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25 Unmissable Things to Do in South Island, New Zealand

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There are such a lot of unimaginable issues to do within the South Island of New Zealand that one journey isn’t sufficient.

Most South Island actions are targeted on the outside—you’ll be able to hike on glaciers, cycle by means of vineyards, sail down majestic fiords, paddle on turquoise lakes, and bungy bounce into emerald rivers.

The surroundings is magnificent from snow-capped mountains to golden seashores, and wildlife is definitely seen—seals, dolphins, whales, penguins, albatross and extra.

The South Island (Te Waipounamu in te reo Māori) is greatest explored with your personal automobile (automobile or campervan), and I like to recommend permitting at the least two weeks to see the highlights.

We’ve spent over 9 months there and street tripped 4 occasions across the island, and we nonetheless can’t get sufficient.

Beneath I share our South Island should dos roughly so as from the highest of the island all the way down to the south. You’ll discover a map on the finish of the publish and our favorite locations to remain and eat all through.

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I’ve included prices for these South Island sights when relevant (many are free). All costs are in New Zealand {dollars}. The present change fee is NZD $1 = USD $0.71, GBP £0.51, and EUR €0.61.

Video: Discover Queenstown, a South Island Should See

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Finest Issues to Do in South Island New Zealand

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1) Discover the Golden Seashores of Abel Tasman Nationwide Park

Torrent Bay from above in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Torrent Bay from a viewpoint on the coastal observe

Visiting Abel Tasman Nationwide Park is certainly top-of-the-line issues to do within the South Island. We like it a lot that we’ve visited six occasions and know we’ll be again.

This lovely coastal park of golden seashores and turquoise bays is situated on the high of the South Island.

You may go to as a day journey from Nelson (an hour away) or Kaiteriteri (the place the water taxis depart), keep within the park, or stroll or kayak the 60km Abel Tasman Coastal Monitor.

When you don’t really feel like tackling the whole 3-5 day path, there are many simpler choices.

You may take a water taxi and spend the day lazing on a seashore, hike a piece of the path, or kayak alongside the coast. You’re very prone to see fur seals and native birds, and as soon as we had been fortunate to sail alongside a pod of dolphins.

Our favorite Abel Tasman hike is within the quieter northern part of the park from Totaranui to Mutton Cove, however the entire coast is gorgeous.

See my detailed Abel Tasman Nationwide Park information for all the pieces you should know.

The place to Keep: Kaiteriteri is a handy location close to the doorway to the park—Kimi Ora Eco Resort is ideal for a soothing keep (and post-hike scorching tub).

Contained in the park (entry by water taxi solely), we love staying at Awaroa Lodge for consolation and this rustic Torrent Bay bach for an inexpensive journey near the seashore.

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2) Admire the Gorgeous View at Cable Bay

The view of Cable Bay from the Cable Bay Walkway
Positively stroll up the hill from Cable Bay for this view

Cable Bay is one among my favorite locations within the South Island, however most guests haven’t heard of it. This tiny hamlet is just a 25-minute drive from Nelson however feels distant from all of it.

Cable Bay’s pebble seashore connects to Pepin Island and acts as a pure barrier between the turquoise estuary and teal sea.

It’s surrounded by rugged inexperienced hills and climbing the steep hill from the seashore is one of the simplest ways to admire the view, which is spectacular at excessive tide.

You might proceed on all or a part of the Cable Bay Walkway, which runs for 8km to Glenduan.

We additionally cherished exploring the rocky shoreline and caves of Pepin Island by kayak with Cable Bay Kayaks ($95 for a 3-hour tour).

In summer season, don’t miss lunch or a cake at Cable Bay Cafe—the right deal with after a hike, swim, or kayak.

See my publish on one of the best issues to do in Nelson for extra actions on this space together with lovely hikes in Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi Nationwide Parks.

The place to Keep: Lodging is restricted to a campsite and some bachs, and most of the people go to from Nelson.

