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Just completed South Island Itinerary and notes (aka you...

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Just completed South Island Itinerary and notes (aka you...

Note: I spent many hours on Trip Advisor and found so many valuable tips on this forum, that I felt obligated to share the details of my trip. I hope someone else can benefit as much as I have from this great service.

Itinerary summary (December 4-11, 2005)

Day 1 Flew into Christchurch (via Auckland and Seattle), saw Arctic Exhibit at airport, rode gondola, browsed the arts and crafts market, drove to Kaikoura.

Day 2 Kaikoura – swam with Dolphins, saw seal rock (could have spent a lot more time here exploring), drove back to CHC

Day 3 Tranzalpine to Greymouth, drove to Fox Glacier, hiked around Lake Matheson

Day 4 Fox glacier heli hike (absolute highlight of the trip), drove to Wanaka

Day 5 Puzzleworld, on the way to Te Anau stopped in Queenstown for a few hours of shopping and lunch

Day 6 Drove to Milford Sound, overnight on a boat (another unforgetable experience!)

Day 7 Drove back to Te Anau and had a day of rest

Day 8 Drove to Queenstown and flew out of it (to Auckland and Seattle)

Overall Observations

• From a US driver’s perspective, it was easy to drive on opposite side of the road except in roundabouts and making sure to go to the far left side of the road when making right turns – just took a little practice and helped to have a navigator reinforce the situation. Really enjoyed the freedom a rental car (car for hire) afforded us – allowed us to stop along the road whenever we saw great scenery.

• Unexpected fabulous dining experiences.

• All hotels were good – would recommend all places we stayed (we were in the $100-150NZ/night range). There seems to be a basic standard in NZ – nothing fancy, but all functional and clean.

Detailed Itinerary (with links to hotels and activities)

Day 1

• 8am arrive in Christchurch

• Rented car from Avis for $108NZ/day, plus an additional $20 or so a day for extra insurance (check with your insurance to see if you are covered, we were not for international driving).

• Airport Arctic Exhibit just near the airport. Interesting if you don’t know much about Antarctica.

• Visited Art and Crafts center – small to medium sized craft market.

• Took the Gondola just outside of the city – excellent views – we had a very sunny day!

• Drive to Kaikoura (2.5 hours) – stopped at a great roadside café a little less than an hour outside of Christchurch called the Pukeko Junction also had a wine shop and a small craft shop associated with it who helped us select local wines.

• Hotel: Anchor Inn http://www.anchorinn.co.nz/ - great hotel, across the street from the ocean and nice views if you get there before dark.

• Dinner at The Pub at the Pier – fabulous food (not pub food at all – slightly gourmet).

Day 2

• 8:30 am swim with the Dolphins through the Dolphin Encouter (3.5 hours) – they recommend going in the morning in case the weather/wind change in the afternoon.

o Bring swimsuit, and towel and clothes to change into after – they have showers you can use after if you’re not staying in a hotel.

o Had breakfast & lunch at the restaurant in the Dolphin Encounter building – definitely recommend.

• Visited the Seals just up the road (did not do the whale watching as we were a tad bit seasick from the dolphins – they use high power boats to get out farther)

• Drove back to Christchurch (2.5 hours). Ate at Tutto Benne – excellent Italian food.

• Hotel: Copthorne Central – (booked through www.lastminute.com) would definitely recommend central location to downtown. Dropped off rental car downtown (Avis had a downtown location so didn’t have to go all the way back to the airport).

Day 3

• Took taxi to train station, and took 8:15am Tranzalpine to Greymouth. Nice scenery and a nice break from driving. I had the best coffee I’ve ever had, however, on the train. www.tranzscenic.co.nz/services/alpine.aspx

• Rental car thru Avis ($334USD plus $94USD total additional for insurance for 6 days), but actually booked through www.ginz.com. The only issue was I thought I had requested an automatic, but I got a manual (probably why we got such a good rate). Avis was able to get an automatic their sister company, Budget and it worked out fine.

• Drove to Fox glacier (2.5 hours)

o Did the Lake Matheson walk in the early evening – very pretty and very easy (1 hr.).

• Hotel: Westhaven http://www.thewesthaven.co.nz/default.asp. The only complaint was that the walls were a little thin.

Day 4

• 9am helihike with Alpine Guides (3.5 hours). Highly recommend this guide operator – and also recommend going in the morning in case the weather gets worse in the afternoon (weather does come into play with this activity as they won’t fly if it’s too rainy or foggy). This was the highlight of the trip for us – as we had beautiful weather http://www.foxguides.co.nz/default.asp

• Drove to Wanaka (4 hours). At the end of a very large lake – small, quiet town. Great place to stay during ski season our hosts told us. It was nice to break the driving up and stop here for the night.

