Discover the SOUTH ISLAND –
The South Island of New Zealand extends from Picton and to Invercargill in the south, and then off the southern end of the South Island, there is Stewart Island – so there is a lot to see with a stunning landscape, mountains, farmland, rainforest, glaciers, snow fields, fiords and more.
The first thing you need to decide is which way you want to travel – do you head to the west coast, or the east coast first, or just to the ski fields or to Christchurch? Or do you do a bit of both?
You may also be looking to walk, tramp or trek on the South Island – and here you will find some of the best walking trails probably anywhere in the world – with day walks, multiple day walks and some easy and some only for the most experienced. Safety issues, fitness, health, good humour, tenacity all play a part in making walks on the South Island a memorable time for you and those who travel with you. It can be snowing, windy, involve long climbs and steep descents – so you need to prepare and really understand what you are attempting to do.
Based on you arriving by Ferry or boat from Wellington on the Interisland Ferry or Bluebridge Ferry or sailing to Picton – Picton will be your first destination on the South Island.
Picton – is a small town with a population of about 3000 people at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound. A few minutes away is Waikawa with its marina where there are lots or yachts and pleasure craft, and if you stay over in Picton you will no doubt visit both towns. There are lots of accommodation options, cafes and small shops here, and Picton has a small town feel –so an easy and comfortable atmosphere. From here you can take the Coastal Pacific Train to Christchurch or head off by car if you came with one and head to Blenheim about 30 kilometres away , a half hour journey away or to westwards to Nelson 109 kilometres away and about 2 hours of travel time.
If staying in Nelson – there are Cruises, water taxis, kayaks to hire, mountain bikes and treks around Picton including the Charlotte Sound walk – which can be anything from 1 day to 5 days long. You can find out all about these walks and tours from the Marlborough Bay Adventure Company based on London Quay in Picton (Tel: (3) 5736078).
From Short Finger wharf you can take the 1920 Queen Charlotte Steam Ship to tour the Sound, and also pay a visit to the Kaipupu Point Sanctuary – about 15 minutes from Picton to see lots of birds and other wildlife.
Blenheim – is about half an hour from Picton and is at the centre of the Marlborough Wine area, with close to 50 wineries of varying sizes in and around the district. It is very much a ‘foodies’ destination with lots of wines to sample and buy, as well as local Salmon, Blue Cod, Havelock mussels, scallops, strawberries, hazelnuts, chocolates, cheeses, venison, ice cream and the list goes on. Each week the Blenheim Farmer’s Market is ‘food heaven’.
Here in Blenheim you can take a cruise on the ‘River Queen’ paddle boat (Tel: (3) 5775510, or head out to visit wineries, or to the amazing Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre at 79 Aeroplane Rd, about 5 kilometres from Blenheim (See www.amaka.org.nz) . Here you will find not just planes to see, but also animation work linked to films that have been directed in NZ by Sir Peter Jackson. It is a definite ‘must see’ on your list. Almost next door is Omaka Classic Cars (See www.amakaclassiccars.co.nz). Another place to see is the Vines Village, a mix of playgrounds, wine information and artisans working. You will find the Vines Village at 193 Rapaura Rd. In town, head to Seymour Square and also Pollard Park – both very attractive places to relax and enjoy.
About 100+ kilometres from Blenheim is Molesworth Station, the biggest farm property in New Zealand covering an area of 180,787 hectares (1807.87 Square Kilometres). The property is run under government control and has about 10,000 Angus Beef Cattle on it, and it is open to the public to stay at certain times of the year only. The property is most high country and 3 rivers running through it, and glaciated areas with geological landforms such as Cirque lakes, tarns, hanging valleys, arêtes and alpine vegetation. To travel or stay there means booking and also planning and you need to google ‘Molesworth Station’ to find out more.
Is named in honour of Horatio Nelson and is located on the Tasman Bay surrounded by hills and three National Parks nearby it.
The City has an interesting settlement history involving the ‘New Zealand Land Company’ (See History section of website) and purchase of Maori land in the 1850’s, with large numbers of settlers arriving to find the land was not quite as promised and a lot of the land not actually purchased from the Maori people with great conflicts arising as a result. It is worth finding out more about the history of the city and the conflict at the Nelson Provincial Museum (in the city centre Cnr, Trafalgar and Hardy Streets) and at the Founder’s Heritage Park 87 Atawhai Drive (See www.founderspark.co.nz Tel: (3) 548 2649). Here you will see a whole village with interesting displays, even a craft brewery and Maori carving work – so well worth a visit.
Nelson has all the water sports close by from walking and bike tracks along Rocks Road, to fishing, kayaking, kite surfing, swimming, but also has a strong arts and craft culture too – including glass work, wood carving, and for Lord of the Rings fans, the gold ‘ring’ used in the movie was crafted here by the goldsmith, Jens Hansen.
