Ten Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand

The natural landscape on South Island New Zealand is quite majestic, different than Auckland and other cities that are in the North Island of New Zealand.  So much so, that when you arrive there, you may consider never leaving.  Your days will be full of amazing adventures and your nights will be filled with decadent foods that you eat while talking to the locals.  

Ten Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand

1. Visit One of the Natural Spas

Okay, so you probably won’t be able to stop at just one natural spa, but the idea is to see where other spas got their concept from!  There are plenty of options down on South Island New Zealand, but the favorites happen to be Flat Hot Pools, Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, Onsen Hot Pools, and Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools. 

Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools - Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand
Credits: Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools

While these are New Zealand South Island must-do activities, make sure that you take the time to see many of the other attractions on the island during your visit.  

2. Abel Tasman National Park

One of the favorite things to do in South Island New Zealand is visiting Abel Tasman National Park.  While you can sail or kayak in this park, I recommend that you take the time to hike along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Abel Tasman National Park - Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand

to see the limestone cliffs, native bush, and the soft sandy beaches.  Every time you are down by the water, look out to see if you can spot the seals and dolphins that live in this part of the island.  

3. Visit a Winery or Two

Central Otago has numerous wineries scattered about and while you can never see them all, you need to put a few on your New Zealand South Island must-do list.  The day that you tackle this list will be filled with different

Winery - Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand

types of Pinot Noir and don’t worry if you cannot pick a favorite, because no one has ever been able to just settle on one.  I recommend that you savor each sip that you take, while enjoying the scenery that surrounds you.  

4. Visit Wharariki Beach

This beach is one of the most spectacular ones on South Island New Zealand and you can find it on the northwestern tip of the island.  You should plan on spending at least half of a day at this beach, but it is not uncommon for people to stay from early in the morning until the sun sets in the sky. 

Wharariki Beach - Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand

It is recommended that you arrive at least an hour before low tide, so you can see the reflections that are everywhere at Wharariki Beach. This is also the perfect time to see the seal pups play in the water that is left on the sand.  

5. See the Art in Christchurch 

Christchurch is a cultural city that is filled with innovative ideas and plenty of art.  While you are walking around, or riding on the double decker bus, you are encouraged to not only check out the architecture of the buildings, but the street art as well. 

Christchurch - Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand

There are numerous shops and restaurants in this area, but make sure that you take the time to visit the Botanical Gardens in between all the shopping you do.  

6. Visit the Glaciers

Imagine flying high up in the sky and coming across this massive white ice block…  This is possible in South Island New Zealand and that white ice block you are seeing below you is a glacier.  While this would be enough for many people,

Glacier New Zealand

I encourage you to take one of the rides that lets you step off onto the glacier to walk around.  There is nothing better than to feel the thick and sturdy ice under your feet as you snap picture after picture of everything that you see. 

7. Visit Mt. Cook National Park

Out of all the New Zealand South Island attractions, Mt. Cook National Park is a favorite amongst those who love climbing to higher than normal destinations.  The country’s tallest mountain is inside this park and yes, you can go up all twelve thousand three hundred and forty-nine feet if you are so inclined.

Mt. Cook National Park - Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand

However, if you prefer to stay closer to the ground, the Hooker Valley Trail is much easier.  It is recommended to stay at this park until later in the day, because stargazing from this location is mesmerizing.  

8. Discover the Waterfalls and Lakes

There are so many waterfalls within South Island New Zealand that it would take forever to list them all but know that there will be one close by wherever you are. 

Mirror Lake - Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand

When it comes to lakes, there are many of those as well. Mirror Lake and Lake Wakatipu are favorites of the locals, but you may find your own favorites as you are wandering around the island.  

9. Visit Moeraki Boulders 

The Moeraki Boulders are one of the more unique things to see in New Zealand South Island.  These boulders were formed approximately thirteen million years ago, and they are only now being revealed from erosion that is occurring on the beach. 

Moeraki Boulders - Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand

While some of them are small, at only one meter in diameter, others are three meters in diameter. They each weight several tons, so don’t try to move any of them!  It is best to see these natural wonders in the morning when the sun is rising and when the tide is low.  

10. Visit the Cathedral Caves

These caves are thirty meters high, which is quite high for a cave and it is easy to walk from one to another.  The Cathedral Caves can be found to the south of Dunedin and you must walk approximately twenty minutes from the parking area to the beach and then another ten minutes to the cave. 

Cathedral Caves - Things to Do in South Island of New Zealand

The hike is beautiful though and plan on stopping to take numerous photos along the way. It is always best to start your journey through these caves well before low tide, so you have plenty of time to explore it all before high tide comes rushing in.  

As you can see, there are plenty of amazing things to do in South Island New Zealand, so you will never find yourself bored when you get over there.  Although, you may find that you have too many things on your itinerary and that can be a slight problem if you do not get them all crossed off before your departure date!

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