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Itinerary help South Island

Cincinnati, Ohio
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15 posts
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Itinerary help South Island

Planning our trip Jan-Feb for about 17 days. 4 days North Island, then fly from Auckland to Blenheim, rent a car at the airport ?, do a bike/wine tour- 2nts.

I want to go to Abel Tasman NP, and eventually go to Franz Josef/Fox Glacier, Lake Matheson,

then drive to Queenstown 4 nts, and do tour to Milford Sound Etc.

Then end trip with flying from Queenstown to Aucl.

I would like to drive from Blenheim to Abel T. , and then on to Glaciers, etc, but I don't want to be drive all day long every day.

After going to ABel Tasman, should we fly to Christchurch and go by the Alpine train near the Glacier area....then drive to Queenstown ? We will spend a couple of nts at FJ Glacier and on way to Queenstown?

Please help, I have confused myself so much with transportation. I would like see beautiful sites, but also like to stop and hike and "smell the roses".

9 replies to this topic
Preston, United...
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1. Re: Itinerary help South Island

I think it would be easier to just keep one car and drive down the west coast. It could work like this: -

Blenheim - 2 nights (I'd actually stay in Renwick as it's nearer the vineyards)

Nelson or preferably Kaiteriteri - 2 nights (one day in Abel Tasman)

Punakaiki - 1 night

Franz Josef or Fox - 1 night

Wanaka - 1 night (Queenstown is too far from the glacier towns for a one day drive)

Queenstown - whatever nights you have left.

Edited: 17 September 2018, 17:11
Christchurch, New...
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for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
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2. Re: Itinerary help South Island

It looks like you have 13 nights for the SI, so definitely time to “... smell the roses”!

John’s itinerary is efficient but only 7N prior to QTN so you might like to stay longer in Fox or FJG & Wanaka to avoid one night stays. Depending on how you feel about changing hotels every 2 days, you could add 2N in Te Anau as a stopping off point for Milford Sound too. This would fit most efficiently after Wanaka & before QTN :

Day 8 or 9. Wanaka to Te Anau (2N)

Day 9 or 10 Milford Sound

Day 10 or 11. Return to QTN ( 3-4 N)

2 posts
3. Re: Itinerary help South Island

Hey Sharon,

I can't give you an itinerary to follow as anything can happen, and you may want to spend your time differently from everyone else. What I can tell you is that I just did a similar trip last week, except I went the opposite direction, but I stopped in Christchurch, not Blenheim.

I road a coach bus from Auckland to Rotorua—stopping at the Waitomo caves and the Hobbiton movie set; then flew from Rotorua to Wellington (stayed a few days), and Wellington to Queenstown; drove from Queenstown to Franz Josef, and finally drove from Franz Josef to Greymouth, where I took a train to Christchurch. My time ended at Christchurch, so I can't give you any additional info about the 2 northern locations on the South Island you mentioned.

South Island:


Milford Sound: should be considered a full day event. It's about 13 hours round trip, including commute on a coach bus, otherwise, it's about 8 (4 there, 4 back) hours of driving roundtrip, and then whatever the cruise ride is. Most coach services leave at about 6:30am, and you can expect to return by 7:30pm—but if you'd like to spend a bit more, you can charter a Helicopter to return quicker.

If you arrive early into town /or/ if you're still in town after Milford Sound and you'd like to do something, here are a couple of options in Queenstown:



Open 8am-5am

If you like burgers, this is the spot to be (very popular), usually a line, but it goes by pretty quick. Expect a 10-15 minute wait from standing in line to finally getting your burger. You can go next door to Fergbaker and buy some sweets as you wait

Kiwi Birdlife Park


Open 9am-5pm

If you want to see some kiwis, they do live feeding at this location. They have feedings at various times from 10am to about 4:30pm. The Park takes about an hour to fully go around.

Queenstown Gardens


Open most of the day and night.

Located along the beach and after the shops. The park is a pretty large place to simply take a walk, or play disc golf, as well as take in the scenery of the mountains, trees, and lake. It's an oval shaped park that generally doesn't take too long to fully walk around (30min-1hour), but there should be rose garden inside. There's also a walking path connected to the Gardens that goes to Frankton, the next town over, which takes about 3 hours of walking round trip.

Queenstown Gondola (enclosed lift) and Luge (like a racetrack you slide down)

last Gondola goes down at 10pm.

Gondala $40NZ

Gondala + Luge $55-$63NZ

The Gondola is quick, and it takes you up the mountain in the same way a ski lift would, except the Gondola is enclosed. Once on top you will quickly see the Luge track and people "racing" down it. The track I hear doesn't take too long to accomplish, so tickets come in packs for multiple rides.

Right after the Luge track, up the mountain, there is a walking/mountain bike path. One of those paths is known as the Ben Lomond Track. If you like hiking, the track there might be of some interest. I believe round trip it is about 13.8 miles (about 5 hours round trip maybe), which will take to you about the top of one of the peaks.

Fear Factory



If you like being spooked, they have it here. It's about 30 minutes to go through, but it's essentially a fun little house of jump scares. I believe it combines a mix of supernatural tricks like those found in Paranormal Activity and human interaction (possibly dressed up). I can't confirm this, as I'm not a fan of being scared or the horror genre, but everyone who has gone has said they enjoyed it and would recommend it.

QUEENSTOWN to FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER (about 5 hours of driving)

I rented my car at the Hertz in Queenstown to be dropped off at Greymouth.

If you decide to do this, I would recommend purchasing the full car protection and one of their tank of petrol options.