There are a number of historic homes in Nelson, and two of these are Broadgreen House at 276 Nayland Rd in Stoke (Tel: (3) 547 0403) and Isel House 16 Hilliard Street (See www.iselhouse.co.nz). Stoke is a small town just outside of Nelson. Also look for the Samuels Rose Garden – which has a vast number of roses on show. Also if you have never seen a Tua, Kakariki, Kea or Tuatara head to the Natureland Zoo at Tuhunanui Beach.
Tuhunanui is a stunning white sand beach with lots of activities along the shoreline – so definitely one place to head to and enjoy swimming, walking, jogging or having a coffee, with lots of activities also for kids – including roller blading, go-karts, slides, mini-golf and other activities.
The National Parks are not far away for walking, treks and biking – and if you are interested in caving adventures there are caves in Takaka Hills, Mt Owen and Mt Arthur areas – with some of the deepest and longest cave systems anywhere. The Bohemia Cave system for example is 710 metres deep and the explored caves have more than 10 kilometres of passageways; Ellis Basin 100 metres deep and 30 kilometres of passages; and a cave system in Mt Owen has 65 kilometres of passageways. Exploring these caves and canyoning can be organised through Abel Tasman Canyons based at 3 Thomason Avenue in Motueka – a small town on the Tasman Bay about 54 kilometres from Nelson and closer to Abel Tasman National Park and the Kahurangi National Park. (See www.abeltasmancanyons.co.nz Tel: (3) 528 9800).
Heading to Greymouth and the west coast –
The main west coast attraction is certainly the glaciers at Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, but on the way there are some interesting attractions and also the road itself as it heads down along the west coast – a narrow strip of land about 70 kilometres wide that separates the mountains from the Tasman Sea on the west side.
Murchison – is a small village and old gold mining town with a population now of just 500 people. In 1929 the town was almost destroyed by a massive earthquake. Muchison is 120 kilometres south west from Nelson and claims to be “The Whitewater Capital of New Zealand” –with several rivers nearby. You can still go gold panning, and one of the best places to go is Buller Gorge, just 14 kilometres west of Murchison – where there is a long swing bridge to walk over the gorge, as well as kayaking, canoeing, jet boat rides up the Buller River to Ariki Falls and even a zipline set up. (See www.bullergorge.co.nz – home to the Buller Gorge Adventure and Heritage Park.
Westport on the coast next to the Buller River that flows from Lake Rotoiti is a little off the main road heading to Greymouth. It is a coal mining town and home to a large Cement works. Here at Cape Foulwind, named by Captain Cook when his ship was blown off course, you can see and smell a 100 strong fur seal colony and also the Coaltown Museum, a new museum setup in honour of the coal mining industry. The Museum has lots of interesting stories and equipment from the early coal mining days including a simulation of an underground coal mine. (See it at 123 Palmerston Street near the Buller River in the centre of town Tel: (3) 789 8204).
From Westport heading south – you will be travelling along one of the most spectacular coast roads with beaches, cliffs and the Tasman Sea. There are tiny settlements along the way to stop at too, including Barrytown to see jade work carvings, and there is great little attraction called the Clydesdale Horse and Wagon Tour (See www.wagontours.co.nz) and at Charleston an amazing adventure tour – where you can see caves, millions of glowworms next to the Nile River at night and even board a raft and flow down a river inside a giant underground cavern ( See www.caverafting.com Tel: (3) 789 5508). The remarkable Punakaiki Pancake Rocks are also here to see on the coast and the Paparoa National Park (See www.punakaiki.co.nz) where if you are lucky you might be able to experience seeing the Night Petrel Nature Tour or horse ride on the beach.
Also just before you get to Greymouth at 511 State Highway 6 at Coal Creek there is an exhilarating adventure setup called “Onyerbike” – where you can spend time heading on an adventure muddy tour on a quad bike, go kart, Hagglund or Argo (specialised terrain vehicles) through water, mud, over banks and trails for a great fun experience like no other. (See www.onyerbike.co.nz ).
Greymouth – is 286 kilometres from Nelson or 100 kilometres south from Westport on the west coast. It is located both on the coastline and also on the Grey River, with a rugged coastline. The Monteith’s Brewery is here and you can take tours of the Brewery which dates back to 1860. You will find the Brewery at the corner of Turumaha and Herbert Streets. (See www.monteiths.co.nz Tel: (3) 768 4149.
Just 10 kilometres south of Greymouth is Shantytown (See www.shantytown.co.nz) a whole Heritage Village set up with a steam train, foundry, sawmill, gold panning, Chinatown and other interesting displays and information about Greymouth and the area’s history and pioneers including its miners and mining history too.
