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Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
392 posts
47 reviews

We are returning for our second trip to the South Island and were after some itinerary input if possible. The forum was very helpful planning our last trip. This trip will be 8-9 nights (could stretch to 10) in August. Initially had thought to include Dunedin this trip and fly out from there, but not sure it would be overly interesting to us as a city given we are from Melbourne.

We are definitely going to Queenstown again - we absolutely loved it there. And are thinking Milford Sound and Kaikoura for whale watching. Or The West Coast/ Glaciers. We don't want to be doing loads of driving and are not keen on staying places for just 1 night on more than 1-2 occasions.

We went to Mt Cook, Wanaka and Christchurch last time and although we enjoyed these places, they are not areas we would return this trip.

We are thinking 3 nights in Queenstown, or 4 with a day trip via bus to Milford Sound - how long would this take? And maybe 2 nights in Kaikoura.

We are finding it somewhat difficult to develop a route that doesnt involve a lot of driving.We would prefer to fly out of a different airport (Nelson maybe?) rather than backtracking to Queenstown. Any suggestions much appreciated!

Edited: 09 May 2018, 20:57
11 replies to this topic
Tauranga, New...
Level Contributor
1,749 posts
128 reviews
1. Re: Itinerary

Where would you want to fly in/out of Nelson to or from? I think the only direct flights are Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington.

New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island
Level Contributor
30,233 posts
93 reviews
2. Re: Itinerary

You can't go Nelson, Kaikoura, Queenstown without including days of driving. Even just Kaikoura to Queenstown is a 3 day drive.

option fly in/out Queenstown

1 arrive Queenstown

2/3/4 explore

5 drive to Dunedin

6 explore

7 drive/explore Catlins, stay Curio Bay

8 drive to te Anau

9 8 hour bus tour Milford Sound, stay te Anau

10 drive to Queenstown, fly out

or in Queenstown, out Chch

1 arrive Queenstown

2/3/4 explore

5 bus tour Milford Sound (12 hour tour) stay Queenstown

6 drive to Aoraki/mt Cook or Tekapo

7 drive to Chch

8 drive to Kaikoura

9 explore

10 drive to Chch, fly out

Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
Level Contributor
40,151 posts
450 reviews
3. Re: Itinerary

If you want to go to Kaikoura you really need to include Chch either as the arrival or departure point (more flights between MEL & CHC than ZQN I think).

1. Arr CHC (2N)

2. Day trip to Kaikoura

3. Drive to Oamaru

4. Drive to Dunedin (2N)

5. Explore Otago Peninsula (I don't think Melbourne has fur seals or albatross!!)

6. Drive to Curio Bay

7. Drive to Te Anau (2N)

8. Day trip to Milford Sound

9. Drive to QTN...

Auckland Central...
Level Contributor
316 posts
47 reviews
4. Re: Itinerary

As others have noted, your itinerary has "must-dos" at opposite ends of the island! And the bits you're not fussed on, you're likely to go past anyway.

One option would be to break it into a north and a south segment and fly between say Nelson and Queenstown. Or as an alternative, take a look at Hanmer Springs. You could land in CHC, then Hokitika (N) via Arthurs Pass, then Punakaiki, Westport (N), and through the Buller Gorge to Nelson (2N). Then Blenheim and Kaikoura (N), and Hanmer (2N) via the inland road to avoid returning to Christchurch.

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
392 posts
47 reviews
5. Re: Itinerary

Thank you for the info, Queenstown is the must do for us, everything else is open. What about this itinerary.

1. Queenstown

2. Queenstown

3. Queenstown (bus day trip Milford sound)

4. Queenstown

5. Drive to Franz Josef and overnight (5hr drive)

6. Drive to Hokitka and overnight (2 hour drive)

7. Drive to Kaikoura (5 hour drive)

8. Kaikoura (whale watch tour)

9. Drive to Christchurch (2.5 hrs) and fly home


9. Drive to Nelson (3.5 hrs)

10. Nelson

11. fly home

Also we would only be doing the walk to FJ not a helihike.

Level Contributor
14,977 posts
50 reviews
6. Re: Itinerary


A couple of observations from a regular visitor to the South Island.

If I wasn't planning on a heli hike I wouldn't go to the West Coast.

Dunedin has about as much in common with Melbourne as it does with Kalgoorlie.

I'm at a loss as to why you wouldn't return to Aoraki/Mt Cook I've lost count of the number of times we have visited.

Try this for size:

Day 1. Queenstown.

Day 2. Queenstown.

Day 3. Queenstown to Te anau, Glow Worm Caves in pm.

Day 4. Tour to Milford or Doubtful Sound.

Day 5. Te Anau to Invercargill.

Day 6. Tour to Stewart Island.

Day 8. Invercargill to Dunedin.

Day 9. Otago peninsula.

Day 10. Depart for home from Dunedin.


Queenstown, New...
Level Contributor
2,094 posts
7. Re: Itinerary

Qtn to FJG is a heck of a long day. I know Google tells you it takes 5 hours, it will take much longer than this. It's a spectacular road and if you got in the car and drove non stop, you MIGHT do it in 5 hours. Given you are travelling in the depths of winter, you can't plan on leaving too early due to the risk of ice and there's heaps of places to stop and take photos. If you are keen to go this way, I'd stay in Wanaka on day 4, just to break it up a little.

Personally, I think if you aren't heli hiking, I'd skip the long drive and go via Mt Cook.

Level Contributor
4 posts
16 reviews
8. Re: Itinerary

We drove down to Te Anau and did the Milford sound bus tour with vip Milford tours picked us up 7.45am back to Te Anau 4 pm there’s a nature tour or scenic tour, scenic includes buffet lunch. $123 if you have top 10 holiday parks card.

Level Contributor
4 posts
16 reviews
9. Re: Itinerary

Queenstown bus trip 12 - 14 hrs with stops we did Te Anau to Milford 8 hrs

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
392 posts
47 reviews
10. Re: Itinerary

Thanks everyone, we think we have decided on the following:

Queenstown - 4 nights including day trip to Milford Sound

Oamaru - 2 nights (3.5 hr drive)

Hanmer Springs - 1 or 2 nights (4.5hr drive)

Kaikoura - 2 night, whale watch trip

Drive back to Christchurch and fly home (2.5 hr drive)

We figured if we weren't doing a walk on the glacier there wasn't any point in going to Franz Josef. Is there a scenic drive between Queenstown and Oamaru? And any specific roads we should take between the other destinations to maximise scenery?

Edited: 12 May 2018, 16:25
Reply to: Itinerary
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