatR, lots of useful information for South Island travelers. There is much debate about campervan versus car and while all the remote areas in the South Island would suggest freedom camping in a camper is ideal, the reality is much different.

The easiest way to travel the South Island roads is by car. Sadly local government and certain sections of local communities have pressured the government into banning freedom camping in many areas and huge fines will be issued to those who disobey and do not use compliant campers.

So unless you have local knowledge on where and how to freedom camp the campervan becomes useless and can't be used for its intended purpose.

Dunfermline, United...
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4. Re: Where to go in South Island?

Thank you for those replies, we are looking forward to the trip very much. I think we have decided to take a camper van, our friends in Auckland have recommended Wildnerness campers as they have had good experiences with them.

So we will have 2 weeks @ the end of January begining of February, basically to tour round the entire South Island, whales at Kaikoura, the vineyards and then down the west coast.

Anybody with special tips or places that must not be missed would be most welcome.

Dunfermline, United...
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5. Re: Where to go in South Island?

Now the trip is getting very close we are excited but there is still a lot to plan out. One question is Milford Sound or Doubtful sound or both? Any opinions most welcome!

New Zealand
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for South Island
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6. Re: Where to go in South Island?

With limited time, I think best to select just one fiord.

Milford is best for a day trip, stay Te Anau before and after to allow maximum time on the lovely Milford Road - yes, you could stay at Milford itself, but beware the sandflies.

Or Doubtful Sound for an overnight experience.

Happy travels :)

7. Re: Where to go in South Island?

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