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Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary

Brisbane, Australia
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Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary

Hi Folks,

I'd appreciate any feedback/guidance on my proposed 12 day Southern South Island itinerary.

I should highlight that my wiife and I will be travelling in late October with our 3 year old daughter.

Day 1 - arrive Christchurch 3pm - drive to Ashburton (1 night)

Day 2 - Ashburton to Dunedin (1 night)

Day 3 - Dunedin to Gore (1 night)

Day 4 - Gore to Milford Sound (1 night)

Day 5 - Morning Cruise then drive Milford Sound to Queenstown

Day 6 - Queenstown (TSS Earnslaw cruise & Skyline Gondola)

Day 7 - Queenstown (Arrowtown & Wanaka)

Day 8 - Queenstown to Mount Cook

Day 9 - Mount Cook to Christchurch

Day 10 - Christchurch (Orana Wildlife Park & Antarctic Centre)

Day 11 - Christchurch

Day 12 - Christchurch - depart 1pm

New Zealand
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for South Island
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1. Re: Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary

My thoughts;

Avalanche season runs through Oct on the Milford Road, plus there is highly likely to be ice issues, possibly snow. It is not a place you want to be driving a rental car with your 3 your old. best to take the bus from Te Anau.

Little point in driving to Wanaka one day then back to Queenstown to then spend the next day driving to Aoraki/Mt Cook when one route runs through Wanaka.

Plus I would drop 3.5 days in Chch.

My suggestion

1 arrive Chch, drive to Ashburton

2 drive to Dunedin

3 explore Otago Peninsula, Larnach Castle, chocolate factory, Baldwin Street, Otago Museum

4 drive to Te Anau via Gore

5 bus/cruise Milford Sound, bus to Te Anau

6 drive to Queenstown

7 explore

8 drive to Wanaka

9 drive to Aoraki/Mt Cook

10 drive to Chch

11 explore

12 fly home

hope this helps :)

Wanaka, New Zealand
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2. Re: Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary

WL has suggested a great alternative.

Make sure you do the luge at the top on the Queenstown gondola. Your 3 year old can ride tandem and will love it.

Brisbane, Australia
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3. Re: Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary

Thanks Wanaka and Oskar, I appreciate the help.

I'm certain my wife will appreciate a whole day in Dunedin especially your suggestion to visit the chocolate factory :)

Brisbane, Australia
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4. Re: Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary


As we have just returned from 14 wonderful days travelling the SI by motorhome, I too would agree with WL proposed itinerary.

She is an expert with travel advice regarding the South Island.

In Dunedin we required up to 2 days spent at a leisured pace to visit this lovely city.

Lanarch Castle is a nice visit, however entrance is very expensive.

Highly recommend Cadbury World, save yourself 10% on the tour by printing of a voucher from there website. Also pay attention during the tour as you will be quizzed to win extra treats, - (hint wear something purple!)

Gore is a town you drive through for lunch to detour off to Te Anau. Recommend driving straight through to Te Anau (approx. 4-5 hrs from Dunedin). No accomodation in the sound itself.

Highly recommend Queenstown. Everything is within walking distance. Once you have arrived at the top of the peak by gondola, you must have a go on the luge with your daughter, I did. It is totally safe. One ride is not enough though.

When travelling through to Wanaka, do make time to stop in at Puzzling world, your family would appreciate it.

Outside of Queenstown is Arrowtown, this is a must also. Allow up to 2 hrs for both places.

Wanaka is a lovely town, a smaller version of Cairns if you've ever been to visit.

May I suggest as it is probably too late as you might have already booked your flights, to save travel time Dunedin has an international airport which is where we flew into. Might want to consider this as an option.

All the above attractions I have recommended have forums on this website, and you can also search those sights directly for any further information.

Enjoy your remaining time, as I know it can be exciting leading up to your departure in finalising your plans, please let me know how it all turns out.

Happy to offer any further advice.


Brisbane, Australia
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5. Re: Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary

I agree to fly into Dunedin. I found the drive from Christchurch to Dunedin a non plus I am afraid. Most of the best scenery is from Dunedin and then over to Te Anau and Queenstown.

I have a trip list we did, two women driving for 2 weeks around the south island. I have also been with my husband for 2 weeks.

Ist time we ladies drove from Dunedin ( hired a car there) across via Gore. Around there, there is a large art and craft centre in the middle of nowhere if I recall. Don't dally there too long if you want to put some time into Te anau.

I will add the trip list here. We ended up right up at the top near Nelson where we flew across to Wellington on the north island for a couple of days with friends. This trip took in the west coast and glaciers, and we just loved the drive up through Arthur's pass back into Christchurch and then along the east coast north. May be of interest.


The second time we forewent the west coast and drove up the middle as Wanaka Lakes advised although I haven't done a trip list which I must soon.