Kikorangi Retreat is an excellent vacation house in Delaware Bay, on the opposite facet of the estuary from Cable Bay. It’s one among our favorite locations to remain within the nation with a secluded location, superb sea views, lovely gardens, a scorching tub, and many homely touches.

The place to Eat: Arden is our favorite restaurant in close by Nelson for scrumptious tapas and wine.

The living room at Kikorangi Retreat in Delaware Bay near Nelson, NZ
The lounge at Kikorangi Retreat

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3) Stroll the Queen Charlotte Monitor in Marlborough Sounds

Walking the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

Certainly one of our most memorable South Island actions was mountaineering the 72km Queen Charlotte Monitor by means of the beautiful Marlborough Sounds, a community of sea-drowned valleys.

Multi-day tramping (mountaineering) is a basic Kiwi exercise and this is likely one of the greatest routes for newbies or these, like us, who need a bit extra consolation.

On our 5 day journey we had our baggage transported by water taxi, stayed in luxurious lodges, and spent the evenings sipping native sauvignon blanc and soaking in scorching tubs.

The coastal observe is pretty simple if you’re ready for some hills, and the views of the forested hills and aqua sea are astonishing—so many shades of blue and inexperienced. We even noticed dolphins, stingrays, and many native birds (the cheeky weka at all times turns up for lunch).

My information to strolling the Queen Charlotte Monitor has all the pieces you should know to plan the journey.

When you don’t have time for the complete hike, you possibly can stroll a piece by taking a water taxi from Picton (the place the ferry arrives from the North Island).

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4) Keep in a Distant Bay in Marlborough Sounds

Punga Cove Resort in the Marlborough Sounds
The view from our balcony at Punga Cove Resort

We additionally love visiting the Marlborough Sounds to get away from all of it in one of many lots of of distant bays. It’s so peaceable out right here with restricted WiFi and no eating places or retailers (besides at a number of resorts).

We spend our days swimming and paddleboarding, enjoyable on the seashore, sipping wine on our terrace at sundown, and having fun with the birdsong.

When you solely have a number of days, I like to recommend taking a water taxi from Picton to one of many lodges that we stayed in on the Queen Charlotte Monitor.

Punga Cove was our favorite—it has a wonderful location, rooms with sea views, free kayaks and paddleboards, scorching tubs, and a waterfront cafe.

When you’d relatively drive, Te Mahia Bay Resort is an hour from Picton and appears beautiful—we’ve had a drink at their cafe a few occasions on our approach out to Kenepuru Sound.

For longer stays or if you wish to self-cater or simply keep away from folks, we love St Omer’s Hideout, a three-bedroom, off-the-grid home with gorgeous views. It’s a 2.5 hour drive from Picton on a twisting street and also you’ll must deliver all meals with you.

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5) Go to Picturesque Wineries

A vineyard in Marlborough, New Zealand - this guide has the best tips for exploring the Marlborough wineries
Marlborough winery

A serious South Island attraction is the numerous glorious wineries. Wine areas are excellent for a scenic, enjoyable break with good meals and wine.

Marlborough wineries are glorious, particularly for sauvignon blanc followers. Renwick is one of the best base as there are 20 wineries inside 5km and they’re simply explored by bike.

Our favorite wine area is the Gibbston Valley in Central Otago (extra on that beneath) for very good pinot noir.

We additionally love lunch on the terrace at Mt Issue in Bannockburn and the lake view from Rippon Vineyard in Wanaka.

There’s a much less visited wine space outdoors Nelson—Neudorf makes our favorite chardonnay—which may be visited in your approach as much as Abel Tasman.

When you don’t make it to the wineries, go to The Vineyard bar within the centre of Queenstown for a DIY tasting of all kinds of New Zealand wines and scrumptious platters.

The place to Keep: We cherished The Olde Mill House B&B in Marlborough, which has free bikes for company and a scorching tub within the beautiful backyard.

The place to Eat: Don’t miss the tasting menu at Arbour in Marlborough—it’s one among our favorite eating places in New Zealand.

