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14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

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14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

Greetings! My husband and I, after six years of marriage, are finally getting around to taking a belated honeymoon in NZ this November/December, and we want to try to find a balance between getting to see the really good stuff and not killing ourselves trying to do it all.

We’ve already booked our flights, and we have 14 full days between our arrival in QT and our departure from Auckland.

I am leaning towards spending most of our time on the southern part of the South Island, and saving the North Island and Abel Tasman for another trip. My husband would like to spend a few days in Auckland, and I have heard very good things about Wellington too (and there is an old friend who now lives there that I am trying to track down to meet up with, but no luck so far!).

That said, we are more “nature people” than “city people”, and are especially on the lookout for things we haven’t already seen in California or Hawaii or the Pacific Northwest (all places we’ve lived/visited/hiked a lot). Given our limited time will probably just do day hikes rather than multi-day tracks.

We will probably be renting a car so we have more flexibility as far as stopping and sightseeing and weather conditions, although we probably would prefer to sleep in m/hotels rather than get a campervan. (I realize this means we will lose some flexibility and have to book things in advance no matter what the weather/road conditions are, but I realize late November / early December is peak season).

Is the following itinerary reasonable? I have the Lonely Planet and NZ Frenzy books, and I’ve read past threads in this forum to try to incorporate your advice.

Nov 18 / Day 1: arrive 2pm local QT.

Nov 19 / Day 2: QT.

Nov 20 / Day 3: QT. Possible drive to Glenorchy and day hike out/back on Routeburn.

Nov 21 / Day 4: drive QT -> Milford Sound. Hike/ sight-see on way, do 4:30 cruise. Drive back to Te Anau & overnight there.

Nov 22 / Day 5: Doubtful Sound cruise leaves 7am from Te Anau. 9 hour tour. Drive to Wanaka & overnight there.

Nov 23 / Day 6: Relax and hike around Wanaka / do Puzzling World. Overnight at Wanaka.

Nov 24 / Day 7: drive Haast Road Sights, drive to Glaciers, afternoon hike, overnight at glaciers.

Nov 25 / Day 8: morning at Glaciers/Lake Matheson. Drive to Punakaiki rocks (try to hit high tide) Drive to AP, overnight at AP. (This might need to be 2 days?)

Nov 26 / Day 9: AP short hikes, drive to CHCH. Stay somewhere near train station

Nov 27 / Day 10: ditch car, 7am TransPacific Train and Ferry to Wellington.

Nov 28 / Day 11: : Wellington (Thanksgiving!)

Nov 29:/ Day 12: Wellington

Nov 30 / Day 13:: Wellington

Dec 1 / Day 14:: fly to Auckland

Dec 2 / Day 15:: Auckland

Dec 3: Day 16: early morning flight home

We’re also open to flying from CHCH to Wellington (or Auckland if we decide to skip Wellington altogether), although the East Coast and ferry crossing sounds scenic if the weather is nice. I’m leaning towards plane/train options because I think we’ll be sick of driving at that point, and hopefully we can just use public transit or taxis while we’re within Auckland and/or Wellington.

Thank you in advance for your help (and reading this far)! We can’t wait to visit!

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1. Re: 14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

Hello and welcome to the forum :)

You have planned well, but some of your days are overstuffed - we don't have the multi-lane freeways you are used to and driving here can be exhausting. Your Sec of State John Kerry holidayed here recently and his one complaint - our roads are too small !!

My suggestion for the South Island - select either Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound - you don't have time for both. And on this visit skip the train - simply no time for it. save it for your next visit.

Nov/early Dec is actually the shoulder season so while yoy will need to prebook Milford, the glaciers, Punakaiki and Abel Tasman well in advance, the rest should be fine for last minute booking if you don't mind spening time each day looking. You can always book through the i-SITE (tourist information) in each town or use www.wotif.com a few days in advance.

so...

18 arrive Queenstown

19 explore

20 drive to Milford

21 cruise, drive to Wanaka - allow 6 hours for the drive plus stops

22 explore, hike

23 drive Haast Pass to Fox or Franz - allow 6 hours to reach Franz

24 explore, drive to Punakaiki

25 drive to Abel Tasman

26 explore

27 drive Queen Charlotte Drive to Picton, ferry to Wellington

28 Thanksgiving...

hope this helps :)

Nov 27 / Day 10: ditch car, 7am TransPacific Train and Ferry to Wellington.

