New Zealand - South Island

The largest yet less populated of the two islands. A great variety of landscapes with a wild beauty. Follow us on a "8"-shaped tour starting in Christchurch, heading northwest.
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Rising in the Spenser Mountains in the north of the Canterbury region, the Waiau River flows eastward to the Pacific Ocean. Note the cabbage tree in the foreground, thus named by the early settlers because its taste somewhat reminded them of the vegetable. Its scientific name is Cordyline Australis.
Located on the west coast of the island which receives nearly 7,000 mm of rain per year, Tauranga Bay combines lush vegetation where cabbage trees abound with a rugged coastline beaten by the Roaring Forties as hints to the name of nearby Cape Foulwind.
Part of Nelson Lakes National Park, Lake Rotoroa was glacier-carved during the last ice age 15,000 years ago. Located in the north of the island, it is enshrined in the majestic alpine scenery around Mount Robert.
In the Golden Bay region, at the top left-hand corner of the island, the limestone of the Aorere Valley has been eroded down the river bed into circular pools. They are located near another unusual limestone formation: outcrops which look like giant boots sticking out of the ground upside down, hence their name of Devil's Boots.
Part of the the Golden Bay region, Port Puponga is the gateway to Farewell Spit at the tip of the island. At low tide, the sea retreats to a surprising distance, liberating a wide area where cockling is a popular activity. The surrounding pastures are spotted with sheep, a classic feature of New Zealand landscapes.
The tip of Farewell Spit, Farewell Cape, is the most northerly point of South Island. It offers stunning vistas on the Tasman Sea on one side, an oddly exotic landscape of white sand dunes on the other. Immediately inland, rolling hills are covered with "manuka" forests. Better renowned for its essential oil, the tea tree -- leptospermum scoparium -- also brings a very distinct flavor to the honey produced locally.
At the very end of Farewell Spit, the track leads to towering cliffs where a natural arch offers a few seals a landing spot among tormented waters. While on the land side, sheep graze peacefully with the manuka trees serving as a picture-perfect backdrop.
Named after the first European explorer to sight South Island, Abel Tasman is the smallest of NZ national parks. It is bordered to the north by Golden and Tasman Bays. Its rugged coastline harboring small beaches of golden sand, marine wildlife and birds make it a sea kayaking paradise.
These ferns are so large that from a distance, we had thought they were palm trees. New Zealand shares with Tasmania and Queensland the man fern called Dicksonia Antartica but also has its own endemic variety, the silver fern or Cyathea Dealbata, named Ponga in Maori. Its silver frond is a national emblem which has acquired world-wide recognition through its All Blacks rugby team. The distinctive curve of its new fronds has always been a source of inspiration and a motif found in many handcrafted items.
On the west coast of South Island, Franz Josef is a 12 km-long glacier which in the last ice age was part of a huge ice sheet extending beyond the present coastline. Beyond its stunning beauty, its uniqueness comes from its location, less than 300 meters above sea level, and its setting in the midst of a surprisingly green and lush temperate forest.
The name Weheka was added to Cook River in 1998 to reflect its significance for the Maori people. Its glacial waters flow westward into the Tasman Sea.
Most of its course lies within the Westland Poutini National Park which also encompasses Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers.
Located in the Otago region of central South Island, Lake Hawea is fed by the Hunter River. It lies in a glacial valley formed during the last ice age and is dammed to the south by a glacial moraine wall created over 10,000 years ago, on top of which lies the small community with the same name. The rugged mountains on three of its sides plunge deeply into the water and the only flat land around it is at its southern end where it outflows into the Hawea River.
Seen here from the skies, the tumultuous Matukituki River lies in the Southern Alps of South Island where its valley was scoured out by huge glaciers. It flows for 30 km before outpouring into Lake Wanaka. Its entire course is renowned for fly fishing and in particular for superb trout which abound at its mouth.
Milford Sound is the most northerly of the 14 fjords indenting the south western coastline of South Island and forming Fjordland National Park, the largest park in the country. Milford Sound was carved by ancient glaciers to create the stunning mountainous cliffs which plunge dramatically into the ocean floor.
Milford Sound runs 15 km inland from the Tasman Sea at the mouth of the fjord called Dale Point. Its most iconic representations include the grandeur of its snow-capped peaks and rock faces which rise 1200 meters and more on either side, its spouting waterfalls and lush vegetation.
At nearly 1000 meters altitude, Lindis Pass lies between the valleys of the Lindis and Ahurriri Rivers. This sub-alpine area of prominent ridges and smooth hill slopes covered with tussock grassland offers a 63 km winding scenic drive connecting the Central Otago region with the Mackenzie Basin in Canterbury.
Mauve, purple and pink lupines grace the banks of the Ahuriri River in the Otago region of South Island. Its upper portion which is protected within a conservation park is often considered one of the world's best rivers for trout and particularly for fly fishing.

