Meet the Locals
Prepare to meet the South Island’s idiosyncratic wildlife. Whales, fur seals, dolphins and penguins all frequent the coastal waters around Kaikoura; endangered Hector’s dolphins cavort alongside penguins in Akaroa Harbour and the Catlins; and the Otago Peninsula shelters penguins, sea lions and even a colony of royal albatrosses. Further south, remote Stewart Island is the perfect place to spot the iconic but shy kiwi, alongside a profusion of other feathered friends. The South Island is also home to two special parrots, the kaka and the kea – the latter is particularly partial to car aerials and unattended tramping boots.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SOUTH ISLAND
New Zealand has 4 distinct seasons, each with their own unique draw to visiting during that time. You’ll see all kinds of blossoms in bloom in the spring, festivals, outdoor excursions, and adrenaline-pumping activities in the summer, vibrant foliage in autumn, and powdery snow for an epic ski season come wintertime. Being in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are the mirror opposite of those in the north. That means while we are shoveling snow and putting up our Christmas trees in the US, New Zealanders are basking in the long days of sunshine, during the warmest months of the year. Below are the Overall South Island Travel Experience by Season.
Fall (March through May)
Humidity and temperatures combine to make this season feel moderately cold. Highs range from 69.2°F (20.7°C) and 55.4°F (13°C) with colder temperatures in the later months. Rain is rare with 3 to 4 days of significant precipitation per month. Fall is the second busiest for tourism, which makes it a good time for those looking for things to do.
Winter (June through August)
The middle-year months have cold weather with high temperatures that are still jacket weather. These months see the least precipitation with 3 to 4 days of precipitation per month. June – August is the busiest season for tourism in South Island, so lodging and other accommodations may cost more than usual.
Spring (September through November)
Spring daily highs range from 69.9°F (21.1°C) and 57.3°F (14.1°C), which will feel chilly given the humidity and wind. It rains or snows a significant amount: approximately 4 days per month. Tourism is fairly slow during these months due to the weather, so hotels may be lower priced.
Summer (December through February)
Weather is somewhat cool this time of year in South Island to be enjoyable for warm weather travelers. The average high during this season is between 73.1°F (22.8°C) and 67.2°F (19.6°C). On average, it rains or snows a fair amount: consistently 4 times per month. These times of year are the slowest with tourists.
GETTING IN SOUTH ISLAND
Regardless of whether you’re headed to a specific place or planning to circumnavigate the island, Christchurch’s central location makes it the perfect jumping-off point. Flights to Christchurch tend to be more affordable—and reliable—than those to Queenstown or Dunedin in the south, the island’s two other international airports. Christchurch Airport even has a dedicated area for reassembling bicycles.
GETTING AROUND SOUTH ISLAND
Flying: If you’re short on time, 16 regional airports exist across the South Island, and tickets are relatively inexpensive. For example, flying from Christchurch north to Nelson will run you about $80. There are also no security checks for regional flights, which saves on travel time. However, be aware that smaller airports are more vulnerable to high winds, snow, and heavy rainfall—all of which the South Island has in buckets—and flights are often delayed or cancelled for these reasons.
Buses: InterCity (Flexipasses from $132) offers service throughout much of the South Island but has a limited schedule and doesn’t run in some areas (such as Golden Bay) during the winter months. Relying on the bus may also limit you from exploring backcountry areas.
Driving: Three popular rental companies are Jucy (from $80 per day), Spaceships (from $46 per day), and Travellers Autobarn (from $36 per day), all of which have minimum lending periods of anywhere from three to ten days.
Another important consideration is where you’ll be driving. If you plan to head into the backcountry, you’ll won’t regret choosing a vehicle with four-wheel drive and ample clearance.
WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH ISLAND
Conveniently located in the centre of Dunedin, The Chamberson Hotel offers air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi and private parking. The property is around 2 km from Otago Museum, 2.1 km from Forsyth Barr Stadium and 100 m from Dunedin Law Courts. The accommodation features a concierge service, a tour desk and luggage storage for guests. At the hotel, all rooms have a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Popular points of interest near The Chamberson Hotel include Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, The Octagon and Dunedin Railway Station. The nearest airport is Dunedin Airport, 29 km from the accommodation.
