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The South Island of New Zealand is the last word vacation spot for many vacationers heading to this a part of the world. Regardless of its small package deal, the island is surprisingly packed full of gorgeous and thrilling experiences. The place the North Island is the right juxtaposition of pure and concrete with a sprinkling of indigenous tradition, the South Island turns the dial up on the picturesque and distant aspect of New Zealand.

Anticipate to be whisked away to magical fiords, majestic mountain ranges, glowing seashores, and beautiful lakes. Under we’ve put collectively an inventory of the best possible issues to do within the South Island of New Zealand to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the must-dos!

Essential Reminder: Because it goes in the entire locations we share, please observe good path etiquette and bear in mind to Go away No Hint. This implies packing out your entire rubbish (together with bathroom paper), being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established guidelines.

Greatest Issues To Do On the South Island of New Zealand – Mapped!

1. Discover Queenstown

Nestled between snow-capped mountains and the ever-sparkling Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is probably the most stunning little city in New Zealand (and our favourite place on the planet!). There are a ton of nice issues to do in Queenstown and any New Zealand South Island Itinerary ought to revolve round this superior city. The sights right here are inclined to contain two key themes: nature and journey.

Journey-seekers will discover bungee leaping, canyoning, ziplining, rafting, luging, jet boating, snowboarding, climbing, skydiving, and far more.

In winter, the city transforms right into a ski village with 4 epic ski fields close by: Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona, and Treble Cone. These are world-class amenities with quite a few chairlifts and runs which are undoubtedly price trying out through the snowy months.

Conversely, nature lovers will discover Queenstown the right city to flee civilization and really expertise New Zealand’s magnificence with out having to stray too removed from cafe or restaurant.

There are numerous hikes close by together with Ben Lomond, Queenstown Hill, and Moke Lake in addition to quite a few easily-reachable viewpoints for unimaginable vistas.

Make sure that to permit not less than 3-5 days to really discover all of the sights in Queenstown and try these prime Queenstown journey ideas earlier than you go.

Views out over Lake Wakatipu from viewpoint above Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is surrounded by mountains and water, making it an amazing place for journey

2. Head to Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers

The dramatic and spectacular Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are positioned partway down the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Each glaciers neighbor one another carefully, so in case you’re visiting one it often is smart to go to the opposite as nicely. Nevertheless, if you’re quick on time and must skip one then ensure that to go to Franz Josef Glacier because it’s arguably the extra stunning of the 2.

It’s an amazing concept to goal to spend a day or two right here to permit sufficient time to discover the world completely, although it’s doable to make it a short stopover. There may be one fundamental hike which takes round 45-minutes which is able to mean you can get a glimpse of the world.

In order for you a very epic expertise, a helicopter journey over the glaciers is one other nice choice, rewarding you with a perspective that merely can’t be achieved on foot.

>> Learn Subsequent: New Zealand’s West Coast, Franz Josef Glacier, Arthur’s Move, & Wanaka Itinerary

Two hikers on path walking toward Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand
Make sure to take the two.5-mile stroll to get a greater view of Franz Josef Glacier

3. Cruise By way of Milford Sound

Regardless of being probably the most widespread vacationer locations in New Zealand, Milford Sound’s magnificence is solely as surreal because the photographs make it out to be.

The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound can take round 5-hours every means with loads of stops to get out and stretch your legs.

As soon as there, guests can select from a handful of epic hikes with commanding views which we’d suggest to avid adventurers. Our favourite quick hikes are Lake Marian and Key Summit, each of which have gorgeous views and neither is simply too difficult.

On the opposite finish of the spectrum, there’s the Milford Observe and Routeburn Observe that are two of New Zealand’s Nice Hikes taking 4 and three days respectively.

All vacationers within the South Island ought to guarantee they embrace a cruise via the Milford Sound as a part of their itinerary. The tour by Mitre Peak Cruises is our favourite because of the smaller boat dimension and educated guides.

>> Take a look at BFT Founder Kristen’s photographs from her helicopter flight above Milford Sound

Tall mountains in Milford Sound on New Zealand's South Island rising up from water at sunset
Milford Sound is among the most stunning areas on the South Island and undoubtedly price a go to | Picture credit score: Deliliah Hart

4. Hike the Abel Tasman Nationwide Park

Abel Tasman Nationwide Park is a sequence of picturesque bays alongside the coast of the highest of the South Island. Right here you’ll find glowing, turquoise-green waters framed by dense, native bush with a well-maintained observe in between.

The park is often explored by climbing the Abel Tasman Coast Observe which is taken into account certainly one of New Zealand’s most stunning multi-day hikes.

The observe takes 4-5 days to finish and there are huts alongside the best way that you will want to ebook nicely upfront because it is among the hottest tracks within the nation.

When you don’t need to hike the complete size, you possibly can go for a day hike alongside one of many extra scenic sections of the observe. Simply ebook a water taxi from Nelson, Kaiteriteri, or Marahau. The day part of the observe is round 12km (7.5 miles) and is a comparatively leisurely stroll over just a few hours with loads of time to absorb the solar on the seaside.

