Is it possible? New Zealand South Island 8-9 days by train and bus?!

Old Dec 7, 17, 11:23 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: SFO
Programs: AA Platinum, UA Silver, Hilton Diamond, SPG Preferred
Posts: 58
Is it possible? New Zealand South Island 8-9 days by train and bus?!

I am planning on an 8-9 day trip to NZ next Feb/Mar. I will be traveling alone. Even though I really want to rent a car to drive my entire trip, I am not brave enough to do so because it drives on the opposite side of the road. I heard that many tourists had car accidents because of the unfamiliarity of the left-lane driving. I am also very reluctant to join a tour as it is just not as fun. Now, I am trying to find out if it is realistic to go by bus and train for my trip in South Island? I want to start in Christchurch, and cover all the major popular destinations such as Queenstown, Milford Sound, Dunedin, Oamaru, Mirror Lake, Franz Josef Glacier, Arrowtown, Te Anau, and Lake Tekapo/Mt. Cook. I really want to stay overnight in Lake Tekapo for stargazing.

Any suggestions, advice, or ideas are welcomed. Thanks in advance.
SoloTravelerinRed is offline  
Old Dec 8, 17, 12:56 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Australia
Programs: NZ *G
Posts: 5,728
I can't comment on the plan really...except to say that driving on the other side isn't really very difficult.....Make sure you get an automatic...and be careful and you'll be fine....
trooper is offline  
Old Dec 8, 17, 1:04 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Programs: BAEC Silver
Posts: 351
Look at all of the advice given on this forum... reign in your expectations! In 8-9 days even with the flexibility of a hire car you can only see a fraction of what South Island has to offer. So cut down your itinerary to 2-3 places and accept you'll want to come back.

The good news is that NZ is very back-packer friendly and therefore there are lots of InterCity and coach options to get around, even along the very remote West Coast. And if you book in advance for a specific timed coach or train it can be very cheap.

My twopence - choose one route Christchurch to Queenstown via the east (penguins and wine / Oamaru, Otago), central (Lake Tekapo) or west (mountains and glaciers / TransAlpine train, Arthurs Pass, Franz Josef) route and make sure you have 4-5 days around Wanaka or Queenstown to organise a trip to Te Anau and Milford Sound from there. With regard to star gazing, you will get amazing views on a clear night anywhere away from the major cities, as long as you are willing to walk a little away from the street lighting.
StartinSanDiego likes this.
konagirl2 is offline  
Old Dec 8, 17, 1:34 am
  #4  
Original Member
 
Join Date: May 1998
Location: Portland OR Double Emerald (QF and AA), DL PM/MM, Starwood Plat
Posts: 19,349
Driving on the "wrong" side of the road is very easy if you remember a simple rule: the steering wheel should be furthest from the curb! Traffic in south island is pretty light almost everywhere (their idea of a traffic jam is 5 cars). Probably the trickiest driving would be the single lane bridges or roads under construction/repair which can be pretty wild. You really need a car to see the neat parts of NZ.
number_6 is offline  
Old Dec 8, 17, 2:05 am
  #5  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: MEL CHC
Posts: 14,202
Originally Posted by SoloTravelerinRed View Post
I am planning on an 8-9 day trip to NZ next Feb/Mar. I will be traveling alone.
<snip>
I want to start in Christchurch, and cover all the major popular destinations such as Queenstown, Milford Sound, Dunedin, Oamaru, Mirror Lake, Franz Josef Glacier, Arrowtown, Te Anau, and Lake Tekapo/Mt. Cook. I really want to stay overnight in Lake Tekapo for stargazing.
As above, you have no hope is going to all those places in 8-9 days. Even 8-9 weeks would be better.
The day of arrival and day of departure will be wasted days.
It will take longer than you think to get between destinations. The roads are mainly 2 lane & twisty: no freeways at 60 mph/100kph

There are bus's but the only SI passenger rail is Christchurch to Greymouth
You may not be able to get to places like Arrowtown & the glaciers without a car.
Dunedin & Oamaru are not worth stopping at.

Note Easter weekend is 30 March - 2 April. Places like Queenstown get sold out. There is also a big air-show at Wanaka (near Queenstown) that weekend

For 8-9 days you need to be realistic on what you can see

Edit:
Some good realistic posts here New Zealand for 8-10 days
Including post 30 and post 35 as quote below
Originally Posted by gooselee View Post
When we went, we spent 2 days in ZQN and then I think another 5-6 days making our way from ZQN up the west coast to Greymouth, then the train into CHC, with stops in Wanaka and Franz Josef. While not overwhelmingly rushed, that was certainly a much faster pace than we would have liked.

