Dates of visit:
October 3, 2004 -
October 27, 2004

We rate this trip a:

Trip Highlights:
 Southern Alps
 Scenic drives
 Whale watch
 Seal Colonies
 Hot Springs
 Scottish Castle
 Cruising fiords
 Milford Sound
 Glacier walking
 Christchurch City

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*** Quick Index - South Island***
Kaikoura & Whale Watching | Hanmer Springs |
| Dunedin | Larnach Castle | Catlins | Invercargill | Fiordland National Park |
| Doubtful Sound | Milford Sound | Te Anau | Queenstown |
| Arrowtown | Westland National Park | Greymouth |
| Christchurch City | Christchurch Botanic Gardens |

*** Go to North Island ***

Introduction (click on image for larger view)
Putting New Zealand on the map: The South Island

South IslandThe South Island, 150,440 sq km (58,070 sq miles) in area, is slightly larger than the North Island.

The Southern Alps mountain chain runs almost the length of the island, with 223 named peaks higher than 2,300 m (7,550 ft).

The eastern side of the Alps is dry and largely non-forested, while the west coast has high rainfall and magnificent forests, lakes, mountains and glaciers. Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island, with 330,000 inhabitants, has good international travel links. To the south, Dunedin is an important university town. Stewart Island, south of Invercargill, is New Zealand's third largest island.

Introducing the South Island ... Unparalleled scenic variety awaits the visitor to the South Island. The snow-capped Southern Alps dominate the island, dividing it in two and contributing to a vast adventure playground of mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers and fiords. Golden sand beaches, waterways and vineyards dominate the sun-soaked north. Along the narrow West Coast, waves from the Tasman Sea pound wild beaches. To the east are the patchwork Canterbury Plains and the rich, rolling farmland of Otago and Southland. Christchurch, New Zealand's English "garden city", and Picton in the picturesque Marlborough Sounds, are the two main entry points to the South Island.

Southern Splendor ... The overwhelming impression a visitor has of the South Island is its scenic diversity: the bush-clad inlets of the Marlborough Sounds, golden sand beaches of Nelson, sweeping plains of Canterbury, snow-covered mountains of the alpine chain, dripping rainforests of the West Coast, rugged tussock lands and rolling farmland of Otago and Southland and the fiords of the southwest. No less varied is the climate. Only three hours of driving separate the wet west coast and the dry east coast.

Wildlife Colonies ... With a smaller population, there is less human pressure on wildlife in the South island than in the North island, and this is reflected in the number of wildlife colonies scattered around the mainland which are accessible to tourists. New Zealand has been described as "the seabird capital of the world" because of the number of species that either visit or breed along its coasts. A lack of predators has also led inland birds to be more fearless, and therefore more visible, than birds in most other countries. Marine mammals abound and tour operators guarantee an almost 100% chance of seeing these animals in their natural habitat.

A brief visual tour (click on image for larger view)
KaikouraKaikoura ... The name Kaikoura means "meal of crayfish" and reflects the importance of the sea throughout the area. Captain Cook sailed past the Kaikoura Peninsula in 1770, naming the place "Lookers On" because of the reticence of the local Maoris. The first European settlers were whalers, beginning in 1842.

Whale watchingWhale Watching in Kaikoura ... In the late 1980s, the popularity of observing marine life in Kaikoura led to a tourism boom that transformed the town into one of New Zealand's premier visitor destinations. The main attraction is sperm whales, seen as they rest on the surface between dives, as well as orca and numerous dolphin species. Through the service of several eco-tourism companies in Kaikoura, the habits of whales and seals and the antics of the acrobatic dusky dolphins can be observed from the shore or air and both in and on the water.

The presence of very deep water and the mixing of warm and cold ocean currents there, which forces nutrients to the surface, explain the special richness of Kaikouraís marine life. Species of seabirds found in Kaikoura include the royal albatross, wandering albatross, grey petrel, Antarctic fulmer, and black-browed mollymawk.

Hanmer SpringsHanmer Springs ... This small alpine village, 385 m (1,260 ft) above sea level, is best known for the extensive Hammer Springs Thermal Reserve. Although hot springs were first discovered in the area in 1859, they were officially opened only in 1883. Today, the complex includes 11 thermal and freshwater pools of varying temperatures, including private pools and a children's water slide area.

Surrounding the hot pools is a 168-sq-km (65-sq-mile) forest park, which offers a variety of activities, including walks ranging from the short Conical Hill walk (one hour return) to the longer Mount Isobel walk (five to six hours return), and excellent mountain biking opportunities.

Dunedin Otago UniversityDunedin ... One of the joys of exploring Dunedin is that there is a great deal to see in a relatively small area. Its buildings are among the most interesting and architecturally diverse in the country. Many that have survived from Dunedin's heyday following the 1860s gold rush, when the city was the country's commercial centre, are within walking distance of the centre. Others are to the north of the city in proximity to Dunedin's many beautiful parks and gardens. The flat central city, which remains the retail hub, is surrounded by hills, which afford a splendid view of the city and harbor below.