Mi-pad in Queenstown offers 4-star accommodation. All rooms are ensuite and feature a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. A tour desk can provide information on the area. Mi-Pad provides a selection of rooms, some with mountain views and private balconies. Guest rooms at the accommodation have air conditioning and a concealed work desk. Speaking English, Spanish and French staff at the reception can help you plan your stay. Skyline Gondola and Luge is 400 m from mi-pad. The nearest airport is Queenstown Airport, 6 km from the property.
- Distinction Christchurch Hotel
The luxurious Distinction Christchurch Hotel is an urban escape combining sophisticated smarts and familiar warmth whilst standing proud amongst the buzz of the rejuvenation of Cathedral Square. Ideally positioned in the heart of the city only a few minutes' walk from the Avon River, Botanical Gardens, Christchurch Casino, ReSTART Mall and future Christchurch Convention Centre. The 4.5 star Christchurch hotel offers 179 elegant, air-conditioned hotel rooms. Each is fitted with the latest technology including 55inch Smart TVs to those travellers seeking a place to relax and unwind after a day exploring Canterbury’s vibrant attractions. Complementing this accommodation are conference facilities catering up to 200 delegates. The stylish Gumption Restaurant & Bar, the perfect place to enjoy drinks and delicious cuisine with friends or colleagues. A covered valet car parking is also provided for an additional charge. Free unlimited high speed WiFi is available to all hotel guests.
Views over the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu and breathtaking peaks of the Southern Alps set the scene at QT Queenstown. This lush lakeside resort features luxury accommodation with a side of the signature QT quirk. Foodies with adventurous tastes will be enticed by the bustle and aromas of our Bazaar Marketplace. Chefs create dishes before your eyes in a buzzing, interactive setting where the flavours draw inspiration from the beautiful, fresh local produce. Head to Reds Bar, where locals and guests mix and share stories of the day over an exquisitely prepared cocktail or boutique brew. The rooms are equipped with a TV with cable channels. Some rooms have views of the mountain or lake. The rooms are fitted with a private bathroom. For your comfort, you will find free toiletries and a hairdryer. You will find a 24-hour front desk at the property. Valet parking is available for NZ $30. Shotover River is 1.8 km from QT Queenstown, while AJ Hackett Bungy Jumping - Kawarau Bridge is 7 km away. Queenstown Airport is 7 km from the property.
- Crowne Plaza Christchurch
Crowne Plaza Christchurch is a 4.5 star hotel, located in the heart of the CBD, 2 minutes' walk from New Regent Street and 6 minutes' walk from Christchurch Casino. There is a fully-equipped gym for guests to utilize. Crowne Plaza Christchurch offers a great range of dining options and modern rooms with beautiful views of the city. There are luxurious bathrobes, slippers, ultra modern bathrooms, unlimited free WiFi and Samsung Smart TV's in all rooms. Cafe 1851 is perfect for your morning coffee and the Social Wine Bar is the sport for evening wine and cocktails around a cosy fireplace. Market Place Restaurant is open daily for breakfast and dinner. Guests can relax with a good book or the morning newspaper in the hotel library.
Opened in 2014 and offering 20 luxurious rooms with free WiFi, Franz Josef Oasis is just 10 minutes’ drive from the Franz Josef Glacier. Guests enjoy a spacious, covered outdoor terrace, perfect for taking in the lovely views of Westland National Park, the garden and mountains. Rooms feature soundproofing, double-glazed windows, deluxe linen, super king beds and a fireplace or heat-pump. All boast a large flat-screen TV. Each room includes a bathroom with heated towel rails and guest toiletries. They display artworks by renowned New Zealand photographer, Andris Apse. Franz Josef Oasis Hotel is 5 minutes’ drive north from the Franz Josef Heliport and The Glacier Hot Pools. It is 2 minutes’ drive from Westland National Park. Lake Mapourika is 2 minutes’ drive away.
