Encircle New Zealand South Island

Your 1,200 mile road trip encircling the South Island begins in Picton, the portal from the North Island. This printable travel guide with interactive map suggests 27 towns and destinations to explore. You will experience the rugged West Coast, amazing glaciers, aerial views of the Southern Alps, picturesque fjords, countless waterfalls, pristine inland lakes, indigenous wildlife and then the scenic South Pacific coast before arriving back in Picton.

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1 Picturesque Picton, New Zealand

Picturesque Picton is located in the northeast corner of New Zealand’s South Island. It is the gateway to the North Island by water. This small resort town of about 4,000 residents is called Waitohi in the Māori language. Its namesake is Sir Thomas Picton. He was a Lieutenant-General in the British Army when he was killed in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This “I Love Picton” picture frame is a few steps away from the Picton i-SITE Visitor Information Centre. Let their knowledgeable staff answer all of your questions and help plan your visit to this delightful town.

The Foreshore, Picton 7220, New Zealand
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2 Waitohi Wharf in Picton, New Zealand

In the background is Picton’s Waitohi Wharf. These three docks serve ferries, large sightseeing and fishing boats plus small passenger ships. Large cruise ships berth at Waimahara Wharf in Shakespeare Bay on the other side of Kaipupu Point seen in the background. Picton is located at the terminus of Queen Charlotte Sound. This protected and very scenic waterway stretches for 22 miles before reaching the Northern Entrance. This leads to Cook Strait separating New Zealand’s South and North Islands. Queen Charlotte Sound is a small part of Marlborough Sounds, a labyrinth of inlets, bays, sounds and islands comprising 1,500 square miles.

Bay View, Victoria Domain, Picton 7220, New Zealand
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3 Tasman Bay in Nelson, New Zealand

Defining 75 miles of the northcentral coast of the South Island is the U-shaped Tasman Bay. Captain James Cook originally called these waters Blind Bay during his circumnavigation of New Zealand aboard the HMS Endeavour in 1770. The Māori name is Te Tai-o-Aorere. This view from Nelson’s waterfront shows the sandy beach and pine trees on Haulashore Island. During the mid-19th century, three forts occupied these 1.2 acres. In front of it is Arrow Rock. This islet is also called Fifeshire Rock, named after an early immigrant ship that was wrecked here in 1842.

600 State Highway 6, Britannia Heights, Nelson 7010, New Zealand
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4 Tahunanui Beach on Tasman Bay in Nelson, New Zealand

“Top of the South” is the coastal city of Nelson with a population of 67,000 residents. Its namesake is Horatio Nelson, a celebrated Vice Admiral in the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Main attractions in Nelson (Whakatū in Māori language) include hiking, kayaking, surfing, sailing and a chance to see a seal colony and blue penguins. Or simply slip off your shoes and walk along the Tahunanui Beach on Tasman Bay. And stay until dusk. The sunsets are spectacular.

Back Beach Rd Tahunanui, Nelson 7011, New Zealand
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5 Christ Church Cathedral in Nelson, New Zealand

At the end of Trafalgar Street in Nelson are granite steps leading to Piki Mai Hill. This means “come hither” in the Māori language. At the center is the 115 foot marble bell tower of Christ Church Cathedral. The Anglican parish was established in the mid-19th century. The current structure was built in 1965. The Māori name for Nelson Cathedral is Haremai Pikimai.

Trafalgar Square, Nelson 7010, New Zealand
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6 Hope Saddle Lookout near Glenhope, New Zealand

From Nelson, follow State Highway 6 toward the West Coast. Your southwestern journey travels to a peak of 2,080 feet in the Hope Range just before this panoramic view at Hope Saddle Lookout near Glenhope. Then descend along the Little Hope and Hope Rivers until these tributaries empty into to the Buller River. You will follow its scenic flow through the Buller Gorge until its 110 mile course ends at the Tasman Sea.

Hope Saddle Lookout, Glenhope 7072, New Zealand
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7 Buller Gorge Swingbridge near Murchison, New Zealand

About halfway along your drive to the West Coast, you will need to stretch your legs. Give them a thrill by walking across the Buller Gorge Swingbridge. This 360 foot span across the Buller River is New Zealand’s longest suspension footbridge. Other activities within the adventure and heritage park are a zip line across the gorge, jet boats and panning for gold in the river plus nature trails.

