South Island Driving Tour - start Blenheim
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Oct 22, 2012 8:44 PM Last Post By: wildvet
Oct 22, 2012 1:45 PM
As a side note, I am planning to fly business class (or take the skycouch seats on Air NZ) to try and minimize the jet lag when I arrive.
First few days: in/around Blenheim to recover, wineries & Marlborough Sounds
Then on to the Road Trip:
Day 1: Kaikoura - whale watching weather permitting, explore waterfalls/just enjoy the beauty; either overnight here, or head to Hanmer Springs
Day 2 & 3: Hanmer Springs - it is going to be the dead of winter, but is spending a full day & night here too much?
Day 4: Drive to Mt. Cook - I know this would be quite a haul and an all-day trip, especially with stops along the way; also, in winter the roads would be more difficult I assume; is it realistic?
Day 5: Mt Cook area - my Kiwi friends have never been here themselves! So it's a somewhat important part of the itinerary to spend at least a full day in/around the area
Day 6: Drive to Arthur's Pass - again, a long day of driving; again is it realistic? The reason for this leg is because I'd like to be able to see part of the west coast if possible, and this looks like the best stopping point if we can get there in a day
Day 7: Spend a good chunk of the day enjoying the area before heading to Punakaiki (or Greymouth) to spend the night
Day 8: Punakaiki/ Pancake Rocks, take in the west coast scenery, then back to Blenheim
Because I'll be there in winter, I don't think I'll have the opportunity to kayak, do day-long hikes, sky dive, fly to one of the famous glaciers, etc. Which is fine with me; none of us are hard core outdoor enthusiasts & none of us are skiers. My primary goal in NZ is to see my friends, and soak in the natural beauty of their fine country.
My time is somewhat flexible - I've not booked my flights yet and other than needing to leave for Sydney by July 25th I am somewhat flexible on when I land in Blenheim. The limiting factor is my friends' time - they will be taking holiday to show me around and also will be heading to Sydney for the wedding.
Any suggestions/assistance/opinions would be appreciated!
Oct 22, 2012 2:47 PM
1I think you have too long in Hanmer.
If you're in Blenheim, it would be nice to check out things in/near Nelson. Farewell spit? Pupu springs? Also, it is worth a drive out to French Pass - the drive out is long and windy but lots of great scenery and if you time your arrival a bit before the turning of the tide, it can be quite a sight (read Cook's (I think, or was it Tasman?) account).
Enjoy snuggle class.
Oct 22, 2012 3:35 PM
2personally I wouldn't bother going to Hanmer Springs at all.
Kaikoura is a nice place, but with friends in Blenheim I wonder about staying the night? Might be better as a day trip while you're staying in Blenheim (it's an hour/hour & a half trip, or, you could get the train if the times work)
But... you do really need a night's stop on the way to Mt Cook/Lake Tekapo; it's a full long day driving if you go straight through from Blenheim. Even from Kaikoura or Hanmer it's still a long way. There are some nice places along the coast north of Chch, or south of chch - but you're really only stopping for the sake of breaking up the journey, which is a bit of a waste in the time you've got. I can't really think of a way around it though.
Then you could go to Arthurs Pass, it is a good night's stop. Lots of short walks to do if the weather allows. I would stay around Punakaiki or similar rather than greymouth, myself. and then you could do the SH7 route back to Blenheim, stopping at Hanmer for a swim, or if you have time, go up through the Buller Gorge (beautiful, SH6), and maybe spend a night around Nelson before going back to Blenheim?
Oct 22, 2012 4:32 PM
3I wondered about just day-tripping to Kaikoura as I see it's quite close to Blenheim. The main reason to overnight out of Blenheim would be to shorten the trip to Mt Cook as you've pointed out. Maybe a long day-trip to both Kaikoura & Hanmer (the idea of soaking in a hot springs is very appealing to me), back to Blenheim then set out along the west coast and do the trip in the opposite direction would make more sense? Coming back from Mt. Cook to Blenheim would be a crazy long drive, but as I understand it the roads along the east coast are much easier and quicker, and we wouldn't necessary need to stop other than to refuel the car and ourselves, and stretch our legs.
My friends did mention the possibility of flying out of Christchurch to Sydney, which would make the above scenario more feasible. They'd have to leave their car at the airport and I guess it's a bit pricey to do that. In the US, there are lots of car parks near but not at the airport with shuttle buses to the airport, which cost a lot less to leave a car for a few days. Are you aware of anything like that in Chch?
As for Nelson, maybe I can add that into the beginning of my itinerary before the actual road trip starts. My friends say it's only a few hours drive so we could possibly day trip there from their house. I could probably just go on my own, let them get in a few more days' work before they take their holiday time.
Thanks for the feedback!
Oct 22, 2012 4:41 PM
4Just google "christchurch airport parking" and you'll come up with lots of options. I recommend finding an indoor option because there always seem to be lots of birds around airports. I think it would be cheaper all round to fly out of Christchurch to Sydney anyway even if you're paying for parking.
Buller Gorge is a great drive.
Oct 22, 2012 4:43 PM
5It doesn't matter which way you do it, you still have that long drive from Mt Cook to Blenheim, whether you do it at the start or the end.
nelson is also a possible day trip, yes, although there's a lot to see just a bit further on from nelson (really nice coastline, small towns etc) that you could easily fit in if you spent a night. But maybe you could do an overnighter there yourself before you go away with your friends - I imagine they must have spent time around Nelson.
I don't think it would be that expensive to leave the car at Chch airport. they seem to have the same system as Auckland airport, which I've used often, where you park your car in a large lot, and there are vans that do regular runs to & from the airport. A quick google found airportparkingchristchurch.co.nz for example. In Auckland, I'd usually pay around $5 a day for parking like that.
It would certainly make a lot more sense than driving Blenheim from/to Mt Cook.
Oct 22, 2012 5:20 PM
6Thank you both for your input and suggestions.
I'm thinking make the Kaikoura +/- Hanmer a day trip. Start the road trip heading west and stay over in Nelson (my friend is originally from there) and do everything backwards. That would make the Arthur's Pass to Mt. Cook leg the only "marathon" drive if we fly out of Chch..
I will reopen the discussion of flying out of Chch. Maybe if I insist on paying the parking fee (because I know they will refuse if I just offer) it will be that much more appealing to them. I'm sure they're not all that keen to drive Mt. Cook to Blenheim in one shot.
Just did a quickie research on Buller Gorge area. How did I miss that before???
Oct 22, 2012 5:33 PM
7Just did a quickie research on Buller Gorge area. How did I miss that before???
dunno! it's beautiful - especially if the rata are out in flower, and (strangely) especially if it's misty or raining lightly. Luckily, that's not unusual weather for that area ;-)
ETA I'd think carefully on the idea of Blenheim - Kaikoura - Hanmer - Blenheim... that's sounding like nearly five hours driving in a day to me. have a look at wises.co.nz - it's a good site for realistic travel times. NZ roads can be very slow.
Oct 22, 2012 8:44 PM
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