- Commodore Airport Hotel Christchurch
Situated just 5 minutes from Christchurch International Airport, this hotel offers a free 24-hour airport shuttle service, plus an indoor swimming pool, a hot tub, sauna and a fitness centre. Commodore Airport Hotel Christchurch features spacious rooms, conference/meeting facilities and plenty of free car parking. The award-winning native gardens provide a peaceful atmosphere. Each room offers natural lighting and either a balcony or garden access. The work space includes a large desk, telephone with voicemail, and a modem point with broadband internet access. Patterson's Restaurant offers seasonal dishes with European, Asian and Pacific influences. Guests at The Bar can enjoy a drink on the terrace or watch a match on the huge 70-inch plasma-screen TV. Commodore Airport Hotel Christchurch is just 15 minutes' drive from Christchurch City Centre.
- The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments
The Rees Hotel & Apartments offers lakefront accommodation with private balconies and spectacular views. It features free WiFi and a free shuttle to the centre of Queenstown. The stylish rooms and apartments at The Rees are equipped with LCD TVs. Some feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. Enjoy wines from New Zealand and around the world at Bordeau Wine Lounge. True South Dining offers the finest local and international cuisine with selections from the hotel's privately owned cellars. Guests can enjoy a range of in-room massages services, including invigorating body and facial treatments. Guests can hire mountain bikes to enjoy the scenic beauty of Queenstown. The town centre is a 10-minute drive from The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments.
- Whitewood Suites Inner City Luxury Apartments
Attractively situated in Christchurch, Whitewood Suites Inner City Luxury Apartments features air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, free private parking and room service. Boasting a garden, the hotel is close to several noted attractions, around 1.2 km from Christchurch Art Gallery, 1.4 km from Victoria Street and 1.5 km from Canterbury Museum. The hotel has family rooms. The rooms are fitted with a dishwasher, microwave, a kettle, a shower, a hairdryer and a desk. At the hotel rooms have a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Guests at Whitewood Suites Inner City Luxury can enjoy a continental breakfast. The accommodation offers a hot tub. Popular points of interest near Whitewood Suites Inner City Luxury Apartments include Christchurch Arts Centre, Victoria Square and The Chalice. The nearest airport is Christchurch International Airport, 10 km from the hotel.
Set in Dunedin, less than 1 km from Forsyth Barr Stadium, Executive Residence offers accommodation with a fitness centre, free private parking, a bar and a shared lounge. Featuring a garden, the hotel is close to several noted attractions, around 1.6 km from Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, 1.6 km from Otago Museum and 1.3 km from Dunedin Railway Station. The accommodation features room service and free WiFi. Continental and buffet breakfast options are available every morning at the hotel. Popular points of interest near Executive Residence include The Octagon, Otago Polytechnic and University of Otago. The nearest airport is Dunedin Airport, 30 km from the accommodation.
PLACES TO VISIT & THINGS TO DO IN SOUTH ISLAND
New Zealand is a treasure trove of scenic wonders. The country’s South Island is brimming with sublime destinations that will leave everyone absolutely breathless. Here are the list of Turisti- Info to the beautiful landscapes and rivers of South Island that will give you a quick sneak peek of what awaits in all travellers upon landing.
The Mirror Lakes are a popular stopover for those driving to Milford Sound. As you can guess by its name, this is a network of small lakes with spectacular reflected views of the nearby Earl Mountains. A beech forest backdrop adds to the exquisite scenery, which can be accessed through an easy walking track that even the youngest family members can manage.
Fiordland National Park entices hikers of all levels, as well as nature-loving travellers, with its unspoiled beauty. The park has World Heritage status, and is home to some of New Zealand’s Great Walks, a trove of marine reserves, valleys, glaciers and ice-carved fiords. There is also plenty of wildlife nestled in this stunning natural scenery.