Dunedin Law CourtsDunedin has close historical links with the Scottish city of Edinburgh. Not only is Dunedin the old Gaelic name for Edinburgh, but many of its street names are Scottish and several Scottish traditions have been preserved since the first Presbyterian settlers arrived in 1848.The octagon, so-called because of its eight sides, gives the city a central focus.

Dunedin Railway StyationDunedinís Railway Station is one of New Zealand's finest historic buildings and one of the best examples of railway architecture in the southern hemisphere.

Although not large by international standards, the station's delightful proportions lend it an air of grandeur. Opened in 1906, the Flemish Renaissance-style building was designed by New Zealand Railways architect George Troup, whose detailing on the outside of the building earned him the nickname "Gingerbread George".

Larnach CastleLarnach Castle ... Located 20 km (12 miles) from central Dunedin along the "high" road, Lanarch Castle is New Zealand's only castle. Built between 1871 and 1885 for financier, businessman and politician, William J M Larnach, the grand stone mansion, set in 2 sq km ((1.8 sq mile) of hush and gardens, is built along Scottish baronial lines.

It has many fine features, including elaborately carved and deco-rated ceilings and a large, hanging staircase, the product of the many English and Italian artisans brought to Dunedin to work on the building. There is also a ballroom, added as a complete wing as a birthday present for Larnach's daughter.

Larnach Castle
Larnach Castle Larnach Castle Larnach Castle
Larnach Castle Larnach Castle Larnach Castle

A Catlin beachTour of the Catlins ... Natural curiosities and beauty combine to make this southeastern corner of the South island a scenic treasure. Fossilized trees, beautiful waterfalls, golden beaches, high cliffs and secret caves are all part of a unique mix of attractions in this area.

A varied coastline of cliffs and golden sand surf beaches provides a home to a wide range of wildlife. The area is made all the more spectacular by the ancient forests of rime, matai, totara, beech and miro which reach almost to the sea, and which are filled with the sounds of native birds.
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InvercargillInvercargill ... New Zealandís southernmost city, and the commercial hub of Southland, Invercargill is a well-planned city with wide, tree-lined streets and many parks and reserves. Settled in the 1850s and 1860s by Scottish immigrants, the city's cultural links with Scotland are reflected in the streets named after Scottish rivers and in its many historic buildings.
FiordlandFiordland National Park ... Fiordland National Parkís 21,000 sq km (8,100 sq miles) make it the largest of New Zealand's National Parks, while its special geology, landscape, flora and fauna have earned it a place in the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area. It is a region dominated by forest and water. Its 14 fiords and five major lakes - the work of ice Age glaciers - flanked by steep mountains clad with thick, temperate rainforest, make the interior virtually impenetrable except along its 500 km (310 miles) of tracks.
Doubtful SoundDoubtful Sound ... Doubtful Sound was named by Captain James Cook in 1770, on his voyage to New Zealand when, looking at the narrow entrance to the sound, he was doubtful that he could safely get his vessel in and out. The 40-km (25-mile) long fiord is Fiordland's second largest and, at 421 m (1,380 ft), the deepest.

It is a remote, unspoilt wilderness of mountain peaks, fiords and rainforest that supports a rich array of bird and marine life, including crested penguins, fur seals and bottlenose dolphins. Getting there is an adventure in itself, involving two boat trips and a coach ride over a mountain pass, with a side trip deep underground to the huge Manapouri Power Station generator hall.

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Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound Doubtful Sound Doubtful Sound
Milford SoundMilford Sound ... Milford Sound, a 16-km (10-mile) long fiord is Fiordland's best-known attraction. Its most famous landmark is Mitre Peak (left), a pyramid-shaped mountain rising 1,692 m (5,550 ft) straight from the deep fiord. Although scenic flights are available, the grandeur of Milford Sound can he best appreciated by boat. Trips pass unusual geological features, such as Lion Mountain, the Elephant and Copper Point, as well as waterfalls: the Bowen Falls drop 160 m (530 ft) into the water, and the Stirling Falls 146 m (480 ft).
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Milford Sound
Milford Sound Milford Sound Milford Sound

Te AnauTe Anau ... Te Anau, on the southeastern shore of Lake Te Anau, is Fiordland's commercial centre (primarily deer farming and tourism) and a good base for exploring Fiordland National Park, The lake, the largest in the South Island, is 61 km (38 miles) long and 417 m (1,370 ft) deep, the result of glacial action.

Te Anau
Te Anau Te Anau Te Anau

QueenstownQueenstown ... Situated on the northeast shore of Lake Wakatipu, backed by the Remarkables range, Queenstown has one of the most scenic settings in the world. Since the 1970s, it has developed from a lakeside town into a leading international resort and a center for adventure sports. Like most towns in the area, Queenstown was established during the 1860s gold rushes.
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HINT: If video starts/stops often, PAUSE the playback for 45-60 seconds to allow the video buffer memory to fill. To resume playback press PLAY.

