Southern Paradise

The South Island of New Zealand, is without question, a scenic gem. Full of lush greenery, snowy mountains and miles of unspoilt scenery, it is a veritable heaven for hiking. Or hobbits, if it comes to that. You can definitely see why this is a popular location for filming.

I arrived in South Island by ferry by crossing the Cook Strait from Wellington. This part of the sea is infamous for storms and treacherous waters so thankfully my crossing was quite the opposite with clear sunny skies and calm seas. It was a treat coming into Marlborough Sounds.

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My first destination was the sleepy coastal town of Picton.

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Then onward bound to the nitty-gritty of my trip – deep into the beautiful regions of Mount Cook and Westland National Parks.

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I was lucky to get good weather while I was here although mist and cloud sometimes meant taking great photos wasn’t always possible!

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All the trails and walking routes are very clearly marked and maintained. They really range in difficulty too, you can walk anywhere from 10 minutes on a covered path, to a whole day on rough and rocky terrain. I’m not a very experienced hiker so I stuck to the middle, with easy-paced rambles of anywhere between 2 and 5 hours.

There were so many regions of the South Island I wish I had more time to explore. The glorious abundance of glacial lakes, wildlife watching, and the fjords of Milford Sound, for instance. There is an area near Lake Tekapo which boasts some of the clearest night skies in the world, making seeing the Milky Way a doddle. What could surpass that?

The reason all this is so difficult to fit in is mainly down to the fact that South Island is not easy to travel around. Roads are not built to take you anywhere quickly. I travelled by coaches,which have a very sparse timetable involving early mornings and long journeys. It also doesn’t give you much flexibility in travelling. If I came again I would definitely hire a car.

That’s not to say that the coaches weren’t still an excellent way of travelling about. Good opportunities to take a nap, an informative driver pointing out sights of interest en route, and pickups/drop offs right at the door of your youth hostel.

The youth hostels in New Zealand are friendly, clean, and well equipped, particularly the ones in the remoter parts of the country! Meeting other travellers was one of the highlights of my travels and swapping tales of all sorts of comedic mishaps whilst scrambling over rocks in the dark, peering for glow-worms was great fun!

For the wildlife lovers, there’s plenty to take in, from dolphin spotting, seal spotting, and swimming with whales if that takes your fancy!

I’d love to come back again, who knows?

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Windy Welly

I arrived in Wellington on an overcast, grey sort of day, but the beauty of the contoured terrain still astounded me. I was greeted at the airport by some of the friendliest airport staff I’d ever met, which was already an excellent sign of what was to come! 🙂

The ‘Windy’ part of Welly didn’t really live up to its name when I was there. It was sunny, clear and the air was gorgeously warm and still. The harbourside was a buzz of weekend activity, and I got the chance to explore the stalls clustered around a small food market, polishing off a delicious lamb roti wrap on the way. Near the harbour is the renown Te Papa museum, and it was fantastically informative, full of interesting exhibitions on Maori culture, and the colonisation of New Zealand in the last couple of centuries.

Wellington’s parliament buildings are also worth a visit, especially to see the ‘Beehive,’ an unusual circular structure which is set in pretty garden surroundings. For a throwback of what train stations might have been like two hundred years ago, Wellington train station in all its unaltered simplicity is stunning.

I couldn’t leave Wellington without indulging in some movie geekery by paying a trip to the nondescript suburb of Miramar, and getting lost amongst warehouses and second-hand dealers. Miramar being home of the Weta workshop, which is most famous for the creation of the costumes and cinematic effects in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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You’re not actually allowed entry into the workshop itself due to film confidentiality contracts, so the main visitor area is a small shop known as the Weta Cave attached to the side of the building. It is crammed full of exciting paraphernalia, and they screen a 25 minute behind-the-scenes film, which is a rather nice touch, but does also give yout the overwhelming urge to purchase a full size replica sword. I only managed to resist temptation by reminding myself that the airline wouldn’t have been too impressed by it.

Next post….exploring South Island….