South Marlborough, 1 day
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Mt Owen in Kahurangi National Park deserves a three-day weekend in order to fully explore the various nooks and crannies this complex massif has to offer. It is the marble mountain par excellence—the original Ordovician limestone which formed 500 million years ago has been metamorphosed through intense pressure and temperature into a recrystallised marble. More recently, icecaps smothered these marble uplands, their radiating glaciers putting the finishing touches on what is today considered a fairly unusual landscape.
The tourism potential of Fiordland's Milford Sound was recognised in the late 1800s. The problem was getting there. Pushing a road across the Main Divide was feasible, but between the headwaters of the Hollyford and Cleddau valleys was an almost-sheer 500 metre granite wall. The Homer Tunnel, 20 years in the making, provided the solution, and today visitors emerging from the Cleddau portal descend a sealed slalom that offers few clues as to the difficulty of building or maintaining a road in such precipitous country.
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