critique my Feb./Mar. 2015 itinerary
I'm planning a 2-2.5 week visit in Feb. or early Mar. 2015, and would appreciate getting some local feedback on my planned itinerary. I'm an early 30's male and will be traveling solo mostly via rental car. Lots of tramping/scrambling experience in the major mountain ranges here in the States, but no technical work on ice/snow. Calibration: a 16km out-and-back day tramp with 600m elevation gain is "easy/moderate" for me; 25km with 1000m gain is a full day that will leave me tired and sore but smiling. No problems with altitude / hiking above 3000m. This will mostly be a tramping trip for me. On my trip I'm looking to emphasize "can't miss" tramps and "only in NZ" landscapes/seascapes and experiencing NZ culture. Not interested in cities or touristy gimmicks; wildlife is nice but not something I'd go out of my way for. Here's the current plan, day by day: 1: Fly into Queenstown. Relax and buy groceries. 2: Out and back tramp Routeburn track from the east. Hoping to start early and make Harris Saddle / Conical Hill before turning back. 3: Drive to Te Anau. Kepler track to Luxmore Hut; spend night. 4: Tramp out the way I came. Night in Te Anau. (alternative, LONG day trip to TA and spend nights 3-4 in Queenstown also) 5: Drive to Mt. Cook Village 6: Mt. Cook area -- Mueller Hut? 7: Mt. Cook area -- Hooker Valley? 8: Drive to Arthur's Pass 9: Long dayhike out of Arthur's Pass, TBD 10: Drive to St. Arnaud (Nelson Lakes) via Greymouth to see a little of the coast. 11: St. Arnaud area -- dayhike Angelus Ridge? 12: Drive to Motueka; dayhike Mt. Owen enroute 13: Kayaking in Abel Tasman 14: Kahurangi NP -- dayhike Mt. Arthur? 15: Drive to Nelson and return car, fly to Wellington, bus to Tongariro area 16: Tongariro Crossing 17: bus to Auckland, fly back to the States in the evening Lodging nights totals: Queenstown (2) Te Anau area (2) Mt. Cook Village (3) Arthur's Pass (2) St. Arnaud (2) Motueka (3) Tongariro area (2) Questions: 1) Seems like a lot of driving around and changing lodging. Anywhere worth skipping in favor of spending more time somewhere else? In particular, getting to Tongagiro seems like a pain. Is it worth it, or should I save it for next trip and just fly back to Auckland from Nelson? 2) What spots am I missing? Wanaka / Haast Pass / Mt. Aspiring NP? I'm intentionally skipping the west coast glaciers -- seems hard to do them and Mt. Cook on the same trip, and I wasn't all that impressed by the other glaciers I've seen lately (Glacier NP, USA and Jasper NP, Canada). Catlins and Kaikoura both seem too out of the way for this trip. 3) Comments on my Feb. / early March timeframe? When will typically have the best warm/sunny late summer weather on South Island? 4) Somewhere in the middle I'm going to need to buy groceries and do laundry. Mt. Cook Village, Arthur's Pass and St. Arnaud all look tiny. Any recommendations for where to take care of these errands? Ideally on Day 8, between Mt. Cook and Arthur's Pass. 5) Big picture, what am I missing / what looks silly about my plan? Thanks very much! Skyliner at the foot of the southern Sierras, California, USA
yeah feb march better than average chance of good weather, but gets bad weather any time of year. overnight at luxmore. it's worth it... go up to mt luxmore if theres good visibility... killer 360 view mt cook, depends on weather... muelller is great if the visibility is ok.. otherwise you'll be staring at the inside of a cloud.. hooker valley to the lake is only a couple of hours round trip, great walk... see ice bergs in the lake nelson lakes again depends on the weather... robert ridge very exposed.... go round the lake if its bad weather or to bushline hut or both. i dont think mt owen is really a day walk, you almost have to be a mt runner to do it in a day from the rd end i think http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/nelson-tasman/motueka/mt-owen-tracks-and-routes/ what are you missing? it's NZ... you're always missing something in NZ. hard to loose if you're doing anything new... its a good enough trip as it is... although i'd go up the eglington if you have the