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9 Day South Island campervan itinerary - how's this sound?

Adelaide, Australia
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9 Day South Island campervan itinerary - how's this sound?


My girlfriend and I fly in to Christchurch on 3/3/2012 at night, and after a motel stay there we plan the following:

Sun 4/3: Drive campervan to Mount Cook - stay overnight

Mon 5/3: Drive to Queenstown

Tues 6/3: Day in Queenstown, Gondola dinner

Weds 7/3: Drive to Te Anau - stay overnight (doing this to break up the drive to Milford next day)

Thurs 8/3: Drive to Milford Sound - do Cruise, then drive back to Queenstown - overnight stay in Queenstown

Fri 9/3: Drive from Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier - stay overnight

Sat 10/3: Franz Josef - maybe do a short hike/tour - stay overnight

Sun 11/3: Drive from Franz Josef to Arthurs Pass - stay overnight (to break up trip back to Christchurch)

Mon 12/3: Drive from Arthurs Pass back to Christchurch

Tues 13/3: Fly out of Christchurch

Any comments, concerns, or suggestions? I know driving back from Milford to Queenstown is a long trek, but if I stopped over at Te Anau instead, then it just makes the drive to Franz Josef far too long?!

Also, is Franz Josef worth 2 nights stay of my very limited time, or should I cut this back and add something extra onto Te Anau or Queenstown?

One last thing, I assume that all the places listed that we are staying at, that we would have no problems finding a DOC or park with toilet/shower facilities? So if this is the case, would you suggest that we wouldnt 'really need to bother getting a campervan with toilet/shower on board? Might save a few dollars plus be a smaller size van to drive?

Greatly appreciate any feedback! ;-)


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1. Re: 9 Day South Island campervan itinerary - how's this sound?

It looks like a good itinerary, there's a lot of driving but I'm guessing you're happy with that, and it allows you to see lots of things in a short time. You're also driving some of the most scenic routes in NZ, so it's all part of the experience rather than a chore.

I would recommend an extra night in Te Anau, rather than driving back to Queenstown that day. The Milford Road is 4-5 hrs return, and that's not including all the places to stop off for short walks and view points. With the cruise as well it becomes a long day, and as it's one of the most spectacular regions of NZ it's a shame to rush it so you can drive back to Queenstown for the night. Safer and more relaxing to stay in Te Anau.

So I would suggest that you stay the night in Te Anau on 8/3, then insert an additional night in Wanaka on 9/3, which is 3 hrs from Te Anau and will break up the long trip from Te Anau to Franz Josef. You can easily spend half a day in Wanaka, it is a beautiful region to explore. That shortens the drive to Franz Josef too (which would now be a day later) allowing you more time to stop off at the many waterfalls and viewpoints along this wonderful drive. You can then drive via Arthurs Pass to ChCh on the last day. It's a long drive (just less than 400 km) but if you set off early you can do it at a leisurely enough pace. It's not ideal to drive this far in one day, but I think it's preferrable to making your Milford Sound day too long.

And yes, there's plenty to occupy you for a day in Franz Josef, there are many ways to enjoy the glaciers. Bear in mind though that if it's bad weather when you're on the west coast, you might not want to spend two nights there, which would give you back your extra night at Arthur's Pass. In fact you should be prepared to be flexible throughout the whole trip in order to accommodate the weather.

Hope that helps, enjoy your trip!

Adelaide, Australia
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2. Re: 9 Day South Island campervan itinerary - how's this sound?

Thanks for your helpful reply, your suggestion and advice is appreciated! I will add the extra night in Te Anau (returning from Milford Sound) and have a stopover in Wanaka, as it will help break the long drive up a bit as you say.

Thanks again, we are looking forward to enjoying the beautiful scenery!

Christchurch, New...
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3. Re: 9 Day South Island campervan itinerary - how's this sound?

There will not be DoC campgrounds in any of the large towns along your route. DoC manages our National Parks & conservation areas only. To stay in any towns you will need to use public or private campgrounds which are well equipped with kitchens, showers, laundries etc.

There is a nice DoC campground just north of FJG at Lake Mapuarika as well as at Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Adelaide, Australia
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4. Re: 9 Day South Island campervan itinerary - how's this sound?

Thanks for that info!

So....given my itinerary, and with lots of driving to do, should I not worry about a campervan equipped with a shower/toilet, based on the assumption that vans without these would be lighter and easier to drive?

Then, by staying in the campgrounds in the towns shown on my itinerary, we can just use the facilities there?

Does it cost much to use the facilities at the parks?

New Zealand
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5. Re: 9 Day South Island campervan itinerary - how's this sound?

Most campsites don't charge separately for using the facilities, except wifi. You pay up to $50 per night for a campervan if wanting power and water. Less for just a place a park. You can check the individual campsites for costs.

I believe at least one Franz campsite now charges for the showers as too many bludgers were sneaking in to have a shower without paying to stay.

A campervan is slower on the road than a car and you have some long drives planned. If concerned about costs consider a car and hostels or motels. It is the more affordable way to travel and the car will ease the long drives.

Best of luck :)

Christchurch, New...
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6. Re: 9 Day South Island campervan itinerary - how's this sound?

The DOC sites vary from $6pp night for a basic site and $12 for power etc. Most grounds have meters for hot shower for the reasons WL mentions. On a recent trip in a compliant caravan the most I paid for two was $40 for an upmarket site in Kaikoura across Rd from top 10 and the average was $30.

The showers vary fron 50c to $1 usually for 5~8 minutes although we never had one that turned off before we finished!

While it's becoming more difficult, there are places to freedom camp with supermarkets etc having "dump" stations.

IMHO you either get a compliant motor home or just a car. The "sleeper vans" offer the disadvantages of a tent with none of the advantages of a proper camper. As far as time goes I would average 80kph for a car, and 70kph for a camper. The bigger ones have a lower speed limit and you are slowed by other vehicles. While 100kph is the limit for a car, all the little towns and villages slow you down.

Jervis Bay...
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7. Re: 9 Day South Island campervan itinerary - how's this sound?

I would really consider the car option. NZ roads around the areas you have mentioned are one lane each way with little opportunity to overtake. Most of the camper and we saw on our recent trip trundle along very slowly on the flat let alone hills. Also parking was a bit of a problem for some of them.

We did a bus trip from Queenstown to Milford return in one day. Advantages were the driver gave an informative commentary, stopped at must see places, fed us and got us back without us having to worry about traffic or being tired by a long drive. Very worthwhile. There is not much to Te Anau but Queenstown is great.

8. Re: 9 Day South Island campervan itinerary - how's this sound?

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