Top 10 things to do in the South Island of New Zealand

When visiting the South Island allow plenty of time to get around it, the distances are deceptive as the roads are winding and you will want to stop and take plenty of pictures along the way. We have just completed a trip around the South Island and these are the things we enjoyed most. Please feel free to comment if you know of other great things to do.

1. Be entertained by the baby seals in their natural seal nursery at Ohau Point. This eighth wonder of the world` is just north of Kaikoura. It is a lovely and easy walk from the car park on State Highway 1 to the Ohau waterfall where you will see baby seals playing in the pools. Remember though that this is a winter activity.

2. Have a night at Hanmer Springs east of Christchurch. Soaking in the various hot pools at night was a great start to our holiday. A chance to unwind and count the stars!

3. Stop off at the Moeraki Boulders. Because the enormous spherical boulders are other worldly` but also because it is a wonderful golden beach. The Cafe gives wonderful views of the sea while you sip on your skinny latte.

4. Visit the Dunedin Botanical Gardens which covers an area over 28 hectares in Dunedin. Established in 1863 this garden is the oldest in New Zealand. It is a lovely place for a stroll exploring a range of plants from around the world. Also our daughter works there so we are biased but check it out for yourself.

5. Walk to Lake Gunn. This is on the Cascade track on the highway to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a popular tourist destination but getting there is even better. This walk through stunning rainforest is both beautiful and educational. Native plants and trees are sign posted to tell of the medicinal and practical uses by Maori and early European. Watch out for the rare yellowhead which has a song like a canary.

6. Have lunch at the Provisions cafe in the historic gold rush town of Arrowtown. You can also buy beautiful pieces of natural greenstone, (pounamu) at a nearby jewellery store very reasonable price.. A lovely gift to take home.

7. Stay a night at Makaroa, near Queenstown. Get away from the rush and hurry to book at night at the Homestead B&B. Off the tourist track you will be treated to bush at your back door, lovely hosts who love their environment and if you are in luck you will hear morkpork at night. We can`t wait to go back and check out the nearby walking tracks.

8. Have a picnic at Shipwreck creek beach near Haast in Westland. We were welcomed by a flock of dancing fantails who thought it was their job to catch the sandflys. Hope you are as lucky, we would not have missed it for the world.

9. Take a wander around Lake Matheson, the Mirror Lake. On a fine day you will see Mt Cook, New Zealand`s largest mountain majestically reflected on its surface. If you are feeling adventurous treat yourself to a helicopter flight onto the Fox Glacier.

10. Visit Marlborough and enjoy wine tasting in the vines either by bike or mini bus.

Happy travels!

Return to our favourite ecotour paradise – Ure Valley, Marlborough

The Ure Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand.
The Ure Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand.

We had a wonderful day touring the Kaikoura Eastcoast, Ure Valley. This is the area that Will lived and farmed for twenty years. We stopped of at the high country hut for a picnic lunch and were treated to the song of the shining cuckoo, a spectacular bird. Also bell bird chicks. We were in search of the illusive blue duck or whio and had a lovely short walk at the Ure River, one of Marlborough’s most popular walking spots. No sign of Blue Duck but we did enjoy the flora on display at the towering limestone bluffs. In particular heliohebe hulkeana, a native flower that has purple flower sprays that hang down in fragrant drifts. We finished with a delicious meal of fresh scallops at the East Coast Inn. Great day in Marlborough!

Tree planting, environment awards and wetland observations





What a fabulous year 2011 is turning out to be. Just returning from a family wedding in Florence, we have rediscovered the magic that is living in this part of the world (New Zealand) and Marlborough in particular. After a fabulous time with family and making new friends it is back to the work I love. There are native seedlings to be planted in our wetland and existing plantings to be checked and released of weeds. We plant one native (endemic) tree for every tour we take with Driftwood Eco Tours. However thanks to the Council Environmental fund and all the help of enthusiastic people such as Nicky Eade and Paul Millen we have been able to exceed this. The eradication of exotic crack willows is now evident and the slow work on willow seedlings will be on going. Just prior to our travel we had the honor of attending the Marlborough Community Environment Awards as nominees. Our congratulations to all the winners and nominees whom we enjoyed meeting over a lovely meal at Dryland’s superb  restaurant. We have had enquiries from all around the world about kayaking tours as well as hiking and 4×4 tours for 2011 and 2012. We look forward to sharing our slice of paradise with these future friends. Until then we will keep the coffee hot. Here is a picture gallery of our home and wetland.

D’Urville Island Odyssey day 3 of a New Zealand tour

Rangitoto island
Rangitoto island

Wow! another day on this wilderness island which I found was full of more surprises. After leaving the Community hall I headed west on my journey to Greville harbour and DOC’S new playground and campsite.

On my way stopped in the bush and heard a very unusual bird call which I recorded; it may have been Tui although it was hauntingly loud and at times quite distant. It was also nice to see wood pigeon, grey warbler, fantail and bellbird all in good numbers.

