Are you a traveller wanting to take a tour of the South Island? This post discusses the best things to do in New Zealand. New Zealand is a true natural wonderland with its beautiful mountains, clear lakes, and rough coasts.
From the iconic fjords of Milford Sound to the epic ski slopes of Queenstown, there’s something for everyone on the South Island. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adrenaline junkie, or a foodie, you’ll find plenty of things to do and see on this breathtaking island.
South Island is a dream destination for those who love the great outdoors, with opportunities for hiking, skiing, kayaking, and more.
Meanwhile, foodies can indulge in local delicacies like green-lipped mussels and lamb, and wine enthusiasts can sample some of the best wines in the Marlborough region.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the best things to do in New Zealand, so grab your hiking boots and get ready to be wowed!
What are the Best Things To Do in New Zealand, South Island?
#1. Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park is one of the favourite places to visit in New Zealand. The fact that it is New Zealand’s smallest park does not limit its ability to be amazing.
Tasman National Park is a coastal paradise that can be toured by land, water or air.
It features several cruises, kayaking options, sailing catamarans, water taxi service etc., which ascertains fun in the park. Its beach is fully Sandy serving a perfect picnic spot.
Abel Tasman National Park is not just meant for tourists; locals found it quite interesting.
It is widely known and famous for its golden beaches, coast track, and impressive sculptured granite cliffs. Hiking, biking and strolling are enjoyed on its favourite coast track as other exciting activities.
It is located on South Island 7183, New Zealand.
#2. Larnach Castle
This is one of the magnificent, captivating and picturesque destinations in Dunedin, New Zealand.
It is a great place and one of the favourite things in South island restored and owned by the Barker family since 1967 and was built by William Larnach in 1871.
Larnach Castle offers many engaging activities ranging from castle experience, event management, unique dining, amazing Gardena, comfortable accommodation etc. It is open to everyone as a tourist destination.
Larnach Castle offers affordable and comfortable accommodation. One can also host wedding ceremonies, birthday parties, and other events in its fantastic garden. It is also a unique museum to view some old artefacts.
It is located at 145 camo Road, Otago Peninsula, Dunedin 9077, New Zealand.
#3. Banks Peninsula
The Banks Peninsula, a unique landform or landmass, is one of the most famous things to do in New Zealand.
It features numerous hills, bays, playgrounds, bushes, etc., formed due to ancient volcanoes with a stunning setting when viewed from above.
This charming majestic scenery has become an incredible sight bringing numerous visitors annually.
After spending time at Churchtown, people tend to view the Banks Peninsula for quite a wonderful and peaceful time.
Banks peninsula can be an incredible picnic sight for families, couples on vacation etc. Drip on this bank on any trip to the south island of New Zealand for a beautiful experience.
It is located at 26 lake terrace road, little river, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury 7581, New Zealand.
One of the best ways to explore the South Island is behind the wheel of your own vehicle. Hiring a campervan in NZ allows you to travel at your own pace, stop at picturesque locations, and experience the true beauty of the country.
#4. Canterbury Museum
Canterbury Museum is one of the great museums rich in cultural and natural heritage in New Zealand, established in 1867.
It has a lot to see, ranging from the mosque, wildlife photographs, unique animals, the museum book, and many other insights.
Canterbury Museum is quite a fascinating destination for tourists and locals who are interested in viewing the past, present and future of Canterbury. It is one of the most well-known things to do in South Island, New Zealand, and should not be missed on any visit.
I strongly advise bringing your siblings, family, children, and friends to this wondrous location for a beautiful and fantastic vacation.
It is located at Rollestone Avenue, Christchurch Central, 8013, New Zealand.
#5. Cardrona Alpine Resort
Cardrona Alpine Resort, New Zealand’s best ski resort, is one of its most well-known attractions.
It has the most amazing mountain playground, which opened in 1980 and has many things to do in winter and summer.
It is a place for all, without segregation or racism, where ski lessons are taught.
Cardrona alpine resort is a fascinating place to visit, with skiing and snowboarding as its significant activities. You can as well join in a gondola ride for a memory-filled vacation.
It is a good thing you visit this wonderful resort on every trip to South Island for a great vacation.
It is located at Cardrona valley road, Cardrona 9305, New Zealand.
#6. Hagley Park North
Hagley park north is a mesmerising tourist attraction and one of the most famous things on the south island, New Zealand. It has one of the largest open spaces established in Christchurch I. 1855, covering about 165 hectares.
It is a very nice park featuring strolling paths, a small lake, botanical gardens, a golf course and numerous sports facilities. It’s a great park with quite an interesting interior open for the general public, both locals and visitors. It is one of the most beautiful sights on New Zealand’s South Island.
The park offers both entertainment and recreation. Hagley park north is family-friendly, serving as a great picnic spot for families and organisations.
