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  • Overview

    The South Island is less populated than the North and appears to have a slower pace of life, with sheep-filled pastures and remote farm settlements backed by rugged snow-covered mountains. The scenery is magnificent, and with its alpine mountains, fjords, glaciers, lakes and forests it is possibly even more spectacular than the North Island. Often cheekily referred to as 'the mainland' by South Islanders, the South is the main destination of New Zealand tourism.

    Canterbury is the hub of the South Island containing the largest city, Christchurch, an English epitome, with punting on the River Avon and a grand Anglican cathedral dominating the central square. The Queenstown region is the capital for adrenalin-inducing activities and the home of the bungee jump, with a history of gold in the hills and rivers and set on a beautiful lake at the foot of the Remarkables Mountains.

    The southwest holds some of New Zealand's finest scenery and natural wonders, including its highest mountain, Mount Cook or Aoraki, 'cloud piercer', the Frans Josef and Fox Glaciers stretching down to within a few kilometres of the coast, the magnificent Fjordland National Park with beautiful fjords, waterfalls and forests, and several world-famous walking tracks.

    The South offers an abundance of activities and attractions set in wondrous surroundings, with a huge diversity of things to see and do.

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    New Zealand's South Island is all about the outdoors. The opportunities for action and adventure amid stunning scenery are endless in this spectacular playground, home as well to rare and iconic wildlife.

    Queenstown earns its title as the adventure capital of the world with a wealth of outdoor activities on offer such as bungee jumping, paragliding and sky diving. In winter there is fantastic skiing in the Southern Alps in Wanaka and Mt Hutt. Summer sees mountain bikers out on the Central Otago Rail Trail, rafting on the Rangitata River, paddling on the Marlborough and Milford Sounds, and of course hiking (or tramping). The South Island is home to six of New Zealand's Great Walks. Milford Track is the most famous of these treks, while the most popular is the spectacular Abel Tasman Coastal Trail.

    Wildlife enthusiasts are in for a treat. The pretty peninsula town of Kaikoura welcomes sperm whales, dolphins, seals, penguins and albatrosses. Akaroa Harbour is home to the critically endangered Hector's Dolphin. Stewart Island is the best place to catch a glimpse of the shy but iconic Kiwi, and also hosts New Zealand's southern-most pub in Oban.

    There is excellent food and drink to sample, whether it be fresh produce from roadside kiosks, fine dining in world-class restaurants, or sampling the world-renowned cool-climate wine or exciting craft beer scene. The historical city of Christchurch, mostly destroyed in the 2011 earthquake, has now been rebuilt and welcomes visitors with open arms. It is also the end point for one of the world's iconic rail journeys, the TranzAlpine train, which winds its way across the country from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

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