Sometimes all you want is to escape to a secluded piece of paradise where you can relax and meditate. The fjords and plains of the South Island of New Zealand is the perfect place to find your inner wisdom.
Divided by the Southern Alps, the South Island is the larger of the two New Zealand islands. With snow-capped mountains, broad plains and golden beaches, the sparse population means you'll likely have that beach all to yourself.
While it is cooler in the South than the neighboring North Island, it can get still get pretty warm at certain times during the year. When planning your trip, remember that the seasons are swapped in that area of the world. They're enjoying the beaches and summer relaxation while we are shoveling snow, and vice versa.
While you're exhausting your camera snapping shots of all the fascinating scenery, be sure to take a closer look to see the friendly, local critters of the South Island. In the waters of Kaikoura you'll meet whales, seals, dolphins and penguins, and in the sky you'll see several bird species like petrels and albatross. Head down south for a chance to see the elusive and shy national icon, the kiwi.
For a fascinating look at a city rebuilding itself, head to Chirstchurch. After the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, the city is still putting itself back together. Empty lots and abandoned buildings serve as canvases for art projects, giving the creative minds of South Island a place to express themselves and make things happen. As the locals continue to be frustrated with the pace of the rebuild, the art projects are met with excitement as they see them as a touching tribute to the past and hope for what might be.
The South Island is divided into four different regions. The Tasman-Marlborough section of the island includes the beautiful Marlborough Sound, while the West Coast is home to spectacular glaciers. The Canterbury region is home to the magnificent Southern Alps along the plains and the largest city on the island, Christchurch. Lastly, the South division is where snow-capped mountains turn into the most beautiful fjords.
The South Island is where ordinary people let loose and do extraordinary things. Adventure is very much encouraged in the South Island. You can go kayaking in the Marlborough Sound or along the coast of the remote fjords.
During the winter, skiing is always a very popular option in Wanaka, Queenstown or Mt. Hutt. Hiking is a good idea any time of the year. The large distances between cities and people are ideal for long hikes. Forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fjords welcome hikers of the South Island.
Of course, you can always take the ultimate leap in Queenstown. Take a look at all the bungee options to get your adrenaline pumping as you fall from massive heights.
Furthermore, this region is home to a large number of hiking trails, or "tracks" as they are referred to here. Taking a long, multi-day hike is one of the best ways to see the area. For more information, read this great overview of the best hikes on New Zealand's South Island
Food and Dining
At one time New Zealand was full of the rather bland, historically British cuisine. Not anymore. Today's chefs are experimenting and dipping into the flavors of the world. By incorporating their local produce into these new dishes, you'll be sure to find something delicious for dinner. Don't miss out on the stone-fruit of Central Otaga or the salty seafood of Kaikoura.
For those who appreciate the tastes of an adult beverage, the cool-climate of New Zealand yields world-famous wineries
just ready for tastings. If you're more interested in craft beers, the regions of Marlborough, Christchurch and Dunedin are big players in the hops game.
If you're looking to travel across the South Island of New Zealand, there are two main train routes. The Picton-Christchurch Tranzcoastal begins in the Marlborough wine country and crosses the Canterbury Plains. The Christchurch Greymouth Tranzalpine
crosses the Southern Alps and is known as one of the most scenic train adventures in the world.
Buses are a cheaper way to visit all the main destinations of the South Island. There are plenty of private services to hire from large buses, to minivan shuttles.
If you're not nervous about driving in a foreign country, traveling the roads of the South Island is one of the best ways to see the spectacular landscape this region has to offer. Rental cars are available in most of towns.
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