Top20 Best Things to do in New Zealand’s South Island

New Zealand's South Island


The South Island of New Zealand is a remarkable place. From the Southern Alps to Rakiura National Park, it’s home to some of the country’s most iconic natural landmarks and historic sites. It also boasts a wide range of activities for every traveler from adrenaline junkies who want to ride the rapids in kayaks or helicopters, to those seeking more relaxing pastimes like exploring wineries and breweries or strolling along West Coast beaches as the sun rises over rugged surf breaks pelted by waves and spray.

Explore the Remarkables Mountain Range on a heli-hike

  • The Remarkables mountain range is located northwest of Queenstown. It’s made up of three mountains: Mt Remarkable (2,288m), Mt James Craig (2,269m), and Stag Mountain (1,970m).
  • The best things to do in the Remarkables include hiking from Cardrona township to Mountaineer Falls or exploring remote valleys on horseback. You can also have an exhilarating experience by going for a jet boat ride through Lake Wakatipu with Cruise Port Motel and Lakeside Motel.
  • The best spots to see the Remarkables include Lake Wakatipu from above on a flightseeing tour; hiking between Cardrona and Wanaka along an old mining track, or paddling down the Kawarau River on an eco-tour with Kiwi Cruise Adventures & Rafting Queenstown.
  • If you want to visit during winter, November through February offers great skiing conditions but it can get very cold!

Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

  • The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is located just north of Oamaru on New Zealand’s South Island.
  • This is the only penguin species that breeds in New Zealand and it’s also one of only two species that breed in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • The blue penguin population is estimated to be around 10,000 birds and they can be found along the Otago region of the South Island – from Stewart Island down to Dunedin (about 100 miles).
  • These cute little guys are also known as fairy penguins because of their small size and blue coloring. They have an average height of about 20 inches (50 cm) and weigh between 2-4 pounds (1-2 kg). They are by far the smallest penguin species in the world!

Mount Cook National Park

Mount Cook National Park is a sprawling natural playground that includes four distinct regions: the high country vistas and braided rivers of Mount Cook Village; the tranquil glacial lakes and meadows of Mueller Hut; the rugged landscape of Hooker Valley; and the alpine tundra of Tasman Glacier. The park is home to New Zealand’s highest point, its two tallest mountains, and numerous other peaks.

It’s also home to Pudding Hill, which at 2,756 meters above sea level is just shy of 600 meters short of being an official mountain peak but with an elevation that high up in such a remote area (and close to Mount Cook Village) it feels like you’ve reached the top already when you get there! There’s not much else around but snow-capped peaks all you so if you want a little bit more solitude than what can be found elsewhere nearby then this is your spot.

Central Otago

Wine, whisky, and food are the big attractions in Central Otago. The region has a rich history of agriculture dating back to 1851 when Englishman John Campbell planted his first vineyard here. He began making wine for export to Australia and California in 1852, and by 1860 there were more than 1,400 acres of vines under cultivation.

Today you can visit all these wineries on a self-drive wine tour; they’re open daily with some offering tastings through lunchtime or longer. Alternatively, sample local produce at one of many farm gate stores around Cromwell (for example Clutha Valley Bistro), or take along your picnic basket to one of many scenic spots Lake Dunstan is popular for its hot springs and bird life as well as its views over Lake Wakatipu beyond Queenstown itself.

For a day trip from here into Central Otago’s rugged landscape head east towards Alexandra via Cromwell then turn north onto State Highway 83 where you’ll find stunning scenery without too much traffic until you reach Wanaka about 40 km later!

Visit Old Cromwell Town

The Clutha River was dammed in the 1950s, creating Lake Dunstan and flooding the town of Cromwell. As a result, this once-bustling town which was named after Governor George Grey’s wife had to be moved to higher ground. The new Old Cromwell Town is now home to numerous shops and restaurants, most of which are housed in original buildings relocated from their original location. You can also take a walk through this historic site on your own or join one of its many tours that include visits to local wineries and breweries (don’t miss tasting some award-winning rieslings).