When you’re trying to get out on the water, kayaking within the Abel Tasman sea can also be an unimaginable expertise adopted by a go to to the close by city of Nelson.

>> Learn Subsequent: New Zealand Backpacking & Tramping Information

A bay with turquoise-colored water in Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand
Kayak or hike alongside the gorgeous turquoise waters in Abel Tasman Nationwide Park

5. See Wildlife & Discover the Coast in Dunedin

Dunedin is an attention-grabbing and quirky metropolis positioned on the far jap coast of the South Island, only a 5-hour drive from Christchurch or underneath 4 hours from Queenstown.

This enjoyable city is famend for its outdated, historic buildings, making it an amazing spot to spend an evening or two when you discover the sights the neighboring areas have to supply.

As nice because the city itself is, getting out of city is the goal right here. The coast alongside this a part of the nation is rugged and scenic with moody seashores and intriguing rock formations. Vacationers ought to goal to go for a drive south alongside the shoreline ensuring to cease on the well-known Moeraki Boulders.

Wildlife on this area can also be ample, so alongside your drive, you’ll undoubtedly expertise it in some kind. Allans Seashore is a neighborhood spot the place it’s usually straightforward to identify sea lions. Sandfly Bay is house to seals, sea lions, and yellow-eyed penguins (a cute native to New Zealand). Recognizing the penguins may be tough, however you’ll have probably the most luck at nightfall or daybreak.

You may additionally be fortunate sufficient to identify dolphins off the coast of Dunedin.

>> Learn Subsequent: The Catlins, Dunedin, & Oamaru Itinerary

Large round Moeraki Boulders on a beach in New Zealand
The Moeraki Boulders are a novel cease close to Dunedin

6. Discover Christchurch

After Auckland, Christchurch is New Zealand’s second-largest metropolis and is positioned about midway down the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Christchurch has skilled a devastating previous few years with the 2011 earthquake and the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Town is proudly resilient, although, and also you’ll discover loads of superior lodging, eating places, bars, and sights right here.

Head to the CBD to go to the gorgeous Hagley Park with the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Canterbury Museum, and Riverside Market close by. Then journey the tram to get a full tour of this stunning metropolis.

Tram on tracks in Christchurch, New Zealand
Picture credit score: Deliliah Hart

7. {Photograph} Nugget Level Lighthouse & The Catlins Waterfalls

Our favourite scenic spot in New Zealand is The Catlins. This often-forgotten area on the southern tip of the South Island is packed stuffed with so many stunning landscapes that it’s nicely definitely worth the drive out from Queenstown or Dunedin.

There’s rather a lot to discover right here and the complete area is a photographer’s playground, however probably the most famend spot is Nugget Level Lighthouse positioned close to Kaka Level.

The lighthouse itself is extremely scenic with spectacular views out over the lighthouse and the dramatic cliffs round it. One of the best time to go to is simply earlier than dawn when you possibly can perch your self on an outcropping to catch the primary gentle of the day rising behind the lighthouse.

The stroll right here is conveniently quick and flat, taking round 10-minutes from the car parking zone. It’s a good suggestion to discover the observe to the lighthouse the place you’ll find uninterrupted views out to sea. It’s additionally straightforward to identify seals and sea lions on the backside of the cliffs.

Lighthouse sitting on top of pyramid-shaped rock with sun setting over ocean horizon
Nugget Lighthouse within the Catlins is certainly one of our favourite locations to go to in New Zealand | Picture credit score: Deliliah Hart

8. Take a Scenic Flight or Hike Round Aoraki Mount Prepare dinner

Aoraki Mount Prepare dinner is New Zealand’s highest mountain at 3,724m (12,218 ft). Unsurprisingly, climbing the mountain is just for skilled mountaineers, nonetheless, the encircling space is a nationwide park containing quite a few walks for hikers of all ranges and talents.

The Hooker Valley Observe is by far the preferred quick stroll and is a must-do for anybody visiting. At 10km (6.2 miles) lengthy and simply 3-hours round-trip, there are few walks in New Zealand that may declare to rival the views relative to the trouble of this stroll.

One other superb hike is the Mueller Hut Route which takes about 4-hours one strategy to attain the Mueller Hut, the place you possibly can select to spend the evening.

Profiting from the community of climbing trails is basically the easiest way to expertise Aoraki Mount Prepare dinner. Vacationers with a bit more cash to spend can take into account reserving a scenic flight or helicopter which is able to provide a contemporary perspective unseen by most guests.

>> Learn Subsequent: Mount Prepare dinner Itinerary

View out over Mount Cook in New Zealand with paved highway crossing in front
Mount Prepare dinner is New Zealand’s tallest mountain and residential to many hikes and out of doors adventures

9. Go to Lake Tekapo

Positioned within the coronary heart of the Mackenzie District roughly midway between Aoraki Mount Prepare dinner and Christchurch, Lake Tekapo is a stunningly blue lake with milky waters. The colour of the water is a pure phenomenon occurring because of the runoff from melting glaciers. This runoff accommodates advantageous rock flour which was floor by the glaciers and is suspended within the water of the lake.

