One of the countries I love to visit the most is New Zealand. It is rare to find so many natural landscape features in such a small land area. Across its two main islands, you can find ice fields, rolling grasslands, beaches that are deserted, and subtropical forests. The Sound mentioned here is not as heavily populated as the North and a greater portion of the land is dotted with mountains. These destinations were chosen to appeal to those who appreciate nature and the outdoors. While the towns and cities of New Zealand each have their own unique ambience, it was the clean, unspoiled natural landscapes that drew me here. The following describes my favorite places to visit in South Island.
The first place I visited was Kaikoura, a location known for its whales. Whales, dolphins, seals, and other sea creatures can be spotted all year round, thanks to the ocean currents just off the coast. Whale Watch run regular boat tours to see them, and on our excursion we observed a sperm whale, seals, and an albatross. Kaikoura would be one of my favorite place, even if there was no wildlife. The charming township has a rugged coastline rising 2600 meters above sea level and beautiful beaches all over the peninsula.
One glacier that is very unique is call Franz Josef Glacier. Not only is it advancing, but it’s one of the few glaciers that can be found all the way in temperate rainforest. Glaciers generally exist either well above the timber line, like the Alps or Rockies, or at extremely low altitudes that can only be found near polar regions. Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier are located in Westland, the untamed western portion of the Southern Alps. If you have the money, take an amazing helicopter ride over the glaciers, weather permitting — it is worth spending the extra money to take the tour that actually lands on a glacier. Franz Joseph provides an enjoyable stopover; we camped at Rainforest Retreat, a short walk from the center of town.
Despite it being one of the largest and most popular visitor attractions in the South West of the country, Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park is truly outstanding. Mitrte Peak is a straight vertical rise of 1600 meters which then tapers to a small fjord, which shrinks to only 400 meters in some locations. To reach it from Te Anau, one must travel along a spectacular road winding through the Southern Alps and the Homer Tunnel. If I had expertise in rowing a Kayak, I would prefer to explore Milford Sound this way, but since I am not that experienced in kayaking, the next best way to see this beautiful spot is via cruising. There is an undersea observatory named Milford Deep that is worth visiting, if you have the time. The majority of cruises from Milford Sound pause at this unusual aquarium which showcases whatever creatures happen to swim up the fjord from the open water.
Farther South, on the other hand, Doubtful Sound is a tranquil, unspoiled location without the austerity of Milford. It’s accessible only by boat from Manapouri, which later connects to a bus ride over the Wilmot Pass. Doubtful Sound has wooded slopes and encompasses a larger area than Milford. I felt my trip was superior because we went with a small company called Doubtful Sound Cruises in a small boat. There isn’t much that can top the experience of drifting peacefully with the engine shut off, surrounded by the wonders of nature, including dolphins frolicking all around you.
Glenorchy — This enjoys a stunning location named after the Scottish Highlands. From Queenstown going west, it is accessible by car or bike along the edge of Lake Wakatipu. Or for a more pleasant journey, you can go by steamship from Queenstown to Glenorchy. Once out of town, you continue on a gravel road to an unspoiled valley overshadowed by the colossal Mt Earnslaw. You can follow paths through serene forests of beech trees — a totally different experience from the rainforest on the west coast — and nearby you will find the starting point for a difficult high level Routeburn Track, which heads over the mountains to the Hollyford Valley in route to Milford Sound.
These are a few ideas, but you will find ways to make your own unforgettable memories — have a wonderful trip!