[Guest post by Jack Hopkin]
It has to be said that the south island of New Zealand contains some of the most jaw dropping scenery around; films like Lord of the Rings attest to this.
You can easily spend your vacation simply travelling around, absorbing all the wonderful views (and there’s nothing wrong with that) but there are some activities which can really add to the enjoyment of your New Zealand vacation.
Here are three in no particular order; I have my favorite but I’ll let you guess what this is yourself. Feel free to leave a comment with your guess.
The Canyon Swing in Queenstown
[Photo source: Shrieking]
Now I have to say that I’m a bit of an adrenaline junky, I’m always trying crazy new things whenever I travel. But this particular place pushed me to my bravery (or should I say stupidity!) limit. In true Kiwi style, the owners of this company basically built a huge (and I mean huge) swing on the side of an even more massive cliff!
People trying this giant swing do so with the same spirit as a bungee jumper but for me it was much more thrilling; almost like I was flying for a short time.
There’s also not so much of a jarring feeling like you get on bungee jumps.
Check out their official site to watch videos. The guys working there have a great, but mischievous, sense of humor; don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Horse Trekking in the Catlins
[Matia Falls – One of the many views of the Catlins. Photo source: Voyagernz]
Now we move from the adrenaline rush of the giant swing to the complete opposite of the relaxing natural surroundings of the Catlins. This region is well known for the abundance of animal and bird life, as well as a whole host of gorgeous landscapes. There are plenty of ways to get around the Catlins but I absolutely love to take a chilled out horse trek. It lets me travel around many of the beautiful spots, while being a little lazy, sitting in the saddle of a hard working horse.
Now depending on whom you go with, they should ask you about your level of riding skill but if you haven’t tried horse trekking before I would still suggest you let them know that you’re very new to riding. They should pair you up with one of their calmer horses. This isn’t one of those exciting activities that you can enjoy but you should have one of those ‘get close to nature’ feelings as you trek along with the horse. Maybe because I’m very empathic but I felt a bond of friendship quickly develop between myself and the horse.
Overnight Cruise in Milford Sounds
[On board the Mariner in Milford Sounds. Photo source: JuergenSchulte]
The fiords of Milford Sounds are one of those places that you have to visit while in New Zealand. It contains some of the most awe inspiring views I’ve ever seen. It’s one of those places which you can enjoy on sunny and rainy days. On a sunny calm day you’ll be able to enjoy majestic arching mountains surrounding the fiords, with almost mirror like views of the water. But I prefer the views after a heavy rainfall; I think this is where they really shine. You’ll see a huge number of waterfalls tumbling down the mountains into the fiords. And together with the mist and clouds hanging around various peaks, it almost feels like you’re in some mystical fairy tale land.
The most popular way to experience this is to go on a day cruise but this is an extremely long day indeed. You have to get on a (usually crowded) coach very early in the morning from Queenstown then travel for many hours, get on the boat at the fiords then do the whole coach trip back.
I much prefer the overnight cruise. You can catch a coach or what we did was to drive to Milford Sounds. You then board the boat which heads off to various spots within the fiords such as a beautiful bay where you can use their kayaks for an hour or so. As it’s an overnight cruise, there is no rush, they sail to each location and even include a tasty buffet lunch; I went back for seconds! If you do the overnight, I really do recommend you go on deck at night and watch the stars as they are usually very clear with minimal light pollution.
They have two boats:
1. The Milford Mariner
2. The Milford Wanderer
The Mariner is great for the family, including the elderly. We went on the Mariner; the guests were a great mix of young and old, with everyone getting along. I haven’t been on the Wanderer but it’s more for backpackers, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re bringing your parents!
Have a look at their official page to find out more details.
Jack Hopkin wrote this guide and for people wanting to stay in the Catlins, he recommends RiverRidge Retreat. Check out the RiverRidgeRetreat Catlins Accommodation page for more details of their rooms. Their Facebook page can be found at http://www.facebook.com/RiverRidgeRetreat.