If you do this and love salmon, stop near Lake Pukaki on the inland route and buy a slab of salmon from the Salmon farm along side the road. Fantastic and bred is such clean water!

That was return flight from Chrishchurch and we put in 3 nights in a bach out at Akaroa which I love before flying home. Not sure how it went after the earthquake though.

Here is a review of Akaroa I did then


A wonderful and picturesque island.

Brisbane, Australia
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6. Re: Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary

You certainly have a feel for the country then, as you have made a number of trips back and forth.

I assumed this was a first for you and your family just like ourselves.

You are in a situation where you could maybe offer advice like the other experts on the SI trip advisor site?

Like you, I too have posted a number of q & a's over the course of planning which I found to be very helpful.

Our trip briefly went something like this:

Arr Dunedin...travelled to Te Anau via Gore...Milford Sound...Te Anau...Q'town...Arrowtown...Wanaka...Twizel...Lake Tekepo...Fairlie...Methven...Hokitika via Arthurs Pass...Greymouth...Pukakaiki...Hamner Springs via Lewis Pass...Kaikoura ...Bleinheim...Picton...finaly Nelson via Queen Charlotte drive, fly to C'church to depart for home.

Every place was unique in its own way.

We will return one day to visit those areas often spoken and recommended

which will give us a further perspective of the SI.

Happy to give any advice, however with your knowledge of the SI trip list I'm sure you'll be fine.


Brisbane, Australia
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7. Re: Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary

Holiday RV

Seems you did quite a lot on your trip. I have missed the Catlins and Invercargill and the island and also up past Greymouth...some other time perhaps.

Brisbane, Australia
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8. Re: Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary


Wanted to say a very big Thank You to WanakaLakes, OscarNZ and The rest of the TripAdvisor Forum Community. We arrived home from our awesome New Zealand holiday 2 weeks ago and rather than using 4000 adjectives to describe how amazing New Zealand is I'll simply say "we'll be back".

In 12 days we only toured a small portion of the South Island but 12 days was still no where near long enough, In all honestly if another family is planning a holiday with a toddler and wants to use our trip as a guide allow 14 days minimum for the same journey.

The following is my attempt at a Trip Report, it's a very brief breakdown of our holiday (over the next week or so as time permits we'll review our accomodation venues and activities).

Day 1 - Arrived Christchurch (3:30pm) drove to Ashburton

Day 2 - Drove Ashburton to Dunedin (stopped at Moeraki Boulders)

Day 3 - Dunedin (Baldwin Street, Otago Peninsula, etc.)

Day 4 - Dunedin (Dunedin Railway station, Dunedin Farmers Markets, Otago Museum)

Day 5 - Drove Dunedin to Queenstown

Day 6 - Queenstown (TSS Eanslaw, Walter Peak Farm, Glenorchy, Skyline Gondola and Luge)

Day 7 - Queenstown (we did a day trip to Wanaka specifically to fly with Wanaka Helicopters for a snow landing on the Pisa Range "Awesome", we also visited Puzzling World)

Day 8 - Queenstown (Kiwi Birdlife Park, tourist shopping around town)

Day 9 - Drove Queenstown to Twizel (On our way we stopped at Arrowtown then once we were checked in to Twizel we made an afternoon dash to Mount Cook)

Day 10 - Drove Twizel to Christchurch (via the inland scenic route)

Day 11 - Christchurch ( visited Re-Start mall, had a look around town and went to Orana Wildlife Park

Day 12 - Christchurch (visited the Antarctic Centre before heading to the Airport for our flight home)

Well that was the itinerary and as I said 12 days was not enough, we honestly feel we would have benefited from 1 more day in Dunedin, 1 more day in Queenstown and 1 more day in Christchurch.


- Blackhead Cottage (Dunedin)

- TSS Earnslaw and Walter Peak farm (we went on the TSS Earnslaw centenary family fun day)

- Helicopter flight to the snow with Wanaka Helicopters

Low Light

- Twizel

When I say Low light I don't mean to demean Twizel, I am simply saying that in our amazing holiday Twizel was the least awesome place.

Many Thanks Again

Ant and Bec.

Edited: 12 November 2012, 02:04
Christchurch, New...
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9. Re: Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary

Great report - glad you had fun; Pity you didn't follow WanakaLakes advice to cut out the return journey to Wanaka which would have given you more time for Mt Cook - and none of us would have recommended you stay at Twizel instead of Aoraki/Mt Cook!!

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10. Re: Southern South Island 12 day Intinerary

Wow, wonderful to see you plan to return A & B.

And yeah, Twizel is not on my must see list either. Aoraki/Mt Cook is too stunning to pass up when overnighting in the area.

And a heli-flight with Wanaka Helicopters - lucky you!

Now spread the word on how lovely the South Island is; we are somewhat under populated and there is always room for a few more visitors :)