To understand and appreciate the role that miners and coal mining has played in the area as well as the dangers involved in this work, it should be remembered that the Pike River Mine disaster began with a series of explosions on the 19th November 2010 at the mine site just 46 kilometres south of Greymouth. Only 2 miners managed to be rescued and 29 miners deep underground were trapped, with further explosions happening. Their bodies have never been recovered.
Greymouth can be a good place to pick up supplies as you head further down the coastline to the Glaciers, or to Arthurs Pass. Make sure you pick up a good personal insect spray as the sandflies are big and aggressive and also enjoy meeting and eating tourists! You also need to be prepared with warm and waterproof clothing and shoes too if you intend to do any trekking in the alpine regions.
Greymouth is the terminal for the Tranzalpine Train that crosses over the mountains through Arthurs Pass to Christchurch on the east coast – a spectacular train journey that takes around 6 hours or so.
Arthurs Pass is 900 metres high and is the crossing point across the Southern Alps from the east to west coast. The Arthurs Pass National Park is here too – a mix of wide stony riverbeds, river gorges, beech forest, rainforest with the Otira Rail tunnel , tunnelled through 8.5 kilometres of rock here too. In winter the Temple Bay ski field is open, while in summer there are great walking and hiking trails to enjoy along with the spectacular alpine scenery.
You could stay in Greymouth on the coast which is quite a big town, or head off to stay or travel to Arthurs Pass National Park in the mountains – 96 kilometres from Greymouth, or if you wanted to stay on the coast in a smaller place – head down the coast about 39 kilometres to Hokitika.
Hokitika – has shops, galleries, good coffee, a golf course, places to stay and it has great scenic drives and hiking trails all within 30 to 40 kilometres of Hokitika to see Lake Mahinapua and its treetop walkway, Lake Kaniere, beautiful Hokitika Gorge, Dorothy Falls and the scenery – with the combination of walks, dairy country, forests and clear mountain water flowing from the Alps and the backdrop of snow cap mountains making your stay in the Hokitika area a memorable one. There are also places to swim, hike, mountain bike, kayak and fish too.
Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are around 173 or so kilometres south from Greymouth – roughly 2 hours journey time. Both glaciers are in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park which covers a large part of this alpine area and adjoins the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Franz Josef (Waiau) and Fox Glacier (Weheka) are the name of both the glaciers and also the small towns that are here, just a short distance from each other – so lots of motels, lodges, backpacker and camping grounds to stay in and bars, cafés and restaurants. You could also stay in Okarito on the coastline too.
Glaciers are frozen rivers of ice that look like a giant tongue of solid ice filling a valley as the move from the top of the mountain to the base. They are many metres deep and the sides and front of the glacier often contains a scree of soil and rocks that they have picked up as the slowly move forward. They are also in the process of melting too – so the front edge will usually have melting ice, dripping water and small streams of water flowing from them. A criss-cross of channels and even crevasses may also be present – created by the pressure forces within the glacier as it moves forward.
Both Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are amazing to see, and ideally if you have the budget, it is best to see them both from the air and also by taking a walking tour to see them up close. There are helicopter and fixed wing aircraft that can take you over and even land on the top of the Glaciers to get a view of Mount Cook and the Alps, while on ground there are lots of guided tours and treks you can take. You can even skydive, depending on the weather, ride bikes and in and around the area go horse riding, fishing, hunting, kayaking, rafting, bird watching and experience other adventure sports too. Inside the National Park there are trails of varying lengths and difficulties with 11 overnight huts set up as accommodation options. Before heading on any treks, even a day trek you need to be prepared for both snow and also rain – and let people know what you are looking to do and where you are headed. Every year people get injured, lost or get extremely wet and cold when the weather changes quickly.
Lakes nearby include Lake Matheson, Lake Mapourika and Lake Wombat and at Galway Beach there is a seal colony, while in Franz Josef on Cron Street there are Glacier Hot Pools to enjoy. A lot depends on the time of year that you visit as to how much you will see, but at all times this is a great part of New Zealand and the world to explore.
South from the Glaciers – Haast Pass and onwards to Lake Wanaka –
There are only three road passes across the Southern Alps – Lewis Pass in the north (864 metres high), Arthurs Pass near Greymouth (900 Metres high) and Haast Pass (564 metres high).
Heading south from the glaciers, you will head over Haast Pass to Lake Wanaka, a distance of 290 Kilometres that will take you a good 3 ½ to 4 hours of travel time, depending on how long you stop to see waterfalls and other lookouts along the way. The road is also subject to landslides and sometimes road closures too or restricted travel times – such as daytime only due to the hazardous conditions. You should fill up with fuel, drinks and something to eat along the way, so it is best to head off early morning to give yourself most time for the journey.
