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New Zealand S Island in March

My wife and I are traveling to NZ South Island in March. We ditched the camper van plan for a rental car. Lots of driving but wanted to keep total drive time down to ~3 hours so we can do small hikes, walks where we find them. Here is the itinerary:

Fly in to Queenstown (3 nights) - one day hike Routeburn
Drive down to SE Catlins, stay near Papatowai (1 night)
Drive along southern tip - Invercargill then on to Te Anau (2 nights)
One day Milford Sound cruise (coin flip between this and Doubtful Sound cruise - suggestions?)
Drive to Franz Joseph Glacier area (2 nights)
Drive up to Greymouth (1 night)
Drive to Waitara (1 night) - wine region
Drive to Christchurch (3 nights) - one day to Akaroa
Fly back home

Any suggestions on where to nook hotels/B&Bs, etc. I started looking but some were already booked - how far in advance do we need to book? Also any suggestions on itinerary and/or other things to see. Weather?

Posted by
16883 posts

We did a similar road trip on the South Island in January 2015 and loved it. We hiked the Milford Track and then the cruise on Milford Sound. I cannot compare to Doubtful Sound but we really enjoyed that cruise, thanks to the first day of sunny weather we had in the area.

Apart from Queenstown and Christchurch at the beginning and end, we followed a different path from yours, so the only lodging I can recommend is those two cities. Coronation Lodge in Queenstown was great---well-located and nicely priced. Our large corner room had a kitchen corner where we could self-cater, although we did go out for dinner one night with people we met earlier in our trip. Room 10, if I recall correctly. It is just blocks from the Hertz office so easy pick-up if you rent from them.

I will have to look up the name of the place we stayed in Christchurch. It was on the other side of the park from the main downtown, with ample parking and a nice restaurant.

Posted by
1829 posts

On our trips to NZ we usually return home about mid March. I always liken March in NZ to September in the UK ie sunny days with cool nights but who knows what it will be like next year. Past performance is no guarantee etc etc. Have noticed that the EL Nino/La Nina cycles do seem to have an impact on rainfall amounts. So might be worth checking out the likely situation next year.

As to booking I would do it as soon as possible. We have visited NZ every 3 years over the last 30 years and the tourist season has been getting longer and busier and nowadays booking 6 months ahead does not always guarantee our first choice places. The one good thing is that you are missing the crowds generated by the Chinese New Year earlier in the year!

Don't ignore motels/motor lodges (or even motel units in holiday parks). In NZ they can be more like small apartments and some of the places we have stayed at have been better fitted out than our own house! B&Bs in NZ tend to be high end and can be a bit "precious" for our taste