Queenstown and Southern Lakes
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. But there’s much, much more. Queenstown is a sophisticated four-season holiday resort set in the magnificent landscapes of the Southern Alps of New Zealand and is just a 3.5-hour scenic drive from Dunedin (or a 55-minute flight). There are rugged mountains, majestic lakes, and crystal-clear air. There is so much to do – you will easily fill your days with outdoor activities including bungy jumping, wine trails, jetboating, hiking, skiing, fishing, cycling, golfing, off-roading, mountain biking, sightseeing and horse riding. Queenstown started as an 1860s goldmining camp and 140 years later it has a compact and sophisticated downtown area tucked into a picturesque bay on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Dwarfed by the surrounding mountains, there are amazing views from everywhere. There’s also a permanent buzz in the downtown area where you’ll find a lively café/bar scene and excellent shopping.
Lake Wanaka, right at the heart of the southern lakes, is the gateway to the Mt Aspiring National Park which is internationally renowned for its glaciers and magnificent tramping and climbing. The mountains surrounding the lake provide a winter snow-lovers’ paradise featuring top ski fields and heliski facilities. The town itself features a pretty shopping village with a wide variety of ambient areas to relax, eat and just take in the atmosphere.
Fiordland is one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand. Carved by glaciers over 100,000 years ago, the landscape is one where waterfalls cascade hundreds of metres into deep black fiords; where ancient rainforest untouched by man clings to mountains, and where shimmering lakes and granite peaks look as they did a thousand years ago. Fiordland National Park is a World Heritage Site and includes Milford Sound, described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth wonder of the world, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. The township of Te Anau is perched on the edge of New Zealand's second largest lake, and here you can make plans to walk the Milford, Routeburn or Kepler Tracks. Apart from hiking, enjoy popular local activities including lake cruising, kayaking and exploring the Te Anau glow-worm caves. Milford Sound is a world-renowned natural wonder – the mountains with their granite peaks stand tall, rising straight out of the sea, including the much-photographed Mitre Peak. Vivid green, virgin rainforest clings to sheer rock walls, and waterfalls tumble hundreds of metres to the sea below. Whatever the fiord’s mood, teeming with rain or with sun glistening on the deep water, it will inspire you. You can choose to travel to Milford independently by car, by coach tour, or on a scenic flight option from Queenstown. Doubtful Sound is located in a World Heritage Area, and is known for its wilderness and wildlife. It is the second largest of the 14 fiords in Fiordland National Park and it is three times longer and ten times larger than Milford Sound.
The Southern Scenic Route and Southland
The famous Southern Scenic Route runs from Dunedin in the north through to Invercargill in the south (passing through the Catlins) and up to Te Anau. It is clearly marked along the highway with frequent signposts. The road is sealed, but is winding and narrow in places, so care must be taken. The beauty of the Southern Scenic Route is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, with frequent breaks, short walks and overnight stays along the way. Explore New Zealand native bush rolling to the water’s edge or stroll down a white sandy beach and enjoy peace and solitude. Meander through the colourful coastal fishing villages and seaside settlements. Venture down side roads and find places to view wildlife. Meet local people and find some ‘southern hospitality’.
Southland is one of New Zealand’s largest regions. Invercargill is New Zealand’s southernmost city and only 2.5 hours drive south of Dunedin. Bluff would have to be most famous for its iconic seasonal delicacy—the Bluff oyster, dredged from the cold waters of Foveaux Strait. Meanwhile, anglers from all over the world fish the great Mataura River near Gore, lured by the river’s beautiful brown trout. Near Riverton you will find the Tuatapere Humpridge Track. Opened in 2001, the track promises a three-day, non-stop scenic wonderland, taking in the stunning diversity of coastal, bush and sub-alpine landscapes. You’ll have the privilege of trekking amid the Waitutu Forest, described by BBC Presenter and Professor David Bellamy as 'probably the most important forest in the world'.