Sam Judd

Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Top 10 Natural Holiday Destinations: South Island

Add a comment
Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman

Summer is upon us.

Rather than spending all day sitting in front of the computer or watching television, this is the time to get out there and enjoy nature. If we are to put effort into protecting our environment, we need to develop an appreciation for it. This starts with our kids.

So, once you have finished reading this, I urge you to strap on your shoes and get involved in our natural world. Aotearoa has so much to offer if you just challenge yourself to get into it. Here is a brief guide to some of my favourite spots in the South Island to check out:

1. Marlborough Sounds

Treasured by people from all over, the geographical wonder that is the Sounds makes for fantastic marine activities. There are nooks and crannies with options for everyone from the very well off to those that seek a backpacking experience.

In Kenepuru Sound, French Pass has some of the heaviest currents in the country while the blue cod fishing around Durville Island is some of the best you will find anywhere.

2. Abel Tasman National Park

This area is arguably one of the best coastal national parks in the world. Golden sand beaches form part of a very well kept walking track, while a super-efficient water taxi service makes it easy to explore this natural wonder.

Keen adventurers will love the challenge of multi-day sea kayaking tours, while those who prefer luxury, but love native bush can go direct to the lodge at Awaroa where epic seafood, perfectly chilled beverages and organically grown produce on the edge of paradise awaits.

3. Anatori River Mouth and Whanganui (Westhaven) Estuary

Find a bach for rent if you are lucky, take a campervan or bring a tent. Once you get to Anatori, if the weather is good, you will not want to leave. The road to get there is simply fantastic - thin causeways that traverse across the estuary make it seem like you are driving on water at high tide.

Once you get to the open coast towards Anatori - the remote West Coast scenery will enthral you. Majestic Nikau Palm forests perch on steep cliffs and huge breakers smash into the rocky coastline. At the river mouth you will find a hardy bunch of local old mates who lift their quad bikes across the river on jerry-rigged mussel floats so that they can access the abundant deer and seafood that inhabit the area south towards the Heaphy track - truly a scene that you won't forget in a hurry.

4. Kaikoura

In Maori, "Kai" means food and "Koura" crayfish. Stopping at one of the cooked crays caravans along the famous Kaikoura coast is a must. One of them - "Cay's Crays" has a Fat Freddy's Drop song named after it.

This is one of the most spectacular coastal drives that you will find anywhere, as State Highway 1 hugs a thin strip in between the pounding surf and steep mountainous terrain. Simply pulling over off the main road will give you access to excellent surfbreaks and spectacular diving.

This is also the place where whale watching first became popular - for good reason - just off the coast the seafloor drops sharply down the Kaikoura trench meaning that abundant sea life inhabit this area.

5. Lewis Pass and Hanmer Springs

This road connects Nelson to Christchurch and offers a beautiful trip through dense native forest with lovely stops to make on the way. Aside from the bush, hotpools are the main attraction around here as the volcanic zone shoots piping hot water up from the Alpine Fault that runs along our Southern mountain range.

There are great Japanese-style baths at a rest area along the way, famous high-class establishments on the other side in Hanmer Springs and even a secret spot up a river, which will cost you nothing if you can find it. Ask a friendly local.

6. Banks Peninsula

About an hour South of Christchurch you will find a rugged piece of coastline that contrasts starkly from the City side. Air BnB or camping is recommended for this area if you want to stay the night as there is not much in the way of facilities.

Magnet Bay is a favourite for surfers, while Te Oka Bay provides a friendly beach with fun little rollers for the kids. Further around the peninsula to the East it becomes isolated, wild and very quiet, with the opportunity to see penguins, seals and even sometimes orca.

7. Otago Peninsula

The Otago Peninsula has a huge amount to offer the nature seeker. Go to Taiaroa head, to watch the Southern Royal Albatross, so majestic in flight in stature, but so comical when they crash land to nest in this spot after spending months at sea - the only nesting spot on the mainland anywhere in the world.

Further to the East and South you will find yellow-eyed penguin colonies, hundreds of seals and sea lions. You can take a boat tour or head to Boulders Beach and see them for yourself.

After the peninsula, drop into the Esplanade restaurant on St Clair Beach to enjoy a hot meal and a cold drink next to the raging open fire with a view of world class southern waves rolling in front of you.


8. The Caitlins Forest Park

A stones' throw South from Dunedin is the Caitlins coast - my favourite stretch of coast in New Zealand. This area features the Southernmost point on mainland New Zealand and is - somewhat predictably - wild.

There are too many attractions to name here but a couple of must sees are the giant, smelly Elephant Seals at Cannibal Bay, the battered rock formations at Kaka Point, Porpoises at the aptly named Porpoise Bay, huge waves and fish and chips at Papatowai and the Curio Bay Petrified Forest.

You will want to pack warm for this spot as - even in summer - the weather can change rapidly.

9. Fiordland

Every Kiwi should visit the Fiordland National Park one day - it is a must have for any bucket list. Whether it is booking way in advance and walking the Milford Track, driving into Milford Sound for a boat trip or even better - walking the coastal area into Martins Bay, you will not be disappointed.

This is the most prolific primary forest that you will find in Aotearoa. Immense glaciers carved out the fiords millions of years ago to leave extremely steep peaks that drop sharply into the water. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking here, particularly in spring, when the waterfalls are in full flight.

Keen divers will be frothing to get underwater also. There is a two-metre layer of fresh water at the top of the fiords that creates a thermocline here, meaning that the life you see at five metres is what you would normally find at 100. Black Coral, colourful sponges and giant crayfish can all be found with incredible abundance.

10. Stewart Island

"Stewie" is the last bastion of New Zealand territory before you get down into areas that are practically uninhabitable. There are about 400 hardy souls living on Stewart Island, who are used to being quite self-sufficient due to the fact that weather will often stop their supply boat from coming.

You can literally see kiwi while walking along one of the vast array of tracks down here. On the coastal area you only need a piece of old bread on a hook for the hungry blue cod to bite. Because the water is so cold down here, the fish are extremely delicious due to their high fat content so trying the local fare is a must.

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 21 Aug 2014 12:57:50 Processing Time: 546ms