7 Places to See While Visiting New Zealand’s South Island
The first time I ever went backpacking was on a trip with my best friend to the Southern hemisphere. After an amazing 4-day layover in Bangkok, our next destination and the farthest we could ever be away from home was New Zealand. We immediately fell in love with the country, its beautiful landscape, the Kiwis, animals and the locals. That’s why I’m here to share 7 of my favorite places to visit on New Zealand’s South Island!
1. Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook
Just imagine turquoise lakes surrounded by mountainscapes in the middle of a vast countryside. Without any light pollution, the sky is so clear you can gaze at the milky way at night. That’s why these places made my list. We started in Lake Tekapo and took a short hike alongside the lake. The next day we stopped at Lake Pukaki, with just a few clouds in the sky, we were able to see Mount Cook (which made the pictures perfect).
Queenstown is the action capital of New Zealand. Bungy, ledge swing, high-speed thrill rides or just hiking, you name it – there is something to do for everyone in Queenstown. Eating the world’s best burger at Ferg Burger is a must when visiting this charming little town because it is, THE best! Watch the sunset from the skyline by taking the gondola up to Bob’s Peak and capture the best pictures from Queenstown. Adrenaline Junkies will like the luge rides up there. Let the evening come to an end with an ice cold drink at one of Queenstown’s ice bars.
Not only does Wanaka offer the most picturesque lonely tree in the water, but it is also very close to Roy’s Peak Trail. Just a quick warning, this trail is not designed for the huffers and puffers among us. I had a really hard time getting up there as the trail sits on a 45 degree incline from bottom to top. Bring lots of water and snacks and take precautions according to the weather (sunscreen, jumper, raincoat). It took me forever to get up there as I was taking many, many, many breaks on my way up, talking with the sheep who left their feces along the path. All mourning aside, once you reach the peak, all the exertions are forgotten. You’ll be rewarded with the sublime magnitude of mountains, lakes, and glaciers as you take in the view on Roy’s Peak.
4. Milford Sound
I’d recommend taking the first boat tours through Milford Sound before all the big tour buses arrive. That way you might be able to see some wildlife like seals and dolphins who haven’t been scared away by the other tourists just yet. The sound itself is very beautiful with many waterfalls and mountain formations, especially at dawn. When returning to the parking lot, you will notice many different chirping melodies, sounds you’ve never heard before sung by the local birds. Going early has the advantage that you’ll have time to explore all the amazing spots along the way: rainforests, waterfalls and mirror lakes. Take your time and enjoy the ride back to Te Anau.
5. Fox Glacier, Lake Matheson, Franz Josef Glacier
There are many companies selling scenic helicopter flights for an exclusive look at the glaciers. For those of us who travel on a low budget, however, there are other ways to get a good glimpse at the glaciers: the glacier lookout walks. The Fox Glacier can be seen from a distance while it is possible to get a closer look at the Franz Josef Glacier by taking a scenic walk through a rainforest, along waterfalls and through a dried out river bed.
New Zealand’s Westcoast is mesmerizing. There are many places to stop along the coast, or just take in the views while driving. We especially enjoyed Hokitika, with its beautiful beach and glowworm cave, the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes as well as Greymouth.
7. Abel Tasman National Park
The Abel Tasman can be explored in many ways. The least time-consuming one is a half-day guided kayak tour from Kaiteriteri to the Split-Apple Rock. The rock provides a perfect picture opp so be sure to pack a waterproof camera of some sort.
Want to add a few suggestions to the list? Go ahead! Leave your comments below!