Tuesday, 8 July 2014

South Island Highlights, NZ

The South Island has some of the most beautiful views in the whole of New Zealand and you won't be disappointed wherever you go - everywhere you look there's either mountains or lakes or scenic woodlands - or all three in one go! Below is just a handful of our South Island travel highlights.

Marlborough Sounds, Cook Straight
If you are travelling by car or have the money to travel on the ferry from Wellington to Picton make sure you have your camera ready - as well as a warm hat! The views, especially on a nice day, are glorious as you make you make your way through the Marlborough Sounds as you sail into Picton. The water is a beautiful emerald shade and the cute little houses nestled in the hills make you consider a change of lifestyle for a moment. 

Nelson Lakes
Worth the drive out, and technically it's the long scenic route to Nelson from Picton. Make sure to take a picnic for yourself and some bread for the ducks. But watch those ducks - they aren't afraid to get up close and personal, and I just made it out with my life... Step out onto the jetti and see if you can spot the eels and fish. But those mountains are a beautiful view and will give you a real taste for what you're in for on your trip around the South! 

Punakaiki Rocks
High tide and a windy-ish day are the perfect conditions to see these natural beauties! If you have the patience you could come away with some awesome photos as the water splashes up through the blow holes - and if not, you could take a video which would be just as awesome! 

Franz Josef Glacier
Winter is the perfect time of year to visit Franz Josef Glacier and it really is pot luck as to how many caves and crevices you will come by as you climb. We took a glacier guides tour with a helicopter trip which took us up to and off of the glacier. Remember to pack a bottle of water and some cereal bars to keep your energy up, but it's not a strenuous climb. An experience of a lifetime! 

Queenstown is gorgeous, it really is. I mean what could be more perfect than sitting by the lake with your lunchbox admiring the snow topped mountains against the bright blue skies, the lake still and clear and every so often a man on a jet boat whizzes past or a tour boat or someone parasailing? It's magical! Really. Sadly Queenstown was much too expensive for us to enjoy many activities - but our main reason for visiting was to catch up with our friends whom we haven't seen for 6 months! If you're a bit tight on cash like we was, try skipping stones on the lake - we passed many hours doing this and you won't feel like you've wasted your day! 

Doubtful Sound
We debated for many hours trying to decided on whether to do the Milford Sound or the Doubtful. We couldn't do both due to lack of funds, so in the end we decided on the Doubtful Sound. Our main reasons for this is because I had read online that there is a real sense of being "at the end of the world" here and you're more likely to see dolphins, apparently. Sadly we didn't see any dolphins, we did get to see seals though. The tour was great, my favourite part being the Sound of Silence where the boat is stopped at the bottom of one of the "arms". The boat is switched off and everyone and everything is still, silent. We stood out on the front deck to enjoy this moment, it was raining and it was magical. 

Christchurch is still a very sad place, but despite its scars, despite the building sites and the crazy amount of traffic cones it's a beautiful place. I really wanted to check out the re:Start Mall and I was not at all disappointed! The shops and eateries are high end. It's clean, modern, bright and exciting! I really loved it, even more so that the shops are housed in multi coloured storage crates! Fantastic! We also stopped by the Antartica Centre which is a lot of fun and worth a visit if you have the spare money. 

Ohau Stream Walk
By far my favourite experience on the South Island! On your way up from Christchurch back to Picton, via Kaikoura make sure you stop to enjoy this short walk. It is incredible and not to be missed! Just a 10 minute walk from the roadside car park you will follow a stream of water leading up to a waterfall where you will find an abundance of playful, inquisitive and simply adorable baby seals! Oh wow, they were so much fun to watch - diving, flipping and swimming in the pool. There were pups everywhere! Up on the hill snoozing in the trees and sitting on the rocks just an arms length away from us. Two pups whom were on the hill behind us even pushed their way through the crowd to join their siblings in the pool. One of was particularly drawn to my camera and got so close it was almost intimidating - remember they are wild animals after all, and should not be petted - albeit very hard to resist believe me! 

These are just some of our South Island trip highlights - there was far too many of them to list them all right now, but I will be back soon with a list of Free Things to do in the South Island and Our Favourite South Island Hostels

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