Maori History and Traditions

The Maori culture is still very much a part of New Zealand today. Te Puia, home to the Maori people, is a great place to learn more about their history and see some of the ways they continue to practice their traditions.

The park has many different attractions that showcase the cultures, including traditional performances and cultural demonstrations. Visitors will also get an up-close look at local animals such as kiwis and tuatara lizards.

You can also explore some of New Zealand’s natural wonders here, like hot springs and geysers!

Sailboat in Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds are a large bay in the South Island that consists of many bays, inlets, and islands. The area is home to marine life, as well as many hiking trails and architectural wonders.

There are multiple ways to explore the sounds; kayaking is a great way to see marine life up close while also getting an aerial view of the area. You can also take a sailboat or go on a boat tour if you’d rather sit back and enjoy the scenery from above.

Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier

The South Island’s glaciers are awe-inspiring sights. But they look even more amazing from above! Take a scenic flight over Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier for stunning views of their craggy peaks and deep blue waters.

Alternatively, try one of these experiences:

  • Kayak on Lake Matheson or Lake Tekapo.
  • Swim with dolphins in Kaikoura.
  • Book a tour to Milford Sound.

Marlborough Brewery

Welcome to Marlborough, the world’s leading wine region. Here, you’ll find a perfect blend of art, culture, and food.

With over two dozen vineyards and wineries to tour in the region, visit some of their cellar doors and cellars to sample some of their finest wines. But that’s not all there are also plenty of delicious artisan cheeses and craft beers on offer.

Marlborough is also home to many farms with farm gates where you can enjoy local produce while taking in views over rolling green hills or stunning snowy mountain scape vistas.

WWII Historic area Milford Sound War Memorial Track

The Milford Track is a must-do activity when visiting New Zealand’s South Island. This iconic hiking trail begins in the small town of Te Anau and winds its way through the lush rainforest before ending at Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. If you’re looking for an opportunity to learn more about the area’s history, consider a visit to Milford Sound War Memorial Track a walking track that offers visitors an insight into how people in this remote part of New Zealand lived during World War II.

A part of the larger Te Araroa Trail, which runs from Cape Reinga all along New Zealand’s coastline and up through several national parks until reaching Bluff on South Island’s east coast, this walking track takes travelers on an easy 2km loop that explores old war relics found scattered around the parkland surrounding Lake Surprise along with other historical sites like caves used by early European explorers. The walk also connects visitors with various viewpoints overlooking Lake Surprise and neighboring mountains before returning them to where they started (or their vehicle).

Mt Aspiring National Park

Fly into the heart of Mt Aspiring National Park via helicopter to reach the park’s most isolated backcountry huts.

The helicopter ride is a great way to start your journey, as it will take you through the spectacular Southern Alps. When you land in Aoraki/Mt Cook Village, you can begin exploring on foot or by bike along its trails and tracks.

West Coast beaches

Head to a beach early in the morning and watch the sun rise over rugged surf breaks pelted by waves and spray. The West Coast has some of New Zealand’s best beaches, so if you’re looking to get up close and personal with nature, these are the places to go.

South Island and Amazing things

You will have the opportunity to experience New Zealand’s natural wonders and learn about its rich history.

There are several things to do in South Island, New Zealand. It is packed with amazing things to do including nature, historic sites, sporting events, wineries, and breweries!

The most important thing you can do is make sure your trip is safe and enjoyable by knowing what activities are available in the area before heading out.


We hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about all the best things to do on New Zealand’s South Island. From exploring remote hiking trails to spotting some of the world’s rarest penguins, there are so many incredible opportunities here for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike! Whether you want to get close-up with nature or learn more about its history, there is something for everyone at each location listed above. We wish you all safe travels on your next trip and remember: it’s always worth it in the end!

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