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NEW ZEALAND

South Island

           

You can get directly to the South Island via international flights or by flying from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin. It is also possible to take a ferry from Wellington to Picton through the Marlborough Sounds.

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This is an idyllic marine playground indented by a secluded coves and pristine beaches. The sheltered waterways meander for more than 966 kilometres with many perfect spots only accessible by boat. You can take a tour by ferry into the many bays or hike on foot along the ridge of Queen Charlotte Sound. Marlborough has long hot summers and frosty clear winters, so it is the centre of New Zealand's great growing region. The annual wine festival is held each February. Some 130 kilometres south of the region's main town, Blenheim is Kaikoura, famous for whale watching. You can take a boat tour and view at close range huge sperm whales frolicking in the warm waters.

In contrast, the West Coast hemmed between the South Island's southern Alps and the Tasman Sea is wet, wild and magnificent. A largely unspoilt area, it has four national parks comprising a world heritage site. Great hiking trails abound in this region. There are caves, gorges, blowholes and spectacular glaziers.

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Heading inland to Central Otago, you can visit the region of New Zealand's Gold Rush of the 1860s. The hills and valleys still display evidence of this era where shacks, mines and machinery can still be seen along the Goldfields' Heritage Highway which winds through quaint villages and past historic pubs.

Queenstown is an all year round alpine resort where you can water ski, jet boat ride, white water raft, fish, horse ride, windsurf, play golf, hike, go gold panning or bungy jumping. In winter you can ski to your heart's delight on Coronet Peak and the Remarkables, which are aptly named or it is one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.

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South to Lake Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park and the Te-Ana-au Glow worm caves is nature on a grand scale where waterfalls tumble thousands of feet into virgin forested valleys and fiords which indent the coast. Stewart Island across the strait from Invercargill, a ferry ride away, is the perfect place for those seeking peace and isolation in a superb bushland setting.   

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Jane Resture
(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 21st November 2008