We are an active 60s newly retired couple - looking forward to enjoying the great outdoors and scenery that NZ is famous for.
After 16 days on the North Island from Dec 5-21 with weekly stays in timeshare resorts in Paihai and Lake Taupo - we will fly from AKL to Queenstown to stay at another timeshare resort from Dec 21-28th. So I need advice on making some final decisions on our 21 day itinerary from Dec 28 until Jan 17th. We need to be back to AKL to fly out on the morning of Jan 19th. There is so much that I want to see and do and not enough time. I don't want to spend all my time driving and not having enough time to enjoy the sites and attractions. SInce it is high season, I need to make some final decisions so I can make reservations for accomodations ASAP.
We love water activities, beautiful beaches, and easy to moderate day hikes - up to 3 or 4 hrs max. I am looking to see spectacular sites during my hikes and enjoying the scenery. Also, would love to see some wildlife - esp. penguins, dolphins, and whales. Not really into big cities, wineries, nightlife, gourmet food, or spending lots of time in museums or historical sites.
Thus, based on my research, my priorities are Te Anau, Milford Sound cruise, Dunedin/Oamaru, Mt Cook, the Franz/Fox Glaciers, and Abel Tasman NP and Golden Bay area. However, because I am starting in Queenstown - there is a lot of backtracking with the driving. My inclination is to skip Mt. Cook. Any suggestions and comments would be appreciated.
Day 1 - Queenstown to Milford (cruise the following morning)
Day 2-3 Two nights in Te Anau and explore the area's trails
Day 4 - 5 Drive to Dunedin - wildlife tours (2 nights)
Day 6-7 Drive to Oamura - also see penguins ( Should I just skip Dunedin and spend all my time at Oamura?
Day 8 - 10 Drive to Twizel and see Mt. Cook - 3 nights (Is this enough time?)
Day 11 Drive to Fox Glacier ( AAA says about 6 hr drive - is this too ambitious and am I missing any must-sees along the way?)
Day 12 Explore Glaciers
Day 13 Drive to Punakaikio ( 3-hr drive from Franz Glacier - does this give me enough time to stop and see sights along the way?)
Day 14-21 Golden Bay and Abel Tasman ( I am thinking about splitting the time between Paton Rocks on the west side of the Park and Motueka on the east side. Is this necessary or should I just stay on one side ? We are planning to fly out of Nelson to AKL on Jan 17th. Is this too much time to spend in this area for hiking and enjoying the beaches and other sites?
Sorry to be so long winded in the post. But any and all suggestions would be appreciated.