Viewing the lake is among the greatest issues to do on the South Island and our favourite spot is from the Church of the Good Shepherd which conveniently seems to be nice in photographs.

The realm is positioned in the midst of a darkish sky reserve which implies stargazing right here is especially spectacular (one of many few darkish sky reserves in New Zealand). There are guided excursions that may be booked from the observatory on the town, or simply head exterior at evening and benefit from the view.

Stone Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand
The picturesque Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo | Picture credit score: Deliliah Hart

10. Cruise the Marlborough Sounds & Hike the Queen Charlotte Observe

The Marlborough Sounds are a bunch of 4 extremely scenic sounds positioned on the prime of the South Island close to Nelson. Essentially the most generally explored Sound is the Queen Charlotte Sound which extends out from Picton township.

A bit much less widespread than the close by Abel Tasman Coastal Observe, many locals have battled to have the Queen Charlotte Observe acknowledged as certainly one of New Zealand’s Nice Walks. In our opinion, the observe carefully rivals its neighbor in magnificence.

The Queen Charlotte Observe is a 71km observe that takes 3 – 5 days with lodging dotted alongside the best way. In comparison with the Abel Tasman Coastal Observe, the lodging right here is non-public and provides a better degree of luxurious, nonetheless, tenting remains to be an choice for budget-oriented vacationers.

We’d suggest any traveler to New Zealand do not less than a piece of the hike. This tour by Beachcomber Cruises is ideal. The guides take you on a scenic cruise via the Sound earlier than dropping you off on the observe and choosing you up once more additional alongside.

View of Marlborough Sound fjord with turquoise-colored water on South Island of New Zealand surrounded by lush mountains
Discover Marlborough Sounds by boat and on foot for an unforgettable expertise | Picture credit score: Deliliah Hart

11. Go Wine Tasting in Marlborough or Central Otago

New Zealand is among the most outstanding new world wine areas and the areas of Otago and Marlborough within the South Island are two of one of the best. Whether or not you get pleasure from an occasional glass or are a wine aficionado, ensure that to cease off at among the wineries in both (or each) of those areas.

The Central Otago wine area is positioned proper subsequent to Queenstown and is world-renowned for its pinot noir varietals. Our favourite wineries listed here are Rippon, Amisfield, and Akarua. Regardless of being well-known for pinot noir, the area additionally grows an array of different grapes so don’t miss out on these.

The Marlborough wine area lends itself to white wine varietals, specifically sauvignon blanc. Once more, it’s a good suggestion to discover the opposite varieties – our favourite vineyard right here is Framingham which is most well-known for its rieslings.

Landscape view out over vineyard at winery in New Zealand with bay and mountains as backdrop
Go to the South Island’s Marlborough and Otago areas for stunning wines and surroundings | Picture credit score: Deliliah Hart

12. Discover Wanaka

Lake Wanaka is positioned within the spectacular southern alps of the South Island, only a 1-hour drive from Queenstown. It’s far sufficient to flee among the hustle of the bigger city however nonetheless be surrounded by numerous hikes and sights.

Our two must-dos whereas in Wanaka are climbing in summer time and snowboarding/snowboarding in winter.

Roy’s Peak Hike is a well-known hike that takes round 8 hours from begin to end and includes 1,258m (4127 ft) of elevation achieve to succeed in spectacular views. The equally gorgeous Isthmus Stroll is a much less widespread different with an analogous degree of issue.

Because of icy circumstances, these hikes are considerably more difficult in winter so we like to go to Cardrona or Treble Cone ski resorts that are two of one of the best in New Zealand and provide superb alpine circumstances for skiers and boarders.

>> Learn Subsequent: Wakana, Rob Roy Glacier, & Mt. Aspiring New Zealand Itinerary

Tree in the middle of Lake Wanaka in New Zealand with mountains in background
The Wanaka Willow is among the most well-known timber in New Zealand as a result of it’s surrounded by the pristine waters of Lake Wanaka | Picture Credit score: Delilah Hart

Associated Weblog Posts:

In 2015, BFT Founder Kristen spend three months exploring the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Take a look at her New Zealand South Island Highway Journey Recaps for assist planning your journey:

Have you ever visited the South Island of New Zealand? What locations did we miss? Which of them are in your bucket listing? Go away a remark under!

Plan an unforgettable road trip to the South Island of New Zealand with this guide featuring incredible outdoor adventures.

Written by
Delilah Hart

Delilah Hart is a New Zealand-born journey author. She is obsessed with journey and loves exploring the world, having visited Southeast Asia and Australasia extensively. Her favourite place to go to is Queenstown in her stunning house nation, New Zealand.



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