It is located at 14 Riccarton Avenue, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand.
#7. Puzzling World
The puzzle world is one of the many amazing things to do on New Zealand’s South Island. It is a one-of-a-kind stopover location. From the beginning, the mind-boggling games in the puzzling world have challenged many people, no matter their age, status, or class. It’s a great place for children and adults.
The puzzling world features a 3D great maze, illusion rooms, a hologram hall, a tilted house, and several ongoing activities such as the ultimate, loop rings, Rubik’s cubes, etc.
This is quite challenging, making it a desired point to stop on every trip to ease stress. Invite your children, families, colleagues, and friends to this amazing world to take advantage of the opportunities it provides at a low cost.
It is located at 188 Wanaka-luggate highway, Wanaka 9382, New Zealand.
#8. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is a fantastic animal and nature preserve in South Island, New Zealand, and it is one of the most well-known attractions in the region. It is a place to get a clearer view it New Zealand native animals, livestock breeds and other mammals that dwell therein.
Wildlife such as Kaka, kiwi, Takahē, tuatara, kea etc., is seen in Willowbank wildlife reserve. It is quite an interesting place for family hangouts, picnics, outings etc. Kids enjoy more in Willowbank. What to eat is never a problem because of the presence of cafes and stalls.
It is located at 60 Hussey Road, Northwood, Christchurch 8051, New Zealand.
#9. Nugget Point Lighthouse
Nugget Point Lighthouse is among the most famous things in New Zealand. It is the country’s oldest lighthouse in a town built in 1869 at 16 meters above sea level.
Along the part to Nugget point, the lighthouse lies some enticing sights of wave-eroded rocks, fur seals, a colony on rocks etc. This place has served as home to some animals and birds, such as penguins, seals, sea lions, elephant seals etc.
Apart from the amazing sight of the lighthouse, other features make the nugget house lighthouse amazing, including its great walking paths, waters, and aquatic animals. You will enjoy quiet time, meditation, and reflection while admiring the truly amazing waters.
It is located at nugget road, Ahuriri flat 9271, New Zealand.
#10. Speights Brewery
Thinking of the best place to get wines/ beers around South Island? Well, speights brewery is quite a great option that has worked immensely to achieve a greater height.
Today, speights brewery has ranked among the top famous places to visit in New Zealand.
No tour will be complete in South Island without a taste of speights brewery. It features a tasting room, bars, shops, etc.
It is one of the fascinating things not to miss out on South Island. Come with your friends and enjoy great meals and fantastic wine/ beer.
It is located at 200 Rattray Street, Dunedin Central, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand.
#11. Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier is an incredible natural wonder on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. It is one of the country’s most visited tourist attractions and offers a spectacular landscape of mountains, rivers, and ice.
This 13-kilometre-long glacier descends from the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, making it one of the longest in the world.
Visiting Fox Glacier can be an unforgettable experience that will make you appreciate the power of nature. There are several ways to explore this majestic wonder, including guided walks and glacier hikes.
You can learn about the area’s unique geology, history, and ecology on these guided walks.
You’ll also witness some the awe-inspiring views of the Southern Alps as you traverse the valley between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier.
The Glacier Heli Hike is another popular activity for visitors to Fox Glacier. The Heli Hike will take you onto the glacier, where you can walk on the ice and explore its stunning formations.
This activity allows visitors to experience the glacier in a way that can’t be done by walking alone.
No matter how you explore Fox Glacier, it will be an experience you will remember for years to come.
Address: West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand
#12. Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier is a must-see destination in New Zealand’s South Island. Located on the West Coast, this glacier is the steepest and fastest moving in the world. It is popular with tourists because it has beautiful views and many things to do.
Visitors to Franz Josef Glacier can take guided hikes through the glacier, exploring its crevasses and ice formations.
If you don’t feel like trekking, you can take a helicopter tour of the area. This is an amazing experience that provides breathtaking views of the glacier and the surrounding mountain ranges.
In addition to its outdoor activities, Franz Josef Glacier also offers cultural experiences. The nearby Maori village of Waiau Toa celebrates the unique culture of the local people.
Visitors can learn about traditional rituals and customs and explore the surrounding area.
Address: Te Ao Marama, Glacier Base, 63 cron street Franz Josef Glacier, 7886, New Zealand
#13. Mount Cook
If you’re looking for the ultimate outdoor adventure, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Mount Cook. Mount Cook is the highest mountain in the country in the Southern Alps on the South Island of New Zealand.
The towering peak stands at 3,724 meters, making it an incredibly picturesque sight. The mountain is home to many glaciers, alpine lakes and rivers, snow-capped mountains, and stunning views.
It’s also home to a wide range of wildlife, including Kea, the world’s only mountain parrot.