The thing we (and it seems many other first-time visitors) underestimated, was how long the drives take and how much we would want to just stop, go on quick hikes, pop into shops, or just sit and enjoy the towns and scenery along the way. NZ is a beautiful country that has a way of making you want to constantly pause and just take it in. Two weeks is certainly just a taste of what it has to offer!
StartinSanDiego likes this.

Last edited by Mwenenzi; Dec 9, 17 at 3:56 pm Reason: added links
Mwenenzi is offline  
Old Dec 8, 17, 3:17 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: MEL
Programs: QF GA NZ WN. Accor+ Bonvoy IHC
Posts: 222
As per the above comments, no way you’ll see all that in 9 days and you sure can’t do it on public transport.

My stong advice is hire a car, it’s very easy. My first time on the opposite side of the road was from LAX in full on rush hour. NZ is nothing like this and the Sth Island is empty. Just take it slow and in a few hours it’ll be fine.

In 9 days do Christchurch, Queenstown/Wanaka/Arrowtown, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Dunedin, Christchurch and if you have time pop over to Akaroa.

Enjoy. It’s stunning.
BSBtraveller is offline  
Old Dec 8, 17, 3:58 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Canada
Programs: UA 1K, Marriott Bonvoy PLAT, Fairmont PLAT, Priority Pass
Posts: 3,015
We spent 2 weeks visiting most of these places on the South Island - and we did rent a car (party of 4, so it was a no brainer).
Could we have done it w/o a car? - maybe. Here is what I suggest:
- sign up for ANZ's weekly notices of last minute sell offs (on their WEB site). The South Island is very big & mountainous;
- monitor the specials and be prepared to backtrack if need be;
- plan your accomodation around NZ's excellent network of hostels. You will make new friends, have flexibility to cook on site and learn more tips!
In general, we found kiwis to be open and friendly. Ask them for advice/suggestions and they will deliver!

Last edited by Antonio8069; Dec 8, 17 at 4:00 am Reason: addition
Antonio8069 is offline  
Old Dec 8, 17, 10:35 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: California
Programs: AA EXP...couple hotels and cars too
Posts: 3,436
Wholeheartedly agree about driving. It may be daunting, but a hour or two into it you'll be fine.

Having a car gives you incredible flexibility- what you see, where you can stay, picking up food, drinks...
Exec_Plat is offline  
Old Dec 11, 17, 6:58 pm
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: SFO
Programs: AA Platinum, UA Silver, Hilton Diamond, SPG Preferred
Posts: 58
Originally Posted by konagirl2 View Post
Look at all of the advice given on this forum... reign in your expectations! In 8-9 days even with the flexibility of a hire car you can only see a fraction of what South Island has to offer. So cut down your itinerary to 2-3 places and accept you'll want to come back.

The good news is that NZ is very back-packer friendly and therefore there are lots of InterCity and coach options to get around, even along the very remote West Coast. And if you book in advance for a specific timed coach or train it can be very cheap.

My twopence - choose one route Christchurch to Queenstown via the east (penguins and wine / Oamaru, Otago), central (Lake Tekapo) or west (mountains and glaciers / TransAlpine train, Arthurs Pass, Franz Josef) route and make sure you have 4-5 days around Wanaka or Queenstown to organise a trip to Te Anau and Milford Sound from there. With regard to star gazing, you will get amazing views on a clear night anywhere away from the major cities, as long as you are willing to walk a little away from the street lighting.
Good point--back-packer friendly!! Do you have any suggestions for InterCity coach companies?
SoloTravelerinRed is offline  
Old Dec 11, 17, 7:02 pm
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: SFO
Programs: AA Platinum, UA Silver, Hilton Diamond, SPG Preferred
Posts: 58
Originally Posted by Mwenenzi View Post
As above, you have no hope is going to all those places in 8-9 days. Even 8-9 weeks would be better.
The day of arrival and day of departure will be wasted days.
It will take longer than you think to get between destinations. The roads are mainly 2 lane & twisty: no freeways at 60 mph/100kph

There are bus's but the only SI passenger rail is Christchurch to Greymouth
You may not be able to get to places like Arrowtown & the glaciers without a car.
Dunedin & Oamaru are not worth stopping at.