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6) Spot Seals

Seals on a Milford Sound cruise, one of the best things to do in the South Island New Zealand
Seals on a Milford Sound cruise

You’re nearly assured to see New Zealand fur seals on a South Island street journey.

We noticed essentially the most at Ohau Level the place lots of of seals (together with pups in late summer season) laze on the rocks, frolic within the swimming pools, and play battle.

It’s a should cease on the drive from Marlborough to Kaikoura as the point of view is correct subsequent to the street, so it takes no effort to see them.

We additionally noticed loads of seals in Abel Tasman (all of the water taxis cease at one of many islands they inhabit), on boat cruises in Milford and Uncertain Sounds, and on the Otago Peninsula.

My East Coast South Island information has extra advisable stops for street tripping down the coast.

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7) Swim with Wild Dolphins in Kaikōura or Akaroa

Swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura is one of the best South Island activities in New Zealand
We noticed lots of of dolphins in Kaikōura

Kaikōura is likely one of the greatest locations to go in South Island to see wildlife, particularly whales, dolphins, and seals. We had been astonished by what number of dolphins we noticed on our Dolphin Encounter boat journey ($220).

It was magical being within the water with a pod of lots of of dusky and customary dolphins as they dove and jumped and flipped within the air. They even circled round with us if we caught their eye.

Even should you don’t wish to get moist, it’s price taking the boat journey as an observer to see the playful creatures. We additionally noticed orcas and seals on our approach again.

My solely criticism with the Kaikōura tour was the massive numbers within the group (pre borders closing). We visited in summer season—it’d be quieter at different occasions of the 12 months.

A extra intimate different is swimming with uncommon Hector’s dolphins from Akaroa (on the Banks Peninsula outdoors Christchurch).

We went out with Black Cat Cruises ($199) on a a lot smaller boat than in Kaikōura, however though we noticed a few the lovable dolphins (the smallest on this planet), we didn’t have an opportunity to swim with them.

The place to Keep: Kaikoura Boutique Hotel has the right waterfront location on the quieter finish of city only some minutes’ stroll from the Dolphin Encounter workplace. Rooms are fashionable and comfy and a few have sea views from their balconies.

Sea view from a room at Kaikoura Boutique Hotel
Sea view from our room at Kaikoura Boutique Lodge

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8) Soak in Scorching Springs

Onsen Hot Pools, one of the best things to do in Queenstown
Onsen Scorching Swimming pools in Queenstown

Whereas the South Island isn’t recognized for its scorching springs as a lot because the volcanic North Island, there are nonetheless loads of choices to ease these aching legs.

Hanmer Springs is a mountain village recognized for the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools ($35). It’s a great place to interrupt up the journey between Nelson and Tekapo.

The busy and in depth advanced contains 22 swimming pools of all sizes and temperatures, some with jets or waterfalls. You’ll additionally discover a lap pool, waterslides, and a mini lazy river. It has extra of a water park really feel and is nice for youths. Whereas it’s busier than I’d like, it’s nonetheless potential to search out quieter spots (Cascade Swimming pools is my favorite).

We most popular Maruia Hot Springs ($45) for a quieter, extra pure expertise. They’re situated about an hour earlier than Hanmer driving from Nelson.

Maruia Hot Springs in South Island NZ
Maruia Scorching Springs

The three out of doors rock swimming pools have beautiful views of the bush-covered hillside, and there’s additionally a chilly plunge pool, sauna, steam room, and Japanese-style indoor tub.

Additional south we admired the constellations whereas floating in a heat pool on the Tekapo Springs Star Gazing tour ($99, greatest on a transparent evening).

At Onsen Hot Pools ($126 for 2) in Queenstown we soaked in a non-public cedar tub with gorgeous mountain and river views (e book far prematurely at this in style spot).

On a wet day in Franz Josef, we relaxed within the rainforest swimming pools at Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools ($29).

