Excitement is never far away in the South Island. Fastflowing rivers rush through rocky ravines, then growl across plains washed down from the Southern Alps. Alpine lakes provide endless diversions, and the various currents that sweep along the western and eastern coasts carry food and a huge variety of dramatic sea life.
Up in the north, golden sand and countless untouched coves attract a steady line of sea kayakers and canoeists to Abel Tasman National Park.
Just around the corner, the deeply incised waterways of the Marlborough Sounds attract boaties and fisherfolk to its fiords and inlets.
The mix of hot and cold currents and the plunging continental shelf bring sperm whales, minke, humpback and southern right whales to within a few kilometres of the Kaikoura coast, along with orcas, dolphins and other mammals. The shallow, braided rivers of Canterbury are stocked with searun trout and huge quinnat salmon, and the rivers, especially around the town of Gore, boast the finest brown trout in the land.
Canterbury‘s rivers were the inspiration for Bill Hamilton, who invented the waterjet propulsion unit in 1957. Today powerful jetboats take groups of people on thrilling rides along braided rivers and steep gorges.
Some of the most spectacular rides are on the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers near Queenstown, the resort known as the adventure capital of the world, where the drivers judge gaps to the metre and perform thrilling spins and turns.
For those after a slightly slower pace, whitewater rafting can bring out the same whoops and shouts of glee. And on hot summer days, the Southern Lakes are abuzz with waterskiers and sailing dinghies.
The chill currents of the Southern Ocean crash on the coast of Otago, creating excellent rides for wellinsulated surfers. In the deep southwestern corner of the South Island, the formidable fiords of Fiordland have more surprises, as heavy rainfall creates a layer of dark, stained fresh water, below which are a diverse range of corals, sponges and fish.