Thank you for subscribing!
Got it! Thank you!

We're upgrading the Forums!

You can now add or change a profile photo. Simply click on your username above and upload an image. User blogs will be added back very soon.

advertisement

Forums » New Zealand » Need advice for 5 days in South Island

Pages:
Avatar

Need advice for 5 days in South Island

by /bio/van-trinh »

Hello. My family has kids travelling to NZ soon. We are planning to spend 5 days in South Island. We will arrive at Christchurch and leaving for Auckland on 5 Aug. We plan to rent a car, nights at motels, driving from Christchurch to Queenstown. Could you advise us if the following itinerary sounds good:

Day 1: Christchurch - 1 day 1 night

Day 2: Driving to Mt Cook - 1 night

Day 3: Driving to Queenstown - 1 night

Day 4: Queenstown - 1 more night

Day 5: Flying to Auckland; or going to Dunedin then flying to Auckland on next day

We heard that the glaciers are something should not be missed. Are there any close by  the way we would go?

Should we go to Dunedin with  time limit (driving seems too much?)

We have no experiences of the cold in S.Island but hope it's not too much adventurous.

Very much appreciate your help and advice. Thanks a lot! With best regards, Van

Avatar

RE: Need advice for 5 days in South Island

by /bio/passarinho9 »

No one replied to your post, so I don't know if you will bother to check back here. Your original itinerary sounds doable, not too rushed. Don't add Dunedin as you wouldn't have time to really see it properly and it would make the rest of your trip rushed. Dunedin is 3.5 hours from Queenstown under ideal road condtions. The weather is not so great in August: snow and rain are possible, likely. Dunedin is best visited from late February through April. 

If you are going to Mt. Cook Village, you can probably drive to the parking lot for Tasman Glacier depending on road conditons. The parking lot for the glacier is about 15 to 20 minutes from the village via a narrow, winding gravel road. The glacier feeds the lake, which during summer is popular for boat and kayak excursions. In winter it freezes over. From the parking lot, it is only a short easy walk down to the lake or you can take the Tasman Glacier Walk that takes about 40 minutes round-trip. This requires a bit of a climb to the top of a hill to a lookout over the lake. I do not know how it will be in August, perhaps the Tasman Valley Road will be closed or the Tasman Glacier Walk might be too wet/slippery. You'll have to ask when you get there.
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/canterbury/aoraki-mount-cook/tasman-valley-walking-tracks/

With your tight itinerary, it would be difficult to include a visit to Franz Josef or Fox Glaciers, which are on the West Coast of the South Island. You'd also have to change your route and drive from Christchurch to the West Coast via Arthur's Pass, a beautiful but high road subject to harsh winter conditions--you would have to pass on visiting  Mt. Cook. It would have to be one or the other. If you drove to Queenstown via the West Coast, you would be faced with long drives, which could be stressful if the weather is poor. These are two websites that will update you on weather and road conditions:
http://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/current-conditions/highway-info/
http://metservice.com/national/warnings/severe-weather-warnings

There are glaciers all over the South Island. If you are flying from Queenstown to Auckland, ask for a window seat and just look down at the view (clear conditions are best, of course). 

Yes, it will be cold here. Bring your fleece jackets, woolen gloves and hats, and some waterproof outerwear. No, your original plan will not be too adventurous, Just check the weather reports and road conditions to make sure that all the roads are open. Be careful when driving on Lindis Pass (Omarama to Cromwell) or through the Kawarau River Gorge (between Cromwell and Queenstown). Be careful when driving early mornings, as the roads can be icy. 
http://www.tourism.net.nz/new-zealand/about-new-zealand/driving-routes/queenstown/queenstown-mt-cook-christchurch/day-2.html

Avatar

RE: Need advice for 5 days in South Island

by /bio/van-trinh »

Hi there!

Thanks so much for your advice. Sorry for the delay in write back (I forgot the password to this forum until today suddenly got it).

The Tasman Glacier sounds attractive. I'm not very confident about driving in the harsh winter condition, so better save the other glaciers next time. 

Do you think it may be not too rush to go Dunedin if I extend one more day in S.island? We have kids then really need to think about it I suppose.

Best regards.

