New Zealand’s South Island – Open to View

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Note:  I’m publishing this post as part of Blog4NZ, a grassroots effort from travel bloggers to promote my home of New Zealand and support ongoing tourism there after the Christchurch earthquake in February.  With damage limited just to Christchurch and a few surrounding areas, the low value of the Kiwi dollar and fewer visitors means there has literally never been a better time to explore the rest of the country than right now.  Make sure your next trip is to New Zealand – the country needs your help and you’ll have the time of your life in the process!

This is my first ever guest post on What’s Dave Doing,  and who better to write it than … my father!  He has lived in the South Island of New Zealand for pretty much his entire life, so is supremely qualified to let you in on all of the little places that make this part of the world so great.  Take it away, Dad!

Over the last few weeks, television screens across the world have seen the horrific images of the devastation in Christchurch.  To us Cantabrians it has been a terrible time.  The list of dead and injured has increased every day and more and more of Christchurch’s heritage buildings have either collapsed or face demolition.  That the city has forever changed is without doubt. It will rise, Phoenix-like from the ashes, to what I know will be once again the vibrant heart of the South Island.

It has been a very localized event and has had little effect on the rest of the South Island.  I live in the country town of Ashburton.  It is 80k south of Christchurch and even though we have felt the earthquakes the damage has been minimal.

Tourism is an essential part of New Zealand’s economy.  Last year over two and a half million visitors came to our country and left amazed at the beauty of this small land.  I am pleased to report that post earthquake, apart from central Christchurch, and its eastern suburbs and hill areas, little has changed.  It may be that visitors may now choose to fly into the undamaged Christchurch Airport and leave for other places rather than stay in the city itself.

A good place to start any South Island holiday is the unique seaside town of Akaroa, an hours drive to the east of Christchurch.  Originally settled by the French it still retains much of its French flavour.  The street names such as Rue Lavaud and Rue Grehan are testament to this.

Hot air balloon

For the ski buff, Mt Hutt Skifield, one of the best in the Southern Hemisphere, is preparing for the new ski season opening at the end of May.  It is an easy hour’s drive to the south west of Christchurch and offers spectacular views, great skiing, and a lively après ski at the end of the day.  While in Methven visit the Aoraki balloons and enjoy an hour of perfect peace floating high above the plains and foothills.

Heading further south are the spectacular Southern Alps and the Southern Lakes District.  Queenstown is the tourist jewel in the crown in this area and is an adrenaline rush for the adventurous.  It is possible to bungee jump, jet boat ride, and parapent – all within 24 hours.  Lake Wanaka, less populated but equally beautiful, is well worth a visit.

Lake Wanaka

If hiking is your thing the Milford Track is the best known of a series of well formed tracks in the Fiordland area.  Heading further south is the remote, but spectacular, Stewart Island.  While on Stewart Island visit Ulva Island, a world renowned bird sanctuary, and wander around the tracks admiring weka, tui, bellbirds and the endangered Stewart Island Robin.

Heading north along the spectacular West Coast is an area that you do not want to rush.  Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers are a must visit.  For birdlovers the Okarito Lagoon offers a chance to view kiwi and white herons in their own, unspoilt, sanctuary.

The town of Hokitika, well known for its New Zealand greenstone, is a stepping stone before heading inland again, through the Lewis Pass, finally arriving at the iconic thermal village of Hanmer Springs.  Hanmer has become a comfortable resort town but still retains its unique New Zealand flavour.  The main feature are the thermal pools, these days a well developed complex suitable for all ages.


The most exciting way to head north from Hanmer is via the Molesworth.  This road (only accessible in summer) needs a good solid car and a full tank of petrol.  The road is barren and the feeling of remoteness makes this a trip worth doing.  The end of the road leads to the wine growing area of Malborough.  For the wine buff a day spent exploring the Awatere Valley will mean you will not leave empty handed.

To the north of the towns of Blenheim and Picton are the Malborough Sounds.  There are many and varied charters and self drive boats available to explore the sounds, or for those who enjoy walking the four day Queen Charlotte walkway is worth exploring.  There is even an option of having your luggage taken from luxury accommodation to luxury accommodation while you walk with a day pack.

To finish your South Island odyssey it is necessary to visit Nelson and Golden Bay on the north west corner of the island.  Nelson is the only city and is worth a visit with its spectacular shore line and sea views.  Crossing to Motueka and over the Takaka Hill brings you to one of New Zealand’s more remote areas.  Once an area populated by the hippies of the 1960’s and 70’s there is still a feeling that this is an area for those who enjoy an alternative lifestyle.  There is more walking available on the very popular Abel Tasman track – which can go from easy day trips along a part of the track to a 3 to 4 day walk.

Abel Tasman bay

My advice to those who enjoy spectacular scenery, uncluttered roads, and a chance of adventure in a safe place do not hesitate to visit our beautiful country.  Although Christchurch has lost a lot in the earthquake the rest of the South Island awaits you.

Our plea is not to put off your trip to the South Island of New Zealand because of a worry about the effects of the earthquake.  We have always welcomed our overseas visitors and in these more difficult times it is even more important that you continue to visit us.

See you soon!

[Abel Tasman image courtesy of Hector Garcia, the Molesworth station image is mine and the rest are the author’s]

13 Responses to “New Zealand’s South Island – Open to View

  • Sally Roddom
    11 years ago

    We booked our flights last night to spend just over 3 weeks on the south island in August. Not letting a little shake scare us off we were there 5 years ago and always vowed to return so now is the time!!

    We live in the tropics of Australia and yearn for cold weather and snow. Hence our winter visit. Flying in and out of Christchurch.

  • Heading to Christchurch (for the first time) 5 weeks today from the UK to visit family….can’t wait to begin exploring the South Island!!

  • Great job Nigel – watch out Dave, he is giving you a run for your money 🙂

  • Awesome post! The south island has SO much to offer, and I hope people heed your plea to visit!

  • My father used to muster sheep in the Molesworth area, so loved seeing that photo.
    Thanksfor supporting Blog4NZ!

  • Well done to Dave’s dad! Hope New Zealand gets loads of publicity from this.

  • Nice post. Your father did a great job!

  • Must go there NOW!!! Awesome post!

  • That’s so cute that your Dad guest blogged for you! The South Island is breathtakingly beautiful. I didn’t think much could really wow me anymore by the end of my year RTW, but NZ did 120%. One of the most beautiful Countries on earth. Thanks your dad for sharing his awesome insights with us!

  • Good work Dad! The view through the Molesworth is incredible – armed with a fly fishing rod and a backpack you can’t be far away from heaven!!

  • I love the South Island (and not just because I’m a kiwi). My wife and I spent a month campervaning around it and had the time of our lives.
    Good on ya dad for writing this post.

  • The photos are spectacular esp the white sand beach! Feels like a secluded paradise perfect for a peaceful summer getaway. I really hope NZ has already recovered from the earthquakes that hit the nation recently.

  • Thanks for the lovely comments everyone … maybe my Dad should start his own blog hey? 😉

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