time, walk to key summit. if you've got a car go and do lake marion as well. or day walk to earland falls on the routeburn, people day walk up to lake mackenzie, with a lot of daylight you could get up to ocean view corner, but frankly overnighting on the routeburn is the way to go.. the falls hut and lake mackenzie are great locations. when i go down there i try and do a double routeburn, and do it in both directions. doubles your chance of getting some good weather, cause theres plenty of bad weather year round, gertrude saddle and tutoko river in good vis. ben lomond behind queenstown in good vis jet boat ride up the wilkin, you might get a walk up there to siberia while you're at it . assuming the hut has been replaced to me the northern south island isnt as good for scnery as the central and southern south island if you're going all that way down south and havent done much down there , i'd just focus on the bottom of the south go to the cinema in te anau and watch the shadowlands movie, screens just about every hour.. i've watch it every time i go to te anau and have the time, must be around half a dozen or more... take a trip over lake manapouri and or walk to the lake along the kepler. i did an overnight trip out to the end of doubtful sound , you can kayak doubtful sound too. nice and quiet. or day trip to doubtful sound green lake is a great trip to the south. honestly there are so many great trips down there. i've done the kepler five times , the routeburn eight. never get sick of the place. you can do a day walk on the milford track. kayak in milford sound, theres an early morning trip by roscoes , the quietest time to do it... and calmest weather... unbelievable
1 deleted post from kuotadriver
That's a lot of rushing around. You could stay put a little more and have a larger experience per place, as Waynowski suggested ?. Otherwise, #3 weather's generally more stable March than Jan. We've had multi-night trips rained out Jan to March in past years. Depends on what you strike this time. Schools start end of January. Universities start end of Feb. That'll help clear accommodation & people numbers. #4 Any backpackers or motor camp will have washing machines & dryers, or can direct you to a laundry (and a hot shower ?). Any town on the State Highways will have supermarkets. Ask about facilities at your next stop before you leave in the morning.
Only silly things to that itinerary is buying groceries in Queenstown but you might not have much of a choice. Add $20 per week to your grocery bill. Add another week and you could do so much more. Another month and you still wont get bored.
Thanks everyone! This is exactly the sort of feedback I was hoping for. Please keep it coming.
It makes me sad when people fly half way around the world and only spend 2 weeks here. But whatever works for you! I agree with the above in that you are trying to see too much in too short a time. Better to pick an area and focus there. If you concentrated on the Queenstown/Te Anau/Wanaka area and cut out Mt Cook/Arthurs Pass/Nelson areas then you'll be able to spend more time hiking and less driving.
Trust me Yarmoss, if I could take more vacation time off work I would! (Don't know what's common in NZ; here in the States I'm getting 15 vacation days/yr at 8 years into my career, which is typical. Take a week off Christmas-New Years, a week in the summer, and a few more days here and there and it doesn't leave many vacation days to save up for a big trip like this.) So talk me out of Mt. Cook/Arthur's Pass/Nelson Lakes/Abel Tasman, or correct my impressions. Mt. Cook looks like some spectacular high country, much more alpine than the fiordlands around the Routeburn and Te Anau. Arthur's Pass, also stunningly rugged, and right on the way to the north. Nelson Lakes area looks more tussocky above bushline, something I'm interested in experiencing. While I'm up there I can also cram in the Abel Tasman coast, and also explore the northern fiords. I've also been led to believe that the weather may be less rainy up north vs. Fiordland. Aside from all the driving getting there, what's the downside to these places?