Christchurch, New...
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2. Re: 14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

OR, if you still want to take the train AND fit in Chch, consider this ( skipping Doubtful Sound but keeping to your basic itinerary, slightly streamlined):

22. Drive Te Anau to Wanaka (4 hr), visit Puzzling World etc.

23. Drive to FJG (4-6 hr depending on weather)

24. Glacier hike

25. punakaiki

26. Drive to Chch via Arthurs Pass

27. Tran & ferry ....

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3. Re: 14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

Thank you so much for the quick reply! I did have a feeling I was trying to fit too much in. It's hard when all the guidebooks describe how amazing every part of the country is. :)

If we had to only cruise one sound, we'd probably pick Doubtful and stay in Te Anau. Would it still be possible/advisable for us to see some of the Milford Road sights like the Homer Tunnel, or is that too far along?

I had originally thought to swing back to the East side via Arthur's Pass because it sounded so beautiful, but maybe we will get our dose of mountains in Queenstown? Lewis Pass *would* be more direct for getting us where we wanted to go (up to the ferry). The train through CHCH was just a possible way to get there, not a must-do for us.

Thanks again for your help!

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4. Re: 14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

If doing Doubtful

18 arrive Queenstown

19 explore, afternoon drive to Te Anau

20 drive to Manapouri, explore Doubtful, stay Te Anau

21 explore Milford Road, hike Key Summit?, stay Te Anau

22 drive to Wanaka

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5. Re: 14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

Ok! I've gotten a better sense of what my husband would like to do (more fjords/beaches, less all-mountains-all-the-time). I'm also trying to take your wise advice to heart about breaking up the driving. So how does my version 2 sound?

Nov 17: Arrive QT. Relax, recover from flight.

Nov 18: QT. Acclimate.

Nov 19: QT. Possible Glenorchy excursion or day hike on Routeburn

Nov 20: QT. Relax..

Nov 21: Drive to Manapouri (3 hour drive): 10am Day Cruise Doubtful Sound, return 5:45 pm

Drive to Te Anau and stay overnight.

Nov 22: Day in Te Anau / Milford Road sights. Overnight Te Anau.

Nov 23: Drive from Te Anau to Wanaka (3 hours). Puzzling World & Relax. Overnight Wanaka.

Nov 24: Drive Haast Road, see sights (6 hours). Overnight Fox Glacier.

Nov 25: Explore Glaciers. Overnight Fox Glacier.

Nov 26: Drive to Punakaiki (4 Hours). Explore. High Tide = 6pm. Overnight ~Punakaiki

Nov 27: Drive to Abel Tasman (4 hours). Stay overnight.

Nov 28: Drive to Picton (3-4 hours), take Ferry to Wellington. Sunset = 8:30pm..

Nov 29: Wellington (to meet up with old friend. Yay!)...

Thank you again for all your help!

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6. Re: 14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

Correction- We will probably stay at Franz rather than Fox glacier, per advice on this forum. I got my F's mixed up!

Christchurch, New...
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7. Re: 14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

It is looking really good EXCEPT for the Abel Tasman bit! ATNP has very limited road access and basically cannot be experienced without hiking or water taxi ( or a combination of both).

IMO it would worth forgoing either one of the Fiords or the "relax" day in QTN (20th) to give you a full day to take a hike/ kayak/water taxi tour in ATNP.

Whatever you do, you'll have a fabulous time and wish you could stay longer!!

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8. Re: 14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

Yep, everything Zhuhai says - and yes, you need a full day at Abel Tasman.

so you could;

17 arrive QT

18 explore

19 explore Glenorchy and/or day hike on Routeburn

20 drive 2 hours to Manapouri, Doubtful Sound, stay Te Anau

21 explore Milford Road

22 drive to Wanaka

23 drive Haast Pass to Franz

24 explore glaciers

25 drive to Punakaiki

26 drive to Abel Tasman

27 explore

28 drive to Picton, ferry to Wellington...

it's a great trip, enjoy :)

Edited: 10 July 2013, 00:52
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9. Re: 14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

Totally agree - if you're going to go to Abel Tasman, you need two nights there. If you stay at Marahau, you can explore a section of the track taking water taxis, easy to organise and a beautiful day out.

If hubby wants beaches, he will LOVE Abel Tasman.

Edited: 10 July 2013, 06:48
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10. Re: 14 day itinerary in NZ, mostly South Island

Update: I was really excited about finalizing my itinerary and was about to start booking accommodations when my husband pointed out that we land on the 18th, not the 17th, and therefore have one less day. :(

I guess we are going to have one less day in QT or else skip Auckland, as my husband doesn't want to do just one day in the largest city in the country. I personally think I'd rather spend more time in the South Island or in Wellington, but we do somehow need to be in Auckland the night before our early morning international flight home, but I'm sure the most efficient way to do that, and the whole Wellington vs. Auckland debate is a question for another forum.

He also wanted to know why we needed to overnight twice in the glaciers (other than breaking up the drive northward), because glaciers are cold and will we want to be outside in 45 degree F weather in November anyway?

And now I'm rethinking my carefully crafted but possibly now wrong itinerary! Sigh...