Queenstown Itinerary 8 Nights (Run out of idea). Help

Hi all. Need help to finalise our itinerary so that we can book all accommodation this week.

We fly Mid January 2019. I have 2 teens (14 and 12). We are not interested with adrenaline activities. Basically we want to have fun together within our budget. Thanks in advance

1 - Landing 3.30pm - Pick up hired car - Queenstown 1 night - wandering around
2 - Millford Sound - Stay at Te Anau 2 nights
3 - Te Anau - What to do, Where to go?
4 - Lake Tekapo - Stay at Wanaka 2 nights
5 - Mt Cooks
6 - Fox Glacier (stop by, look around) and Franz Josef and - Stay at Franz Josef 1 night (is it enough? )
7 - Wanaka - Stay 2 nights - What to do, Where to go?
8 - Wanaka - What to do, Where to go?
9 - Drive to Queenstown - Drop the hired car - Leave 4pm

A. Milford Sound - Should we join a tour from Te Anau or self-guided?
B. Lake Tekapo - Is there a mud bath / hot spring here or somewhere?


  • You can drive to Milford Sound from Te Anau. I'd put 2 days here rather than Wanaka.

    • Thanks @greenpssum. Yes, I already put 2 nights for Te Anau. Is day cruise is necessary?

      • +1

        You will only see the boat landing and not the cliffs and waterfalls if you don't take a cruise.

  • Ask your fourteen and twelveteen year old to do some research of what they want to do.

    When you're in a new place, sometimes it's fun just to explore.

    • Actually my son would like to try TranzAlpine. There is a train station in Franz Josef. But I feel it is not good idea to go to Christ Church

  • I posted simalar question in choice.


    • Thanks @dasher86 for sharing your post. A lot of information there.

  • I’d recommend more time in either Queenstown or wanaka rather than Te Anau.
    Even if you are not interested in Adrenalin activities there are many more sightseeing opportunities and things to do around both of these.
    You can still do a day trip to Milford sound (though I’d recommend doubtful sound instead) as well as arrow town, blue pools or Glenorchy as just a few examples.

    You’ll really want to do a boat tour on either of these to get the full experience. You can join these out of te anau or Queenstown.
    Te anau is pretty but there isn’t a huge amount to do apart from being a jumping off point for boat tours. The national park is quite nice to visit but it’s not really worth 2 nights.

    Franz Josef is amazing but it is a long drive from Queenstown and to get the full experience you’ll want to do a heli tour which can be pricy. A single night there is usually enough but depends on what you want to get out of the experience.

    Wanaka is a beautiful place to just relax. Boat tours and mountain biking around the lake or up in the ski hills is a great way to spend a day or 2.

    Dunedin is also a beautiful city to visit if you haven’t considered it. Lots of great museums, historical sightseeing and culturE.

    For 9 days based out of QT I’d recommend something along the lines of:

    Nights 1 and 2 -Queenstown - sightseeing and local exploring
    Day 3 - drive to Franz Josef stopping at blue pools and fox glacier on the way
    Night 3 - Franz Josef
    Day 4 - morning sightseeing at Franz Josef - heli tour? , afternoon drive to mt cook.
    Night 4 - mt cook.
    Day 5 - mt cook sightseeing then drive to wanaka.
    Night 5 + 6 - wanaka
    Day 6 - wanaka sightseeing.
    Day 7 - wanaka sightseeing then drive back to Queenstown.
    Night 7-8 Queenstown
    Day 8 - doubtful/Milford sound.
    Day 9 - head home.

    • Thanks so much @krenske

      I would like to avoid Queenstown because accommodation quite pricey there.

      Queenstown to Franz Josef is quite far, isn't it? That why I stay at Wanaka first then continue next day to Franz Josef

      Is there road from Franz Josef to Mt. Cook? I thought we need to drive back to Wanaka.

      Btw. Should we skip Lake Takepo?

      • unfortunately Queenstown can be a bit more expensive but there is a lot to do there. You can still find some really good deals it just takes about more research. Basically it’s more expensive but worth it. If you don’t mind being a bit out of town I think there’s usually a few cheaper places in arrowtown.

        Mt Cook is a long way from pretty much everywhere. It’s all about how much you want to go there.. it’s not excessively far from Wanaka but to have it as a waypoint you are looking at going there adding 6-10 hours of driving to your trip.
        Lake tekapo is nice and not too far from wanaka so if you think you could do that and my cook return in a long day trip from Wanaka it might be worth it for you still.

        • I'd agree with krenske… QT is expensive, but there's a reason for that. The surrounding towns tend to only have 1-2 major attractions and usually not worth spending more than a night.

          I wouldn't stay at Te Anau for 2 nights… there's not much to do in the town itself. I've done the Milford Sound cruise as a day trip out of QT. You do need to plan your drive to arrive in time for the cruise.

          Watch out for interesting stops as you drive:
          Fruit shop near Cromwell
          Salmon farm near Twizel (along the road to Lake Tekapo)
          Cardrona hotel on the road between QT and Wanaka
          Lots of vineyards in the Central Otago region (around Cromwell)

          Are you interested in hiking/tramping? There are tons of trails of varying length and difficulty around most towns in the area. The Milford and Routeburn trails are the most famous, but you need several days to complete them.

          Finally, be careful when driving… black ice on the road is common at this time of year, and most roads are single lane and twisty. Some roads will require you to have/hire snow chains… they are reasonably easy to out on your tires, but are a bit of a pain when you're freezing your butt off.