 

Avatar

RE: Need advice for 5 days in South Island

by /bio/van-trinh »

 Wow, fantastic (lucky me!) I really appreciate your kind advice and information.

Little Blue Penguins and YEPs seem a must-see for my family. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. If we are fortunate enough maybe can meet them in August? Or any other Penguins? I really hope so. Also, I want to try the feeling of a bear when catching salmon (if it's also possible that time). these are so attractive and inspiring.

I feel like to go the way from Mt Cook village to Twizle and Omarama then Oamaru because of the driving (but Queenstown must be a must-see too isn't it).

Do you think that my kids can play with snow somewhere on the way  (I'm thinking to go to Mt Hutt - skiing area ). They  never knew snow and would be very excited if they have this chance.

Thanks & best regards.

Avatar

RE: Need advice for 5 days in South Island

by /bio/passarinho9 »

Mt. Cook Village is in a stunning valley surrounded by glacial mountains. The drive from the main road to Mt. Cook is gorgeous. The Tasman Glacier and Lake, which are closeby, are a bonus. So you will enjoy your visit. The road to Mt. Cook is not that high (it goes along Lake Pukaki) or particularly winding, so it does not close that often in winter, but it does close sometimes. 

If you plan on staying  in self-catering accommodation in Mt. Cook, you can pick up some fresh (farmed) salmon near the turnoff for Mt. Cook Village at Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon at the scenic lookout for Lake Pukaki. If you go to their website, you can see what the view looks like from Lake Pukaki's lookout on a clear day:
http://www.mtcookalpinesalmon.com/home.aspx

There are also more salmon farms south of Lake Pukaki, as you drive away from Mt. Cook. You might want to stop and have a look at  the fish pens at High Country Salmon, which is right on the main road near Twizel.
http://www.highcountrysalmonfarm.co.nz

If you add a day you can work Dunedin into your schedule, but it will make for a rushed trip. You would drive from Mt. Cook to Omarama then head to the Waitaki Valley/Kurow, then to Oamaru, then south along the coast to Dunedin. I assume you would like to go to Dunedin so that your kids can see the penguins. It will be 4 hours to drive from Mt. Cook to Dunedin, another 45 minutes to get out to the end of the peninsula (it's not far, but the road is challenging) . From Dunedin, the drive to Queenstown would about 4 hours in winter. Be aware that the roads can be icy in the early mornings. Here are winter driving tips:
http://www.newzealand.com/int/feature/winter-driving-tips/
http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/safer-winter-driving/docs/safer-winter-driving.pdf

Don't feel like you need to rush. If someone behind you wants to go faster, pull over and let them pass. There are frequent pull-outs and rest stops on NZ roads. By the way, if you drive from Mt. Cook to Dunedin to Queenstown, you can avoid Lindis Pass, a beautiful road but the second highest road on the South Island, which means it can be difficult to drive in icy winter conditions. The road even has signs stating that it has a "HIgh Crash Rate".

Alternatively, you can see the Little Blue Penguins at the colony in Oamaru, and which also has a few Yellow-Eyed Penguins at their Bushy Beach (though its viewing platform is currently closed due to recent heavy rains). You'd pass through Oamaru on your way from Mt. Cook to Dunedin. It is about 90 minutes north of Dunedin on the coast, It's a small attractive city with a old Victorian center that has been lovingly restored. You'd have another opportunity to see YEPs at Moeraki Lighthouse (Katiki Pt.), which is about 30 minutes closer to Dunedin (or 30 minutes south of Oamaru). Moeraki is also famed for its round beach boulders (a true geological oddity).

Before changing your plans, I would email the Blue Penguin Colony in Oamaru and find out what your chances are of seeing penguins in  August (numbers are higher in summer). Remember, the Little Blue Penguins come onto land as the last light is on the horizon. The Yellow Eyed Penguins come in hours earlier, during the late afternoon. In winter, this would be from 3 p.m. on.
http://www.penguins.co.nz
http://www.penguins.co.nz/new-zealand/life_cycle/
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-visit/otago/coastal-otago/bushy-beach/
https://www.rankers.co.nz/experiences/5658-Bushy_Beach_Penguin_Seal_Viewing_Hide
For Moeraki:
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-visit/otago/coastal-otago/katiki-point/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moeraki_Boulders

