As far as tourism goes, New Zealand has had the boon of hosting landscapes for Lord of the Rings, and the varied geography of both islands have given rise to a diversity of climates. As a result, most people are often surprised once they leave the main tourist track and find themselves entering places even very few Kiwis have been.
The South Island is on par with Canada’s West Coast in terms of wilderness, and this carries over into the sorts of people one finds there. Barrytown, which consists of a hotel/pub and a few scattered residences north of Greymouth, is home to a husband and wife couple who offer the chance to create your own knife through the entire forging process.
Also on the South Island, but tucked into the center of the mainland is Arthur’s Pass – most tourists use this as a transition point when trying to get from one side of the island to the other, however a number of trekking trails are available, and deliver in terms of ‘authentic wilderness’. The owner who runs the HI Hostel there is a wealth of information about how to get into some of the more remote corners of the mountain ranges.
If battle the elements isn’t quite your thing, further south, almost near the top of the South Island rests the small sleepy town of Takaka. This post-hippie commune still caters to young and old nomads alike, and has a free camping spot near the river outside of town. On any given night, the grounds awaken to the sound of drums, laughter, and campfires as travelers converge.
Following the coast east, one finally arrives at Blenheim. Although popular as one of the premiere wine producers in New Zealand, with vineyards stretching out on the fertile plains between Marlborough Sound and rolling hills to the south, few people actually take advantage of what the town has to offer. Be sure to check dates in summer time when wine-tasting events are held (some of them free!) – and for a more interactive and immersive experience, a number of the vineyards also offer accommodation.
The value in staying on the winery is the opportunity to learn about wine-making practices (everything from the type of grape, to the types of extraction, to the methods of aging) from professionals, many who have carried on a family tradition for generations.
But a stop in New Zealand would not be complete without tasting the seafood it has to offer. Driving south-east through brown and golden hills, the road eventually thins out on a long arc of stony beach where Kaikoura has routinely been considered one of the world’s top undiscovered hotspots for lobster (the name Kaikoura itself is taken from the Maori word for the shellfish).
Ultimately though, every traveler discovers that what truly makes them fall in love with New Zealand – an what inexorably brings them back – is the friendliness and graciousness of the Kiwi people, who are as eager to point you in the right direction as buy you a Tui beer at the pub.