40th Birthday celebration ideas!

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific 40th Birthday celebration ideas!

1. Posted by araco (Budding Member 3 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Hi All!
So I turn 40 at the end of the year (2 days after Christmas and worst time to travel?!). For years I’ve always planned to do the South Island of New Zealand to celebrate my birthday. However Covid has brought doubts as to whether I should continue with this? Sure everything is refundable these days however if I get a last minute cancellation with border closures then my option B will be limited due to availability at this time of year.
So......do I take the risk or plan something else???
If I go South Island NZ what trip do I do?
If I travel within Oz, what state and trip do I do??
I will be travelling with myself, husband and 2 girls (10 and 7 years old)
TIA!

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5616 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

If I read your question correctly, you currently live in Australia, right?
If not, then I don't think it's good to plan a New Zealand visit anytime soon.
If my assumption is right, however, then, given the travel bubble you have, I'd probably risk it. Yes, you might hit a temporary lockdown, but the same would go just for a different state from what I've seen come by on the news? (Obviously you have the better perspective living in the region yourself).

I'd be happy to give you extensive suggestions for travel destinations on the South Island, but some direction as to what you'd like to see or do would be helpful. Nature is a given, but would you like to mix it with some culture? Are you experienced hikers? Also, how long you'd have available? In a month you could easily hit all the main sights, but if you'd only have a week, you'd have to make some difficult choices as to what to leave out, and what pace would still make for a worthwhile trip while not leaving you completely exhausted.

If you feel you'd rather stick with an Australian state, then Tasmania is the obvious alternative, with nature and scenery that pales in comparison to that of the South Island, but is still very good in its own right. That time of year, you'll run quite the risk of bush fires - but then, the same goes for SA, Vic and NSW, while the north will be unpleasantly humid, so that doesn't leave a whole lot of options.

[ Edit: Edited on 22 May 2021, 09:22 GMT by Sander ]

3. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2325 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

I can't answer the covid question.

Re itineraries, how long do you have?

With limited time, I'd fly into Queenstown and explore round there. Te Anau, Milford Sound, Glenorchy, Wanaka.

If you've longer, do a loop. The above plus Fox & Franz Josef glaciers, up the west coast to Abel Tasman national park, the Marlborough Sounds, Kaikoura, Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook.

With even longer add in Nelson Lakes, Oamaru, Moeraki, Dunedin, the Catlins, Stewart Island.

What are your interests? Hiking, hot springs, culture?

4. Posted by araco (Budding Member 3 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Thanks so much for your replies.
I’m saying we have about 10 days of travel to work with.
I have a lot of interests but limited with family travel eg. Not too long of a hike etc

5. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5616 posts) 3w 1 Star this if you like it!

You should be able to do a reasonable loop in 10 days. Going light on hiking destinations, and stretching the "10" to "11", because really, the South Island deserves every extra day you can give it :), I'd recommend something like:
1. Fly into Queenstown. Spend a lazy day exploring town, maybe hike up One Mile Track, following the old water pipe (start at the far end of Lomond Crescent), for easy walking through amazing scenery, and great views over town at the top (and a lazy gondola ride back down if you want to, via the connecting Skyline Road).
2. Go on a long and exhausting (but worth it) day trip to Milford Sound, with cruise there. Don't do this independently, since you'll be stuck on the road behind all the tour busses anyway. Usually this'd be high season, so would need to be booked at least a day or two in advance, but this year, who knows?
3. Rent a car and drive to Fox or Franz Josef Glacier. Be certain to stop at the (many) sights along the way, like Thunder Creek Falls (at Haast Pass). You could theoretically drive this in half a day, but I'd count on double, as you'll be passing some amazing scenery, which deserves ample time.
4. Spend a day exploring one of the glaciers. If you have the budget to blow, and luck out on a day with good (non-windy) conditions, consider a helicopter flight with landing at the top of the glacier. Pricy, but very, very much worth it.
5. Spend a day exploring the other glacier.
6. Drive to Punakaiki, making certain to be there at high tide (look up beforehand when that is) for a chance to watch the blow holes perform (also depends on the wind/swell if it'll actually happen - for me, I hit perfect conditions only once in three visits, but the other two visits were still well worth it for the gorgeous scenery.) Accommodation at Punakaiki itself is scarce, so you could opt for either Greymouth or Westport to spend the night at. Only two hours into this drive you'll pass Hokitika, which I'd personally skip, but which many people do enjoy for the greenstone carvings which are produced there (so lots of stores and tours).
7. Drive to Kaikoura in the morning, and spend the afternoon walking along the coast here, observing the seals.
8. Go on a whale watching trip. Usually this'd be high season, so would need to be booked at least a day or two in advance, but this year, who knows?
9. Drive to Lake Tekapo. This is a longer drive than I'd like, while I've already sent you driving all over the place, but the alternative would be to skip out on Punakaiki and Kaikoura.
10. Spend a day relaxing at Lake Tekapo, gazing out over the stunning blue water of the lake. Hike up Mt. John for amazing hot chocolate at the observatory cafe (there's a steep but short climb through the forest from the south, or a much longer gentle stroll up along the waterfront, to then double back up onto the hill from the north).
11. Drive back to Queenstown, fly home in the afternoon. If you have a late flight and leave early, you might do a side trip to Mt. Cook for lunch with stunning views there, but only if you can see the mountain from the shore of Lake Pukaki, as the valley tends to be fully overcast most days, and the only other thing to do at Mt. Cook is hiking.

If you really have to cut this down to 10 days, the first stops I'd cut would be the Milford Sound daytrip (simply because it's such a long day), Kaikoura (because it's most out of the way, and if you drive from Punakaiki / Greymouth directly to Lake Tekapo, you get to go over Arthur's Pass, which is an amazing drive), or maybe the second day at the glaciers (as one might be enough, particularly if you don't do any hiking other than back and forth to the face).

I hope this'll help you with planning! The few hiking suggestions I've given should be doable even with a 7 year old, though it's probably worth building up stamina a bit at home beforehand.

Do consider going even longer, as it sounds like you've been meaning to visit for a long time now, and this year might be the very best opportunity for it, free from the usual European e.a. tourist crowds, letting you enjoy those vistas as unspoiled as they come.

6. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2325 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Sander's suggested itinerary is a good one. However, I'm a bit more averse to the long drives. I'd instead self-drive to Milford and include two nights in Te Anau, as there's plenty to see along the Milford Road and Te Anau is often the right antidote to brash Queenstown. (Wanaka is another antidote.)

I agree that the heli hikes onto the glaciers are a worthwhile splurge buy. I'd do one or other, saving a little time. I'm keen to try the hot pools they built at Franz for an evening too.

It's a killer drive from Punakake to Kaikoura. With limited time I'd skip Kaikoura unless a whale watching trip is high up your list. I'd probably zip back down from Arthur's Pass to Lake Tekapo (where Tekapo Springs is worth a visit), Mount Cook (the Hooker Valley track is an easy hike to a glacier viewpoint), and back to Queenstown.

Depends on your tolerance for car days. With younger kids I guess not so much.

7. Posted by araco (Budding Member 3 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Thanks so much for all the information, that’s amazing and greatly appreciated!!
You guys have been so helpful and given me lots of direction.
It’s given me the motivation I needed to get planning and booking!