Feedback please on our first visit to New Zealand in September

Old Jul 23, 19, 9:49 pm
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Feedback please on our first visit to New Zealand in September

Rather than creating a new thread, I'll add my own request for feedback onto this thread, since I too will be in New Zealand in September. First visit for both myself and fiancee. We love the outdoors, hiking, good food + wine. Flying into AKL, leaving from CHC (necessitated by award flight availability). Any and all feedback on the following itinerary is appreciated.

9/4: arrive in Auckland mid-day, just get settled in with some basic sightseeing
9/5: day trip to Waiheke Island for a wine tour
9/6: fly to Nelson, relax
9/7: begin three-day Abel Tasman trek
9/8: Abel Tasman
9/9: finish Abel Tasman, rent a car, drive to Greymouth
9/10: drive to Franz Joseph glacier; helicopter tour if weather cooperates, hike to glacier face if it doesn't. (Question: can we make the drive down from Greymouth in time for these tours? When do they typically start?)
9/11: hike/tour Fox glacier, then drive to and stay in Haast
9/12: drive to Wanaka, afternoon wine tour, stay in Wanaka
9/13: drive to Queenstown, sightseeing
9/14: Queenstown sightseeing
9/15: Queenstown morning, then drive to Te Anau
9/16: drive to Milford Sound, stay back in Te Anau
9/17: drive to Queenstown, fly to Christchurch
9/18: depart Christchurch

So we'd love to spend 3 or even 4 weeks in NZ to see more, but our work schedules won't allow for that. And would prefer hiking Milford Track, but know that is not possible in September. Hoping the drive to Milford Sound, with a kayak tour, will provide a good experience.

Are we moving too quick down the west coast or can we even speed it up? Wondering if one glacier day is okay and we can go straight from Fox to Wanaka, bypassing Haast, giving us an extra day in Queenstown. Or is two days/two nights in Queenstown okay?

Thanks in advance for all the replies!
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Old Jul 24, 19, 2:59 am
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A very busy schedule.
You are likely to get some rain in your trip. That will slow you down

Have you booked the Abel Tasman National Park? Is this an organised tour?
https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-re...national-park/
<snip>
Places to stay

There are 4 huts and 18 campsites along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, which must be booked in advance all year round. Visitors arriving without a valid booking, or staying at a hut or campsite other than the one named on their ticket, will be charged a penalty fee or may be asked to leave the park.

Note, campsites are designed for tents and are not suitable for hammocks. Campers are not permitted to use hut facilities.
<snip>
Have you investigated getting a rental car after the AT Nat Park. From where?

10 & 11 Sept will be very pushed. Should be easy to find out about the Glacier Helicopter flights

From the West Coast (glaciers) you have to drive via Haast to get over the Southern Alps to Wanaka

Last edited by Mwenenzi; Jul 24, 19 at 4:01 pm
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Old Jul 25, 19, 3:23 pm
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Originally Posted by Mwenenzi View Post
A very busy schedule.
You are likely to get some rain in your trip. That will slow you down

Have you booked the Abel Tasman National Park? Is this an organised tour?
https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-re...national-park/

Have you investigated getting a rental car after the AT Nat Park. From where?

10 & 11 Sept will be very pushed. Should be easy to find out about the Glacier Helicopter flights

From the West Coast (glaciers) you have to drive via Haast to get over the Southern Alps to Wanaka
  • No worries on rain; thanks for the heads-up
  • Haven't booked our walk yet. Request sent to Abel Tasman Guides. Appear to be one of the top tour companies in the area.
  • Plan is to get a rental car in Nelson after AT. Our tour package would include the transport back into Nelson. I can use my work account to get a great deal with Avis.
  • Yeah 10th and 11th are definitely the most rushed days on the trip. We need to decide how much glacier hiking is important to us. See one or both? Spend time in the hot spring pools?
Wondering if weather doesn't cooperate for the helicopter tour, we do just a quick hike to FJ glacier face (we're both fit; hiked Kilimanjaro last year), relax in town and get on the road early on the 11th. Drive through Haast all the way to Wakana in one day. I know that'll be a really long drive, but might be worth it to spend more time in Queenstown relaxing or an extra day in Te Anau or Christchurch.

