Given our choice of Whistler for our next home, it’s no wonder we like the southwest area of the South Island so much: mountains, valleys, forests, lakes, rivers, and the Tasman Sea.

We spent an afternoon in Wanaka and 2 nights in Queenstown, packed full of adventure.

Topography of the Queenstown area.

From the outdoor enthusiast meccas of Wanaka to Queenstown to Te Anau; the spectacular scenery of mountains plunging into the sea in the Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and countless rivers and lakes; the famous Great Walks hiking trails: Milford Track, Routeburn Track and dozens more; ski resorts, biking trails… the list goes on and on. We wanted to do it all. Of course we couldn’t, but we filled every minute trying. We started with Shauna’s first, and Mark’s second, SKYDIVE!

A view of the valley outside of Wanaka into which we would skydive.

In the skydiving plane on the way up to 15,000 feet; Shauna’s tandem master Jason behind her, and photographer Brittany in front. They were so personable and professional… they really put us at ease.

Shauna….no longer a skydiving virgin…tumbles out of the plane. Photographer Brittany is free-falling back first to capture it all on film.

Mark…..upside down and heading for the cloud layer.

We’ve passed the clouds and all is OK! The Clutha River and its gorgeous curves below. 

“Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

The chute deployed….we’re drifting down. Can her smile get any bigger?!

Completed with a stand-up, feather-touch landing.

Our skydives were captured on video: Mark’s and Shauna’s.

The view from our hotel in Queenstown, a town of about 28,000. They have more visitors (3.1 million) than Whistler (2.7 million).

Again, no postcard copy here; a pic from our morning drive along Lake Wakatipu to Mt. Aspiring National Park. Queenstown, which reminded us a bit of Austin, borders Lake Wakatipu which is about 50 miles long. Many of the mountain scenes from the Lord of the Rings were filmed in Mt. Aspiring National Park.

A gorgeous day and we are excited to be getting on the Dart River for a jetboat ride and Funyak (inflatable canoes) tour.

Heading up the headwaters of Lake Wakatipu into the Dart River.

“Funyaks”, our vehicle for the day.

We traveled down the Dart River wearing wetsuits. The water was about 65 degrees, crystal clear and turquoise blue.

We traveled up one of the shallow creeks that fed into the Dart River.

The shallow water led to deeper water which had carved out these canyons over millions of years.

What a magical, mystical place.

Inviting enough for us to jump in.

Having survived the jetboat ride up the shallow, but wide open Dart River, we upped the stakes by braving the Shotover Canyon jetboat ride. While doing the skydive may seem daring, at least there it’s just a onetime yes or no answer to “will I survive this?”… either the chute opens or it doesn’t, right? Shooting and spinning a jetboat within these narrow canyon walls brings you within inches of your life a dozen times or so. We were glad we had the head instructor as our driver! See the video here. The overhead shots aren’t of our actual boat, but the beginning waves and spin (we’re in the 3rd row), and the close-ups are.

Suited up and ready, enjoying the gorgeous scenery, blissfully unaware of the dangers ahead.

The Shotover Jet boat.

With our new friends from Portland, Karen & Scott MacCaskill.

Eating a hard earned Fergburger. Fergburger specializes in gourmet hamburgers, and is quite well known internationally despite not being a chain and only having one location.