We are currently in Wellington having travelled down from Auckland with the Magic Bus, tour company. It's been a great trip so far.
We only did the north island with them as we intended to X to the south and hire a camper van.
But now we hear it's really cold down south icy road conditions with some road closures.
So we're a wee bit concerned, having never been exposed to such environments let alone DRIVEN in them.
What is your advise for snow novices... should we stick with the Magic Bus and leave the delights of the camper van for the warmer clims of Australia in September?
Yep I would flag it and stick to the bus..it can be tricky going if you are not used to it.
May I suggest you catch the Alpine express from Christchurch to Greymouth return..its a day trip and the views and scenary are spectacular this time of year.
Enjoy your time here
Thank you, we've just booked the bus for the southern Isle.
Was told however that the transalpine was not a day trip but an overnight!
Also, any suggestions for Milford Sound?
It's a daytrip if you do it from Christchurch (there in the morning, back an hour or two after arriving in the afternoon), but an overnight if you do it from Greymouth. I didn't think it was all that impressive in the summer (liked driving a regular car over Arthur's Pass in autumn a whole lot better), but should be quite spectacular in winter, assuming it isn't too cloudy.
I've just been on the TranzAlpine and I've made the following observations:
1. The scenery is beautiful, with the stretch between Christchurch and Arthur's Pass being the most scenic (to me);
2. While on the train, I can't help but compare what I see of the Southern Alps with the Himalaya, which I was at last May. While it's stunning in its own right, it was a tad disappointing to me;
3. The train is most crowded between Christchurch and Arthur's Pass, with the majority of the passengers alighting at Arthur's Pass and leaving by coach - this led me to suspect there's a way to see the most scenic parts of the journey at a lower cost offered by some tour operators.
I did the train ride twice (return ticket, on different days) and while I was snapping some pictures on the first ride, I snoozed through the second. It takes 5 hours to travel one way.
There's a winter special currently. A one-way ticket cost NZD 69, while a return ticket cost NZD 129.
I was disappointed with my trip in the South Island because there are many places I wish the bus would stop and let me take pictures but of course, it wouldn't stop just for me. I was with Intercity/Newmans coachlines. There are some stops made (such as Lake Tekapo, and various stops between Queenstown and Milford Sound) but it's barely enough! The South Island has so many beautiful places to stop for a look that I regret going with a bus service.
But on the other hand, I've also met travellers who had problems with their cars not starting, or issues with clearing the Warrant of Fitness for their cars leading to expensive repairs and multi-day delays, that I'm glad I didn't have to worry about these. I've had my bus broke down halfway between Milford Sound and Te Anau and we had to squeeze into a tiny replacement van to continue the remainder of the journey, but other than that, no major issues with going with the bus service (except non-stopping at many scenic places, of course).
If I have the chance to visit New Zealand again, I'll probably ride a motorbike.