New Zealand’s Southern Island is renowned for its remarkable landscape. From the mountains high up in the clouds to the stunning coastline, this part of New Zealand is any travelers utopia. The dramatic and beautiful landscape is paradise for both thrill seekers and those looking to relax – this wonderland really does seem to accommodate everyone. Here’s my top 11 things to experience in New Zealand’s South Island.
Fiordland National Park
The Fiordland National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This stunning place is home to both the Milford and Doubtful Sounds which can be experienced by boat cruise, helicopter tour or on foot. The sheer cliffs that rise from the dark and mysterious waters and the waterfalls that cascade down them make for amazing photo opportunities. These places are so magical that they’ve been described as the eighth wonder of the world.
The Marlborough Sounds
900+ miles of breathtaking New Zealand coastline, home to secret bays, marine reserves and saturated in history – that pretty much sums up the Marlborough Sounds. It’s best to explore this beauty by boat cruise but you can also take a kayak and make your own way around this natural wonder. The most amazing part about the Marlborough Sounds are the small island sanctuaries that are home to many kiwi and native wildlife species.
Mount Cook, also known to locals as Aoraki, is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. It stands at 3,724 meters tall. Remarkably, in 2014 it suffered a landslide and the consequent erosion took 40m off its total height – but regardless, it remains the tallest! Perhaps this mountains biggest claim to fame is that Sir Edmund Hillary practiced his climbing skills here before conquering Mount Everest. The Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is perhaps as alpine as New Zealand gets. Mountain peaks in the clouds, glaciers, snow fields, crystal clear blue lakes.
Can it really get any better than this? Yes – yes it can. A trip here wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Mount John Observatory – the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world where you’ll be able to witness incredible starlit skies.
Larnach Castle in Dunedin
Well how about discovering the one and only castle in Australasia? William Larnach built the Larnach Castle in 1871. With a magnificent 3,000 square foot ballroom, a tower overlooking the Otago Peninsula and Victorian style gardens that are second to none, this is a must see whether your a history geek or not.
Bird Watching On Stewart Island
The biggest and most diverse population of birds in New Zealand is housed on none other than Stewart Island. Species of kaka, albatross, penguins, weka and even kiwis can be spotted on this island sanctuary. On Stewart Island, there’s a staggering 150 miles of tracks that weave in and out of the rain forest and coastline, so you’ll be spending plenty of time outdoors trying to spot these magnificent creatures. You can go off an explore at your own pace or choose a guide to show you all the hidden treasures of the island.
Christchurch Street Art Trail
Whether your an art fanatic or not, the Christchurch Street Art Trail is not something you can afford to miss seeing. This amazing town inspires, promotes and encourages creativity with vibrant and magnificent artwork around every corner. Admire these creative pieces and then stop in one of Christchurch’s many cafe’s for a bite to eat before hitting the road to explore the rest of New Zealand’s Southern Island.
I admit it – deep down, I’m a Middle Earth fan. The rolling hills of the Shire from the famous trilogy, Lord of the Rings, were brought to life in New Zealand. South Island filming locations include the mountain town of Twizel, Mount Cook, Queenstown, the alpine village of Wanaka and the glorious Fiordland National Park, to name a few. There are countless beautiful filming backdrops in New Zealand’s South Island.Make sure you make your reservation before you get there. I’ve made mine. I’m very excited about seeing this attraction.
Glow Worm Caves
For a totally natural underworld adventure, Waitomo and the fascinating cave systems of Te Anau are great glow worm cave experiences. These fascinating creatures provide a starry night sky even on the cloudiest of evenings. The beauty of these naturally formed caves coupled with the magic of the glow worms makes for a fairytale-like experience.
Fox glacier is the name given to a secluded glacier and its nearby town in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s Southern Island. It’s a prime location for hiking and soaking in gorgeous mountain scenery. If you’re feeling super adventurous, you can even take a helicopter flight over Fox Glacier and enjoy a birds-eye view of this frozen wonder.
Also known as the Adventure Capital of New Zealand, the lakeside resort of Queenstown is not something I intend to miss out on! It seems like this is the one spot on earth where all the thrill seekers of the world decided to congregate. From jet boating to quad biking, white water rafting, bungee jumping – even skydiving and canyon swings, there are a magnitude of things you could tick off your bucket list in this adventure wonderland.
Mount Aspiring National Park
From the fast pace of Queenstown to the calming environment of Mount Aspiring National Park. Of course, there’s no shortage of skyscraping mountains in this national park – it’s still New Zealand! But you’ll also find other breathtaking scenery in the river flats, glaciers and sapphire blue lakes. The raw and beautiful wilderness of Mount Aspiring National Park is something that is raved about! There are also numerous opportunities to pursue outdoor activities like jet boating, hiking and even flights.
I’m raring to get on a plane and go discover the hidden treasures of New Zealand’s South Island! I’ve heard nothing but remarkable things about this place and can’t wait to experience it all for myself. My only worry is that I won’t have enough time in this paradise to really soak in everything it has to offer. I will be jetting off soon (not nearly soon enough) and will update you with another blog post about my experience once I return!