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. 

Upper South Island

Discover what the upper South Island has to offer, from whales in Kaikōura to stunning natural landscapes in Nelson Tasman.

 

Central South Island

Experience spectacular glaciers, street art trail in Christchurch, beauty of Aoraki/Mount Cook on foot and many more in the central South Island

Lower South Island

From Queenstown to Stewart Island, find out all the best things to see and do in the lower South Island.

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. 

The best places to visit in the South Island

Where to Next

North Island