We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

We're Back! (and tired)

California
Level Contributor
7,330 posts
71 reviews
Save Topic
We're Back! (and tired)

Hi all. We are back from a fabulous vacation on the South Island! I’m working on a day-by-day blog entry while my other half weeds through over 1000 pictures he took. In the meantime, I thought I’d post some hints and tips that might be helpful.

A little background: We are a couple in our mid-50s from the USA and this was our third 2-week trip to New Zealand in the past 4 years. The first trip by campervan in the North Island, the second was also by campervan around the top of the South and down the West Coast to Fox Glacier. This trip we thought we’d see how the other half lives and rented a car and stayed in self-contained accommodations. We enjoy day hiking and finding less touristy adventures. But we also did some activities; we were in Queenstown, after all.

Our itinerary:

Queenstown – 1 night

Manapouri – 3 nights

Curio Bay – 1 night

Kaka Point – 1 night

Wanaka – 2 nights

Mount Cook – 2 nights

Queenstown – 2 nights

I had a general outline of what I wanted to do, but sometimes the weather didn’t cooperate and we had to switch things around. So my advice is the more nights you have at a location, the more wiggle room you have if you need to reschedule. Book any weather dependent trip for the first day; it will give you the opportunity to rebook for the 2nd day if necessary. For instance, we booked a scenic heliflight of Doubtful Sound for our first full day in Manapouri. It was cancelled because the weather was deteriorating and we rebooked for day 2 and that was cancelled as well. It wasn’t until the third day there, the day we were driving to Curio Bay, that we got to do our flight. We also booked an evening kayak trip in Queenstown that was rained out, but got to do it the second night. Be flexible and always have a plan B!

Dress in layers. The morning we walked Hooker Valley Track at Mount Cook, I had a record 5 layers at 8:30am! Halfway down the return, I was down to my base layer. It had warmed up that much. Another piece of advice about what to wear is if you plan on hiking, bring an extra pair of shoes. One track was so muddy my shoes required washing under a hose and allowed to dry for a couple of days until they were wearable again.

Bring a lightweight backpack. It was great for having a place to put all those layers I was removing. We also carried our lunch in it, and sometimes our camera. I arrived in Queenstown carrying a purse, and actually felt out of place with that. So the backpack was not just used for tramping in the bush. I bought a packable one that folds in on itself into a small pouch. It was lightweight and didn’t take up much room in my suitcase on the plane. I could have also used it for extra items on the way home.

Prepare for rain – bring a waterproof jacket. Even in the driest of seasons, if you aren’t prepared you will be miserable. And just because it’s raining, don’t let it get you down. I think someone here said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait half an hour.” That was very true on a couple of occasions. It would be pouring when we set out driving to a place of interest, and only lightly sprinkling when we got there. I would have hated to miss out because of a little rain.

As for getting around, I was pretty familiar with which direction we were going and what cities lay which direction. Signage is more obvious if you look for a city or town name, rather than a road name or highway number. So, if driving from Manapouri to Curio Bay, follow the signs to Invercargill, and then signs for Fortrose, then for Curio Bay. I also had the advantage of having Geocaching Pocket Queries loaded on my iPad for offline use. It would show us where we were even if we weren’t online. Another plug for Geocaching is that it took us to places we would have never known about, like the two little falls at the Boyd Creek turnout on Milford Road, or the beautiful wetlands you look over at Rakatu Wetlands pullout on the road south of Manapouri.

There was one thing I thought I had well planned, but it didn’t work out was my cellphone. It was a hassle to unlock our phone, so I researched and bought an inexpensive unlocked, quad-band phone for our trip. For whatever reason, it was not compatible with Telecom. So we ended up buying an inexpensive phone on our first day of arrival. It came in very handy for reconfirming activities that required us to do so.

I hope some of this is helpful to others. Once we get the blog entry the way we want, I’ll post a link. Since it’s nearing tax season here in the states, it may be several weeks.

