This page contains general information about traveling and sightseeing in New Zealand. These items below are based upon several activities the author experienced while traveling on the South Island.
Tracks – all hiking trails in New Zealand are called tracks, and people who hike these are called Tramps; the “sport” of hiking the “Tracks” is called “Tramping”. In other countries this same outdoor activity would be described as simply backpacking. Several very well known tracks in the Mt. Cook area include Rees Dart Track and some in the Fjordland area such as the Milford Track near Milford Sound.
Other famous tracks on the Southern Island well worth exploring include: Hump Ridge (southern South Island), Copland Track/Mt. Cook, Queen Charlotte Track, (Marlborough Sound), & the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (North on the South Island).
Hitch Hiking while frowned upon in on some countries thrives in the summer time in New Zealand (even in the rain!). For some travelers this is their only way to get around the country. We saw many hitchhikers near the major tourist attractions – and picked up quite a few as well. Most are travelers and picking them up is a good way to meet people from around the world.
Sleeping in the Car is a cheap alternative to hostels or even campgrounds. New Zealand has so few people in most of the South Island relative to other populated countries, that finding quiet secluded places off the road is relatively easy, unless you are in or near a larger city of which there are only a few of those on the South Island. Most towns and even the really small places have a public bathroom where one can do some quick under cover laundry and basic cleanup. Some campgrounds also may have showers – and might charge a small fee for taking a shower.
Fishing is extremely good in parts of New Zealand. There are many fishing guides located throughout the South Island. Visit this site first: www.fishing.net.nz
Wine Tasting is very popular in the Marlborough Valley on the north part of the South Island not far from the town of Blenheim. Maps and guides are available at all the wineries which offer wine tasting. This is New Zealand’s largest wine tasting region – if you enjoy sweet wines, the Rieslings are particular good from the area. But the region is mostly known for their grassy and green style Sauvignon Blanc.
The authoritative website on this region is: www.marlborough.co.nz
Sand Flies are pesky little black flies that bite. They seem to congregate in certain areas near water. There are certain places in New Zealand that when telling friends about your trip, the sand flies will dominate your memory. Fortunately these areas are more isolated and are definitely not the norm.
Oamaru Penguin Colony is an ideal place to see penguins – located at 1 Thames Street in Oamaru. The best penguin viewing times are in the evening just before dark. A penguin viewing theatre is even built directly above the ocean. You know you are getting close to the penguin visitor center when you see the “Slow, Penguin Crossing” sign next to the road. A small trail leads up the cliffs above where the penguin viewing theatre is located – from this trail one has excellent views overlooking the ocean. If you are traveling with kids be *very* careful as there is no railing along this narrow trail. Visit www.penguins.co.nz for more information.
Miscellaneous Souvenirs: Be sure to pick up some of the Kiwi soap. This green soap smells real nice; it is also infused with tiny black kiwi seeds. It even smells like a kiwi – and makes fun presents. Also many of the souvenir shops carry very fancy small key chains.
Fruit – the summer time in New Zealand is an excellent time to go “fruiting”. Two such areas are the Marlborough Valley area and the lands around the town of Cromwell. Cromwell is a small town between Wanaka & Queenstown.
Cromwell features a diversity of fruit stands – we discovered that this particular part of South Island has the best and freshest overall fruit including many stone fruits such as cherries, peaches & apricots. The fruit stands are mostly located next to the main roads, but there are also some u-pick places accessible via longer dirt or gravel driveways.
Ruby Rock is a type of precious gemstone only found near the town of Hokitika – this rock contains ruby, sapphire and tourmaline. Artists Gerry and Corrie run their own Ruby Rock gallery, the finest one the author found, in Hokitika at 21 Tancred Street. Visit www.nzrubyrock.com for more information.