Outdoor lovers can do a lot at Mount Cook, from hiking and mountaineering to climbing on glaciers and skiing. You can even take a scenic helicopter ride for some of the most breathtaking views.
Address: Canterbury 7999, New Zealand
Wanaka is in New Zealand’s Otago region. It is one of the most popular places for tourists in the area.
Wanaka has a lot to offer visitors of all ages, from its beautiful alpine scenery to its many outdoor activities. If you’re looking for a great place to exercise, why not check out some of the hiking trails around Lake Wanaka?
Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, there’s something here for everyone. You can even bring along your dog, as many trails are pet-friendly.
There are also plenty of biking trails around the lake and canoeing and kayaking opportunities.
Wanaka has some great art galleries, museums and historical sites for those who want to take in some culture.
The Lake Wanaka Centre has regularly changing exhibitions from both local and international artists, and it also hosts live music performances. Meanwhile, the Warbirds and Wheels Museum offers a fascinating insight into New Zealand’s aviation history.
Address: Ardmore Street, Wānaka 9305, New Zealand
#15. Milford Sound
Milford Sound is one of the most popular and breathtaking places to visit in New Zealand’s South Island. This awe-inspiring region is home to rugged peaks, cascading waterfalls, and majestic fiords.
Located in Fiordland National Park, it is the most visited natural attraction in the country.
In Milford Sound, visitors can marvel at its majestic beauty by boat, kayak, or even scenic flight.
You can also take an overnight cruise, taking in the stunning landscapes as the sun sets and the night sky lights up with the stars.
The area is also a haven for wildlife. A variety of marine life can be seen on a boat tour, including dolphins, seals, penguins, and various bird species.
Address: Milford Track, Southland 9679, New Zealand
#16. Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for a fun place to visit in New Zealand. Located in the Mackenzie Basin, Lake Tekapo is one of the most spectacular sites in the country.
Towering mountains, lush green meadows and vast alpine forests surround the lake.
The lake is renowned for its stunning turquoise waters and abundance of aquatic wildlife.
Kayaking, fishing and swimming are popular activities on the lake, and it’s even possible to take a scenic flight over the area. Whether you’re looking to relax or participate in thrilling activities, Lake Tekapo is the perfect destination.
In addition to the lake itself, there are plenty of attractions to explore nearby. The Church of the Good Shepherd overlooks the lake and serves as an iconic landmark of the area.
The Mount John Observatory is also close by and provides an excellent opportunity to stargaze and admire the night sky.
There are also many hiking trails, from easy walks to more difficult treks. When you are asked to do in New Zealand, tell them to visit Lake Tekapo.
Address: Lake Tekapo, 7999, New Zealand
#17. Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand’s South Island.
It is located in the Mackenzie Basin and is home to the highest peak in the country, Aoraki/Mount Cook.
With its towering snow-capped peaks and expansive glaciers, it is the perfect destination for hikers and outdoor adventurers.
This national park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts who want to experience New Zealand’s breathtaking scenery.
There are plenty of trails to explore, ranging from easy hikes through alpine meadows to more challenging climbs up to the peak of Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Many of these trails are well-marked, but some require good navigational skills. The Aoraki/Mount Cook area is also home to some of New Zealand’s most unique wildlife.
Birds such as Kea, alpine parrots, and the elusive kiwi can all be spotted here. The park is also home to stunning views of glaciers, lakes, and stunning forests.
Whether you’re looking for a quick hike or a more challenging climb, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park offers something for everyone.
It’s a great place to explore and admire the beauty of New Zealand’s South Island.
Address: Canterbury 7999, New Zealand
Christchurch, located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is a great destination for an adventure-filled holiday.
The city has a lot to see and do, from lively gardens and parks to museums and galleries that are known all over the world.
Start your day in Christchurch at the majestic Hagley Park in the city’s heart. This expansive park offers plenty of activities, including walking trails, a botanical garden, and a stunningly beautiful lake.
The nearby Canterbury Museum is worth checking out for its diverse collection of artefacts and cultural history.
For outdoor lovers, the Port Hills are a must-visit. This area offers amazing views of the city, spectacular hiking trails, and some of the best mountain biking in the area.
#19. Fiordland National Park
Fiordland National Park is a beautiful place in New Zealand. It is in the southwest corner of Te Anau. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with dramatic landscapes and scenery that make you feel like you’re in a dream.
The park covers an impressive 1.2 million hectares and is home to some of the country’s most iconic landmarks, such as Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.
Fiordland National Park is a paradise for outdoor lovers, offering hiking, climbing, kayaking, fishing, and much more.
Whether you want to explore by foot or take a boat trip, you can find something here to suit all levels of ability.
The area is also great for wildlife-watching and photography. With over 1,200 species of animals, birds and plants, there are plenty of opportunities to observe nature at its best.
