New Zealand - Southland and Otago
Below is a list of all the pages on this website which are concerned with places in the Southland and Otago regions of New Zealand - or in other words, the bottom end of the south island. See map at bottom of page for locations.
The road has an uninspiring name and sees little tourist traffic. But if you enjoy mountains, lakes, dams and charming rural countryside, State Highway 83 is a pleasant journey down the Waitaki Valley, from New Zealand's Mackenzie Country to the coast.
The Maniototo region is one of my favourite bits of New Zealand - sparsely settled and sparsely visited high plains inland from Dunedin. When exploring this unique part of the south it's good to stay somewhere local, and so I thought I'd mention one of the places I stayed, which I liked.
Organised activities at tourist magnets may not rank highly for people like me who delight in roads less travelled. But this one at New Zealand's most popular tourist town is so cool I just had to write about it. Plus I had some video to illustrate it. Flying aerobatic manoeuvres over the stunning landscapes of Queenstown in winter is simply awesome, and something I'll never regret doing despite the costs.
Once upon a time in rural New Zealand, some women hung their bras on a roadside fence. Inspired by the sight of feminine undergarments dangling in the breeze, many others felt compelled to take off their bra and hang it from this fence. A great bra collection grew, drawing admiration from locals and tourists alike, but a happy ending was not guaranteed. Some locals objected, and the battle was on ... the battle of the Cardrona bra fence.
I often like to visit places with odd or interesting names, and this applies to roads too. One such road I just had to investigate was the Pig Route (or the Pig Root) in the South Island of New Zealand. How did it get such a name, and what do pigs have to do with it?.
Imagine deserted beaches, quiet inlets and bays, lush primordial forests, roaring creeks, and gentle hills. If being immersed in this environment for a not-too-hard three day hike sounds appealing, then you might like the Rakiura Track on New Zealand's Stewart Island. I certainly did.
Having once studied geology, interesting rock formations often find their way into my travel itinerary. Elephant Rocks in New Zealand was no exception ... plus I wanted to see if they really look like elephants.
The Maniototo region is a part of New Zealand's south island between Dunedin and Queenstown which is bypassed by most foreign visitors. This is a shame, as they are missing out on a beautiful part of the country that's distinctly different from the rest.
The Catlins Coast, on the southern edge of New Zealand, is a pleasant region of hills, forests and wild beaches, with some nice waterfalls thrown in. The best known of these - and the one most featured on postcards - is Purakaunui Falls. Getting less attention is the nearby Matai Falls, which I think are just as beautiful to visit.
One of my many favourite parts of New Zealand is the Matukituki Valley, located near Wanaka in the south island. Apart from a gravel road and some sheep farms lower down, there is no development up this spectacular valley which curves towards the Matterhorn-like Mt Aspiring. Just rugged snow capped mountains, a sparkling crystal clear river, and enough serenity to help with appreciating it.
In a country packed with gorgeous scenery and enterprising people, it is not surprising that New Zealand has many scenic flights to offer its visitors. Over a number of visits I've indulged in a few of them, and my favourite would have to be the awesome flight to Milford Sound from either Queenstown or Wanaka (I've flown there from both). On top of the grandeur of Milford Sound, you get a supremely stunning journey across the wilderness of rugged snowcapped peaks of the South West New Zealand world heritage area. And because the flights only operate when Milford Sound has good weather, good views are guaranteed. If I were to live my life again and could only choose one scenic flight, this would be it.
The Central Otago Rail Trail is not just a great route for cycling - parts of it are great for walking too. There's a section I rather like which takes in two tunnels and a grand old bridge through and across the Poolburn Gorge. It provides a few hours of easy walking through the rugged and dry schist hills which give this part of New Zealand their character.
Visiting some places can leave a lasting impression: one you can still feel years later without needing holiday photos to trigger memories. For me, one such place is Stewart Island, off the south end of New Zealand's south island.
For skiers and snowboarders, the south island of New Zealand offers a smorgasbord of around twenty ski areas, ranging from small and quiet to huge and popular. Even if you're like me and prefer the out-of-the-way options, it sometimes pays to follow the crowd. There may be very good reasons why somewhere is popular, and this is the case with Treble Cone, a ski area near Wanaka. It is huge and well patronized ... and fantastic in so many ways.
Snow is no stranger to parts of Australia and New Zealand, but it usually falls up in the mountains and seldom encroaches on urban habitation. On the odd occasion when a town receives winter snow it can be something of a delightful novelty ... as I found when the New Zealand town of Naseby briefly wore a white wintry coat.
St Bathans is an old gold mining town in New Zealand, and with a population these days of only seven (or five) it is often referred to as a ghost town. I enjoyed being shown around this charming place by a guide who wasn't human ... but it's not as it sounds. My guide had fur and four legs, and was a dog named Jack.
If you like train rides, and New Zealand's Inland scenery appeals to you, then a trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway is one I can recommend. Big Otago hills, dramatic viaducts and a train with character make this journey into remote-feeling landscapes one to remember.
New Zealand has some great native birds you won't find anywhere else, however many of them are rare or endangered, and hard to find out in the wild. You could pay to visit some sort of zoo or wildlife park, but a cost-free alternative is to visit the Te Anau Wildlife Centre.
Curiosity is a great motivator, and when applied to travel it can provide the reason for some interesting journeys. My desire to find out why it gets so cold in Ophir took me on one such journey to a starkly beautiful and somewhat chilly place.
Could this be the most scenic drive in New Zealand? In a country abounding in quiet roads and beautiful scenery, such a claim is ambitious. Yet many consider this drive along the edge of Lake Wakatipu to be the best in the country.
Waiting for a bus can be an opportunity to study your surroundings in detail - after all, you're a captive audience. I was in that situation at Cromwell, in New Zealand's south, when I looked up at a nearby tree and noticed it had been decorated with toilet paper. With time to give it a good look, I wondered who had done such a thing, how, and of course ... why?.
When you visit Stewart Island, off the southern tip of New Zealand, it can feel like entering another world - a remote and almost untouched world. Yet it doesn't end there. From Stewart Island you can visit a much smaller and even more pristine island - the wildlife sanctuary of Ulva Island.
I've written before about experiencing the beauty of New Zealand's Matukituki valley by car. Another great way to enjoy this spectacular valley near Wanaka is a jet boat trip with Wanaka River Journeys.
Location map - Southland-Otago, NZ
The symbols on this map mark the locations of places I've written about.
- Clicking on a symbol makes a label pop up
- Each label contains a link to my web page about that place