Hello: I am planning a 3 week trip to New Zealand over Dec09. I would like any advice on the feasibility, suggestions, driving distances, road from Kaikoura to Franz Josef (is it possible) etc on the following itinerary: Thank you very much for your help. Sabina
Arrive in Auckland and self drive to with the following order
2 Nights in Paihia
1 Night in Waitomo
1 Night in Rotorua
1 Night in Mt. Ruapehu
1 Night in Wellington
1 Night in Bleinheim
2 Nights in Nelson
1 Nights in Kaikoura
2 Nights in Franz Josef
2 Nights in Lake Tekapo
1 Nights in Queenstown
2 Nights in Te Anau
2 Nights in Invercargill
1 Night in Dunedin
1 Night in Christchurch
1 Night in Auckland
[ Edit: Edited on 15-May-2009, at 08:15 by sabinajo ]
Even if you don't hike the Tongariro Crossing (which I totally recommending hiking; it's gorgeous), Tongariro National Park still deserves a full day of exploring, so I'd recommend scheduling in two nights there (There's no accommodation at "Mt. Ruapehu", but you can stay at Whakapapa or Ohakune or in National Park (the 'village')).
Blenheim and Nelson are relatively close together. I don't know why you'd want to stay over in Blenheim, but my impression from driving through it half a dozen times over the years was that it was a rather lifeless place. There's good wineries all around, but Nelson probably makes for a much nicer base, and is still within easy driving distance when coming from the ferry, so Belheim is the place I'd recommend skipping to give you that extra day in Tongariro.
The route for the lower half of the South Island as you've pencilled it in now isn't very efficient; there are no passes south of Arthur's Pass or north of Haast Pass, so getting from Franz Josef directly to Lake Tekapo takes an entire day. The classic loop would be Christchurch to Franz Josef (via Arthur's Pass) to Queenstown (doing Milford Sound on a daytrip from Queenstown; you'll be stuck behind the busses anyway, so you might as well sit in one) to Lake Tekapo to Christchurch, or vice versa. Things get harder for you because you want to visit Dunedin, Invercargill and Te Anau (to be honest, I'm no fan of either Invercargill or Te Anau; they're rather boring cities (though Te Anau at least has the Kepler track going for it, where you can hike to the first hut and back in a day without needing to have made a reservation)).
Kaikoura directly to Franz Josef is doable (either via Lewis Pass or via Arthur's Pass, with Lewis Pass probably being swifter), though it's a long day. From there I'd head on to Queenstown, pick up your itinerary, and then insert Lake Tekapo between Dunedin and Christchurch; or alternatively, head to Lake Tekapo straight from Kaikoura (bypassing Christchurch; a similarly long but doable day), and then do the rest of that in reverse, making your way from Franz Josef to Christchurch via Arthur's Pass (which is gorgeous).
Neither option is quite ideal though, as you'd miss the stupendously beautiful stretch of Queenstown to Lake Tekapo, including Lindis Pass and Mt. Cook. Personally I would skip Invercargill and Dunedin in order to be able to see that stretch (and have done so on more than one occasion), or alternatively you could do Dunedin to Lake Tekapo by starting to drive south and then head west to Alexandra and Cromwell before turning north (again: or in the opposite direction). Makes for an hour and a half of extra driving, but is totally worth it.
heres my thought and tips form you:
2 Nights in Paihia - if you want to do a trip to Cape Reinga then def need two nights here.
1 Night in Waitomo - only really the caves here so if your just going to do black water rafting it can be done in 2 hours so you could easily head to rotorua that night
1 Night in Rotorua - not much in the town itself but the polynesian spa is good value also, The Waiotapu Thermal Reserve is worth a visit too.
1 Night in Mt. Ruapehu - I worked in National Park village so it is a great base for doing the Tongariro Crossing plus most hotels run buses to and from the start and finish of the walk.
1 Night in Wellington - Visit the nationa museum of Te Papa its free and good fun
1 Night in Bleinheim
2 Nights in Nelson- i guess your going to visit Abel Tasmen national park from here
1 Nights in Kaikoura - best place in NZ to swim with wild dolpihins but places book up fast so book in advance and be careful it can be cancelled if the weather is bad.
2 Nights in Franz Josef - same again here if weather bad things get cancelled and book in advance, heli hikes meant to be the best but mine got cancelled!
2 Nights in Lake Tekapo - Beautilful place, there is a thermal spa here too also you can day trip from here to Mt Cook national park.
2 Nights in Te Anau - must visit Milford Sound from here its awesome
2 Nights in Invercargill
1 Night in Dunedin - big city good speight brewery tour
1 Night in Christchurch -
1 Night in Auckland[/quote]
Queenstown is worth a visit too