South Island of New Zealand: Off the Wall Eats and Experiences
Picturesque scenery, adventure sports, bungy jumping and skiing may be the top of your list when it comes to planning your New Zealand itinerary but be warned, kiwis are a strange bunch and unless you want to stand out like a proverbial sheeps balls, there are a few simple tips to help ease the culture shock. Don’t be the guy who ends up with an elbow to the face because he got too close to a haka or the chick that got ran over by some flying candy trying to take a photo, do a little research and planning and you’ll be right mate!
Top of every visitors to do list should be trying some local delicacies. One tasty treat sure to please, and a staple at every five years old’s birthday party is fairy bread. Deliciously soft white bread slathered with creamy butter and topped with hundreds and thousands (sprinkles to you Americans), it’s truly a national treasure.
Lolly-wise (yes they’re called lollies, not candy) any visitor to New Zealand will be treated to a plethora of sticky sweetness sure to satisfy any curiosity. Kiwi favourites include pineapple lumps (yes, a chocolate covered sweet made to taste like, yet not include, fruit), jaffas (a chocolate covered in a hard shell with the sole purpose of loosening any fillings you may need to soon replace) and of course the humble chocolate fish (not a real fish, obviously just one made of marshmallow).
Your first meal wherever you may have come from or wherever you’re going, should be some good Ol’ fish and chips, wrapped in a greasy newspaper. If you want to branch out, a meat patty or a hotdog are also acceptable alternatives to the fish. Follow up with some hokey pokey ice cream and you’ll be mistaken for a local in no time.
And while New Zealand produces some of the most delicious wine in the world, make sure you don’t leave without slurping down some of the kiwis national drink, L and P the exact taste of which no one had ever decided on.
Tips and tricks
Safety wise New Zealand is a very safe country, and most of the drama you may encounter generally comes after a night out on the town when one of your bros steals your jandal and hiffs it in the dunny (English translation: a good friend, may have given your sophisticated choice in footwear a little trip into the toilet. The best way to avoid this is to revert to the always stylish footwear choice of socks and sandals). It’s always a good idea to brush up on road rules, safety procedures and speed limits if you intend on driving a car around here and remember it’s driving on the LEFT, right?
History wise, New Zealand has a relatively short but proud history. First settled by the Maori people around the 12th century, today there is a lot of culture and custom to respect. If you ever see a haka (often performed before sports games etc), don’t attempt to join in and definitely don’t try and smirk to make yourself look tough; that’s how you get an elbow to the face! Read up on the history and customs before you head out, there is also many museums around detailing the history of New Zealand which are highly recommended.
Things to do (and eat)
When it comes to the best things to do, sure there’s all the fun touristy things to do: skiing on Mount Cook, wander the national parks, see some sheep and if you’re lucky maybe even a kiwi (the bird, not the fruit). But once you’ve done all that, there are a few things that might appeal to the quirkier of travellers. The many art galleries and museums are always a big draw, but if you head into the museum in Christchurch there’s a particularly unique exhibition that includes a house relocated from Bluff that is made entirely out of Paua shells. Go figure.
Starting in Canterbury, Christchurch is the biggest city in the South Island. After a series of devastating earthquakes since 2010, the city has relied on the resilience of its people to rebuilt much of the CBD and many residential areas from the rubble. 5 years on, Christchurch is now home to some new and highly recommended restaurants and bars. If you’re keen on something a little different, Wunderbar in Lyttleton not only boasts some fantastic pub food, great music and unique decor (think antique boudoir meets zombie apocalypse) but their famous elusive bathrooms are a source of amusement themselves. Sit nearby and watch as increasingly desperate people run around looking for a toilet hidden from all those who first venture into the place. For something a little more sophisticated, there are countless bars and restaurants around the city that can offer anything and everything you could dream of. Casa Publica on New Regent Street offers a selection of hundreds of cocktails and rum based drinks and a range of South American food. King of Snake offers international Asian fusion food and Mexicanos had the best ice cream sundaes and tacos around.
The art scene in Christchurch has blossomed from the earthquake rubble and street art in particular has gained popularity. For any keen photographers, a wander or cycle around the CBD and industrial areas will be sure to find a worthy shot.
If you’re in town in March, it’s worth a trip over the mountains to Hokitika. Not only is it a lovely drive and a gorgeous part of the country but this town on the West Coast hosts an annual Wildfoods Festival, where you get the chance to sample horse semen, Huhu grubs, crocodile meat and a hangi, a traditional way of food preparation of the locals. You won’t leave hungry that’s for sure.
Heading into the Deep South
Driving south to Dunedin is slovenly scenic drive, and an eagle eyed driver can stumble upon some gems such as Timaru’s famous Caroline Bay Carnival which has been continuously running for over a hundred years. Moeraki boulders are a big draw, huge cylindrical boulders all along the shore, no one knows where they came form or how they were formed on just this tiny little stretch of beach. Worth a stop if you’re travelling through. There’s also the chance to stop in Oamaru for a lamington and a flat white before heading on down to Dunedin.
The annual Jaffa rolling race down Baldwin Street, Dunedin (the steepest street in the world) takes place every July. Thousands of people stagger up the almost vertical street to hurl handfuls of lollies down on any unsuspecting passer by to see which one will reach the bottom first. Just be careful not to get in the way, a menacing wall of orange lollies raining down upon you is an unexpectedly frightful sight.
While you’re in that neck of the woods, you can head even further south to Bluff. A fishing town without much to really see, it’s the launching point of ferries and place as that head to Stewart island, where you can take park in the Pub Quiz that attracted
royalty. Not only is it the worlds most southern pub quiz, apparently there’s also a chance you could find yourself a prince among the (literal) frogs. Not to mention there’s nowhere better to chow down on a whitebait fritter. If I told you what it was, you wouldn’t want to eat one but if you can get past the tiny eyes looking back as you, it’s a pretty tasty treat when she’s wrapped in a bit of bread with some sauce.
New Zealand is a beautiful country, and while most visitors stick to the North Island and the ski areas on the South Island, there are many travel treasures ready to be discovered on a trip through the deep south. If you’re flying into Wellington or Auckland, there are daily flight connections to Christchurch and there’s also the option of driving down; the ferry ride to Picton is a magical three hour journey and on a clear day, you can see both islands at the same time while doing a Kate Winslet off the side and downing a speights. Now there’s an adventure sport for ya!
Keywords: South Island of New Zealand, South, Dunedin, Christchurch, Food, Stewart Island