Address: Fiordland National Park, Te Anau 9600, New Zealand
#20. Southern Lakes
If you’re looking for an adventure-filled getaway, look no further than New Zealand’s South Island. Home to stunning landscapes, dramatic coastlines, and diverse activities, the South Island is a paradise for anyone looking to experience some of the world’s most remarkable natural wonders.
One of the top destinations in the South Island is the Southern Lakes region. Home to three of New Zealand’s most spectacular lakes Wanaka, Wakatipu, and Tekapo.
This area is perfect for kayaking, boating, fishing, and swimming. The stunning turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo are particularly popular, as they offer breathtaking views of the Southern Alps and Mount Cook National Park.
The Southern Lakes area is known not only for its lakes but also for its outdoor activities. From mountain biking and hiking to skiing and snowboarding, there are plenty of ways to explore the great outdoors.
What should I not miss on the South Island of New Zealand?
It’s hard to pick just a few must-see places on New Zealand’s South Island because there are so many natural wonders and adventure activities. There are, however, a select few locations and activities that must not be missed.
Fiordland National Park is the first item on the list. Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are just two of the breathtaking landscapes that can be found in this magnificent wilderness area.
The rocky landscape can be explored on foot or by taking a scenic cruise through the fjords. Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, home to New Zealand’s tallest peak, is another must-visit location.
With numerous trails and ski runs for skiers of all skill levels, the park is a haven for hikers, climbers, and skiers. The park has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, so don’t pass up the chance to observe the night sky here.
The South Island is home to exceptional cultural experiences in addition to these natural wonders. At Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, visitors can learn about the lengthy history of the Maori people, or they can go to the Otago Peninsula to see the critically endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguin.
The South Island of New Zealand is undoubtedly a place that should not be missed because of its breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural experiences.
What is the best time to visit New Zealand South Island?
Depending on your preferences and travel plans, there is no one best time to visit New Zealand’s South Island. Although the South Island experiences year-round mild temperatures and rainfall in a temperate maritime climate, the weather can occasionally be unreliable.
The summer months of December to February are typically the best times to travel to the South Island because of the warm, sunny weather and lengthy daylight hours.
The best months to travel if you want to ski or snowboard are from June to September, when the snow is at its best. Visit during the autumn (March to May), when there are fewer visitors and more colourful foliage.
Remember, though, that December through February is the busiest month for tourists, which means more people and higher prices. Consider going during the shoulder seasons of spring (September to November) and autumn if you want a more sedate and affordable experience (March to May).
The best time to travel to the South Island depends on your personal preferences and the activities and sights you want to see.
How long does it take to drive around South Island, New Zealand?
Depending on how much time you want to spend in each place and how many stops you want to make, driving around the entire South Island of New Zealand takes between two and three weeks. There is a lot to see and do on the South Island because it is bigger and has more varied terrain than on the North Island.
State Highway 1 (SH1) is the primary road that circles the South Island, but many of the most picturesque and interesting routes are on smaller roads.
For instance, it takes about 9 to 10 hours to travel directly from Christchurch to Queenstown along the West Coast, but it is advised to allow at least a few days to stop and explore the glaciers, forests, and lakes en route.
Driving in New Zealand can take longer than anticipated because of the curvy roads and lower speed limits, particularly in rural areas. The weather and road conditions can also impact driving times, so it’s important to plan ahead and leave room for flexibility in your schedule.
What is South Island New Zealand known for?
New Zealand’s South Island has breathtaking natural beauty, excitement, and distinctive cultural experiences.
The South Island is best known for its varied and breathtaking landscape, which includes towering peaks, pristine lakes, and rugged coastlines. A mecca for adventure sports, the area’s geography has shaped a distinctive ecosystem and provided the ideal playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
Fiordland National Park is one of the South Island’s most well-known tourist attractions. The park, which is home to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, is known for its breathtaking scenery, dramatic fjords, and cascading waterfalls.
For an unforgettable experience, visitors can hike through the untamed wilderness or take a boat tour through the fjords. Another well-liked location is Queenstown, which is known as the world’s adventure capital and offers thrilling pursuits like bungee jumping, skydiving, and jet boating.
The South Island of New Zealand is a must-visit location for nature lovers and thrill seekers alike because of its breathtaking natural surroundings and endless adventure activities.
Plan your vacation to New Zealand
The South Island of New Zealand is a must-see location for anyone interested in the outdoors, adventure, or relaxation. This island offers an incredible variety of scenery, from the majestic Southern Alps to the wild and rugged coastline.
The South Island offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking to relax and take in the scenery, sample delectable food and wine, or explore the great outdoors.
Why not start planning your next trip to this magical location and put it on your bucket list of places to visit? You won’t be let down, we promise!