Nothing quite prepares you for the sheer otherworldly beauty of New Zealand’s South Island. Its craggy mountain ranges, huge clear water lakes, and lush national parks transport the visitor into another realm altogether. No wonder that film director Peter Jackson spent over 270 days shooting principal photography for his Lord of the Rings films here. This southern hemisphere jewel is the perfect location for families, friends or honeymooners looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and experience nature in all its wild glory. Not that fine wine tours and five-star cuisine can’t be on the agenda too, plus the comfort of a modern, luxury home. What more could you ask for?
If you like your vacations with a side order of adrenaline pumping outdoor activity, the South Island is the place for you. The city of Queenstown is the birthplace of bungee jumping and there are several awe-inspiring vistas where you can do just that; namely the Kawarau Bridge Bungy (the world’s first bungee site), which has a 43-meter drop, or the Nevis Highwire, with a recorded 8.5 second fall, and The Ledge, a freestyle bungee accessed by a skyline gondola with a 154 ft drop.
Mountain climbing is also popular with guided tours taking place across six mountains for varying levels of ability. For those who prefer something a little more sedate, a two-hour boat ride on the Lake Wakatipu on the Yvalda, the former boat of Winston Churchill, departs daily. Or in the summer months, there are world class golf courses nearby, too.
Staying in the South Island, lovers of New World wines will find themselves in the epicenter for exceptionally great vintages. Since the mid-eighties, some of the best white and red wines have been produced here, most notably the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir blends. Pinot Noir is the most produced red with Central Otago, the most southerly major vineyard area, developing many award-winning variations. When visiting this area, a trip to the organic and biodynamic Rippon Vineyard, loved for its wines and views of the southern Alps is an absolute must.
If a glass of white wine is your favorite pleasure, a visit to the Marlborough region is in order. Located near to the top of the South Island, this region has two mapped wine trails to navigate with over 40 public wineries and vineyards to visit. Most visitors flock to the Cloudy Bay to sample the winery’s iconic Sauvignon Blanc and the Highfield Estate vineyard has a great outdoor eatery selling local produce to enjoy with the wine on offer.
The local eateries of Queensland are a pleasure to dine at. New Zealand is famous for its BYO (bring your own bottle) culture, so what better way to enjoy some of the delicious wines you picked up on your trip than with a dish or two at a local restaurant. Fine dining doesn’t come any better than the Botswana Butchery, with head chef Chris Bindon serving an inventive menu focusing on locally sourced meats. The Cordena slow cooked lamb is a favorite. Located just outside of Queensland is the Amisfield Winery Bistro, which is a great place to visit for lunch, as its organic produce and ‘trust the chef’ menu options ensure a memorable experience will be had by all. The Bespoke Kitchen in downtown Queensland is great for relaxed brunches, while for low key drinks on Lake Wakatipu, settle into the top deck of Perky’s Floating Bar with a chilled drink and watch the world go by.
The South Island isn’t as densely populated as the North Island, which allows the natural beauty of this remote location to take center stage. Hiring a car and heading off on road trip is a great way to explore this beautiful part of the world. A visit to Christchurch, known as the garden city of New Zealand, reveals lush botanical gardens and communal parks to relax in. The Westland National Park is a must-see, spanning the peaks of the Southern Alps to the coastline, with glaciers and rainforests just some of the natural attractions to walk through. This region also boasts of having some of the best whale watching opportunities in the world, making an excursion to the Southern Hemisphere Whale Sanctuary a vacation essential. Make Kaikoura, a small town set within the sanctuary, your base. Its mountains offer a beautiful backdrop to the sights you are going to see. Be sure to look out for Southern Fur Seals and Dolphins.
New Zealand’s South Island has much to offer and experience and the best way to do just that is to rent one of theQueenstown Luxury Villas from Luxury Retreats. Queenstown is one of the most vibrant towns within this region and the luxury chalets and apartments available are all situated on the banks of the majestic Lake Wakatipu, with the backdrop of the Remarkables mountain range close by. All chalets have floor to ceiling windows and large terraces to ensure you don’t miss a moment of the incredible view. As summertime in the southern hemisphere is from December through to March, most have barbeque areas, outside fireplaces, and hot tubs to enjoy the balmy weather.
During the colder months (June-August), this area becomes a popular destination for skiers, as the Coronet Peak and The Remarkables ski slopes are close by. It’s during this period that some of the chalet’s saunas, wine cellars, and bathroom Jacuzzis come into their own. Relaxation and total comfort are guaranteed whatever the temperature.