The South Island of New Zealand is full of stunning spots. In this list, I’ve included some of my favourites, with reflective lakes, waterfalls, dense bush and plenty of great hikes. I’ve realised they are all far from the cities and require a bit of organisation before visiting.
Do you have any you would recommend? Leave them in the comments at the end and I’ll explore.
Milford Sound in New Zealand is a fiordland with incredibly beautiful scenery tucked away at the bottom of the island. Every time I visit, I’m in-love and wonder why I don’t come more often. Water is everywhere – waterfalls appear down the mountains after it rains, clear blue rivers, reflective lakes, snow even in summer and the sea comes in around the fractured land.
The trip from Te Awau to Milford Sound is a great scenic drive. There are so many hiking tracks in the area, it’s crazy! I still haven’t managed one of the famous multiple day hikes like Milford Track or the Routeburn Track, but there are plenty of unbelievably beautiful day hikes like Key Summit Track or Lake Marian Track. Then there is the option of cruises on the sound or even kayaking. If you are after THE photo of Milford Sound, go on the Piopiotahi Milford Foreshore Walk, which is right next to the Milford Sound carpark.
Glenorchy is a small town surrounded by Lord of the Rings quality scenery. Where is it? Just an hour from Queenstown!
Driving beyond Glenorchy, the road eventually forks and becomes a gravel road. If you carry on after Paradise (yes, there is a place called Paradise), the road becomes more rugged with rivers fording the road and feels more like you’re on someones private land. There are a crazy number of hikes in the area and even one right in town.
Karamea is a small town 99km north of Westport, on the South Island of New Zealand. The area has been described as “New Zealand’s best-kept secret”. Because it’s out of the way, a lot of people don’t bother visiting.
The main reason for it’s multiple accommodation options are from people completing the Heaphy Track. But there are other activities in the area with plenty of shorter hikes. It feels untouched and has a lot more wildlife than other parts of New Zealand. There are wild beaches, red rivers, mossy forests and caves – plenty of natural beauty.
Generally thought of as the warmest part of the South Island – it has a beautiful coastline and dense bush. There is a 3-5 day hike through the national park. You can easily do a day walk and just explore a section of the track by organising a water taxi (Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi, Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle or Wilsons Abel Tasman). It’s advertised as an easy walk, but I know people who struggled with the hills and nearly missed the water taxi!
The drive along the intense chalky blue Lake Pukaki is the perfect entrance to this park. After a decent length drive, the road becomes a gravel carpark with a Doc campsite and toilet. There are a plenty of walking options and not all for mountaineers. The Kea Point Track is an extremely easy and short walk. I started the Hooker Valley Track, but realised I didn’t have enough time… will just have to go back.
There is such a variety of landscapes in the South Island – far more diverse than the North Island. Below are a few more destinations that I ALSO love:
I imagine there are a few spots I’ve never heard of and there are a couple high on my wish-list.
Stewart Island would be amazing to see. It always sounds isolated, relaxing and beautiful.
Doubtful Sound is also a place I would love to visit. I can’t get enough of Milford Sound and I imagine Doubtful would be similar yet with less tourists!
Do you have a recommendation? I’d love to hear what spot you would recommend visiting in the comments below.