Sunset from 8 on Oregon B&B in Hanmer Springs in South Island NZ
Sundown from our balcony at 8 on Oregon B&B in Hanmer Springs

The place to Keep: In Hanmer Springs we just like the 8 on Oregon B&B. It’s on the sting of city however solely a 10-minute stroll to the swimming pools. Rooms are fairly luxurious and have lovely mountain views.

Alternatively, if you need a non-public scorching tub in your terrace, Braemer Lodge and Spa is a superb selection. It’s a brief drive from city however we loved the spacious luxurious rooms, room service dinner, and naturally, soaking within the tub with mountain views.

The place to Eat: MK Restaurant in Hanmer Springs is superb! It’s not like wherever we’ve eaten with a easy dumpling menu (together with veggie choices), however they’re served with an unimaginable array of inventive salads and sauces—it’s nice eating in an off-the-cuff setting. Don’t miss dessert—it’s a murals. Bookings are important (if not strive going round 7.30pm).

Spinach and ricotta vegetarian dumplings at MK Restaurant in Hanmer Springs
Spinach and ricotta vegetarian dumplings at MK Restaurant in Hanmer Springs

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9) Discover the Rocks and Rivers of Punakaiki

Hiking the Pororari River Track in Punakaiki
Climbing the Pororari River Monitor in Punakaiki

The scenic village of Punakaiki is our favorite cease on the South Island’s West Coast for its lovely coastal and river walks in Paparoa Nationwide Park.

The Pancake Rocks are essentially the most well-known attraction—a 20-minute walkway takes you to viewpoints of distinctive limestone rock formations, and in the suitable circumstances (excessive tide with a south-westerly swell), a blowhole the place seawater is compelled upwards from the caverns beneath.

My favorite hike is the Pororari River Monitor which takes you alongside a transparent inexperienced river in a limestone gorge with dramatic cliffs. You too can hire a canoe for even higher river views.

It took us 45 minutes to stroll to the swing bridge. You might flip again right here (maybe after a swim) or as we did, flip off to the Inland Pack Monitor and loop again to city by way of the Punakaiki River.

It’s a steeper, tougher route, but it surely was peaceable strolling deep into the rainforest, with splashes of pink from the rātā timber. The whole hike was 12km and took 2.5 hours plus breaks.

Gorgeous Truman Seaside can also be nicely price visiting (particularly at sundown) and it’s solely a 10-minute stroll every approach.

The place to Keep: Punakaiki Resort is one of the best resort within the village, though it feels extra like a motel (with restaurant) than a resort. We cherished the placement overlooking a wonderful seashore and seeing the sundown and listening to the waves from our room. It’s solely a five-minute stroll to Pancake Rocks.

The place to Eat: The choices in Punakaiki aren’t very thrilling. The meals was greatest at Punakaiki Resort (and the view is gorgeous) but it surely’s dear. If you find yourself driving south, cease in Hokitika (an hour away) at Gatherer Wholefoods for scrumptious, plant-based, Mexican-inspired meals in a classy setting.

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10) Heli Hike on Fox or Franz Josef Glaciers

Simon in a blue ice cave on a Fox Glacier Heli Hike, one of the top South Island activities in New Zealand
Simon on our Fox Glacier Heli Hike again in 2008

One of many high issues to do within the South Island is go to the West Coast glaciers—Franz Josef (the preferred) or Fox (quieter).

The glaciers are receding (over 1km within the final decade) and you may solely see them at a distance from the viewpoints on the town, so one of the simplest ways to expertise them is to heli hike.

We did this on Fox Glacier on our first New Zealand journey years in the past and it was nicely definitely worth the splurge on our backpacker finances.

You’re taking a helicopter to the highest of the glacier, don crampons (offered), and hike on the ice to see pristine blue ice caves and arches.

The four-hour Fox Glacier heli hike tour prices $520—check availability here.

