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10 day trip from Nelson to Dunedin

8 posts
1 review
10 day trip from Nelson to Dunedin

We’re arriving in New Zealand in late January for the start of a 2 month work/travel trip. The first bit of travelling gives us 10 days to get from Nelson to Dunedin, which we want to spend mainly in the north of the South Island plus a couple of days travelling down to Dunedin via Punakaiki and Arthur’s Pass. Any suggestions would be very welcome.

3 nights Abel Tasman (walking, kayaking & general chilling - thinking of staying in Kaiteriteri or Marahau)


Should we try and fit in Farewell Spit? It looks wonderful, but I understand the drive is difficult at the moment and it will mean spending less time somewhere else

3 nights Marlborough Sounds area (QC Track, cruises)

Questions about this:

Where would be the best base? I love the idea of being somewhere out in the Sounds, like Furneaux Lodge, but would it be possible to pick up cruises from there?

Should we cruise QC Sound, Pelorus Sound (or both)?

3 nights down to Dunedin via west coast and Arthur’s Pass (we’ll be doing the more southerly bits of the Southern Alps later on)

Lots of questions about this, too:

The first night will be on the west coast: would Punakaiki or Westport be better as a place to stay?

Any thoughts on SH6 vs. SH63?

SH63 would be the obvious choice if we were coming from Picton, but is it a more difficult drive and would we be missing anything taking this over SH6?

Where would you spend the other 2 nights?

I was thinking of the final one somewhere between Arthur’s Pass and Dunedin (Methven? Mount Summers? Timaru?), but am wondering whether to stay in Punakaiki/Westport for the second night too, so we can explore around there a bit more, or somewhere in Arthur’s Pass so we can do a bit of walking.

Sorry about so many questions!

5 replies to this topic
Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
Level Contributor
41,143 posts
454 reviews
1. Re: 10 day trip from Nelson to Dunedin

Start by working backward from Dunedin.. You have roughly 1000km to cover, and I’m assuming you have 3N “on the road” and effective 4 days, so about 250 Km each leg:

Have a look at

7. Nelson to Punakaiki - 265 Km or 4 hr just driving.

8. Punakaiki to mid Canterbury, eg Methven or even detour out to the east coast, to Christchurch.

9. Continue south for the scenery to Lake Tekapo

10. LT to Dunedin - 290 km, or another 4 hr

Now back to those first 6 days. Since you specifically want to start on the West Coast, I’d reverse the first 2 stops & start from Blenheim/Picton. Furneaux Lodge or Punga Cove or Bay of Many Coves would be lovely places to stay and you wouldn’t need a “cruise” as such, just the water taxi ride out there and then hike from one to another.. Pick up a rental car in Picton on your return and head for Marahau or Kaiteriteri....

Edited: 03 September 2018, 16:57
Level Contributor
9,572 posts
486 reviews
2. Re: 10 day trip from Nelson to Dunedin

i dont rate farwell spit tour but wharariki beach is a great spot. in fact i was just there yesterday for the hundredth or so time! a night in golden bay would enable you to see pupu springs, do the pupu hydrowalk (well worth it and not part of pupu springs), visit wharariki (ideally at low tide and go through the rocks at the far left or west and continue to next beach to see the archway islands the best. do you intend hiking on queen charlotte? A day boat cruise is popular there. then drive picton to punakaiki, and stop off at lake rotoiti for photo.

8 posts
1 review
3. Re: 10 day trip from Nelson to Dunedin

Thanks for the suggestions. Was the road to Golden Bay fully open?

New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island
Level Contributor
30,684 posts
93 reviews
4. Re: 10 day trip from Nelson to Dunedin

Yes, the road to Golden Bay is open. There might be a short delay as one section is still one-lane controlled by a set of lights. The delay is never more than 12 minutes long.

Level Contributor
9,572 posts
486 reviews
5. Re: 10 day trip from Nelson to Dunedin

the road in great condition for a winding narrow hill road. there is a short section where the road is controlled by traffic lights due to washouts creating single laned corners. These lights change every 12 minutes do you may have a short wait.

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