About South Island - Otago and Southland
Once the scene of a mighty god rush, the dramatic Otago regions now appreciated for its powerful, moody landscape. Glorious mountain ranges, vast plains, fast flowing rivers, and remote beaches offer tourists an escape into a dramatic wilderness, that they will often have all to themselves. It is the only region in New Zealand to experience a near continental climate, having the hottest summers and coldest winters in New Zealand. Below is a summary of the main tourist regions of the Otago region:
The port city of Dunedin, founded by Scottish settlers in 1848, is the region’s principle city and an industrial and educational centre. Known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand, Dunedin wears its Scottish heritage with pride. Surrounded by dramatic hills and at the foot of a long, picturesque harbour, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Drive up the Otago Peninsula from here to experience endless views and beautifully rugged beaches. Nestled at the foot of Taiaroa Head is the Royal Albatross Centre, the only place in the world on the mainland where you can view Northern Royal Albatross in their natural habitat. On Dunedin’s doorstep, you will also find incredible wildlife including the world’s rarest penguin colonies. Ona the beaches, you will find fur seals and sea lions lazing around. Further south of Dunedin the Southern Scenic Route follows the wild coast down to Invercargill and then north-west to Manapouri and Te Anau.
Situated on the edge of beautiful Lake Wakatipu, and surrounded by towering alpine mountains, Queenstown is a hub of adventure, pumping with adrenaline and an infectious sense of fun. With its endless choice of outdoor activities, Queenstown is the home of the ultimate adventure bucket list. In winter, it’s all about skiing and snowboarding. The rest of the year attracts visitors looking to try a plethora of extreme sports such as sky diving, paragliding, bungee jumping, jet boating and river rafting. The area also offers some of the world’s most spectacular scenery for horse riding, cycling and hiking. If hardcore adventure isn’t your thing, there are fantastic restaurants, great spas and quaint boutiques to explore. A popular holiday spot year round, Queenstown is renowned for its four distinctive seasons. Winter brings crisp, blue-sky days, spring retains the snow but blooms into longer, warmer days, summer offers sunshine and long twilights, and autumn a burst of brilliant red and gold.
Head out of Queenstown and the drama of the Central Otago landscape unfolds around you. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you’ll recognise many Middle-earth locations here. Nearby Arrowtown’s gold-mining history is alive and vibrant, and the town also boasts several excellent restaurants and wineries. At the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu is rural Glenorchy and Paradise Valley. From here it’s a short drive into the Mt Aspiring National Park and the start of some of New Zealand’s great walks.
In summer, Wanaka offers yachting, windsurfing, water-skiing, rafting, kayaking, jetskiing and paragliding in its beautiful lake. In winter it is a Mecca for skiers as it has three ski fields, including a cross-country course and heli-skiing.
In South Otago, the Catlins area is one of natural beauty with its spectacular waterfalls, dense rainforest and indigenous wildlife, a veritable hiker’s paradise!
Bordering Otago is Fiordland, one of New Zealand’s and indeed the world’s finest scenic destinations. Mountain peaks, primal native forest and mirror-like fiords, its moods capture the imagination of every traveller.