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Thread: Auckland to Queenstown:: ( and Wellington to Picton ferry with car)

  1. #1
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    Default Auckland to Queenstown:: ( and Wellington to Picton ferry with car)

    In August, I'm planning for a trip from Auckland to Queenstown in a Toyota Estima 2.4, with 5 people. Hoping to complete the trip in 10 days or so. Like to visit Rotorua, Alpine crossing, Wellington, kaikoura, Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Queenstown, and Milford Sound.

    Does anyone have experience with a road trip like the one above? Is it doable in this time?
    How is the ferry experience from Welly to Picton? Are there long queues to get in and off the ferry?
    Is it worth taking the car in a ferry ? or just fly to Christchurch and rent a car?

    I was curious to know how people usually do this. Thank you for your replies.

  2. #2
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    To do that distance in 10 days, NZ roads being what they are, you would be spending a lot of time just driving, with hardly any time spare to spend looking around any places you found pleasant. So in effect, you would be *seeing* a lot of places, but only through the car windows, not giving yourselves the chance to experience them. We did just the South Island part of what you're planning (and/but not getting as far as Milford Sound) in a week, and felt pushed for time, and that we would like to have stayed longer in several places.

    Before all that, we took the train from Auckland to Wellington, because my other half is keen on trains, stayed there a couple of days to see a bit of the capital, then took the ferry as foot passengers (pre-booked) and collected a hire car the other side for the week-long South Island trip. At the end of it, we handed in the car at Christchurch, and flew back to Auckland from there. (We were lucky with the weather, and got wonderful aerial views.)

    Rotorua and other places in central North Island (e.g. Lake Taupo, Waitomo Caves, etc.) are very much worth spending time also.

    When setting off on a road trip in NZ, it is as well to be aware that a lot of the names you see on the map aren't actually centres of population - you might think, 'I'll stop for a coffee and petrol in (whatever name it says) in 50k time,' but when you get to that place, it's actually just where the driveways of two or three properties off in the countryside come and join the public road, and there is nowhere to get provisions or fuel. It is important to check places out in advance (Google is helpful), to be sure you can refuel as necessary. In parts of the country, there is a lot of empty landscape without human settlements in, places where in an accident a car can leave the road and not be easily visible, and there aren't many passers-by either. Treat driving through these areas like you would a long walk or a boat trip - make sure that people know where you are heading, and when you expect to arrive, so that if you don't get there in a reasonable length of time, somebody will get the authorities to look for you.

  3. #3
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    Thank You JandM for the detailed info based on your experience.
    Definitely helped me to take a decision now

    I will fly from AKL to CHChurch and rent a car in CHChurch, and then would visit Queenstown, Milford Sound, Wanaka, Mt Cook, Lake Tekapo etc ( I mean visit only those places below ChChurch) . I hope 10 days should be enough for this.

    Then, in a separate road trip, I will cover Rotorua, Lake Taupo, Waitomo Caves, Alpine Crossing etc. I guess some 3 to 4 days should be enough for this trip.

    For the moment, I will exclude Welly/Picton/Nelson/Abel Tasman etc as it I'm short of time

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    Good call to be less ambitious about the number of places to visit :-) However, for an August visit, I would pause before renting a car for those particular destinations, as that will be alpine driving in winter conditions. I would find it too stressful, personally. It might be better to do the North Island destinations for your winter trip? Or else fly into Queenstown and take buses? Winter is certainly nice if you are going for snow sports, I should think. We considered doing Queenstown/Milford this month, and thought we might take a helicopter tour to Milford, as it is faster than a bus (which takes like 4 hrs each way), has a stopover on a glacier, and isn't as weather dependent as flying. We ultimately decided to postpone the trip because everything costs a LOT.

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    Thank you for the info.

    Yes in fact even the bus/coach costs a lot .. definitely higher than what I was expecting hahah

    Self drive to MF Sound would be cheaper provided we have lot of time. I read somewhere that there can be avalanche on the MF Sound road and we can get stuck etc....

