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Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

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Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

Hi All,

So we have our flight tickets to Christchurch done for this December-January (Dec 17-Jan 8) and now we have 20 days to cover South Island. Just as a quick recap – we are a couple in our 30s who will be in NZ for the first time and love scenery, short scenic walks and long drives. However, our itinerary now requires some change as (i) we have 3 more days and (ii) our travel dates have changed so we are trying to realign the itinerary to be in Queenstown for NYE.

Therefore I was thinking of going counter-clockwise now. Also, I am not 100% sure if I am utilizing additional 3 days in best possible manner so will appreciate your suggestions.

Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch this afternoon from Singapore and fly to Nelson.

Day 2: Pick a rental car and do a day trip to Picton (driving Queen Charlotte Drive one way).

Day 3: Nelson to Wharariki beach, Cape Farewell etc. Overnight at Kaiteriteri

Day 4: Day trip (Kayak & Walk) to Abel Tasman Park

Day 5: Kaiteriteri to Punakaiki, stop at Lake Rotoiti & Cape Foulwind Seal Colony

Day 6: Punakaiki to Hokitika, visit Hokitika Gorge

Day 7: Hokitika to Fox Glacier in the morning, Fox Heli Hike

Day 8: Visit Lake Matheson, Fox Terminal Walk / Reserve Day for Fox Heli Hike

Day 9: Fox Glacier to Wanaka, visit Blue Pools & Waterfalls

Day 10: Full day in Wanaka.

Day 11: Most of the day in Wanaka, drive in later afternoon to Te Anau

Day 12: Day trip to Milford Sound, Rosco’s Sunriser Kayak tour

Day 13: Doubtful Sound overnight cruise

Day 14: Arrive in Te Anau by mid-day, drive to Queenstown (This is NYE)

Day 15: Full day in Queenstown

Day 16: Drive to Glenorchy, Dart river safari

Day 17: First half in Queenstown, Post lunch drive to Mount Cook (Or should we start early?)

Day 18: In Mt. Cook, Tasman Glacier Boat tour, Hooker Valley Walk

Day 19: Mt. Cook to Lake Tekapo, overnight at Lake Tekapo

Day 20: Early morning drive from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch Airport, Flight to SNG at 2PM.

So, now I am spending 1 extra day at Nelson, 1 more day in West Coast and the 3rd extra day is being distributed between Queenstown & Wanaka. Does this make sense or should we drive from Christchurch to Nelson on Day 1, 2 (say with an o/n at Kaikoura) instead of flying and doing a day loop, or may be include some new area to explore.

Other alternative is to do this circuit clockwise following largely our previous 17 day itinerary and then extending it by additional 3 days to cover Picton, Marlborough, Kaikoura. In that case we will be in Nelson for NYE. I didn’t find any info on how is the vibe there for NYE. Could you let me know how does the New Year celebrations at Nelson compare with those in Queenstown?

Looking forward to your inputs.

New Zealand
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1. Re: Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

It's a good looking trip :)

Queenstown at NYE is manic or buzzing - depending on your tolerance level for loud crowds.

Nelson is also buzzing - but Queenstown is considered more cool I guess.

The only suggestion I would make is drop Picton. You will still be somewhat jet lagged and the very very twisty Queen Charlotte Drive is surely one of the worst roads in NZ on which to learn a new car, new roads, new traffic patterns. I think you would be best to spend day 2 exploring Nelson and/or do a wine tour around Nelson. This will be a more gentle introduction to NZ roads.

safe travels :)

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2. Re: Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

Day 12 - you start in Te Anau, but plan to be in Milford Sound by 7:15 am for the sunrise paddle??? Perhaps you should swap the DS overnight so you can drive to MS after the cruise & stay a night there - or do your overnight on MS instead.

Please don't even think of driving on day 1. One alternative to flying to Nelson, might be flying to Blenheim, so you can still do Picton on day 2, but only have to drive one way.

Singapore
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3. Re: Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

Thanks WLnz and Zhuhai.

So, maybe we will stick with our plans to usher in the new year at Queenstown for now.

On MS, we thought we would start early this morning to cover 2 hr route from Te Anau to arrive in time for 7:15am paddle. But a good idea to stay overnight at MS lodge. However River Chalets are not available - Are Mountain view chalets equally good for $300p.n.?

Nelson-Picton conundrum still to be resolved. Tell me, between Nelson / Picton / Catlins and Kaikoura - where would you spend your additional 2 days ? I am not yet convinced if I am using additional days appropriately or not.

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4. Re: Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

It would be foolish to attempt to drive Milford Road before sunrise. There are sections of the road that are very challenging in broad daylight. The road does not have lighting and trying to do it in the dark would be suicidal.

Besides, why would you want to drive one of the most scenic roads of NZ when you can't see anything?