Note Easter weekend is 30 March - 2 April. Places like Queenstown get sold out. There is also a big air-show at Wanaka (near Queenstown) that weekend

For 8-9 days you need to be realistic on what you can see

Edit:
Some good realistic posts here New Zealand for 8-10 days
Including post 30 and post 35 as quote below
Good to know that I can skip Dunedin & Oamaru if I have to pick and choose. I think I probably will as my time is very limited in NZ.
SoloTravelerinRed is offline  
Old Dec 11, 17, 7:08 pm
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: SFO
Programs: AA Platinum, UA Silver, Hilton Diamond, SPG Preferred
Posts: 58
Originally Posted by Antonio8069 View Post
We spent 2 weeks visiting most of these places on the South Island - and we did rent a car (party of 4, so it was a no brainer).
Could we have done it w/o a car? - maybe. Here is what I suggest:
- sign up for ANZ's weekly notices of last minute sell offs (on their WEB site). The South Island is very big & mountainous;
- monitor the specials and be prepared to backtrack if need be;
- plan your accomodation around NZ's excellent network of hostels. You will make new friends, have flexibility to cook on site and learn more tips!
In general, we found kiwis to be open and friendly. Ask them for advice/suggestions and they will deliver!
Any suggestions on hostels or hostel chains/network? I just signed up Air New Zealand's special offer notice.
SoloTravelerinRed is offline  
Old Dec 11, 17, 7:12 pm
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: SFO
Programs: AA Platinum, UA Silver, Hilton Diamond, SPG Preferred
Posts: 58
Originally Posted by Exec_Plat View Post
Wholeheartedly agree about driving. It may be daunting, but a hour or two into it you'll be fine.

Having a car gives you incredible flexibility- what you see, where you can stay, picking up food, drinks...
I believe driving will have more fun and can see the country better! I have not ruled that out yet. Just wondering if there is any website that I can find rides or offer rides in New Zealand or in general?
I saw some postings on Craigslist but I am hoping there are sites for traverls particularly.
SoloTravelerinRed is offline  
Old Dec 11, 17, 7:45 pm
  #13  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: MEL CHC
Posts: 14,202
Originally Posted by SoloTravelerinRed View Post
Any suggestions on hostels or hostel chains/network? I just signed up Air New Zealand's special offer notice.
Originally Posted by SoloTravelerinRed View Post
I believe driving will have more fun and can see the country better! I have not ruled that out yet. Just wondering if there is any website that I can find rides or offer rides in New Zealand or in general?
I saw some postings on Craigslist but I am hoping there are sites for travelers particularly.
Both are questions better asked on LP
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/new-zealand
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/new-zealand/community
There are 1000's of people doing the back packer thing in Kiwiland. Many many Europeans.

https://www.yha.co.nz/. The private hostels can/do vary in quality.

Low cost car transfer. https://www.transfercar.co.nz/ and others who have a similar service.
They offer a very limited time to relocate cars & campervans/RV's. Many people drive rental cars north to south and then fly back north. So tends to be a surplus of cars at southern depots. But can have vehicles south to north
Mwenenzi is offline  
Old Dec 17, 17, 5:37 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: USA
Programs: Air Canada, KLM, BA,Lufthansa, United, AA, Hawaiian, Air New Zealnd, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic
Posts: 728
We are planning our second trip to New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania for early 2019.

Our first trip was in 2013 and we had scheduled two weeks for New Zealand and ten weeks for Australia. We did well in Australia, Tasmania & Kangaroo Island, but our time in New Zealand was very lacking. We spent four days on the North having flown from the US to Auckland. We got a rental car in Auckland, went to Bridal Falls, then took the car on the ferry to the South.

Christchurch had not recovered from the 2011 earthquake when we were there so did not see much. Queenstown is a beautiful city and it was our last stop before flying to Australia.

Wilmot Pass, Doubtful Sound, Milford Sound, Mirror Lake, Franz Josef Glacier, Te Anau should not be missed.

We were in a rental car, so on our own schedule for the most part.

My pictures from South New Zealand...New Zealand 2013 South Island | Notes From The Road

Check out https://www.fiordland.org.nz/about-f...national-park/ This is the most beautiful place.
Jeannietx is offline  
Old Jan 8, 18, 2:46 pm
  #15  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: West Coast, Best Coast
Programs: Flying whoever is most convenient
Posts: 15,332
My first time behind the wheel in NZ was in a campervan. I survived and have done it 2 more times since. It's really not that bad as mentioned upthread. Traffic is non-existent and having your own car/van gives you so much more flexibility than you could ever expect to get relying on spotty public transit and tour group transport.

9 days is not very long. If you can swing it save yourself some time by flying directly into ZQN. Most of what you want to see is a 3-5 hour drive radius from there. Or fly into CHC and out of ZQN to avoid doing a lot of backtracking. While many of the roads have 100km/hr speed limits, realistically your average speed across a full day's drive is going to be at best 80-90k and often more like 70. Plus, speaking from experience, there is nothing worse than being in a hurry in NZ.
PV_Premier is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread