Oceania (Australia, New Zealand & the South Pacific) - 5 days and 6 nights South Island from Christchurch: What to see?
My wife and college student daughter are visiting the South Island in September. They are arriving and leaving via CHC. How should they arrange this visit? Rent a car and drive around to the west side of the island? Take a small plane to the west side and do a fjord tour by boat? Helicopter tour? Bus tour? The Tranz Alpine train sounds mighty interesting. And since they both speak French fluently they will have to visit Akaroa.
What's the most impressive set of sights they can see in 5 days and still have a chance to get to know some kiwis at a bed band breakfast or something? Your recommendations for their itinerary are highly likely to be followed, so please make them great!
P.S. Over a decade ago I had a brief email correspondence with a fellow from the South Island who owned an NSX. He's the only person I know from there, unless Kiwi Flyer is also from South Island. I looked this guy up recently and discovered that he is none other than the MAYOR OF CHRISTCHURCH! It really is a small world.
May 17, 12, 7:40 pm
I'll give it a shot! They could take the TransAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth. The TransAlpine was a pleasant way to get across the country without having to drive. Great scenery along the way.
From there rent a car and travel down the coast to the glaciers (Franz-Josef or Fox Glacier). Stay a couple of nights - do a glacier tour. We stayed at Fox Glacier and did a helicopter ride/hike on to the glacier. Highly recommended! The town is pretty small so you wouldn't need more than a night or two there.
From there, drive down to Queenstown and hang out there for a couple of days. There is plenty to see and do there. From there they can do a Milford Sound day tour if they desire. That would eat up a day so they would have to decide whether or not it is worth it and if it would fit in with their time frame. My wife and I enjoyed the trip. We did it through a tour company that ran a "BBQ bus" which drove us out there. They stopped at several points along the way and at lunch time cooked up a BBQ. We took a small airplane back which was a great experience through the mountains and saved us 3-4 hours travel time. It is a pretty long drive/ride out there and would literally take up pretty much a whole day. Queenstown is also a great little town to just hang out at so they might be content to hang around there. Like I said, plenty of activities and things to do and see there.
Fly back from Queenstown to Christchurch.
My wife, son and I did this same trip in reverse and it worked out pretty well as far as not feeling too rushed or trying to get too much squeezed in. They'll have a great time whatever they try to do!
May 17, 12, 8:43 pm
Agree with bevoinva's plan above. Rent a car for Akoroa and then take the Trans Alpine. The rental car are depots in Greymouth are at the train station.
Note that the driving times are long for the distance (low average speed) so 5 days is not much if that includes the day of arrival and the day of departure. The chc city centre is mess due to the Feb 2011 earthquake damage. Not a lot to see on the road Queenstown to CHC
Bob Parker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Parker_%28mayor%29), ex TV show host and now major, is a car fanatic from what I have read
I think Kiwi Flyer is mainlander (South Island), as I am
May 17, 12, 9:20 pm
5 days is problematic, maybe the most time-efficient is to fly to ZQN, stay in Arrowtown (very charming and less touristy town close to Queenstown) and drive to Te Anau the next day, overnighting there. Drive to Milford sound early in the morning (before the buses from Queenstown arrive!) -- really wonderful to be at Milford before the crowds arrive. While I love the glaciers, not sure if there is time to do that, or worth the effort unless you really are a glacier junkie. Very sad to see what has happened to CHC, good for you to visit, their tourism must be hurting still.
May 18, 12, 4:18 pm
Agree with advice from others ... fly one-way to ZQN, then make your way back to CHC by car. I've done this a few times before and will be doing it again this November over 10 days.
Rent a car in ZQN and return in CHC. I rent from www.jucy.co.nz ... clean, older cars, good price and no one way fees.
Guess it really depends on what they like doing, but my general reco is ...
Time is short so I'd pic 3 stops tops. On arrival drive to Te Anua for the first night and head to Milford first thing next morning. Spend the day in Milford. Then from Milford your next stop would be the first of your two remaining stops over the next 4 days ... returning to CHC via the West side of the Alps or the East side. 2 stops might be: West Side: Queenstown, Wanaka, Fox/Franz Joseph Glacier, Christchurch ... East Side: Queenstown, Wanaka, Twizel (Mount Cook), Christchurch.
Thanks so much for the advice here. My wife has considered it and taken your advice not to drive south and back. She figures a flight south would also take up half a day. That leaves the TransAlpine as a nice day trip to see the mountains.
However I just had another thought yesterday:
Suppose she could sweet-talk one of the Cessna-flying air tour operators at CHC to fly the two of them around the mountains and glaciers for a reasonable price? I figure if they aren't booked they might do it for less than $1000 US for the two of them. That way my wife could be assured of fair weather (or else not make the on-the-spot cash offer) and the two of the them could see all the mountain scenery in one day, perhaps even with a stopover and a boat ride. My wife is charming and persuasive, and she and my daughter are two of the prettiest women you'll ever see.
My wife has identified some interesting sights and activities toward the north, so she wouldn't be too upset if the light plane option doesn't work. She'd probably take the Trans-Alpine train as second choice.
Is this plan completely ridiculous? Inspired? Both? Neither? Go ahead and tell me exactly what you think. There's no need to be shy: it's the Internet here.
Off topic, I taught my daughter to drive a stick shift last weekend in the NSX in the middle of nowhere. A very scenic middle of nowhere. How remote was it? She had to stop 20 minutes for a cattle drive across the coastal highway. Now they will both be able to drive if the car rental company in NZ only offers manual transmission!
Aug 5, 12, 1:26 am
...Suppose she could sweet-talk one of the Cessna-flying air tour operators at CHC to fly the two of them around the mountains and glaciers for a reasonable price? I figure if they aren't booked they might do it for less than $1000 US for the two of them. ....That should be no problem as it is pretty close to list price; that flight plus helihike on the glacier sells for NZD 1K per person, so without the helicopter it would be pretty close to your budget. See for example http://www.tourism.net.nz/listing/iframe/transport/21227?from=http://www.tourism.net.nz/region/christchurch/transport/air-charters/
After she talked to numerous people in NZ my wife is coming around to the plan recommended here: a one-way flight between CHC and ZQN and a one-way rental car. I would have taken FTers' word as gospel from the beginning, but she has insufficient appreciation for the expertise here.
Full fare from CHC to ZQN is only NZ$200 per person, which is quite worthwhile to save a day of vacation.
I keep telling her that planning the trip is half the fun, but she doesn't yet see it that way. I guess this is part of the OC vs. non-OC dichotomy. ;)
Aug 10, 12, 2:26 am
...P.S. Over a decade ago I had a brief email correspondence with a fellow from the South Island who owned an NSX. He's the only person I know from there, unless Kiwi Flyer is also from South Island. I looked this guy up recently and discovered that he is none other than the MAYOR OF CHRISTCHURCH! ...Have you tried to contact Bob Parker ? Worth a try
Have you tried to contact Bob Parker ? Worth a try
Thanks. I'll do that in a few days when the timeline is sufficiently nailed down that we know exactly when they'll be in CHC.