The mystical and diverse lands of New Zealand – South Island (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

South Island

The scenic Great Coast Road on South Island.
The scenic Great Coast Road on South Island.

In New Zealand, Marlborough is synonymous with wine. This region is responsible for 75 per cent of the country’s wine production, most notably Sauvignon Blanc. After touring wineries, soak in the beauty of the extensive coastline edged with woodland trails or explore the Queen Charlotte Sound and secluded waterways by boat.

The Department of Conservation tends to 95 per cent of the wild West Coast coastline, mountains, glaciers and rain forests that are part of the five national parks and five marine reserves located here. The population in West Coast may be sparse but the Great Coast Road, voted by Lonely Planet as one of top 10 Coastal Drives in the World, is a drive worth making. Adrenaline thrills such as heli-hiking on glaciers, skydiving and white water rafting can also be found here.

Canterbury Plains is home to Christchurch, a city rich with art, culture and storytellers. Fun-filled adventures abound in this region which is surrounded by the Southern Alps, a chain bigger than its European namesake and shadowed by the giant Aoraki Mount Cook (3,754 metres). New Zealand’s greatest alpine park Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is situated here and contains the highest mountains in New Zealand with 19 peaks topping 3,000 metres. The Southern Alps are filled with things to see and do. View the tortured rocks and dramatic valleys of Flock Hill, walk the water-filled tunnel at Cave Stream, or cycle the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail, New Zealand’s longest continuous multi-day cycling trail that descends over 609 metres and travels 300 kilometres to the coastal town of Oamaru.

Glaciers cover 40 per cent of the park, including the country’s longest glacier, Tasman Glacier at 29 kilometres. Lake Pukaki’s blue waters shimmer under endless skies while visitors have their pick of outdoor activities – climbing, star gazing, winter snow sports, hiking, fishing, canoeing and cycling.

One of the best ways to enjoy the panoramic views is by chartering a scenic flight around the island, taking a cross-country four-wheel drive tour or going glacier exploring by boat. If you want to be blown away by more than just the beauty of the land, visit Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the world’s largest international park in the sky. This dark sky reserve has almost light-pollution-free skies for exceptional viewing.

The wide valley of the Waitaki River winds its way from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean. The region is a place of contrast and unearthly beauty that captivates visitors with its windswept beaches and curious landscape. Moeraki, a quaint fishing town in the Waitaki district, is the sight of another geological wonder. The length of the beach is strewn with gigantic spheres of rock known as the Moeraki Boulders.

Dunedin is marked by its rich Scottish heritage, historic architecture and populations of curious wildlife that inhabit the Otago Peninsula. For a dramatic drive through dense rain forest with thrilling ocean views take the Catlins Coast Road, south of Dunedin, from Balclutha towards Invercargill.

Queenstown is a year-round resort city surrounded by mountains and crisp blue water. It is the adventure capital and draws millions of visitors annually. If you are looking for luxury and style to match your scenic vacation, Queens-town is the place to be.

Remoteness, peace and solitude can be found on The Chatham Islands, an archipelago of about 10 islands and more than 680 kilometres east of South Island. With a population under 1000 and no public transport, you will be immersed in an ocean-bound wilderness famous for plentiful fresh seafood, fascinating marine and wildlife and awe inspiring views.