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Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

Wodonga, Australia
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Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

We'd like to do a driving holiday in September/October, mainly to see some snow and scenery. We are not skiers.

We'd like to concentrate on the northern half as we had 2 weeks in Queenstown recently and saw quite a lot down there, but we haven't been further north than Christchurch so far.

What are the main points of interest north of Christchurch? Both of us are middle-aged Aussies, keen on photography, especially night skies, but we also like day cruises and are decent walkers albeit our knees are starting to go. Overnighting on a boat is a no go for me for personal reasons I won't bore you with.

Our plan is to arrive in Christchurch, hire a car and head north, basing ourselves somewhere whilst doing day trips around the region, and then heading southwards, staying at somewhere like Glentanner and seeing Mt Cook, before driving on to Wanaka and stopping there a while. From there we will probably go back to Christchurch via the east coast. We don't like to rush and generally stay a couple of nights at least at each spot as I hate having to unpack for only one night. Our main focus is photography, not food/wine or adventure, although we are happy to sample all these here and there.

Is there anything on the east coast we shouldn't miss out on if driving there from Wanaka back to Christchurch?

Final question: how much snow can we reasonably expect at this time of year and might it affect access to some spots like Mt Cook or Wanaka. I am assuming the Marlborough region etc is fairly accessible, but I may be dead wrong.

New Zealand
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for South Island
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1. Re: Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

Sounds like the makings of a great trip :)

Definitely head up to Nelson and spend a few days in Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay. From there pop over to Picton for a few days in the Marlborough Sounds - there are great lodges out on the Sounds - basic or luxury, plus you are 30 minutes from the centre of the Marlborough wine region. Then I would head down the east coast for a few days, travelling all the way down to Palmerston where you head inland to St Bathans - lovely drive and the old gold-mining town offers good photo ops - then up to Wanaka for a while (brilliant choice!) then up Lindis Pass to Aoraki/Mt Cook before heading back to Chch.

- why have I switched your trip around, going Wanaka to Aoraki? because driving northward you face the mountains and the stunning scenery is immeasurably enhanced.

Snow shouldn't be a factor on the roads you plan to drive, but there will be fresh snow on the mountains. It will be gorgeous.

Enjoy !!

Nelson, New Zealand
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2. Re: Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

WanakaLakes I really love how you take the time to reply to questions regarding itineraries.

You go the extra mile and think of things like driving North to face the mountains so people can enjoy the scenery more.

It's not something I would have thought about but makes a big difference :)

Singapore, Singapore
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3. Re: Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

I totally agree what Frazz. has said. It is because of such advice from WanakaLakes that I have changed my self drive New Zealand trip in the South Island from a clockwise direction to a figure of 8 loop.

Too few days and too many beautiful places to cover.

Christchurch, New...
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4. Re: Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

September/October is a great time to travel in this area. Spring colours will abound. Just remember the weather could cycle through all seasons on a daily basis, but any extreme stuff (could be snow) will be of short duration. It will be cool in mornings and evening, but glorious during the day. You need thin layers.

New Zealand
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5. Re: Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

Cheers FF and 299Lee :)

Yeah, I think some drives really need to be done in a certain direction to maximise the views.

Wodonga, Australia
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6. Re: Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

Thank you so much for these ideas, especially the driving directions. Much appreciated. I can't wait to go now!

St Bathans looks great, lots of photo opportunities there. I'd never heard of it so I'm glad you mentioned it WL.

Edited: 13 March 2013, 21:15
San Antonio, Texas
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7. Re: Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

You guys gonna drive Arthur's Pass? Just beautiful with the small amount of snow we had there in November. Probably even more impressive in October. I though Kaikoura was really nice too if you're looking for a pretty beach town with bright blue water and snowcapped mountains in the background on the east coast, not too far north of Christchurch. If the weather is good you could take a tour to try to see some whales from there (we got rained out, but no complaints since we just drove to Arthur's Pass and photographed the keas instead that day!).

Staines, United...
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8. Re: Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

While up in Golden Bay make sure you visit Wharariki beach/Puponga for the archway islands and sand dunes. Great for photography and would be worth trying night skies.

I'm planning a photo trip in October too, and will not miss Wharariki.

Edited: 11 May 2013, 11:04
Wanaka, New Zealand
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9. Re: Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

A second vote for Wharariki Beach. It's an easy walk to get there and really stunning and interesting scenery. Golden Bay is beautiful too.

The limestone bluffs and bush around Punakaiki are fantastic too so if you makeit there, make sure you go beyond just seeing the Pancake Rocks.

If the weather is right when you are doing the Chch-Mt Cook section, then perhaps a stop in Tekapo at Mt John Observatory?

If it fits where you are going and it is a fine day, the drive along the EASTERN side of Lake Dunstan (between Wanaka and Cromwell) has beautiful reflections of the Pisa Range in the lake. The colours in September/October in Central Otago are beautiful because there is still snow on the mountains but the dry landscape has turned green.

10. Re: Four weeks in South Island during September/October.

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