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New Zealand South Island: 7 Spots You Can’t Miss

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New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and the South Island is especially beautiful.

There are so many New Zealand South Island must see locations that you can easily spend month here and not be bored.

However, most of us don’t have months available, which is why this post will help you narrow down which South Island highlights to include in your New Zealand itinerary.

Abel Tasman Park

New Zealand South Island must see locations

The 7 best things to do on the South Island of New Zealand

  1. Go hiking in Peel Forest
  2. Marvel at the Moeraki Boulders
  3. Cruise the marvelous Milford Sound
  4. Taste craft beer at Wanaka Beerworks
  5. Relax in Hanmer Springs
  6. Kayak in Abel Tasman park

1. Hiking in Peel Forest

Hiking at Peel Forest - 10 Awesome Things To Do In New Zealand

How much does it cost

2NZD for the Peel Forest hiking map. You can buy the map at Peel Forest General Store, a very cute and very small store at the park entrance.

How to get to Peel Forest

Coming from the direction of Mayfield and driving to Arundel, take a right off route 72 just after crossing the Rangitata River. Peel Forest is clearly signposted from there.

Which hikes to tackle in Peel Forest

there are many tracks in Peel Forest but I recommend these:

  • The Big Tree Walk: this trail leads to a huge 8.4 meter wide Totara tree. It’s an easy track that takes about 20 minutes return.
  • Acland Falls track: this trail climbs quite steeply at some places and will take you to beautiful mossy waterfall.
  • Kahikatea walk: this trail leads though an interesting swamp forest.

As with most hikes in New Zealand, the tracks are clearly signposted and you’ll probably won’t meet many people while hiking here.

Therefore, hiking in New Zealand is very peaceful, there is no noise, besides the relaxing rustling of the leaves and the singing of the birds.

Check the DOC site for more information about the hikes.

2. Marvel at the Moeraki Boulders

Check out the Mouraki Boulders - 10 Awesome Things To Do In New Zealand

How much does it cost

At the top of the short track to the beach there is a donation box, give whatever you deem appropriate.

How to get to the Moeraki Boulders

It’s about 40km south from Oamaru, the drive along the coast is very scenic! Follow the SH1 towards Hampden, it is clearly signposted by the road.

About the Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are alien. Large, round and partially hidden in the sand, they look like they washed ashore from the sea, but the boulders actually came from the rocks.

There are some very interesting Maori legends about them, be sure to read these in the Moeraki information center when you’re visiting.

Fun fact: Moeraki means ‘sleepy sky’.

Check the site for more information about the Moeraki Boulders.

3. Cruise the marvelous Milford Sound

Milford Sound New Zealand South Island

How much does it cost

That depends on the type of cruise. A budget cruise with Jucy Cruize is 99NZD per person and you can often find discount coupons.

For example, be sure to check the free AA travel magazines that you can pick up at any i-Site in New Zealand. Alternatively, you can also look around the internet and book a cruise online.

How to get to the Milford Sound

If you have your own wheels you can drive the amazing Milford Sound road (SH94) from Te Anau. Parking at Milford Sound is free.

If you don’t have your own transport, there are plenty of companies offering a package including transport (from Te Anau or Queenstown) by bus and a cruise around Milford.

About the Milford Sound

The Milford Sound was formed by a combination of tectonic activity and glaciers. The Milford Sound is 15 kilometers long, during the cruise you will sail through the sound until you reach the Tasman sea and then turn back.

The Jucy Cruize takes around 2 hours and departs at 11am. Make sure you are there at least 20 minutes before departure time.

During the cruise either the captain or a guide will give you lots of information about the Milford Sound.

You’ll learn about the discovery of the Milford Sound by famous Captain Cook, the color of the water, the countless waterfalls and much more.

When going on deck, be careful and hold on to your belongings as the wind can be strong.

Fun fact: the color of the water in the Milford Sound depends on the amount of rain that has fallen. The more rain, the darker the water. This is because rain water is lighter than the salty sea water and is therefore floating atop the green sea water.

If there is no rain for a couple of day, the water in the Milford Sound changes color and slowly becomes more green, the color of the ocean. Interesting right!

If you’re lucky you may spot seals and other wildlife during your cruise. Altogether, the Milford Sound is a really impressive part of New Zealand and one you should definitely visit.

More ways to explore the Fjordlands

Do you want to get up close with the Milford Sound? Book a kayaking trip and get an even better feel of the untamed Milford Sound and the force of the elements.

