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The Southern Belles of New Zealand

While the North Island of New Zealand has a bit more of the action as home to the country’s largest cities and towns, the South Island gets all the well-deserved hype. It’s here where you find those postcard-perfect landscapes: the turquoise lakes at the foothills of soaring snow-capped mountains, enchanted forests draped in blankets of green moss, streams jetting out of mountainsides and crashing hundreds of feet into a riverbed dotted with rainbow trout. It’s a land whose remoteness is other-worldly, where you can drive for an entire day without seeing any sign of life, besides the fluffy, white sheep grazing on the endless, rolling fields.

And so with our campervan Bertha as our dutiful guide, we set out for two weeks of exploring the beauty of the South Island. Here’s a look at some of the memorable roads we traversed:

Fiordland

Fiordland National Park NZ 27 e1265592557637 The Southern Belles of New ZealandThe cream of the bountiful crop of New Zealand’s attractions is, undoubtedly, Fiordland National Park. Tucked into the remote southern corner of the island, it’s here where you experience the awe-inspiring fiord of Milford Sound. Fiords are long, narrow inlets of the sea that lie between steep slopes, and the fiord found at Milford Sound’s has attracted international tourists for over one hundred years. We took in the majestic experience aboard a boat that brought us face-to-face with the towering mountains and some fantastic wildlife. We also cruised by colonies of penguins and watched a school of dolphins jump and flip for our cameras. Photos barely do justice to the beauty of this land, but any NZ visitor can attest, it’s a must-see for any traveler.

Vineyard Hopping

Marlborough NZ 48 e1265593826430 The Southern Belles of New ZealandHome to New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blancs, we spent a day sipping our way through the Marlborough region. We made it to some of the big guys, like Cloudy Bay and Scott Family Wineries, and to the ‘cellar doors’ of some of the lesser-known boutique wineries like Bladen and Seresin. Here we got a chance not only to sample the best of the region’s viticultural offerings, but we also got to know the faces and stories of the people behind them.

Southern Lakes

Fiordland National Park NZ 121 e1265596739739 The Southern Belles of New ZealandDeep in the South Island are a handful of pristine lakes. Some are a seemingly bottomless deep blue and others are a refreshingly, clear green hue. And all are set against the unrivaled backdrop of the Southern Alps. Most of the lakes are accompanied by quaint villages lined with a few cafes offering strong brew and the catch of the day. Many of the locales are an adventure-seeker’s dream, with outfitters ready to take you jumping, gliding or climbing up, down and around all corners of the area. To keep the pocketbook in check (or at least pretend we were), we opted for taking in the sights on some fantastic hikes and from the charming towns. A true highlight of the area was our hike up to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, for some of the most dramatic views in the country.

Rainy Tasman

Abel Tasman NZ 10 e1265595795505 The Southern Belles of New ZealandWe heard fabulous things about the waters and hikes through Abel Tasman National Park so our next adventure brought us there. Regrettably, recent rains clouded the typically turquoise waters , but with our sunny day ahead Ryan signed us up for (another!) 15 mile day hike. We hopped on a jet boat they call a water taxi that dropped us off in the middle of the park. Our plan was to spend the day hiking back, however, half-way through the trek we experienced torrential downpours. Ill-prepared for the rapid change in weather, we had no choice but to hitchhike back ‘boat-style.’ Drenched, sore and freezing cold, a piping hot plate of New Zealand’s famed green-lipped mussels did more than ease our discomfort.

pixel The Southern Belles of New Zealand

Comments (7)

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  1. roundwego says:

    @Kim – Sorry for extreme delay in responding. Internet in Africa is tough to come by so now at home have more time to thoroughly answer your NZ questions! Going to shoot you an email with our recommendations and highlights from NZ. Hope you’re getting excited for your upcoming trip.

  2. Kim wells says:

    Thanks for your photo’s- looking into what to do(renting a campervan too), best roads to travel from Christ Church, best State parks to stay at, and what to bring to wear before we leave for a trip to NZ end of Feb – and 1st 2 wks in March 2011. We can’t wait- my dream vacation….

  3. roundwego says:

    I am so glad to hear you enjoyed NZ as much as we did! We are still dreaming about our days there, specifically deep in the South Island, months later. We too our already plotting our return back.

  4. carol says:

    We have just returned from New Zealand,our first visit. We went to visit our son and family in The North Island, which is very beautiful, lush green and scenic. We then drove to Wellington, over the Interislander Ferry to Picton, where we picked up a Campervan,and drove 3000 kms around South Island. I agree with your comments, it is the most beautiful country we have ever visited. I also agree, that my favourite day was Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook……with Milford Sounds…although it was raining the day we went to Milford Sounds……the gushing of the 53kms waterfalls was truly amazing.
    There arent enough adjectives to describe the beauty of this truly beautiful amazing country. We shall return.

  5. roundwego says:

    All agreed. Will be hard to find a spot that rivals the S. Island. The search is on.

  6. Garrett says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been to the South Island as well (I’m American) and I frequently say it’s my favorite place on earth.

    No where is so much beauty so seemingly accessible and varied.

    Great photos. Thanks!

  7. Mom Keller says:

    Your pictures are amazing !!! Glad you survived all the cold and rain but I’m sure the mussels were worth it. LOL