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South Island

Destination Information

The easiest way to get to the South Island (if you’re not taking the interisland ferry of course) is to fly into Christchurch. International flights in and out on a daily basis make it a super accessible location. From here, you can venture out to Kaikoura to swim with wild dolphins or head south to visit Mt. Cook.

Mt. Cook is home to the highest peak in New Zealand, made famous by Sir Edmund Hillary who used this as his training ground before giving Mount Everest a bash. Take a cruisy hike to the base and get a few epic shots. Just a taste for what’s to come.

Able Tasman

This place is a mind-blower. Known to many as being ‘The Gem’ of New Zealand and you can see why.

Exploring here is best combined with a mixture of land and sea. Taking a hike through the vast rainforest that fringe the water edge offers views that are simply a different gear. Our favorite way of seeing Abel Tasman is to jump aboard a local water taxi or if you’re feeling adventurous, hire a kayak and go for a paddle.

There are a few top-notch spots to stay the night in Able Tasman, but we’d suggest throwing up a tent and camping out in the National Park. Check out Bark Bay Campground and let us know how you go.

Franz Josef & Fox Glacier

No trip down south is complete without a journey across the West Coast Glaciers. Whether it’s The Fox or The Franz Josef, you’ll be in for a treat. The best way to see these beauties is no doubt with a combination of walking and taking to the air in a helicopter.

For those on a budget, we’d recommend walking to the base of Franz Josef Glacier. Unfortunately, without booking on to a tour, you are unable to walk across the glacier face.

If you’re after an experience, then hop on board a heli-hike. Explore the region from the sky and enjoy a take-off and landing on top of the glacier. Try out their crampons and hiking boots as you carve your way through the ice on an awesome, locally guided hike.

After a day on the ice, head into town and check yourself in at the Glacier Hot Pools. No better way to warm up at the end of your trip.

Deep South

If you’re planning on getting deep, there’s no better place than the deep south. Home to Dunedin, the 2nd largest city in New Zealand, this Scottish-inspired city will have you feelin’ like the cast of Braveheart.

Bluff is home to shark cage diving. For those wanting a thrilling experience, the cold water might just be enough. With close to freezing cold temperatures during winter, this place is the perfect home to the Great White Shark. Don’t believe us? Book a tour and see for yourself.

Take a 30km boat trip across the Foveaux Strait and head for Stewart Island. Geographically, this is the coldest, deepest, most southern point of the country. It places you roughly halfway between the equator and the south pole. It’s fair to say it gets pretty chilly here in the winter! With beautiful scenery around every corner, it’s not one to be missed.

Christchurch

Christchurch is the city of exploration, where urban regeneration and heritage thrive. The city is constantly evolving, always giving locals and visitors something new to explore. Expect street art and innovative projects, a bustling hospitality scene, and established green spaces.

The central city is filled with cutting-edge architecture alongside some of the oldest buildings in New Zealand. The Avon River intersects the city, bringing a natural landscape to the urban environment. Christchurch is the basecamp for South Island exploration, with the Banks Peninsula within reach, as well as the stunning Southern Alps and famed Canterbury Plains.

The surrounding Canterbury region offers visitors unforgettable journeys and picturesque towns, zen-like retreats and thrill-seeking opportunities. Definitely escape to Hanmer Springs for a thermal soak, or north to Kaikoura to encounter the local wildlife. Everything you want to see in New Zealand can be offered in Christchurch.

Marlborough Sounds

Covering one-fifth of New Zealand’s coastline, the Marlborough Sounds is a mecca for all things coastal. As a haven for wildlife, a treat for landscape lovers, and an area steeped in history, the Marlborough Sounds makes the perfect setting for some activities. Whether you are into mountain biking, hiking, watching wildlife, or just relaxing, you’ll certainly find some awesome days ahead here.

