Best Places to Visit in South Island, New Zealand

Best Places to Visit in South Island, New Zealand

The Marlborough Sounds are a picturesque network of sea-drowned valleys created by the rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age. 

Accessible via Highway 6 from Nelson and Highway 1 from Blenheim to Picton, this region offers spectacular scenery. 

Best Places to Visit in South Island, New Zealand

For a scenic but winding back road, try the route between Havelock and Picton through the Sounds.

Summer brings fine weather to the Sounds, but winter can be windy, yet still enjoyable. 

The area is a boater’s paradise with numerous bays, inlets, and islands. Picton and Havelock serve as the main entry points. 

Historically, Captain Cook used the Sounds as a base, discovering and naming Queen Charlotte Sound, the entry point for ferries between the North and South Islands. 

The region is rich in forested hills, wild pigs, and homes accessible only by boat. 

The Cook Strait Crossing can be quite an adventure, often influenced by the notorious Roaring Forties winds.

Golden Bay and Abel Tasman National Park

Golden Bay, accessed via Highway 60 from Nelson or Highway 6 from Westport, offers a sunny and mild climate. 

The drive over Takaka Hill (Marble Mountain) is scenic, revealing a Shangri-La of rich farmland and stunning seascapes. 

The area is famous for its marble caves and diverse flora and fauna.

Abel Tasman National Park is renowned for its golden beaches and coastal tracks perfect for boating, swimming, camping, and walking. 

Established in 1942, the park features regenerating native forest. 

For adventurous souls, there’s a dirt road atop Takaka Hill leading to Canaan Downs and Harwood’s Hole. 

The park is ideal for both thrill-seekers and those preferring leisurely scenic drives or walks. 

Key attractions include the Heaphy Track and Mt Arthur Tableland.

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Nelson Lakes National Park and the Buller River

Nelson Lakes National Park is accessible via Route 6 from Nelson or Route 63 from Blenheim. 

This region features Lake Rotoroa and Lake Rotoiti, formed by glaciers, and the beautiful Buller River flowing 170km to the Tasman Sea.

Visitors can enjoy easy walks around Lake Rotoiti or more challenging hikes up Black Hill and Mt Robert. 

The park is a haven for those seeking tranquility and excellent trout fishing. 

Nearby attractions include Blue Lake and Lake Constance, renowned for their beauty.


Kaikoura, located on Route 1 from Picton to Christchurch, is famed for its marine life. 

The area offers opportunities to see seal colonies and whales, both by boat and plane. 

The Seaward Kaikoura and Inland Kaikouras mountain ranges provide stunning backdrops, while the rocky coastline and limestone caves, such as the Maori Leap Caves, add to the area’s natural beauty.

Hurunui District

The Hurunui District is a stunning region just a 45-minute drive north of Christchurch. Known for its charming towns, superb wine, and range of activities, it’s a must-visit. 

The Waipara Valley is one of New Zealand’s fastest-growing wine regions, celebrated for its award-winning Rieslings and Pinot Noirs.

Visit the historic Weka Pass Railway, a heritage railway operating vintage steam and diesel locomotives. 

Another highlight is the Charles Upham Statue in Amberley, commemorating the bravery of one of New Zealand’s war heroes.

Arthur’s Pass National Park

Arthur’s Pass is accessed via Highway 73 from Christchurch. This scenic route, known for its beech forests and waterfalls, crosses the Southern Alps. 

The park offers tramping and climbing opportunities, with highlights including the Devil’s Punchbowl and Bridal Veil waterfalls.

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Banks Peninsula

Reach Banks Peninsula from Christchurch via Highway 75. Formed by two volcanoes, the peninsula features the charming French-inspired town of Akaroa and numerous walking tracks in the surrounding forest reserves.

Mackenzie Country and Mount Cook National Park

Mackenzie Country is known for its brown tussock landscapes and hydro-electric lakes, including Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. 

Visit Mount Cook National Park to see New Zealand’s highest peak, Mount Cook, and the Tasman Glacier. 

The park offers a range of hiking trails and spectacular alpine scenery.

Westland National Park

Westland National Park stretches from Greymouth to Haast along the West Coast. 

The region is known for its rainforests, glaciers, and dramatic coastline. Key 

attractions include the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, and the scenic Lake Matheson.

Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park is home to the famous Milford Sound, one of the most stunning natural attractions in the world. 

The park features towering mountains, deep fjords, and lush rainforests. 

The Milford Track is a renowned tramping route offering breathtaking views and waterfalls.

The Catlins

The Catlins is a remote region between Invercargill and Balclutha, known for its rugged coastline, rainforests, and wildlife. 

Key attractions include Nugget Point, Purakaunui Falls, and the petrified forest at Curio Bay.

Stewart Island

Stewart Island is a wilderness haven accessible by air from Invercargill or ferry from Bluff. 

Stewart Island

The island is known for its unique plant life, bird watching opportunities, and the famous Brown Kiwi, which can be seen during the day.

Explore these incredible destinations and more, and let the beauty and adventure of New Zealand’s South Island captivate you.