|Subject: Re: New Zealand South Island Suggestions|
In October 2000 I spent two weeks in the southern half of New Zealand's South Island and had a wonderful time.
I was travelling by myself and was not confident enough to navigate&drive so I caught trains and buses everywhere so I can't help you with driving-worthy road maps. (Although you may find what you need at the web sites listed below.)
I can highly recommend http://www.fiordlandtravel.co.nz/ it was great for finding out options and dates and prices for various activities, and the staff were very helpful when I emailed the contact list with questions. (Specifically for Fjordland though - doesn#t' cover the east coast of the South Island.)
The website http://www.newzealand.com/travel/ (Official NZ Tourism web site) has changed since I used it back then, and on the entry page it has a section on driving routes which you may find helpful.
Personally, my trip took in almost everything I could fit - I did not make it to Stewart Island to try and see the Kiwi alas. I flew into Christchurch, the next day took the TranzAlpine train over to Greymouth and then a bus to Fox Glacier where I arrived late and stayed for two nights and did a half-day glacier walk (amazing!) and took a trip on a local shuttle bus out to the lake (whose name escapes me) where in perfect conditions you see beautiful snow capped mountains reflected in the waters.
Then I bussed down to Te Anau and had an afternoon there to walk around the lake. Next day I left my suitcase at the accommodation and took a connecting bus and power boat out to Doubtful Sound for an overnight cruise. It is SOOO peaceful and I happened to be the only guest so it was just me and the two crew and the dolphins riding the bow wave! Did some kayaking and have never felt so relaxed and so quiet in my life before or after.
Bussed and boated back to Te Anau for another afternoon, did some walking, had cups of tea in a local café conservatory with a good book, then the next morning had another bus trip out to do the Milford Sound overnight cruise. Bad weather but I'd already kayaked so stayed dry onboard.
Next was a bus trip to Queenstown. There the weather was not so good either so I didn#t get to horse-ride or jet boat (and no way was I bungy jumping!). Took the cable car up the mountain, and that night took the TSS Earnslaw paddle steamer out to Walter Peak High Country farm for dinner. I believe it is out of Queenstown that they now offer Lord of the Rings themed excursions if that is of interest to you.
Then it was a bus and train trip from Queenstown to Dunedin. In Dunedin I took a local town bus tour, and a bus trip out to Lonarch Castle. I also did a power boat trip to see the bird and marine life from the water, and a Fjordland Penguin colony land excursion. Plus walked the town a wee bit!
Then it was a train back to Christchurch. Day trip to Akarora (disappointing) and day trip to Kaikoura to swim in the ocean with the little dolphins (exhilarating!). Finally just explored Christchurch - punted the Avon, shopped, browsed, walked, ate :)
If I'd had a car I would have made it to Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd (I think that is what it was called) as from all the pictures they are certainly spectacular.
So! There are heaps of things you can do whether it is outdoor activities or nature you are looking for :) Accommodation wise - I wouldn#t' say that any of my accommodations were particularly outstanding although they were certainly all fine. There are SOOO many B&Bs and farm stay options in New Zealand - particularly with the flexibility the car offers you.
(I can say that I didn#t eat lamb the whole time I was there although I know it is a specialty - you just can't after seeing so many little swinging tales...) :) Megan in Brisbane, Australia