Must See and Do in the South Island (Te Waipounamu), New Zealand

The South Island of New Zealand’s hosts some of the purest natural sceneries and landscapes you will ever see on this planet. From lush plains to the rugged coastlines, from the towering Alps to the sweeping valleys, from wildlife to star-filled skies – the scenery here is world renown. Besides the beautiful sights and a burgeoning wine scene, we cannot forget to mention the region has a rich culture, characterized by the friendly down-to-earth locals who are enthusiastic to show you around. Also called Te Waipounamu, here you have the best things to do and places to visit in South Island, New Zealand.

South Island of New Zealand

The South Island is generally drier and cooler than the North Island. However, you should not forget to carry sunscreen and lighter clothes to wear because temperatures can go up to 30°C during summer. They rarely drop below freezing point during wither except in mountainous regions because the sea moderates the temperatures.

If traveling to the South Island of New Zealand is on your bucket list this year or in a few years, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will showcase the best of the South Island, helping you to discover what you must see and do.

Things to do in South Island (Te Waipounamu), New Zealand

Take a Road Trip

Though we acknowledge that everyone’s traveling priorities and pace differ, there are certain attractions on this South Island any traveler cannot afford to miss. These attractions can be best witnessed by going there in person preferably on a road trip.

According to The Road Trip, the secret is not to focus on visiting one breath-taking location but rather focus on visiting numerous places that each offer a unique experience.

You can start by visiting the Arthur’s Pass also known as the Castle Hill to climb the hill and some interesting-looking boulders. Camp at Lake Pearson: though it does not have much scenery to offer, it has good camping grounds. Do a glacier hike at Fox Glacier or at Josef Glacier, see the beautiful scenery, and take awesome photographs at Lake Hāwea, Roys Peak, Lake Wanaka among other places.

Skip the Walking Tour, Go Flying

We understand that road trips and walking tours are quite physically demanding, and they are not everyone’s cup of tea. If you are this kind of person, it doesn’t mean that there is no fun for you on the South Island. The fun starts with Glacial take-offs and landings.

Flight seeing or rather touring from the skies is a popular activity on the South Island. This can either be on a helicopter, a light aircraft, or a hot air balloon. For instance, you can go whale watching in Kaikoura, enjoy its rugged beauty, and take spectacular photos of the scenic beauty below including the ragged Southern Alps range and the numerous lakes.

Sip some Wine from the Source at Marlborough

South Island of New Zealand

The South Island of New Zealand is home to numerous wine brands and wineries. Thus, if you have fallen in love with the sauvignon blanc or any other brand, why not go and a sip it from the source. Marlborough located on the northern sunny side of the island is home to 90% of New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc production. The Marlborough region is dotted with farmers’ markets, restaurants, and plenty of wine-tasting cellar rooms. Visitors are spoiled for choice, with up to 30 wineries within a 15-mile radius.

Visit the Locales

Movie lovers will be amazed by how much the South Island has to offer, not in terms of movie theaters but a whole new experience. Get to visit the locales in person where various popular movies you love to watch were shot. For instance, you will notice various scenes in the movies “The Hobbit Trilogy,” “Lord of the Rings Trilogy,” and “Chronicles of Narnia” among others featuring various locations in the South Island including Mount Cook, Wanaka, Pelorus River, Waiau River, the village of Glenorchy, Takaka Hill among other locations.


It is the leading all-year-round alpine resort not only in the South Island but also for the entire country at large. Queenstown is home to every imaginable adventure activity, from bungee jumping, white water rafting, jet boating, and during winter, you can try skiing at the nearby Coronet Peak and Remarkable ski resorts.

South Island of New Zealand

Visit National Parks

The country’s greatest assets are the inspiring vistas and stunning landscapes and which are best experienced and demonstrated in the country’s spectacular national parks. An undisputed fact is the most of New Zealand’s 14 national parks are located at the Southern Island with, each having its own unique beauty and appeal.

Last Updated on July 29, 2023

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