Here everyone gets 4 weeks (20 days) and some workplaces give 5 weeks (25 days) after a number of years employment there. Sorry, my point above was to concentrate on an area. Didn't mean to single out Fiordland/Mt Aspiring. Mt Cook to AP to the Nelson area is more spread out so there's more travel involved. Mt Cook is kind of an out of the way area, it generally involves a big detour from the main tourist routes to get there if you're trying to combine it with the ends of the island. But it certainly is big mountain country if that's what you are after. Not a lot of hiking routes though if mountaineering isn't you're thing. Mt Aspiring area can be pretty dry. You're certainly coming at the right time of year, even for Fiordland. The Fiordland tops are all tussocky by the way, if you can get to them. Easiest access would be the Keplers and south from Key Summit on the Routeburn. More time intensive would be the Dusky but worth the investment. If I was to suggest an itinerary that focuses on an area it would be something like this: fly into Queenstown and then tick off the Routeburn to Harris Saddle/Conical Hill and the 3 Passes (North Routeburn, Lake Nerine, Rock Burn). Then drive to Te Anau and climb Mt Luxmoore and drive to Milford Sound and take the cruise (it's worth it even if it is touristy) and visit Lake Marion and Key Summit... camping at one of them (the tarns north of Point 1115 is a magical camp spot). Back at Te Anau Green Lake is worth 1-2 nights at, walk in and camp anywhere on a line from Mt Burns down to Green Lake saddle just north of Mt Cuthbert, then walk out again. Drive to Wanaka and head up the West Matukituki, visiting Rob Roy glacier, to Mt Aspiring hut. Next day climb Cascade Saddle and return, maybe go up French Ridge or Liverpool. Only do Liverpool if you couldn't get up Cascade. Then drive north to Makarora and go up the Wilkin to visit Lakes Lucidus and Castalia, and up the Siberia to Crucible Lake. Return to Makarora via Gillespie Pass and drive to Haast Pass and overnight at Brewster hut, visiting the glacier and summiting Mt Armstrong before descending and driving back to Wanaka. From there, depending on time you could go up to Mt Cook for a day or overnight at Mueller hut. Return to Queenstown and fly out. So: 1: Queenstown 2: Lake Wilson via Harris Saddle 3: Lake Nerine via North Col 4: Queenstown via the Rockburn and Sugarloaf Pass 5: Luxmoore hut via drive to Te Anau 6: Camp Lake Marion/Key Summit ridge via Milford Sound 7: Green Lake hut via Te Anau 8: Mt Aspiring hut via driving to Wanaka and Rob Roy glacier 9: Cascade Saddle and/or French Ridge hut 10: Top Forks hut via driving to Makarora (jet boat to Kerin Forks) 11: Kerin Forks hut via Lakes Castalia and Lucidus 12: Young Hut via Crucible Lake and Gillespie Pass 13: Brewster hut 14: Mueller hut via Mt Armstrong and driving to Mt Cook Village (maybe split this into 2 days) 15: Queenstown 16: Spare day for bad weather 17: flyout Its still a bit rushed, and you might strike 2 weeks of storms, who knows. Maybe try asking on a travel forum like Lonely Planet. I suspect they will also tell you your itinerary above involves a lot of driving.
Your not giving yourself enough travel time. The distances are short by US standards but our roads are narrow and second grade. For example, it will take you at least 6 hours to drive from Arthurs Pass to Nelson Lakes- possibily more. Probably 5-6 hours from Nelso Lakes to the Abel Tasman etc. Mt Cook to Arthurs Pass will be nearly an 8 hour trip. If you go to Arthurs Pass you could try the walk to Avalanche peak, it is rigorious day walk but has fantastic views of the whole area. It starts near the DOC visitor centre. Get some info about it, one of my favourite day trips.
From my experience the main thing I get from your itinerary is to have the ability (in your mind! ) to let go of any of it at a moment's notice! lol Any of the trips may have to be ditched because of the weather. I live at the top of the S. Island and know that Mt Arthur has a cloud cap on it very often. Not worth going up if there is a cloud cap. Mt Owen similarly, but note it definitely is not a day trip unless you are really fit. A hell of a grunt to get up there (unlike Mt Arthur which you drive up mostly (if the road is open which it often isn't these days)) and equally exhausting coming down. There are 2 tracks - take the one in the bush if it is a hot day otherwise you will fry! St Arnaud - yes a day trip up Robert Ridge (which goes along to Angelus) is great. There is a quicker round trip of 2 - 3 hours via Bushline hut if you don't have a full day available. Abel Tasman kayaking - hope you like crowds? lol By NZ standards its very crowded but you may be used to that? It is very beautiful though. Further south my favourite day trips are Gertrude Saddle on the way to Milford Sound and Mueller Hut.
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