413 Upper Buller Gorge Rd, Inangahua 7895, New Zealand
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8 West Coast Rugged Shoreline in Charleston, New Zealand

Your first glimpse of New Zealand’s dramatic West Coast is in the former gold rush town of Charleston. “The Coast” is 375 miles long and 31 miles at the widest point. This remote seaside region is defined by the Southern Alps and the relentless waves of the Tasman Sea. The scenery of Te Tai Poutini (Māori name) is rugged with an irregular shoreline, weather-beaten crags and fascinating rock formations. Inland are rivers and rainforests beckoning to be explored. These are a few of the countless beautiful reasons why this stretch of highway headed south is called the Great Coast Road.

121 Beach Rd, Charleston 7892, New Zealand
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9 Penguin Crossing Sign near Punakaiki, New Zealand

State Highway 6 begins hugging the scenic West Coast at Woodpecker Bay where the Fox River empties into the Tasman Sea. The next several miles of waterfront heading south are home to colonies of little blue penguins. Averaging just over one foot tall, they are the world’s smallest. The Māori name is kororā. This yellow penguin crossing sign is amusing but no joke. The blue penguins often waddle across the road at dusk and sunrise between their burrow and the sea. Tragically, several are accidently killed each year by motorists.

State Hwy 6, Fox River 7871, New Zealand
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10 Pancake Rocks at Paparoa National Park in Punakaiki, New Zealand

Pancake Rocks is a geological wonderment of what nature can create over 30 million years. These unique cliffs on Dolomite Point are the result of dead marine life pressed into layers over a mile below water before being raised above the sea by earthquakes. Then millenniums of wind and waves etched the limestone into incredible beauty.

Pancake Rocks, 4294 Coast Road Punakaiki, RD1 Runanga, West Coast 7873, New Zealand
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11 Surge Pool at Paparoa National Park in Punakaiki, New Zealand

Other impressive features you will enjoy during your 20 minute loop walk at Punakaiki Pancake Rocks are gushing blowholes and roaring surge pools. They are especially impressive yet a bit intimating at high tide. This must-see attraction is a fraction of Paparoa National Park. The 166 square mile reserve features forested mountains, the Metro / Te Ananui Caves, sandy beaches, and jagged cliffs. You will remember the stunning scenery along the Paparoa Coastline for a long time.

Pancake Rocks, 4294 Coast Road Punakaiki, RD1 Runanga, West Coast 7873, New Zealand
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12 Hokitika Clock Tower in Hokitika, New Zealand

Hokitika is a town of 3,000 people in the Westland District of New Zealand’s West Coast. The centerpiece of this community along State Highway 6 is the Hokitika Clock Tower. It was erected in 1903 as a tribute to the 103 Westland men who fought in the Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) in South Africa and as a memorial to the four soldiers who died. The landmark also recognized the coronation of Edward VII. He reigned as King of the United Kingdom from 1901 until 1910.

6 State Highway 6, Hokitika 7810, New Zealand
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13 Hokitika Museum in Hokitika, New Zealand

Prior to the 20th century, access to New Zealand libraries required a paid subscription. That changed when philanthropist Andrew Carnegie helped fund 18 free libraries in the country. This Neoclassical building in Hokitika opened in 1908. A small number of historical exhibits occupied some of the space. By 1998, the Hokitika Museum was the only tenant with a large collection of items conveying the heritage of the Westland region. After the building was rated poorly for earthquake safety by National Building Standards, it closed temporarily in 2016. Although the former Carnegie Building can still be toured, the museum will not move back until a full restoration is completed.

17 Hamilton St, Hokitika 7842, New Zealand
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14 Searching for Jade on Hokitika Beach in Hokitika, New Zealand

Hokitika was established in 1864 at the start of the West Coast Gold Rush. Within two years, the town swelled to 25,000. After a few more years, the prospectors left in droves and Hokitika’s population plummeted. Today, the main industry is tourism. A popular activity is searching the shoreline for washed-up deposits of pounamu. Treasure seekers and jewelry lovers comb the rocks and sand for samples of the precious jade (greenstone). Also dotting the coastline are gorgeous pieces of driftwood.

72 Beach St, Hokitika 7810, New Zealand
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15 Waiho River in Franz Josef, New Zealand

As State Highway 6 enters the town of Franz Josef from the north, it runs parallel to the braided Waiho River. This 16 mile, U-shaped valley is littered with polished rocks and sentiment left behind by the retreating Franz Josef Glacier. The water appears milky because of glacial till (grounded sediment). The village is officially named Franz Josef / Waiau. Most of its 350 residents cater to tourists via a gas station, hotels and restaurants. The main attraction is the 7,000 year old namesake glacier. Franz Josef Glacier is one of the largest and most accessible of New Zealand’s 3,155 glaciers.

