I do the New Zealand Travel 24/7-365 days a year now for four years................here is my suggestion!
from Picton take Route One south heading for Kaikoura it is a 2 1/2 hour drive. You will go through NZ’s top wine country at Blenhiem. A drive through will be interesting. Go to the Whalewatch and check in to see what’s happening. I would say an afternoon ride or the 7:30am ride best in the morning. 98% chance to see whales guaranteed with an 80% money return if not.(www.whalewatch.co.nz ).
Now here is an interesting ride if you got time. Northof Kaikoura I suggest you go along the coast until you see a small sign on the right marking Ohah Falls.
Nice short walk to the falls and certain times of the year their will be young seals in the pool.
Continue along the road where the pull offs occur stop and have a close look at all the fur seals everywhere on the rocks some quite close.
Kaikoura is a small community that is easy to walk around the central area but I recommend taking the drive through town for a look. Several good cafes, restaurants and galleries.
Now we drive south on Route one to the turnoff to Hanmer Springs along the Leader River to route 70 to route 7 and turn right to the turnoff to Hanmer. (1 1/2 hour drive)Great place to stop and enjoy the top hot springs in the country and spend the night. (www.hanmersprings.co.nz). Good restaurants here.
day 3 -
From Hanmer Springs we take route 7 west on one of the most beautiful drives in
the county, Lewis Pass. The road cuts through Lake Sumner Forest, Victoria Forest and the Lewis Pass National Reserve and along the Inangahua River to Blacks Point and Reefton. Be sure to stop at the Information Site as it is most interesting plus if you want to enjoy some short walks this is a great place. maps at the Centre.
From Reefton take route 69 north to route 6 at Inangahua Junction turning right along the Buller River. Stay on route 6 south now down the West Coast of the South Island. After Charleston the coastal scenery becomes magic. Be sure to stop at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. from here we drive on to Hokitika where we stay the night. (driving time Hanmer to Hokitika - 4 hours). I recommend the Shining Star Resort(www.shiningstar.co.nz ) just as you enter town right on route 6.
day 4/5 -
Be sure to have a walk around Hokitika as it is the top town for the best in quality artists and craftspeople in the South Island especially the greenstone and other jewellery. A very pleasant town. Now we are off to Franz Josef and the Glacier Country (www.glaciercountry.co.nz ).(driving time is 2 hours-10min) Here is where you can enjoy a helicopter ride to the top of the glacier or a walk. You also can walk to the base of both Franz Josef and Fox Glacier from close car parks south of both towns.
Fox Glacier is 23 kms south of Franz Josef. Two days here to see it all. On the north end of Fox Glacier take the Cooks Flat Road to the right and take a walk around one of the picture post card lakes, Lake Matheson. Fantastic!
From Franz Josef continue south on route six to the end of the West Coast at Haast.
Continue up the Haast River Valley and through the Mount Aspiring National Park. be sure to stop and take the short walk to see Thunder Falls and just beyond stop and see the Gates of Haast bridge before heading up the mountain to Haast Pass. From here the road passes by Lake Wanaka on the right and then Lake Hawea on the right before coming to Wanaka a short drive from route 6 on route 84. Stay the night. (driving time - 5 hours)
day 7 -
Now a beautiful drive to Queenstown. Back to route six and then through the Kawarau Gorge the wine country of this area (Gibbston Valley Winery) and stop to see them jump off the bridge at the original bungy jump area. From there not too far down the road turn right to Arrowtown, an old gold mining town of great beauty and interesting to stop and have a walk around. Check out the old Chinese Village down by the Arrow River in back of the town. Now on to Queenstown for the night or here in Arrowtown.
( driving time - 1 1/2 hours).
day 8 -
A day in Queenstown. Lots to see and do. Amsfield Winery Restaurant is the best (www.queenstown.co.nz ).
day 9/10 -
Off to Te Anau and Milford Sound (www.fiordland.co.nz) Book your trip for either the Milford Sound Cruise or the Doubtful Sound Cruise tomorrow. From Queenstown take route 6 south along Lake Wakitipu to Five Rivers (good cafe)
and take the short cut to route 94 at Mossburn and on to Te Anau.
(driving time - 2 12/ hour drive)
day 11 -
From Te Anau we drive south on route 94 toward Gore and route 1 and on to Dunedin. I recommend taking the Monarch Cruise (www.wildlfe.co.nz ) to get to really see and appreciate this area the best and see the penguins tomorrow morning. Stay in Dunedin the night. (driving time is 4 hours)
day 12 -
From Dunedin we drive north on route 1 to Oamaru. On the way after the small town of Palmerston keep a look out on the right for Shag Point. Turn in and go to the end of the road (not a known tourist spot). Here you can get up close and personal with a colony of young male fur seals safely from overlooking rocks. A special place. No hurry today since you have an appointment with little Blue Penguins tonight after dark. (www.penguins.co.nz ) At Oamaru check into the Penguin Colony to make arrangements for the evening event. Amazing to watch!
After Shag Point is the Moeraki Boulders and for one of the top award winning restaurants in the country go to Fleurs Place in the small town of Moeraki.
Stay the night in Oamaru area. (driving time is 1 1/2 hours from Dunedin)
day 13 -
From Oamaru we head north to the turnoff on route 83 inland to the Mckenzie Country that will be covered in a rainbow of coloured flowers everywhere (lupins).
At Omarama you might want to stop at the Totara Flats Gallery to see the display of Xena (tv show) costumes before moving on. It is off to Mt. Cook (www.mtcooknz.com ) staying at the Heritage tonight. (driving time - 2 hours).
Be sure to drive up Mt John to the observatory (next to Lake Tekapo) and see the little church on the lake.
day 14 -
The drive to Christchurch from here is 3 hours. You ca stop in Geraldine to see the
Work of the Maori artist, Peter J. Caley.
All in all you will have seen it all and done it all as far as the real New Zealand is concerned. You will have seen and experienced the best if you use this itinerary.
Lots here the normal visitor never knows about or is ever told.
Have a fun holiday!
If you are interested in cafes and good coffee have a look at the coffee site www.newzealandcoffeeguide.co.nz
or more travel information at www.newzealandtravelguide.net