Great Southern land
ExplorE thE many charms of thE South Island and you may nEvEr want to lEavE!
By all reports, Prince Harry and new wife MegHan Markle
had a wonderful time on their recent “babymoon” tour of New Zealand. And it’s no surprise: its charming towns, glittering lakes, ancient forests, magnificent vineyards and friendly locals mean NZ has great deal to offer.
Everyone from A-list celebrities such as cHarlize THeron, JoHnny DePP, Taylor SwifT, JaSon STaTHaM, JuSTin TiMberlake and laDy gaga to the cast of The Lord
of the Rings blockbusters also happily give our near neighbour a big thumbs-up.
In particular, the buzz is all about the South Island right now. Whether you explore it by foot or by car, by tram or hot-air balloon, by boat, kayak or on skis, there’s a delight waiting around every corner.
If you book now, you might just be able to make it to
Marlborough, aka the biggest wine-growing region in the country, for its famous Food and Wine Festival in February. Treat yourself to a few of its legendary sauvignon blancs. And for the more active, Marlborough’s Queen Charlotte
Track is considered one of the world’s best cycling trails.
The South Island’s biggest city, Christchurch, is well on the rise again following its reconstruction after the devastating 2011 earthquake. It’s a fascinating combination of the old and the new: from Ye Olde churches and buildings to modern eateries, shops and incredible street art. There are
so many ways to get around the city – vintage bikes, trams and gondola rides (and even a punt down the Avon River).
Dedicated culture vultures should seek out Canterbury
Museum, the Arts Centre and the internationally acclaimed
Christchurch Art Gallery; nature lovers will want to stroll through the Botanic Gardens, the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, take a dolphin-watching day trip at Akaora Harbour or board the TranzAlpine Express train to Arthur’s Pass.
Dunedin is another charming city that buzzes with engaging nightlife and boasts a European feel. It’s a university town – home to New Zealand’s oldest uni – so don’t be surprised to find yourself among students at its colourful cafes.
Marvel at the magnificent harbour, explore Larnach Castle
and Gardens (stay for high tea) or take a scenic drive along the
Otago Peninsula to admire the beaches and sea life.
Remember rolling Jaffas down the aisle as a kid? Dunedin also hosts an annual Cadbury Chocolate festival, where thousands of Jaffas are rolled down the hill (the city is home to the steepest residential street in the world).
If you have sturdy legs and a heart for adventure, head out on a hike along the Southern Alps, which covers hundreds of kilometres along the South Island. Many hikers make a pilgrimage to New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki, which towers more than 3724 metres. The spectacular, ever-changing environment, from lush forests to river valleys and snow-capped peaks, will give you an idea of the spectacular range of the island’s scenery.
If your boots are still made for walking, why not visit the
Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki, tramp the Franz
Josef Glacier or tramp along the coastal paradise of the Abel
Tasman National Park and see the seals and dolphins at play?
Fancy playing the same golf course as bill clinTon? Hit the links at Millbrook Golf
Resort, north of Queenstown. They don’t call Queenstown the adventure capital of New Zealand for nothing. Quadbiking, white-water rafting, jet-boating, even bungeejumping… Queenstown has it all. Pack your adrenalin.
A popular hot-spot for celebs (just ask the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), Queenstown is also a major foodie destination:
Fergburger has been dubbed the world’s best burger joint! Big call, but they’re making it! You must check out Central
Otago, just an hour out of Queenstown. Its award-winning wines – particularly its pinots
– have been making a major splash on the word stage. Sampling the product of the sun-dappled vineyards right before you is a special delight. Tourists rave about the view from Rippon Vineyard (as well as the wine, naturally). Pair that pinot noir with merino lamb and slow-roasted duck at
Mt Difficulty. Or clink glasses while admiring the magnificent view of Lake Hayes at Amisfield. You just can’t lose!
Skiing and snowboarding are big around Queenstown,
Wanaka and Central Otago, so afterwards, put the wine in the car boot and drive to the mountains for fun on the slopes.
You’ll want to explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Fiordland National Park – and not only because you saw it in LOTR. Take a cruise down Milford Sound, once described by Rudyard Kipling as “the eighth wonder of the world” (you’ll soon see why – don’t forget your camera).
End your island odyssey by sampling the region’s most famous exports, the Bluff oyster, at the seaside town of Bluff, right at the end of the island.
If you want the complete NZ island experience, take the ferry to Stewart Island, NZ’s third (and oft forgotten) island. Or head to the North Island... but that’s another story.
FRANz JOseF GLACieR
RIPPON VINEYARD CHARLIZE THERON CHRISTCHURCH LARNACH CASTLE DUNEDIN Marvel at Queenstown as it takes your breath away FERGBURGER