If I had to choose between the North or South Island for a holiday destination, the South Island wins hands down.
Don’t get me wrong, the North Island has some great attractions that are certainly worth a visit and if you are wanting warmer weather and beach holidays, then the North Island will be right up your alley.
What attracts me most to the South Island is the diversity in landscapes, it’s pristine, untouched feel and a far smaller population!
I have blogged many times about places in the South Island, but, a few years before I started writing about it, Daniel and I packed up our panniers and spent 3 weeks exploring this place on 2 wheels. It was a significant trip for me, it’s where I really fell in love with my country, with travel and with motorbiking holidays.
We visited and did some pretty cool stuff on this trip and while I can’t describe it in detail (It was 10 years ago) I would like to share with you some of those experiences. So here we are, Memorable Moments of Te Waipounamu, (South Island) before I was blogging.
P.S Te Waipounamu translates to The Waters of Greenstone. How beautiful is that! When you see the colours of the lakes and rivers and the gorgeous greenstone of the West Coast, the name conjures up some pretty beautiful imagery.
1. Abel Tasman
Seriously, this place is stunning! In high school I did a multi-day tramp through the National Park and went straight from there to a family holiday in the Cook Islands. I reckon the beaches in Abel Tasman are more beautiful. The park is a wilderness reserve located at the top of Te Waipounamu. There are lots of ways to explore this place too; kayaking, tramping, sailing and water taxis, so lots of options to suit all budgets and fitness levels. I have tramped it and done a half day kayaking tour. High on my bucket list is to return and do a multi-day kayak through the park. It won’t take long before you are completely captivated by its pristine clear waters and golden sandy bays.
2. Te WaikoroPupu Springs
Located in Tasman region, Pupu Springs are the largest fresh water springs in New Zealand. They are the largest freshwater springs in the Southern Hemisphere and have some of the clearest water in the world. I remember the walk there being fairly easy, and a quick good search reminded me that it’s a 30-45 minute loop track. The water here is undeniably clear and the colours that come through are quite something.
3. Fox Glacier
This 13 km long glacier is located on the West Coast. When we were there 10 years ago, they offered guided glacier walks, now I believe, if you want to walk on the ice, you need to do a heli-tour. It was a very cold tour, but so unique. I had never done anything like this before or experienced ice in this way. Equipped with crampons, walking poles and all the weather appropriate clothing, we were able to set out and explore this magnificent chunk of ice.
4. Curio Bay Penguins
If you head south enough, you will find yourself in The Catlins, part of the Southland region and the very bottom of Te Waipounamu. It is rugged and wild, has a very untouched feel and I have heard it described as ‘what New Zealand would have looked like before settlers’. There were a lot of things I was hoping to explore here, but the large amount of gravel roads gave us a flat tyre so we had to cut our trip in this area short. We did however manage a dusk trip down to Curio Bay to look for Hoioho. (Yellow Eyed Penguins) We were told they are very shy and to keep your distance, but the little feathered friend we spotted couldn’t have been more different. This guy was out on the rocks, strutting his stuff and seemed to be lapping up all the attention (We still kept our distance, he just wasn’t shy!)
5. State Highway 94
I know, it doesn’t sound like something that should be on a most memorable list, but let me assure you, the road to Milford Sounds is so incredibly scenic. (And super fun on 2 wheels) It is a long drive, but there are so many beautiful sights. Along this journey, you will pass through the 1.2 KM Homer Tunnel. It passes through solid rock and has a bit of a gradient, which means for the most part, you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I got a bit freaked out when we entered the tunnel because I literally couldn’t see anything, although I quickly realised my tinted visor would be the cause of this. Although Daniel later confessed that he couldn’t see much either and was just aiming for the headlights of the car coming towards us!
6. Milford Sounds
We did an overnight cruise in Milford Sounds and this has to be one of my all time favorite travel memories. This is an experience I do remember in more detail. It was Spring, but there had been a fresh dumping of snow on the mountains. It was evening, all the day tours had finished and our boat was the only one in the Sounds. They asked us who wanted to go kayaking. Out of the whole boat, there were only about 8 of us who were brave enough to leave the warmth of our floating accommodation. It was pretty cold out. Picture this, Milford Sounds all to ourselves, paddling around in a kayak, next to massive snow covered fjords, that seems to reach as far up as the sky and plummet to the depth of the ocean. We were also out during a thunderstorm. The impressive booming sounds of thunder bounced around the fjords. It was one of those moments where you feel so small, but in a good way. A moment where you marvel at how incredible nature is. While I am sitting in my kayak with these thoughts, thinking it doesn’t get much better than this, a pod of dolphins turned up. The whole 2 day tour was amazing, but this was a moment that took my breath away.
So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading this post. I have certainly enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. What are some of your favorite travel moments?