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Earthquakes cause headlines. Newspapers, 24 Hour TV news, internet and radio journalists from around the world flocked to Christchurch to cover the story of injured people, damaged buildings and lost lives.
They left just as quickly but the images stayed in people’s minds. Incoming tourist numbers to Christchurch have declined because of the perception that the whole city is shut even though only 10% was severely damaged and Christchurch Airport has been fully operational.
One of the brilliant aspects of NZ’s South Island is that you can land in Christchurch and use it as a base for road trips to the ocean, forests, mountains and glacial lakes without having to travel too far.
Here’s some suggestions on what to see and do.
The lovely French-influenced seaside village of Akaroa is only 90 minutes drive from Christchurch via the scenic route past the Sign of The Kiwi lookout at Dyers Pass.
If the sea is calm, try Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruises where you can swim with the Hector's Dolphin, the world’s smallest oceanic dolphin. Interested in art and sculpture? Then visit the quirky, award winning Giants House, whose garden reminded me of the animated movie Coraline.
The best travel experiences are often those where you get to see the sights and chat with a local so next time I visit I’ll definitely hop on the Akaroa Eastern Bays Scenic Mail Run travelling with their local postie van.
Travellers heading to glacier country on the West Coast can stop halfway at YHA Arthurs Pass for access to great tramping tracks and several skifields nearby. There’s a good chance of seeing a Kea, NZ’s cheeky mountain parrot in the area.
Keen skiers should pause and think before driving straight down to Queenstown and considering staying at Methven YHA instead, 90 minutes from Christchurch.
It’s true that Queenstown is the skiing/party capital of New Zealand but serious skiers are more likely to head to Mount Hutt via Methven due to its light dry powder, variety of terrain, long season and reliable snow coverage.
If you need a break from the grind of your work routine take advantage of South Island’s underappreciated duo of Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook, halfway between Christchurch and Queenstown.
The restorative effects of sitting in the YHA Lake Tekapo common room watching the glacial lake change shades of blue and doing walks around the towering mountains looming over YHA Mount Cook totally recharged my batteries.
It comes down to this: New Zealand’s South Island has always been a great place to travel to, which is why I’ve been there four times. After the Christchurch earthquakes there are even more reasons to visit, you’ll feel really appreciated if you do.