2964 Franz Josef Hwy, Franz Josef 7886, New Zealand
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16 Aerial View of Franz Josef Glacier in Franz Josef, New Zealand

Stretching 7.5 miles down the Southern Alps in the South Island of New Zealand is the Franz Josef Glacier. The physically fit can hike up it. It is more fun to take a helicopter ride. You will fly up the mountain and land on the snow-capped peak. After snapping photos and having a snowball fight, your pilot will fly down the glacier like an aerial toboggan. The crystals of white, brown and blue ice are gorgeous. Unfortunately, Franz Josef and the neighboring Fox Glacier are rapidly retreating because of global warming.

Franz Josef Glacier, Franz Josef 7886, New Zealand
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17 Waterfall near Franz Josef Glacier in Franz Josef, New Zealand

German geologist Julius von Haast was the first European to extensively study and map Westland’s glaciers during the 1860s. In 1865, he named the most famous one after Franz Joseph I, then reigning Emperor of Australia. Approximately 10,000 years ago, the glacier extended to the Tasman Sea. Since then, the terminus (called a toe or snout) has retreated 12 miles and is challenging to reach. One way to see it from a distance starts at the Franz Josef Glacier Car Park. The 1.5 hour loop walk leads through the Waiho River Valley. This rock littered terminal moraine is surrounded by cascading waterfalls.

Franz Josef Glacier Car Park, Westland National Park, West Coast 7886, New Zealand
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18 Fox Glacier Moraine in Fox Glacier Village, New Zealand

Approximately 12 miles from Franz Josef Glacier is another popular feature of Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Fox Glacier travels 7.5 miles while squeezing between the Passchendaele and Chancellor Ridges. Around 18,000 years ago, its ice flow – reaching a depth of nearly 1,000 feet – ended 7.5 miles farther to the Tasman Sea. The moraine it left behind is now this scenic Fox River Valley. To experience the terminal face, turn off State Highway 6 onto Glacier View Road until you reach the parking lot. Then follow the 1.5 mile easy Valley Walk. Guided tours are available. The glacier’s namesake is Sir William Fox. He was Premier of New Zealand four times in the mid-19th century. The glacier’s Māori name is Te Moeka o Tuawe.

Fox Glacier Car Park, Westland National Park 7886, New Zealand
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19 Lake Moeraki Reflection in Haast, New Zealand

There are almost 4,000 lakes in New Zealand. Those near the Southern Alps seem as uninhabited and unspoiled as they were when first cut by glaciers. This gorgeous example is Lake Moeraki near Haast on the west coast of the South Island. Nearby is a rare Kiwi colony (think small bird with a long beak and not the fruit).

8756 Haast Hwy, Haast 7886, New Zealand
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20 Haast Pass near Haast, New Zealand

There are 88 miles of incredible scenery from Haast to Wanaka. The road has several names: State Highway 6, Haast Pass-Makarora Road or simply Hasst Pass. The Māori called it Tiori Pātea. Your serpentine journey parallels the Haast River between amazing mountain peaks and thick beech forests. This snow-capped beauty is Mount Macfarlane at an elevation of 6,749 feet. The tallest summit along your drive is Mount Brewster at 8,254 feet.

Haast Pass-Makarora Rd, Mount Aspiring National Park 9382, New Zealand
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21 Haast River Valley near Haast, New Zealand

Hasst River gathers its water from a network of creeks and streams flowing and often cascading down the Southern Alps along Hasst Pass. The river runs 66 miles before emptying into the Tasman Sea on the west coast. Haast River Valley was formed by a series of glaciers extending back two million years. The most recent glacial period was within the last 20,000 years. This gorgeous canyon is included within the Te Wāhipounamu, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.

Haast Pass-Makarora Rd, Mount Aspiring National Park 9382, New Zealand
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22 Thunder Creek Falls near Haast, New Zealand

Watch for a sign reading “Thunder Creek Falls” along your drive through Haast Pass. After a ten minute walk from the parking lot, you will be delighted to see what the locals call “Ninety Foot Falls.” Technically, Thunder Creek drops almost 92 feet into the rushing aquamarine Haast River below.