Located at the north point of the South Island, the Marlborough Sounds are typically accessed via Picton and Havelock. Many travelers’ first introduction to the sounds is when they take the ferry between Picton and Wellington. Believe us, the stunning mountainous hills rolling into the ocean is just the beginning of this beauty. Be prepared to witness some of the unexpected, including swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat, a trip to historic Ship Cove, kayaking or hiking in Okiwi Bay, take the Cook Strait Ferry through the the channel that separates the North and South Islands, and many more.

South Island Tours

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Great Value Kiwi Experience Southern Round Up Bus Pass

Kiwi Experience Southern Round Up Bus Pass

Hop on board the Kiwi Experience Southern Round Up hop on hop off bus to see the absolute best of New Zealand's South Island.

  • Best of South Island
  • See Glaciers And Fiords
  • Like Minded Travellers
  • Hop On Hop Off
Most Popular Kiwi Experience Funky Chicken Bus Pass

Kiwi Experience Funky Chicken Bus Pass

Hop on board the Kiwi Experience Funky Chicken hop on hop off bus to see the absolute best of New Zealand's north and south islands.

  • Travel New Zealand
  • 21 Day Minimum Travel
  • North And South Island
  • Hop On Hop Off
AJ Hackett Nevis Catapult

AJ Hackett Nevis Catapult

The Nevis Catapult is one of the must-do's in New Zealand. Soar through the air across 150m on this adrenaline filed experience with AJ Hackett.

  • World's Most Famous 300m Swing
  • Swing Forward, Backwards, or Upside Down
  • Solo or Tandem Option
  • 4WD Bus Return Transfer from Queenstown Bungy Centre
Intro Tour 17 Day New Zealand Adventure Tour

17 Day New Zealand Adventure Tour

Experience the North and Sound Island with this amazing New Zealand tour. Make friends, submerge yourself in culture and get set up for life in NZ!

  • Waitomo Caves, Milford Sound, & Maori Experience
  • City, Nature, & Party
  • From Auckland to Queenstown
  • Epic Group Trip
Most Popular 9 Day New Zealand South Island Adventure

9 Day New Zealand South Island Adventure

Travel the incredible North Island of New Zealand on the best 9 day North Island tour. Eat, drink, and get ready for work and play in NZ.

  • Milford Sound, Lake Tekapo, & Mt Cook
  • Start & Finish: Queenstown
  • Epic Group Trip
  • NZ South Island Loop
Intro Tour 17 Day New Zealand Intro Tour

17 Day New Zealand Intro Tour

Experience the North and Sound Island with this amazing New Zealand tour. Make friends, submerge yourself in culture and get set up for life in NZ!

  • Adventure, Wilderness, Fun
  • Get Ready to Work in New Zealand
  • Start in Auckland, End in Queenstown
  • NZ Group Tour
Backpacker Favourite 9 Day New Zealand South Island Intro Tour

9 Day New Zealand South Island Intro Tour

Explore New Zealand's South Island with the best fully guided intro tour in NZ. Explore, connect, and adventure for 9 days around Queenstown, Milford Sound & more.

  • Milford Sound, Kayak Tour, Hooker Valley Hike
  • Queenstown, Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook
  • Get Ready to Work in New Zealand
  • NZ South Island Group Tour
Adrenaline Experience Abel Tasman Remote Marine Reserve Tour

Abel Tasman Remote Marine Reserve Tour

The best one day kayak trip using the tide to explore the best of the park on any given day. Join Abel Tasman Sea Kayaks for a stunning day trip that covers the entire marine reserve from start to finish. This stunning trip has been tailored around the tide timetable to explore the marine reserve to the fullest. And better yet, you have two departure choices to get your nature fix. That’s right, two different routes to try out. Option 1 is from Awaroa to finishing at Bark Bay. Starting at Awaroa, courtesy of a water taxi transfer, visit Shag…

  • Marine Reserve Kayaking
  • Enjoy A Beach Lunch
  • Stunning Views Of Abel Tasman
Wildlife Kayak Tour Abel Tasman Seal Sanctuary

