Top 10 Things to Do On New Zealand's South Island
1. Visit Queenstown, New Zealand
When I first started looking at things to do when visiting New Zealand, everyone told me you MUST go to Queenstown, and after seeing it for myself, they were absolutely right!
Besides being situated on the edge of a pristine blue lake and surrounded by staggering mountains, there is so much to do in Queenstown itself.
There are so many adrenaline pumping activities in Queenstown, which brings me to my next point…
2. Bungee Jumping on New Zealand's South Island
You can’t visit the birthplace of Bungee Jumping and not give it a go! AJ Hackett, the founder of the first commercial bungee jumping, started at Kawarau Bridge Bungy which is just outside of Queenstown… and that’s why bungee jumping made the list of things not to miss on New Zealand’s South Island
While you can still jump from that original spot, there are two other bungee jumping opportunities in the area: The Ledge Bungee (I did this one, pictured above — see the full video of me backflipping off!) and The Nevis Bungee, the highest one in New Zealand! If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge, the latter two places offer a swing that will still get your heart pumping!
3. The Blue Pools of Haast, NZ
I had seen pictures of The Blue Pools before traveling to New Zealand and just assumed the blue had been dramatized by Photoshop or something, but nope, it really is that blue!
It’s an easy walk to the pools themselves through lush rainforest. The path includes two suspension bridges, one of which goes right over the pools (and where this photo was taken from)!
4. Milford Sound, New Zealand
Though technically a fiord and not a sound, Milford Sound is stunning nonetheless! Despite it being pretty remote from anything else, it is definitely something NOT to miss on New Zealand’s South Island.
We drove from Queenstown and it made for a really long day of being on a bus. If you’ve got the funds, I’d suggest taking a scenic flight instead, it’s way quicker and you get some seriously great views. I had a friend do it, and her IG stories looked amazing.
You should do a scenic cruise of Milford Sound, there are several companies that offer tours, most are around 2 hours long. They travel the length of the fiord and get up close and right under many of the waterfalls that cascade down from the tops of the surrounding cliffs. If you’re lucky, you may even see some seals!
5. Lake Tekapo
Seeing the stars at Lake Tekapo was one of the things I was most excited to see beforehand, but unfortunately, the weather had other plans: It was raining and completely cloudy the night we stayed here.
Lake Tekapo is part of the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, so the stars are absolutely dazzling. I am still pretty gutted to have missed the Church of the Good Shepard with the stars (above) photo opportunity.
It’s also incredibly beautiful during the day too!
6. Eat a Pie
Being American, meat pies weren’t really something I knew about, and frankly, they sounded kinda gross to me. But let me tell you, they are pretty darn good! New Zealand (and Australia) are known for their savory pies and you’ve got to try one when visiting.
I had many while I was there, and I think my favorite would have to be the bacon and egg — a great breakfast!
7. Hike Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
One of my favorite and probably the coolest thing I did while in New Zealand was Heli Hike Franz Josef glacier! The only way to actually get up to the glacier and hike on it is by helicopter, and let’s be honest, looking at it way up on the mountain from below just doesn’t cut it.
8. Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
We, unfortunately, didn’t get to spend much time at Lake Wanaka, only an hour or so, but from what I did see, it was stunning. This is also home to the famous tree in the lake you always see photos of!
I would have loved to hike up to Roy’s Peak. It’s a 16 km hike that takes 5-6 hours, but for views like the below photos, it would be worth it for sure.
9. See How Many Waterfalls You Can Count in NZ
This one may be harder than you think… blink and you might miss one! There are SO many waterfalls in New Zealand, I really did lose count of how many we saw. I would guess at least 20 or 30 over the span of 6 days, each one as beautiful as the last.
10. Aoraki / Mt. Cook, New Zealand
I was in awe looking up at Aoraki/Mt. Cook. Its peaks stagger above through the clouds and it is quite the sight to see. The most popular path is the Hooker Valley track.
We only walked to the first suspension bridge (where the picture above was taken), but I’m sure the entire hike is just as beautiful!
BONUS Thing NOT to Miss on New Zealand's South Island: Try and Spot a Wild Kiwi
This one will be tough! Kiwi birds are the national icon of New Zealand and the unofficial national emblem. If you are able to find one in the wild, consider yourself very lucky! There are many Kiwi Centers in New Zealand where you see them in captivity, most require an entrance fee.
What are your must-sees while traveling New Zealand’s South Island? Comment below or send me a DM on Instagram!
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