Planning a Trip to Middle Earth

Our Jucy Condo parked along Lake Hawea

Our Jucy Condo parked along Lake Hawea

My husband and I strive to take one “big” trip a year.  The two of us, for two weeks, taking on the world.  We recently decided to focus our upcoming travels around more adventurous destinations – while we’re still relatively young and unencumbered.  After batting around a few ideas, we settled on New Zealand, and specifically, the South Island, for this year’s journey.  To make it even more interesting, we traveled around the country by campervan, staying at various “holiday parks” along the way.

In planning our itinerary, we knew we wanted to take advantage of the country’s magnificent outdoors with some extended hiking and day trips.  With only two weeks, we also wanted to use our time wisely – see as much as possible but be able to enjoy the places we visited instead of running from town to town.

We develNZ 2oped a rather compact itinerary that allowed us to hit-up most of the island’s “must-see’s/do’s” at a fairly leisurely pace.  Traveling from Christchurch, weNZ 1 went west and then down the coast through the glacier towns, before heading over to Lake Wanaka and wine country in route to Queenstown. From Queenstown, we headed north through the central region to Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo, returning to Christchurch.

Our final itinerary was as follows:

  • Day 1 – Arrive in Christchurch
  • Day 2 – Drive to Franz Josef
  • Day 3 – Hike Fox Glacier
  • Day 4 – Drive to Lake Wanaka
  • Day 5 – Lake Wanaka
  • Day 6 – Lunch in wine country / Drive to Queenstown
  • Day 7 – Depart from Queenstown for Routeburn Track
  • Day 8 – Routeburn Track
  • Day 9 – Routeburn Track
  • Day 10 – Routeburn Track / Milford Sound Cruise / Return to Queenstown
  • Day 11 – Queenstown
  • Day 12 – Drive to Mt. Cook
  • Day 13 – Drive to Lake Tekapo
  • Day 14 – Depart Lake Tekapo / Fly out from Christchurch

Our longest day of driving was five hours, and we made frequent stops and saw beautiful scenery along the way.  We traveled in late March/early April, which was early autumn in New Zealand.  While we missed the lupins, the weather was warmer than we expected and we had very little rain.

Of course, we would have loved to stay longer and see more, but by maximizing our stay in areas catering to our interests, we were able to get the most out of our trip.

How do you plan your travels when time is limited?  If you have visited the South Island, how was your trip different from/similar to ours?


8 thoughts on “Planning a Trip to Middle Earth

  1. I would have suggested to make a quick stop in Arrowtown. It’s a little historical village about 30 mins from Queenstown, absolutely delightful. Perhaps if you go back add that onto your list. Also Hanmer Springs on the South Island, but that is a bit further to the North end of it.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Kiwi! I didn’t mention Arrowtown in my post, but I actually had a spa day there at the Millbrook Resort. My husband explored the town while I was being pampered, but sadly, I didn’t get the chance to. As you said, hopefully there is always next time. 🙂

  3. I caught a glimpse of the juicy van and had to read! I hired on of those bad boys in Oz. Best way to travel about, and especially in NZ, every time you hit the road looking out of the window is beautiful. You’ll be surrounded by lakes and mountains! Hope you guys have a fantastic trip!

    • Thanks for stopping by! We actually went on the trip earlier this year, and you’re exactly right – the scenery is amazing and the campervan just added to the thrill of it all. Hope we get to do it in Aussie someday, too.

  4. Hey!
    I’m currently in the middle of planning a road trip around NZ too! We’re looking at hiring a camper van through Jucy, but we are looking at a 10 day road trip, and their minimum hire is 14 over the new year period…
    Anywho, I created this google map that lists out a few different places. Do you think this looks achievable within 10 or 11 days?
    We haven’t booked the flights yet, so if you see anything that we could give a miss, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    • Hi, Milly!
      You’re going to love it! New Zealand is such a beautiful country!
      That’s too bad about Jucy’s minimum, but I’m sure you can find another company. There are so many.
      I’m not sure what you day-by-day plan is, but your itinerary definitely looks achievable to me. The South Island is just so small you can travel quickly from place to place. Our longest day of driving was from Christchurch to Franz Josef, and while it was five hours, we stopped several times along the way and really enjoyed the scenery.
      As far as the places you’re planning to go, my only caution would be to check into the options for Franz Josef. As of late, both Franz Josef and Fox have stopped doing walking tours on the glaciers. I believe the helicopter trips are the only option for actually getting on the ice.
      Also, just a note that we absolutely loved Lake Wanaka and wished we had more time there. So I would recommend devoting some time to hang out there for a bit. 🙂
      Hope this helps and please let me know if I can answer any other questions!

      • Hey Kim,
        Thanks so much for getting back to me 🙂
        We will definitely look into Fox and Franz, hopefully they do have walking tours!!!
        I was hoping to find a good camping spot near Lake Wanaka, so I’ll keep that in mind and maybe look at staying there for longer than other places!
        Certainly does help a lot.
        I’ll be sure to let you know how we go once everything has been booked.

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