NZ South Island
History & Culture
Although it is the considerably larger landmass of the two islands, the South Island is the least populated and was settled after the North Island, probably by both Maori and European settlers. There have been Maori living in the South Island for 500-800 years. The first tribe to settle on the island were the Waitaha and they were gradually absorbed into other south-migrating tribes by marriage and conquest.
The first Europeans to arrive in the South Island were Abel Tasman and his Dutch crew in 1642, but the first settlement was founded at Bluff in 1823 by James Spencer, a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo. In 1840 the island briefly became part of New South Wales, but was soon restored to the fold.
Due to a relatively small Maori population, the South Island didn't experience the same level of conflict between Maoris and Europeans as the North Island, to the extent that they even tried to break away from the North as they got sick of funding their wars ...
Today there is a very strong British feel to the South Island, which is a testament to the high numbers of settlers who came from the isles, especially from Scotland. The Polynesian culture isn't as palpable in the South Island but there are still strongholds of Maori culture in places like Kaikoura.
The South Island is blessed with a disproportionate amount of natural beauty ... it often feels like you can just point your camera without even looking and you'll have a postcard-quality image. The South Island is home to 10 of New Zealand's 13 national parks and these parks are well set up to allow you to explore them in full.
The South Island is a fairly young landmass which lends the geography to steep mountains and geothermal activity. Being well in the southern latitudes, the mountains are often snow-capped, which adds an extra touch of ambience.
From windswept beaches to snow-capped mountains and glacial lakes and rivers, the South Island is one of the most beautiful natural environments on earth.
New Zealand has been called the outdoor adventure capital of the world and the South Island has a plethora of activities to satisfy any outdoor enthusiast. From hiking to mountain biking to sailing to skiing to fishing ... the list goes on.
The South Island is a hiker's wonderland, with numerous tracks criss-crossing the island. Some of the tracks are justifiably world-famous, like The Routeburn Track and The Milford Track, but there are numerous others that have been by trampers (Kiwi for 'hikers') the world over.
Of course, in the winter, the South Island is a world-class ski destination offering a number of ski fields to choose from, and at Queenstown and Christchurch, a night life to match.
So much to do in the South Island ... make sure you allow yourself plenty of time as this island allows you to tick off a number of items from your bucket list. If you are a hiker, the Milford or Routeburn tracks are a must and if you like pinot noir, Central Otago is heaven.
Fiordland is a must do, even if its only to go for a cruise on Milford Sound, but the park offers so much more. Kaikoura is famous for its whale-watching and the town is also a great introduction to South Island Maori culture. Dunedin is a fine example of Scottish architecture and an elegant city sitting at the bottom of the world. Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Tekapo; the location is stunning.
If you can get to a rugby game, especially anywhere in Canterbury, the opportunity should be taken up. Rugby is the religion here and it's a great opportunity to socialise and watch Kiwi's socialise ... it will almost certainly involve beer and mud.
Points of Interest
Visitors from Australia are eligible for a visa waiver and do not require a visa for stays of less than three months. Full details are provided on the Immigration New Zealand website (www.immigration.govt.nz). For visa, passport, health and security advice for Australian travellers, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website - www.smartraveller.gov.au.
|Hello / thank you||Kia Ora|
|See you later||Hei konei ra|
|How are you?||Kei te pehea koe?|
Best Time to Visit
|Skiing||June to September/October|
|Watch an All Blacks game||June to September|
|Freshwater Fishing||October to April|
|Hiking and Tramping||Each season offers a unique experience, though winter is traditionally not a busy time.|
|Whale Watching||See giant sperm whales year-round from Kiakoura|
|White Water Rafting||Spring - September to November|
|Self-Drive Holidays||Autumn - March to May|
Shopping is a real pleasure, with plenty of markets, gift stores and designer fashion boutiques, with a high number of unique, independent outlets. New Zealand-made specialities include beautiful pounamu (jade) and paua (abalone) shell ornaments and jewellery; handcrafted glass and local wood products; luxurious merino or possum knitwear; sheepskin and leather goods.
What to Pack
Visitors should come prepared for all conditions, at any time of year. Local weather conditions and forecasts can be found on the MetService website (www.metservice.com).
Overall, New Zealand enjoys a mild climate with moderate rainfall, although its mountain ranges and maritime environments create varying microclimates and sudden changes in weather. In general, though, the far north of New Zealand is subtropical, with average temperatures generally decreasing towards the south.
New Zealand's South Island offers wildlife, wineries, glacial valleys, dramatic coastlines, mountain peaks and action-packed adventure. Head to Marlborough in the north of the island to discover some world-renowned sav blanc. Explore the West Coast's rugged beauty, glaciers, rivers and rainforests. On the East Coast you'll find some amazing wildlife spotting opportunities, such as seals, whales and dolphins off the little fishing village of Kaikoura. Adventure capital Queenstown is the go-to place for jet boating, white water rafting, skiing and snowboarding. Hiking and tramping is big at Mt Cook. The list goes on.