Best Destinations in the South Island of New Zealand


The South Island's Top Tourist Attractions

The South Island is the jewel of New Zealand, showcasing some of the most contrasting natural environments you’ll ever see. There’s everything from ancient glaciers to vast golden beaches, majestic sounds carving through sky-­scraping mountains to lush rolling farmland.

Below, Top Tourist Attractions to help you plan the best South Island itinerary for your journey ‘down under’...

Location Map

Map of the south islands to tourist ativities

Abel Tasman National Park

This coastal paradise mixes the best of both worlds – enjoy leisurely activities like sunbathing and snorkeling on secluded beaches, or get your heart pumping on hikes like the 3-­5 day Abel Tasman Coastal Track, which climbs around the headland and through the wilderness commanding coastal vistas and native wildlife at every turn.

Kayaking adventure abel tasman

Kaikoura Whale Watching

The rugged coastline of Kaikoura, nestled between the powerful Pacific and the snow-capped Southern Alps, is home to an abundance of marine life including the Giant Sperm Whale, Fur Seals, Dusky Dolphins and Wandering Albatross – just to name a few! A whale-­watching cruise is a top tourist attraction in the South Island; it is a once-­in-­a-lifetime opportunity to feel the splashes on your face as a giant sperm whale launches from the azure ocean then belly-­flops down into the depths of its natural habitat.

Whales in Kaikoura

Star-­gazing at Mount Cook

Far from the big city lights, the unpolluted atmosphere of Mount Cook provides one of the clearest skies for star-­gazing – and, yes, it is as romantic as it sounds. At the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, informative guides introduce you to the Southern Cross, the Milky Way and beyond. Rug up, as you can also venture outdoors for a more intimate experience. Let your eyes adjust to the deep, dark night then explore the infinite southern sky with your naked eye.

Star Gazing Mt Cook

Milford Sound

As one of New Zealand’s grandest landscapes, Milford Sound is truly breathtaking. By taking a kayak tour or boat cruise, you will be in the midst of Milford’s majesty, where waterfalls torrent from the blackest granite cliffs, low mist encapsulates the looming Darran Mountain peaks and local seals and dolphins perform their best tricks.

Milford Sound

Bungy Jumping, Queenstown

Do you have what it takes to tackle one of Queenstown’s most extreme activities? The Nevis Bungy is Australasia’s tallest drop at 440ft. Discover why Queenstown is the ‘adventure capital of the world’ by facing your fears, diving head first toward the rushing Nevis River and conquering the 8.5-second freefall – there is no other rush like it.

Bungee Jump

Day Walk on the Routeburn Track

The Routeburn Track links Mount Aspiring National Park with Fiordland National Park and has some of the best scenery on offer in New Zealand. To fully experience it, lace up your hiking boots and explore the vast valleys, mirror-like lakes and cascading waterfalls of this once glacial environment. Keep a lookout for the abundance of wildlife in the area, including the world s only alpine parrot, the cheeky New Zealand Kea.

The Routeburn Track
First Light Travel

 As New Zealanders specializing in self-­drive holidays, First Light Travel are the experts when it comes to producing a boutique itinerary just for you. If you are inspired to experience the top tourist attractions in the South Island plus more, give us call so we can help to make your New Zealand bucket list vacation a reality.

Would you like to add one of these great excursions to your dream New Zealand holiday? To receive a free, no obligation, personalised itinerary - just follow the link and answer a few brief questions.

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Elizabeth Marshall
Elizabeth Marshall
: 2 May 2017 (Last updated: 16 Feb 2024)

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