Explore snow-capped mountains, glaciers and towering fiords in The Lord of the Rings territory.

South Island has some of the best scenery New Zealand has to offer, from sparkling lakes and snow-topped peaks to sweeping beaches and rolling countryside. Around every corner there is something to photograph. Be sure to visit Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand where Sir Edmund Hillary developed his skills in preparation for Mount Everest. If you visit nearby Lake Matheson on a clear day, you’ll have the chance to capture the famous mirror image of the lake reflecting the mountain.

There’s more to New Zealand’s South Island than just its scenic beauty. There are plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities from kiwis and albatross to dolphins and sperm whales. The cities of Christchurch and Queenstown are popular year-round and both must-sees for an authentic taste of Kiwi life and adrenaline-fuelled adventures.

Read more

South Island Regions

Our recommendations for the best places to visit in South Island

Marlborough & Kaikoura Holidays

South Island’s region for walking, wine tasting and whale watching.

Christchurch & Akaroa Holidays

Rare dolphins and penguins, vintage trams, a dash of Frenchness and a city reborn: Christchurch &...

Abel Tasman & the North West Holidays

From a 20-mile sandbar echoing with birdsong to quirky coastal towns on classic road and rail rou...

West Coast Glaciers & Southern Alps Holidays

The South Island’s spectacular snow-capped mountain and glacial region.

Queenstown & Wanaka Holidays

From bungee jumps and canyon swings to lake cruises in spectacular surroundings, Queenstown & Wan...

Fiordland, Invercargill & Stewart Island Holidays

Escape to New Zealand’s southernmost reaches for jaw-dropping national parks, encounters with uni...

Dunedin & Otago Peninsula Holidays

A Scottish heritage city, dramatic coastlines and rare wildlife encounters.

You may also like

  • chevron down
    • Kuoni recommended
    • Name (A-Z)
    • Rating (High to Low)
    • Rating (Low to High)
    • Price (High to Low)
    • Price (Low to High)
  • {{ filter.text }}
  • Clear all

Akaroa & Banks Peninsula

Depart from Christchurch for the historic French settlement of Akaroa and travel over the unique Banks Peninsula area. Admire the incredible views of Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbours, the Canterbury Plains and the distant Southern Alps from the high summit road and stop for lunch at a café in Akaroa. Board a catamaran for a nature cruise in the harbour and the chance to spot rare Hector’s dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, little blue penguins and other birdlife.

Read more

Doubtful Sound Cruise

Depart from Queenstown for this scenic full-day tour. Drive along the shores of Lake Wakatipu, cross the waters of Lake Manapouri and travel across Wilmot Pass. Upon arrival at Deep Cove, board a catamaran for a three-hour cruise around Doubtful Sound. Glide past waterfalls, rainforest and mountains, looking out for fur seals, bottlenose dolphins and rare Fiordland crested penguins. On the return cruise, the vessel’s engines are turned off so that you can enjoy ‘The Sound of Silence’.

Read more

Gourmet Wine Tour

Depart from Queenstown for this full-day tour of the Central Otago Wine Region which includes a mid-morning cheese tasting in a vineyard garden and a gourmet platter lunch. Visit five premier vineyards in the Gibbston Valley and Bannockburn for tastings, explore New Zealand’s largest underground wine cave and enjoy an interactive experience at The Big Picture Wine Adventure which offers the world’s first visual and sensory wine experience.

Read more

Grand Traverse Flight

Glide high above the beautiful Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland National Parks on this scenic flight which departs from Mount Cook Village. Fly over an enchanting world of ice and snow, turquoise glacial lakes, river systems, remote sheep stations and rainforest. Highlights include some of New Zealand’s highest mountains and largest glaciers including the famous Tasman, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Every passenger on board can enjoy a window seat.

Read more

Heli Hike

Explore Franz Josef Glacier, departing from the Franz Josef Glacier base. From here you will enjoy a ten minute helicopter flight to Franz Josef icefall where you will land on the glacier to enjoy up to a two hour hike amongst glacial ice formations with an experienced guide. Equipment will be provided including glacier boots, crampons, socks and a waterproof jacket, but make sure you dress warmly.

Read more

Marlborough Icons Tour

Depart from Blenheim for this full-day tour which journeys through the renowned Marlborough wine region. Visit wineries and enjoy two fine wine experiences including the region’s iconic winery, Cloudy Bay. Continue through the Marlborough Sounds for a unique seafood cruise. Learn about the local history, visit a marine farm and stop to sample some fresh seafood paired with a glass of sauvignon blanc before your return journey.

Read more

Milford Sound Overnight Cruise

Depart from Queenstown and travel along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and through rolling countryside to Te Anau. Continue along the scenic Milford Road and board the Milford Mariner to sail the length of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea. Admire spectacular alpine scenery and look out for wildlife including dolphins and seals. Anchor overnight in Harrison Cove where dinner will be served. After breakfast the next morning, disembark and return to Queenstown.

Read more

Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour

Enjoy a scenic drive from Dunedin to the Otago Peninsula where you will board the MV Monarch and cruise the length of the beautiful Otago Harbour. Soak up the scenery and spot diverse wildlife basking at Taiaroa Head – the world’s only mainland nesting place for the Northen Royal Albatross. The region is also home to fur seals, dolphins and sea lions and the peninsula is rich in bird life including penguins and nesting birds such as spotted shags.

Read more

Safari of the Scenes – Wakatipu Basin

Discover locations from The Lord of the Rings films on this 4x4 off-road adventure which departs from Queenstown. See The Remarkables (The Misty Mountains), Deer Park Heights (The Battle of the Wargs) and the Kawarau Gorge (Argonath/Pillars of the King). Continue to Arrowtown and experience some off roading as you follow a gold mining road up the river where you can try gold panning before enjoying views of the Wakatipu Basin from Skippers Canyon.

