You’ve seen it as the backdrop for much of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You’ve heard of the majestic fjords, the misty mountains, and the endless lakes in shades of blue not found anywhere else on Earth. New Zealand’s South Island is all of these things, but these are just the beginning. The proclivity of the locals to lean toward the extreme—bungee jumping was invented here, for example—is matched only by that of the island itself, located on the famed Ring of Fire and home to some of the most devastating earthquake activity found worldwide.
Many believe the South Island is less inherently New Zealand than its northern neighbor, but if you take the time to explore this stunning landscape, you’ll find that it has a personality all to its own.
Max Bonem is a writer and eater currently traveling through Southeast Asia. You can follow his travels via his blog, Instagram or Flickr.