• Hotel: Collinsons Cottage http://www.collinsonscottage.co.nz/index.htm

• We arrived rather late, so we weren’t able to catch a movie at Cinema Paridiso, but we heard it was an experience!

Day 5

• Spent an hour or so at Puzzleworld – interesting and fun exhibits I don’t think you’ll find anywhere else! Worth a quick trip if you have time.

• Drove to Te Anau

o Via Queenstown (1.5 hours)

 Shopped for a few hours and ate a great pizza place - Cooks Saddle Café and Saloon. Very bustling, younger, ski-lodge feel of a town. LOTS of little shops.

o To Te Anau (2.5 hours)

 Another very small town on a lake – beautiful walks and a FABULOUS restaurant – the Olive Tree. The lamb wrap was to die for, and the deep fried banana was like nothing we’d ever tasted.

• Hotel: Campbell Auto Lodge - very old (although well maintained) and had a 1960’s feel, but the free high speed internet access, large rooms and great location made up for it. Beautiful rose garden, and a deck to watch the sunset on the lake. tourism.net.nz/region/…16603

Day 6

• Drove to Milford Sound (2-3 hours) – left at noon to avoid the tour buses that leave in the morning and apparently clog the roads.

• Overnight on boat (arrive by 4pm). Another highlight of the trip – we had beautifully sunny weather so we missed all of the natural waterfalls, but it allowed us to kayak off the ship and see seals. Met wonderful people and the Captain was a hoot. https:/…

Day 7

• Drive back to Te Anau (3 hours) for a day “off” – rested, but if you’re on a tight timetable, you could go straight back to Queenstown in the same day.

• Hotel: back to the Campbell Auto Lodge. tourism.net.nz/region/…16603

Day 8

• Drove to Queenstown (2.5 hours) - flew out to Auckland and back to Seattle.

Akaroa Dolphins
Boat Tours, Eco Tours, Sightseeing Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours, Dolphin & Whale Watching
Boat Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours, Dolphin & Whale Watching, Swim with Dolphins, Eco Tours
Dolphin Encounter
Scuba & Snorkeling, Boat Tours, Eco Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours, Dolphin & Whale Watching
Kaikoura Kayaks
Nature & Wildlife Tours, Kayaking & Canoeing, Dolphin & Whale Watching
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1. Re: Just completed South Island Itinerary and notes (aka you...

I am enjoying this Forum so much in that I can have all my what if questions answered by people in the know or recent returnees. You mention that the place you stayed at in Te Anau offered free high speed Internet. I have read this same perk for other hotels but am not sure how much this includes. Does this mean that the hotel offering HSI has a dedicated PC with broadband connections available for their guests, or do you have to supply your own laptop?

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2. Re: Just completed South Island Itinerary and notes (aka you...

At this particular hotel I don't believe they had a computer available - we had a laptop with us (husband was on a work trip prior). But almost without question each town were were in had an internet cafe. Also, in Te Anau, there seemed to be more internet access advertised at the hotels than other places where it wasn't as prevelant. Hope that helps!

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3. Re: Just completed South Island Itinerary and notes (aka you...

iheartseatlle - Thanks for all of the detail. We were wanting to do Queenstown to Christchurch in 6 days via the West Coast/Glaciers but everyone on this forum kept saying they didn't recommend it. Would you recommended the tranzalpine or do you suggest we drive Arthur's Pass? Not sure if we can drop of a car rental from Queenstown in Greymouth.

Any ideas?

Washington, DC
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4. Re: Just completed South Island Itinerary and notes (aka you...

I just got back from NZ and drove the road over Arthur's Pass to Christchurch. It's a pretty and relatively easy drive and yes, depending on the car rental company, you should be able to pick up a car in Queenstown and drop it in Greymouth should you wish to take the train instead.

If you want to break up your trip across, I recommend the Wilderness Lodge just to the east of Arthur's Pass, which has a spectacular setting, good day walks, and great food. They'll pick you up from the train for a fee.

Given that the train more or less tracks the road for a good portion of the trip, it seems to me that the difference is simply in whether the driver might want to spend the time watching the scenery instead of the road. Either way the scenery is stunning.

New Zealand
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5. Re: Just completed South Island Itinerary and notes (aka you...

Hi iheartseattle - I'm really glad to hear you enjoyed your trip around our beautiful country and you've given some great tips here for others wanting to see some of the best parts of the South Island. One tiny little quibble though - you just can't say you 'did NZ in 8 days'. You really only saw part of us! Hope you can get back some time to see the rest :-)

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6. Re: Just completed South Island Itinerary and notes (aka you...

Loved the trip report - thanks for including the website addresses, really useful.

Athens, Greece
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7. Re: Just completed South Island Itinerary and notes (aka you...

Thanx seattle for the excellent report. I plan to visit New Zealand at the end of next October for 2 1/2 weeks and your report is extremely helpfull in making my itinary.

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