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New Zealand - South Island

 
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The South Island finally emerges from the mist after a long ferry ride across Cook's Strait - one of the most dangerous stretches of open water in the world.  This is Marlborough Sound on the northeast end of the South Island.
The South Island finally emerges from the mist aft...
Our first scenic drive from Picton (ferry landing) to Nelson across the top of the South Island.
Our first scenic drive from Picton (ferry landing)...
Great Walk #2:  The Abel Tasman Coast Track near Nelson.  We had this place to ourselves, but in the high season this beach and many others along the track are swarming with hikers, kaykers, fishermen, motorboaters, etc...
Great Walk #2: The Abel Tasman Coast Track ...
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is loaded with pristine beaches along its entire length (51 kilometers).  We only hiked about 10 kilometers of the track as a day trip, but we were not disappointed with the scenery...
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is loaded with pristin...
More pristine beachfront property at Abel Tasman National Park.
More pristine beachfront property at Abel Tasman N...
The granite sea cliffs of Seperation Point on the border of Tasman Bay and Golden Bay.
The granite sea cliffs of Seperation Point on the ...
The local marine mammals seemed to enjoy the sun as much as we did on the Abel Tasman Coast Track.  This fella weighed at least 300lbs and we ate lunch right next to him (fortunately he wasn't hungry).
The local marine mammals seemed to enjoy the sun a...
Natalie celebrates our arrival on one of the most rugged and desolate beaches we've seen yet in New Zealand, near Farewell Spit on the ocean side of Golden Bay.
Natalie celebrates our arrival on one of the most ...
I'm the tiny blue dot walking away from the camera...
I'm the tiny blue dot walking away from the camera...
This place was like Arches National Park by the sea...
This place was like Arches National Park by the se...
There were arches everywhere you looked...
There were arches everywhere you looked...
Once again, we had this place to ourselves...
Once again, we had this place to ourselves...
One quickly begins to feel rather insignificant in a place like this...
One quickly begins to feel rather insignificant in...
This thing is about the size of a small medieval castle...
This thing is about the size of a small medieval c...
I thought this sign was really funny, UNTIL...(see next picture)
I thought this sign was really funny, UNTIL...(see...
The pace of life on Golden Bay was put into proper perspective by this line of cows that stretched all the way back to the pine trees in the background...after about 10 minutes, a farmer on a motorcycle kindly rescued us from this imposing bovine roadblock and we continued on our merry way.
The pace of life on Golden Bay was put into proper...
After 3 days of rain and intermittant sun, the limestone cliffs of Golden Bay finally dried out long enough for us to get one good climb in before heading back to Nelson.
After 3 days of rain and intermittant sun, the lim...
The rugged west coast of the South Island reminds me of the Big Sur Coast in CA, but its covered in rainforest instead of coastal sage scrub.
The rugged west coast of the South Island reminds ...
The aptly named Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki on the west coast.  At high tide, there are some impressive blow holes here...
The aptly named Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki on the ...
The Franz Josef Glacier is a stunning sight to see.  From top to bottom its over 5 miles long.  This is one of two glaciers on the west coast that extend all the way down to sea level. I believe this is the only place in the world where you'll find glacier ice surrounded by rainforest at sea level.
The Franz Josef Glacier is a stunning sight to see...
The Fox Glacier is just 15 miles down the road from the Franz Josef Glacier, and it is similarly carving its way through the rainforest towards the ocean.
The Fox Glacier is just 15 miles down the road fro...
Glacier ice is awesome.
Glacier ice is awesome.
Just another 200' tall roadside attraction on the way to Wanaka and Queenstown in the heart of the Southern Alps.
Just another 200' tall roadside attraction on the ...
My first chimney climb.  The classic  "Shortcut to Exposure" (5.9) in Wanaka.
My first chimney climb. The classic "Shortcut to...
Natalie in a state of puff jacket-induced bliss after yet another cold night of sleeping in the car.
Natalie in a state of puff jacket-induced bliss af...
We got stuck in a major traffic jam on the way to Queenstown...
We got stuck in a major traffic jam on the way to ...
The uber-touristy city of Queenstown as seen from the local tramway.  The craggy peaks of the Remarkables range are across the lake.  This place gets a 10 for scenery, but a 2 for local culture.
The uber-touristy city of Queenstown as seen from ...
Our primary reason for coming to Queenstown: the 5-star rock climbing at Wye Creek in the foothills of the Remarkables.  Queenstown looks deceptively quaint from this safe distance across the lake.
Our primary reason for coming to Queenstown: the 5...
The classic shot of climbers at Wye Creek.  This view is still pretty darn awesome even on a cloudy day...we will definitely be returning here for more climbing before we leave NZ.
The classic shot of climbers at Wye Creek. This v...
Big sky over the snow-capped peaks of Fiordland National Park on the way to Milford Sound, just south of Queenstown.
Big sky over the snow-capped peaks of Fiordland Na...
