New Zealand’s South Island is just like a blockbuster film set, where the glacial landscapes are beyond breathtaking and the possibilities for high-octane, adrenaline-fueled adventures are endless. But how do you cram it all in to a couple of weeks?
By making sure you don’t miss any of these top places and attractions:
Abel Tasman National Park
Walk out to Sandy Bay Viewpoint for fantastic views, and it’s only about an hour along an easy trail from the park entrance, which is great if it’s raining or you don’t fancy overnight camping.
Stop here if really long swing bridges are your thing. We pulled in for lunch and it was a fun place to stop at for a few hours. The bridge is the longest of its kind in New Zealand at 110m. You can walk across and zip line back, at a cost. We went for a short walk on the opposite side of the gorge and saw an old mining village there. Be warned, the sand flies will make a human buffet of you so wear plenty of insect repellent!
Or Pancake Rocks – ‘pancake’ because they are layered limestone rocks created over time by immense pressure on alternating hard and soft layers of marine life and plant sediment. The sunset is spectacular.
A cute town with some nice cafes – got to recommend Cafe Neve, their hot chocolate revived our rain soaked souls on more than one occasion! The glacier is not t-be-missed, although you can’t get on the ice without a guide, which of course costs a pretty penny, but you can hike up to the start of the glacier for free. It’s also a spectacular backdrop to a spot of skydiving. Got to recommend a walk round Lake Matheson, or the Mirror Lake, too. There are lots of great walks, made even better by a session in the Fox Glacier Inn at the end of the day, thawing out by the open fire.
Queenstown is the place to go for adrenaline-fueled fun, from bungee jumps to sky diving. Not got a height for heads? The Shotover Jet in the Shotover Canyons (NZ$129 per adult) is a top choice: 25 minutes of non-stop giggles, getting absolutely soaked doing 360° turns in the water and some very unflattering photographs! If once isn’t enough you can ride again for only NZ$19. Queenstown is also pretty good for a bar crawl. We took a fairly typical route; 1876, The Pig and Whistle, Searle Lane followed by The Powder Room. The bars were packed, good atmosphere in most of them and remember to always ask what the drinks deals are. Needless to say, the next day consisted of very little, except one huge and very tasty Fergburger, Queenstown’s most iconic burger joint and hang out for everyone recovering from the night before, us included.
The three hour drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound has to be one of the best drives in New Zealand, although the descent down into the sound can be quite hair-raising – through Homer Tunnel, signs warning you of potential avalanches on every side usher you along. Cruise around the sound for up close views of waterfalls and cute seals.
Got any tips for trips around New Zealand’s South Island? Share your top spots in the comment section below!