New Zealand’s South Island is home to some of the most beautiful sights in the world, as well as some amazing opportunities for adventure. Make sure you don’t miss out on any of them!

New Zealand is an incredibly beautiful country and Auckland is an incredibly amazing city. However, once you leave the city life of the North Island and head south, you’ll soon find yourself questioning why you spent so much time in the city.  New Zealand’s South Island is easily rated the more beautiful of the two islands.The landscapes range from snowy glaciers to crystal clear crater lakes. You will find views of hand gliders gliding over Queenstown and witness mighty whales as they prepare for their deep dive. I traveled the south island for a month and a half and had an absolutely amazing time, words cannot even describe. Below is a list of all of my favorite activities and places to see in the South Island of New Zealand!

1. Nelson Lakes

Nelson Lakes National park was formed in 1956 and it covers 1,020 square Kilometres.  It features Lake Rotoiti; a lake with water so crystal clear and fresh that you could drop something into the lake and see it for up to 18ft below the surface before you lost sight of it (so scientists discovered during an experiment in the centre of the lake). At the lake you can take some iconic photographs of yourself jumping in, feed the ducks or even take a swim with the eels.

new zealand's south island

I visited this lake and made my photograph in the middle of winter. It was 9 am and there was frost coating the ground. I jumped in my bikini, with a water temperature of 5 degrees! It was way deeper than it looked because the water was so clear but it was a really refreshing way to start the morning!

2. Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef is an adorable little town with a population of about 100 people! It is so small it has a voluntary fire service and only one fire engine. In the town of Franz Josef, sits the Franz Josef Glacier. You can either hike on and around the glacier or take a helicopter tour to view it from the sky. I hiked the glacier and it was great fun! You have to wear a minimum of 6 layers and you are given crampons to strap on your shoes to help you keep your grip. The views are stunning and you’re surrounded by snow and ice which contrasts the greenery/rockery on the mountains which boarder the glacier. This looks great on photographs! My glacier guide told me to keep an eye out for goats as they seemed to enjoy climbing the steep mountains either side of the glacier and watching the glacier guides hike and maintain the trails. It’s such a bizarre feeling standing on so many layers of ice and watching the guide’s pickax their way through some of the smallest of gaps. You will also see how the glacier is slowly melting and retreating. I witnessed a huge chunk of snow fall from the top of the glacier and come crashing down quite a distance behind me. It is a constant reminder that we should protect the planet to help preserve these glaciers as well as a bold reminder you’re actually standing on just layers and layers of purely frozen water.  This is definitely one of my favorite places to visit in the south island.

New Zealand's South Island

3. Kaikoura Dolphin Swim and Whale watching

Kaikoura may be under construction for a while after being damaged by the recent earthquake in New Zealand however it is a great place to observe seals and their babies as well as Whales. Luckily during the earthquake, the intelligent animals must have left the shores as the earthquake damaged their “Seal nursery”(a waterfall where the baby seals would play whilst their parents laid on the beaches) and the roads.  Thankfully, the animals have now returned but they’re still adapting to the new changes to their environment. You can snorkel with some of the friendliest and playful dolphins that I have ever met. They aren’t afraid to swim right up to your face either!  You can reach out and touch them if you like as you film with your underwater camera.  You can improve your snorkeling skills too by diving down to further attract the dolphin’s attention.

New Zealand's South Island

Once you’ve played with the Dolphins, you can take a boat trip to see some of the local whales. The guides recall the name of each whale based purely on their tail. You will learn some fun facts, get great photographs and witness the huge splash as the Whale’s flip their tails to prepare for their grand deep dive.  This is an amazing activity to participate in!

4. Christchurch

Similarly to Kairkoura, Christchurch is still recovering from an earthquake which badly damaged the city. Although the city is still rebuilding itself, there is still a lot to be learnt. With groovy graffiti around the city that spreads positivity and promotes the rebuild, a unique shopping mall called Re:Start, which is made from shipping containers and is where the emergency services were based during the crisis of the Earthquake, Christchurch definitely gets my vote for being the most creative and open minded city in New Zealand.  You can take a tour around the “Red Zone” and see the result of the earthquake on some buildings which haven’t yet being restored such as the Cathedral, although this can be truly heart-breaking to see the damage.   You can also leave a message and light a candle at the “white chairs” memorial for all those who lost their lives in the earthquake. Although this city has lost so much, it is still definitely worth a visit as it will give you deeper perspective and their positivity will rub off on you!

New Zealand's South Island


Last but not least, Queenstown. The adrenaline capital of New Zealand! I’m sure you’ve heard about Queenstown a million times but still, it’s really is worth the visit. You can taste the best burger in the world (The fergburger), although according to locals the best is The Devil Burger. You can complete a bungy with a great view of the city at day or night. If that’s not enough you can complete the third highest bungy in the world The Nevis Bungy which stands at 134ft! You can go lunging or even take to the slopes to improve your snowboarding or skiing! Don’t worry though, if you’re looking for something a little less adrenaline-pumping check out 5 Things to Do in Queensland for the Less Adventurous

New Zealand's South Island

These were my top 5 favorite things to do in New Zealand’s South Island, and I hope you enjoy them too! If you are planning on venturing to the “other side” read up on the Top Things to Do in New Zealand’s North Island. Happy travels!

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    About Amelia-Jayne Banks