Top 5 Things to Do in South Island

Waterfall in Franz Josef Glacier Valley

There are very few places on earth that capture the imagination and awaken the senses quite like South Island of New Zealand.

A mystical, majestic land, it is quite literally the scene of a fantasy novel. Putting an itinerary together is a difficult task due to the vast amount of choice. If you haven’t got months to explore the island at a leisurely pace, we’ve created a shortlist of the best places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand that are guaranteed to take your breath away.

Here are the top five things to do in South Island:

Scale A Glacier


 Visiting the glaciers in New Zealand

South Island boasts not one, but two glaciers that are ripe for exploration by intrepid explorers.

Located just a stone’s throw away from each other, Franz Josef and Fox glaciers offer real once-in-a-lifetime glacier hiking experiences, replete with adrenaline-pumping adventures on pristine ice sheets. Take a tour with an experienced guide to learn all about the history of the glaciers whilst you walk, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the mountains and lakes which surround the area. There’s a reason it’s notably one of the best things to see on South Island.

As far as a South Island glacier must-see list goes, choose from either a half or full-day tour where you can even add a helicopter flight to make your trip even more spectacular. Most operators provide all the necessary equipment and present souvenir certificates to confirm you conquered a mighty glacier on your travels around South Island!

Embrace Your Inner Thrill-Seeker in Queenstown

Experiencing Queenstown

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, there’s no better place to be than Queenstown. A thriving hub of activity all year-round, this is the place to bungee jump, sky dive, ski and snowboard. Essentially, anything to set the pulse racing can be found in Queenstown! Listed as one of the top places to visit in New Zealand, as a visitor you’re guaranteed an enjoyable experience in this energy-filled town.

Queenstown has a reputation for hosting a good party and it’s a popular spot for backpackers to gather. However, it’s also a charming and hospitable city that is a joy to explore. There’s a vast array of activities on offer so if you don’t fancy hitting the slopes or taking in a bird’s eye view from a helicopter, you can also try hiking, mountain biking and even luging.

Discover Fiordland National Park

The Milford Sound fiord. Fiordland national park, New Zealand with milky way

Home to one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist attractions, Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park is a must for those hoping to take advantage of the stunning beauty of South Island.

This wet and wonderful paradise attracts millions of visitors every year. For most, the highlight is the tranquil wonderland that is Milford Sound. On the drive up, the enormous Mitre Peak provides a backdrop to the steady sound of water trickling down from the cliffs before they cascade into the rippling waters below.

The best way to explore Milford Sound is by boat and trips operate throughout the day. Whilst you’re in the area, don’t miss out on a chance to visit neighbouring Doubtful Sound for yet another incredibly beautiful natural setting.

Visit Mount Cook

Mount Cook

The highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook stands over 12,000 feet tall. It is Aoraki National Park’s headline act and a popular pilgrimage for experienced hikers as well as novices who are keen to test their mettle.

The park is famed for its incredible beauty and is home to some of the country’s tallest peaks and largest glaciers.The park was used as a filming location for the cinematic adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Although a stunning setting for the big screen, be assured that nothing beats viewing the real location with your own eyes. Be sure to include this hot spot on the places that you visit in New Zealand’s South Island.

Catch Your Reflection In Crystal Clear Lakes

In focus: The almost unworldly landscape of Milford Sound

Almost all of South Island is a feast for the eyes with a beguiling exhibition of natural wonders on display. Take a trip through the winding roads and explore a series of fabled mountains, deserted beaches and lakes so clear you can see your reflection.

Highlights include Lake Matheson, which mirrors views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks on its surface, and Lake Wanaka, a tranquil haven wedged between imposing mountains. Both are perfect for taking a moment to sit on the shore and savour the magnificent vistas.

South Island has so much to offer and it is virtually impossible to create a must-see list that contains just five jewels in a sea of gems. If you have time to explore further, simply driving through the roads around the Southern Alps is a sight in itself: the contrasts between lakes and mountains provide a dramatic setting and simply add to the never-ending list of things to do.