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18 days - skip the north or skip the west?

Newcastle, Australia
7 posts
18 days - skip the north or skip the west?
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I am after suggestions on our itinerary. I am considering skipping the north sector completely to give us more time in the west, centre and south.

The current plan is:

July 8 - arrive Christchurch 1pm, pick up hire car, stay Hanmer Springs

9-10 stay Picton

11-13 stay Nelson

14 stay Greymouth area

15-17 stay Lake Tekapo

18-19 stay Wanaka

20-21 stay Te Anau

22-26 stay Queenstown

27th Fly Home from QT

5 nights in QT includes 3 days skiing as I want to avoid skiing in school holidays.

We have 2 outdoors loving boys age 11 and 14.

We are Aussies, we have driven around Australia so we are comfortable with long drives but want to balance that with 2+ night stays.

We are skipping Fox and FJ glaciers as we are told they have receded to the point that they are barely visible anymore from general viewing areas and we will not be doing a tour to go onto the glacier.

We are not foodies and the wineries are something we can skip.

It is already clear that spending a day in the springs at Hanmer and staying at Picton is not an ideal start and probably needs to be modified or else we must leave the Springs after lunch.

Rather than doing the north, would it be worthwhile adding a day to Wanaka, Te Anau and QT, and going 2 nights in Hanmer and then 2 nights on the west coast? Something like.....

July 8 - arrive Christchurch 1pm, pick up hire car

8-9 stay Hanmer

10-11 stay Hokitika

12-14 stay Lake Tekapo

15-17 stay Wanaka

18-20 stay Te Anau

21-26 stay Queenstown

27th Fly Home from QT

Thanks gurus!

6 replies to this topic
Nelson-Tasman...
Destination Expert
for South Island, Nelson-Tasman Region, New Zealand, Tonga
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24,226 posts
739 reviews
509 helpful votes
1. Re: 18 days - skip the north or skip the west?
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i would suggest you take out picton. its an outliner here and more driving on some twisty narrow roads.

July 8 - arrive Christchurch 1pm, pick up hire car, stay Hanmer Springs. do be aware that you are travelling in mid winter. days are shorter, its cold. expect rain and ice on the roads, dont travel before 10am or after 5pm on roads that are outside towns and cities. our state highways are often single laned, twisty, narrow and have one laned bridges. travel is not fast and different to what you are use to.

9-10 -11 - kaiteriteri/abel tasman national park

12-14 - punakaiki

13 - methven and enjoy hot pools

15-17 Lake Tekapo or mt cook naitonal park village

18-19 stay Wanaka

20-21 stay Te Anau

22-26 stay Queenstown

27th Fly Home from QT

New Zealand
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4,071 posts
6 reviews
2 helpful votes
2. Re: 18 days - skip the north or skip the west?
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I agree. I am an Australian, lived there for 65 years and have driven all over the country. Emigrated 14 years ago and would never think of driving similar distances in NZ, especially in winter.

Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for Christchurch, South Island, Akaroa
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51,262 posts
577 reviews
231 helpful votes
3. Re: 18 days - skip the north or skip the west?
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I was just about to post pretty much the same as #1. Picton is the outlier, and while it is pretty & a great destination for hiking & water-borne activities in summer, I wouldn't want to spend time there in July.

I do have a concern about your first day. You need to allow up to 2hr to go through border controls & pick up your rental car. Only a week after the shortest day, you can expect sunset to be around 5pm. I suggest using one of the nights allotted to Picton to stay in Chch. The kids will love the Antarctic Centre.

I would not spend 3N at Lake Tekapo in the middle of winter & given you have 6N in QTN, Wanaka could also be reduced to 2N to give you 2N in Nelson/Tasman to add to your option B.

Newcastle, Australia
7 posts
4. Re: 18 days - skip the north or skip the west?
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Thanks for the feedback. It has been so helpful. We are now going with

July 8 - arrive Christchurch 1pm, pick up hire car, stay Hanmer Springs

9-11 stay Nelson

12-13 stay Hokitika

14 stay Christchurch

15-16 stay Lake Tekapo

17-19 stay Wanaka or Queenstown

20-21 stay Te Anau

22-26 stay Queenstown or Wanaka

27th Fly Home from QT

Wanaka or Queenstown at the end will depend on what deals are available for hotels, skiing etc.

Christchurch in the middle for the Antarctic Centre, and to break up the drive from Hokitika to Lake Tekapo.

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Fiji, New Zealand, Tasmania
Level Contributor
27,812 posts
440 reviews
245 helpful votes
5. Re: 18 days - skip the north or skip the west?
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Here is a suggestion

1. CHC

2. Drive to Hokitika via Arthurs Pass

3. Hokitika Gorge then drive via Franz Josef (lunch) then to Fox Glacier (2N)

4. Visit lake matherson,Helicopter ride with snow landing, Minnehaha nature walk with glow worms at night

5. All day drive to Wanaka (2N)

6. Explore Wanaka

7. Drive to Oamaru (Steampunk, Historic Buildings and Penguins at night)

8. Drive to Dunedin (2N)

9. Explore Otago peninsular

10. Southern scenic drive stay at Curio bay

11. Drive to Te Anau (2N)

12. Day trip to Milford Sound

13. Drive to QTN (2N)

14. Explore

15. Drive Lindis Pass to Aoraki-Mt Cook (2N)

16. Explore Mt Cook

17. Drive to CHC via Lake Tekapo and Hwy 72 and Rakaia Gorge

18. Fly Out

Nelson-Tasman...
Destination Expert
for South Island, Nelson-Tasman Region, New Zealand, Tonga
Level Contributor
24,226 posts
739 reviews
509 helpful votes
6. Re: 18 days - skip the north or skip the west?
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being winter dont drive on roads outside the towns and cities before 10am or after 5pm as the roads get icy. black ice is a killer.

July 8 - arrive Christchurch 1pm, pick up hire car, stay Hanmer Springs. its a good itinerary with thewe recommendations

9-11 stay Nelson or kaiteriteri. visit the abel tasman national park. ATNP is absolutely stunning and not to be missed.

12-13 stay hokitika but drive via punakaiki - do the pororari river walk, truman walk, pancake rocks at punakaiki before heading to hokitika. the road from charleston to punakaiki was rated as one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by lonely planet.

14 stay Christchurch

15-16 stay Lake Tekapo - hot pools, play the family disco golf course at the homestead (there are two courses and the family one is more fun)

17-19 stay Wanaka or Queenstown

20-21 stay Te Anau - if going to milford sound take a coach in winter. the driver is familiar with the roads and weather events

22-26 stay Queenstown or Wanaka

27th Fly Home from QT

Edited: 28 February 2024, 07:04
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