As the bush thinned out and the road became steeper I saw my 1st glimpse of Greville harbour and the swamp lands leading to the sand dunes and beach. I took off down hill; steep, fast and furious and realised my bike wasn’t up to it!!

Arrived a few minutes later and met the DOC camp manager and then off on another trip northwards to Otu. I really enjoyed this trek especially the flora of Rimu’s , Kahikatea, Nikau, jasmine and flaxes and there was a lovely scent in the air. The track was pretty rough in places as they had had alot of rain and it was very evident by slips and washouts. This adds to the adventure so I decided to walk.

Near Otu is a wetland which then drains into the bay a place of sheer beauty and a haven for wildlife especially water fowl. On my return had a look at Black Reef bay the site of a old hydro scheme for the original farm and this is where I took the photo of the outboard motor on the rocks amongst the driftwood.

Then it was onto the beach for a walk amongst the shells, driftwood, seaweed and bird prints. This is a truly beautiful spot, quite isolated, but definitely unique and a lovely spiritual feeling.

I know I shall return and if any of you out there would like me to organise a trip please contact me at Driftwood Ecotours.

I would especially like to thank Danny and Lynn Boulton of French Pass Sea safaris for giving me there time and supporting me on this venture.

Merry Xmas to you all and I do hope you have a rewarding holiday break soon, cheers Will

Info: Kopowai Bay to Patuki 58 Km Kopowai Bay to Moawhitu DoC camp (Greville Harbour) 30 Km Grade 3

D’Urville Island Odessy -Day two Marlborough NZ

Community hall at d'Urville Island.
Community hall at d’Urville Island.

Woke up to another beautiful day with bacon and eggs and walked up hill to sound of Tui and Bellbird and the odd Grey Warbler. As I broke the bush line all was quiet so made a phone call and watched the sun arise out of it’s slumber, such a beautiful sight.

Once at top of hill rode to Community hall which is built out of old power poles and met one of the very friendly locals who unlocked hall etc. Soon after was back on my bike and riding northwards to Patuki the most northern farm. The views were exhilarating every corner offering a new headland, beaches, rocky bluffs, islands, ewes and young lambs and cows and calves. These animals were something one had to be very aware of when rounding corners as the road is one warm, flat platform that sheep particularly like to sleep on. I must compliment the road builders on this island as the grades are surprisingly good and surface so smooth.

On arriving at Patuki, shearing of hoggets ( young sheep) was in full swing and I was welcomed by Gus Forgan the farm manager for The Lone star farms who I last saw about 30 years ago when we were once near neighbors! This farm is nestled in a steep gully lying due north and looks out over The Abel Tasman Roadstead just south of Stephens Island home of the Tuatara’s. I soon met Gus’s wife Becks and their 3 lovely girls and spent time talking much about nature and technology. This property was also home to my wife’s family the Leov’s for many years so a fascinating history; had my lunch on the veranda of the original cottage looking out over the sea.

Left the farm mid afternoon with a gift of 10 eggs and freshly shucked paua which I had for dinner with my Tui beer!!

On my return spent much time looking at rocks and plants in the and around the mineral belt. This area is unique for unusual plants and argillite outcrops which Maori used extensively for tools.

Arrived at Community hall tired but full of inspiration for the people who have made this place their home.

D’Urville Island Odessy -Day two Marlborough NZ

Biking around d'Urville Island.
Biking around d’Urville Island.

Wow!!! what a buzz and exciting journey was this trip which I had been planning for sometime. I initially set off on a famil to tour with French Pass Sea Safaris and the sailing ship “Steadfast” with my bike to check out the suitability of bringing clients to this area. I was not disappointed and was given a very warm welcome by all locals I met on the way.

The days were warm, sunny and very little wind which I was told rather unusual; so luck was on my side.

My first piece of action was an introduction to Laurence and Grace the proud owners of the ketch “Steadfast” which was built by Laurence over a 15 year period.Take a look at the photos and you shall see the work of a craftsman and attention to detail. Well we get on board have a brief chat and moments later the wind springs up so time to hoist the sails with Grace controlling the wheel. She sails beautifully and there is plenty of room on board to relax and enjoy nice organic lunch.

We cruise up to Catherine Cove where I’m to stay the night in one of the kiwi batches and met by Aaron who is the chef and owner of the Wilderness Lodge. He was originally the chef/owner of The Shed on the waterfront in Nelson. Once ashore I decide to explore this bay and tracks which leave the bay heading up hill towards Mt. Attempt.

My fitness levels are tested within minutes and soon pushing the mountain bike up hill but the scenery more than makes up for it. This would also make a great walking tour particularly for the lovers of flora and fauna. The sweet smell of Kaihua or New Zealand jasmine was magic, also flowering was Clematis paniculata and Metrosideros fulgens or climbing rata interspersed with manuka and broadleafs. Near the top I reached the Durville island road and took off northwards continuously distracted by birds, rocks, flora and views.

This area is one of the best in New Zealand to study the mineral belt and the effect it has on the vegetation. Soon I returned to Catherine Cove and enjoyed well earned rest and a Tui (beer)!!