Thunder Creek Falls, Haast Pass-Makarora Rd, Mt Aspiring National Park 9382, New Zealand
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23 Lake Wanaka at The Neck near Wanaka, New Zealand

After traveling through Haast Pass, a narrow fertile valley unfolds before reaching the northern shore of Lake Wanaka. Measuring 74 square miles and 980 feet deep, it is one of New Zealand’s largest lakes. The reflective alpine water encircled by mountains is pristine and picturesque. The waterfront road takes a sharp bend at The Neck, a sliver of land separating Lake Wanaka and its equally gorgeous neighbor, Lake Hawea. At the southern end of Lake Wanaka is the town of Wanaka, a summer and winter playground of about 8,500 people.

3283 Makarora-Lake Hawea Rd, The Neck 9382, New Zealand
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24 Puzzling World in Wanaka, New Zealand

The Leaning Tower of Wanaka marks the entrance to Puzzling World, a unique amusement park in Wanaka. Since it was founded by Stuart Landsborough in 1973, the popular tourist attraction has added several optical illusions rooms, mind-boggling puzzles, gravity-defying sculptures and frustratingly-fun mazes. Many of the intricate exhibits were designed by Weta Workshop, the New Zealand special effects company who helped produce The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

188 Wanaka-Luggate Hwy, Wanaka 9382, New Zealand
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25 Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

There are about 34 miles between Wanaka and Arrowtown. About half the distance runs parallel to the 25 mile long Cardrona River in the Cardrona Valley. During the 1860s, this area was a hotbed for prospectors. But like many gold rushes, the promise of prosperity was a flash in the pan. The enthusiasm and dreams were mostly gone after 15 years. One of the few remnants left behind is the Cardrona Hotel, built in 1863. The namesake for the valley and former settlement is Cardrona, Scotland, a small town south of Edinburgh.

1653 Cardrona Valley Rd, Cardrona 9381, New Zealand
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26 Bra Fence in Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

While driving in the Cardrona Valley in the countryside of Central Otago, we were startled and then amused by a fence covered with 800 bras. This visual oddity mysteriously started when four bras appeared on New Year’s Day, 2000. Soon more were added. As protests from the locals grew, so did its notoriety and the number of bras. Apparently we saw it near its peak (no pun intended). In 2006, this whimsical display of undergarments was removed by the city council. But do not despair. And endless row of female undergarments are now dangling in the breeze on a fence next to the Cardrona Distillery and Museum.

2125 Cardrona Valley Rd, Cardrona 9381, New Zealand
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27 Crown Range Road in Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

The second half of your travels from Wanaka to Arrowtown is a slow, twisting scenic drive along the Crown Range Road. Reaching an elevation of 3,678 feet, it becomes New Zealand’s highest sealed road as you wind between the Crown Range and the Criffle Range mountains. The tallest summit in the area is Crown Peak at 5,692 feet. This is a spectacular experience during the summer months. Travel is often challenging if not possible during the winter.

Crown Range Rd, Roaring Meg 9384, New Zealand
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28 Post and Telegraph Building in Arrowtown, New Zealand

After traveling down the Zig Zag – a well-named stretch of switchbacks along the Crown Range Road – you arrive in Arrowtown. This small town of 2,200 people was born during the Otago gold rush and still has charming heritage buildings along Buckingham Street. An example is the Post and Telegraph Building. Constructed in 1862, this replacement was built in 1915 after the original was consumed by fire. The village offers shopping in quaint boutiques, a 19th century Chinese settlement, trails into the countryside, mountains and along the Arrow River plus three golf courses in the summer and skiing in the winter.

52 Buckingham St, Arrowtown 9302, New Zealand
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29 Paragliding over Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown in the Otago Region is one of the most picturesque settings in the South Island. The Remarkables Mountains are well named as the backdrop for Lake Wakatipu. Tāhuna (Māori name) is an ideal destination for the active tourist. In winter, skiing is the main attraction. In summer, the choices include fishing, bungee jumping, boating, biking, hiking (called tramping) and camping. The most adventurous souls fly high and free on a paraglider.

Skyline Queenstown, 35 Brecon St, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand
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30 TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is located along Queenstown Bay, an inlet of Lake Wakatipu. The S-shaped lake stretches for 50 miles, qualifying as New Zealand’s longest. A scenic way to appreciate its grand beauty is aboard the TSS Earnslaw. The steamship was commissioned by New Zealand Railways, designed by Hugh McRae and launched in 1912. Affectionately called the Lady of the Lake, the vintage vessel provides 90 minute sightseeing cruises offered by Real Journeys.

