With spring on our doorstep and summer just around the corner, a holiday to the sun-drenched corners of the land is a must for us all.
Richly scattered across both islands, we focus on a few of the charms of the South Island.
Lake Tekapo, Mackenzie Country
In the centre of the South Island rests the blue calm of Lake Tekapo shimmering in the golden grassland of the Mackenzie Country.
A three-hour drive from Christchurch and a further three from Queenstown, Tekapo (laketekapountouched.co.nz) offers an abundance of land and lake activities for young and old and with the protection of the surrounding mountains from the coastal weather, is a hidden oasis for enjoying the summer sun.
Due to its private location and resulting lack of light pollution, Tekapo is also home to the Mount John Observatory (earthandsky.co.nz), New Zealand’s premier stargazing facility.
After a day in the warmth either lie back and savour the splendour of the southern sky or get a tour of Mount John with Earth & Sky (03 680 6960), the clear air and surrounding darkness allow the opportunity to capture the splendour of the heavens through the variety of super sophisticated telescopes on site.
Punakaiki, West Coast
Punakaiki (punakaiki.co.nz) is a sleepy West Coast town on State Highway 6 between Greymouth and Westport and is home to the Pancake Rocks, heavily eroded limestone formations and rapturous blow holes epitomizing the wildness of this region. High tide is the best time to capture them at their most explosive. Take the 20-minute loop walk with camera in hand and witness the artistic eroding power of the ocean.
Part of the Paparoa National Park, the rocks are only the beginning to the prehistoric landscape of strange limestone formations. The Pororari River Track follows a spectacular limestone gorge deep into the lush rainforest. If you’re not up for the 2 1/2 hour trek, the lower section offers a picnic spot and popular swimming hole.
Alternatively for those not wanting to walk the track, why not hire a kayak from Punakaiki Canoes (03 731 1870), 1 km north of the rocks and paddle the river. The beginnings are easy going for families whilst further up the more advanced can brave the increasing rapids and reach Cave Creek.
Totaranui Beach, Abel Tasman National Park
If your summer is more about ultimate relaxation, then head in the direction of Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park, for some of New Zealand’s finest beaches.
At 1 km in length, Totaranui is the quintessential arch of gleaming golden sand and warm azure ocean fringed by rampant greenery. From here many of the secluded beaches can be reached by kayak. It’s the park’s only beach accessible by road and has a campground administered by the DOC. Sandflies are common so take deterrent. 32 km east of Takaka, it’s reachable by an unsealed road. Take Abel Tasman Drive west out of Takaka, then Totaranui Rd onwards. The journey takes about an hour or alternatively get a water taxi from Marahua ($40).
The region has many other attractions. Te Waikoropupu Springs, ‘Pupu Springs’, 7km out of Takaka, holds the world record for clarity of freshwater. Enroute to Collingwood, take a left just before Takaka River. Also nearby are the Ngarua Caves in the marble mountain of Takaka Hill, rich in stalactites and stalagmites. Visit the inner sanctuary of the cathedral for a chance to see them at their most elaborate.
With these gems enjoyed, winters icy whisper will remain temporarily out of mind and out of sight and the summer sun long savoured.