Read more

TranzAlpine Train

Journey aboard the renowned TranzAlpine train from Christchurch and Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass. Enjoy the magnificent alpine scenery as the train crosses the Canterbury Plains and heads through the Southern Alps where it wind its way through the Waimakariri Gorge. The train arrives in Greymouth at 12:45pm which allows you plenty of time to pick up a hire car and continue your journey to the glacier region. The excursion also operates in reverse or as a return.

Read more

Whale Watching, Kaikoura

Every whale watching tour is different. Sperm whales are yearround residents so your chances of spotting one are very high. You can also see dusky dolphins, New Zealand fur seals and albatross year round. Dependent on season you can also spot Humpback whales, Pilot whales, Blue whales and Southern Right whales. There are also opportunities to see orcas as well as the world's smallest and rarest dolphin - the Hector's dolphin.

Read more

Get to know New Zealand’s South Island and those important practicalities when planning your perfect holiday.


GMT +12 (with New Zealand Daylight Time and New Zealand Standard Time applied, this largely equates to 11 hours ahead of the UK from early April to late September and 13 hours ahead from late September to late March)


New Zealand dollar


25½ hours (not including stopover time)


New Zealand has no state religion but the majority of people are Christian


Māori and English

Where is the South Island?
South Island lies between the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean and is the larger of New Zealand’s two main islands. There is a regular ferry service across the Cook Strait to North Island that takes three and a half hours. The main international airport is at Christchurch.

Read more

New Zealand’s winelands
At the north-eastern tip of the South Island, you’ll find Marlborough, one of New Zealand’s most celebrated wine regions known for its outstanding Sauvignon Blanc. Tours depart from Blenheim and often include a visit to perhaps the region’s most famous winery, Cloudy Bay. From Queenstown, the vineyards of Bannockburn and Gibbston Valley in the central Otago wine region are within reach and can be visited for tastings. Here you will also find the largest underground wine cave in New Zealand.

Read more

Beauty of the coast
Spend time soaking up the sun in blissfully secluded Abel Tasman, a superb coastal getaway. It’s a remote and picturesque wilderness reserve near the north-west tip of South Island, with deserted golden beaches, secluded coves and lush forests. Explore the spectacular Abel Tasman Coast Track, a long trail winding over beaches and across ridges – the headland at Separation Point is home to New Zealand fur seal colonies, and the adjacent Tonga Island Marine Reserve has little blue penguins, bottlenose dolphins and seals. The enchanting seaside town of Kaikōura is overlooked by majestic mountains and is a fantastic place to visit if you’re looking for a magical wildlife experience – its coastal waters are home to albatross, dusky dolphins and it’s also one of the best places to see sperm whales.

Read more

Mountains and glaciers
Striking glaciers and towering mountains make the West Coast an unmissable destination on South Island. Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are two of New Zealand’s most imposing natural wonders, and some of the most impressive and accessible glaciers in the world. These ice rivers descend down from the Southern Alps into temperate rainforest less than 300 metres above sea level. A great way to discover these superb ice formations up close is on a heli-hike, where you can admire the panoramic views from the air before walking through its icy terrain. New Zealand’s Southern Alps were named by Captain Cook in 1770 and the region is instantly recognisable as The Lord of the Rings territory, with its shimmering glacial lakes and rugged snow-capped mountains.

Read more

Thrill-seeking adventures
The city of Queenstown is one of the most popular places to visit in New Zealand, nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and overlooked by the majestic Remarkables Range. It’s famous for its exhilarating adventure sports; you can go sky diving, jet-boating, bungee jumping or face the heart-stopping Shotover Canyon Swing – a cliff jump with 60-metres of free fall. Head to the small town of Wanaka to enjoy a superb peaceful setting on South Island. It’s sheltered by the Southern Alps on the shore of its namesake, Lake Wanaka, and is the gateway to the spectacular Mount Aspiring National Park. Cycle along the lakefront, follow pretty walking trails, glide along crystal-clear waters in a kayak or head to the ski slopes at nearby Treble Cone.

Read more

Towering fiords
The attractive lakeside town of Te Anau is gateway to the Fiordland National Park, home to some of the most spectacular natural landscapes on South Island. In Maōri legend, the Fiordland landscape was said to be created by a godly figure, who carved the fiords from the rock walls. The area is famous for the glacier-carved fiords, Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. Milford Sound changes with the seasons and can be stormy, brooding or peaceful – but always majestic and awe-inspiring, and Mitre Peak rising high out of its waters is a memorable picture to add to your Instagram collection. Doubtful Sound is remote, beautifully unspoilt and only accessible by boat. Both sites are utterly picturesque and great options for a day trip or an overnight cruise.

Read more

South of the south
Head to the south-eastern coast to explore Dunedin, a city known for its Scottish and Maōri heritage as well as its Victorian and Edwardian architecture. It’s a great place to spend a couple of days; take a walk up (and up…) Baldwin Street, one of the steepest residential streets in the world. Visit nearby Larnach Castle, with its breathtaking views and manicured gardens. The Otago Peninsula is on the southern side of Dunedin Harbour and is known for its excellent walking trails and wildlife. Stop off at Victory Beach to see the Egyptian-looking rock formation known locally as The Pyramids, and head down to Allans Beach for the chance to see wildlife including fur seals, sea lions and rare, yellow-eyed penguins. Invercargill is the gateway to New Zealand’s beautiful Stewart Island, 20 miles below South Island and 85% national park. To really soak up the vibe and views, hike the Rakiura Track, one of the New Zealand Great Walks.

Read more

Dec - Apr