Abel Tasman Seal Sanctuary

Get amongst an afternoon trip exploring Adele Island and the famous Seal Colony. Start with a scenic water taxi ride to Observation Beach before exploring the surrounding coastline by kayak. Paddle out to Adele & Fisherman Islands and observe the antics of the resident New Zealand Fur Seals, Kekeno, and watch out for little Blue Penguins too! You will have ample time to spend with the playful Kekeno who call the island home. This short but sweet tour of the southern end of the Abel Tasman allows enough time to soak up the quintessential Abel Tasman coastline before arriving back…

  • Experienced Tour Guides
  • Cute Wildlife
  • Perfect For Mates
  • Adventure Kayaking
Hiking & Kayaking Abel Tasman Sea Kayaks – Kayak & Walk

Abel Tasman Sea Kayaks – Kayak & Walk

The Abel Tasman Sea Kayaks interpretation of the environment is renowned and gives you the knowledge to see beyond the obvious beauty of the area. Embark on a guided kayak adventure from Marahau to Observation Beach, catch glimpses of the coastal track, and experience the magic of the Astrolabe Islands. Once finished, enjoy a great lunch before switching over to hiking. Discover clear streams, native bush and incredible views over the Astrolabe from the coastal track. The team runs two walking and kayaking combinations in the southern end of the Abel Tasman. Our other trip is the Kayak & Pitt…

  • Experienced Tour Guides
  • Fringing Coastline Sites
  • Hiking Included
  • Adventure Kayaking
Swim With Dolphins Dolphin Encounter Swim

Dolphin Encounter Swim

Dolphins are some of nature’s most beautiful and captivating animals on the planet and they’re even more amazing close-up. Why not put yourself in their world with Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura, an unforgettable experience in one of New Zealand’s most breath-taking destinations. One of the best places in the world to encounter dolphins in the wild! Encounter Kaikoura operates on the dolphins’ terms. You can swim with the dolphins in their natural environment or watch their acrobatic displays form the comfort of the boat. There is a limit of just 16 swimmers on each vessel with plenty of additional space for…

  • All Safety Gear Provided
  • 3.5 Hour Boat Cruise
  • Amazing Photo Opportunites
  • Snorkel With Dolphins
Kayak Adventure Abel Tasman Sea Kayaks Two Day Classic

Abel Tasman Sea Kayaks Two Day Classic

This is the tour if you’re short on time and want to combine some kayaking with a day or two of hiking. The Two Day Classic really is the perfect holiday for the land and sea adventurers. Kayak the coastline from beautiful Awaroa in the North back to Marahau. Free your mind and immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the Abel Tasman National Park as you experience it all from paddling with seals, relaxing on quiet hidden beaches, exploring lagoons, islands and Maori Pa village sites to learning about local history and lore. It’s a relaxing, lush and memorable…

  • Experienced Tour Guides
  • Overnight Beachside Camping
  • Amazing Photo Opportunities
  • Adventure Kayaking
Stargazing Experience Dark Sky Crater Experience

Dark Sky Crater Experience

Stargazing from Cowan’s Private Observatory, tucked away in a purpose-built crater is one of the best relaxing activities at night in Queenstown. Designed specifically with stargazing in mind, the Crater Experience is the ideal stargazing experience in Takapō. Discover the depths of the world renowned Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve from a purpose-built observation deck, which is sheltered from the cold wind and light pollution so your eyes get to gaze upon rare atmospheric beauty you don’t really get to see in crowded areas. Explore the endless Southern skies from the observatory dome, and through a 14” telescope, observe…

  • Professional Astronomer Guides
  • Scenic Night Views
  • Purpose Built Observatory Viewing
  • Great For Groups
Great Value Twin Glacier Flight

Twin Glacier Flight

From Franz Josef Village, hop in your helicopter with your wonderful and experienced pilots who will take you up into the sky over the mountain ranges. Once in the air, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier all in one go without a worry in site. First, you will fly over all of the local townships in the area then up to the mountain tops to view both of the glaciers in all of their glory, flying up into the higher reaches. Upon reaching the top, your pilots will make a landing to allow…

