The Franz Joseph Glacier sits on New Zealand’s spectacularly beautiful South Island, in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. It descends from the lofty climes of the Southern Alps toward a rock-strewn plateau high above a rainforest, and although many people opt for bird’s eye views by helicopter, there’s no better way to admire the scenery up close than with a guided hike.
Go ahead—breathe deeply. That’s the smell of crisp mountain air in the Aoraki/Mt. Cook wilderness. Here in the center of New Zealand’s South Island, away from all the crowds, there’s a feeling that the surroundings are a little wilder—just a little bit more raw. Perhaps it’s the fact that the nearest town is over an hour away, unless you count the small outpost that comprises Mt. Cook Village. And, while there are a number of trails in Mt. Cook that are popular with visiting hikers, the majority of people who go hiking in Mt. Cook only do so for a couple of hours. On an overnight trek in the Mt. Cook wilderness, or even a really long day hike, there’s a surreal and enveloping sense of solitude that’s only matched by the scenery. That said, there are always some essential safety precautions that accompany blissful solitude, and these tips for backcountry hiking in Mt. Cook can help you get back alive.
A World Heritage-listed area of dense rainforest, cascading waterfalls, serene lakes and soaring cliffs, Milford Sound lies inside the Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. The park is home to some of the country’s rarest and most diverse wildlife, with protected species of bird life such as Blue ducks, Takehe and Mohua all found there. Marine life like Dusky and Bottlenose dolphins, Fur seals and Fiordland penguins also thrive, making Milford Sound one of the best places in New Zealand for nature lovers to spend time in.
The Milford Track is justifiably one of the world’s most famous hikes. Over the course of 33 miles, the trail includes everything from lakeshore strolls to panoramic alpine crossings, and skirts beneath waterfalls so powerful and tall they seem to fall from the sky. At the end of the epic, South Island sojourn, hikers emerge into the hallowed fjord that forms the Milford Sound—an impossibly scenic and mountainous seascape that borders on the surreal. Hiking Milford isn’t easy, however, and there are a number of logistical planning tips that can make the hike even better. If you’re considering on doing some hiking in Fiordland, these tips for hiking the Milford Track should help you out on the trail.
Dunedin is somewhat of a South Island beach town that visitors forget is a beach town. Part of that has to do with the water temperature—which averages around 52 degrees—but there is more to the beauty of being on a beach than simply going for a swim. At St. Clair beach on the city outskirts, cafés line the beachfront promenade that looks out over the waves, and surfers clad in jet black neoprene zip about in the surf. St. Clair is Dunedin’s “see and be seen” beach, and on sunny days in the summer months it’s the most popular place in town.
Unlike a place like the Serengeti, or perhaps the Great Barrier Reef, Christchurch isn’t exactly a place where you explicitly travel for the wildlife. Once you take a step back, however, and look at the area’s attractions, there are a greater number of wildlife encounters than you originally might have thought. It’s a city where you can find endangered kiwi birds that are protected in wildlife preserves, or hand feed exotic wildlife from the far corners of the globe. It’s a coastal city near an offshore trench that attracts copious amounts of marine life, and there is always someplace along the Christchurch coast where you can find a spout or a splash.