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Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

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Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

My husband and I have just booked our flights for a trip to the South Island. We will be flying into and out of Christchurch from Sydney and will arrive at 1.30pm on 15 March 2014 and fly out at about the same time on 1 April 2014. So, we will have 17 nights all up - it is very exciting and will be our first trip to New Zealand..

We are both in our mid 30s, child-free and enjoy walking, the great outdoors, good wines, great food, photography and would also like to try a few of the thrillseeking activities that New Zealand offers (eg. white water rafting, caving or hiking, but not bungy). A pampering activity would also not go astray..

The only thing we have decided at this stage is that we will hire a car (probably AWD style like an X-Trail) and stay in Apartment/Hotel/B&B style accommodation, as we like our creature comforts, don't particularly want to camp and have set ourselves a reasonable budget. Apart from that we are in the early stages of planning and open to any ideas that the Trip Advisor community might provide.

So, over to you... Please tell us about any must-sees, must-dos, favourite places, most memorable activities and we will be very grateful. Any suggested itineraries for 17-nights on the South Island will also be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Ballarat, Australia
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21. Re: Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

Another idea if you want to break the trip would be to squeeze in some type of adventure activities along the way. eg http://www.adventuretours.co.nz/ I haven't used this outfit, but these sort of places away from the Queenstown adventure mecca often have better prices, more personal attention and very enthusiastic staff. The Queenstown operators put through so many people and are so slick it can sometimes feel like being on a conveyor belt.

New Zealand
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22. Re: Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

Jean, I have done a number of 'tourist activities' in and around Queenstown and I haven't experienced the negatives you mention. I have found the service to be full of humour and enthusiasm with the guides relaxed and charming.

My only complaint with Queenstown service is from the often young and foreign wait-staff in the restaurants. Many act as if they would rather be anywhere but here, serving your table.

Ballarat, Australia
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23. Re: Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

No disrespect to Queenstown at all! I love the place! But sometimes people assume they will do all that adventure stuff in Queenstown when there are good alternatives they might not have heard of all over the place. :)

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24. Re: Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

You've got to love Trip Advisor - thanks everyone so much for all your help.. You wouldn't believe how much I appreciate all your thoughts and opinions.

With such limited time we really don't want to waste a single night.. So pushing through is probably going to be the best option for us... Although I'm sure I could be convinced otherwise if we find something else we are super keen to see/do!

So.. thoughts on the next phase of the trip... A few days at Fox Glacier and Franz Josef, followed by;

- Wanaka

- Queenstown/Arrowtown

- Milford Sound/Doubtful Sound

- Unknown / TBA / Open to Suggestions

- Back to Christchurch for flights - undecided whether we will stay for a night prior to flying out the next afternoon...

Your thoughts on how many nights in each, activities/important sights to see, where to base ourselves etc???

Thanks again

New Zealand
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25. Re: Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

option 1

1 arrive Chch

2 drive Arthur's Pass to Punakaiki

3 drive to Franz Josef

4 explore, drive to Fox?

5 drive Haast Pass to Wanaka

6 explore Mt Aspiring National Park

7 drive to Dunedin

8 explore

9 drive to Catlins

10 drive to Te Anau

11 explore Milford, stay Te Anau

12 drive to Queenstown

13/14 explore

15 drive Lindis Pass to Aoraki/Mt cook

16 explore tasman glacier and icebergs

17 drive to Chch

18 fly out

or....

1 arrive Chch

2 drive Lewis Pass to Nelson

3 drive to Abel Tasman NP or Golden Bay

4 explore

5 drive to Punakaiki

8 drive to Franz Josef

7 explore, drive to Fox?

8 drive Haast Pass to Wanaka

9 explore Mt Aspiring National Park

10 drive to Te Anau

11 explore Milford, stay Te Anau

12 drive to Queenstown

13/14 explore

15 drive Lindis Pass to Aoraki/Mt cook

16 explore Tasman glacier and icebergs

17 drive to Chch

18 fly out

March is a lovely time to explore. You won't need an AWD, a regular car will be fine - reduce your travel costs so you can indulge in a heli-flight or other faboulous activity.

Hope this helps :)

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26. Re: Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

So, after much talking to lots of people and reading all your comments and suggestions, not to mention a few other posts and websites, we have come up with a very draft itinerary.. We've decided not to go to Nelson/Abel Tasman as we would prefer to have enough time in other places to do them justice and not spend every day in the car.. We'll have to leave that for next time, which I hope there will be one! Please make comments on what we are thinking at this point...

Day 1 - Arrive Christchurch 1.30pm - drive to Kaikoura - Overnight Kaikoura

Day 2 - Explore Kaikoura - Overnight Kaikoura

Day 3 - Drive to Hanmer Springs on the way to the West coast - Overnight Hanmer Springs

Day 4 - Drive to Franz Josef Glacier - Overnight Franz Josef

Day 5 - Explore Glaciers, hopefully do Heli-Hike - Overnight Franz Josef

Day 6 - Drive to Wanaka - Overnight Wanaka

Day 7 - Explore & hopefully do some hiking - Overnight Wanaka

Day 8 - Drive to Queenstown - Overnight Queenstown

Day 9-11 - Explore Queenstown/Surrounds - Overnight Queenstown

Day 12 - Drive to Te Anau - do Milford Sound - Overnight Te Anau

Day 13-14 - Explore / do Doubtful Sound - Overnight Cruise Doubtful Sound

Day 15 - Drive to Dunedin - Overnight Dunedin

Day 16 - Explore Dunedin - Overnight Dunedin

Day 17 - Drive to Christchurch - Overnight Christchurch

Day 18 - Last morning - Fly home early afternoon.

Any thoughts on this itinerary will be greatly appreciated... Thanks in advance...

Christchurch, New...
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27. Re: Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

I strongly urge you to revisit WLnz's option 1 itinerary. She really is the expert and has tweaked this one to perfection. Your itinerary has you driving less interesting roads and missing the fabulous Aoraki/Mt Cook NP.

It is not necessary to do both Fiords, but if you really want to you can either reduce Mt Cook to one night (giving you two half days for walks) or cut out the Southern Scenic route ( Catlins) driving straight from Dunedin to Te Anau.

Edited: 13 July 2013, 12:55
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28. Re: Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

A shame you are missing Arthur's Pass and Lindis Pass - plus you have included the least scenic drive in the country - Dunedin to Chch - it is 5 - 6 hours of flat farmland, not the scenic coastal road many visitors imagine it to be.

Plus driving Queenstown to Milford to Te Anau in one day is a long day. The Milford Road has a high accident rate - it is not a road you drive tired. You will notice the itineraries above have you drive to Te Anau, the following day do Milford and stay Te Anau - it is the recommended way to enjoy Fiordland.

Please plan wisely and travel safe :)

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29. Re: Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

Thanks - it is definitely the last few days that we were unsure of... Will rethink..

Would you recommend hat we leave Kaikoura for next time and go from Christchurch to Punakaiki??

Ballarat, Australia
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30. Re: Suggestions for our Self Drive Tour of the South Island

I think if you're focusing on the south and planning on coming back for Abel Tasman/Nelson, it would make sense to plan to do Kaikoura then too. A more focused trip is usually more enjoyable! And you could leave Punakaiki for that trip as well - it could be included with a return through Hanmer Springs.

If you're cutting the top half, you could go Arthur's Pass - West Coast glaciers - Wanaka - Te Anau - Dunedin - Queenstown/Arrowtown/Glenorchy - Mt Cook - Christchurch. This includes some of the most scenic drives as well as the top sights.