Steamer Wharf, 88 Beach Street, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand
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31 Toulouse Goose on Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is a leisurely resort city of about 15,000 people. Enjoy a quiet walk along the bay feeding the mallard ducks and Toulouse geese. This large, originally French bird with its distinctive dewlap (flap of skin below the jaw) is becoming popular among New Zealand breeders for its eggs, feathers and the production of foie gras.

3 Marine Parade, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand
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32 Gondola Ride and Bungy Jumping in Queenstown, New Zealand

The Gondola is a panoramic way to enjoy 220° elevated views of Queenstown. When you arrive at Skyline Queenstown, dine and drink at the Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar. But you should suspend the culinary experience if you want to try the stomach-dropping Ledge Swing. Screaming is mandatory when you fall from a height of 1,300 feet.

Skyline Queenstown, 35 Brecon St, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand
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33 Skyline Luge Chairlift in Queenstown, New Zealand

If you have been fascinated watching Olympic lugers race down ice tracks at over 80 miles, here is your chance to live the experience. Skyline Luge offers two winding concrete courses. The Blue Track is relatively easy. The more adventurous Red Track will definitely demand your attention and perhaps a scream or two. Between courses, ride the chairlift back to the starting point.

Skyline Luge, 35 Brecon St, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand
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34 World’s First Bungy Jumping Company in Queenstown, New Zealand

As an entrepreneur, Alan John “A.J.” Hackett is known for jumping into daring ventures with both feet – literally. After designing an elastic cord, he performed his first bungy jump in Auckland in 1986. Two years later, he founded the world’s first bungy jumping company, AJ Hackett Bungy, in Queenstown at the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge. The 1880 bridge spans the Kawarau River at a vertigo-inducing height of 141 feet.

AJ Hackett Bungy, State Highway 6, Queenstown 9384, New Zealand
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35 Kayak on Kawarau River Rapids in Queenstown, New Zealand

Adventure seekers go to Queenstown to challenge the white water rapids of the Kawarau River. Tours are available for novice rafters as well as those with a death wish. This rafter seems miniscule and at the mercy of the churning water plus tall cliffs.

1820 State Highway 6, Gibbston 9371, New Zealand
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36 Flight to Milford Sound from Queenstown, New Zealand

A very popular daytrip from Queenstown is a visit to the world famous Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. You can travel by car or sightseeing bus. However, the drive is about 179 miles one way and requires almost four hours. A more scenic and much shorter option is aboard a small plane. During the half-hour flight, you will soar above glaciers and marvel at some of the Southern Alps’ most impressive peaks. Tours usually include a cruise through Milford Sound and sometimes other spectacular adjacent fjords.

Mountain Peak, HP Ailsa Mountains, Greenstone 9372, New Zealand
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37 Introduction to Milford Sound at Fiordland, New Zealand

The masterpiece of Fiordland National Park – New Zealand’s largest park – is Milford Sound. Piopiotahi (Māori name) is the northernmost of the fjords along the southwestern coast of New Zealand. This incredible 9.9 mile inlet of the Tasman Sea is defined by sheer summits like Mount Kimberley (The Lion) at 4,271 feet on the left, the snow-capped Mills Peak at 5,987 feet and the 3,966 foot Cascade Peak on the right. Savor the pristine scenery above water during a sightseeing cruise. Marvel at the waterfalls. Enjoy seeing dolphins, penguins, fur seals and whales in the water. And stop at Harrison Cove (center) to view marine life at 32 feet underwater at the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory. You will soon understand why Milford Sound is rated among the world’s top destinations.

Milford Sound, Southland 9691, New Zealand
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38 Doubtful, the Sound of Silence at Fiordland, New Zealand

Superlatives fail to describe the majesty as Doubtful Sound appears over your ship’s bow. Let’s introduce you to some of the scenery. On the left are the Shelter Islands. The point is Jamieson Head, part of Bauza Island. Its namesake was Felipe Bauzá y Cañas, the cartographer (map drawer) aboard a five-year Spanish expedition in the late 19th century. As you travel slowly for less than a mile along the Patea Passage, you are awed by the swirling clouds above the 4,432 foot Behind Peaks. Marvel how the blue sky shares its color with the sea. The Māori call this fjord Patea meaning “place of silence.” Doubtful is commonly referred to as the “Sound of Silence.”

