Top 7 South Island Wonders in New Zealand
In our last article, we discoverd top 7 of the must-see places in the North Island of the country of the kiwis.
We eagerly want to show you the wonders of the South Island!
Glaciers, hikes that offer breathtaking views of turquoise lakes – this is what your trip to the South Island of New Zealand has in store for you!
1. Mount Aoraki / Cook
Mount Aoraki / Cook is the highest peak in New Zealand. It reaches a height of 3724 meters, leaving you awe-struck.
Don’t miss the majestic glacier in the Canterbury region, west of the Southern Alps, on your trip to New Zealand.
The road along Lake Pukaki will take you to one of the most breathtaking viewpoints in all of New Zealand! How can I describe the landscape to you? A majestic glacier stands in front of you, a lake of turquoise water below…
For hiking enthusiasts, you can approach the Mount via several hikes (for all levels) located in the Aoraki/Cook National Park.
There is the famous Hooker Valley Track (10 kilometers, considered “easy”) or the Muller Hut Route, which is intended for experienced hikers.
For more information, visit the official page of the national park Aoraki/Cook National Park page of the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC).
2. The Milford Sound (Fiorland National Park)
The second wonder of this article, Milford sound, located in the Fiorland National Park!
The best way to enjoy Milford Sound is to book a cruise. It is also possible to do it by kayak, depending on the season.
You may be wondering what is so special about this region?
The formation of the valleys in Fiorland National Park took hundreds of millions of years and an ice age, but a detailed explanation of their origin would be lengthy.
To be able to navigate through these mountains and steep walls (some points go down to 400 meters below the water level) is an exceptional opportunity of our time.
To get there, you will first have to go to Te Anau (known for its glow worm caves) to visit the famous “Milford Road”, considered by many as the most beautiful road in the world.
You will have the opportunity to gradually appreciate the mountains that make up Fiorland National Park along the way.
We advise you to book your cruise in advance, especially if you plan to travel during the peak season (December to February). There are different tour operators, and we will be happy to make our personal recommendations if you are interested.
A little tip that the locals will gladly give you (and which may seem surprising): explore Milford Sound in the rain!
And yes, most tourists prefer bright sunshine, but this area takes on a mystical quality in rainy weather, especially with the mist and the hundreds of natural waterfalls that temporarily form along the walls, making for an even more incredible and unique experience,
3. Roys Peak (Wanaka)
New Zealand attracts so many travellers every year, mostly for its numerous hikes, some of which are ranked among the most beautiful in the world.
This is the case of Roys Peak, one of the most popular peaks of Wanaka, which offers one of the most beautiful panoramas of the New Zealand South Island.
They say every beautiful view is earned! The hike to the summit, 1578 meters above sea level, is a 16-kilometer round trip. Allow for 4-5 hours in total.
For the adventurous, start the hike early for the best sunrise experience from the top. For sure, this is an experience you will remember for life!
But be sure to bring dry clothes and an extra layer once you reach the top, as the wait can sometimes be cool on the heights!
After completing the hike, take the chance to explore Wanaka and the famous photogenic Wanaka Tree with the pride of a great adventure accomplished.
4. Nelson Lakes National Park
Another marvel, but this one is much less known (which will delight those who sometimes seek more tranquility).
Nelson Lakes National Park is located 90 kilometers north of Nelson, in the northern part of the South Island.
Named after its location between two lakes, Lake Rotoroa to the east and Lake Rotoiti to the west, Nelson Lakes National Park covers 1000 square kilometers. The tourist office is located in the vicinity of the park, in Saint Arnaud, where you will find all the information you need to explore the park.
The view from the pier of Lake Rotoiti is already worth the detour alone!
If we had to recommend a hike, it would be the “Mount Roberts” hike, which is a loop including the ascent of Mt. The summit will offer you breathtaking views of the valley and Lake Rotoiti.
5. Abel Tasman
We remain in the northern part of the South Island for a total change of scenery.
Abel Tasman National Park is located at the northernmost point of the island, between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay.
You will find one of the 9 “Great Walks” of New Zealand, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, which extends for about 60 kilometers.
The adventurous can hike it in 3 to 5 days, but you can also do a smaller portion in one day:
If you go to Marahau, you can easily find an “aquataxi” that will drop you off at a given point (there are several with different distances, it’s up to you) along the hike, and then all you have to do is walk to the starting point.
For the athletic, this can also be done by kayak (no need to carry it back, a team will retrieve it).
Abel Tasman is a complete change from the usual scenery of the New Zealand South Island; you will find beautiful beaches, bays and wildlife! On a sunny day, you might think you’re on a tropical island!
This is a region that we really advise you to include in your road trip itinerary.
6. Ben Lomond in Queenstown
Queenstown is a small wonder surrounded by mountain ranges in the Otago region.
So why has this little town has become so popular? It’s now the thrill and adventure tourism hub of the South Island!
Mountain biking, paragliding, bungee jumping or jet boat rides are just a few examples.
Queenstown shines in the winter as a top resort for skiing and snowboarding.
That said, Queenstown is also a charming little town of 16,000 people, cradled by Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkable Ranges.
Mountains mean hiking, and Queenstown has something for both amateurs and professionals.
One of the most popular is the ascent of Mount Ben Lomond. Hike from the city center or take a funicular for the first part.
The ascent offers stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps and Remarkables, a breathtaking spectacle!
End with the charming village of Kaikoura, located 180 km northeast of Christchurch.
Kaikoura offers the chance to see and appreciate a rich and unique marine wildlife.
Dolphins, whales and seals can be observed from this small village of less than 5000 residents.
There are several tour operators, the majority of which make it a point of honor to operate with the greatest respect for animals.
Swim with seals or dolphins, observe whales from a distance by boat.
Imagine being surrounded by curious and playful dolphins in your kayak. It is possible in Kaikoura!
This small town also offers many walks by the sea.
Our latest tips for visiting the South Island in New Zealand
As you can see, there’s no shortage of places to explore on the South Island.
In our opinion, the best way to visit this region is in your own vehicle !
This will allow you to plan a detailed itinerary according to the length of your stay.
Lastly, when should you visit the South Island?
The summer (December to February) offers the most sunshine, but is also the highest tourist season.
Good news! You can visit in November or March/April to avoid the high tourist season, and still enjoy pleasant temperatures.
In any case, given New Zealand’s reputation as a tourist destination, we recommend that you plan and book your stay at least 4 to 5 months in advance.
If you wish to be advised and accompanied in the organisation of your trip, do not hesitate to talk to us about your travel plans.
We’d be happy to help you with personalised advice and quotes based on your desires and needs.
Wishing you a great trip!
The team of Vanz.