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8 nights in South Island

Denver, Colorado
Level Contributor
11 posts
4 reviews
1 helpful vote
8 nights in South Island

Hello, we are family of 12 (6 adults and 6 kids) visiting NZ/Australia in December '24/January '25.

We're coming from Colorado and are very much an outdoorsy family. As I'm doing research, I've come to realize that I may already be late to the game as many places seems to be booked up. We are flying into Auckland on the 21st of December and have the North Itinerary planned and completed.

My South Island Itinerary can use use some input if possible. We are leaving Auckland on December 27th for South Island and leaving on January 4th to go to Sydney (we used to live there so want to visit home after a long time).

This is my sample itinerary:

December 27th Fly into Christchurch (open to fly into QT) - 1N

Day 2 - Drive through Arthurs pass, stop at Mt. Cook and settle into Wanaka

Stay in Wanaka (3N) -- We loved Wanaka Haven but it's sold out. Any other suggestions for amazing B&B?

Drive to Te Anu ( 2N) - We are still deciding if we want to do a day trip cruise or overnight Doubtful cruise.

Drive to QT (2N)

Fly out of QT.

The reason why even going to Te Anu rather than just staying in QT (and do coach/cruise) is that we want to explore and hike Fiordland National Park. However, if we are already visiting some amazing areas for hiking, perhaps it's better to skip staying at Te Anu altogether? Others may suggest skipping Queenstown, but I heard it's a beautiful city so would be nice to stay there as well.

Thank you so much!

16 replies to this topic
New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island, Nelson-Tasman Region, New Zealand, Tonga
Level Contributor
24,795 posts
749 reviews
511 helpful votes
1. Re: 8 nights in South Island

Day 2 - NOOOOO. its way way way too far to drive from christchurch to wanaka, via arthurs pass and glaciers on 28 december. peak traffic, peak holidays, narrow, winding roads, lots of one lane bridges, a couple of mountain passes. This is terrible

in 8 days i suggest you stick to one island or base yourself in one spot for 4 days at each. spend 8 days in north island, or 8 days in south island with all the travel at peak time is very very flawed. you really dont have time to be spending two days getting to and from domestic airports in nz - especially if there are flight delays (which arent uncommon).

otherwise i suggest you fly straight to queenstown and holiday in wanaka. you can do a day trip to mt cook national park and an overnight to doubtful sound.

Edited: 13 May 2024, 07:10
Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for Christchurch, South Island, Akaroa
Level Contributor
51,483 posts
577 reviews
231 helpful votes
2. Re: 8 nights in South Island

I think you need to look at a map. It is possible to drive from Chch to Wanaka in one long day day (I did it in both direction a few weeks ago). However the direct route via SH 8 does not go via Arthurs Pass, nor would there be time to detour to Aoraki Mt Cook. The direct drive with photo stops will take between 5 & 7 hours, including lunch at Lake Tekapo.

Then you can allocate the remainder of your days as you wish.

Edited: 13 May 2024, 07:36
Denver, Colorado
Level Contributor
11 posts
4 reviews
1 helpful vote
3. Re: 8 nights in South Island

Thank you for your response. We are spending 8 days in one island (South) and another 7 in North.

Thanks for suggestion on having 4 days at each base location.

I think then what makes sense is skipping Christchurch all together and maybe just stay in QT for 4 days and Wanaka for the other 4 days? Skipping Te Anu as well.

Denver, Colorado
Level Contributor
11 posts
4 reviews
1 helpful vote
4. Re: 8 nights in South Island

We were told it would be a long day but def doable if we get an early start.

5. Re: 8 nights in South Island

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California
Destination Expert
for New Zealand
Level Contributor
18,818 posts
71 reviews
33 helpful votes
6. Re: 8 nights in South Island

"We were told it would be a long day but def doable if we get an early start."

Are you referring to your original plans on Day 2? I mapped it out: https://maps.app.goo.gl/5co1KhLS6uLPzTwE8 Who the heck told you it was "doable"!

Less is more. Especially considering the size of your group and that you are coming at peak of the peak season. Fly in and out of Queenstown. See what is available for your large group in Queenstown, Wanaka and/or Te Anau. It would be great to have 2 or 3 nights at each location. You'll have to allow for when your flight out of Queenstown will be, as you may have to spend that last night there.

Sorry my earlier post sounded harsh. You must have really misunderstood what routing was given to you, or your advisor wasn't explaining themself well.

Edited: 13 May 2024, 12:37
Arrowtown, New...
Level Contributor
8,322 posts
68 reviews
65 helpful votes
7. Re: 8 nights in South Island

Ditto DS post #6 ... who told you Chch to Arthurs Pass to Mt Cook to Queenstown was doable in one day?! Please don't even think about it.

I fiddled with a Christchurch to Queenstown route for you - but considering New Years and a group of 12 - it's not really going to be feasible.

As per DS it might be best to fly in/out of Queenstown and go from there...

Availability of accom will determine where you go/ stay... look for New Year accom first... 2-3 nights...

I'd suggest something like...

27th fly in to Queenstown head over to Wānaka

28th Wānaka

29th Wānaka

30th Te Anau

31st Te Anau

1st Te Anau or Queenstown

2nd Queenstown

3rd Queenstown

4th fly to Sydney

Denver, Colorado
Level Contributor
11 posts
4 reviews
1 helpful vote
8. Re: 8 nights in South Island

I really appreciate this. Thank you so much!

New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island, Nelson-Tasman Region, New Zealand, Tonga
Level Contributor
24,795 posts
749 reviews
511 helpful votes
9. Re: 8 nights in South Island

#4 the point is if you put your head down butt up and drive drive drive anyone can do that and be a hazzard on the road. But whats the point if you miss the scenery and things to see along the way. Apart from ticking off boxes that you drove through a place and went to the toilet there, there is no point in driving miles and miles for the sake of it, then arriving exhausted, tired and dangerous to other road users.

NZ id about the scenery and taking time to explore and enjoy it. not looking at the road in front and the inside interior of your car all day

Denver, Colorado
Level Contributor
11 posts
4 reviews
1 helpful vote
10. Re: 8 nights in South Island

That makes sense, thank you for the feedback.

Any suggestion if we should do Doubtful overnight with our large crew in the time we have or is it not worth it and we can get the same experience/overall scenery from doing a coach/cruise day trip?

I have searched overnight on here and few loved it.

Thank you.

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