We spent nearly two weeks familiarizing ourselves with the South Island and now this Girl Around Town wants to share highlights of that amazing trip. If you come to the South Island you’re almost guaranteed to visit Christchurch since it offers many international flights – like the one we took from Brisbane. Ravaged by a massive earthquake in February 2011, the city is slowing putting itself together again.
Catch your punting boat in this vintage boathouse. ~ If it’s chilly ask for a blanket to wrap around yourself during the ride. ~ At the entrance of the Central Rose Garden in the Botanic Gardens.
As we worked our way north into the Marlborough region we focused on wine and mussels. The Marlborough Icons Tour is a full day tour of those culinary highlights in the region. We initially balked at the idea of tours being too “touristy”, but New Zealand is often best experienced on a tour since the locals really want you to get the best of their country – not just some double-decker bus tour version. Even Kiwis explore their country by joining group tours. All the tours we took offered experiences we could have never arranged independently.
A 90 minute boat trip departed from Havelock and took us to a mussel farm out in the Sound. ~ We enjoyed bowl after bowl of steamed greenlip mussels – nothing but lemon wedges needed, and they paired wonderfully with Sauvignon Blanc from Framingham Winery. ~ The mussels were harvested less than 24-hour prior from a local submerged farm- they were crazy delicious!
Abel Tasman National Park is one of the massive parks in New Zealand and while many hike through the mountains we opted to take the Big Tonga Marine Reserve All Day Kayaking Tour. Taken from Kaiteriteri Beach by water taxi to a kayaking launch site further up the coast we hopped into our boats and took off for a day of open water site seeing.
Our group of ten was fit so we were able to paddle into some more challenging and unique areas of the coast. ~ Spots like this little beach made for scenic stopping points along our journey. ~This particular tour has special access to an island where seals breed which is where we saw this two-month old pup playing around on the rocks.
Mid-way down the west side of the island lies Franz Josef where full and half-day glacier hikes are offered. For us the draw was an opportunity to scale this unusual terrain, found in few places around the world. After hiking through a jungle-like forest we emerged to see the glacier seated amidst the Southern Alps.
The bluish section in the middle is the glacier portion we climbed up to. This photo shows the beauty of the land but not the scale. It took at least an hour to hike up to the ice. ~ There are TONS of waterfalls in New Zealand. The sheer size of some was awe inspiring. ~ Properly attired with my crampons, I was ready to hike the mountain of ice! ~ Near the top of the glacier we climbed down into an ice cave. ~ Ice staircases were built into the glacier with ropes for railings. It was an adventure for sure!
Oh, by the way: Drinking is a legitimate activity, specifically if you’re in a vod box. Minus 5 Ice Bar in Queenstown layers you up in Uggs and a parka before sending you into an ice sculpture filled bar where Absolut is the alcohol of choice. Beware, the pours are strong and the patrons can get crazy (especially if you’re in the last drinking group of the night).
Let’s be honest: As a true thrill-seeker, you cannot visit New Zealand without going bungy jumping. AJ Hackett perfected the sport here, so consider jumping 439 feet off The Nevis in Queenstown. Whoo!