Queenstown Queenstown Skippers Canyon

ArrowtownArrowtown ... Nestled at the foot of rugged hills 20 km (12 miles) from Queenstown, Arrowtown is the most picturesque and best-preserved gold-mining town in the area. In 1862, a small hand of miners discovered gold in the Fox River and within weeks they had recovered 113 kg (250 lb) of the precious metal. Arrowtown's population peaked at more than 7,000 and is one of the few boomtowns not to have either become a ghost town or been overrun by more modern development. The main street, partly lined with deciduous trees, has many old colonial shops and buildings at one end and, at the other, tiny miners' stone cottages dating hack to the 1860s and 1870s.

Arrowtown Chinese SettlementChinese miners played a big part in Arrowtown's history after 1865, when they were invited to fill the vacuum created by European miners who had left for the West Coast gold rush. Their legacy is Arrowtown's Chinese Settlement with its preserved and restored stone buildings, including tiny cottages (left).

Fox GlacierWestland National Park ... Stretching the top of the Southern Alps in the east, where it shares a common boundary with Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, to the Tasman Sea in the west, this 1,175-sq-km (450-sq-mile) national park is renowned for its mountain peaks (which reach a height of 3,500 m or 11,500 ft), dramatic glaciers, dense rainforest, coastal lagoons and beautiful lakes. Although the park contains about 60 glaciers, the most famous are the Franz Josef and the Fox. Despite the intrusions of the West Coast gold rush of the 1860s and pastoral farming on the river flats, the area has remained largely unspoiled.

HINT: If video starts/stops often, PAUSE the playback for 45-60 seconds to allow the video buffer memory to fill. To resume playback press PLAY.

HINT: If video starts/stops often, PAUSE the playback for 45-60 seconds to allow the video buffer memory to fill. To resume playback press PLAY.

Westland National Park
On way to park On way to park On way to park
On way to park Franz Jozef Glacier Franz Jozef Glacier
GreymouthGreymouth ... The largest town on the West Coast, Greymouth occupies the site of what was once Mawhera Pa. Although colonial government agents purchased the majority of the West Coast in 1860 for 300 pounds, the land under modern Greymouth remained a Maori reserve. Greymouth was laid out in 1865. Around this time, gold was being found in large quantities in the area, and coal had been discovered 17 years earlier. When the gold boom ended, coal mining ensured the district's continued survival.

Pancake RocksPaparoa National Park ... Founded in 1987, this 300-sq-km (115-sq-mile) park contains varied and dramatic scenery, the most famous of which are the Pancake Rocks and blowholes near the small coastal settlement of Punakaiki. Bands of limestone, separated by thin hands of softer mudstone, which has been worn away by thousands of years of rain, wind and sea spray, have created the layered formations of the Pancake Rocks. Over hundreds of thousands of years, caverns have also been formed as carbon dioxide-bearing rainwater has gradually eaten into cracks in the limestone. During high seas, these subterranean caverns become blowholes as the waves surge in under huge pressure and explode in a plume of spray.

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Avon RiverChristchurch ... Canterburyís provincial capital, Christchurch, is the largest city in the South island and the principal gateway to its scenic wonders. Laid out as the capital of the Canterbury Settlement in 1850, the city has many notable buildings and monuments that recall its colonial heritage, as well as many parks and gardens. It is often thought of as a conservative city, a reflection of its origins as a Church of England settlement modeled on 19th-century English society. Although it has essentially been an agricultural market town for much of its history, it now has all the trappings of a modern city, including an increasingly sophisticated restaurant, cafe and arts scene.

CathedralThe streets surrounding Cathedral Square are laid out in a grid bordered by four broad avenues. The formality of the layout is broken by the Avon River, which winds serpentine through the city and adjacent parks. The city's many Gothic Revival & Edwardian buildings, & landscaped riverbank support the oft-repeated description of Christchurch as the most English of cities outside England.

Christchurch City
Bridge of Remembrance The Chalice Victoria Park
Botanic GardensChristchurch Botanic Gardens ... The Botanic Gardens, founded in 1863, contribute to Christchurch's reputation as New Zealand's garden city. The gardens' conservatories, rose and bulb beds, rock and water gardens, English lawns and woodland are largely enclosed in the loop of the Avon River, and the proximity of flowing water to all sections makes the gardens particularly tranquil. The area fringing the eastern side of the Botanic Gardens is Christchurch's creative and artistic heart. The city's museum, civic art gallery, ballet company, professional theatre and Arts Centre are located here.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Botanic Gardens Botanic Gardens Botanic Gardens
Botanic Gardens Botanic Gardens Botanic Gardens
Botanic Gardens Botanic Gardens Botanic Gardens
Text extracted from guide book "New Zealand" published by Eyewitness Travel Guides,
DK Publishing, New York, Copyright 2002, Web site ... www.dk.com
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