The Little Blue Penguins come onto land in large groups, the YEPs are largely solitary, though like the other penguins, they meet up with their mates onland. Here's a link to sunrise/sunset  times in NZ.
http://rasnz.org.nz/SRSStimes.shtml

I would also email Penguin Place on Dunedin's Otago Peninsula to find our what you chances are for seeing YEPs in August. 
http://rasnz.org.nz/SRSStimes.shtml
http://www.penguinplace.co.nz
YEPs appear on most of Dunedin's Otago Peninsula beaches during the late afternoon. Sandfly Bay (no sandflies here) has a penguin hide.
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-visit/otago/coastal-otago/sandfly-bay/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandfly_Bay

Road condtions can quickly change in winter. Roads can close suddenly and you might have to take long detours. However, we can also have beautiful clear sunny days in winter. There's no way of knowing so far in advance.  For the last five days, it has been gorgeous in Dunedin: sunny blue skies. It has even been warm at times. But two to three weeks ago, we had record breaking rains. Fortunately, I was in California. I returned to Dunedin to see the hills covered in snow (it gets cold here, but rarely snows). My husband remarked that the fields looked like flooded rice paddies (because it had rained so much). You just never know what will happen with the weather in winter (or spring or summer). 

If you miss Dunedin and spend your last days just in Queenstown, I doubt you will be disappointed. It is lovely and there is loads to do, You'll be able to relax more, see more, and not have to drive so much. 

You will probably need to book a few days ahead for Mt. Cook. I usually monitor accommodation availability on Wotif.com. It lets you know what accommodations are already booked up. When I see that things are starting to fill up, I'll book but I always check the cancellation policy first.
http://www.wotif.co.nz

Avatar

RE: Need advice for 5 days in South Island

by /bio/passarinho9 »

i think your kids can play in the snow at one of the ski resorts near Queenstown. Just ask when you get there. I don't know if you will be able to drive to the ski resorts with your car. You might have to take public transit. I have never been there in winter, so I can't be of help here. We had snow in Dunedin a couple of times this year, but this is unusual. 

August is not a good month for seeing the Little Blue Penguin, summer is better. i think there will be only a few in Oamaru at night. But I think you would be able to see YEPs at Penguin Place on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin. The best thing is to email Penguin Place directly and ask them if you can see some penguins in August. It would be terrible if you came to Dunedin and not see penguins. It will cost $110 for your family to visit Penguin Place, so you should make sure that you can see penguins first. 
http://www.penguinplace.co.nz/penguin-tour/

You might see penguins on some beaches for free, but there is no guarantee that the penguins will arrive. I went to the beach today and didn't see any. Moeraki Lighthouse (between Dunedin and Oamaru) is a good place, but you must be there in the late afternoon and be patient, quiet, and not move around too much, yet you still might not see them. You should dress warmly. 

You can fish for wild salmon in Dunedin's Otago Harbor, but with a fishing pole! I think summer is the best time:
http://www.fishingmag.co.nz/otago-harbour-salmon.htm

But at least you can look at the salmon at the High Country Salmon near Twizel and I think your kids can feed them there, too. They also have good salmon for sale. 
http://www.highcountrysalmonfarm.co.nz

 

 

Avatar

RE: Need advice for 5 days in South Island

by /bio/passarinho9 »

Queenstown is beautiful, but busy in August. 

Avatar

RE: Need advice for 5 days in South Island

by /bio/van-trinh »

Thank you again for all your kind feedback. I'm looking into the websites... there's really useful information for me (never knew before).

All the best and warm regards. Van

Avatar

RE: Need advice for 5 days in South Island

by /bio/passarinho9 »

You are welcome. I hope you have a great and safe trip and that your children get to play in the snow and see penguins. 

Don't forget to bring warm clothing!

Best regards.

Avatar
rachelcook735

RE: Need advice for 5 days in South Island

by rachelcook735 »

Hi,

Your itinerary seems fine to me. If you ahve time constraints, you can skip Dunedin or reduce your stay there. A car rental is a wise decision as it will help you save a lot on time and will be convenient. I guess Hertz will give you one of the better services. you can check for special disocunts and services which they give. The last time I hired from them I got a free ski racks. :)

Pages:
advertisement