Doubtful Sound, Southland 9691, New Zealand
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39 Captain Cook’s Exploration of Dusky Sound at Fiordland, New Zealand

Until the late 18th century, people believed the unexplored land in the Southern Hemisphere must match the northern continents they knew. James Cook, a captain in the Royal Navy, was commissioned to test this theory called Terra Australis. During his first expedition (1768 – 1771) aboard the HMS Endeavour while circumnavigating New Zealand, he discovered these waters on March 14, 1770 and named them Dusky Bay. His ship the HMS Resolution returned during his second voyage (1772 – 1775) and moored at Pickersgill Harbor just south of Dusky Sound for six weeks in 1773. His detailed mapping provided the names of all the features you see here. From left to right, they are: Five Fingers Peninsula (part of Resolution Island) and the islets called Petrel, Anchor, Seal, Many, Normans and Indian Islands.

Dusky Sound, Southland 9691, New Zealand
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40 The Octagon in Dunedin, New Zealand

The bullseye of Dunedin’s central business district (downtown) is The Octagon. These are two, eight-sided wedges defined by a ring called Moray Place. Many of the city’s historic landmarks – such as St. Paul’s Cathedral – are within or along the outer boundaries of this core. Accenting the inner plaza since 1897 is this bronze statue of Robert Burns by sculptor Sir John Steell. Burns became the National Poet of Scotland during the late 18th century and is best remembered for penning “Auld Lang Syne.” His brother, Reverend Thomas Burns, co-founded the Otago settlement and the First Church of Otago in 1848. He was part of the Otago Association. These members of the Free Church of Scotland called their new colony Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh. To this day, Dunedin is still called Edinburgh of the South.

The Octagon, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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41 Wide Angle of Dunedin Railway Station in Dunedin, New Zealand

One of the city’s many visual highlights is the Dunedin Railway Station. This marvelous Flemish Renaissance train terminal opened in 1906. At the south end is a 121 foot clock tower. The flower bed is part of a sculpted knot garden decorating the center of Anzac Square. ANZAC honors the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who died during World War I.

22 Anzac Ave, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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42 Taiaroa Head on Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand

Whether you drive to the end of Otago Peninsula or sail by it, you cannot miss the splendor of Taiaroa Head. At the peak of this promontory is the Taiaroa Head Lighthouse. Its beacon has helped sailors navigate the Pacific Ocean’s coastal waters since 1864. More exciting is viewing 200 northern royal albatrosses. This endangered, enormous seabird has a wingspan of eight to ten feet. This is the only mainland colony in the Southern Hemisphere. Other wildlife residents of this nature reserve are little blue and yellow-eyed penguins, Stewart Island shags, New Zealand sea lions plus dusky dolphins and migratory whales.

Waiwhakaheke Seabird Lookout, Taiaroa Head, Harington Point, 9077, New Zealand
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43 Moeraki Boulders in Moeraki, New Zealand

Dozens of the curious Moeraki Boulders are grouped in clusters along Koekohe Beach near the village of Moeraki. These enormous, spherical and veined rocks seem like ominous pods from a sci-fi movie. They average three to over six feet high. The largest is ten feet in diameter. They are 60 to 65 million years old. Geologists have a detailed explanation for how they were formed. It is boring and dilutes their mystery. Māori tradition explains them as gourds from the shipwrecked Āraiteuru canoe, the legendary vessel used by Polynesians to discover New Zealand.

Public Parking, Moeraki Boulders Rd, Hampden 9482, New Zealand
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44 Little Blue Penguin at Burrow in Oamaru, New Zealand

The world’s tiniest penguins are blue, short and adorable. Adult little blue penguins stand about 13 inches and weigh two to three pounds. They are indigenous to the coastlines of New Zealand and southern Australia. The Aussies call them fairy penguins and the Māori name is kororā. Increasingly, the eudyptula minor are breeding on offshore islets to escape predators and human disturbances. Both have caused a significant drop in their population. The flightless birds typically nest in sheltered, underground burrows near the sea. They will also reside in rock crevices and manmade nesting boxes. One of New Zealand’s largest colonies is in Oamaru along the eastern coast of the South Island. An excellent place to see little blue penguins waddle ashore at dusk is at the tourist site called Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.

Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, Waterfront Rd, Oamaru 9400, New Zealand
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45 Victorian Precinct in Oamaru, New Zealand

Oamaru was observed by Captain Cook in 1770, was an occasional refuse for whalers in the early 19th century, was first settled in 1850 and rapidly grew as a major port for the next thirty years. Its prosperity, along with abundant Oamaru limestone, lead to a construction boom near the harbor until the 1880s. The Criterion Hotel – built in 1877 – is an example of the town’s 70 historic buildings from this era. Most have been restored and become the Victorian Precinct. The district features boutique shops, galleries, museums, restaurants and bars. This town of about 14,000 residents is a tourist’s delight.

3 Tyne St, South Hill, Oamaru 9400, New Zealand
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46 Vintage Sightseeing Train in Oamaru, New Zealand

A fun way to see Oamaru’ highlights is aboard a sightseeing train pulled by steam locomotive B10. The half-hour trip starts at Harbourside Station, travels through the Victorian Precinct and along the harbor. Want a longer railroad ride? A scenic alternative in a modern train is the Moeraki Seasider offered by Dunedin Railways. The train leaves from Dunedin and travels 2.5 hours along the beautiful Otago coastline before terminating at the Moeraki Boulders. A shorter option runs from Oamaru to Moeraki.

Oamaru Steam & Rail, Harbour St, Oamaru 9400, New Zealand
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47 Introduction to Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa, New Zealand is nestled on the east side of Akaroa Harbour on Banks Peninsula. The small town of less than 650 residents is along the eastern coast of the South Island. The popular resort community is about a 1.5 hour drive 50 miles south of Christchurch. This is also a frequent port-of-call for cruises ships. The name Akaroa means “Long Harbour” in the Kāi Tahu Māori language.

Beach Road & Bruce Terrace, Akaroa 7520, New Zealand
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48 Giant’s House Sculpture Garden in Akaroa, New Zealand

Welcome to Giant’s House, a masterful mosaic sculpture garden perched atop the hill on Rue Balguerie. Justifiably called “the happiest garden on earth,” this visual wonderland is the twenty-five year passion of Josie Martin, a contemporary artist, talented sculptor and trained horticulturalist. The centerpiece is this lovingly restored 1880 home with a unique planter piano in front. Inside are an art gallery of her paintings plus a café and the Linton bed & breakfast. Outside is a mental playground of whimsical characters and animals accenting walkways and staircases among terraced flowers and plants.

68 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa 7520, New Zealand
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49 Tramway Tour of Christchurch, New Zealand

Welcome to Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city with 400,000 residents. Ōtautahi (Māori name) was first settled in 1250 and became a city 606 years later, making it New Zealand’s oldest. Christchurch was a thriving community until several earthquakes struck from September, 2010 through January, 2012. The largest on February 22, 2011 measured 6.3. Over 1,500 buildings were destroyed. But the residents proved their motto, “Strong in Hope for the Future.” They have renovated many of their historic buildings, constructed replacements and are proud to show you the results aboard the inner-city tramway system.

109 Worcester St, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand
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50 Christchurch Arts Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch Arts Center is a complex of boutique stores, artist’s studios and galleries, performing arts venues, restaurants, festivals and more. It is located within the former Canterbury College campus, founded in 1873. By the time the University of Canterbury began moving out in the 1960s, it left behind 23 Gothic Revival buildings dating back to 1877. An example of the complex’s heritage architecture is this former Boy’s High School Building. Designed by William Armson and finished in 1881, it was a preparatory school for the college until 1926. It now houses the Christchurch i-SITE Visitor Centre.

28 Worcester Blvd, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
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51 Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand

Canterbury Museum is a must-see culture, nature and history museum. The collection of over 2.3 million items reaches back to the arrival of the Maori in the mid-13th century and includes artifacts from the first European settlers. It also features fascinating displays of ancient birds, mammals and fossils. The museum was designed by Benjamin Mountfort. This architect is credited with introducing the Gothic Revival style to Christchurch. Mountfort also created many of the city’s heritage buildings. The white marble statue by Herbert Hampton is a likeness of William Rolleston. During the late 19th century – while Canterbury Province Superintendent, Minister of Justice and Member of Parliament – Rolleston helped establish Canterbury Museum and the former Canterbury College across Rolleston Avenue.

Canterbury Museum, Rolleston Av, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
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52 Peacock Fountain at Botanic Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand

Wouldn’t you expect to see peacocks on an Edwardian fountain named Peacock Fountain? Instead, its three tiers are adorned with herons and dolphins. The name comes from its benefactor, John Peacock. He was a successful entrepreneur, politician and generous philanthropist during the second half of the 19th century. This colorful, cast-iron fountain is the centerpiece of Armstrong Lawn within the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. The 52 acre property features several rose gardens and greenhouses. The Tudor Revival building in the background was home for the garden curator from 1920 until 1984. Curator’s House is now a restaurant.