        • @onevstheworld:

          Thanks for the tips. We will visit QT in January. I hope no snow on the road. Will it hot over there? I check couple of Motels and they don't have A/C.

          Which area has twisty and dangerous roads, on the way to Franz Josef?

          Is all the road sealed with a lot of signs? I try to avoid driving after dusk. I have been driving for 20 years. But of course, nervous with the new area.

          Should I hired GPS from Jucy or buy NZ Sim Card and use Google Map? And is 1.6 to 1.8 litre car good enough?

          I will post my updated Itinerary soon.

        • We found reasonable accommodation at Lake Tekapo, so will stay 1 night there and drive to Mt. Cook then back to Wanaka again.

          Any tip for activities and best spots to see/explore Lake Tekapo and Mt. Cook?

        • Queenstown only 1 night? wow it is so beautiful, the best place in your entire itinerary and so much to see and do. Would probably only stay 1 night in Wanaka and drive back to queenstown in afternoon.

          Arrowtown and the rd to Glenorchy is the most scenic route in all of NZ which is a big call as NZ is crazy beautiful.

          Can do day trip to Milford Sound. It’s like 6hrs drive each way. If driving spend 1 night in Te Anau to break up the drive. Because it was so far and we were heading on to Dunedin it was an ok detour but if 1 day trip prob take a tour… it’s really far. It’s not that great either. The cruise was relaxing. I guess when you compare the rest of NZ scrnery then not that impressive anymore for the distance. There is not much in Te Anau. 1 night is enough.

          You can walk to glacier at Mt Cook too. Fox and Mt Cook very similar experiences. The only good thing abt going to both is higher chance of helicopter for hlacier exploring… if cant in mt cook then another chance in Fox. I have been to both a few times and everytime its bad weather. So so unlucky!

        • @sal78: Thanks for the tips.

          I add extra night at Queenstown to explore Arrowtown and the rd to Glenorchy - please see my latest post.

          Do you mean the cruise around Milford sound is not great?

          I don't have plan for Heliwalk. How far and how long do we have to hike/walk at Mt Cook or Fox or Franz to see glacier or at least nice view? Is there other activity other than heliWalk?

          Thanks again

        • @Smaland:

          I think because of the long drive I got car sick and the day we went out on cruise was quite misty. I just remembered it being very far.

          There are plenty if scenic walks at both Fox and Mt Cook. I think if u want to walk to glacier at fox you may need a guided walk. Mt cook is all free. It’s a must.. lots of swing bridges. Very beautiful.

  • @Smaland:
    January should be fine… because it is an alpine climate, frost and black ice may still form overnight, but should melt quickly when the sun rises. The road between Te Anau and Milford sound is the only one I know where snow chains are mandatory, but that's only during winter. I've lived in the South Island for several years… summer temperatures usually top out in the low 20's… anything above 16 was shorts and jandals weather… so A/C is not mandatory.

    Most roads are sealed and well sign posted. I not been to the West coast for 20+ years, but I recall the roads at the time were all single lane (bridges were shared between cars and trains) but sealed. Twisty but not scary as long as you drive sensibly. Arthur's pass was a true heart stopper, but I believe they have since built a bypass that avoids the scariest parts.

    Google maps is mostly good… I've used it in the Central Otago and Southland regions, but I think mobile reception is still unreliable in some remote areas. I recall loosing signal on the road to Milford Sound. Telecom NZ (now called Spark) had the best coverage… their website should be able to show you where the black spots are. The arterial roads aren't complicated, so a paper map is adequate. Whether you want a GPS to cover all bases is up to you. A 1.6/1.8L car is fine, although something more powerful may be useful… there are many, many camper vans around in summer, and being stuck behind someone too timid to overtake one can be very frustrating (my personal "best" was overtaking 4 vehicles in a single move… I was much more impatient in my youth)

    • @onevstheworld: Thanks for the tips about roads and weather.

      Is NZ road rules similar with Australia? By the way, are we allowed to stop on the side of the road to admire the view, take picture or quick break?

      • Similar rules. There was the infamous left hand turn rule, but it looks like someone with sense has changed it to be more similar to everywhere else in the world.

        I'm not aware of stopping restrictions. Most arterial roads in South Island are more like large country roads rather than motorways, so there's usually a good amount of space to stop. Some mountain roads are quite narrow though, so stopping there may not be the safest thing to do.

  • Hi all

    I have updated my itinerary. Please let me know if it does not make sense. Thanks in advance.

    19 1 - Landing 3.30pm - Pick up car - Queenstown 2 nights - wandering around, dinner
    20 2 - Explore Queenstown, Glenorcy, Arrowtown if time allows
    21 3 - Drive to Lake Tekapo - Stay 1 night at Lake Tekapo
    22 4 - Drive to Mt Cook. Drive to Wanaka at 4pm - Stay 1 night at Wanaka
    23 5 - Drive to Fox Glacier (walk to platform, drive to Lake) - Continue to Franz Josef - Stay 1 night at Franz Josef
    24 6 - Wall to Franz Josef platform - Mid day drive back to Wanaka - Stay 1 night at Wanaka
    25 7 - Exxplore Wanaka - Mid day Drive to Te Anau. Drop by Queenstown.if time allows - Stay 2 nights at Te Anau
    26 8 - Join Millford Sound day tour cruise in the morning - Explore Te Anau if time allows
    27 9 - Drive to Queenstown Mid day - Drop the car - Fly out 4pm

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