Heading South on Highway 1

New Zealand is one of the most isolated countries in the world.  Made up of two, vastly unique large islands known as the North and the South Islands and a number of smaller ones, New Zealand lies about 990 miles/1,600 km east of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean.  Comparable in size to Japan or the British Isles but without an enormous population (only 4.4 million people total), New Zealand is one of the best kept secret treasures for adventurous travelers.  Its pure beauty, ease of travel and endless things to do make it one of the best tourist destinations in the world, and a place I could only someday dream of living in.

What makes New Zealand so incredibly fascinating is its diverse landscape.  While the North Island is filled with volcanoes, rugged mountains, and thermal areas, the South Island is completely different and accounts for only 25 percent of New Zealand’s entire population (as of 2011 there are roughly 1 million inhabitants in the entire South Island as compared to over 3 million in the North Island).  The South Island is dominated by the Southern Alps mountain chain which runs along almost the entire length of the island and is blessed with over 223 named peaks.  The eastern side of the alps is dry and largely non-forested, while the west side has much more rainfall lending to magnificent rainforests, lakes, mountains and glaciers.  The lack of inhabitants combined with the utterly spectacular landscape in the South Island make it a traveler’s paradise and I couldn’t think of a better way to see it than by taking a 6 hour car ride down south.

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