With grand mountains, striking glaciers and crystal-clear lakes, New Zealand’s South Island is the place to be if you’re looking for a tranquil escape. As the larger of the two main islands of New Zealand, it has something for everyone to enjoy – whether you’re after a peaceful walk, fast-paced hike, adrenalin-filled bungy jumping or calming cycle ride through the vineyards, New Zealand’s South Island is waiting.
As the gateway to the Canterbury region, Christchurch is bursting with attractions and experiences. Thanks to its lack of hills, it makes for a great destination to explore on a bike or on foot (even better for those on a budget).
Things to do in and around Christchurch:
- Christchurch Gondola Ride
Soar above the valleys and soak up the breath-taking views as you travel over the Canterbury Plains.
- Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Founded in 1863, the garden spans over 21 hectares and features a variety of exotic and local plants of New Zealand.
- Canterbury Museum
Located in the centre of the city, the museum is famous for its collections of natural and human history.
- See the city’s street art
From large murals to small paintings, masterpieces of colour are scattered around the city on building walls.
This city is a great starting location, consider car hire in Christchurch to take you on your next part of your adventure across the South Island.
A three-hour drive from Christchurch will see you arrive at the Mackenzie District, which at its heart stands the magnificent Aoraki Mount Cook National Park – part of UNESCO’s Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage region. Dominating the park is Australasia’s highest mountain Aoraki Mount Cook (3,724m).
Mount Cook was also Sir Edmund Hillary’s practice ground before he successfully scaled Mount Everest. Climbing it is only recommended for serious mountaineers, but take a walk on one of New Zealand’s most famous routes: the Hooker Valley Track, where you will see the mountain in all of its glory.
One of the most unique things about Mackenzie is that its skies are almost totally free from artificial light pollution; it’s one of the best places to stargaze on Earth, according to the Dark-Sky Association and has been recognised as the world’s largest gold status International Dark Sky Reserve.
What else to look forward to in Mackenzie:
- Tekapo Springs hot pools
For ultimate relaxation take a dip in Tekapo Springs at the base of Mount John. Open 364 days a year, there’s no reason to miss it off of your itinerary.
- Tasman Lake
If you’re wanting to come face to face with an iceberg, take a cruise on Tasman Lake. Icebergs of all shapes and sizes sit on the lake after breaking away from the glacier.
At the top of the South Island is the picturesque Marlborough Sounds, which accounts for 20% of the country’s coastline. The three different sounds are Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru, Pelorus with some areas being able to be explored by boat, in the car, on foot or mountain biking.
Waiting for you in Marlborough:
- Dolphin watching and swimming
There have been no captive dolphins in New Zealand since 2008, so for a special experience, swim and watch dolphins in their natural environment of the Marlborough Sounds.
The waterways of the Marlborough Sounds are amazing for sea kayakers to explore the beautiful surroundings, with seals, dolphins and penguins a common sight in the area.
There are a range of walks to choose from for all abilities. The most iconic walk is the Queen Charlotte Track.
If you’re after the ultimate experience where you can explore the lows of the lakes and the highs of the mountains, the South Island of New Zealand is the perfect destination.