The place to Keep: We stayed at Rainforest Motel in Fox Glacier on our newest go to. It’s a typical motel however is an effective finances choice and has mountain views. For extra luxurious, I used to be tempted by the tree huts at Rainforest Retreat in Franz Josef. The 2 cities are a 30-minute drive aside.

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11) Admire Turquoise Lakes

Viewpoint of Mt Cook at turquoise Lake Pukaki on the South Island New Zealand
Mt Prepare dinner view at Lake Pukaki

The South Island has an astonishing array of vibrant lakes and rivers from aqua blue to emerald inexperienced.

Probably the most well-known of the turquoise lakes is Lake Tekapo, which makes an important cease between Christchurch and Queenstown.

The colourful blue-green color appears unreal and is attributable to glacial flour suspended within the water—a nice mud that’s shaped when the close by glaciers grind rock on their journey in the direction of the lake.

With a backdrop of snowy peaks and a foreground of purple lupin flowers (in summer season) and the stone Church of Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo is a surprising spot.

I feel an much more lovely turquoise lake is close by Lake Pukaki, which you drive alongside on the way in which to Aoraki Mt Prepare dinner (a South Island should do). On a transparent day with New Zealand’s tallest peak past the shimmering water, the view is likely one of the greatest issues to see in South Island.

The place to Keep: The Cairns Alpine Lodges is the right place to remain at Lake Tekapo. The trendy cabins are well-equipped and have lake views. It’s on a farm so you’ll be able to meet the alpacas or play a spherical of golf on their gorgeous course (we’re not golfers and nonetheless cherished it).

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12) Stroll the Hooker Valley Monitor at Aoraki Mt Prepare dinner

Hiking the Hooker Valley Track at Mt Cook in summer in the South Island NZ
Climbing the Hooker Valley Monitor in the direction of Aoraki Mt Prepare dinner in summer season

Aoraki Mt Prepare dinner is the tallest mountain in New Zealand and Mt Prepare dinner Village is one of the best place within the South Island to stand up near huge peaks with none effort.

There are numerous hikes within the space, however the one I feel everybody ought to do is the Hooker Valley Monitor, one of many best however most gorgeous hikes within the South Island.

The 10km out and again path is usually flat and took us 2.5 hours together with a 15-minute break.

The hike takes you over three suspension bridges and previous glaciers, mountains, gushing rivers, and tussock fields. After about 40 minutes Aoraki comes into view and it dominates the scene as you stroll in the direction of it—simply spectacular.

On the finish of the path you attain the iceberg-filled Hooker Lake with the enduring peak past.

We cherished the Hooker Valley Monitor in summer season, but it surely’s much more magnificent within the snowy panorama of winter (when it’s additionally a lot quieter).

Snowy Hooker Lake at Aoraki Mt Cook in winter
Hooker Lake is gorgeous within the winter, even when Aoraki is hiding

The path does get busy so I like to recommend beginning early should you can, but it surely’s greatest to attend till Aoraki emerges if it’s cloudy.

The place to Keep: There’s restricted lodging in Mt Prepare dinner Village. The very best place to remain is the Hermitage Hotel. You may’t beat the placement and the unimaginable views of Aoraki from most rooms and the bar, cafe and restaurant. Because the mountain is commonly obscured by cloud, it’s an actual benefit having the ability to look ahead to when it emerges. The view at sundown is breathtaking.

Summer view of Aoraki Mt Cook from Hermitage Hotel restaurant
Summer time view of Aoraki Mt Prepare dinner from the Hermitage Lodge restaurant

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13) Swim at Peaceable Lake Hawea

Simon stand up paddle boarding on Lake Hawea
Simon paddleboarding on Lake Hawea

We’ve spent three prolonged stays at peaceable Lake Hawea and particularly like it in the summertime. This small city with only one hotel/pub and one grocery retailer is just 20 minutes from Wanaka however feels distant from all of it.

We’ve spent many blissful afternoons on the pebble seashores, swimming and paddleboarding within the clear blue water. Our favorite seashore is at Johns Creek, a dusty 10-minute drive or 6.5km stroll, run or cycle on the lakeside Gladstone Monitor from the centre.