    May be having a snow chain would help?

    Have you totally excluded MF Sound from your trips?

  6. #6
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    There is no doubt that the NZ tourist trail is quite expensive. Especially on the South Island.

    Regarding the drive to the Milford Sound, avalanches and washouts on that road do happen--we tried to visit 6 years ago and the road was shut as it washed out the day before. We were already staying in Te Anau so we "settled" on the Doubtful sound full day trip, which I really enjoyed. It also includes a short trip into the Manapouri hydroelectric power station, a place deep underground which has all the makings of the set of a James Bond villain's lair--pretty neat.

    For the rest of your trip, I think you can do it, and enjoy it, in 10 days. We took about 9 days out for our South Island trip when we were in NZ for Christmas in 2012 (I wanted to take more but was with a particularly homesick Kiwi who wanted to be back in Rotorua with the family.) More time is certainly better, but we only get the time we available. You will spend a decent of time in the car, but there's plenty of nice scenery to see out the window. Then again, we also did a road trip from Germany up to Helsinki and back in about 18 days, 4993km, and I thoroughly enjoyed that one, too, so I might not be the best barometer for what's reasonable.

  7. #7
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    Oh, I hadn't thought about the time of year - Juniper is quite right, and a lot of the roads we drove over would certainly be affected by snow and ice. The need for caution, even if routes weren't blocked/washed out, would considerably lengthen journey times. Have you been used to driving on snow? Anyone inexperienced is at risk, and if they get into difficulties, they also involve others who have to try to help them out.

    Seeing the mention of a helicopter trip, we did one out from Franz Josef which included a landing on the glacier. There were fantastic views and it was a wonderful experience, but you have to book, and even then, as with the whale-watching boats at Kaikoura, the whole thing is entirely weather-dependent. If it's not safe, they can't/won't go. They'll give you a credit for another time when it is safe again, but if your itinerary is of the "one morning here, move on in the afternoon" sort, you can't take advantage of that.

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    Thanks JandM.

    Sorry if my question sounds stupid:
    Mountains in South Island will be covered with ice through out the year ? or is is just during winter months?

    Do avalanche happen through out the year on the road from ChChurch to Queens town?? or just during winter?

    I have no experience in driving in snow .

  9. #9
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    The highest parts of the mountains have snow on year-round - for instance, the glaciers that you can book the tours for. But in summer, the roads are clear. However, when you drive on a road through the mountains - see the first picture with this article http://www.cycletour.org.nz/rides/so...hurs-pass.html - there are places where there are VERY steep slopes and mountain streams above the road (and that is the main road over Arthur's Pass, between the east and west coasts). That shelter is to deflect rock falls which can come down at any time, gravity taking pieces (boulders) which get loosened by being frozen and thawed each season, and the effects of water, and the sort of pipe/slide thing to the right is to deflect across the road and into the valley the waterfall formed by a mountain stream which comes to the surface further up the slope. That is a typical piece of road in or alongside the mountains (e.g. down the east coast around Kaikoura, the road and railway are on a narrow piece of flat land between the ocean and the mountains) - the authorities try to foresee where there might be difficulties to traffic because of the terrain, and protect it somehow, e.g. with netting, shelters, etc., but of course, it's not infallible, like anything to do with nature. So it's not only avalanches (snow) which can block or wipe out roads, but the movement of loosened rock, either from above, or if it causes the road itself to subside.

    The road from Christchurch to Queenstown isn't all through narrow mountain passes. It has parts which go across high grassland on plateaux between peaks. (See photos here. https://www.flyingandtravel.com/quee...y-new-zealand/) The vegetation there, noticeable in summer, is very different, particular to the place.

  10. #10
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    Off topic, but, that's a great website! Last year I took some time and did the UK end-to-end, I hope to do the same in NZ and they've got some really well organized information there!

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