This is the second part to this article which describes various areas of New Zealand. The first part of the article was about areas within the North Island.
The South Island also has two major cities, Christchurch and Dunedin. Christchurch is the second largest city in New Zealand and Dunedin is relatively small with a population of around 120,000 and is very much considered a university town. The South Island offers completely different scenery to the North Island. Everything from rugged coastlines, to majestic mountain ranges, fjords, glaciers, and stunning lakes.
Just over the Cook Strait (the stretch of water between the bottom of the North and the tip of the South Island) from Wellington lies a gourmet paradise. The area is called Marlbourough and comprises a number of small towns including Picton, a picturesque town which is the transit point for the inter-island ferry from Wellington. The Marlborough Sounds through which the ferry sails are a maze of deep channels, sheltered waterways and secluded bays offering a wealth of activities from fishing to walking the Queen Charlotte Track. Just down the road from Picton lies Blenheim. Blenheim is estimated to have an average of 2,438 hours of sunshine every year and as such holds the title of the sunniest town in New Zealand. Blenheim is also the home to over 50 wineries and the Sauvignon Blanc produced in Marlbourough is considered to be amongst the finest in the world.
Many awards have been won from wines produced in this area. As well as the famous Sauvignon Blanc; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Semillon are also produced so there will be something to suit most palates. In February of each year the largest Food and Wine Festival in New Zealand is held in Marlbourough. It is a great occasion offering the opportunity to try the wines and gourmet foods produced in the area.
Nelson is located at the top northwest corner of the South Island. Nelson offers enormous diversity in both scenery and activities. There are three National Parks which may be accessed easily from Nelson. The Abel Tasman National Park which runs along the coast offers fabulous views and great beaches. On the other hand the Nelson Lakes National Park located south of Nelson is set amongst mountains and 2 gorgeous lakes. The Kahurangi National Park contains the famous Heaphy Walking Track which takes between 4 – 6 days to complete through stunning and diverse terrain. Nelson is also a wine growing area and has several world class brewmasters producing boutique beers.
The West Coast runs 600 km along the coastline and is not wider than 70 km at any one point. The population of the West Coast is only about 31,000 people and they have a reputation for being extremely friendly and hospitable. This area is an adventure and outdoor wonderland offering forest and beach walks, caving, all sorts of boating experiences, glacier walks, scenic flights, mountain biking, horse treks, fishing, exploring old gold mines and ghost towns and gold panning to name a few.
Kaikoura is located on the West Coast of the South Island approximately half way between Picton and Christchurch. It is a rugged area flanked by the majestic mountains. Kaikoura is famous for whale watching and crayfish (lobster). The name Kaikoura literally translates to meal of crayfish from the Maori language. The focus in Kaikoura is on the preservation of the abundant marine life which is a stark contrast from the days of the mid 1800’s through to 1964 when whaling was the major income source for the area.
Hanmer Springs is a small alpine village approximately an hour’s drive from Christchurch perfect for a weekend getaway. Hanmer Springs is a thermal area and is famous for its therapeutic hot pools. Various spa treatments are on offer so a visit here is guaranteed to unwind the weariest traveller. Hanmer Springs has a quiet and peaceful atmosphere but offers something for all tastes, from numerous short walks, golf and dining, to thrill seeking adventures in jet boats or on mountain bikes. In winter you can also ski and it is possible to sit in the therapeutic pools and be surrounded by snow!
Christchurch has quite often been referred to as the most English city outside of England. The River Avon runs through the middle of the city and provides a stunning and relaxing backdrop to a bustling city centre. Christchurch is famous for its beautiful gardens for which it has won international awards. There really is something for everyone in this city. Shopping is great, restaurants are many and varied, there are numerous activities to undertake and accommodation options are plentiful.
Akaroa is a stunning village unlike anywhere else within New Zealand. The economy of Akaroa is very much geared up for tourism. Akaroa is about 1.5 hours drive from Christchurch out on Banks Peninsula. The most stunning views are on offer as you near the village which make it well worth the journey. Akaroa is an historic French/British settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcanic crater. There is a real French flavour to the village with all street names being French eg rue Lavaud and rue Jolie, the main streets. Akaroa is an absolutely charming and beautiful area with wonderful restaurants, plenty of accommodation options and many activities which predominantly focus around the harbour. There are both seal and penguin colonies close to the village which you may visit by boat or 4 wheel drive.
Dunedin has a strong Scottish heritage which is evident in the early architecture. It has some of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian architecture in the Southern Hemisphere. It had New Zealand’s first university and is very much a university town to this day. Dunedin is home to the steepest street in the world – Baldwin St. There is a shop at the bottom of the street where you can get a certificate after climbing to the top. Larnach Castle is a must see whilst in Dunedin. It was originally the home of an early politician. Building commenced in 1871 and was completed 12 years later. These days it is has been restored and offers upmarket accommodation. Organised harbour cruises on the Otago Harbour offer the opportunity to view albatross, fur seals, penguins, nesting birds and dolphins.
Queenstown is perhaps the best known town in the area of the Southern Lakes. It is a small town situated on the beautiful Lake Wakatipu. It is a spectacular town in a spectacular area of the country. Queenstown offers an incredible range of activities for the tourist and is referred to quite deservedly as the adventure capital of the world. The bungy jump originated in Queenstown and there are numerous other adventure activities. Shopping is excellent and there are numerous restaurants and styles of accommodation to suit all tastes. This area has four very distinct seasons and offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding conditions in winter and early spring (June to September).
Wanaka is located approximately one hours drive from Queenstown on the shores of yet another lake, Lake Wanaka. Although many of the same types of activities are on offer, the pace is far more sedate and less hectic than Queenstown. If you prefer a quieter and more secluded atmosphere still offering the stunning vistas, Wanaka may be the place for you.
Fiordland is the largest national park in New Zealand covering almost 3 million acres. Milford Sound is one of the not to be missed locations in Fiordland. There are many day trips which can be taken from Queenstown. It is an unspoilt area offering lush vegetation, majestic mountain peaks and dramatic waterfalls.
Hopefully you have a taste of what is on offer in New Zealand. It really is the most beautiful country and truly does have something for everyone.