Sandwiched between Queenstown, Cromwell and Clyde, New Zealand’s Otago wine region is officially classified as the southernmost wine region in the world. While known for its white wines, such as Riesling and Chardonnay, it’s the peppery Pinot noir that put the region on the map. Aside from being the highest — and driest — wine region in New Zealand, it’s also one of the most rapidly growing; in the mid 1990s, there were only a dozen wineries in all of Central Otago, and now that number is quickly closing in on over 100.
Akaroa is one of New Zealand’s most fascinating little corners. Not only does this town have a French influence that led to a spat with England, but the harbor is actually a submerged volcano that’s covered by the chilly Pacific. Surrounding this cold-water, protected volcano are gently rolling hills, where wineries, sheep farms, and bed and breakfasts are linked by winding dirt roads.
Rudyard Kipling—famed author, adventure traveler and early global explorer—once famously quipped that Milford Sound was the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” If staying a couple of nights in Queenstown, it would be a major injustice to the South Island’s beauty to not at least spend a single day experiencing Milford firsthand. Yes, visiting Milford Sound from Queenstown makes for a very long day, but seeing as the sun in the summer months can shine past 10pm, the long days make long day trips possible, enjoyable, and worthwhile.
Unlike a place like Wanaka or Queenstown, Christchurch isn’t a South Island city surrounded by soaring mountains. Sure, the Port Hills add a bit of topography on the southern outskirts of the city, but it’s the beaches in Christchurch that get the attention, since the mountains department is lacking. Fortunately, if the itch for alpine freedom strikes, Christchurch is only a couple of hours from the heart of the Southern Alps. At Arthur’s Pass National Park—only two hours by car from Christchurch—the snowcapped peaks and forested trails seem like a separate world entirely, where the buzz of the city is suddenly replaced by the endangered sound of silence. There are a number of ways to go about visiting Arthur’s Pass Nationl Park from Christchurch, some of which are listed below if the mountains suddenly call.
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.