New Zealand’s South Island is undoubtedly one of the Earth’s gems when it comes to natural beauty. Being rich in flora and fauna alike and home to some of the most remarkable scenery spots in the world, narrowing the list and pinpointing only a several places worth visiting is an extremely hard task. With a lot of consideration and with absolute uniqueness as the primary criteria for securing a place on this list, here are the places that should not be missed while exploring the natural wonders of the South Island. Of course the list could be different tomorrow!
Kahurangi National Park
Karamea, a small town located at the peak of the South Island’s west coast, is a perfect example of a tucked away place that offers the original spirit and the atmosphere of the area. The town itself is a great place for both relaxation and numerous exploration possibilities of the surrounding area. The two places that absolutely must not be missed are the Oparara Basin and the Heaphy Track. The former hosts some of the most marvelous looking rock arches, the Oparara Arch being the most impressive one with the length of 200metres, which makes it the largest natural rock arch in the southern hemisphere, while the latter is in our opinion New Zealand’s greatest walking track that will keep you occupied for days.
Milford Sound was rightfully deemed as the world’s eighth wonder by the famous Rudyard Kipling. The beauty of the nature leaves everyone who has ever visited it breathless. Carved by glaciers, the dark fiord waters are filled by numerous waterfalls cascading from the surrounding mountains and ancient rainforest, some of which have never been touched by humans. This natural gem can be explored on foot, biking, cruising or taking scenic flights. Any of those will provide a lifelong memory of this beautiful place.
Penguins of Oamaru
You do not have to go all the way to Antarctica to observe the penguins in their natural environment. Oamaru hosts two species of penguins, the yellow eyed penguin and the world smallest little blue penguin. The time of the year when they can be seen onshore is between May and June, when they are preparing nests. They are rather noisy at the time and you will not have any problem locating them. Do not be surprised if you bump against them far away from the water, they make nests as far as 300 metres from the sea. Be careful while driving since they tend to cross the roads often.
Whale watching at Kaikoura
Kaikoura is situated less than three hours north of Christchurch. The unique underwater geography makes a great environment for vivid marine life rich in nutrients and in quantities that meet the regular requirements of the giant sperm whales. This makes the waters surrounding the town of Kaikoura a perfect place for whale watching. Other beautiful animals are present as well, such as dusky dolphins, seals and a great number of birds, including the albatross. The lucky ones may even spot different types of whales, too.
Also known as Mount Cook, Aoraki is the highest mountain in the Southern Alps and another wonder of nature the South Island abounds in. With the height of nearly 4000 meters, Aoraki stand proud and welcomes the visitors all year long. Although its beauty can be seen from scenic flights, the real experience is visiting the mountain in person. Mount Cook village is a perfect place to settle and venture into exploring the surroundings, featuring New Zealand’s longest glacier and numerous iceberg lakes.
The diversity of the South Island relief, flora and fauna and climate areas guarantees one of a kind experience and presents an exploration opportunity for all kinds of visitors, from adventurous types to those who prefer organized tours and guided sightseeing. One thing is for sure, it will take time just to scratch the rich nature surface of this beautiful place, let alone encompass all of it. With this in mind, how about getting a free car and taking your time to fully enjoy the natural wonders South Island has to offer?
Article by Lillian Connors.