Le Magazine Accor Hotels

The best things to do and see in New Zealand’s South Island

Inspiring landscapes, pure air, action and adventure. Check out these top destinations you can't miss during your visit to New Zealand's South Island.

New Zealand is abound with diverse landscape and rich culture. Whether it be charming townships, quiet bays or remote mountain summits that draw you in, New Zealand’s bountiful South Island destinations will deliver experiences like no other place on earth. Read further to discover our top eight wonders of the South Island.

Queenstown, New Zealand

1. Queenstown, New Zealand

You should carve out a full week to explore Queenstown and surrounds. From its quaint township, endless heart-stopping adventure activities, to high mountain peaks, it’s a place of endless discovery. 
Challenge yourself with a climb to the summit of Ben Lomond and be rewarded with sweeping views across crystal-blue Lake Wakatipu, and on clear days out across to Mount Aspiring. Be sure to pack the essentials as the climb will take 6-8 hours return based on experience. 
Soothe the muscles and re-centre post-climb with a spa experience like no other at Onsen. Nestled on Arthurs Point and overlooking Shotover River, bathe in cedar hot tubs and unwind whilst breathing in the spectacular views. 
A nightcap on a chilly evening beckons at Eichardt’s Bar. Melt into a squashy sofa in cosy surroundings and take your pick from the specialty cocktails and spirits, or tuck into a share plate or two.
For a detailed guide to this magic destination, check out our list of things to explore when visiting Queenstown.
Milford Sound, Fiordland. Tourism New Zealand
Milford Sound, Fiordland. Tourism New Zealand

2. Milford Sound, Fiordland

Dramatic and imposing, Milford Sound is unmissable. 
Located on the west coast of the South Island access is via a long, winding (and sometimes inaccessible) road, so it’s best to plan ahead and ensure you check the weather forecast before beginning your journey. 
There are ample places to stop and rest along Milford Road, most of which are spectacular points of interest; including the Mirror Lakes and the Chasm. 
One of the wettest locations in the world, Milford’s beautify is amplified by rain, swelling the waterfalls that thunder from the sheer cliffs into the fiord below. Aboard a cruise is one of the best ways to experience the sheer beauty of this place. From the inky depths, to the green cliffs above blooming with fauna and native wildlife, you can’t fail to be mesmerised by the striking beauty of the surroundings.
Glenorchy, New Zealand. Tourism New Zealand
Glenorchy, New Zealand. Tourism New Zealand

3. Glenorchy

A picturesque 45-minute drive from Queenstown, Glenorchy is beautiful and melancholy. A sought after film location, this destination is a must-visit for hiking, biking and nature lovers. Go wild and explore the rugged terrain and grassy plains solo, or book a tour on foot or by kayak for a truly authentic New Zealand experience.
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. Tourism New Zealand
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. Tourism New Zealand

4. Mt. Cook National Park

Home to the highest mountains in New Zealand, Mt. Cook’s alpine air and hiking trails make it a hot spot for mountaineers. This being said, there are trails and climbing options for all skill levels and the rewards are high with spectacular views of glaciers and glacier fed alpine lakes. 
For impressive views of Mueller Glacier and Mount Cook, take the Hooker Valley Track. This easy walking trail will take you through the sacred Tōpuni area of the Hooker Valley, across swing bridges and wildflower valleys. Early risers will be rewarded with views of the Southern Alps illuminated by the morning’s sunlight. 
By night you’ll feel humbled as you gaze upon the endless starry skies, their beauty amplified by the absence of any surrounding city lights, here you’ll feel small in the best possible way.
Tekapo Canterbuy. Tourism New Zealand
Tekapo Canterbuy. Tourism New Zealand

5. Lake Tekapo, Canterbury

Not too far from Mt. Cook is Lake Tekapo which lies in the heart of the Mackenzie Country. Fed by glacial rivers the Lake is turquoise in colour and spectacular to behold. Notable points of interest include the Church of the Good Shepherd, standing prominent on the shoreline against the backdrop of the Southern Alps, and the noble "Sheepdog monument" nearby. Sculptured to honour the districts debt to the hardy sheepdog “without the help of which the grazing of this mountain country would be impossible”. 
Whether you’re looking to bike, hike, camp or laze beneath the starry night sky you can do it all (and more) here.
Christchurch City. Tourism New Zealand
Christchurch City. Tourism New Zealand

6. Christchurch

This resilient city has been rebuilt since the devastating 2011 earthquakes. Standing proud, the cities energy pulses with urban art and style. On foot, explore streets with colourful murals that speak of unequivocal resilience and strength, or hop aboard a heritage tram providing easy access to explore the cities galleries, theatres and street markets. 
Hit the SALT District for great shopping in an area that’s unashamedly bold; bursting with alternative fashion, thrift shops and eateries like Unknown Chapter, serving specialty roasted coffee and unfussy food.  
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park

7. Abel Tasman National Park

A slice of coastal gold, Abel Tasman Park is New Zealand’s smallest national park – making it easy to navigate for a visit that’s filled with adventure and fun. Discover sandy beaches here and clear waters that are particularly inviting during the warm summer months. 
The southern beaches are the most protected in unreliable weather conditions; Medland and Anchorage being some of the most popular stretches of sand. Nature enthusiasts will love the trails on offer to view local seal colonies, marine and bird life.   
Blue Pools Track, New Zealand
Blue Pools Track, New Zealand

8. Blue Pools Track

1 hour’s drive from Wanaka, the glacier fed Blue Pools are part of the Makarora River that runs down from the nearby mountains in Mt. Aspiring National Park. Follow the flat and shady trial, and across swing bridges to discover pools of sapphire blue. If you’re feeling brave, take a paddle or a quick swim in the pools – just remember these waters are very cold year-round and you’ll need to prepare yourself for a warm exit! 
Start planning your next New Zealand adventure today and explore the South Island accommodation options Accor has to offer.   

Did you like it? Share it!

At random

More travel ideas

Find your dream destination

With the Dream Detector

Use our Detector