New Zealand’s highest mountain is a favourite among adventurous skiers and, because of its enormity, filmmakers too. Aoraki/Mount Cook comes in at 3724 metres (12218 feet) in height, and is part of a national park and reserve with the same name. Rugged terrains surround this Southern Alps wonder, which is located near the town of Twizel. Keen explorers are able to discover Aoraki through a network of alpine hiking routes and short parkland trails.
The picturesque Skippers Canyon gained international fame after being transformed into the Ford of Bruinen in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is located on a very narrow winding road, just 25 minutes from Queenstown, which traverses the same route that takes skiers to Coronet Peak. A guided tour would the best way to immerse yourself in this remarkable landscape, as those roads are among the world’s most dangerous. The breathtaking gorge is approximately 22 kilometres (13.67 miles) long, and the adrenaline-filled Shotover River flows right through it.
Lake Wakatipu is New Zealand longest, and third largest, lake. It stretches across 80 kilometres (50 miles) and has a surface area of 291 square kilometres (112 square miles). This glacial beauty is surrounded by mountain ranges, and Queenstown’s parks and gardens will bring you up close and personal to some of those exquisite terrains. Kawarau River is where Lake Wakatipu drains, and the Remarkables Mountain range is the most prominent sight by the lake’s southeastern side.
New Zealand’s longest glacier covers a good 27 kilometres (16.8 miles) in length, flowing from the Southern Alps right into the Mackenzie Basin. The Tasman Glacier is also home to one of the very few lakes that contain icebergs, thanks to an ice shelf that is gradually tearing away from the surface. At some point, it is predicted that the 300-500 year-old ice shelf will retreat completely. For now, the majestic glacier can be admired by air, on foot, or by hitting the ski slopes.
There’s a reason why the Marlborough Sounds have become a popular destination for day trippers, trekkers, and wine connoisseurs. Located in the upper part of the South Island, this lovely gem is home to a collection of river valleys, forested hills, sandy bays, predator-free reserves and sheltered inlets. The Queen Charlotte Track and Perlonious Sound are among the scenic highlights you’ll find within the Marlborough Sounds’ diverse landscape.
- Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park is New Zealand’s third largest reserve. The Lord of the Rings fans will recognise it as the location for Isengard, while wildlife enthusiasts might know the park for its impressive ecosystem — there are 59 recorded birds and more than 400 butterfly and moth species in this national reserve alone. The epic blue pools on Haast Pass are not too far away from Mount Aspiring, and there’s an array of tracks and trails for keen hikers to explore too.
Lake Tekapo’s dazzling turquoise waters make a positive impression on all travellers who visit. A three hour drive from Christchurch to the Mackenzie Basin will take you to this remarkable lake and namesake township. Lake Tekapo is also a UNESCO Dark Sky reserve, making it the ideal spot to get into a bit of stargazing. If you’re visiting between April and September, you might even catch a glimpse of the wondrous Southern Lights — also known as the Aurora Australis.
For a splash of beauty in all seasons, you can’t go past Lake Wanaka. The lake sits at the heart of the Otago region, within close quarters to Queenstown, and is a popular spot for scenic walks, mountain biking, kayaking, and fishing. Lake Wanaka is 45 kilometres (28 miles) long, and covers an area of 193 square kilometres (74.5 square miles). As with many sublime South Island destinations, the town of Wanaka and its lake are engulfed by sweeping alpine views and expansive river valleys.
Hamner Springs is a resort town in the Canterbury region, approximately 90 minutes from Christchurch. The area is renowned for its iconic hot pools, though powder-shredding skiers are also attracted to its mountains. Other scenic highlights in the vicinity include the Conical Hill and Heritage Forest, known for a series of winding trails and a picturesque lookout point. The rugged Waiau Gorge, with its whitewater rapids and abundant fishing locations, is also worth checking out if you’re in the area.
While the North Island brings us the Cathedral Caves, the South Island gifts us with the wondrous Cathedral Caves. Its formations are among the longest in the world, and will be a true highlight for travellers visiting The Catlins. Two sea-formed passages along the Waipati Beach, carved over several thousands of years’ worth of boisterous waves, come together to form the impressive 200-metre (656-foot) long and 30-metre (98-foot) high caves. Access is seasonal and highly dependent on tide times — the area is only open for tours in October and May.
