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Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

Virginia Beach...
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Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

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.

Joyce

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1. Re: Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

Hello Joyce :)

Your trip looks good, though you do have some zigs and zags. If me, I would skip Oamaru. Dunedin and it's wildlife should be sufficient. Or if feeling you want more penguins then drive through the Catlins Te Anau to Dunedin www.catlins.org.nz/index.php…

Plus I guess if you are a rally driver on closed roads you could do Twizel to Fox in 6 hours. The road is narrow and twisty with about 20 one lane bridges to negotiate. Most visitors take about 5.5 hours just Wanaka to Fox if stopping for a quick lunch and a brief walk to one of the many waterfalls or views. Blue Pools is a popular walk and Fantail Falls is pretty.

Why Twizel? Far better to stay Aoraki where you can enjoy the views and walks from your accommodation rather than driving 2 hours each day.

My suggestion for your time;

1 drive to Milford

2 cruise, drive to Te Anau

3 explore, Ata Whenua?

4 drive Catlins to Kaka Point or similar, penguin watch (in the wild, not on bleachers as in Oamaru)

5 drive to Dunedin

6 explore

7 drive to Aoraki/Mt Cook

8 explore http://www.glacierexplorers.com/

9 drive Lindis Pass to Wanaka - fabulous drive

10 explore, hike - Matukituki Valley is a stunning drive

11 drive to Fox

12 explore

13 drive to Punakaiki

14 drive to Abel Tasman

15/16 explore

17 fly to Auckland

Hope this helps :)

Virginia Beach...
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2. Re: Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

WLakes:

Thank you so much for your reply and suggestions - you're the best ! Volunteers like yourself are invaluable and much appreciated.

Looked at the Catlins area and looks truly awesome. Driving from Te Anau - would you suggest spending an extra day in the area to see all the sights along the coast and allow adequate time for wildlife viewing.

LOL - about your comment on the drive from Mt. Cook To Fox Glacier. We hate driving on the left hand side anyway and narrow, winding, and hilly roads sound utterly scary. While driving in Oz was tolerable, we hated the countryside roads in UK - which were so narrow. The Brits just double park everywhere in the small villages - turning the roads into one lane and expect you to squeeze. Talk about stressful. Glad to hear that Kiwi drivers are more courteous to us Yanks.

Also, could you comment on whether it is desirable to stay on both the West and East sides of Abel Tasman. I am considering staying on only the West side in Paton Rocks - but are unsure whether we can access the Park via water taxi.

Joyce

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3. Re: Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

Patons Rocks is a quiet little settlement with some nice beach walks. Most of the residents are retirees. It provides you with good access to the scenic areas of Golden Bay without the bustle of tourism. Because of its shallow beach, it is a popular day visit for families with young children.

It is however, quite a long drive down to the western aspects of Abel Tasman Park. There used to be a water taxi service operating out of Pohara but that enterprise was sold up about a year ago. Not sure if it has been replaced. Access to AT from this side is mostly restricted to walking access.

You can drive to Totaranui over a narrow windy gravel road which has only just reopened after being closed for seven months. It is a beautiful golden sands beach with flecks of mica in the middle of Abel Tasman. There are several nice short walks to adjoining bays.

Golden Bay has lots of wonderful areas to explore including quaint country pubs, small historical museums and short scenic walks.

However, for the day tourist, Abel Tasman is best accessed from the Kaiteriteri (eastern side) This is where most of the water taxis and wildlife tourism operates out of. From there you can catch water taxis into the park, walk between bays and catch the boat back from the other end.

This end is very tourist orientated. Over the Christmas period, it is very busy with local as well as overseas visitors and can be very hectic at times. Accommodation often books out early over this period. There are numerous B n B's and a couple of health spas. The road in is sealed but quite tight and windy around the headlands.

Patons Rocks would be a much more relaxed alternative, but as pointed out, does not provide good access to Abel Tasman.

