New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand Planning Part III

For many travelers, Australia and New Zealand are dream destinations.  Filled with endless beauty, culture, and adventure, it is no surprise that Australia and New Zealand are featured so prominently in travel documentaries, magazines, and television shows.  They have been destinations on my bucket list for quite some time and I am beyond thrilled to be able to be checking them off this year.

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In my first two articles on my travel planning for our Australia and New Zealand Trip, I discussed the first steps in planning this trip.  In the first article, I discussed how we decided when the best time to visit would be, and which locations should be on the top of our list to visit.  Using this information, I was able to take the trip planning process a step further in the next article on my trip planning process.

In the second article, I took the rough itinerary that I had developed and started to fill in the details for the Australian portion of our trip.  I laid out where we would be visiting, how long we would be staying, how we would get around, and what we would be seeing and doing.  If you would like to review these articles, I have linked to them below.

In this article, I will be taking that same rough itinerary and filling in the details for the New Zealand portion of our trip.  I will be discussing which island we will be visiting and why, how we plan to get around, what we are planning to see, and which tours we are planning to book for this portion of our trip.

Travel-Pic Australia and New Zealand Travel Planning Part 1
Travel-Pic Australia and New Zealand Planning Part II

Flying from Australia to New Zealand

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After we are done touring Melbourne in Australia, we will be catching a flight to Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island that Wednesday morning.  It is an early flight so we will have to get up and head to the airport quite early.  On the plus side, that means we will get to Christchurch in the early afternoon and will have a majority of that day to start exploring New Zealand.

Melbourne to Christchurch Map.png

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We chose New Zealand’s South Island based on a lot of the feedback that we got from people we talked to and the fact that it lines up with our interests more than the North Island does.  Both islands are beautiful, but the South Island has the landscapes and adventures that we are really looking forward to.  If we had more time to spend in New Zealand, we would have loved to fully explore both islands.  Unfortunately, we are limited to just 10 days in New Zealand on this trip so we will have to save the North Island for another time.

New Zealand South Island Itinerary

Because we only have 10 days to explore the South Island of New Zealand, we are going to have to make the most of our time on the island.  For an overview of our itinerary in New Zealand, please refer to the map I included below.  Essentially, we are going to make a big loop from Christchurch, down to Te Anau and then back up the coast before heading back to Christchurch.

New Zealand Itinerary Map

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Christchurch (Day 1)
Lake Tekapo (Day 1)
Mount Cook (Day 2)
Queenstown (Days 3-5)
Te Anau (Days 5-7)
Wanaka (Days 7-9)
Fox Glacier (Days 9-10)
Arthur’s Pass (Day 10)
Christchurch (Day 10)

To assist in figuring out the logistics of our trip on New Zealand’s South Island, I created a time chart to map out our flights, drive times, sight-seeing time, and tours.  This made it much easier for me to conceptualize how much time we would have each day.  I like to do this for all of my trips so that I make sure I am planning enough time at each stop.  I have included my time chart for our time in New Zealand below for you to review, as well as a link to my time chart in Excel if you would like to download it so that you can use this idea for trips of your own.

New Zealand South Island Trip Itinerary Time Planning Chart

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New Zealand South Island Time Planning Chart

NOTE:  The flight times I have listed in the chart are a little misleading as the flight from Melbourne to Christchurch is actually only 3 hours, but we lose 2 hours due to the time change.  I also made the bar for the flight from Christchurch to Sydney a little bigger so that I could fit the text in the box for this exercise.  That flight is also 3 hours long.

Day 1 – Drive from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

After landing in Christchurch in the early afternoon, we will be renting a car at the airport and then heading to Lake Tekapo.  It will be mid-Spring when we arrive so there may be a chance of snow when we visit.  For this reason, we have reserved an SUV from the car rental agency.  It is a roughly three-hour drive to Lake Tekapo, so we should get there by late afternoon.  That will give us the rest of the day to explore Lake Tekapo and the surrounding area.

Christchurch to Lake Tekapo Map.png

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Things We Want to See and Do

When we are in the Lake Tekapo area, there are a number of things that we would like to see and do, which I have listed below.

  • Visit the Church of the Good Shepard and the bridge over Scott Pond
  • Soak in the Hot Pools at Tekapo Springs
Travel-Pic Tekapo Star Gazing

Day 2 – Visit Mount Cook National Park

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The next full day we have reserved for exploring Mount Cook National Park.  It is roughly a two-hour drive from Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook village.  The plan will be to get up bright and early so that we have a full day in the park.

Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook Map.png

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Things We Want to See and Do

When we are in the Mount Cook area, there are a number of things that we would like to see and do, which I have listed below.

  • Hike the Hooker Valley Track, which is roughly 7 miles round-trip
  • Hike the short climb up to the Tasman Glacier Viewpoint
  • Stop at Peter’s Lookout for a view of Lake Pukaki and the mountains
  • Hike to Mueller Hut, which is roughly 6.5 miles round-trip
  • Photograph Mount Cook with reflection from HERE and HERE
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Map of Mount Cook National Park.  Source: www.doc.govt.nz

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Day 3 – Drive from Mount Cook to Queenstown

On the morning of Day three, we will get up early and continue to venture South.  Our next stop on the itinerary is the city of Queenstown, where we will spend a few days exploring.  It will take us roughly 3-hours and 15-minutes to drive from Mount Cook to Queenstown so we will want to make sure we get up early and hit the road.

Mount Cook to Queenstown Map.png

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Days 3 thru 5 – Explore the Queenstown Area

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Queenstown is a place that we are incredibly excited to visit.  In addition to being located in a stunningly beautiful area, it is also known as the adventure capital of New Zealand.  We will undoubtedly take a few adventure tours while we are in the Queenstown area.