The mountains of Fiordland National Park are not the tallest in NZ, but they are extremely steep and rugged.  There's heaps of world-class alpine rock and ice climbing here.  Oh, and there's a severely overhung wall with a bunch of NZ's finest 5.13 sport climbs too if you're into that sort of thing... (Natalie and I couldn't be bothered)
The mountains of Fiordland National Park are not t...
Mitre Peak at low tide on Milford Sound.  Its 1 mile high, and it drops straight down into fjord.  This is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  Definitely on par with Yosemite.
Mitre Peak at low tide on Milford Sound. Its 1 mi...
The weather changes fast on Milford Sound, even by NZ standards.  One minute its sunny, the next minute its pouring rain.  Regardless, its always beautiful.
The weather changes fast on Milford Sound, even by...
There are only 2 permanent waterfalls on Milford Sound, but after just a few minutes of light rain about a hundred impermanent waterfalls begin gushing down the steep 3000' walls of the Fiord.
There are only 2 permanent waterfalls on Milford S...
Our 2-hr boat cruise on Milford Sound featured close encounters with a school of dolphins, a pair of fiordland-crested penguins (rarest in the world) and this raging waterfall.
Our 2-hr boat cruise on Milford Sound featured clo...
On the alpine pass that seperates Milford Sound from the rest of the world, we had a particularly close encounter with this very curious Kea (the only alpine parrot in the world).
On the alpine pass that seperates Milford Sound fr...
At the very southern end of the South Island, we found Surftown NZ (aka Colac Bay Beach).  Wayne Brechtel, eat your heart out...
At the very southern end of the South Island, we f...
Next stop, Stewart Island.  Its 52 km due south of the NZ mainland.  Beyond Stewart Island, the next landmass you hit is Antarctica.
Next stop, Stewart Island. Its 52 km due south of...
Sunrise over the harbor in the tiny town of Oban on Stewart Island.  This is the Southern-most inhabited island in NZ.  I'm proud to report that neither Natalie nor I puked on the horrendously bad ferry we took to get here (but we came darn close).
Sunrise over the harbor in the tiny town of Oban o...
Our main purpose for coming to Stewart Island was the stellar birdwatching for which the Island is regionally famous.  Natalie got this great shot of a Kaka - one of NZ's 3 native parots - shortly after we arrived.
Our main purpose for coming to Stewart Island was ...
We also saw Parakeets...
We also saw Parakeets...
Surprisingly colorful wood pigeons...
Surprisingly colorful wood pigeons...
And these tiny Stewart Island Robins followed us everywhere we went (they litterally foraged for food in our footsteps).
And these tiny Stewart Island Robins followed us e...
This sea lion swam to Stewart Island from Antarctica!
This sea lion swam to Stewart Island from Antarcti...
Back on the NZ mainland, we stopped at this remote beach on our way to Dunedin to observe a petrified forest by the sea (only visible at low tide).  The lumps you see here are petrified tree stumps.
Back on the NZ mainland, we stopped at this remote...
Petrified tree trunks on the beach.  Wierd.
Petrified tree trunks on the beach. Wierd.
The Otago Penninsula protects Dunedin from rough weather from Antarctica.  In 2006, several gigantic icebergs broke off from Antarctica and floated right past this spot.
The Otago Penninsula protects Dunedin from rough w...
This is the stuff good vacations are made of.  White sands, blue-green water, and stunning clouds at Moereki Beach on the east coast of the South Island, just north of Dunedin.
This is the stuff good vacations are made of. Whi...
The main attraction at Moereki Beach is the cluster of bizarre globe-shaped boulders at the far end of the beach.  For eons, these boulders grew like pearls from small mineral deposits in the otherwise sandy soil.
The main attraction at Moereki Beach is the cluste...
Now that the Moereki boulders are exposed to the waves and wind, they are begining to erode again.  Here you can can clearly see the honeycomb structure of the mineral deposits that created these wierd boulders.
Now that the Moereki boulders are exposed to the w...
Some of these boulders are eroding faster than others...
Some of these boulders are eroding faster than oth...
Dr. Seuss would've loved this place...
Dr. Seuss would've loved this place...
Nope, not Castle Hill.  This is the lesser-known, but equally as scenic boulder field at Elephant Rocks in the South Canterbury region.  For a sense of scale, I'm the little spec walking out of the shaddow on the right side of this photo.
Nope, not Castle Hill. This is the lesser-known, ...
Even without a proper guidebook, it was easy to enjoy some bouldering at Elephant Rocks.
Even without a proper guidebook, it was easy to en...
A big battle scene from The Chronicles of Narnia was shot here.
A big battle scene from The Chronicles of Narnia w...
And then, out of nowhere, a huge gust of wind came along and blew Natalie right off her perch at Elephant Rocks...
And then, out of nowhere, a huge gust of wind came...
Huge waterfalls and frequent landslides were no bother for the kiwis who built the road through Arthur's Pass.  This engineering marvel snakes east to west, straight through the heart of the Southern Alps in the middle of the South Island.