Edited: 30 June 2012, 22:47
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4. Re: Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

Hi Joyce

I think your most limiting factor might be in finding accommodation. Often it can book out for summer a year in advance. So take a look at both Kaiteriteri and Paton's Rock and see what accommodation appeals. If you find suitable accommodation in Kaiteriteri I would opt for that over Paton's Rock due to the points raised by JoanM.

And do take care when booking as some properties might list in Abel Tasman when in fact they are located an hour or so away.

www.newzealand.com has extensive accommodation listings, as does www.wotif.com

Best of luck :)

Colorado
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5. Re: Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

Hi Joyce -

Personally, I prefer to split my time between Golden Bay and the Motueka side - although short, the road over Marble Mountain is squiggly and time consuming, and getting from one side to the other takes time. Both areas are well worth exploring though, and with seven days, you'd have plenty of time to spend some quality time at both ends. We've done quite a bit of hiking in the Golden Bay and I can make some specific reccos if you'd like.

There are many accommodation options in nearby Takaka and I can recommend a nice little cottage there too if you're interested.

Joan - I'd not heard about the road to Totaranui - what happened there? Was access to Pohara cut off as well?

Virginia Beach...
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6. Re: Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

Thank you all for your comments about accomodations in both sides of AT Park. I think that I will spend 2 or 3 nights in Paton Rocks to see the Golden Bay attractions and then see the Takaka attractions enroute to the other side.

Do agree that it would be easier to enjoy the AT attractions from the Motueka side. I have found some availability on both sides. Actually, I would like to spend at least one night or maybe two with Aquapackers in the AT park itself. I have emailed them about availability and have my fingers crossed.

Another question?? Is there a need to spend a night at the Milford Sound Lodge on my first day after driving from Queenstown. I cannot afford the cabins and would have to stay in a lodge room with shared baths - which is not ideal - as I get up several times a night to use the facilities.

I could just stay 3 nights in Te Anau instead of 2 nights and just drive to Milford for the morning cruise. Are there other must do hikes or things to see in Milford itself so that I should spend a night??? How long to drive from Te Anau to Milford - I know there is a one-lane tunnel?

Once again, thank all for your comments.

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7. Re: Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

Staying in Te Anau is my preference.

Allow 2.5 hours to get Te Anau to Milford non-stop. This allows 2 hours for the drive, 10 minutes to walk from the car park to the wharf, 20 minute check-in time before your cruise.

Apart from the walk from the carpark, there is no other walk in Milford itself.

On the Milford Road there are many walks, lakes and waterfalls to explore. My favourite walk is Key Summit (allow at least 3 hours return).

While in Te Anau see the short film in Fiordland, Ata Whenua, it's great.

Colorado
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8. Re: Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

Another vote for Te Anau.

There is one other walk in Milford, a 20 minute walk along the foreshore that gives several different views of Mitre Peak, but other than that and the cruise, there's really nothing in Milford.

You might take a look at the Gertrude Saddle Walk too - I've heard wonderful things about it. Next time.

Virginia Beach...
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9. Re: Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

Thanks everyone for your comments - just made my 3 night reservation in Te Anau for Dec 28-31.

So my next stop is the Catlins for 2 nights and Dunedin for 2 nights. So should I spend two nights in the Kaka point area or one night here and another night somewhere enroute. What town enroute would you suggest?

Mostly interested in seeing wildlife and nice scenic walks along the coast.

Joyce

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10. Re: Advice Needed for 21 day Itinerary for South Island

I think one night Kaka Point is sufficient, but it depends on how much you want to explore.

Kaka Point has Nugget Point Lighthouse and Roaring Bay.

My favourite beach in the Catlins is Cannibal Bay; Purakaunui Falls is lovely. There is also Slope Point - the southernmost spot in the South Island, the petrified forest and so much more. http://www.catlins-nz.com/

Decide how much you want to explore and that will determine if another night is warranted, and where.

Happy planning :)