Along the way you will pass through the coastal area leading to Haast, where you could stay over and experience a 2 ¼ hour River Jet boat Safari from the mountains to the sea. (See www.riversafaris.co.nz) . From Haast you then head inland up over the Gates of Haast Pass – along the way through rainforest, past mountain peaks and valleys with suspension bridges to cross. If you can, stop to see Fantail Falls, Roaring Billy Falls and Thunder Falls, and best of all the Blue Pools. Hopefully the weather is fine but if raining it can be foggy with the rain creating instant waterfalls down the sides of the mountains. On the other side of the Pass you will cross over the McKenzie Plains and head to the town of Wanaka beside Lake Wanaka.
If you can imagine a town of about 5000 people next to a large blue lake with a backdrop of high snow-capped mountains also reflected in the lake, snow, lush green sheep paddocks, wineries and poplar trees whose leaves change colour with the seasons, and a short distance to great snowfields – then you must be in Wanaka.
With such a beautiful setting, it is hard to imagine a more beautiful place to spend some time.
In Wanaka there are lots of luxury resorts, motels, lodges and basic accommodation options, with walking tracks in almost every direction with different levels of fitness required, plus there are all the water sports and snow fields just 30 minutes from the centre of town.
Here in Wanaka in the summer you can boat, hike, horse ride, mountain bike, sail, fish, ride rapids on a jet boat, parasail, white water sledge (www.frogz.co.nz), snow ski in winter, heliski, fly over the area in a Spitfire (www.classicflights.co.nz), skydive, catch a scenic flight, and in town go to a movie, see a great collection of cars and planes (www.warbirdsandwheels.com ), get a new perspective on life (www.puzzlingworld.co.nz) or just spend time in town or your hotel, enjoy some shopping, a spa, a beer, lunch, dinner, visit wineries or just relax.
There is the Clutha River, Cardona River, Matuktuki River, Young River, Wilkin River, Young River, Hawea River all flowing from Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea nearby, with mountain peaks such as Mt Alpha (1630 metres), Roys Peak (1578 metres), Pisa Range (1964 metres), Dingle Peak (1835 metres), Minaret Peaks (2193 metres), Mt Alta (2339 metres), Treble Cone (2058 metres), Black Peak (2289 metres) and Mt Aspiring (3033 metres) and these mountains are all here. Treble Cone ski area has the longest ski field in New Zealand with a number of ski runs, and it is just 35 minutes or 23 kilometres from Wanaka. It also has the longest ski run in New Zealand – 4 kilometres long with a drop of 700 metres. The other two snowfields are Cardrona Alpine Resort where the New Zealand Alpine Ski Team train and also teach, and Snow Farm/Snow Park – for cross country skiing. Cardrona and Snow Farm/Snow Park are close together and also just 30 minutes or so from Wanaka.
Queenstown – is about an hour south of Wanaka, and one of the most popular destinations in New Zealand for the snowfields, nightlife, scenic beauty and action sports activities. It is the home of Bungy Jumping!
Queenstown is located on Lake Wakatipu with a backdrop of Mount Coronet and The Remarkables, so the town is almost surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountain peaks with the Lake and town on centre stage. From the air it looks amazing in all seasons, but especially in winter when the snow season is in full swing. The season depending on snow fall starts in June/July and runs until the end of September, but Queenstown can be just as attractive in other seasons too.
In town there is a whole range of accommodation options, but it is best to book early, as accommodation can fill up fast. Queenstown started life as a small gold mining town, so the streets in the centre of town are small and the bars, night spots, restaurants and shops are all close to each other so it is easy to walk from one place to another.
To get a bird’s eye view head to the Skyline Gondola (www.skyline.co.nz) that takes passengers and also bikes from Brecon Street in town 450 metres almost straight up the mountain side. From the top there are great views, a restaurant, and the Queenstown Bike Park that is open through the late spring, summer, and autumn months with around 30 kilometres of bike tracks. Mountain biking and hiking are hugely popular in Queenstown, with bikes easy to hire, and lots of tramping/hiking tracks to explore on bike or on foot. At the top of the Gondola there is also a ‘Luge’ track which is also great fun to ride on too.
The two ski fields (The Remarkables and Coronet Peak) are both just 20 or 30 minutes from Queenstown, and you could drive (with snow chains when needed), or take the Snowline Express buses from the Queenstown Snow Centre located in the Station Building in Duke Street (Tel: (03) 450 1970.) If you are in Queenstown you will most likely try both ski fields depending on your time and the snow forecast – and hopefully there will be great snow and clear blue skies to make your day skiing a fantastic time. Both ski fields have great ski runs and slopes for all levels of skiers from kids to adults for both snow boarders and skiing.
