Tidal areas of Stewart Island in Southland, New Zealand. - Frommers.com Community

Flights to Southland: Next stop Antarctica

Adrenaline rush

Expect non-stop action after your flight to Southland. At times you might need to reassure yourself that even adventure tourism operators need repeat custom. Such as when your Hauroko River jet boat is hurtling through ankle-deep, boulder-strewn water towards a sheer rock-face. If that’s too tame, you could brave kite-surfing at Te Waewae Bay, home to New Zealand's biggest and scariest surfable wave.

Go slow

For a change of pace on your Southland holiday, take a Catlins tour. Cuddle up to fur seals and sea lions on the beach. Marvel over 180 million-year-old trees in Curio Bay's petrified forest, and stick around when the yellow-eyed penguins pop out of the surf at dusk. Cross over to Stewart Island in time for sunset. You’ll soon see why Maori call it Rakiura, land of the glowing skies.

Eat and drink

Southland is famous for juicy Bluff oysters dredged from Foveaux Strait. Local blue cod and whitebait are pretty lip-smacking too. In early times, Southland was better known for a potent moonshine whisky named Hokonui Hooch. You’re in luck! Enterprising locals have revived the tradition. They may have toned down the octane rating, but it still kicks like a Southland rugby fullback.

Back to nature

Luckily for hikers of the Hump Ridge Track local milling companies missed a few strands of ancient forest before its national park protection. Get a sense of what primeval New Zealand looked like here. Or on Stewart Island,where you can experience lavish amounts of New Zealand mud. To find out what primeval NZ sounded like, head to the bird sanctuary on Ulva Island for the dawn chorus. Most of the country’s native species are present and in fine voice.

Fast facts

Where? Invercargill is one of the world’s southernmost cities, close enough to experience the Antarctic climate without three weeks of tedious mucking about in the Southern Ocean.

Population: Invercargill is home to 50,000 souls, half of Southland’s population. The city is hardly in danger of being overtaken by the 400 residents of Halfmoon Bay, Stewart Island’s largest settlement.

Did you know? Invercargill was once compared to a certain part of the human anatomy by Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.

Key dates: In 1805, sealer Thomas Fink was the first reported European to settle in the region.