New Zealand, haaa…which images are popping up in your head now? Beautiful landscapes, easy going people, stunning beaches and wild nature!? It is still on my and probably many other people’s bucket list. Therefore, I took the opportunity to ask fellow adventure travel blogger Jamie who came to New Zealand five years ago and has not left yet…
After leaving home six years ago with nothing but a backpack and a craving for adventure, Jamie travelled through South-east Asia and Australia before finally settling in New Zealand. He soon after discovered his passion for kayaking and is now on a mission to explore as much of New Zealand by kayak as possible. He shares his knowledge and adventures on his blog, PaddlePursuits.com
New Zealand’s South Island by Kayak
Unspoiled and unrivalled natural beauty. It’s what New Zealand is renowned for, and what awaits you on its distant shores. Nowhere is this beauty more pronounced that the majestic peaks of the South Islands mountain ranges, its crystal clear rivers and lakes, and its jaw-dropping sounds.
This stunning landscape has been my back garden for the past five years. In that time, I’ve had some awesome (and crazy) road trips, trekked its backcountry, fished from its abundant waterways, and explored much if it by kayak.
Why Travel New Zealand by Kayak
Camper vans are the go-to option for backpackers visiting New Zealand. They’re affordable to hire, and they eliminate accommodation expenses. I’ve got nothing against campervans (just bad drivers), and they’re a great means of touring.
BUT, you’re missing out on so much by sticking to the road. New Zealand is an island surrounded by water and has a population that is fanatical about adventure and play in its waters. To make the most of this beautiful country, you’ve got to get out on the water at every opportunity.
Whether it’s by boat, jet ski, or swimming, you’ve got to embrace the Kiwi love of water to truly appreciate this place. And if I could recommend any means of transport, it would have to be kayaking.
• Easy – Kayaking isn’t that hard to learn, and most people will pick it up within a half an hour. Up until a couple of years ago, I had never tried kayaking. And now, as you can probably guess by this post, it’s become somewhat of an obsession.
• Health and Fitness – Okay, let’s face it; the backpacker lifestyle of driving for four plus hours a day and surviving on Ramen noodles is not the healthiest. Engaging in a spot of paddling will get the body moving and the heart pumping.
• Personal Experience – Being the captain of your own ship allows you to get off the well-ridden tourist routes and create your own adventure.
• Nimble Craft – Kayaks are small boats that can access pockets of nature that are too shallow for charters. You’ll get to experience beauty that is untouched by the masses.
• Readily Available – Kiwis love being in, around, and on the water, and take up every opportunity to do so. Where there’s water, you’re never far away from a kayak rental store.
By now, hopefully you’ve warmed up to the idea of exploring the South Island’s shores and waterways by paddling. If you need a little more convincing, check out my top destinations for kayakers visiting New Zealand. Yes, I know you could see these places by boat, but where’s the fun in that?
The small seaside town of Kaikoura is renowned for its wildlife and stunning mountain range backdrop. Paddle just a couple of kilometres from the coast, and you’ll be met with an acrobatic display of flips from pods of dolphins. There’s also a high chance of spotting many of the various species of whales that frequent the coastline.
If you’re into fishing, there is literally no better place to cast your line. A three-hour fishing charter will cost around $700, which isn’t all that expensive when split between a few mates. And with a knowledgeable skipper and sonar fishfinder on board, you’re guaranteed to catch. On my first fishing charter to Kaikoura, I came back with a bag of Blue Cod and Perch all filleted by the captain.
Located just 90 minutes drive from my hometown of Christchurch, Akaroa holds a special place in my heart, and I like to paddle there often. The harbour was the first port of call for French explorers arriving in New Zealand, and Akaroa continues to have a French influence adding to its uniqueness.
The sheltered bay is formed from an extinct volcano, and the waters are relatively calm making it a great kayak expedition for beginners.
Paddle slightly further out to sea, and you’ll have the chance to ride alongside the smallest dolphin in the world; Hector’s dolphins, which are extremely rare and only native to New Zealand. And where there are dolphins, there’s fish, and if you’re a keen angler, Akaroa is a good for a spot of kayak fishing.
This sunny little port and quaint wee town has adventure aplenty. It’s a great place for hiking, camping, and you guessed it, kayaking.
Nestled at the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound, it’s the perfect launching pad for your paddling pursuits. There are that many bays and islands to visit, and you could spend a lifetime exploring every nook and cranny and still never manage to cover everything.
You’ve no doubt heard of Milford Sound before. It’s frequently placed near the top of travel bucket lists. And for good reason – it’s a distinguished and dreamlike landscape like no other. Otherworldly qualities, such as the lush green banks and spectacular waterfalls, will leave you with unforgettable memories.
It’s hard to describe the beauty in words, and you really have to see it to believe it. No wonder Milford Sound is often called the eighth natural wonder of the world.
Having numerous lakes, rivers that stretch far inland, and being an island surrounded by ocean and beaches, there is no better way to witness the South Island’s natural beauty than by kayak.
Being a kayak and paddle sports fanatic, you may think my opinion is biased. However, if you get out of your comfort zone and step away from tourist trappings, you too will discover how awesome it is to be in the driving seat of your own adventure.
Ever been to New Zealand yourself?
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