The fascinating Moeraki Boulders are located on Koekohe Beach, near the Otago town of Moeraki. They were originally formed some 60 million years ago, through shoreline erosion from the neigbouring coastal cliffs. Crowds are drawn to these compelling rock formations because of their magnificent size — some of those huge boulders reach up to three metres (9.8 feet) in diameter and weigh several tonnes. Photographers also love to congregate on the beach to capture the incredible rocks in all their glory.
- Walk the Queen Charlotte Track
One of the most popular tramping routes in the country, this 45-mile trail, part of the larger 1,860-mile Te Araroa Track, follows the bays and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds, a huge network of sea-filled valleys off the coast. You’ll need to book boat transport from Picton to get to the walk’s starting point in Ship Cove, a remote bay at the north end of the sounds that’s only accessible from the water. Over the next three to five days, you’ll walk your way back to civilization; the track’s end point, in the village of Anakiwa, is near the small settlement of Linkwater and has ferry service back to Picton. Designed for all skill levels, the track traverses lush coastal forests of ferns and nikau palms and offers sweeping views of the Pacific. You can camp at one of DOC’s six designated self-registration sites along the route, or combine it with kayak or mountain-bike excursions to vary up the scenery. Those who prefer to travel light can hire an outfitter such as Wilderness Guides NZ to transport gear from lodge to lodge (packages start from $240).
- Tramp in Mount Richmond Forest Park
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, this densely wooded region just southwest of Picton might be more your speed. Hikes range from a few hours to days, but the most challenging is the five-to-eight-day Alpine Route. Steep and rugged, the track isn’t well-formed, so you’ll need navigation skills, a good level of fitness, and up to four days to conquer it. It will take you 5,577 feet above sea level, where you’ll be rewarded with views over the Waimea Plains and, farther northwest, the neighboring Kahurangi and Abel Tasman National Parks. The walk starts from the picnic area at the end of Hacket Road, 18 miles south of Nelson, and heads southeast, ending at the Goulter Road near SH 63. There are five DOC huts available along the way; they don’t require online booking, but you will need hut tickets.
- Kayak with seals in Kaikoura
While technically in Canterbury, Kaikoura is worth a stop on your way up to Marlborough from Christchurch, from which it’s two and a half hours northeast. Spend your day sea kayaking in the place where the viral “seal slaps kayaker with octopus” video was filmed. You’re unlikely to get a tentacle to the face, but a day out on the water with Kaikoura Kayaks (from $36) will get you close enough to whales, seals, and dolphins that it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility.
Just outside Takaka, past Abel Tasman’s northern reaches, Paines Ford Scenic Reserve (sometimes spelled as Paynes Ford) has over 250 single-pitch routes and more than 20 limestone crags. It doesn’t hurt that they’re almost all directly beside the Takaka River’s best swimming holes. Most climbers stay at nearby Hangdog Camp, which offers cheap and cheerful accommodation (from $9) a ten-minute walk down the road from the crag. (The owners will also give you the inside scoop on where to find less developed walls that are hidden elsewhere in the area.) Nearby Pohara also has over 100 bolted routes directly beside the ocean. They’re not only more picturesque but longer, ideal for intermediate climbers looking to build their endurance.
WHERE TO EAT IN SOUTH ISLAND
Colourful and fun, the Frog is the best dining option in the Catlins, offering craft beer on tap and crowd-pleasing meals, often garnished with flowers from the garden. We're talking seafood chowder, wood-fired pizza, gourmet burgers, craft-beer-battered blue cod, and veggie feeds like risotto and big salads. Excellent coffee and breakfast spreads, too. Ribbit! There's a holiday park here also with powered/unpowered sites from $55/45, cabins without bathrooms from $110 and motel units from $165.
