South Island, explore the South Island of New Zealand

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South Island Regions

The South Island of New Zealand measuring 150'437 km², is the larger then the North Island and is often referred to as "the mainland". Located between latitudes 41° and 47°south, and runs almost parallel to longitude 170°east, separating the southeast Pacific Ocean from the Tasman Sea.

The South Island is divided by the Southern Alps, which are part of the San Andreas fault line. The Southern Alps traverse most of the length of the south Island and rise over 3,000 m in places. To the west of the alps lie The West Coast’s rainforests. To the east are the farmlands of the Canterbury and Otago Plains, formed by rivers flowing east from the mountains. In the south, a series of large lakes formed in depressions that were scoured out by huge glaciers, during the last ice age, and the more recent hydro-electric power lakes created by man.

The South Island is often called the Mainland because it existed first, according to Maori legend and is larger than the North Island. About a quarter of New Zealand's inhabitants live on the South Island.

The pace of life is slower in the south, and the people are generally more friendly then their northern neighbours. Minutes after you disembark from the Picton ferry terminal, you will notice that there is less traffic. When you enter shops, everyone is interested to talk with you and the conversation comes easy. Its like the North Island was 30 years ago. The pioneering spirit is still there too, the Southerner’s know how to look out for each other. They work hard and play even harder, that’s why the South Island consistently produces some of the best rugby players in the world.

The South Island has an abundant array of activities to keep everyone amused. If you are into outdoor activities, then this is the place to be. Queenstown, also known as “The Adventure Capital of the World”, is the home of the Bunjy Jump as we know it today. Kaikura has the reputation as one of the best places in the world for whale watching. There are horse treks everywhere, as well as 4wd tours, and mountain biking options galore. Fishing is very popular here, in the lakes, rivers and streams you can catch Brown and Rainbow Trout, Salmon and Whitebait. Sea fishing off the coast can also be very exciting. Hunting for deer, pigs, geese, ducks, rabbits, thar and chamois is a thrill (with the correct permission). All of these species are introduced to New Zealand, so recreational hunting helps regulate their numbers. Surfing possibilities all around the South Island's coasts are endless, the Catlins surf in the deep south has New Zealand's premier big wave location at Papatowai Beach.

The South Island is home to 9 of NZ’s 14 national parks, and countless forests. Hiking is a major attraction, people come from all over the world to enjoy New Zealand’s great walks. In the north of the South Island is The Abel Tasman National Park, with spectacular coastal walk ways, The Kahurangi National Park, has the world renowned Heaphy Track, and The Nelson Lakes National Park. Punakaiki is the main centre for the Paparoa National park and The Westland/Tai Poutini National Park is also on the West Coast. The Arthurs Pass National Park is in Central Canterbury and links the two coasts via Greymouth and Christchurch. The Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is in the South Canterbury and is home to Aoraki Mount Cook New Zealand’s highest peak at 3754 metres. The Mount Aspiring National Park in Otago’s Southern lakes District is also a thrill seekers paradise. The Fiordland National Park has the stunning Doubtful Sound and The Milford Sound as well as the world renowned Mliford, Ruoteburn and Kepler tracks, to enjoy

For such a sparsely populated island, the facilities are first rate. There is quality accommodation and award winning restaurants, as well as fine wines, throughout the South Island. I think the best way to experience it is with your own transport, i.e.; campervan or rental car. The biggest complaint we get from fellow travellers is that they did not allow enough time in their travel itinerary for the South Island. Go, see and enjoy the heart of the south.

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