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Get out and explore your own backyard!

With the hard times of lockdown behind us, why not venture out and take a trip around the sublime South Island? With the unique situation the globe is currently in, the lack of international tourists means you can have an experience which isn’t overshadowed (quite literally) by a looming selfie stick.

Here are some highlights to consider, if you’re looking to escape out of the Queenstown bubble.

Starting from the South, you can pay a visit to the Catlins. There are some stunning locations listed on the destination’s downloadable, online map. Just wrap up warm and get your hot water bottles ready for a 2-3 day road trip in your campers, as there are 26 points of interest in total.

Catlins image

Another set of favourites for locals and tourists alike, are the grand fjords of Milford and Doubtful Sound. These locations are particularly cheap right now, and there has never been a better time to browse ‘Book Me’ for a cheeky boat cruise. For those who are unaware of ‘Book Me’, this website is perfect for finding discounts on most activities and attractions in New Zealand. ‘Which should I choose?’ Doubtful Sound is best for visitors who have more time for exploring, as overnight tours are available. Whereas, Milford Sound has a range of daytime trips and their scenic flights depart from Queenstown airport which makes this ideal for those who are pressed for time. Personally, I’d recommend Mitre Peak as the best Milford cruise company as their smaller boat offers a more personal experience. For $10, you can also pay to take the short trip to see Milford’s highest waterfall known as Bowen Falls, standing at 161 meters tall.

Doubtful Sound

Moving over to the east coast, visit Dunedin – while this city is known primarily for its large student base, it is always a great location for anyone wanting a break from our Après-ski bars. Dunedin has a few more dining and shopping options to choose from than in Queenstown, notably the MAC makeup counter in the local department store (ladies you can thank me later). It will take about half a day to wander around the city centre and the nearby Tunnel Beach which is a picturesque stop with a downhill footpath which leads to breathtaking sea-cliff views.

Dunedin

Travelling further north, Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo are famed for their ‘insta-worthy’ scenery. Especially during this Winter season, the surrounding snow-capped mountains will be a sight to behold and avid boarders and ski folk can even stop off at the nearby Ohau ski field for a few runs en-route. In Tekapo, you can immerse yourself in the local hot springs which overlook the lake. Tickets can be purchased for the cheaper price of $16 if you use ‘Book Me’ (basically the bible), as opposed to just rolling up on the day. The lake itself is a stunning aqua blue and is quite striking to see as you drive into town. Alternatively, you can drive up to the Mt John observatory (entry fee on arrival as nothing is ever free my friends) and here, you can sip on a coffee as you take in the beauty of the vast landscape. Tekapo is known especially for its amazing, starry skies and informative tours can be taken at the ‘Dark Sky Project’ centre. However, for those who want to keep their budget expenditure low, you can simply park outside of the town and gaze at the millions of twinkling lights from the comfort of your car. For overnighters, I would recommend downloading the ‘THL’ phone app as this displays freer campsite options for people in non-self-contained vehicles.

Mt Cook

Mt Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand and even in the summer months, icebergs can be seen floating in the surrounding lake. Its most popular hike; the Hooker Valley track is only 5km and usually swarming with people due to its accessible walkway. Post COVID, the once heaving tourist attraction will now be much quieter so you can relish in what I would call, the epitome of the South Island’s rugged, glacial climate, practically undisturbed.