One of the biggest draws of New Zealand as an international tourist destination is our fantastic landscape and wildlife. The great outdoors truly are great in New Zealand, and we might be slightly biased but we have to say that the South Island is unbeatable when it comes to outdoors experiences. Here are some of the best nature-based South Island attractions.
Located at the top of the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is home to golden, sandy beaches and stunning granite rock formations. If you’re looking for a few days of sunny, outdoorsy paradise, this is the place! Abel Tasman is ideal for camping, hiking and sea kayaking. Keep your eyes on the water for seals and dolphins.
Kaikoura draws wildlife enthusiasts from around the world, looking for up-close encounters with marine wildlife. This is a major destination for whale enthusiasts, boasting the best sperm whale watching in the world, not to mention dolphin swimming experiences, fur seal colonies and seabird watching. As if that wasn’t enough, Kaikoura also happens to be a picturesque town located at the base of an impressive mountain range.
Christchurch may be the biggest city on the South Island but it’s still got plenty of outdoors attractions. Known as the ‘Garden City’, Christchurch is famous for its green spaces and residents certainly do love to be outside! Get lost in the expansive Botanic Gardens, or take a hike to the top of the Port Hills for a fantastic view of the city spreading out below. And, of course, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is an ideal South Island attraction to escape the city and immerse yourself in New Zealand’s wild side.
Aoraki Mount Cook
The highest peak in New Zealand, Aoraki Mount Cook is a major South Island attraction. Whether you spend a few days hiking on the alpine trails and rafting in the glacial lakes or just stop for a few minutes to admire the view from across Lake Tekapo, you will appreciate the grandeur of our country’s tallest mountain.
How would you like to see a glacier in the morning and then lay out on a beach in the afternoon? Glacier Country in Westland is the only place in the world where glaciers can be found so close to the ocean. The glaciers offer a whole new range of activities for outdoor adventurers, including heli-hikes and ice climbing. The blue ice on these massive glaciers is something you’ll remember for a lifetime.
The adventure capital of the world! Aside from a stunning location on Lake Wakitipu, Queenstown is notable as a mecca for adrenaline junkies from around the world. For an especially intense commune with nature, try bungy jumping from 134 metres above the ground or jet-boating through Shotover Canyon.
Milford Sound is really like nowhere else in the world. Rudyard Kipling once called it the eighth wonder of the world. Take a boat tour through the remarkable fiords, but remember to bring a rain jacket—Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in New Zealand.