San Antonio, Texas
Level Contributor
2,266 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
11. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Wonder if it's worse than the road to Routeburn Shelter. That one I felt I had to go slow the whole way due to all the potholes in it. Well, not really potholes since it isn't paved, but essentially the same thing when you drove over them. Looking forward to seeing the shots you got. If I would have had one more day in the South Island! haha

Edited: 11 March 2014, 20:18
California
Level Contributor
7,330 posts
71 reviews
Save Reply
12. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Well, if I had one more day, I would have chosen to spend it in Glenorchy! We only went there to do the Dinner at Sunset kayak trip to Kinloch Lodge with Rippled Earth. The mountains at twilight took my breath away.

South Island
Destination Expert
for South Island
Level Contributor
1,405 posts
Save Reply
13. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

The Rob Roy track is a good one but be aware that the road up the Matukituki valley is a bloody nightmare.

I would caution your advice on the faster you go the better it is. This can damage your vehicle as well as cause damage to the vehicles you are passing, ie broken windscreens etc. When travelling on a gravel road especially this one slow down and this is very important when passing oncoming vehicles. Overtaking at speed on a gravel road is an absolute no no and is considered bad form in this part of the country.

Edited: 11 March 2014, 23:32
California
Level Contributor
7,330 posts
71 reviews
Save Reply
14. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

SIBill, I misspoke and I certainly didn't mean for anyone to drive recklessly fast. There is, however, a "sweet spot" when it comes to speed. I don't recall overtaking anyone either coming or going. And we slowed down (and noticed how much rougher the ride is) when anyone came from the opposing direction. The campervan I spoke of was going the opposite direction.

Spurs, there weren't any potholes, it was the entire quality of the road that was far different than other "gravel" roads we've traveled. We were thinking the fords would be the challenge, but they were quite easy. You have to be careful driving through them as the river rock is a different shape altogether. The first ford is the deepest, but this was March 4th, and the water levels were low.

I took out the zero excess on the vehicle and this particular road was a concern causing me to do so. And rightly so.

15. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This post was determined to be inappropriate by the TripAdvisor community and has been removed.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

Our staff may also remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason. Thanks for being a part of the TripAdvisor travel community!

Removed on: 10 June 2015, 13:05
California
Level Contributor
7,330 posts
71 reviews
Save Reply
16. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Ace Rental only excludes Skippers Canyon road and driving on beaches. As per item 13, line 10:

acerentalcars.co.nz/General_Car_Rental_Infor…

Isn't a metal road what we consider a gravel road?

Not that Wikipedia is gospel, but:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravel_road

17. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This post was determined to be inappropriate by the TripAdvisor community and has been removed.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

Our staff may also remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason. Thanks for being a part of the TripAdvisor travel community!

Removed on: 10 June 2015, 13:05
New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island
Level Contributor
28,297 posts
81 reviews
Save Reply
18. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

The road up the Matukituki gets a lot of traffic. I have been when the road is really smooth and other times it is terribly corrogated. One time it was thick with mud and I picked up a DOC ranger who got his 4WD stuck - the joys of driving a Jeep Wrangler, I could go where others failed ;)

Stawell, Australia
Level Contributor
532 posts
67 reviews
Save Reply
19. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Hi De Schenke - just been looking at all your beautiful photos and jotting a list of where we must go when we arrive in November. I am having trouble working out the location of Boyd Creek Falls though, have googled it but can not seem to find it anywhere...

California
Level Contributor
7,330 posts
71 reviews
Save Reply
20. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Hi Foxmum, the entrance is on the north side of the road, so on your right heading to Milford, on your left returning to Te Anau. I found the DOC page about it here: …govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/… Of course, we didn't do the tramp. The waterfalls (they are small, but very pretty) were a very short distance from the parking area. We scrambled down the hill and then realized there was a trail there. Do you geocache? Because that's how we found the area to begin with. The cache was located on the trail near the falls, so we just followed our GPS.