If you're rushing to drop off your car and forget to fill up the tank, you'll kick yourself afterwards as the price to fill up can be quite costly (I think it's about 3x the normal rate of petrol per liter, to cover staff having to do the refill).

Road side assistance is an extra, and I'll leave that to your preference.

The drive is quite beautiful and I ended up stopping a lot to take a ton photos. There should be a few look out points during the drive.


Glacier Heli Hike

Various Hours


This trip is about 4 hours long, with about 3 hours on the Ice. This could be something you go up to Franz Joseph for and then move on.

Glacier Valley Walk

Free (unless you want a guide, $80, which isn't necessary)

Considering you drove up to here, you'd still have the car and can drive to the Glacier Valley Walk on your own and walk the path to see the Glacier. You won't be able to get too close, but you'll definitely see the ice, and the scenery around the walk is pretty beautiful. The walk takes about 3 hours round trip to walk. It's fairly flat with only a few inclines. Generally an easy path.

There are several walking paths near by. Due to weather conditions I was unable to take the Helihike, and instead decided to walk the Glacier Path and Robert's' Point Track.

Robert's Point Track


5 Hours round trip

This track is for experienced hikers. There are many parts of the path that include climbing, stabilization, strong footing, and watching your surroundings. It's pretty much goes straight up, and once at the top the view is amazing. You do cross several sway bridges which have deep drops, but they have platforms and feel mostly secure. I recommend sturdy shoes or boots, a layer base top, water, a snack or two, and something rainproof. If you really do enjoy hiking and climbing without gear, this is a great path.

FRANZ JOSEF to GREYMOUTH (about 2.5 hours of driving)


This is a small town, about 2 square miles maybe. At this point I dropped off my car here. There's a brewery close to town if you're interested in craft beer, otherwise there are some hiking points around town you can do.

I took the train from here to Christchurch, but driving from Franz Josef would probably be about 5.5 hours. And another drive to Blenheim would be around 5 hours.


The city of Christchurch is pretty small, and were recently (a few years ago actually) hit by a devastating earthquake, so most of the city is under construction, which can be unsightly, sadly enough. That also means there's a lot of graffiti on the abandoned buildings. This may make the town look fairly unsafe, or sketchy, but for the most part the people are kind and friendly. They do have a wondrous Botanic Gardens that you could walk through and a few museums of history and art, that for the most part are free to walk through. So if you want to take a break in town, this would not be a bad option for a several hours.

After this point I can't offer any additional assistance, but I hope what I was able to give you is helpful and will guide you to making your ultimate itinerary.

Be aware you're also going during peak season, so there will be a ton of tourist with around you possibly doing the same thing.

Final points:


stayed 1 night and 1 day—Which is more than enough I think.

Franz Joseph 2 nights—depending on what you do and what time you arrive, 1 night might be enough. Otherwise if you arrive in the afternoon, you can do the Glacial Valley Hike and sleep. Then the Heli Hike in the morning and the Roberts Point Track in the afternoon if you're up for it and then sleep, then be off the next day.

Queenstown 3 nights—Milford Sound is 1 day. Hiking, Gardens, spooky house, and burger eating, craft beer were 1 day. Famous Routeburn Track (This was a guided tour which included a viewing of the hotsprings and geysers) is 1 day.


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4. Re: Itinerary help South Island

Liam, that's very informative and I'm sure Sharon can get some use out of it. However, the drive between Queenstown and Franz Josef is usually considered too far for one day - especially if you decide to walk to the Blue Pools, several waterfalls, Ship's Creek, etc.

>>>Famous Routeburn Track (This was a guided tour which included a viewing of the hotsprings and geysers) is 1 day.<<<

??? Geysers on the Routeburn? Queenstown?

Christchurch, New...
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for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
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5. Re: Itinerary help South Island

Wow the tourist brochures are stretching a point if they are adding geysers to the Routeburn.

I think Liam travelled by coach which is why the distances were so large.

Queenstown, New...
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6. Re: Itinerary help South Island

Few old geysers but we call them hut wardens

No thermal activity on or near the Routeburn track

Preston, United...
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7. Re: Itinerary help South Island

zhuhai - Liam drove the bit between Queenstown and Greymouth in a hire car, hence dsSchenke's comment about driving from Queenstown to FJ being too far in one day. Presumably he didn't stop if he did it in 5 hours.

If the OP does have 13 nights then I'd agree it's worth adding extra nights on to Abel Tasman, the Glacier towns and/or Wanaka on the way down for more rose-smelling.

2 posts
8. Re: Itinerary help South Island

Hey All!

@deSchenke: You're absolutely correct!

I not only misjudged some of the travel portion, I truly mixed up some of information. I apologize.

I had actually missed my transport from Queenstown to Franz Joseph, and the only option I was to rent a Hertz vehicle and drive up there myself, to not miss the Heli Hike the next day. I left Queenstown around 11am, and arrived in Franz Joseph around 5, while stopping in various locations for photos. It didn't feel so long, but deSchenke is very correct that the drive will take out most of your day, and it's not worth it if you're on a limited time schedule. Since the coach I had missed the day earlier was part of the trip up to Queenstown, I also drove from Franz Josef to Greymouth.

Regarding the portion about the Famous Routeburn Track and the Geysers, JohnEW2912, kiwimartinnz, zhuhai2007, and deSchenke are correct in questioning it. This is where I made a huge mistake. I mixed this hike up with another hike I made (Rotorua Eco Thermal Park). Sorry about that—it's on a completely different island.

Sorry Sharon for misguiding you on any portion of the information I provided. I hope everything else is useful in some degree.

Thanks everyone else for point my errors out. :)


Cincinnati, Ohio
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9. Re: Itinerary help South Island

Thanks all!

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