We'll be touring around the South Island of New Zealand for about two weeks over Christmas this year. I'll have my 4x5, and I would welcome suggestions for good locations and landscapes and interesting terrain. (My daughter would also welcome any Lord of the Rings references!)
David, it's hard to go wrong being anywhere in the south Island! :)
I've only been a few times and it's always jaw dropping. One of the most incredible things I've seen in my life was the pebble beach at Kiakora. Billions of pebbles, gorgeous water, and a giant mountain going right into the sea. I'd definitely check that out. AlsoMilford Sounds. There are a few kiwis in here that should be able to give you better advice. If you make it up to Auckland look me up.
There is a wide variety of landsapes down in the South Island, from near desert to rain forest. If your daughter is looking for LOTR scenery, then try Glenorchy, near Queenstown. Some was shot there, a lot was shot around Wellington at the bottom of the North Island (where I am, love to meet if you are in this part of the country). How flexabile is your schedue? Are you renting a car/van and driving?
Thanks for your replies. We are renting a car and our schedule is;
Te Anau - 3 nights
Wanaka - 2 nights
Fox Glacier - 3 nights
Arthur's Pass - 2 nights
Any further suggestions welcome. We are thinking of booking a helicopter flight over the Fox Glacier and Mount Cook area - is this worth it? We have had to cut out Kaikoura, as getting the flights organised was tricky. It would be great to touch base with fellow LF'ers!
If you are staying two nights at Arthurs, how about driving down to Greymouth and the West Coast (about 1.5 hours from Arthurs Pass)?
I am the Director at the Art Gallery in Greymouth (Left Bank Art Gallery), and would love to say "Hi".
You certainly won't be dissapointed with the landscape of the West Coast's rugged coastline (very dramatic on the right day) - and a trip out to Punakaiki (poon-a-ki-ke) is also certainly worthwhile.
The flight over Mount Cook and the Galciers is certainly a 'must do' - again on the right day.
I agree with the earlier posting to your question - with New Zealand's South Island you can't really go wrong!
Let me know when you are going to be in the area?
Driving in NZ is easy, you can average between 45 and 55 mph (less photo stops) in the South Island. There are less than 4 million people here, and about 60 - 70% live in the top half of the North Island. So you should have a good opurtunity to look around.
Definately go see Wayne, I will next time I am on the Coast.
And Wayne, my grandfather used to own the Australasian Hotel in Greymouth.
And if you are anywhere near Wellington, let me know.
The South Island is spectacular. Personally, I prefer the west coast to the east coast, the former being more rugged with sensational rainforests. There is much to see north as well as south of Fox Glacier. If you are looking for an interersting place to stay, I highly recommend Dr. G. McSweeney's lodges at Lake Moereki and Mount Cook (http://www.wildernesslodge.co.nz/) . They are expensive, but worth every penny. I stayed at Lake Moeraki, which was an amazing experience, especially trekking through the rainforest to the Pacific Ocean to watch the world's rarest penguins. If you change your mind about Kaikourra, there is a convent nearby that has been turned into a small hotel. The owners, a New Zealander and his French wife, are terrific people. An evening at the hotel is a pleasure, and quite reasonable.
I note that you will be going to Wanaka. It's in Central Otago, where there are some very good winemakers, some of them doing interesting things with Pinot Noir.
Driving is an interesting experience. The terrain is rugged and almost all of the roadways are two lanes. Every once in awhile, there is a third lane for a short period to facilitate passing. Truck drivers are very good about slowing down at these three lane sections to let cars pass. Bridges are one lane and there is a right of way system. The bridges are for both trains and cars, meaning that when you cross a bridge, you drive over the tracks. You will certainly find that your driving skills are put to the test.
One comment about Milford Sound. If I had it to do over again, I would give it a miss. It is jammed with tourists and not really that big a deal. There are more interesting places. I might think otherwise if I was going to hike in the area.
Also, consider Stewart Island if you are a naturalist.
Regarding your daughter's interest, my understanding is that Lord of the Rings was shot mostly on the east coast some distance from your apparent itinerary. I can see why the film-makers would do it on the east coast - there is much less rain there. Bring a good raincoat. You'll need it (see the word "rainforest" above).
It's a marvelous country, with marvelous people. You'll have a great time.