Appreciate the comments and feedback!
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Old Jul 25, 19, 6:19 pm
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Out of curiosity, are you doing an organised tour to the vineyards / wineries or on your own ?
Asking cos there are a number of hidden gems in Waiheke and ZQN which the majority of the tour companies don't take you to.
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Old Jul 26, 19, 12:27 am
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Originally Posted by gambda View Post
Out of curiosity, are you doing an organised tour to the vineyards / wineries or on your own ?
Asking cos there are a number of hidden gems in Waiheke and ZQN which the majority of the tour companies don't take you to.
Planning on an organized tour for both. But from what I've read, the tour companies take requests for which wineries to visit. For Waiheke, we've been told by locals to go to Man 'o War Vineyards. Any suggestions for Wanaka/Queenstown?
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Old Jul 26, 19, 12:38 am
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Very ambitious schedule. Lots of great activities.

We have been to NZ on four occasions. The best experience we ever had was an overnight on Doubtful Sound. https://www.realjourneys.co.nz/en/ex...night-cruises/

Everyone does Milford, which is nice. But, since everyone does it, it can be very busy with ships, boats, and airplanes buzzing all around. Doubtful sound is so isolated and peaceful. Since you are going to be in Te Anau, you are at the start point for that journey.

If you need to cut something, I would cut the glaciers. They are OK, but they rank towards the bottom of all the glaciers I've seen.
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Old Jul 26, 19, 12:45 am
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+1 for doubtful sound, however if you will have time is...doubtful

also recommend losing a glacier if you are short on time (and you are)- Franz Josef is probably the more impressive of the 2, however youll see both on a helicopter ride. You can also heli-hike

i have skipped over Queenstown thus far. Find the scenery en route to/from Queenstown and wanaka sufficient and much prefer the vibe in wanaka- however I think im unusual in that regard
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Old Jul 26, 19, 12:54 am
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Yes, Count another vote for Wanaka! A hidden dream. However, I do like the view of the Remarkables in Q-town, and also like the slow-boat tour to the end of the lake.

One other thing to consider is how much of your precious time do you want to devote to wine tours vs seeing incredible sights on your first visit to NZ?

I'd suggest bypassing Q-town on your way to Te Anau, and seeing it last on the day before your flight out. Spend the time in Doubtful Sound!
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Last edited by 747FC; Jul 26, 19 at 1:00 am Reason: more info
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Old Jul 26, 19, 3:05 am
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Originally Posted by nancypants View Post
I have skipped over Queenstown thus far. Find the scenery en route to/from Queenstown and Wanaka sufficient and much prefer the vibe in Wanaka- however I think I’m unusual in that regard
Foreigners go to Queenstown, especially if you are under 30 or in bus tour group.
New Zealanders (& some random others) on holiday go to Wanaka (get away from some of those foreigners)
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Last edited by Mwenenzi; Jul 26, 19 at 3:18 am Reason: (& some random others) added
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Old Jul 26, 19, 3:14 am
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Originally Posted by Mwenenzi View Post
Foreigners go to Queenstown, especially if you are under 30 or in bus tour group.
New Zealanders on holiday go to Wanaka (get away from some of those foreigners)
ive never been so flattered 😉
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Old Jul 26, 19, 6:23 pm
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Way too much.

Abel Tasman, back to Nelson and then on to Greymouth is an exceptionally long day. Assuming you're with a tour you won't be back in Nelson until late afternoon. It's a good four hours from Nelson to Greymouth so at best you're rolling in around 10pm, and that's after a long day trekking.

That route is windy and you'll be tired. That would be a dangerous day. I strongly recommend spending that night in Nelson.

I would cut the west coast and Queenstown entirely. Fly from Nelson to ZQN, pick up a car and head to Wanaka. Base yourself there before heading to Te Anau. Skip the night in Christchurch.
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Old Jul 26, 19, 9:06 pm
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Originally Posted by txflyer77 View Post
Way too much.

