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Get out and explore your own backyard! South Island - Upper half

Get out and explore your own backyard! South Island - Upper half

Following on from last week’s article, here are some of my favourite destinations in the top half of the South Island for kiwi’s to explore. So chow down that Fat Badger’s slice, throw your trainers on and start up the car. Starting on the West Coast, Fox Glacier is the first notable stop on the map, with the drive through Haast Pass echoing the rural beauty which is usually associated with New Zealand.

Fox Glacier

The well paved track takes roughly 1.5 hours in total. You can grab a decent snap of Fox glacier from a fair distance and then be off on your way to Franz Josef where there is a wider variety of walks to choose from. Be warned that some trails can be restricted due to weather conditions, so make sure you take this into consideration before planning your trip. For those seeking more adventure, both Fox and Franz Josef glaciers can be walked on, with a guided tour. Travellers can continue further up the West Coast or alternatively, if you wish to explore a larger city, you can head up and across Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch. A suggestion en-route would be to visit the Castle Hill walk which is a pull in just off of the main road. Large, limestone rocks rise high from the hill and can be explored on foot for a quick 20 minute stop. It takes about an hour from here to arrive into Christchurch.

The first “go to” in Christchurch is the local transport – download the ‘Lime’ app and see the city via electric powered scooters, or take a trip on the old fashion tram which glides through the city centre. Personally I felt that, as a result of the Christchurch’s earthquake in 2011, the city is still slowly trying to restore its former buzz and at times can be noticeably somber. The local cathedral is hidden behind locked gates and gradually being renovated after the devastation. Paying a visit to the Quake City museum gives an interesting look in more detail about Christchurch’s turbulent earthquake history. Other places to see include the Botanic Gardens, open air cinema on weekends, the Little High Eatery and Riverside food courts for reasonably priced food/ drinks.  Further north, the seaside town of Kaikoura is always a popular destination and best known for either its whale watching flights or dolphin/ seal kayaking tours.

Kaikoura Crayfish trailer

Another neighbourhood pitstop is the nearby lavender farm which will be in full bloom when New Zealand eventually heads into Spring. Here, you can also spend your time cooing over the farm’s resident sheep and chickens. Before you leave, don’t forget to try the popular ‘Cooper’s Catch’ takeaway, where you can enjoy a coronary clogging meal whilst you overlook the sea. Crayfish, of course is the popular delicacy here, with the town ‘Kaikoura’ translating in Maori for food (Kai) and Crayfish (Koura).

Abel Tasman National Park is renowned for its long sandy beaches which are surrounded by hillside woodlands. A glorious location for kayakers, mountain bikers and trampers alike, you will certainly be spoilt for choice when choosing an adventurous pursuit. One of the park’s famed points of interest, ‘Split Apple Rock’ is an unusual, natural rock formation set amidst a hidden beach cove. Despite the quirkiness of this sight, the Abel Tasman coastal walk is the main attraction, this taking 3-5 days to complete on foot. The furthest end of the walk is situated at Tōtaranui campground which is found at the end of an excruciating 12km unsealed path and is suggested only for those happy to risk the physical state of their vehicles. The ‘official’ start of the coastal trek is within the Mārahau area and walkers are able to park for free, then cross the estuary towards the cliffside, to begin. This is not a loop track so you will have to double back on yourself once you have travelled as far as you wish.

Abel Tasman National Park

It’s worth noting, for those wishing to camp locally and save their dollars, a free campsite within the national park is ‘Waitapu Bridge’. Nelson is also an hour from here and offers shops, restaurants and accommodation for those preferring to stay further out of the national park. For more tips, tales and teasers on various locations, please visit my online blog: