New Zealand’s South Island hosts the purest natural landscapes you’ll ever experience.

From wildlife to wineries, glacial valleys to star-filled skies, the South Island offers adventure in all its forms. Choose to explore just one region, or road trip from Picton all the way down to Bluff. No matter which destinations you choose to explore on this long, mountainous island, you'll be constantly open-mouthed before the incredible scenery. 

The best places to visit in the South Island

Every region in the South Island has its own unique highlights. Some of the most popular places

Christchurch

The city of Christchurch is a vibrant urban centre with startling street art and a thriving foodie scene. 

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Get a glimpse of Mount Cook's peak across the icy blue water of Lake Pukaki, before heading up to the national park to walk the Hooker Valley Track.

Lake Tekapo

With deep blue water and a fringe of purple lupins, Lake Tekapo is an idyllic sight. 

Milford Sound

Cruise, kayak, or hike in Milford Sound, a dramatic fiord that will ignite your imagination. 

Kaikōura

Spot whales, seals and dolphins in the seaside village of Kaikōura

Fox and Franz Josef glaciers

On the West Coast of the South Island, you'll find mighty glaciers descending through rainforest into the sea. 

South Island scenery

The beauty of the South Island is in the diversity of its scenery. 

Southern Alps

The main feature of scenery in the South Island is mountains. The Southern Alps mountain range is the backbone of the island, stretching for roughly 500 kilometres from Wanaka to Arthur's Pass.

The Alps have snowy tops all year round, feeding glaciers and crystal clear rivers. 

As well as diving the island visually, the Southern Alps also separate the lower South Island into two distinct halves climatically. The West Coast is frequently drenched in rain the slopes on this side of the island are covered in lush forest. On the eastern side, the Canterbury Plains are much drier and feature a much more arid landscape. 

The highest mountain in New Zealand, Aoraki/Mount Cook, soars to 3,724 metres. Mount Cook is one of New Zealand's greatest natural features. The pyramid-shaped peak entices both day walkers and keen climbers. To get a glimpse of New Zealand's tallest mountain, you can visit Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park for a day walk or even an overnight trip to the famous Mueller's Hut. 

Beaches

Head to Nelson, Golden bay and Abel Tasman National Park to see some of the best beaches in New Zealand. 

Fiords

Milford Sound is the most famous fiord in New Zealand, but you can also visit Doubtful Sound for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. You can see these and other fiords in - you guessed it - Fiordland. 

Forests

The higher altitudes and open plains mean dense forests aren't as common as they are in the North Island. For rich green scenery, check out Fiordland National Park, the stunning beech forests in Mount Aspiring National Park, or the rich nikau wilderness in Paparoa National Park. In the upper reaches of the South Island, such as in Marlborough or Nelson, you'll also see plenty of green spaces. 

South Island map: Explore all the regions