Jessica Verme's 4-week NZ self-drive holiday guide concludes in the South Island. Be inspired by her round-up of South Island highlights: from world-renowned natural wonders to lesser-known hidden gems, you'll find plenty of worthy additions to your NZ bucket list below.

Cape Foulwind

South Island

Marlborough Sounds

A good way to explore the Marlborough Sounds is by participating in a dolphin watch and scenic cruise. E-Ko Tours organizes this experience from Picton and guides will be constantly on the lookout to spot dolphins for you to see and will take you places where you can do some snorkeling.

Abel Tasman Kayaks

Spend half a day on a guided kayak and water taxi tour. Paddle (in groups of two) in the morning in the incredible Abel Tasman reserve, spot some seals and stop on a deserted island to relax. After lunch provided by the tour group, a water taxi takes you back to the departure point. This activity is suitable even if you’ve never kayaked before.

Wharariki Beach

Wharariki Beach is the northernmost point of the South Island. The sandy beach is accessible via a 20 minutes unusual walk across farmland and a kind of sand forest. The place is very windy but it is nice to walk on the beach, see the arches and if you are lucky you may spot some seals on the rocks.

Cape Foulwind (Seals colony)

Cape Foulwind coastal walkway offers the chance to see a seal colony, a lighthouse and enjoy panoramic views of the mountains and the beach.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes

The Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes track is only a 20 minutes walk. These unique geological formations on the coastline take the shape of a stack of pancakes as you may have guessed. In between the pancake columns, there are some tiny empty spaces that when filled with ocean water it creates a natural spectacular water show by blowing the water into the air like a geyser would do, and this is known as a blowhole.

TranzAlpine Train

The TranzAlpine train ride takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch, from the West to the East coast of the South Island. This scenic train journey lasts 4 hours and takes you into an incredible landscape filled with rivers, mountains, gorges.

Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are spherical rocks along Koekohe beach. This is a quick visit and the best time to go there is during low tide, so don’t forget to check the tides times on the MetService website before going there. A parking and a café and a small souvenir shop is available on site.

Tunnel Beach

Tunnel Beach is an impressive beach situated near Dunedin. The walkway down takes around 25 minutes and count a bit more to go back up. Throughout the descent you will admire the ocean and the different rock formations. At the end of the walkway is a tunnel through which you have to go to access the beach and stand in front of the ocean and the magnificent cliffs that surrounds it.

Te Anau & Milford Sound

Te Anau, the gateway to the majestic Milford Sound! The town is located on the lakeside with beautiful mountains just across the lake. From there, a bus will take you on a journey across land and nature, making stops, to finally reach Milford Sound, where you will embark on a cruise.

The large fjord is surrounded by breathtaking views of mountains, waterfalls, and rainforest.

Queenstown

Queenstown is the ultimate adventure capital of New Zealand. Rafting, paragliding, bungy jumping and much more awaits you in this city. For people who want to take is slow, the Skyline’s gondola will carry you high above the city in an adventure complex. Ride the Luge down a hill for some fun, walk, hike or simply enjoy the view from up there.

Roys Peak

The Roys Peak track is an uphill walk during 3 hours. It is certainly exhausting and requires a moderate level of fitness to climb up. But again, I’m not the best hiker and I just couldn’t stop going up that mountain just to see the incredible view overlooking Lake Wanaka and other mountains. Be patient once up there because the unique photo spot is famous and thus people queue to take a picture there. The descent is, of course, all downhill and done in 2 hours. When going down, you will obviously have the chance to appreciate the scenery much more freely than during the ascent and take countless pictures (as your face may look better without all that redness and sweat from the physical effort)

Overview

If you are still hesitating between a beach holiday, a mountain escapade or embarking on a thrilling adventure, don’t hesitate any longer and let New Zealand’s beauty (sandy beaches, snow-covered mountains, rivers, lakes, plains, …) take you on an unforgettable journey.

I hope this article and the pictures have convinced you to immediately pack your bags and go visit New Zealand! If they didn’t, then I don’t know what more I can say about this amazing country except that Kiwis (the New Zealanders) are the sweetest as people I know and the funniest and that you may encounter more sheep than actual people there (joke).

My South Island Tour Map

NOTE

We hope you enjoyed reading Jessica's travel blog as much as we did. If you're interested in following a similar itinerary, we have more self-drive suggestions here.

Our experienced Travel Specialists understand that each family is completely unique - tell us all about your New Zealand dream holiday and we'll design a tailor-made itinerary that is guaranteed to impress!

Read Jessica's Guide to the North Island.

 Jessica Verme
Submitted by
Jessica Verme
: 5 Aug 2019 (Last updated: 10 Sep 2019)

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