11 must do experiences in the South Island

Explore New Zealand's highest peak and New Zealand's only castle. Admire striking lakeside views, street art and mountain peaks.

The South Island hosts some of the purest natural landscapes you’ll ever experience. Add some of these must-do's to your South Island itinerary.

1. Marvel at Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain

Experience the beauty of Aoraki/Mount Cook on foot. Wander the easy Hooker Valley Track, or choose from other formed and well-marked tracks that begin near Aoraki/Mount Cook Village. Enjoy a birds eye view of the area from the air on a scenic flight or go on a boat trip with Glacier Explorers on the only accessible glacial lake with icebergs in the world. Day or night, from up close to views across the water, this mountain takes on of our top spots for South Island experiences.

2. Visit New Zealand's only castle

Built by William Larnach in 1871, the Larnach castle is the only one of its kind in New Zealand. The castle and its creator offer a fascinating look into Dunedin's history. Boasting a 3,000 square foot ballroom, a tower with sweeping views of the Otago Peninsula and stunning Victorian style gardens, Larnach Castle is a must-do. Soak up the atmosphere and stay for high tea, hosted each day at 3pm.

3. Go native bird spotting on Rakiura/Stewart Island

Stewart Island is home to New Zealand's largest and most diverse bird population. Here, you can go birdwatching and see kākā, albatross, penguins, weka and even kiwis as you walk. With over 240 kilometres of walking tracks you can explore the beaches and rainforests at your own pace or pick from one of the many tour companies and discover the island's hidden gems.

4. Discover the majestic Milford and Doubtful Sounds

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Fiordland National Park features Milford and Doubtful Sounds which you can explore by boat, air or on foot. Keep the camera handy - there's a magic spot around every bend in this part of the world! The park can be accessed through the picturesque town of Te Anau.

5. Explore the Marlborough Sounds

Located at the top of the South Island, Marlborough Sounds boasts 1,500km of New Zealand coastline. Home to secluded bays, historic sites, marine reserves and precious island sanctuaries which foster kiwi and other native species. Cruise or kayak your way through the Sounds, spotting the wildlife along the way. Starting at Ship Cove, walk or cycle bush clad ridgelines to admire the view from the Queen Charlotte Track.

6. Go on a street art trail in Christchurch

Soak up the creative vibe of Christchurch before you hit the road on an epic South Island journey. New Zealand's home of street art, you can walk the streets of Christchurch and admire ever-evolving murals in the city. With stunning art like the Riverside Mural, Kaitaki in the YMCA Building and Organic Matters in Lichfield street, creativity meets you at every turn and corner.

7. Choose your own adventure in Queenstown

The stunning lakeside resort of Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world. From iconic bungy jumping, jet boating, to quad biking, white water rafting, river surfing, sky diving and canyon swings...there is something for everyone!

8. Enjoy the outdoors at Mt Aspiring National Park

From soaring mountains to tranquil river flats, glaciers and turquoise lakes, exploring the Mount Aspiring National Park wilderness is an unforgettable experience. Just an hour's drive from Wānaka, it boasts plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts; from walking to jet boating and scenic flights. Choosing where to start is the hardest part!

9. Taste the wines of Central Otago

Central Otago is breathtaking, with vast undulating landscapes, rugged snow-capped mountains, clear blue rivers and tussock-clad hills. The gem of this region is the multitude of wineries, many world-renowned for their Pinot Noir. Meet the wine-makers, stroll or bike through the vines and savour the best of this region.

10. Discover the hidden paradise of Hokitika Gorge

Located 33 kilometres from Hokitika on the West Coast, The Hokitika Gorge is one of those places that look as good in photos as in real life. The vivid turquoise water surrounded by lush native bush looks too good to be true but trust us, it is well worth a visit. Take a tour to access some unique and hidden locations with Hokitika Gorge Tours or Explore West Coast.

11. Encounter marine life in Abel Tasman National Park

The sheltered bays of Abel Tasman National Park are perfect for sailing or kayaking, with ample opportunity to see the seals and dolphins who regularly play in these coastal waters. If you prefer to explore by land, the park is a great place to walk. Hike the Abel Tasman Coastal Track and follow the coastline through native bush, past limestone cliffs and along golden beaches.

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