- White House Restaurant & Bar
This curious restaurant is, well, yeah, in a house – a white one – looking as though someone dropped a casual eatery into the lounge room of an art-deco home. The ever-changing menu ranges through a selection of bruschetta and the likes of lamb with puy lentils, or linguine with surf clams. Prices are a tad steep for the student sharehouse atmosphere, but it's all very good. You can also just prop up the bar and work your way through the excellent beer, wine and whiskey lists.
- Amisfield Bistro & Cellar Door
Put yourself in the very capable hands of the kitchen wizards at this stylish vineyard bistro; simply inform the waiters of any dietary restrictions or aversions you might have and strap yourself in for whatever the chefs choose for you that day. The focus is on local produce, including foraged ingredients, presented in whimsical ways. Wine tastings (five wines for $10; fee waived with any wine purchase) take place in the adjoining cellar door.
The sweeter sister of Fergbaker bakes all manner of tempting treats – and though most things look tasty with 3am beer goggles on, it withstands the daylight test admirably. Goodies include inventive pies (such as venison and portobello mushroom) and breads, filled rolls and a sugary wealth of sweet treats. If you're after gelato, call into Mrs Ferg next door.
Central Christchurch's new essential destination for travelling foodies is this superb multi-level market combining fresh produce stalls with opportunities for eating and drinking. Many of Christchurch's most popular food trucks are represented, making the market a good one-stop option for great coffee, Greek souvlaki, Argentinean barbecue and Japanese ramen noodles. There's also a craft beer filling station and bar.
Since losing its original business in the Christchurch earthquakes, Tatsumi has brought its blend of traditional and modern Japanese 'tapas' to central Queenstown. The service is exemplary and the food consistently excellent, including gorgeous sashimi platters, delicate squid-ink-tempura calamari and crispy kara-age chicken. Set menus of signature dishes, and indulgent dégustation dining, are also offered.
Everything at this elegant restaurant is designed to be shared, from the cicchetti (Venetian-style bar snacks) to the pasta and substantial secondi (mains). Highlights include crayfish dumplings, wild thar polpette (meatballs), goats' cheese tortellini and inventive salads. We're also fond of the big, bubbly light fixtures over the bar and the white flying saucers illuminating the tables.
Walking into Saffron is like stepping out of town, with its formal, clean-lined setting providing a contrast to Buckingham St's gunslinger appearance. Expect lamb, wild boar and fish, with both the portions and the soundtrack having a bit more spunk than you might expect from the setting. Like the food, buy the book… The Taste of Central Otago cookbook sets in print the restaurant's best recipes.
There's a rumble-tumble look about it, but this tin-and-timber fishing hut houses one of the South Island's best – and most popular – seafood restaurants. The straightforward, scribble-covered decor mirrors the simple, clean handling of the food. Tuck into fresh shellfish, tender blue cod and other recently landed ocean bounty. There's a smokehouse on-site and you can try mutton bird here too. Book ahead.
Perhaps the tables are a little tightly packed, and the open kitchen does take up half the space, but we're splitting hairs. This place is uniformly fabulous (and uniformly popular) – from the internationally inspired menu (pork dumplings, Turkish eggs, smoked pork-hock hash) to the interesting decor (pressed-tin bar, cool wallpaper, chandeliers made from bicycle wheels and chains). Great coffee, too.
Hopgood’s relaxed approach to service and gastro-pub feel seem a little at odds with the hefty prices, although the bistro menu (two/three courses $49/59, served Monday to Wednesday) lessens the pain somewhat. The food is deftly prepared but unfussy (roast duck, merino lamb), allowing quality local ingredients to shine. The five-course tasting menu ($95) affords the full Hopgood's experience.
SnakeBite's flavour-packed meals awaken taste buds after their long slumber through the West Coast's lamb-and-whitebait menus. Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese dishes all feature, along with burgers and pies. Try the mussel fritters with wasabi mayo and, the speciality, the beef-cheek rendang. Between courses, glug craft beers on tap or a 'snakebite' (cider with beer).