  • Two Glacier Sightings
  • Experienced Pro Pilots
  • Amazing Photo Opportunites
  • Alpine Landing For Views
NZ'S Longest Glacier Tasman Heli Hike

Tasman Heli Hike

All aboard a trip of a lifetime as your board with Helicopter Line onto New Zealand’s longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier! This is no extreme feat at all.. This adventure is definitely for those who have had some experience with altitude and hiking, but it is not a very difficult path. No need to fear as that’s where your experienced local guides come in to help you kick this hike in the butt without a sweat. Well…maybe a few bits of sweat. On your 2 hour hiking tour, you’ll be able to explore some fascinating natural sights and glacial ice…

  • Experienced Tour Guides
  • Scenic Mountain Views
  • Amazing Photo Opportunities
  • Great For Groups
Glacier Hiking Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike

Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike

The Franz Josef Glacier helicopter Heli Hike is a once in a lifetime experience that should not be missed. From the moment you step on board the Franz Josef chopper, your experience will be unforgettable. Franz Josef heli hikes offer an amazing opportunity to explore one of the most spectacular Glaciers in New Zealand. You can expect your breath to be taken away with stunning views and the surroundings of the Franz Josef Glacier. The adventure starts with getting kitted up to explore the Glacier with specially designed overalls and boots. Once kitted up, jump in the chopper and have…

  • Experienced Local Guides
  • Glacier Hikin Tour
  • Amazing Photo Opportunities
  • Best For Active People
Wildlife Sightseeing Whale Watch Kaikoura

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Whale Watch is New Zealand’s only vessel based whale watching company offering an exciting up-close encounter. Operating at all times of the year, Whale Watch Kaikoura is the best experience on the South Island to see the biggest creatures of the sea, making for an extraordinarily magical experience. The experience is definitely one of the books and makes for a special outing, with around 1-2 whale sightings per session. Giant Sperm Whales are usually the stars of the show and are the popular year round residents, but you can expect to see several other species on this unique tour including:…

  • Experienced Guides
  • 2 Hour Boat Cruise
  • Scenic Photo Views
  • Marine Life Sightings
Eco Friendly Tour Abel Tasman Soul Food

Abel Tasman Soul Food

This is the most environmentally friendly trip on offer from the team at Abel Tasman Sea Kayaks. The forest-fringed Astrolabe offers the highest concentration of golden sandy beaches in the Abel Tasman to explore. The highlight of this trip is visiting Adele Island sanctuary, home to an array of protected native birds and a popular hang out for NZ fur seals. A plethora of bird sounds is unique to the Island, and as this trip is 100% paddle power, so you are guaranteed to reduce your carbon footprint. If conditions permit, kayak-sail back into Marahau on the afternoon sea breeze.…

  • Experienced Tour
  • Fringing Coastline
  • Perfect For Mates
  • Adventure Kayaking

Frequently asked questions

Where is New Zealand's South Island?

The larger of New Zealand’s islands located south of the North Island. The South Island is known for its outdoorsy sports, extraordinary landscapes, beautiful scenery, fiords, glaciers, and wildlife.

What is the South Island's weather like?

Though the North Island is certainly warmer of the two, the South Island still heats up in summer. When it comes to winter, the South Island gets a bit colder and drier, with temperatures dropping as far as into minus.

Is the South Island appropriate to travel around in a campervan?

100%!. The South Island will leave you absolutely in awe with its eye cracking scenery. We definitely recommend travelling South Island in a campervan, because we don’t think there’s any other way to do it.

Is the South Island safe?

The South Island features s=low crime and geological stability. Travellers love Queenstown’s cosmopolitan feel, stunning scenery, and sightly architecture.

What is the best time to visit the South Island?

The weather and season are extremely important to those seeking certain activities throughout the year. You can find skiing and snowboarding to be done in the winter between July and October. At other times, especially in the summer, you can visit beautiful sights such as Abel Tasman.

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