South Island the Reigning Adrenaline Capital
“Of all the world’s adventure destinations, there are few more tantalising or dreamlike than New Zealand, a country that seems at once familiar and otherworldly. With its deep-azure seas, mist-shrouded mountains, dense forests, and deep caverns, it’s a country that immediately seizes the imaginations of adventure-seekers, whether that adventure is an ascent into a star-streaked skyscape, a plunge off a bridge with only a bungee keeping you from certain death, or just chilling on an isolated beach,” Brad Japhe writes for online media website, Thrillist.
“If the country itself is a must-see for adventurers, the South Island is the nation’s uncontested adrenaline champion,” Japhe declares. “From the emerald coves of Tōtaranui to the snow-capped crags of Fiordland National Park, this varied landscape is fodder for fantasy. It’s hardly a coincidence that director Peter Jackson selected this part of the world as setting for much of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. You needn’t strain disbelief too much to imagine hobbits waddling along the shore as you cruise through Milford Sound, or elves summiting the sheer cliff faces as you peer out over The Remarkables. You’d be forgiven for thinking The Return of the King was actually a documentary.
“With a population of over 381,000, Christchurch is far and away the island’s primary hub. It remains one of the only places where you’re likely to encounter a traffic jam. Yet there’s still plenty of open-air activities here to satisfy outdoor enthusiasts. At Christchurch Adventure Park, you can mountain bike through the Port Hills high above the city’s edge along two dozen trails. The space also features four ziplines and more than five miles of hiking – all accessed by chairlifts.
“For a combination of countryside and culture, Ngai Tahu (New Zealand’s largest Māori-operated tour runner) offers its guided trek along the Hollyford Track. This 56km path is unusual for the region as it’s largely flat and remains open all year.
“‘On day one you are walking through beach forests headed toward the coast on the Hollyford River,’ explains David Hurst, from the company. ‘[The next day] you take a wilderness jet boat ride that has you arriving in ancient podocarp forests. By that afternoon you are walking along the rugged west coast through coastal vegetation admiring the local residents: the permanent seal colony.’
“But for those seeking peak solitude, you won’t want to leave the country without an overnight at Lake Tekapo in the desolate Mackenzie Basin. This is home to the only gold-rated International Dark Sky Reserve south of the equator.
“‘It is one of the most powerful experiences and a must do on a clear night,’ Hurst claims. “From the darkest depths of the night we become enlightened.’ Indeed, across all the South Island, the deeper you explore the more it changes in you upon your return. Maybe this is Middle-Earth, after all.”
Original article by Brad Japhe, Thrillist, March 4, 2020.
Photo by Christchurch Adventure Park.