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South Island Drive

Cheshire
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41 posts
71 reviews
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South Island Drive

We are driving from Greymouth 10th November. We are staying overnight at Franz Joseph then on to Wanaka for another night. We are booked in Te Anau for 2 nights where we intend to do a day trip to Milford Sound from. We then spend 3 nights in Queenstown before flying to Christchurch. Does anyone have any suggestions of places not to miss on this drive please? This is our first visit to NZ and are not sure what weather/temperatures to expect. Any advice would be most helpful.

New Zealand
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for South Island
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1. Re: South Island Drive

Hi Elaine :)

How are you getting to Greymouth - by train?

Are you planning to hike on the glaciers?

The drive Franz Josef to Wanaka is a full day's drive - visitors average 6 hours with a couple of brief stops.

Wanaka to te Anau you can take the Crown Range - NZ's highest public road - or take the somewhat flatter route via Cromwell. Both drives are scenic, the Crown Range takes under an hour, via Cromwell about 20 minutes longer.

In Te Anau you can visit the glow worm caves. The short film Ata Whenua is stunning.

Are you driving to Milford or taking the coach tour? If the weather is good I would drive - you can then stop as you want. If driving leave early to miss the constant coach traffic. Drive straight to Milford (allow 2.5 hours), cruise, then explore on the way back to Te Anau. Key Summit is a great walk - allow 3 hours for the round trip. The views at the top are lovely.

If raining I would opt for the bus - the road is not a relaxing one to drive, especially in adverse conditions. However I think Milford itself magical in the rain - dark broody and very photogenic - plus the many hundreds of waterfalls is breathtaking.

If time allows in Queenstown take a drive to Glenorchy and on to Paradise - sandfly heaven!! But the scenery is quite spectacular.

Hope this helps, happy travels :)

Dunedin, New Zealand
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2. Re: South Island Drive

I agree the drive to Glenorchy from Queenstown is a must. The Lake Sylvan Track, with its moss-covered felled trees, is easy, flat, and not too far beyond Glenorchy, 15 or so minutes; part of the drive is along an unpaved road. There's also a walkway right in Glenorchy.

…govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/…

The Skippers Canyon Jet Boat Tour was wonderful as it included a drive on Skippers Canyon Road with its incredible scenery and then a 30-minute jet boat on the Shotover River. Skippers Canyon Road is not for those afraid of heights, or high curvy roads, but our tour guide/driver made us all feel quite safe. The whole tour from the pick-up in Queenstown and back only took about 3 hours.

In Queenstown itself, the Skyline Gondola offers wonderful views and there is a walking track at the top. There is also a nice lakeside walking track through Queenstown's Botanical Garden. If you enjoy wine, the Central Otago Wine Region starts just outside of Queenstown.

Edited: 01 July 2014, 10:35
Cheshire
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41 posts
71 reviews
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3. Re: South Island Drive

Thanks so much for your replies. We are taking the train from Christchurch to Greymouth. We intend to drive from Te Anau to Milford but will take your advice if the weather is bad. Is it advisable to pre-book the cruise or is it possible to just pay on the day? The Skyline Gondola and Botaniical Garden sounds good in Queenstown.. We intend to do some research on restaurants in Queenstown too. Still not sure what sort of weather to expect in November. Will the weather be greatly different in say Greymouth and Queenstown? Skippers Canyon Jet Boat appeals too. Thanks again

New Zealand
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for South Island
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4. Re: South Island Drive

You will encounter all types of weather in Nov. And yes, the West Coast, Glenorchy and Fiordland has high rainfall - Queenstown is much drier.

Also expect early summer heat, lingering winter chills, spring rain, Milford could have snow flurries.

If taking the bus tour to milford, just book the day before - the te Anau i-SITE will have all the options. If driving to Milford you can book a cruise once there.

safe travels :)

Dunedin, New Zealand
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5. Re: South Island Drive

Down here in Dunedin, which is on the East Coast of the South Island, the weather can be beautifully sunny one day, absolutely miserable the next. It can change several times over the course of the day. It can start out sunny, then get grey and rainy, then get sunny again. You can be at the beach, where it's sunny, and see rain pouring down on the hills on the other side of the city. If I'm taking a long walk, I'll always bring "just in case the weather changes" clothes, meaning gloves, Merino cap and scarf, wind and waterproof jacket in my backpack. Makes it interesting and leaves room for optimism with respect to weather forecasts. For instance, for days we have been warned about a miserable storm coming our way that would deposit snow at 400 metres. Instead it's been gloriously sunny for nearly a week. The storm is coming, but there's this sense we've gotten a reprieve for now.

If you expect the worse and get sunny weather, you can be pleasantly surprised and feel lucky.

Please bring a wind and waterproof jacket, fleece or woolen layer to wear beneath this, and hiking boots or shoes with a good grip on them. Even if you don't plan on hiking, you'll be walking on gravel and/or dirt paths at some point and it's easy to slip and fall (I speak from experience). Also bring sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellent. You can find lists of other suggested items on this board.

For what it's worth, here is a link to a weather site:

http://www.metservice.com/national/home

Below is a link to the NZ Transportation Agency so you can check for advisories and road closures while you are here. It's also a good idea to pop into local I-Site offices (NZ tourism information offices) as you go, they can advise you about interesting places and activities, make bookings for you, inform you of current road conditions, travel times, etc. So if you forget to ask something on this very helpful forum, you'll still be able to get plenty of help when you get here.

…govt.nz/traffic/…index.html

newzealand.com/int/…

Cheshire
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41 posts
71 reviews
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6. Re: South Island Drive

Wow I didn't realise how changeable the weather is in NZ, and I thought we had weird weather here in England! We will make sure we pack for every season. Great advice and information from you both thanks.

Dunedin, New Zealand
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7. Re: South Island Drive

It's definitely changeable in Dunedin and along this southern part of the South Island's East Coast, but at least we don't get that much rain (our storm finally came, by the way). We get blasted by cold southerly winds, as well. It's often warmer just inland during summer and early autumn (which is good for the valuable Central Otago grape harvest).

The weather is milder as you head north, Blenheim and Nelson are sunnier, drier. Though Wellington has a reputation for windy weather. Napier, Gisborne and Bay of Plenty on the North Island are pretty sunny, too.

You might find this comparison between UK and NZ weather interesting:

http://www.enz.org/nz-climate.html

This offers a pretty good explanation of NZ weather, too:

teara.govt.nz/en/natural-environment/page-3

8. Re: South Island Drive

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