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Queenstown to Christchurch - 4 nights - advice needed

Lady Lake, Florida
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Queenstown to Christchurch - 4 nights - advice needed

We plan to fly into Queenstown from Auckland (i.e., no jet lag) on a Sunday morning in mid-March and plan to rent a car. We need to be be in Christchurch on Wednesday evening for an early morning Thursday departure. We will already have spent 4 nights in the Queenstown/Milford Sound area on a previous leg of our journey so there is probably no urgency to spend additional time there. The intent of this 4 night excursion is to see the highlights of the South Island other than Queenstown.

We are primarily interested in scenery/photography both from the car as well as short/easy hikes up to 2 hours in length (my wife is limited to level or gently sloping terrain on reasonably well-groomed paths.) My intial thoughts are to spend 1 or 2 nights in Wanaka, 2 or 1 night in Mount Cook Village and then the final night in Christchurch. The question that I have is: assuming that this route provides the best scenery, would it be best to spend 2 nights in Wanaka and then only 1 in Mount Cook, or do the reverse of this?

I have read that the road over the mountains from Wanaka to Haast and perhaps up the coast a bit is quite nice. Would it make sense to use Sunday to get to Wanaka and explore the immediate area for the remaining part of that day and then use Monday for a trip to the coast and return to Wanaka? Would this then leave enough time to do some of the short walks/hikes in the Mount Cook area when we get there on Tuesday?

Finally, the only thing that is set is stone at this point is a Sunday departure from Auckland and a Thursday AM departure from Christchurch airport. Is there another itinerary that makes more sense to see the best of the south island? For example, would a trip up the coast from Haast and then across Arthurs Pass afford better scenery that time of year? We are very much looking forward to our trip to New Zealand and don't want to come home and find that we missed some must-see highlight of this beautiful country.

Thanks in advance.

Christchurch, New...
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for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
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1. Re: Queenstown to Christchurch - 4 nights - advice needed

I think you have covered your options and now only need to make the decision! The only one of your 3 that I wouldn't recommend is the backtracking through Haast Pass. So you could either:

Sun. Pick up rental car & drive to Wanaka

Mon. Drive vis Haast Pass to Fox Glacier (allow all day with photo pops & short walks)

Tues. AM explore - perhaps the Lake Matheson track to the "view-of-views" would be easy enough? PM drive to Hokitika or Punakaiki

Wed. Drive to Christchurch via Arthurs Pass.

Thurs. Explore; Fly out

OR - Option 2 as you originally planned via Wanaka & Mt Cook.

Edited: 09 June 2014, 17:38
Lady Lake, Florida
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2. Re: Queenstown to Christchurch - 4 nights - advice needed

Thank you for your quick response. Your alternatives up the coast look atractive. From looking at reviews of Lake Matheson, it appears that the "view-of-views" warrants this name in good weather, but may not be quite as good in less favorable weather. In mid-March, what do you think the odds of clear skies would be? Also, for Fox Glacier, is there a relatively easy way to get to it? Finally, would the drive up the coast provide great coastal and/or mountain views or do trees block most of the views?

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3. Re: Queenstown to Christchurch - 4 nights - advice needed

March would have the best chance of favorable weather - but in New Zealand, you always take your weather chances. To be honest, the drive from FJ glacier to SH 73 (aka Arthur's Pass), is a little ho-hum. You go through a lot of thick rain forest and then farmland. Once you get past Greymouth, it's fabulous up to Westport.

Reflection Island is the better viewpoint on Lake Matheson. Someone recently reported that the river at Fox had switched direction because of a slip recently. I know it affected the guided tours onto the glacier, but don't know if it affected the walk to the terminal face. Perhaps a local or someone who has been there in the last week or two will chime in. The terminal face walk we took a bit over a year ago was only a gradual incline and fairly well trodden. Now I understand the last portion is a steep incline as the glacier has receded.

I don't mean to be discouraging, but trying to be upfront about the possible situation there. I have never been to Franz Josef Glacier, but I do understand it's a longer walk to the terminal face. It may be more level though.

Hokitika Gorge would be well worth going to. It's an easy walk and it really wouldn't make much difference if you have a drizzly day. The water there is still this awesome turquoise!

New Zealand
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4. Re: Queenstown to Christchurch - 4 nights - advice needed

The drive Wanaka to Haast is really scenic - after that you are on a winding road through native bush and flat farmland to Hokitika. Lovely, but my prefered route is up through the Lindis pass to Aoraki/Mt Cook.

So my recommendation is;

1 drive to Wanaka

2 explore - or take the drive to Haast and back (4 hours round trip) - some great short walks to enjoy

3 drive Lindis Pass to Aoraki/Mt Cook (3 hours), explore

4 drive to Chch

enjoy :)

5. Re: Queenstown to Christchurch - 4 nights - advice needed

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