Towering 3754 meters above Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook is the highest peak in the Canterbury region and in the country at large. It is the glacier floor composed of finely ground rock particles that gives the lake its distinctive milky turquoise color.
Like most of our bivvy spots on South Island, the white dot of our vehicle was the only human trace in sight on the day we camped near Lake Tekapo.

In the heart of the Mackenzie Country, Lake Tekapo at 700 meters altitude lies at the foot of the Southern Alps with a backdrop of the Two Thumb Range.
Lake Tekapo is surrounded by a vast basin of golden tussock grass where pockets of lupines add an occasional colorful touch.
Between Queenstown and Christchuch, the farming community of Fairlie is the gateway to the Mackenzie Basin. Surrounded by beautiful countryside composed of green rolling hills where sheep graze peacefully, that day it was shrouded in clouds that only added to the great charm of the area.
Located at 700 meters on Scenic Highway 73 with Arthur's Pass nearby, Castle Hill is an imposing cluster of limestone outcroppings very famous within the climbing community. In the last few years, it has been featured in several blockbuster heroic fantasy movies. This array of scattered boulders are reminiscent of a fortified construction in ruins, hence its name.
East of the Southern Alps lies the Torless Range. It gave its name to the rock it is mostly composed of: Torless Greywacke, a hard, grey sandstone consisting of angular fragments of quartz, feldspar and other minerals set in a base of mud. Charles Torless was a surveyor and the largest landowner in North Canterbury.
This photo was taken near the small town of Springfield on Scenic Highway 73, shortly after its highest point of Porter Pass at nearly 939 meters. This road is aptly nicknamed "the Great Alpine Highway" as it offers beautiful views on the mountains for the traveler connecting the west to the east coast. After Springfield, the highway descends into the Canterbury Plains heading for Christchurch.

About 85 km south east of Christchurch, Akaroa is an historic settlement with a harbor nestled in the heart of an extinct volcano. Although the French influence is still reflected in many features in the streets of Akaroa, the area was first settled by British and German farmers who set up sheep and dairy operations in the rolling hills surrounding the harbor.
In Akaroa, street names are French. The shops have chosen French names such as here "Le Cadeau" which sells souvenirs and gifts although set in a building not particularly French in its architecture.
In Akaroa, not only is the butcher shop called "La Boucherie", but even the gas station sells "essence". Conveniently though, the red, white and blue colors worne by many businesses in town will reconcile national pride while at the same time recall its French -- or British -- past.
Located at the entrance to Akaroa Harbour also on Highway 75, Duvauchelle is another early settlement with a French flavor, at least in its name. Also on the Banks Peninsula is the village of "French Farm".
Godley Head is situated on the Port Hills between Christchurch and its harbor Lyttelton. It was named after John Robert Godley, considered the founder of Christchurch in the 1840's when the Canterbury plains around it were turned into pastoral holdings supporting sheep which provided wool exported out of Lyttelton harbor. This headland and its sheer 120 meter-high cliffs above the Pacific Ocean were part of the WWII coastal defence system.