One other superb hike overlooking Lake Hawea is the difficult Isthmus Peak Monitor—it’s a quieter different to the well-known Roy’s Peak hike in Wanaka.

See my information to one of the best issues to do in Wanaka for extra actions on this gorgeous space.

The place to Eat: Seize a scrumptious toastie from Mo’s caravan on the petrol station in Hawea. In Wanaka, we love Kika for inventive sharing plates (you’ll want to e book).

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14) Hike in Mt Aspiring Nationwide Park

Hiking in Mt Aspiring National Park is one of the best things to do in South Island NZ
Climbing in the direction of Mt Aspiring hut in early winter

Mt Aspiring Nationwide Park is a South Island should see. Every time I go to I’m in awe of the gorgeous surroundings—it appears like basic New Zealand with its rugged mountains, snow-capped glaciers, turquoise rivers, and gushing waterfalls. It’s lovely in each summer season and winter.

My favorite hike is from Raspberry Flat automobile park to Aspiring Hut (18km / 4 hours return).

It’s principally flat and is beautiful the entire approach as you stroll subsequent to the Matukituki River in the direction of Mt Aspiring, snow-topped even in summer season.

One other simple however adventurous hike is a part of the Siberia Experience ($455) within the different facet of the park close to Makaroa. The half-day journey entails a scenic flight to a distant valley, self-guided 7km hike, and jet boat journey again.

See my Wanaka actions information for extra particulars.

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15) Go to a Lake Inside a Lake in Wanaka

Erin and Simon on Mou Waho island in Lake Wanaka
Mou Waho island in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

One other of our favorite issues to do in Wanaka is take a ship journey to Mou Waho ($125), a predator-free island wealthy in native birds.

A 20-minute uphill stroll takes you to Arethusa Pool, a novel lake inside a lake—we cherished swimming right here!

Check availability for the Mou Waho boat trip here.

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16) Climb a Waterfall

Climbing a waterfall with Wildwire Via Ferrata in Wanaka
Climbing a waterfall with Wildwire By way of Ferrata in Wanaka

Our most adventurous South Island exercise was climbing a waterfall in Wanaka.

Wildwire has a By way of Ferrata route which makes mountain climbing accessible with a path of cables and iron rungs.

Though we selected the simplest route and felt protected within the fingers of knowledgeable guides, it was nonetheless nerve-wracking clambering up rock faces subsequent to the waterfall and venturing over slim swing bridges.

We eased into it, although, and it was an exhilarating expertise with lovely views.

We did the Level 1 Beginner Waterfall Climb ($199) and subsequent time wish to strive the tougher Level 2 climb ($299).

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17) Ski or Snowboard within the Mountains

If you’re visiting the South Island in winter (July to September), don’t miss the chance to ski or snowboard within the snowy mountains. Resorts provide packages for inexperienced persons should you haven’t tried it earlier than.

Cardrona Resort between Wanaka and Queenstown is gorgeous, beginner-friendly, and has a gondola, which you’ll be able to journey even should you don’t wish to ski.

I’ve boarded earlier than however I obtained a non-public lesson right here which actually helped with my confidence.

Wanaka and Queenstown are the primary ski cities on the South Island with quite a lot of resorts to select from.

Mt Hutt close to Christchurch is one other in style ski space and you could find small ski fields everywhere in the island.

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18) Cycle By a Gorge on the Lake Dunstan Path

Cycling towards a bolt on bridge on the Lake Dunstan Cycle Trail through Cromwell Gorge

The Lake Dunstan Path is New Zealand’s latest cycle path and it’s gorgeous. It connects Cromwell and Clyde in Central Otago and is definitely accessible from Wanaka or Queenstown.

The lakeside observe passes vineyards and rugged mountains earlier than coming into a gorge the place platforms have been bolted onto sheer rock faces. There’s even a espresso boat for refreshments alongside the way in which!

