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With snow-capped mountains, glacial valleys, rugged coastline and subtropical rainforest all in the same vicinity, the South Island is a contradiction of sights and sounds - making it one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. So to help you see the very best of the area, here are our top seven ‘not-to-be-missed’ attractions.
Abel Tasman National Park. A natural playground, Abel Tasman is known for its golden beaches, inlets and private lagoons. Also home to a coastal hiking track of the same name, Abel Tasman has a mild year-round climate making it a great place to visit in any season. There is an abundance of wildlife in the park and you will have the chance to spot some of its many animal residents including native birds, bats, geckos and marine mammals.
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. A series of ‘stacked’ rocks formed over thousands of years by the compression of sand and small marine creatures - then lifted by subsequent tectonic activity. Over 30 million years old, the unique ‘pancake’ like structures are a spectacular addition to any South Island itinerary.
Franz Josef Glacier. In the heart of the West Coast glacier region, Franz Josef is a lively small town with a vibrant and bustling atmosphere and a 12km accessible glacier. Surrounded by lush rainforest clad mountains, the township is home to an abundance of outdoor activities and natural scenic attractions. Walk the valley floor to the terminal face to see the ice up close, however to go on the glacier itself or get with 100 metres you must take a licensed tour which includes a helicopter ascent and descent. Once on top you’ll have the chance to explore the crevasses, caves and ice floes - resulting in a truly memorable experience.
Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake. Take the Glacier Explorers tour on the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake to see a 500 year old glacier up close. The only tour of its kind in New Zealand and one of one of only three in the world, you’ll see towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat. Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer are accessible, so this experience is truly unique.
The TranzAlpine Train. Traveling from Greymouth to Christchurch you’ll go through the Arthur's Pass National Park and see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. You’ll then traverse the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving into the city of Christchurch.
Doubtful Sound. Rich in flora and fauna, Doubtful Sound is a vast untouched wilderness and can only be explored by a licensed cruise. Known as the ‘sound of silence’ its winding arms are surrounded by bush clad mountains. Kick off your cruise with a short boat ride across Lake Manapouri to the West Arm. You’ll then travel over the Wilmot Pass through dense rainforest. Once in Doubtful Sound you’ll board your cruise and enjoy spectacular views of waterfalls, rainforest and mountains. You may even be lucky enough to see fur seals, bottlenose dolphins and rare Fiordland crested penguins.
- Otago Peninsula. Otago Peninsula is a world renowned ecotourism area home to seals, sea lions, dolphins and the only mainland albatross colony in the world. Before you leave take a moment to visit Larnach Castle, the only castle in New Zealand.
For more information on places to go on your New Zealand South Island tour, Contact one of our experienced travel planners today.
New Zealand is a journey, not a destination. At Pure Journeys, we offer unique self drive tours that offer incredible sights and experiences. Our New Zealand-based travel experts are full of tips and insights to make your NZ adventure unforgettable!