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Things to Do in South Island - page 5

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Waipara

Although the Waipara Valley wine region doesn’t always feature in glossy magazines, New Zealand oenophiles flock to this small slice of Canterbury for some of the country’s best gewürztraminer, as well as its uniquely rich pinot noir and riesling. Best of all, it’s more accessible from Christchurch than the South Island’s other wine destinations.

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Marlborough District

When it comes to wine, the hills of the Marlborough District are alive with the sweet aroma of Sauvignon Blanc. This area on the northern tip of the South Island is renowned for its award-winning wine, and with over 160 different wineries, the area is New Zealand’s leading region for growing and exporting wine. Even with all of its accolades, however, there’s more to Marlborough than clinking glasses in sunny, grape-filled fields. Grab some boots and hike the length of the 42-mile Queen Charlotte Track—a serpentine route through the myriad curves of coastal Marlborough Sound. Explore the back roads of Marlborough’s coast and camp in its hidden bays, where Maori, whalers, and shipwrecked sailors have all left historical marks. Picton is the port of call for the ferry that crosses the strait to Wellington, but is also a town with salty charm and authentic maritime heritage. Hire a bike and explore the trails that weave through Marlborough Sound, or enjoy a glass of Sauvignon in one of Blenheim’s café. Or, to mix adventure with Marlborough’s vineyards, pedal your way between tasting rooms by hiring a bike in Blenheim, and drink in the rolling, Marlborough scenery in one of New Zealand’s sunniest spots.

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Nevis Swing

Thrill-seeking travelers are never short of attractions in New Zealand, and Queenstown’s Nevis Swing is certainly one of the most thrilling. The jumping-off platform is located 524 feet (160 meters) above a river. After a 229 foot (70 meter) free-fall, you’ll swing in a 984-foot (300-meter) arc. Jump solo or tandem, forwards, backwards, or upside down.

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Mt. Cook Hermitage Hotel

Located in Mt. Cook Aoraki National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hermitage Hotel is a well-loved landmark. In prime position with fabulous views of the mountain, the hotel dominates the northern edge of Mt. Cook Village. Chalets, motel rooms, and lodge accommodation are offered at several locations around town.

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Otago Museum

From cuneiform tablets to Moa eggs and a tropical indoor rainforest, the Otago Museum holds thousands of treasures for Dunedin visitors to explore. As Dunedin’s most popular and visited sight, the Otago Museum has enough displays to fascinate travelers for hours, from exhibits on South Pacific cultures to New Zealand’s ancient wildlife. See the cup Sir Edmund Hillary used when he summited Everest, or a 50 ft. Maori war canoe that was completely carved by hand. The nature exhibit is one of the best in the entire Southern Hemisphere, where displays range from a whale skeleton that dominates an entire room, to the skeleton of a giant Haast Eagle that’s been extinct for 500 years. There are also displays of Maori arts such as carvings from bone and jade, and a dizzying journey through a Planetarium that highlights the stars, heavens, and cosmos that shine on Dunedin each night.

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Rob Roy Glacier Track (Rob Roy Track)

The Wanaka region is one of New Zealand’s most storied and scenic landscapes, and best explored by tackling the popular, backcountry Rob Roy Glacier Track (Rob Roy Track). This half-day adventure takes you into the wilderness of Mt. Aspiring National Park, past waterfalls, streams, fern-laden valleys, and glaciers that cling to the mountains. Though its elevation is just 2,000 feet, the trail has the feel of an alpine adventure where snow-streaked ridgelines and creaking glaciers hang right at the edge of the tree line. Stop for a picnic at the end of the trail, and watch as chunks of Rob Roy Glacier go hurtling down towards the valley. You’ll cross over streams on swaying footbridges, trek along crystal clear streams, and immerse yourself in the rugged terrain of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Since accessing the trail can be so difficult, consider visiting as part of a backcountry tour with a local guide.

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Akaroa Harbour

Although it is located in a former British colony, Akaroa Harbour is decidedly French—down to the baguettes and street names—as this Christchurch enclave was originally founded by pioneering French settlers. Located on the rugged Banks Peninsula, 90 minutes by car from Christchurch, Akaroa drifts along at a pace that's more rural, laid-back—and French—than New Zealand’s third-largest city.

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Skippers Canyon

Skippers Canyon, a short distance north of Queenstown, is nothing short of dramatic. The Shotover River winds through the canyon’s steep rock walls, topped with coarse alpine scrub, for nearly 14 miles (23 kilometers). Not the best place to go driving, it’s perfect for hiking, jet boating, white-water rafting, and other adventure activities.

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Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market

Every Saturday in central Queenstown, artists and artisans from all over the South Island display their wares at the Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market. If you’re looking for unique souvenirs or gifts to take home, you’re bound to find something amidst the handcrafted jewelry, knitwear, bone carvings, pottery, paintings, and so much more.

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Dunedin Cruise Port (Port Chalmers)

The hillside city of Dunedin is an important stop for cruise liners sailing around the South Island and the southernmost Dunedin Cruise Port serves as the gateway to this lively university town with Scottish roots. Use Dunedin Cruise Port as the jumping-off point for exploring the wider Otago Peninsula, a finger-like protrusion of land renowned for its marine wildlife, and more.

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More Things to Do in South Island

Akaroa Port

Akaroa Port

Established by French pioneers, the small town of Akaroa retains its Gallic feel with French street names and tricolor flags. Overlooked by craggy volcanic hills, Akaroa Port serves as a jumping-off point for the wildlife-filled Banks Peninsula, Christchurch, and the wider Canterbury region.

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