There are a few massive hills on the 42km route, so I like to recommend renting an e-bike if, like me, you aren’t an skilled bike owner.

Learn my Lake Dunstan cycle path information for all the pieces you should know.

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19) Get Adventurous or Chill out in Queenstown

Bungy jumper at Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown
Bungy jumper at Kawarau Bridge close to Queenstown

Queenstown is the South Island’s hottest vacation spot. The gorgeous, bustling lakeside city has quite a bit to supply whether or not you might be searching for journey or rest.

It’s a hub of bungy leaping and jet boating, however should you choose to take issues at a slower tempo, there are swimming pools to soak in, wineries to go to, and many simple hikes and bike rides.

You’ll discover a number of of our favorite actions beneath, however see my issues to do in Queenstown publish for a whole information.

The place to Keep: The boutique QT Queenstown Hotel is our favorite place to remain. It’s on the lakefront and is a simple stroll from the centre of city however away from the noise. A lake view room is definitely worth the improve.

Lake view room at QT Queenstown Hotel
Our room at QT Queenstown Lodge

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20) Paddleboard on Moke Lake

Hiker at Moke Lake near Queenstown
Strolling the Moke Lake loop observe

Moke Lake is beautiful with rugged mountains mirrored in its calm waters. It’s solely a 20-minute (barely difficult) drive from Queenstown but it surely’s way more peaceable.

The straightforward 6km path across the lake is an effective way to benefit from the view or you possibly can simply have a picnic on its banks (there’s additionally a campsite). My favorite exercise is to paddleboard—it’s so tranquil out on the water.

This Moke Lake Experience ($143) contains paddleboard or kayak rental and transport from Queenstown.

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21) Cycle from Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley Wineries

The Kawarau River in the Gibbston Valley in autumn
The Kawarau River within the Gibbston Valley in autumn

Arrowtown is an outdated gold mining village close to Queenstown. It’s a captivating place for a stroll and is the place to begin for top-of-the-line bike rides within the South Island.

The Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley path is pretty simple (particularly on an e-bike) and passes native forest, turquoise rivers, snow-capped mountains, and vineyards.

It’s particularly lovely in autumn (colors peak in April), and the journey is price doing even should you don’t wish to drink wine.

The path is 15 – 28km relying on which wineries you go to. The pinot noir on this a part of the world is excellent.

You may hire bikes in Arrowtown or if you’re based mostly in Queenstown, Going Blue offers transport and bike rent for $99 (their e-bikes are one of the best).

Learn my Gibbston wineries information for which wineries to go to and different helpful suggestions.

The place to Keep: Kinross Cottages is within the coronary heart of the Gibbston Valley. The snug cottages overlook the winery and also you get a free wine tasting in addition to entry to the recent tub and glorious onsite restaurant.

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22) Fly to Majestic Milford Sound

Flying into Milford Sound, a major South Island attraction in New Zealand
Flying into Milford Sound

Cruising amongst the majestic peaks of Milford Sound is undoubtedly one of the crucial in style and greatest issues to do within the South Island.

Many individuals go to as a day tour from Queenstown, but it surely’s a protracted day—5 hours on a bus every approach.

If you’re quick on time and don’t fancy a day on a bus, I extremely advocate flying as a substitute—it was one among our South Island highlights.

This Milford Sound Fly-Cruise-Fly trip from Queenstown ($565) takes 5 hours complete and contains an extremely scenic 35-minute flight on a small aircraft.

The views of snowy peaks, glacial lakes, and Milford from above are spectacular. The cruise by means of the traditional, glacially carved valley is simply as lovely previous waterfalls, dolphins, and glaciers.

My publish on the Queenstown to Milford Sound flight and cruise has extra info.

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23) Kayak Milford Sound

Kayaking in Milford Sound
Kayaking in Milford Sound

When you have extra time, I like to recommend staying in a single day at Milford Sound. There’s just one resort, the Milford Sound Lodge, and it’s costly and will get booked up far prematurely.