Summer in Queenstown can be just as much fun as the winter time, but without the skiing – but the bars, restaurants, shops, spas and activities are all still here. There are great gardens in town, a 5 acre day and night Kiwi Birdlife Park (www.kiwibird.co.nz) located off Upper Brecon Street, and just out of town at Kawarau Gorge – where New Zealand’s very first Bungy Jumping was set up in 1988 by A. J Hackett (See www.bungy.co.nz ). You can just watch or do a jump yourself, or take a zipline across the gorge. There is also another thrill ride – ‘The Canyon Swing’ – where you jump off a platform 109 metres above the river in the Shotover Canyon (See www.canyonswing.co.nz).
Also on the lake you can take cruises, bird watch or catch a jetboat or paraglide – so lots of things to do.
Close to Queenstown is the Gibbson Valley – where there are numbers of wineries on the road to Cromwell, and at Arrowtown where gold was discovered in 1862 you will find the Lakes District Museum and you can try your hand at gold panning. Also stop to take some photos or walk around Lake Hayes. This is a ‘picture perfect’ location for photos of your time in Queenstown.
The whole south western corner of New Zealand contains some of the most interesting wilderness areas of New Zealand and also of the world. This is Fiordland – a rugged coastline where glaciers have gouged out fiords to create U shaped valleys between the ridges and mountain peaks, many of which are covered in snow in winter and some that remain snow-capped even in summer.
Fiords are created by Glacial action to create the sharp cliff sides of U shaped valleys, whereas ‘Sounds’ have more rounded sides, due to the fact that they are sunken valleys. Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are in fact Fiords and there are 14 fiords in the Fiordland area.
From Queenstown – there are a number of great trips that you can take to experience this wild alpine region and the fiords. You can fly by plane or helicopter into or over the area, or take one of the 3 to 4 days walking trails, or take a bus tour, or a combination of tours that involve walking, sightseeing and boat trips, or you can take cruises with overnight and longer stays.
There are three great walking tracks – the Routeburn track (32Km) from Glenorchy to Milford Sound, the Milford Track( 53.5km) and the Kepler Track (60km). All three tracks involve 3 to 4 days of walking up and down mountainous areas, past lakes, alpine marshes, waterfalls, rocky areas with spectacular scenery every day with small overnight stays in huts set up along the walks. You need to prepare for any of these walks with food and clothing to suit and also book ahead to ensure you have a hut to stay in. (See www.doc.govt.nz/parks ).
You can also take a tour from Queenstown to head to Milford Sound – and it is a long day trip.
To be closer to Milford Sound, head to Te Anau – about 2 hours (171km)from Queenstown, at the side of Lake Te Anau, the biggest lake in the South Island. Te Anau has lots of accommodation ranging from high end lodges to farmstay and backpacker accommodation, and in summer there are all the water sports here as well as places to eat and enjoy. Make sure that you pre-book accommodation and check out the weather forecast before you go. There is also a wildlife park and ‘the Grotto Cave’ to see on the other side of the lake from Te Anau with glow worms. Te Anau is 1 ½ hours (118km) from Milford Sound, and the road takes you on an amazing journey, so worth taking more time just to take in the scenery. You also travel through the 1.2 kilometre long Homer Tunnel that links the Hollyford River east side to the west side Cleddau River Valley. Building the Tunnel through the granite stone began during the Depression in 1935, but it wasn’t finished or opened until 1954 initially with a gravel road that has since been sealed, and then lights were only added in 2004.
After you reach the end of the Homer Tunnel you will see the vertical mountain sides almost surrounding you in the Cleddau River Valley – look for Lady Bowen Falls and the 155 metre high Stirling Falls. On a rainy misty day, you also might see literally 100’s of waterfalls flowing down from the mountain sides – almost a panorama of waterfalls sprouting from the mountains that surround you.
Milford Sound itself is a fiord and from Milford you can take walks, a cruise for an hour or more on the fiord, or take a cruise to see not only Milford Sound but also explore Doubtful Sound and see birds, penguins, seals, dolphins, experience star filled skies, and even catch fish or catch lobster (Crayfish). Most people come just for a few hours on a bus, but the more time you spend here, the more that you see. Remember also to bring your Insect repellent too.
There are a number of cruises with different itineraries and costs – and again the best thing to do is to pre-book this once in a lifetime experience. Also in Milford, there is an underwater Observatory – which takes you around 10.4 metres under the water to see this underwater world. The water here coming off the fiords and being so cold also has some remarkable sealife – so quite different to what you would see in tropical waters, and probably as close to an Antarctic experience you can get without heading to the South Pole.
Manapouri is south of Te Anau about a 20 minute drive away and also on a lake – Lake Manapouri. This is a stunning lake surrounded by mountain peaks and with 35 rainforest covered islands in the lake itself. You can stay over in Manapouri, go kayaking, take a cruise and just explore this amazing area, breathe its air and enjoy its isolation far from cities and civilisation. You could also take a tour or cruise to Dusky Sound too – some of the cruises providing 4 and 5 day cruises, flying you in by helicopter to meet the cruise ship, so quite expensive.
Invercargill – is located at the southern end of the South Island, about 30 kilometres from Bluff, where Bluff Oysters come from, and where the Ferry to Stewart Island berths. Bluff was is where the very first European settlement took place in New Zealand in 1824 when James Spencer came here to catch whales, fish and seals. Take a look at the Bluff Maritime Museum to learn more about the whaling, sealing, oysters and the ships and sailors who came to live here.
In many ways Invercargill is a Scottish city, all be it a world away from Scotland. The city is in the middle of a big dairying area, with the industry supplying milk and milk powder to China.
Invercargill is 187 kilometres south of Queenstown, about 2 ½ hours driving time down through the centre of the South Island. Here you will find a delightful city with great gardens such as the Queens Gardens and Otepuni Gardens in Forth Street, as well as many Heritage buildings in and along Dee Street in the centre of town, including the Water Tower. Winters can be very cold and windy, but in summer the city being so far south experiences the ‘Aurora Australis’ where the sunlight creates a long twilight, creating for a great summer feel to the city. There are 4 Golf Courses, lots of accommodation options and it is worth taking a tour of the Invercargill Brewery (8 Wood St) and seeing some of the other attractions such as the Anderson Park Art Gallery (91 McIvor Road); Southland Museum and At Gallery (108 Gaia St); the E. Hayes Motortown Collection (168 Dee Street); the 1866 Porters Lodge building (Dee Street); The Bill Richardson Truck Museum (6 Anglem St), and for something quite different look for Rakiura Rides on Sandy Point Rd. Otatara where you can ride horses next to the Oreti River and also the beach.
Stewart Island ( Rakiura)– is New Zealand’s third biggest island, 24 kilometres by Ferry from Bluff on the South Island or a short flight from Invercargill to Halfmoon Bay (Oban) the only village on the Island, with the Southseas Pub being the centre of the village.
The island is mostly National Park – and there are 240 kilometres of walking tracks and just 28 kilometres of Roads to drive on. Here on the island you will meet some of the 400 residents who live here, and in summer you will also experience the ‘Aurora Australis’, hence the name Halfmoon Bay, with the Maori name ‘Rakiura’ meaning “land of the glowing skies”.
People come to the island to just experience the wilderness areas in the National Park and often to tramp (hike) the Rakiura Track – a 3 day trail that is regarded as one of the ‘Great walks of New Zealand’. There are said to be over 20,000 Kiwi Birds living on the island and you are also likely to see penguins, many other rare birds too. Over on the west coast there is Mason Bay – where light planes can land on the beach and you can experience both the Great Southern Ocean waves hitting the shore and also 12 kilometres of sand dunes that rise from the beach and head around 3 kilometres inland. There are places to stay on the island, but it is also a good thing to book a place to stay too, with great seafood to enjoy.
The Catlins – From Invercargill you could well simply head to Dunedin on the East Coast on your way north to Christchurch, but you would be missing the Catlins – an area on the south eastern end of the South Island. This is a sparsely populated area, with deserted beaches and wild weather most times of the year, but also home to Sea Lions, Penguins and dolphins. Here you will also find one of the most amazing sights on earth – a Petrified Forest of trees under the sea at high tide and exposed above the water line at high tide. This is just one of a number of interesting places to see in the Catlins.
From Invercargill head to the most southern point of the South Island – Slope Point near Haldane – where you will see trees that seem to be permanently blown backwards by the wind.
From here, head to Curio Bay where the 180 million year old Jurassic Petrified Forest can be seen at low tide, and close by Porpoise Bay is where you are likely to see Hectors Dolphins, Penguins, sea lions, and fur seals. The small villages of Waikawa and Niagara are nearby and as you head further east look for McLean Falls and Cathedral Caves. The caves have two entrances close together, 30 metres high that open onto the beach which you can walk along at low tide to see inside the caves. Along this part of the coast there are lots of walking trails, bays, beaches, coastline, forests and rivers and a little further east is the Purakaunui Cascade Falls.
Owaka on the Owaka River is the biggest village in the Catlins with a population of about 300 people. You can stay here and find a coffee, also Dolly World, Teapotland and the Historical Museum on Burns Street. Owaka is also close to walking trails, Jack’s Blowhole, the old Hayward Point Pilot’s Station, Surat Bay where the ship ‘Surat’ was wrecked in 1874, and Cannibal Bay where you will also see fur seals and Roaring Bay where there is a Penguin Hide.
Nugget Point (Tokata) the oldest lighthouse in New Zealand is one of the ‘must see’ places to visit too. You walk along a narrow walkway to the tip of the point, and next to the lighthouse you can look down at ‘the nuggets’ – small conical shaped rocks that poke out of the wild ocean waters. Below the lighthouse you may also see fur seals lying on the rocks below you and maybe yellow eyed penguins. Further east around Molyneaux Bay is Kaka Point and about 20 kilometres or so north you will come to Balclutha (population 4000) and cross over the Clutha River on the Balclutha Bridge, and from here it is about 80 kilometres to Dunedin.
