After leaving Bannockburn, we decided to bypass the well known destinations of Queenstown & Te Anau and instead, we head south down the Southern Scenic Route.
This is a region of small rural towns, with views to our right of the forest covered Fiordland National Park and eventually, mile after mile of green pastures; the heartland of New Zealand's sheep rearing industry.
Being November there were many cute little lambs to capture on film and we soon worked out that a slow and quiet approach is needed if a roadside photo is wanted - nervous Mom's don't like anyone getting close and will scatter at the slightest noise or movement.
We stopped off at the small town of Tuatapere and talked with the operators of the 3-day Humpback Ridge guided walk - http://www.humpridgetrack.co.nz This is a trail created by the people of Tuatapere when they realized that their traditional timber milling business was coming to an end and it quickly becomes obvious that they take immense pride in their product and in sharing the trail with visitors. I liked everything I heard from them and the trail itself offers some stunning mountain and coastal hiking opportunities.
Now we are on the southern coastline of New Zealand, with a visit to nice surf beach at Colac Bay and a stop at the little seaside town of Riverton. We were particularly impressed with Riverton's new museum - http://tehikoi.co.nz/ that tells the story of early Maori in the region and the whalers that followed.
We recommend Riverton in our 27 day Wildlife & Landscapes - 1 itinerary, as a nice place to take a break from driving and to relax for a couple of days with some fishing, some trail walking or just strolling along the beautiful beaches. Swimming is an option, but be aware that the water stays quite cold throughout the year.
Less than an hour's drive further around the coast we reach the regional capital of Invercargill; we had been advised beforehand to make a visit to their Queens Park Botanical Gardens, one of the finest in the country. We are not disappointed - beautifully laid out and presented, a real haven for visitors like us, coming to the end of a long day. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...
Our day then came to a close with a 30 minute drive down to the port of Bluff where we take the 5:00 PM ferry departure, a 1 hour trip to a destination that is certain to be one of the highlights of our South Island visit - Stewart Island.
After checking in we have time to drive to the summit of nearby Bluff Hill from where we enjoy some great views of the southern coast and outlying islands.
We will stay on Stewart Island for 2-nights and our hope is to see a Kiwi in the forests; New Zealand's national emblem and the most elusive bird in the country!.