The South Island’s Best Kept Secrets
Thanks to bustling cities like Christchurch, sun-drenched wineries in Nelson and the picturesque Southern Alps, New Zealand’s South Island is a popular tourism destination for travellers from around the world. While visiting the best-known landmarks can be a delightful holiday, some visitors are eager to get off the beaten track and explore some of the secret attractions on the South Island. Renting a car from Europcar puts you in the enviable position of being able to plan your own itinerary, get away from the crowds and explore the festivals, landscapes and towns that make the South Island truly spectacular.
Tour Nelson’s Craft Breweries
It is no secret that New Zealand produces some incredible white wines, and the Marlborough region of the South Island is well-known for its Sauvignon blanc. However, skipping the wineries and exploring the craft breweries can be an equally exciting adventure, particularly for beer lovers. Nelson, the second-oldest city in New Zealand and home to an international airport, is the perfect place to set off on a tour of craft breweries. With the longest days on the South Island and a staggering number of sunny days each year, the conditions are perfect to craft delicious beers and ales featuring local hops, wheat and barley. Golden Bear Brewing is a fabulous place to start, and they offer tours as well as tasting sessions along with live music and outdoor seating. Hop Federation Brewery, just minutes from the Abel Tasman National Park, is another fabulous destination offering in-depth guided tours of the brewing and bottling processes. Finish your tour of craft breweries at The Free House, which offers more than 500 different beers, many of which are produced within a 50-mile radius.
Soak In the Scenic Beauty of Doubtful Sound
While Milford Sound is arguably the most popular of the South Island’s scenic attractions, the nearby Doubtful Sound is an even bigger fjord that is just at beautiful. However, Doubtful Sound is harder to reach, and roads won’t get you close enough to see the breathtaking glacier-carved attraction. The best way to see it, and to soak up unforgettable views that will last a lifetime, is to enjoy an overnight cruise right on the water. Guided tours head straight to the centre of the sound and offer unparalleled vistas, and there are even opportunities to kayak in the chilly waters and watch the sunrise illuminate the morning sky. Compared to the crowds, bus tours and caravans frequently seen at Milford Sound, an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound will be a quieter way to see New Zealand.
Enjoy Unusual and Exotic Cuisine
Typical cuisine served up in New Zealand might include fish and chips, fresh seafood and roast lamb, but those dishes will seem downright pedestrian when you dig into the offerings at the the Hokitika Wild Foods Festival, an annual festival held just a three-hour drive from Christchurch. The three-day festival features live music and activities for children, but the highlight is undoubtedly the vendors selling strange and wonderful foods and beverages that you’ll find nowhere else on the planet. Sample some worm sushi, flower wine or huhu grubs, an edible beetle referred to lovingly as “New Zealand’s escargot” are just a few of the bizarre and tasty items you will find for sale.
Explore the French Settlement of Akaroa
In a bizarre twist of history, French explorers in the 19th century settled in a part of New Zealand that was already a British colony. The French stayed on, and today that area is known as Akaroa. Despite being just an 80-minute drive from the airport in Christchurch, Akaroa can feel like a small town in the South of France. Street names like Rue Lavuad and Rue Benoit cross at charming colonial intersections, and finding traditional French cuisine is a breeze. This part of New Zealand is also home to the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin, Hector’s Dolphin, or the popoto. Catch a glimpse of this rare sea creature on one of the many sightseeing tours in the area.
Having a car makes exploring the South Island easier than ever. Whether you plan to explore the quirky French settlement of Akaroa or dig into bizarre foods at the festival in Hokitika, you will have the freedom to set your own schedule and visit the truly wonderful attractions that New Zealand has to offer.