The name Dunedin is the Celtic name for the city of Edinburgh in Scotland, and the city was founded by Scottish emigrants who first arrived and settled here in the 1848, though the area had earlier been discovered by sealers and others. The City is proud of its Scottish Heritage, with many of the streets given Scottish names.
The centre of the city is located at ‘The Octagon’ from which streets radiate outwards from there. There are a number of historic buildings including the Town Hall, Mayfair Theatre, Knox Church, St Paul’s Cathedral and the most spectacular of all is the Dunedin Railway Station on Anzac Square.
There is lots of nice architecture throughout the city, but the most magnificent of all is ‘Larnach Castle’ built in 1871-1874 on Camp Rd, about 15 kilometres from the city centre. The building, 40 hectares of gardens and the fully furnished rooms inside rival the best Victorian décor of any home or castle in the world – with magnificent wallpapers, timber work, furniture and ambience creating a very memorable experience. Also if you like Architecture, try and visit ‘Olveston Historic Home’ built 1904-06 and its 35 rooms located at 42 Royal Terrace in North Dunedin (See www.olveston.co.nz) .
Things to see in Dunedin include –
- Baldwin Street – the steepest street in the world, where there is a stairway to the top in place of a footpath. The great Cadbury ‘Jaffa Race’ is held here each year, where they race ‘numbered balls’ (Jaffas) down the street. (Jaffas are a chocolate centres candies).
- Botanic Gardens – in North Dunedin, with the Gardens dating back to 1863.
- Chinese Gardens – cnr Rattray and Cumberland Streets. A traditional Chinese Garden. Dunedin’s sister city is Shanghai in China.
- Toitu Otago Settler’s Museum – 31 Queens Gardens was first built in 1908 and it has changing displays, and celebrates the Maori, Chinese and Scottish heritage as well as the Military history of Dunedin and the Otago region.
- Forsyth Barr Stadium – look for sporting events to see what is happening while you are here in Dunedin.
- Otago University – was founded in 1869 and is located at 362 Leith Street in North Dunedin.
- Signal Hill – has the best views over the City and the Otago Harbour. You can get there by driving along Signal Hill Road. Mt Cargill also has great views too, but you need to climb it which takes maybe 3 to 4 hours to get to the top of the 676 metre high mountain.
- Speights Brewery – 200 Rattray Street, (See speights.co.nz ) Tel: 3-477 7697 to see how the beer is produced.
- Cadbury World – 280 Cumberland Street to take a tour to see the world of Chocolate. There are different types of tours and you need to book either on-line or by phoning 0800 42 462 8687 (See cadbury.co.nz )
- Port Chalmers – is where Cruise Ships dock – near the entrance to Otago Harbour and at the tip of the Otago Peninsula, about 20 kilometres from the centre of Dunedin. For music and a beer head to ‘Chick’s Hotel, and for a great walk head to the Lady Thorne Rhododendron Dell (garden). Port Chambers was where the first refrigerated shipment of meat and butter was exported from New Zealand in 1882, and it is also where Captain Scott and his Antarctic team set off in 1910, never to return. Also in Port Chambers head to 207 Aramoana Rd to the Hare Hill horse riding setup. Here they can take you riding on the beach.
- Orokonui Eco-Sanctuary is not far from Port Chambers at 600 Blueskin Rd Waitati. (See orokonui.org.nz Tel: 3-482 1755). Here you will see rare New Zealand birds, reptiles and plants in a great setting with a café too.
- Harbour Cruises – this is a great way to see the harbour and also wildlife (See wildlife.co.nz 20 Fryatt Street for Monarch Wildlife Cruises. They have a number of cruises with different itineraries and costs. Along the coast you most likely will see penguins, sea lions and other sea life, and in the water hopefully see Hector’s Dolphins, Dusky Dolphins and Bottlenose Dolphins.
- Taiaroa Head – and Lighthouse is where the Royal Albatross Centre is located to see Northern Royal Albatross birds where they nest and also penguins and other wildlife.
- Tunnel Beach and the giant arch – is a great place to see with sandstone cliffs lining the beach and a massive sandstone archway under the headland. Makes for a great photo!
- Taieri Gorge – is a fantastic day train trip in 1915-1920 carriages from Dunedin Railway Station to the Taieri Gorge area across viaducts and through the hills and valleys. Put this in you “must do” list and if time permits also… take the Seasider Train trip too.
- Seasider Train Trip – this leaves from Dunedin Train Station and heads along the Otago Harbour and then up the coast to Palmerston. This also very scenic and worth doing to get a feel for the countryside and coastline.
