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Backyard Travelling: Southland Discovery

Updated: Oct 27, 2019

Milford Sound, South Island

New Zealand has so much to offer that it can be just as overwhelming to travel in our own country as it is to travel overseas. We sometimes take for granted how lucky we are to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world that we think only about getting away in the sense of going to Europe, Asia, or anywhere else. Just a short 2 hour flight away from Wellington and you’re in Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand and a fantastic gateway to Stewart Island, Te Anau, and Doubtful Sound.

Much like the rest of the south island, Invercargill enjoys a strong Scottish heritage after having been founded in the 1850’s by European settlers. In the 1860’s the Otago gold rush saw an inundation of people flocking to the region and a petition to the then governor saw to its name: Inver (Scottish gaelic word inhbir meaning river’s mouth) and Cargill (in honour of Captain William Cargill then Superintendent of Otago). Today, the city lies in the heart of the Southland region predominantly known for its lush landscapes and verdant farmlands. The “garden city” is also home to Queens Park – an 80 hectare park in the centre city featuring a botanical reserve, rose glade, winter garden, wildlife sanctuary, and aviary.

Te Anau is admittedly more commonly accessed as a day trip from Queenstown, but it is actually the same distance from Invercargill to Te Anau as it is from Queenstown. If you’re not wanting the busyness of Queenstown, or you have no plans to go there, then you can easily bypass the touristy city and opt for access from Invercargill. About a 2 hour drive north from Invercargill and you’re in the ‘Gateway to the Fiords’ and the closest town to Milford Sound. With only about 2,000 residents year-round, this small, picturesque town is best known for its lake of the same name and its surrounding cave systems. One of the biggest draws that makes the town a must-see for any tourist is specifically the glowworm caves, a site that you have to see to believe!

Although Te Anau is the closest town to the Milford Sound, we highly recommend you make your way to Manapouri for an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound. Often overlooked, it is less busy than Milford Sound because you can only access it by a cruise. The unspoiled nature makes for some of the most unforgettable views ever seen and experiences with wildlife unrivaled elsewhere.

From Manapouri, head back to Invercargill for a flight or ferry to Stewart Island. Again, it’s untouched and unrivaled with most of the island making up Rakiura National Park and less than 500 residents (primarily in the township of Oban). On Stewart Island, don’t expect to do any shopping, bar hopping, or anything else that is normally associated with holidaying. Instead, do expect to see New Zealand’s native bird in its natural habitat, go on long hikes through the wilderness, and watch a stunning sunset with a glass of your favourite wine.

No matter what bits and bobs you decide to visit, Southland is a great way to see the real New Zealand that most people only dream about seeing. Click HERE for a taste of what Harbour City Travel can put together for your next New Zealand holiday!

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