It’s definitely worth the splurge, although, to have Milford to your self as soon as day-trippers have left.

You’ll even be shut by for one among our high South Island actions—a dawn kayak journey on Milford Sound.

We cherished the cruise on Milford Sound and that’s the simplest technique to see the entire fiord, however kayaking is a extra intimate expertise. As you begin early (earlier than the boat excursions), the sunshine is gorgeous and the peaks are mirrored within the calm water.

We did Rosco’s Sunriser Classic kayak trip ($139), which incorporates three hours of paddling in a 10km loop across the first a part of the fiord previous waterfalls and seals. They’re an expert operation who present all the pieces you want—even garments should you want them.

Subsequent time I’d love to do the 18km Morning Glory journey to paddle the whole fiord and take a water taxi again.

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24) Cruise In a single day on Uncertain Sound

Early morning cloudy reflections on a Doubtful Sound overnight cruise in South Island New Zealand
Early morning cloudy reflections on our Uncertain Sound in a single day cruise

Uncertain Sound doesn’t get the eye of Milford Sound because it’s much more distant, however the fiord is simply as lovely, extra peaceable, and 3 times longer.

Because it’s a mission to get to, one of the simplest ways to expertise Uncertain Sound is on an in a single day cruise, which leaves from Manapouri (two hours from Queenstown) and begins with a water taxi and bus journey earlier than reaching the boat.

In addition to having extra time to benefit from the gorgeous surroundings, an in a single day journey means you get to expertise sundown and dawn on the water. It was magical to see how the sheer cliff faces and waterfalls change in numerous gentle.

Simon and Erin at sunset on an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound
At sundown on our in a single day cruise in Uncertain Sound

We additionally swam within the cool, astonishingly deep water, kayaked, and noticed sea lions and albatross.

We sailed Uncertain Sound with RealNZ. An in a single day journey prices from $499 in a non-public ensuite cabin and contains a day snack, dinner, and breakfast.

It was noisier (the engine/generator is continually working) and busier (72 folks) than we favored, however the smaller cruises are way more costly and concentrate on fishing.

I’d like to do an in a single day kayaking journey in Uncertain Sound, however that may be quite a bit much less snug and also you’d be on the mercy of the dreaded sandflies.

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25) Spot Wildlife on the Otago Peninsula

Sea lions on Allans Beach on the Otago Peninsula on the South island East Coast NZ
Sea lions on Allans Seaside on the Otago Peninsula

The Otago Peninsula outdoors Dunedin is likely one of the greatest locations to go to within the South Island for wildlife viewing.

We noticed huge sea lions on wild Allans Seaside, took an albatross viewing tour to study extra about these majestic and engaging birds, and watched lovely little blue penguins come ashore at nightfall.

We did the albatross and penguin combo tour, which begins a number of hours earlier than sundown, on the Royal Albatross Centre and extremely advocate it.

The Otago Peninsula can also be an important vacation spot for coastal hikes and lengthy sandy seashores, and there’s even a citadel! Don’t miss the quick stroll to spectacular Tunnel Seaside close to Dunedin both.

See my information to one of the best East Coast South Island street journey stops for extra suggestions.

The place to Keep: Our waterfront condominium at Arts Content Harbour View was the right base for exploring the peninsula. We cherished the ocean views from the terrace, beautiful backyard, and the scrumptious breakfast basket that includes home made treats.

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South Island Should See Map

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Abstract

I hope this publish has given you loads of concepts of what to do within the South Island. It’s a surprising a part of New Zealand that we all know we’ll return to many times.

Though it’s tempting to attempt to do as a lot as potential, a South Island street journey may be exhausting, so choose your priorities from this listing and ensure you permit time for rest too (and the changeable climate).

For extra particulars on most of the South Island locations on this publish, try my different New Zealand journey guides beneath.

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Extra New Zealand Posts

South Island: Queenstown and Wanaka

High of South Island

North Island

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