Global influences punctuate the shared plates menu at this recent opening south of the city centre. The honey- and chipotle-fired chicken goes well with beers from Christchurch's Three Boys Brewery, while the pomegranate-glazed lamb shoulder partners with vegetables enlivened by hummus, garlic and feta. A serious approach to cocktails also makes 5th Street ideal for a drink and snacks.
Mediterranean flavours are presented with flair in Earl's spacious dining room. Combine slow-cooked lamb and smoked yoghurt with a quinoa salad or mix it up from the shared plates menu including charcuterie, grilled octopus or fish crudo. The Eat like an Earl option ($60) presents the chef's favourites, while the concise wine list highlights a few different local producers each week.
WHERE TO SHOP IN SOUTH ISLAND
In a city mourning the loss of its heritage, this post-earthquake conversion of a 19th-century tannery couldn't be more welcome. The Victorian buildings have been beautifully restored, and are crammed with all manner of delightful boutiques selling everything from surfboards to vintage clothing to exquisite homewares. When you're tired of shopping, stop by the Brewery for an afternoon pick-me-up. There are also several cafes, an art-house cinema and live music at Blue Smoke.
Whakapapa (genealogy) links to two West Coast hapū (subtribes) give Garth the right to collect pounamu all along the coast, which he then carves in his home studio near Shantytown. Call in to watch him at work and to buy a truly authentic piece; he also takes commissions. Garth's an avid mountain biker,too; ask about local tracks.
Linked to Ngāti Waewae, a local hapū (subtribe) of the broader Ngāi Tahu tribe, this stronghold of pounamu carving displays traditional and contemporary designs in its main-road gallery-boutique. Watch the carvers at work before deciding on a piece to purchase.
Arguably Queenstown's most interesting store, inside inarguably the town's oldest building; Vesta sells a collection of prints, jewellery and homeware as fascinating as the original wallpaper and warped-by-time floorboards of the 1864 wooden cottage.
Catapulted to fame after designing the One Ring for the Lord of the Rings movies, this contemporary jeweller now does a brisk trade in Elvish-inscribed engagement rings for those unfazed by the prospect of their fiancé or fiancée vanishing or turning into an evil megalomaniac. There are plenty of other elegant designs available for those with quibbles about such things.
Be prepared for industrial-strength levels of whimsy in this gallery devoted to the work of pooch-loving local artist, Ivan Clarke. Hanging alongside his large-scale landscapes is his Lonely Dog series (dogs skiing, dogs playing guitar, dogs riding motorbikes etc), which have also been published as part of an illustrated novel. There are even dog-shaped suits of armour.
Here's a surprise – an award-winning distillery tucked down a laneway off Takaka's main street. Its gin and vodka is crafted from water from the same aquifer that feeds the pristine waters of the nearby Te Waikoropupū Springs, and variations include NZ's first barrel-aged gin, and gin flavoured with wasabi, chocolate or saffron. Free tastings will help you choose.
There's no shortage of arty and crafty action along Takaka's main street, but Paper Scissors Rock stands out from the more ethnic and hippie-influenced offerings of most of the shops. Five local artists take turns to front the collective, with their creations ranging from interesting jewellery and leather goods to quirky screen-printing and paper works.
- Blackball Salami Company Ltd
Take time to sample Blackball's namesake salami, beloved up and down the West Coast. The garlic and peppercorn varieties have a kick, the venison version is rich and distinctive, but we like the fattier 'Italian-style' cut. Also available from this humble shop are bacon, black pudding, cheeses and sausages.
This cooperative of Dunedin designers sells high-end fashion, jewellery and homewares made by its 12 members and special guests. You'll find bright and beautiful fabrics, artful clothing cuts and very wearable designs. Pop in for a chat with a local maker – it's always staffed by a member of the co-op.
This pretty little stretch of pastel Spanish Mission–style shops was described as NZ's most beautiful street when it was completed in 1932. Fully restored post-earthquake, it's once again a delightful place to stroll, and has become something of a hub for quality cafes, bars and restaurants.