- Discover South Island
Picton | Blenheim | Kaikoura | Nelson | Abel Tasman National Park | Paparoa NP | Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers | Queenstown | Going out | Wananka | Milford Sound | Lake Tekapo | Mt Cook | Dunedin | Christchurch |
The South Island is quite different from the North Island and many believe it to be more beautiful.
Off the ferry, you will arrive in Picton, a small port. If you're not in a rush there are a few things to do. Arriving on the boat you will sail through the sound and be surrounded by mountains rising out of the sea. This is a taste of this beautiful region.
Blenheim is the place to go if you enjoy your wine. The biggest wine growing district in NZ, it holds the Wine Marlborough Festival on the second week of February.
Famous for whale watching, Kaikoura is absolutely beautiful. At different times of the year you will see different types of whales. Sperm whales are a big attraction as well as orcas and dolphins.
Nelson is quite a cultural place, with wineries, breweries, historic buildings, markets, galleries, and gardens. It's also a good place to base yourself as there are quite a few activities around the area such as skydiving and hang gliding.
Situated North West of Nelson is this NP, which is fabulous for hiking. The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is astounding. Track through green bush, flanked by beautiful beaches and turquoise seas. It's a little over 50km and may take up to 5 days. There are huts along the way but these may be full so bring your own tent. It's also very popular for sea kayaking and there are many companies offering tours in the area.
Continue on up North to Golden Bay and the Farewell Spit for some scenic driving.
In Punakaiki on the west coast you will find the pancake rocks. These are rocks that surprise surprise look like stacks of pancakes, caused by weathering of the limestone. There are also blowholes here, which are quite impressive, but are best seen at high tide.
Some of the lowest lying glaciers in the world, the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are truly highlights of this amazing country. Climb them with a tour and you will feel like you are high up in the Alps, or get a scenic flight to get a bird’s eye view. The flights also take in Mount Cook, which you can't access on the road from this side. You can get helicopter flights that land high up on the glacier, where the ice is formed better. When trekking on the ice you may actually feel the glacier move, as it moves at a rate of one metre a day or more. On your own you can walk up to the glaciers, but you're not allowed on them as it's too dangerous. The towns of Fox and Franz Josef cater for tourists.
The adventure capital of New Zealand, and maybe the world, the sheer amount of adventurous activities in Queensland is mind boggling.
There are three brilliant bungee jumps here, including the original commercial bungee site, the Kawarau Bridge. This jump is 43m high over the spectacular Kawarau River. The Ben Nevis High wire Bungee was until recently the second highest bungee jump in the world at 134m or 444ft. You take a small cable car out to the centre of the gorge where there is a pod held up by cables. Terrifying, but brilliant. Another bungee is the Ledge bungee. The jump is 40m but you are on top of a 400m high hill, so it seems that much higher. There’s also a canyon swing which is a swing across a canyon and the ledge sky swing which is similar.
White Water Rafting - Raft the Kawarau or Shotover rivers. Canyoning is going down a river without a raft basically, great fun.
Jet Boating - There are plenty of companies offering jet boating on three rivers, the popular Kawarau River, Shotover River and the probably better Dart River.
There's also skydiving, mountain biking and just about everything else you can think of.
Take the skyline gondola to the peak for some truly breathtaking views of Queenstown. At the base you will get a chance to do a luge when you get to the top. Pay for 5 or 6 as you will definitely want more than one go. It's cheaper to pay before you go up.
During the winter Queenstown turns into one of the better ski resorts in the country.
Pog Mahones (Rees Street), Winnie Bagoes (The Mall), Montys (Church Street).
Wananka is another adrenaline filled destination and just as beautiful. It's only 100km from Queenstown and is a quieter alternative.
It's a bit of a drive to Milford sound from Queenstown, around 5 hours through wilderness, surrounded by snow capped mountains. In fact the drive is one of the best things about Milford Sound. The Sound itself is quite spectacular. You can take a cruise on one of the boats or even better hire a kayak and get out there yourself. You'll be right down on the water and if you're lucky you might be joined by dolphins and fairy penguins. Paddle right up to the magnificent waterfalls that cascade down from the mountains that rise from the sea.
Get a picture of the small church, the Church of the Good Sheppard on beautiful Lake Tekapo. The lake has this unusual shade of blue which is bewitching.
The highest mountain in New Zealand, it's quite a dramatic sight. The Mt Cook NP is famous for its challenging peaks and experienced climbers from all over the world to try their hand.
People come here to go to the Otaga Peninsula which is famous for its astonishing wildlife such as the yellow eyed penguins, albatrosses and the fur seals. Dunedin itself is a decent sized city with plenty of attractions.
Christchurch is a picturesque city, much more visually pleasing than Auckland. Cathedral Square is the centre of the city; it gets its name from Christchurch Cathedral, which dominates the square. Climb the spire to get a better view of the square. The Metal Chalice, a large sculpture sits in the centre. Christchurch has its fair share of museums, galleries and a brewery. Take a tour on a tram, or gently float down the Avon River. Life is relaxed here, though there are plenty of pubs and restaurants here to keep you occupied.
There are international airports in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown.
Air New Zealand is the main domestic airline.
Intercity Coachlines are a national coach company connecting over 600 destinations nationwide, you can hop on and hop off.
Flying Kiwi Adventures are a tour bus company, a fun way of seeing the country.
Rent a campervan and drive yourself. New Zealand is small enough that you can see a large part of the country in a couple of weeks, but longer is recommended.
Why not rent a motorcycle, there are lots of motorcycle rental firms and it’s a fabulous country for motorbike riding.
The overlander – between Auckland and Wellington
The Capital Connection – Palmerston North to Auckland
The Transcoastal – Christchurch to Picton
The Transalpine – Christchurch to Greymouth (recommended)
The Ferry goes from North to South across the Cook Straight.
The NZD (New Zealand Dollar) is the national currency.
There are ATMs nationwide and EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) in most stores.
New Zealand is a peaceful country with a very low crime rate. The same advice applies here as in most countries. Be aware of your surroundings, leave valuables at home, do not walk alone at night and stick together when out drinking.
In an emergency dial 111. As in most countries you can call this number even if your phone has no credit.
There have been major earthquakes in New Zealand, such as those in Canterbury and Christchurch. In the case of an earthquake, drop to the floor. Get under a table if you can and cover your neck and head. Do not go far as you could be thrown to the ground. Do not run outside. If you are outside drop to the ground and cover your head and neck. Try to get away from trees and power lines if you can. Large earthquake are quite rare.
If you are in an accident, the Accident Compensation Corporation will cover the cost of treatment, even if you are a tourist. But you really should have travel insurance as there are many other reasons you could end up in a hospital or needing medical care. Healthcare is free for NZ residents.
There are very high standards in food and water in New Zealand.
Many campgrounds all over the country, most have very good facilities, hot showers, toilets, kitchens, electric power sites etc. Many of these campsites also have cabins to rent.
Self contained apartments. These can vary from a hotel size room to a full sized apartment.
Good quality hotels all over the country.
There is a very high standard of hostels all over the country. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable. Most hostels in New Zealand are privately owned.
You will find most of these top class lodges in areas of natural beauty.
Winters are colder in the south
Summer - December to February
Winter – May to August
Spring – August to November
Autumn – March to May