Huge waterfalls and frequent landslides were no bo...
After looping back down the west coast, it was time to strap on the crampons and head out for a climb on the Franz Joseph glacier.  After ten minutes of hiking steeply up the terminal face of the glacier, we encountered this unusual 80' tall formation.  Clearly this breaking wave of ice needed to be climbed...
After looping back down the west coast, it was tim...
So our new kiwi friend Kevin (a very experienced ice-climber) set up a toprope and we all gave it a go.  Kevin was the only one who reached the top, but after cutting our teath on this amazing feature, Natalie and I were instantly hooked on ice-climbing.
So our new kiwi friend Kevin (a very experienced i...
And then a week later Kevin and I came back with a professional photographer so he could LEAD this line on pre-placed ice screws.  As seen here, I tried unsuccessfully to follow him... (photo by Petr Hlavacek)
And then a week later Kevin and I came back with a...
On our next visit to the glacier (my 3rd), Natalie and I were accompanied by our kiwi climber friend Ruth.
On our next visit to the glacier (my 3rd), Natalie...
This time we were ice climbing up the side of a crevasse.
This time we were ice climbing up the side of a cr...
Natalie and I were all smiles the day we scored ourselves a free ride on one of the scenic helicopter flights over the Southern Alps.
Natalie and I were all smiles the day we scored ou...
The Mount Sefton massif above Fox Glacier, as seen from our helicopter window.
The Mount Sefton massif above Fox Glacier, as seen...
The trunk of the Franz Josef glacier, as seen from our helicopter window.  Note the ocean is visible in the background.
The trunk of the Franz Josef glacier, as seen from...
Standing on the top of the Franz Josef Glacier (on the neve) was definitely the highlight of the helicopter ride for me.
Standing on the top of the Franz Josef Glacier (on...
Natalie took this killer shot of the snow and the ocean at the helicopter landing site at the top of the Franz Josef Glacier.
Natalie took this killer shot of the snow and the ...
On my 2nd rock climbing trip to Queenstown with my Canadian friend John, I took a shot at Wye Creek's classic roof climbs.
On my 2nd rock climbing trip to Queenstown with my...
Climbing in a setting like this, it almost doesn't matter if you make it to the top or not (almost).
Climbing in a setting like this, it almost doesn't...
Looking straight down at the coolest 5.8 climb in NZ:  Headbanger's Arete (grade 17) at the main cliff of Hospital Flat in Wanaka.
Looking straight down at the coolest 5.8 climb in ...
On the trail to the hot pools in the upper Copland Valley near Fox Glacier on the west coast of the South Island.
On the trail to the hot pools in the upper Copland...
Natalie crossing one of a dozen classic kiwi swing bridges on the Copland Valley trail.
Natalie crossing one of a dozen classic kiwi swing...
The view from the Welcome Flat Hut in the Upper Copland Valley.
The view from the Welcome Flat Hut in the Upper Co...
The hot pools at Welcome Flat were pure bliss at the end of our 11 mile walk up the Copland Valley.  On the sage advice of several kiwi friends, we packed in a nice bottle of wine to enjoy while we soaked away the pain of the trail.
The hot pools at Welcome Flat were pure bliss at t...
Me toproping a classic corner crack at the awesome sea cliffs of Charleston.  This place is an awesome trad climbing destination.  Unfortunately, I only got to lead one other route on trad gear before the rain came and ruined our day.
Me toproping a classic corner crack at the awesome...
The ocean waves were breaking so close to my partner on the deck that we decided to build him a belay anchor.  The malestrom of water on the left is lovingly referred to as the Pit of Doom by kiwi climbers.  Suffice it to say, this is a thrilling place to climb.
The ocean waves were breaking so close to my partn...
Fortunately my climbing partner made it out alive...
Fortunately my climbing partner made it out alive....
On one of my last few days in New Zealand, I was lucky enough to score a 1-hr scenic flight around the Mt. Cook region on this fixed-wing plane based in Franz Josef.
On one of my last few days in New Zealand, I was l...
Looking south along The Great Divide of the Southern Alps.  The view from 11,000 ft is pretty spectacular.  Mt. Sefton is the striking peak on the right.
Looking south along The Great Divide of the Southe...
The trunk of the Tasman Glacier is 22 miles long and it terminates at an alpine lake garnished with hundreds of icebergs.
The trunk of the Tasman Glacier is 22 miles long a...
This is the grand plateau below Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook.  In the bottom left/center, atop the rocky outcrop, sits an alpine hut with a red roof.  Every year, hundreds of climbers use it as basecamp for alpine ascents of Mt. Cook (left) and Mt. Tasman (right).
This is the grand plateau below Mt. Tasman and Mt....
Natalie and I walking on (frozen) water in Franz Josef Glacier country.  I'm heading back to Southern California in December, but Natalie is staying here for 3 more months to work as an ice climbing instructor for the kiwi summer!
Natalie and I walking on (frozen) water in Franz J...