- See the city – Dunedin has a population of around 123,000 people, so it has all the facilities of a city with great cafes, restaurants, shopping and places to stay.
- Moeraki – is about 60 kilometres north from Dunedin, and here you can see a lighthouse and also on the beach you will see amazing round 60 million year old boulder rocks, the ‘Moeraki Boulders’, like ‘devil’s marbles’ along the beach. The drive up the coastline also makes the trip worthwhile.
Oamaru has a population of around 12,000 people, and here you can see tiny Blue Penguins that fish in the day and come home each night to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. The town itself is very pretty with a number of limestone buildings along Harbour, Tyne and Thames Streets and great gardens. Oamaru is also the home of New Zealand’s ‘Steampunk’ movement (See www.steampunkoamaru.co.nz). There is also an auto museum and some interesting other things to see in the Woolstore Complex at 1 Tyne Street. The Whitestone Cheese Factory and shop is at 3 Torridge Street, and North Otago Museum is at 60 Thomas Street. The ‘Ocean to Alps’ cycleway also starts in Oamaru and finishes in Mt Cook, and to get an appreciation of farming and history visit the Totara Estate and Clark’s Flour Mill. The Totara Estate, open during the summer months is located 8 kilometres south of Oamaru off State Highway 1 (Alma-Maheno Rd) Tel: 3 – 433 1269. The Estate once covered 15,000 acres, and was where the very first shipment of lamb using refrigeration was undertaken shipping to London on the ship ‘Dunedin’ in 1882. There are a number of old original buildings at Totara and the old Clark’s flour mill is nearby.
From Oamaru you can follow the road north to Timaru and on to Christchurch, or you could travel inland to Mt Cook and the snowfields or to Lake Tekapo.
Timaru – the birthplace of ‘Phar Lap’– one of the world’s greatest race horses.
Timaru is a bigger city with a population of 42,000 and is around 196 kilometres north of Dunedin and 157 kilometres south from Christchurch. Timaru is where the great champion race horse ‘Phar Lap’ (1926-1932) was born at Seadown, just out of Timaru, and the Timaru Racetrack off State Highway 1 just north of Timaru is named the ‘Phar Lap Raceway’ in his honour. There is also a magnificent bronze life size statue erected at the entrance to the Raceway – designed by Sculptor, Joanne Sullivan- Gessler. The statue shows Phar Lap racing with jockey, Jim Pike in the saddle, with a circular fountain of water flowing beneath him. Flemington Race Course in Melbourne also has a bronze sculpture too in honour of Phar Lap winning the Melbourne Cup, and there is also a movie made about Phar Lap and his remarkable achievements and untimely death in the USA where he died in mysterious circumstances, most likely by poisoning.
Timaru is a port harbour city with a popular beach at Caroline Bay – where there are lots of activities for kids and a boardwalk. Also here off the Timaru Piazza at Caroline Bay is the Trevor Griffiths Rose Gardens with more than 1200 roses set out in a formal circular shaped garden, with a stairway leading down to the gardens. Trevor Griffiths was a famous Rosarian (Rose grower ) and is said to have saved many old roses from extinction, with a lifelong passion for Roses.
In Timaru the Tourist Information Centre is a 2 George Street in the Service Landing Building (tel: 3- 687 9997)and there is a great Gallery called Aigantigne at 49 Wai-Iti Road as well as the South Canterbury Museum in Perth Street to see and learn about the town and the City’s past. Also take a look at the Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre also at 2 George Street (Tel: 0800 468 3262) to see and learn about Maori Rock Art. There are a number of Rock Art sites in the Ophihi and Opuha valleys.
The Timaru Botanic Gardens first established in 1864 is at Queen Street and besides the gardens there is also an attractive bird aviary next door.
The DB Brewery is located in Timaru and has tours of the Brewery (See www.db.co.nz Tel: 3- 687 4230). The Brewery is located on Sheffield Street in Washdyke.
About 20 kilometres north west on Highway 8 is the small village of Pleasant Point where there are some wineries, glass blowing and Maori Rock Art, but the main attraction (when open) is the Pleasant Point Railway on Afghan Street with its Model T Railcar, one of the only ones in the world. The rail wheels replaced road tyres, and a body was constructed in Wellington in 1925 for it to run on rail tracks. It is something quite special to see ( See www.pleasantpointrail.org.nz Tel: 3- 614 8323)
In Timaru there are many bluestone buildings built using local stone and the City Primeport Terminal has grain silos, bulk handling facilities and container terminals for exporting milk and dairy products, meat, timber, fish, grain, seeds and scoured wool mostly sourced from the rich Canterbury Plains properties that stretch from around Timaru in the south to Christchurch in the north. The Canterbury Plains are considered some of the best farmland in the world.
When people think of Christchurch they immediately think of the massive Earthquake that occurred here in September 2010 when people were killed and