It has come to my attention that we live in the most insanely beautiful country that ever did exist. But in my entire 23 years of existence, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve not nearly seen even a quarter of this wondrous place. Recently I’ve been attempting to make a bit more of an effort to get outside and see these epic places that people rave about. Backpackers from all corners of the globe spend thousands of dollars traveling to get to our little home at the bottom of the world. So why shouldn’t we make a bit more of an effort to experience the jewels of pure New Zealand? Starting with the South Island, I’ve made a wee bucket list of my favourite places that all you other kiwis (and nonkiwis too) need to experience at least once in this life time.
Punakaiki Pancake rocks
The West Coast of the South Island is the perfect place for a road trip with mates. If you’re from Christchurch, the drive through Arthurs pass is only a 3 or so hours and there’s so much greenery and mountain goodness to see on the way. Pretty crazy to think you can visit the East and West coast in half a day. The pancake rocks are a series of ancient flat rocks formed 30 million years ago… yes, you heard me right. Definitely, visit when the tide is high to see the blowholes in action.
Milford Sound, Fiordland
So underrated! I had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful place for the first time only a few weeks ago. And it is by far the most incredible and humbling place you will see. An American couple I traveled with said that it was, quote, ‘the most amazing experience of their lives’. Milford Sound is actually a fiord, not a sound, meaning these crazy mountain/rock formations at the bottom of NZ were carved out by melting ice during the last ice age, thousands of years ago. It’s only a 3-4 hour drive from Queenstown.
Sumner Beach, Christchurch
A beautiful beach close to Christchurch city, perfect to sunbathe or learn to surf. It's the South Island’s longboarding hotspot. Nothing but good vibes and mellow waves will greet you.
Abel Tasman National Park
Can not recommend this place enough. The scenes here will blow your mind, and if you’re not too keen on the cold waters of the South Island, you’ll be happy to know that the warmest ocean temps in the area can be found here. Postcard, golden sandy beaches, and clear blue water - there’s even a beach called Golden Bay. The Able Tasman great walk never disappoints, with lots of camp spots, I’ve walked the track twice in the last 3 years.
The bluest water you’ll ever see, with priceless, snow-capped mountain views. Something out of a fairytale, I tell ya! Kayaking on this lake has been one of my favourite memories to date, with a view of Mt Cook that literally took my breath away, I almost fell into the lake! An easy place to road trip from Christchurch city or Dunedin central.
If you’re heading Milford Sound, why not pay a visit to Wanaka too? Just drive over the crown range from Queenstown to this incredible, inland town that is home to insane mountain views, epic day walks and hikes, breathtaking clear blue waters and so much more. A town that thrives in the summer sun where you can go wake boarding and kayaking, and flourishes in the winter season where you can ski and snowboard on world-class slopes. There are numerous scenic spots for a cold bevy.
Glacier - frozen river, that’s been frozen for thousands of years! This type of stuff makes me crazy appreciative of the country we live in. And this one might not be around for much longer at the rate global warming is going. If you’re on the West Coast you can’t not visit here.
The cutest little seaside town, home to mountain views and beautiful ocean creatures like baby seals, dolphins, and whales. Plus the surf’s pretty fun here too. There’s an epic campsite close to the ocean if you’re looking for a scenic place to pitch your tent. Although recently affected by an earthquake, this town remains one of New Zealand’s most close-knit, happy communities. You’ll always find good vibes here.
Images by Ellen Taylor