How To Spend 10 Days in New Zealand
We spent 10, incredible days in the South Island of New Zealand. I truly do not believe I will ever find a more beautiful place on Earth. Have you booked a vacation for 2017? If not, consider traveling to New Zealand!
How to plan your ITINERARY
One of the most challenging parts of planning any trip is deciding how you will spend your time once you get there. How do you determine how to spend 10 precious vacation days when it would take months to see the entire country? The first piece of advice I came across is that if you have two weeks or less, choose one of the islands -- North or South. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. There is no way to cover both islands in 10 days, so just pick one!
I spent hours and hours reading every piece of information I could find online before deciding on our itinerary. From my research, the following itinenary covers the highlights of the South Island, with the exception of Kaikora. Interestingly enough, there was a major earthquake a few days before our arrival near Kaikora, which would have made traveling to the region impossible.
Day 1: Arrival in Christchurch. Most international flights to the South Island arrive to Christchurch. Drive to Lake Tekapo.
Day 2: Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Hooker Valley Track, Mt. Cook
Day 3: Queenstown
Day 4: Queenstown, Milford Sound
Day 5: Queenstown, Glenorchy, Arrowtown
Day 6: Drive up west coast to Franz Josef with stop in Wanaka
Day 7: Franz Josef Glacier
Day 8: Drive north to Kaiteriteri/ Abel Tasman Sea
Day 9: Kaiteriteri, drive to Blenheim
Day 10: Blenheim, drive to Christchurch
Day 11: Departure to USA
The only way to see the South Island is to drive. Many of the well-known places are not accessible via commercial airline. It was an intense schedule and we packed as much as we could into 10 days. The roads in New Zealand are safe and well-maintained. However, the South Island is very mountainous, and we found that it always took more time than our GPS predicated to travel from point A to point B. We rented a very small, vehicle with a manual transmission because it was the cheapest option. While the car served us well for our 1,500 mile road trip, next time we would rent a larger, automatic vehicle. I'd say this is especially important if you travel during the winter months. I can't imagine driving on some of the roads we traveled on in the snow or ice. Another very popular mode of transportation in New Zealand is the camper van! If you are adventurous and on a budget, you might explore this option. Don't forget to get your international driver's license in advance of your trip!
We traveled in late November, so it was the late Spring in New Zealand. The weather was great - ranging from the 30's to low 70's. Our Australian friends told us that one of the reasons New Zealand is so beautiful is because it rains all the time. We found this to be true and many of the activities in New Zealand are weather dependent, so keep this in mind (be flexible!) and pack layers. I think it would be lovely to travel to New Zealand in the summer months (December to February).
My primary source for information on accommodations is Trip Advisor. We stayed almost exclusively at bed and breakfasts. There simply aren't large hotel chains in the South Island, except in Christchurch and Queenstown. We had good experiences at each stop, which I'll review in more detail in future posts. Given that many of the towns are small and have limited accommodations, it's important to book your accommodations several months in advance. I set a budget of $150-200 a night and found it feasible to stay within that range, but it was definitely on the lower to mid-range of options.
During the month of January, we will recap each stop in New Zealand. If you have any questions regarding planning a trip to New Zealand, let us know!