New Zealand
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5. Re: Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

in order of preference for Dec/Jan travel

Nelson

Catlins

Picton

Kaikoura

if winter travel it would be;

Catlins

Nelson

Picton

Kaikoura

Singapore
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6. Re: Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

Hi Fred - Since Rosco's do pick up from Te Anau for that tour so we got swayed in thinking that we could drive ourselves as well in the morning and we could have enjoyed the scenery on the way back. Obviously, they probably do that day-in - day-out and I didn't know about lack of lights on the road. Anyway I am now seriously considering Zhuhai's idea of staying in Milford Sound Lodge though availability remains an issue. Other option would be to replace kayaking by a cruise and I really don't wanna do that but let's see. In any case, we will not drive before sunrise now.

Hi WLnz - Thanks for your preference list. I also spent some more time comparing the four and eventually it seems that flying to Nelson makes most sense. We will also skip Queen Charlotte Drive, may drive up to Cable Bay or stay in Nelson.

Finally, on our last day in NZ, we plan to drive from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch Airport. It's a 3 hr drive...may be 3.5 hr if we choose to take a break on the way. Our flight back to Singapore is at 2:00pm so was thinking of starting around 8am. Do you see any red flags in that plan or is it doable?

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7. Re: Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

In January that shoukd not be a problem. I would say that 4 hr is the minimum for safety (timewise). This will allow time for a coffee stop at the Fram Barn near Fairlie or a tasting stop at Barkers of Geraldine, as well as returning the car if it is an off-airport company.

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8. Re: Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

Thanks Zhuhai. So that locks our itinerary :)

Now I am moving to book the accommodation and I have 3 queries on ideal overnight locations:

1. Day 2: We now plan to spend this day in and around Nelson so no long drives. Would it be better to stay in Nelson overnight and then drive next morning to Wharariki beach or are we better off driving to Kaiteriteri this evening and stay there overnight to save an hour or more next morning. Just wondering whether a 3 night stay in Kaiteriteri would be a good idea.

2. Day 6: In our original itinerary we were planning to stay overnight at Hokitika however if we push for another hour we could reach Fox Glacier where we plan to spend next 2 days anyway. Kind of similar confusion as above where am now thinking is it better to stay 3 nights at Fox or mix it with a night in Hokitika.

3. Day 11: Finally, we have now swapped our Day 12 & Day 13 plans so we now do the Doubtful Sound o/n cruise on D12 and Milford Sound Kayak on Day 14. This now begs the question that whether we should stay overnight in Te Anau on Day 11 or in Manapouri from where the cruise starts next morning. Which is the better place to stay overnight and also in terms of safe parking of car while we are away on cruise. (We are now booked at MS Lodge for Day 13).

As you may see, just trying to rationalize the accommodation options now that we have a final itinerary. Your comments would be really helpful as they have been all along. Thanks.

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9. Re: Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

Irony of planning a trip is that just when you think it's all done and dusted, you realise that little detail you overlooked :)

So, what I overlooked was that our reserve day for Glacier heli-hike (Day 8) is the Christmas Day and so there won't be any guided tours on that day. So while we are increasing our chances of doing the hellhike by staying overnight in Fox on Day 6 but we would now have enough time to drive to Wanaka on Chritmas and an extra day in or itinerary.

Also, if we drive from Wanaka to Manapouri on the morning of our Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise (as it leaves after mid-day) instead of a day before and take out half a day from our Wanaka stay then we end up with one more day.

So the question then is, is it worth driving to Catlins for these two days. The revised plan for last week of December will look something like this for our Day 8-14 of the itinerary.

25/12 - Drive to Wanaka (day 8)

26/12 - In Wanaka

27/12 - Drive to Manapouri, Doubtful o/n cruise

28/12 - Back from cruise, Drive to Milford Sound

29/12 - Kayak at Milford, Drive to Invercargill

30/12 - In Catlins, O/n near Kaka Point

31/12 - Sunrise at Nugget Point, Drive to Queenstown for NYE festivities.

Our original itinerary resumes thereafter.

Part of the reason I am being this creative is that there is no o/n chalet availability at Milford Sound Lodge for 29/12 and no Doubtful cruise available for 30/12 so simply advancing the whole itinerary doesn't work.

But again just not sure if all his driving to Catlins is worth it especially as we have no special urge to see Penguins given we have seen whole lot of them in last couple of years in Australia and South Africa (the ones in Antarctica are the only one I really wanna go and see, hopefully some day )

Will appreciate your inputs.

New Zealand
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10. Re: Revised 20 days Itinerary - Critique pls

Looks good :)

It will take you at least 3 hours to drive Wanaka to Manapouri if going via Crown Range - allow an extra 30 minutes if going via Cromwell.

Rather than Invercargill you can take the Southern Scenic route Manapouri to Riverton to stay overnight. Riverton is more charming than I'gill.

Happy travels :)