We are currently planning a trip to the South Island from Australia in late March next year for 2 weeks. We are flying in to Christchurch and have decided we would most like to do the 'south of Christchurch' areas rather than Nelson, etc. We are travelling with our 2 young children who will be 4 and 2 at the time. We obviously want to enjoy as much as we can but are very wary of overdoing it with young kids and just ending up exhausted. I would like to limit driving time to 3-4 hours/day. We are planning on ending in the Queenstown area and flying back from Queenstown to ChCh to save travel time. We definitely want to include Wanaka, Queenstown and Milford Sound. Not too fussed about Dunedin (although open to suggestions) and not interested in the glaciers this trip as the kids are too young.
So! I have a couple of general queries:
1. Is it worth trying to include just north of Christchurch, ie. Kaikoura and/or Hanmer Springs, as they seem really nice and good for young kids?
2. I am fairly keen to get over to the West Coast via Arthur's Pass as I have heard it is beautiful, but is not what we had originally planned. (Had originally thought we would go down via Lake Tekapo, Pukaki, etc) Would this add too much time to our trip? Also where would be a good stop over between Hokitika and ChCh? Is there one? I think ChCh to Hokitika in one day might be too much.
3. Is Mt Cook worth doing if the children are so little? We won't be able to do much walking with them other than short-ish ones so I am not sure if it would be worth the travel.
4. If we do the Arthur's Pass/Hokitika route then we will forsake Lake Tekapo/Pukaki/Mt Cook. (Given we are flying back from Qtn to ChCh) Does anyone have suggestions as to which way would be better to go?
I will probably have more questions but wanted to get some feedback on this initially.
Any help from those more knowledgable than me would be appreciated!