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Trip Planning Starter Help

San Antonio, Texas
Level Contributor
1,341 posts
44 reviews
Trip Planning Starter Help

Hello all - first of all I'm not asking for the "easy out" - I fully intend to research all aspects of this trip :) Back in 2009 we spent one week on the North Island consisting of 3 nights in Auckland, 2 nights in Rotorua and 2 nights in the Coromandel. In Auckland we did a harbor cruise, walked around the city a lot, day trip to Waheike Islands and stopped at some wineries, South Pacific Museum - simply a lot of sightseeing. We stayed at the Westin and rented a car and then drove to Rotorua where we stayed at Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort (our best experience ever!!!!). We checked out the thermal parks, walked in the redwood forest, water fall hikes, etc. & relaxed at the resort - then off to the Coromandel where weather wasn't the best during our time there but we did hike down to Cathedral Cove and spent a afternoon at some hot spring place where they served you drinks (was quite nice). After our week in NZ we then continued on to French Polynesia for two weeks. This was without doubt, out best vacation ever!!!

Now 10 years later (Nov. 2019) and for our 25th Wedding anniversary we want to visit the South Island of New Zealand then spend 9-10 days in the Cook Islands before returning home. We'll fly into Christchurch and plan at least 7-8 nights on the island. Based on this short time and knowing we don't mind driving in a car exploring, does anyone have any tips to get me started on my research on what a sample itinerary may look like based on our first experience on the North Island? We are not into zip-lining or that type of high adrenalin activity, but enjoy moderate hikes, sightseeing, wine tasting, getting out on the water whenever we can, etc.

I really appreciate your help to get me started in the right direction with tips on the BEST experience with only a week time :)

Thank you!

10 replies to this topic
California
Level Contributor
11,182 posts
73 reviews
1. Re: Trip Planning Starter Help

I think you are going to find you need more than 7-8 days for South Island. 10 days makes for a very rushed loop of the main sights.

1. Arr CHC

2. Drive to FJG or Fox Glacier (2N)

3. Explore/hike

4. Drive to Wanaka (1N)

5. Drive to Te Anau (2N)

6. Drive or Coach tour to Milford Sound, return to Te Anau

7. Drive to Queenstown (2N)

8. Explore

9. Drive to Mt Cook (1N)

10. Drive to Chch via Lake Tekapo.

You could shorten this by flying into Christchurch and out of Queenstown or vv. But then you would have to decide between West Coast or Mount Cook.

San Antonio, Texas
Level Contributor
1,341 posts
44 reviews
2. Re: Trip Planning Starter Help

Thank you for the suggestion. I actually was thinking of flying out of Queenstown in fact at the end of our stay and dropping the rental car at that airport.. Still early in planning. I will check out these suggestions - really appreciate it :)

Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
Level Contributor
40,133 posts
451 reviews
3. Re: Trip Planning Starter Help

Given that you seem to like quite active holidays, are you sure you want 10 days in the Cook islands? Could you squeeze a day or two off to enhance your SI experience?

You could shorten deSchenke's itinerary suggestion by 1 day if you dropped the 2N in Te Anau & replaced them with 1 extra N in QTN, with or without a day tour to Milford Sound from QTN.

San Antonio, Texas
Level Contributor
1,341 posts
44 reviews
4. Re: Trip Planning Starter Help

That's true and something to consider for sure..... Initially I thought of staying in Milford Sound one or two night when I saw the Milford Sound Lodge which is "jaw-dropping". But now thinking perhaps a day trip but is a day trip from Milford sound better from Te Anau or Queenstown? I was thinking Te Anau.......

Thank youi!

California
Level Contributor
11,182 posts
73 reviews
5. Re: Trip Planning Starter Help

I never recommend Milford Sound Lodge unless you are coming off of Milford Track or doing the early morning Kayak tour. There really is nothing at Milford, except the boat jetty, carparks, and the lodge. There is no "town", so no cafes or shops to wander. The only walk/hike at Milford is a 20-minute shore walk.

2 nights at Te Anau with Milford as a daytrip or do the daytour (and I do mean TOUR, as it is too far to drive yourself) from Queenstown if you are short on time.

San Antonio, Texas
Level Contributor
1,341 posts
44 reviews
6. Re: Trip Planning Starter Help

Thank you. Would the self drive from Te Anue be doable?

Oz
Level Contributor
14,968 posts
50 reviews
7. Re: Trip Planning Starter Help

Hi,

Great advice from the others.

I would strongly suggest more time in NZ, less in the Cooks and you buy Scott Cooks NZ Frenzy,South Island guide book.

http://www.nzfrenzy.com

Cheers,

California
Level Contributor
11,182 posts
73 reviews
8. Re: Trip Planning Starter Help

>>>Thank you. Would the self drive from Te Anue be doable?<<<

Yes, in November and having 2 nights in Te Anau and return would be quite doable.

>>>and you buy Scott Cooks NZ Frenzy,South Island guide book.<<<

I kind of find it amusing that you are such a convert for Scott's books - seeing as he traveled the islands in a campervan! My, how times have changed.

I think you have mellowed in your old age OZ!

Auckland Central...
Level Contributor
316 posts
47 reviews
9. Re: Trip Planning Starter Help

For what it's worth, I'd second the advice above. The Cooks are lovely, but it's a place for lying on the beach, not a place for doing a bunch of stuff. I think a week would be enough, and that would give you 10-ish days to do the above loop.

It's hard to recommend anything to leave out of the "standard loop". The drive over Arthurs Pass from Christchurch to Hokitika is outstanding, Wanaka is lovely, Queenstown is possibly the most beautiful spot in the world, and the drive back to Christchurch through the Lindis Pass and past Mt Cook and the lakes is absolutely stunning. I do not think you would regret taking the time to do this.

And re Milford Sound, I do not think it is worth your staying the night. As mentioned, there really is nothing to do there once you've wandered out to the wharf to get on your boat trip. A day trip is fine. It is doable from Queenstown, but it's a very long way, and so lots of folks here will recommend to do it from Te Anau which halves the driving time, or to do a coach tour which means someone else does the hard work. It is totally worth doing though - the scenery rivals Yosemite. Doing it from Queenstown makes for a very long day, but does give you another day to spend somewhere else.

If you wanted to spend longer on the water, you could look at the Doubtless Sound overnight cruise, which people speak very highly of. And a trip on the Earnslaw (in Queenstown) is always lovely!

San Antonio, Texas
Level Contributor
1,341 posts
44 reviews
10. Re: Trip Planning Starter Help

Thank you - thank you!!! Yes - i think I may cut the Cooks down to 7 days, maybe 8 at most. Cooks have always been on my "bucket list" but there is so much to explore on the South Island and i'll easily need the 10 days from the looks of it. Plus, I do love laying on a beach as well and getting on nice, clear, tropical waters!!! :) Thank you all for this - this pieces together a good start to my itinerary - now I'll research on the locations/hotels over the next few months and then I'll post a tentative itinerary. I have my Fodors New Zealand book from 2009 but have already ordered a newer version :)

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