Some know it as Te Waipounamu, others simply refer to it as South Island. No matter what you call it though, this is a side of New Zealand that you must experience. This is a veritable buffet of natural delights, where you can sample everything from looming mountain ranges to lush national parks, to soft sandy beaches, to the energetic vibe of cities like Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown, Kaikoura and more.
South Island is bordered by the Cook Strait in the north, by the Tasman Sea in the west and the Pacific Ocean to the south and the east.
Aoraki/ Mt. Cook – Ascend to the glorious peak of New Zealand’s highest peak, where the surrounding land and turquoise waters can be enjoyed. Make sure that you visit the St. John Observatory to open your eyes to the clear and star crusted skies of the World’s darkest sky reserve (an exceptional view of starry nights).
Stewart Island – New Zealand’s largest and most diverse bird population awaits you at Stewart Island. However, if bird watching isn’t on your agenda, how about some hiking? Stewart Island offers you over 240 kilometres of walking tracks.
Fiordland National Park – If you could bottle beauty and pour it over the land, then this National Park is proof. Home to the breath-taking Milford and Doubtful Sounds i.e wide, deep ocean inlets surrounded by mountains. This is a place that can be explored via boat, on foot or by air - each mode gives you a new lens on this beauty for you to soak in.
Christchurch – A city that just pulses with eclectic energy, Christchurch is home to unique cafes and bars, lovely little markets, cute cinemas, a vibrant food scene and an explosion of culture. A simple walk could introduce you to different types of street art at every turn.
Queenstown – If Christchurch is quirky, then Queenstown is thrilling – literally. This is the adventure capital of the world. Bungee jumping, jet skiing, white water rafting, quad biking, river surfing, canyon swings, skydiving – you’ll find it all at Queenstown.
Central Otago – If you’re looking to relax and soak in all of nature’s gifts, then this is the region for you. Central Otago offers you rolling landscapes, topped with snow dusted mountains, beautiful blue rivers and more. You can sit back and enjoy this view with a glass of wine, from the region’s many wineries. This is the land of plenty that keeps on giving.
Abel Tasman National Park – Watch seals and dolphins twist, leap and glide through the waters that surround this park. Stroll along the sandy beaches and watch the little blue penguins dive for dinner. Kayak or swim in the clearest of water you have ever seen. Abel Tasman National Park is where you can also find ancient Māori trails to hike along as you explore the wilderness.
A trip to South Island gives you a little bit of everything – stunning natural beauty, beautiful cities, art, music, food, culture, adventure and much more. There’s a little surprise or something unexpected every day!
By Air: New Zealand is a combination of islands – the vast North Island and South Island as well as smaller ones. The biggest airport in South Island is the Christchurch Airport. However, most international flights land at Auckland Airport on the North Island, so chances are you’ll land in Auckland. Queenstown and Dunedin also boast of their own airports (domestic), so you can choose to land there. If you’re choosing to fly, you can take a flight to Auckland and then onwards to Christchurch, Dunedin or Queenstown. When you reach South Island, you can take domestic flights to explore the different cities in the region. However, if you have the time, skip air travel for more relaxed and scenic forms of transport.
By Water: If you want to complete the second half of your trip from North Island to South by water, you can catch a ferry from Wellington to Picton (located at the top of the South Island). This is an extremely picturesque route, particularly when you’re cruising through Marlborough Sound. The ferry ride can take upwards of 3 hours – based on the weather.
By Bus: For all the budget travellers, your transport within South Island is taken care off. The bus network is varied – ranging from luxury buses to minivan shuttles. Some of the companies you can look at are InterCity Coachlines, Newmans Coach Lines, Atomic Shuttles and more.
South Island has a lot to offer the hungry tourist. Of the 14 national parks in New Zealand, 9 are located in South Island – Abel Tasman, Kahurangi, Nelson Lakes, Paparoa, Arthur’s Pass, Aoraki, Fiordland and more. If that wasn’t enough, you can swap trekking through the lush greenery by scaling the peaks of the highest mountains in New Zealand – the Southern Alps. If a little chill is what you’re seeking, the Tasman glacier, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef glacier, Volta and Murchison glaciers will definitely suffice. Add fiords, lakes, beaches and you have every kind of landscape to explore. When you’re done with the wilderness, then why not explore the wild cities of South Island. Queenstown is built for adventure tourism, while Christchurch indulges the artists. Every part of this island is steeped in beauty and wonder, so why wouldn’t you plan a trip here?