Top 17 Things to Do in New Zealand’s South Island

There is nothing like the awe-inspiring South Island of New Zealand—a destination that promises rugged landscapes, untouched beauty, and many exhilarating adventures. As we embark on this journey together, the goal is to uncover the absolute best experiences this picturesque region offers. The South Island’s charm lies in its pristine national parks, where nature unfolds in all its glory. From the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps to the serene shores of its lakes, every corner invites exploration. 

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Exploring the Eastern Charms: East Coast Adventures

Go on a journey along the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, where hidden gems and captivating landscapes await. From the picturesque coastline to charming towns, the East Coast offers a unique blend of experiences. Take a road trip along the coastal highways, discovering stunning viewpoints, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty that defines this lesser-explored region.

Join us in this guide as we look into the top things to do, ensuring each moment of your New Zealand adventure becomes a cherished memory. So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready for an exploration of a lifetime through this extraordinary and enchanting part of New Zealand!

1. Explore the Majestic Fiordland National Park

Cruising Milford Sound

Embark on a mesmerizing journey through Milford Sound, a fjord renowned for its dramatic cliffs, waterfalls, and tranquil waters. Join a cruise to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site, where every corner unveils a new wonder.

Hiking the Routeburn Track

For the avid hiker, the Routeburn Track offers an unforgettable trek through Fiordland National Park. Immerse yourself in nature as you traverse diverse landscapes, from lush forests to alpine meadows, experiencing the true essence of New Zealand’s wilderness.

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2. Adventure in Queenstown: The Adventure Capital

Bungee Jumping and Skydiving

In Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, unleash your daring side with adrenaline-pumping activities. Take the plunge with a bungee jump off the Kawarau Bridge or soar through the skies with a skydiving experience, capturing unparalleled views of Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps.

Winter Sports at The Remarkables

For winter enthusiasts, The Remarkables beckons with its world-class ski slopes. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or trying it for the first time, this alpine paradise offers an unforgettable winter sports experience.

3. Encounter Wildlife on the Otago Peninsula

White-capped Mollymawk Albatross in New Zealand

Penguin Watching

Delve into the enchanting world of wildlife on the Otago Peninsula, home to a diverse array of seabirds and marine life. Witness the charming yellow-eyed penguins in their natural habitat, providing a rare and heartwarming wildlife encounter.

Royal Albatross Centre

Visit the Royal Albatross Centre to observe the majestic albatross, the world’s largest seabird, soaring gracefully above the rugged coastline. The center offers a unique insight into the life of these remarkable creatures.

4. Wine Tasting in Marlborough

Discovering World-Renowned Sauvignon Blanc

Indulge your senses in Marlborough, New Zealand’s premier wine region. Sample world-renowned Sauvignon Blanc amidst the picturesque vineyards, enjoying a sensory journey through the flavors that have put Marlborough on the global wine map.

Guided Wine Tours

Enhance your wine-tasting experience with guided tours, providing insights into the winemaking process and the region’s viticultural history. Immerse yourself in the artistry of wine production while surrounded by stunning landscapes.

5. Stargazing in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve

Unveil the secrets of the universe in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve. With minimal light pollution, this reserve offers unparalleled stargazing opportunities. Join guided tours or simply lay back and marvel at the Southern Hemisphere’s celestial wonders.

6. Hiking Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

The Hooker Valley Track

Embark on the iconic Hooker Valley Track, a scenic hike offering breathtaking views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the surrounding peaks. Immerse yourself in the alpine landscapes, crossing swing bridges and witnessing the stunning Hooker Glacier.

Tasman Glacier View

For a mesmerizing encounter with a glacier, take in the awe-inspiring views of the Tasman Glacier. Join guided tours to explore the glacier’s unique features or simply marvel at its grandeur from vantage points within the national park.

7. Traversing the West Coast Glaciers

Helicopter Tours

Experience the West Coast glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox, from a unique perspective with helicopter tours. Soar above the icy landscapes, witness the glacier’s crevasses, and touch down for up-close exploration.

Guided Glacier Walks

For a more intimate glacier experience, embark on guided glacier walks. Expert guides lead you through the ever-changing ice formations, providing insights into the glaciers’ history and significance.

Relaxing in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools

After your adventures, unwind in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools, a haven of relaxation surrounded by alpine landscapes. Immerse yourself in the warm, mineral-rich waters, soothing your body and soul.

8. Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park

Yellow kayaks at Onetahuti beach at Abel Tasman national park in New Zealand

Guided Kayak Tours

Explore the pristine coastal beauty of Abel Tasman National Park through guided kayak tours. Paddle along golden beaches, discover hidden coves and witness the marine life that inhabits these crystal-clear waters.

Self-Guided Excursions

For those seeking independence, opt for self-guided kayak excursions, allowing you to set your own pace and discover the enchanting corners of Abel Tasman’s coastline.

9. Glacier Marvels: Franz Josef and Fox Glacier

Discover the frozen wonders of Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier, two iconic landmarks nestled on the West Coast of the South Island. Join guided glacier walks to explore the ever-changing ice formations and witness the breathtaking blue hues of these awe-inspiring glaciers. Helicopter tours offer a bird’s-eye view, providing a perspective on the vastness and beauty of these natural wonders.

10. Alpine Majesty: Mt Cook and the Southern Lakes

Embark on a scenic adventure through the Southern Lakes region, with Mt Cook standing majestically as the centerpiece. Enjoy a road trip around Lake Wanaka, marvel at the reflections in Lake Matheson, and savor the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki. This journey through Central Otago and the Southern Alps promises a visual feast of alpine grandeur and tranquil lakeside landscapes.

11. Mountain Wilderness: Mount Aspiring National Park

Venture into the heart of Mount Aspiring National Park, a pristine wilderness where snow-capped peaks and alpine meadows define the landscape. Explore the network of hiking trails, including the renowned Routeburn Track, offering a glimpse into the untouched beauty of this national park. Capture the essence of New Zealand’s natural wonders as you traverse through Mount Aspiring’s rugged terrain.

12. Unique Landforms: Nuggets, Boulders, and Castle Hill

Embark on a day trip to witness nature’s intriguing creations across the South Island. Visit Nugget Point, where rocky islets dot the coastline, providing a dramatic backdrop to the vast ocean. Marvel at the Moeraki Boulders, mysterious spherical formations scattered along Koekohe Beach. Explore the surreal landscape of Castle Hill, a collection of limestone boulders with a unique charm.

13. Coastal Adventures: Abel Tasman Coast Track and Queen Charlotte Track

View of bays in Queen Charlotte Sound

A good New Zealand travel tip is to immerse yourself in its coastal beauty by exploring two renowned tracks. The Abel Tasman Coast Track offers a blend of golden beaches, lush forests, and turquoise waters, making it a paradise for hikers and nature enthusiasts. Follow the Queen Charlotte Track along the stunning Marlborough Sounds, where panoramic views and tranquil bays create a serene backdrop for your journey.

14. Larnach Castle and Ulva Island: Cultural and Natural Delights

Delve into New Zealand’s rich heritage with a visit to Larnach Castle, perched atop the Otago Peninsula. Explore the historic castle and its immaculate gardens, gaining insights into the country’s colonial past. For nature enthusiasts, a trip to Ulva Island offers a chance to witness native birdlife and lush flora in a predator-free sanctuary, showcasing the country’s commitment to conservation.

15. Hokitika Gorge: A Turquoise Oasis

Experience the mesmerizing turquoise waters of Hokitika Gorge, a hidden gem on the West Coast. Take a short walk to the swing bridge and revel in the vibrant colors created by glacial meltwater flowing through the gorge. This natural spectacle is a testament to the South Island’s ability to surprise and delight at every turn.

16. Waiheke Island: A Day Trip Escape

Escape the mainland and take a day trip to Waiheke Island, a haven of vineyards, beaches, and artistic charm. Explore the island’s boutique wineries, indulge in exquisite wines, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere that defines this island paradise. Waiheke offers a perfect blend of relaxation and exploration, making it an ideal day trip destination.

17. Slope Point: Southernmost Beauty

Slope Point, New Zealand

Venture to Slope Point, the southernmost point of New Zealand’s South Island, where rugged cliffs meet the turbulent waters of the South Pacific. Feel the raw energy of the southern seas and witness the unique landscapes that mark this remote and untouched corner of the country.

Seamless Connectivity for South Island Adventures

New Zealand’s South Island offers a diverse tapestry of landscapes and activities that cater to every adventurer’s soul. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of outdoor pursuits, the serenity of wildlife encounters, or the indulgence of wine tasting, the South Island delivers an unparalleled experience.

At Maya Mobile, we understand the importance of staying connected during your travels. Our eSIM technology ensures seamless mobile data wherever your South Island journey takes you. So, pack your bags, embark on these unforgettable adventures, and let Maya Mobile be your trusted companion as you explore the wonders of New Zealand’s South Island!