The rugged lands of New Zealand’s South Island possess some of the rarest wildlife, extreme outdoor activities, and delectable national parks. You’ll discover giant glaciers and sky mirroring lakes as you drive a route that takes you from Christchurch to the Otago Peninsula. Cruise along a west coast where limestone rock formations lead to glacial lakes and the Otago Peninsula where an albatross sighting is sure to bring you luck.
Lake Te Anau
You’ll begin in Christchurch, a city with great indoor and outdoor activities. Visit the International Antartic Centre and hop on a Hägglund ride. Enjoy a stroll through 160 hectares of Hagley Park where a botanic garden, museum, and the Avon River assure entertainment. Visit the town of Akaroa which is perfect for a sea kayak in blue bay waters where Hector’s dolphins play.
Next, enter the heart of Marlborough Sounds, Picton. This harbour town by a bay is rich with marine life. Dolphins, fur seals, and Hump Back whales swim these waters for your viewing pleasure. A short drive is one of New Zealand’s finest wine regions. Galleries and restaurants invite you in to enjoy seafood and local art. A kayak tour after a hike around Queen Charlotte Track is a must.
In the Tasman Region of South Island is Marahau. Relax in this rural village before taking the Abel Tasman Coastal Trek. A horse ride along a beach estuary is a popular activity for good reason. The Sandy Bay waters welcome a swim or kayak, as well as a chance to spot seals and dolphins. A waterfront dine will fill you up after an exciting hike begins in Abel Tasman.
4. West Coast
You’ll love the west coast nature that ranges from the limestone Pancake Rocks found in Punakaiki to the Franz Josef Glacier. As you cruise this coastline stop off to hike the Hokitika Gorge as you walk a swing bridge over a river. The town of Moana on the edge of Lake Brunner invites you to jet ski, fish, or dive these sky mirroring waters.
5. Franz Josef
Your stop at the town of Franz Josef will include a trek across a glacier. The temperate climates allow easy access to an icy land, one where hikes lead to caves as you move through narrow crevasses. A professional can guide you through a step cut, skydiving is also available. Glacier hot pools are an excellent way to relax after a day at Franz Josef.
Queenstown delivers a sizeable amount of outdoor activities. Skippers Canyon offers a thrilling riverboat cruise between narrow cliff faces. Marine life sightings such as the longfin eel can be enjoyed as you kayak across a lake. Walk a suspension bridge as you take in your surroundings, or better still, hop on a zipline and fly through the sky before a trip to Milford Sound.
7. Lake Te Anau
You’ll move on to Lake Te Anau, the largest glacial lake in the South Island. Within the Fiordland National Park is a bird sanctuary that’s not to be overlooked, as is Milford Sound. With over 700 species of flora, the towering cliffs and glacial valleys will be part of a boat cruise that reinstates why this land is considered the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
8. Otago Peninsula
You’ll enter the city of Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula. This region houses the only breeding colony of albatross in the world and the rare Yellow Eyed penguin. Considered the wildlife capital of New Zealand, a hike or mountain bike will lead to wonderful seaside cliffs such as The Chasm, a place to pause and take in all you have experienced on your trip.
To end your road trip, you’ll return to Christchurch where you can visit a monument literally made out of cardboard. The Cardboard Cathedral was erected as a place of worship after a devastating 2011 earthquake and consists of 86 cardboard tubes and 6 metre tall containers.
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