With dramatic fjords, crystal clear lakes, wild mountains, exciting ski-fields and pristine hidden bays, the variety of scenery is one of the South Island’s biggest draw cards. But there is far more than just pretty scenery that draws visitors to its shores. New Zealand’s oldest settlement, Christchurch is home to interesting museums and numerous wildlife parks, where the country’s most iconic species – the flightless kiwi – can be seen.
Renowned for its world-class wines, many of the country’s best vineyards are on the North Island. The top of the South Island however does have a number of excellent boutique vineyards around the towns of Nelson and Blenheim. Outside of award-winning sauvignon blanc, the region also encompasses the tiny but exquisite Abel Tasman National Park and the beautiful drowned valleys of Marlborough Sound.
The small town of Franz Josef on the Waiho River is the gateway to two of the island’s iconic glaciers – Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. Both glaciers can be explored on foot or by helicopter whilst Westland Tai Poutini National Park is on the town’s doorstep. There are a number of walks suitable for everyone that pass through beautiful forests including Callery Gorge and Canavans Knob walk. Nearby Mount Cook, also known as ‘Aoraki’ is New Zealand’s highest peak (3,724m) and is flanked by Tasman, the country’s largest glacier.
To the south, Milford Sound is one of the country’s most visited destinations. This remote, steep-sided fjord runs 15km inland from the Tasman Sea. Most visitors cruise Milford Sound, but flight-seeing is also possible. Seals and dolphins are common whilst it is possible to see whales and the endangered Fiordland crested penguin.
Undoubtably the South Island’s major highlight, Queenstown has been dubbed the Adventure Capital of the World, boasting some 220 adventure travel activities from mountain biking and jet boating to bungy jumping and skydiving. Its picturesque setting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu with the splendid “Remarkables” mountain range as a back drop make it a popular holiday destination. With four ski fields in close proximity it offers sensational snow sport opportunities making the town a year-round attraction.