If you’ve got more time to spend you can also visit the Doubtful Sound. You’ll be visiting a more remote part of Fiordland National Park which increases the change of seeing wildlife (such as fur seals and dolhpins).

Click here to book a Doubtful Sound wilderness cruise.

5. Taste craft beer at Wanaka Beerworks

How much does it cost

The price for a tour used to be 15NZD per person, however, I’m not sure about the current price as its no longer listed on their site.

How to get to Wanaka Beerworks

You can find Wanaka Beerworks right beside the National Transport & Toy Museum and Wanaka airport (convenient if you suddenly feel very courageous after beer tasting and want to go skydiving).

It’s about 8km from Wanaka along the SH6 6 towards Cromwell.

About Wanaka Beerwords

Things to do in New Zealand - taste craft beer at Wanaka Beerworks

Wanaka Beerworks is a local brewery that makes excellent craft beers. During your tour around the brewery you’ll learn about the beer brewing process, the different kinds of hop and the art of brewing craft beer.

After the tour of the tiny brewery, you’ll be able to sample some beers with unique tastes (from coffee beer to blond beer).

The tour is fun and informative and it’s great to learn about beer from people who are passionate about their work.

Check the site for more information about Wanaka Beerworks.

6. Relax at Hanmer Springs

Mineral springs Daylesford

How much does it cost

The entree fee is 35NZD per adult (or 43NZD if you purchase a same day re-entry ticket)

How to get to Hanmer Springs

The address is 42 Amuri Ave, Hanmer Springs. From the SH7, depending if you’re coming from Reefton (take a left) or from Waipara (take a right), just drive to Hanmer Springs. The thermal springs are in the city center and there is plenty of parking space.

About Hanmer Springs

There are various pools with different minerals and temperatures as well as several slides and a spa where you can book facials, massages and other therapies.

It’s easy to spend an entire day here to relax your tired muscles after all the hiking. Check the site for more information about the Thermal Pools.

7. Kayak in Abel Tasman park

Kayak Abel Tasman National Park - 10 Awesome Things To Do In New Zealand

How much does it cost

This depends on the package you book, nut expect to pay at least 100NZD per person.

How to get to Marahau

There are two routes to get to Marahau, the main entrance to the Abel Tasman park.

  • Option 1: from Motueka, drive north on the SH60 until you see a road on the right (Riwaka – Kaiteriteri Road). Follow this scenic drive to Kaiteriteri, then continue on this winding road to Marahau.
  • Option 2: instead of taking a right to Kaiteriteri, you turn left and then take an immediate right onto Riwaka – Sandy Bay Road which leads to Marahau as well.

About kayaking Abel Tasman NP

Exploring Abel Tasman park by kayak is a lot of fun and the nature is incredible. If you’re lucky with the weather this may end up being your favorite day in New Zealand.

When renting a kayak you’ll be given a thorough safety introduction before you can venture out on the water to explore Abel Tasman.

Keep in mind that the wind can be quite strong at the open sea and while getting to an island a few hundred meters from the main beach can be challenging!

Check the site for more information about Kayaking at Abel Tasman Park.

South Island points of interest: where to find them

In the map below you can find all the activities mentioned in the post.

New Zealand South Island Must See Locations

Click here for the interactive map.

South Island New Zealand activities: in conclusion

Want to read more about New Zealand? Also read:

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Varun

Saturday 25th of May 2019

Lotte,

Lovely article. Thanks for sharing

I am planning a trip and have learned that NZ is planning an ETA. Does that come into effect in July or October, do you know?

https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/what-we-do/our-strategies-and-projects/eta-new-requirements

Thanks

Lotte

Saturday 1st of June 2019

Hi Varun,

Thank you for informing me about this, I wasn't aware New Zealand had changed it's visa policy. Regarding the ETA, as far as I can find information about it, it seems that it will be implemented from October 1st, 2019. When are you traveling there? Have a great trip, NZ is amazing...

Lotte

Rachel McAlpine

Saturday 22nd of September 2018

Interesting choices and super photos.

Lotte

Saturday 22nd of September 2018

Thank you:-)

Kira

Tuesday 24th of November 2015

This was an extremely helpful list! Perfect for me who doesn't really know where to start when planning to visit a country a beautiful as NZ. Thank you for this post :)

Lotte

Tuesday 24th of November 2015

Thank you Kira, I am glad you found it helpful:). Enjoy your trip to New Zealand! It really it the most beautiful country in the world, so I am sure you'll have a great time.