Abel Tasman, back to Nelson and then on to Greymouth is an exceptionally long day. Assuming you're with a tour you won't be back in Nelson until late afternoon. It's a good four hours from Nelson to Greymouth so at best you're rolling in around 10pm, and that's after a long day trekking.

That route is windy and you'll be tired. That would be a dangerous day. I strongly recommend spending that night in Nelson.

I would cut the West Coast and Queenstown entirely. Fly from Nelson to ZQN, pick up a car and head to Wanaka. Base yourself there before heading to Te Anau. Skip the night in Christchurch.
A lot depends on the time back to Nelson. But agree if after mid day 9 Sept will be a long day. Just to Murchison may be possible.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murchison,_New_Zealand
G map link --> https://goo.gl/maps/3asZ6ojNA4XYr7CV8

I would not cut out the coast, but have less activities.
Need a float day somewhere.

Definitely do not need an extra day in Chc (Still a lot of open spaces - wrecked buildings from the Feb 2011 quake)
Flying into CHC and then out on an international flight on the same day is a risk. Well worth staying the the night in Christchurch.
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Old Jul 27, 19, 12:46 am
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Originally Posted by gobears293 View Post
Planning on an organized tour for both. But from what I've read, the tour companies take requests for which wineries to visit. For Waiheke, we've been told by locals to go to Man 'o War Vineyards. Any suggestions for Wanaka/Queenstown?
Man O war is a beautiful spot. Quite a drive but so worth it - it does get very packed during the weekends, we always go during the week. Their Exiled Pinot Gris is one of my favourites.
The other place I would recommend is Peacock Sky run by a friendly American lady.
If you have time Poderi Crisci is also worth a visit. Two vineyards is what Id recommend usually to visitors so you get to take in the views, relax and of course savour the wines and delicious food.

In Queenstown, Bald Hills vineyard is beautiful

Last edited by gambda; Jul 27, 19 at 12:53 am Reason: Additional Info
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Old Jul 27, 19, 5:50 am
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Nelson - Greymouth - another vote for only do it if you're back in Nelson before midday. There's basically only 2 road options for it (and you should take 6 to 69 to 7 as the better route IMO).

I'd ditch one of the glaciers, if not both. With the melt they've had FJG is the better of the two, but even that is pretty dubious these days IMO.

I can't think of a single reason to overnight in Haast. Unless you like banjos and wanted to help contribute to their genetic diversity, that is. If you're leaving Franz in the morning then you'll get to Haast in time to refuel and then a very (very) nice drive through to Wanaka. That would be an easy day of driving, even in rain. The scenery along the way is staggering. Stay in Wanaka. It's cheaper, there is excellent food (like most of NZ), and you aren't going to be surrounded by hordes of 20-somethings all desperately having "fun".
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Old Jul 28, 19, 11:32 am
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Many thanks to everyone for all of this great advice. Definitely seems like there is a consensus that we can skip the glaciers to have less driving time and enjoy more of Wanaka and add Doubtful Sound. I checked and our AT tour does get us back to Nelson in the late afternoon/early evening. (I had made a bad assumption it would be closer to noon). So now I'm thinking of this revision:
9/9: finish Abel Tasman, stay the night in Nelson
9/10: early morning flight to ZQN (found one option with a short layover in CHC), rent a car, drive to Wanaka, enjoy a relaxing day
9/11: second day in Wanaka, afternoon wine tour
9/12: drive to Queenstown, sightseeing
9/13: Queenstown sightseeing
9/14: Queenstown morning, then drive to Te Anau
9/15: Doubtful Sound tour, back to Te Anau
9/16: drive to Milford Sound, stay back in Te Anau
9/17: drive to Queenstown, fly to Christchurch
9/18: depart Christchurch

So I can add a day in Wanaka, then tour both Milford and Doubtful. No hurried driving down the west coast having to worry about weather.

Our flight from CHC does leave at 13:25, and it is the first leg of our journey back to the US, so we do prefer to overnight.

Any new critiques? Thanks!
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