Peacock Fountain, 9 Rolleston Ave, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
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53 Flat-bottom Boat on Avon River in Christchurch, New Zealand

Hagley Park is a 405 acre greenspace. Together with the adjacent Christchurch Botanic Gardens, they justify Christchurch’s nickname The Garden City. Established in 1856, the park is partially defined by the man-made Victoria Lake – named to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee – and the winding course of the Avon River. A popular attraction is a scenic ride on a flat-bottom boat navigated by a punter in Edwardian clothes.

2 Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
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54 Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch, New Zealand

The Bridge of Remembrance was built in 1924 as a tribute to soldiers who died during World War I. Its design by William Gummer resembles a Roman triumphal arch. The lions above the smaller portals were sculpted by Frederick Gurnsey. The war memorial is at the east end of Cashel Street Bridge. This span over the Avon River was completed in 1873. Bridge of Remembrance suffered earthquake damage in 2011. After extensive restoration, it reopened in 2016.

Cashel St & Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand
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55 Christchurch, New Zealand Composite of Two Photos

Two photos of Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand are: Christchurch Cathedral and the Chalice sculpture by Neil Dawson, both in Christchurch Square. During the February 2011 earthquake, 185 people were killed and 1,500 buildings were damaged. The cathedral and its spire were among the casualties. After a lengthy legal process among the High Court and Supreme Court, this Gothic Revival church was scheduled for demolition in early 2014. Yet the site was not cleared. In 2017, plans to rebuild were approved. The project is expected to require ten years.

100 Cathedral Square, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand
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56 Thermal Pools and Spa in Hanmer Springs, New Zealand

At this point in your South Island road trip, you are probably thrilled at all you have seen and done but also exhausted. Immerse yourself in total relaxation at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa, the recreational oasis of this Canterbury Region town. This incredible complex beacons you with six thermal pools, sauna and steam rooms, plus water rides and this waterslide for kids. The water is warmed by a natural hot spring. “New Zealand’s Alpine Spa Village” is encircled by mountains, forests and endless opportunities for other outdoor adventures.

42 Amuri Ave, Hanmer Springs 7334, New Zealand
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57 Fur Seal Napping on Kaikoura Peninsula in Kaikaoura, New Zealand

This New Zealand fur seal is using a limestone rock as a pillow as he naps on the Kaikoura Peninsula in the northeast section of New Zealand’s South Island. When he opens his eyes, he has a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and the Seaward Kaikoura mountains. Kaikoura is a quaint town of about 2,100 people. It has an active crayfish industry. The tourists love the boat rides to watch the sperm whales and dolphins.

40 Fyffe Quay, Kaikoura 7300, New Zealand
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58 WWI Aviation Museum at Omaka Aviation Centre in Blenheim, New Zealand

A three-mile drive from Blenheim is the Knights of the Sky Exhibition at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. This must-see airplane museum displays 16 World War I aircraft. Most are operational replicas. An example is this Etrich Taube named after its designer Igo Etrich. Taube means “dove” in German. This weaponless airplane was used for reconnaissance during the early years of the Great War. Also visit the Dangerous Skies, an adjoining exhibition of WWII aircraft

79 Aerodrome Road, Blenheim 7272, New Zealand
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59 The Wine Station in Blenheim, New Zealand

Blenheim Railway Station was built in 1906. In 2018, Michael and Angela Wentworth transformed this historic rail terminal into The Wine Station. Inside you can sample among 80 of the region’s top wines while nibbling on platters of cheese and tasty delicacies. If this experience just whets your appetite, then consider following the Marlborough Wine Trail. Most of the 30 vineyards you can visit are a short distance west of Blenheim.

Wine Station, Sinclair St, Mayfield, Blenheim 7201, New Zealand
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60 Marlborough Flyer Steam Engine in Picton, New Zealand

Marlborough Flyer is a scenic, 17 mile train trip between Picton and the town of Blenheim. This fun, heritage adventure lasts about an hour. You can also book a return trip to Picton. When the Ab608 was built in 1915, the steam locomotive was the first operated by New Zealand Railways. Ten years later, it was named Passchendaele. This honors the 1,500 New Zealand soldiers who were killed within a few days in 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium during World War I.

Picton Railway Station, 5 Auckland Street, Picton 7220, New Zealand
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