Part two is finally here! These are the five places you simply cannot miss when you visit New Zealand´s South Island. If you enjoy this make sure to look back in soon as there will be guides on off-the-beaten-track locations coming up shortly. For now, have a look at The Big, The Best and The Beautiful
1. Abel Tasman National Park
Wander along golden beaches and tropical forest along one of New Zealand´s most popular hikes. Or why not join the seals in the turquoise ocean and experience the gorgeous scenery by kayak instead? Huts along the way make it possible to hike for several days and the regular water taxi service will help you get back without having to retrace your steps. Don´t miss the detour inland to Cleopatra´s Pools and be sure to bring some seriously heavy insect repellent or the sandflies will literally eat you alive.
2. Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier is absolutely surreal. This is the only place in the world where subtropical rainforest grows all the way up to the foot of a massive glacier. It´s mind-blowing. Make sure to take a helicopter ride up onto the glacier and explore its blue tinted tunnels. You also have the chance to do one of the world´s highest skydives here (18,000 feet) and the scenery will include snowclad mountain tops, glaciers, rainforest, beaches and the ocean all at once.
3. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
Right in the middle of New Zealand´s Southern Alps, Aoraki Mount Cook rises tallest of them all. It was here Sir Edmund Hillary discovered his love of mountaineering and later trained for his Mount Everest expeditions. There are tons of beautiful hikes here, my personal favorites being Mount Sebastopol (featured in Lord of the Rings!), Mount Wakefield and Hooker track because of the stunning views over the ice carved valley. The native forest is amazingly well preserved as well. Don´t miss a visit to The Old Mountaineers cozy alpine café.
Queenstown, the adventure mecca of the south, the location of the world´s first commercial bungee jump. If you are after an adrenaline rush like no other, you have definitely come to the right place. Paragliding off the Gondola is the best way to enjoy the stunning lake and mountains but if you are looking for something even more pulse increasing try swinging yourself 400 meters across a valley with a chair tied to your butt. With a great nightlife to boot and the world´s best burgers (Ferg Burger) Queenstown will keep you going all day and all night long. If you need to rest away from the craziness, nearby wondertown Wanaka is the ultimate retreat.
After all the breathtaking scenery you have seen by now you probably doubt your ability to be utterly mesmerized once more. Don´t worry, you will. The most beautiful place I have ever seen upon this earth is located here. It´s not however the massively popular Milford Sound, although that is really seriously worth visiting too. Its neighbor fiord Doubtful Sound is much more remote and requires an overnight cruise to fully enjoy it but boy is it worth it. Never shall I ever forget stepping out onto the deck in the early morning to watch the dolphins play in the still water as the fog slowly lost its grip on the towering rainforest clad mountains rising straight from the sea all around me. Just go. You will thank me.