Recent Searches
Clear
Things to do on the South Island

Things to do in  South Island

Welcome to South Island

New Zealand's South Island is one of the earth's best outdoor playgrounds—and what it lacks in human population, it more than makes up for in pristine forests, fjords, lakes, beaches, and mountains. Guided tours reach nearly every corner of the island, offering expert instruction, informative commentary, and effortless access to these truly great outdoors. A popular base is Christchurch, the island's biggest city, full of Anglo-influenced architecture and an array of cultural offerings. Visitors enjoy peaceful punt rides down the Avon River, visits to the verdant Christchurch Botanic Gardens, and gondola rides into the Port Hills. Farther south, the Remarkables preside over Queenstown, known as the global adventure capital thanks to its seemingly unlimited menu of extreme tours and activities. Besides being an arts and dining destination in its own right, the town acts the jumping-off point for adventures at nearby Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier, Mount Cook, and Milford Sound. Many visitors arrive ready to tackle one of the South Island's six Great Walks, or a variety of shorter or longer guided forays into the island's valleys, mountains, and fjords. Dunedin, proud of its Scottish history and full of bustling student life, boasts the scenic Taieri Gorge Railway, and is a departure point for tours to the Otago Peninsula, which teems with wildlife—including whales, dolphins, and sea lions—pristine beaches, and interesting historic sights.

Top 10 attractions in South Island

#1
Marlborough Sounds

Marlborough Sounds

star-5506
A series of sunken river valleys at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, the Marlborough Sounds offer a range of sights and adventures—hiking, biking, camping, and wildlife watching, to name but a few. Many travelers pass through Queen Charlotte Sound and the town of Picton on the ferry between the North and South islands.More
#2
Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka

star-5458
The town of Wanaka is a lakeside escape that drifts by under the radar—nowhere as busy as neighboring Queenstown, but arguably even more scenic. Rung by the mountains of Mt. Aspiring National Park, Wanaka also cradles Lake Wanaka inside of its river valley, where boating, kayaking, and standup paddling are popular summer activities. Imagine casually paddling a kayak beneath the Southern Alps, or parasailing in a canopy of silence while gazing toward hanging glaciers.Of all the adventures you’ll find on Lake Wanaka, perhaps the quirkiest is a half-day tour to explore Mou Wahou Island. This offshore bird sanctuary is not only known for its wealth and diversity of bird life, but also the fact that it’s small lake, known as Arethusa Pool, is a lake on an island in a lake on an island that’s surrounded by the Pacific. Activities and offshore islands aside, Lake Wanaka is also popular for just swimming, since the shallow areas at the shore of the lake can reach as high as 65°F on the warmest days of summer.More
#3
Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu

star-56,145
Surrounded by mountains and shrouded in legend, Lake Wakatipu and its crystal waters draw visitors as the longest lake on New Zealand's South Island. A day on Lake Wakatipu is arguably the highlight of any trip to Queenstown and the Otago region.More
#4
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

star-565
New Zealand took a heavy toll in the fighting of World War I. By most estimates, the young nation lost 5% of its men of military age—a proportion that far outnumbered any of the other nations at war. Despite New Zealand’s heavy losses, the nation still commemorates the event and is proud of its military involvement, and the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center nearly brings the war back to life.Through the use of historic World War I aircraft and the help of Peter Jackson—who created Hollywood-quality exhibits to show the atrocities of war—the center has become one of the world’s foremost exhibits on early aviation. While strolling the exhibit calledKnights of the Sky, admire the impeccable dioramas that detail the tragedy of war—all of them featuring historic aircraft that served in World War I. There are scenes of pilots being shot down and artifacts belonging to The Red Baron, and by the time you finish wandering the halls of the shockingly real exhibits, you might swear you were actually on the Western Front in the summer of 1918. There’s also a museum with general info on World War I aviation, and even if you aren’t an aficionado of military biplanes or aircraft, the special effects and professional lighting combine to create a museum experience that's impressively entertaining.More
#5
Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

star-51,501
One of New Zealand’s most photographed natural wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Franz Josef Glacier serves up a dazzling landscape of snow-smothered peaks, rocky gorges, and icy waterfalls, feeding into the Waiho River.More
#6
Larnach Castle

Larnach Castle

star-5408
Built in the late-19th century by William Larnach, Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle. It’s been beautifully refurbished and the grounds are carefully tended. The views across the hills and water of the Otago Peninsula are some of the best in the area. A trip to Larnach Castle is a great way to spend a day while visiting Dunedin.More
#7
Taieri Gorge Railway

Taieri Gorge Railway

star-462
Taieri Gorge Railway isn't just a way of getting from Dunedin to Pukerangi. It’s an experience in itself. The train travels through the Central Otago landscape of hills and gorges, pastureland and forests. It follows part of the route of the historic Otago Central Railway, constructed in the late 19th century during Otago’s Gold Rush.More
#8
Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station

star-5603
Made of bluestone with marble floors and stained glass windows, the Dunedin Railway Station is one of Dunedin’s most impressive buildings and purportedly the most photographed in New Zealand. Far more than a railway station, here you can also grab something to eat, visit a sports museum, or photograph the attractive building.More
#9
Milford Sound

Milford Sound

star-55,595
With its soaring cliffs, dramatic glacial valleys, and thundering waterfalls, it’s easy to see why Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most visited sights. This natural wonder is the star attraction of Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and wildlife haven for dolphins, seals, and penguins.More
#10
Westcoast Treetop Walk & Cafe

Westcoast Treetop Walk & Cafe

star-4.554
Just south of the town of Hokitika, the West Coast Treetop Walk & Café offers a fun natural experience for adults and kids. A steel platform allows visitors to walk through the canopy of native rimu and kamahi trees, 65 feet (20 meters) above the ground. A 131-foot-high (40-meter-high) lookout tower offers views of the forest and the surrounding areas.More

Top activities in South Island

Franz Josef Heli Hiking Guided Tour

Franz Josef Heli Hiking Guided Tour

star-4.5
196
From
US$ 345.91
Milford Sound Experience Full Day from Queenstown

Special Offer

Milford Sound Experience Full Day from Queenstown

star-5
696
From
US$ 149.77
US$ 178.30  US$ 28.53 savings
TSS Earnslaw & BBQ Buffet Lunch

TSS Earnslaw & BBQ Buffet Lunch

star-4.5
182
From
US$ 92.00
Queenstown ATV Tour
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

Queenstown ATV Tour

star-4.5
37
From
US$ 215.80
Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown - Includes 4 Vineyards, Lunch & Wine

Special Offer

Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown - Includes 4 Vineyards, Lunch & Wine

star-5
275
From
US$ 131.01
US$ 145.57  US$ 14.56 savings
Whale Watching in Kaikoura by Boat

Whale Watching in Kaikoura by Boat

star-4.5
2307
From
US$ 109.73
The Original Onsen Queenstown

The Original Onsen Queenstown

star-4.5
292
From
US$ 51.85
Queenstown 60-minute Jet Boat Ride on the Shotover & Kawarau Rivers
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out
Te Anau Glow Worm Caves Tour

Te Anau Glow Worm Caves Tour

star-4.5
337
From
US$ 70.61

Frequently Asked Questions

The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
Q:
What are the top things to do in South Island?
Q:
What are the top activities in South Island?
Q:
What are the top things to do near South Island?