Things We Want to See and Do

When we are in the Queenstown area, there are a number of things that we would like to see and do, which I have listed below.

In addition, below are some tours that we are considering while we are in Queenstown.

Travel-Pic Skydive Queenstown
Travel-Pic Shotover River Extreme Jet Boat Ride from Queenstown
Travel-Pic Queenstown Skyline Gondola and Luge
Travel-Pic Queenstown Shotover River White Water Rafting
Travel-Pic Queenstown Zipline Tour
Travel-Pic Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown
Travel-Pic Skippers Canyon 4WD Tour from Queenstown
Travel-Pic Coronet Peak Tandem Paragliding and Hang Gliding Combo
Travel-Pic Queenstown Skyline Gondola and Restaurant

Day 5 – Drive From Queenstown to Te Anau

On the morning of Day 5, we will make the short 2-hour drive from Queenstown to Te Anau.  We will want to take our time on this drive as the views are supposed to be absolutely breathtaking.

Queenstown to Te Anau Map

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Days 5 thru 7 – Explore Fiordland National Park

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Te Anau and the adjacent Fiordland National Park is another area that I am extremely excited to visit.  With the mountains stretching out into the sea, the area is absolutely breathtaking.  We are going to spend a few days in the area exploring and taking a tour of Milford Sound.

Things We Want to See and Do

When we are in the Te Anau and Fiordland National Park area, there are a number of things that we would like to see and do, which I have listed below.

In addition, below are some tours that we are considering while we are in Te Anau.

Travel-Pic Full-Day Milford Sound Hiking Tour with Cruise
Travel-Pic Milford Sound Kayaking Day Tour
Travel-Pic Te Anau Glow Worm Caves Tour
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Fiordland National Park Map.  Source:  www.fiordland.org.nz

Day 7 – Drive from Te Anau to Wanaka

On Day 7 we will get up early again and begin heading back up North.  We will head back thru Queenstown and then just North of it to the town of Wanaka.  Getting up early will allow us to have most of the rest of the day to explore the Wanaka area.

Te Anau to Wanaka Map.png

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Days 7 thru 9 – Explore the Wanaka Area

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Wanaka is another area that a lot of people recommended that we visit when on New Zealand’s South Island.  There are some absolutely breathtaking hikes that you can take in the area and a lot of really cool tours that are available.

Things We Want to See and Do

When we are in the Wanaka area, there are a number of things that we would like to see and do, which I have listed below.

NOTE:  I wanted to possibly do the Roy’s Peak track, but it is closed each year from October 1st until November 10th for the lambing season.

In addition, below are some tours that we are considering while we are in Wanaka.

Travel-Pic Half-Day Mount Aspiring National Park Jet Boat and Wilderness Walk from Wanaka
Travel-Pic Wine Tour with Wine Tasting from Wanaka
Travel-Pic Wanaka 4×4 Explorer Tour
Travel-Pic Skydive Southern Alps Tandem Skydive
Travel-Pic Half-Day Kayak Tour on Lake Wanaka
Travel-Pic Cardrona Valley Mountain Quad Experience from Wanaka
Travel-Pic Cardrona Gondola Sightseeing Pass
Travel-Pic Half-Day Paddle Board Tour on Lake Wanaka
Travel-Pic Rob Roy Glacier Track Guided Hike

Day 9 – Drive from Wanaka to Fox Glacier

On the morning of Day 9, we will make one of the longer drives of the trip as we head further North towards Fox Glacier.  The final stretch of the drive will be along the coast, which is supposed to be absolutely beautiful.  Again, we will want to make sure we get started early so that we have much of the day left to explore when we get there.

Wanaka to Fox Glacier Map.png

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Day 9 – Explore the Fox Glacier Area

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I have seen many glaciers in my lifetime, but I have yet to walk on one.  When we visit Fox Glacier, we may get the chance to do just that.  There are also some stunningly beautiful hikes to take in the area, which we are excited about.

Things We Want to See and Do

When we are in the Fox Glacier area, there are a number of things that we would like to see and do, which I have listed below.

In addition, below are some tours that we are considering while we are in the Fox Glacier area.

Travel-Pic Heli Hike Fox Glacier

Day 10 – Drive from Fox Glacier to Arthur’s Pass

On Day 10, we will continue heading North along the coast before turning back East towards Christchurch.  We will stop along the way to explore Arthur’s Pass, which is supposed to be absolutely breathtaking.  We will need to get up really early so that we have enough time at Arthur’s Pass.

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Days 10 – Explore Arthur’s Pass

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The Arthur’s Pass area is supposed to be absolutely beautiful and we cannot wait to explore it.  There are some very scenic hikes to take in the area and some pull-outs with some amazing vistas that we will want to check out.

Things We Want to See and Do

When we are in the Arthur’s Pass area, there are a number of things that we would like to see and do, which I have listed below.

Day 10 – Drive from Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch

On the afternoon of Day 10, we will complete the final leg of our road trip as we make the 2-hour drive from Arthur’s Pass back to Christchurch.

Aurthur's Pass to Christchurch Map.png

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Flying Back to Australia

That evening we have a 3-hour flight to catch from Christchurch back to Sydney, Australia where we will wrap up our trip.  The nice part about the flight is that we will be gaining back two hours so we will arrive in Australia with still some daylight available.  The next morning we will catch a flight back to the United States so it will be nice to have the evening to get settled and repack our suitcases.

Christchurch to Sydney Map.png

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7 replies »

  1. Couple of thoughts: First, you have a lot of tough choices ahead of you. So much to see and do! Second, I think you’re going to need a vacation after you get back from this vacation. 🙂 (And the husband thinks I pack a lot in.) Whew! Great post.

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