May 30, 2023

The South Island of New Zealand is the final word vacation spot for many vacationers heading to this a part of the world. Regardless of its small bundle, 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 facet 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 very best issues to do within the South Island of New Zealand to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the must-dos!

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

Finest 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 essentially the most stunning little city in New Zealand (and our favourite place on the planet!). There are a ton of nice things to do in Queenstown and any New Zealand South Island Itinerary ought to revolve round this superior city. The points of interest 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, mountain 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 testing 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 a great 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 unbelievable vistas.

Be sure to permit a minimum of 3-5 days to actually discover all of the points of interest in Queenstown and take a look at these prime Queenstown journey suggestions 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 incredible place for journey

2. Head to Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers

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

Each glaciers neighbor one another carefully, so for those who’re visiting one it normally is smart to go to the opposite as properly. Nonetheless, if you’re quick on time and should skip one then make sure that to go to Franz Josef Glacier because it’s arguably the extra stunning of the 2.

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

If you’d like a really epic expertise, a helicopter ride over the glaciers is one other nice possibility, 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
You should definitely take the two.5-mile stroll to get a greater view of Franz Josef Glacier

3. Cruise Via Milford Sound

Regardless of being one of the crucial 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 method 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 advocate to avid adventurers. Our favourite quick hikes are Lake Marian and Key Summit, each of which have beautiful views and neither is just 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 embody a cruise by means of the Milford Sound as a part of their itinerary. The tour by Mitre Peak Cruises is our favourite due to the smaller boat measurement 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 | Photograph credit score: Deliliah Hart

4. Hike the Abel Tasman Nationwide Park

Abel Tasman Nationwide Park is a collection of picturesque bays alongside the coast of the highest of the South Island. Right here you will discover glowing, turquoise-green waters framed by dense, native bush with a well-maintained monitor in between.

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

The monitor takes 4-5 days to finish and there are huts alongside the way in which that you’ll want to e-book properly prematurely because it is among the hottest tracks within the nation.

In the event you don’t need to hike the total size, you possibly can go for a day hike alongside one of many extra scenic sections of the monitor. Simply e-book a water taxi from Nelson, Kaiteriteri, or Marahau. The day part of the monitor is round 12km (7.5 miles) and is a comparatively leisurely stroll over a couple of hours with loads of time to absorb the solar on the seashore.

In the event you’re seeking to get out on the water, kayaking within the Abel Tasman sea can also be an unbelievable expertise adopted by a visit to the nearby town 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 fascinating and quirky metropolis situated on the far jap coast of the South Island, only a 5-hour drive from Christchurch or beneath 4 hours from Queenstown.

This enjoyable city is famend for its previous, historic buildings, making it an incredible 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 Seaside is a neighborhood spot the place it’s sometimes simple 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 could be tough, however you’ll have essentially 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 singular cease close to Dunedin

6. Discover Christchurch

After Auckland, Christchurch is New Zealand’s second-largest metropolis and is situated 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.

The town is proudly resilient, although, and also you’ll discover loads of superior lodging, eating places, bars, and points of interest 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 experience the tram to get a full tour of this stunning metropolis.

Tram on tracks in Christchurch, New Zealand
Photograph 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 filled with so many stunning landscapes that it’s properly well worth the drive out from Queenstown or Dunedin.

There’s lots to discover right here and your entire area is a photographer’s playground, however essentially the most famend spot is Nugget Level Lighthouse situated close to Kaka Level.

The lighthouse itself is extremely scenic with spectacular views out over the lighthouse and the dramatic cliffs round it. The perfect 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 monitor to the lighthouse the place you will discover uninterrupted views out to sea. It’s additionally simple 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 one among our favourite locations to go to in New Zealand | Photograph 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 encompassing 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 wonderful 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 mountain climbing trails is admittedly the easiest way to expertise Aoraki Mount Prepare dinner. Vacationers with a bit more cash to spend can think about booking 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 outside 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 incorporates effective rock flour which was floor by the glaciers and is suspended within the water of the lake.

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

The realm is situated in the course of a darkish sky reserve which suggests 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 outdoors 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 | Photograph credit score: Deliliah Hart

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

The Marlborough Sounds are a gaggle of 4 extremely scenic sounds situated on the prime of the South Island close to Nelson. Probably 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 one among New Zealand’s Nice Walks. In our opinion, the monitor carefully rivals its neighbor in magnificence.

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

We’d advocate any traveler to New Zealand do a minimum of a piece of the hike. This tour by Beachcomber Cruises is ideal. The guides take you on a scenic cruise by means of the Sound earlier than dropping you off on the monitor 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 | Photograph 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 the perfect. Whether or not you take pleasure in an occasional glass or are a wine aficionado, make sure that to cease off at a few of the wineries in both (or each) of those areas.

The Central Otago wine area is situated 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 | Photograph credit score: Deliliah Hart

12. Discover Wanaka

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

Our two must-dos whereas in Wanaka are mountain 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 entails 1,258m (4127 ft) of elevation achieve to achieve spectacular views. The equally beautiful Isthmus Stroll is a much less widespread various with an analogous degree of issue.

Because of icy circumstances, these hikes are considerably more difficult in winter so we like to move to Cardrona or Treble Cone ski resorts that are two of the perfect in New Zealand and provide wonderful 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 | Photograph 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 Street 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 checklist? 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 keen about 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.