5 great places to visit on New Zealand’s South Island

Arriving in New Zealand, one is immediately confronted with the country’s dedication to the conservation of nature. Permits may be required for a multitude of items, ranging from animals, plants, seeds to ginseng roots.

Before starting your exploration of the pristine wilderness of the South Island, one needs to be aware of the strict DOC (Department of Conservation) guidelines and regulations. These include lighting fires on conservation land, dog access to conservation land (if you are bringing your furry friend along), littering, being prepared for fast-changing weather conditions, avalanche alerts, drone usage and more.  

With good planning and awareness, you’re ready for a memorable trip through the South Island’s beautiful landscapes, mountains, glaciers, lakes, temperate rainforests and beaches. Many travelers will opt for a campervan, as they allow nature lovers to stay outdoors during their entire stay.

Starting in Picton, located at the North-end of the South Island, you can drive all the way to the Southern tip of Island and back within 2 weeks. The South Island has so many beautiful sites, too many to list here, so we have compiled a list of five locations and activities that will guarantee satisfaction to travelers.

Nelson Lakes National Park

Located about 1.5 hours’ drive from Picton, Nelson Lakes National Park covers about 1000 square kilometers, it is centered at two large lakes, Rotoiti and Rotoroa. The park includes surrounding valleys (including Travers, Sabine, and D’Urville, upper reaches of the Matakitaki) and mountain ranges (Saint Arnaud Range, Mount Robert). The park is a popular area for camping, tramping and fishing. The park is administered by the Department of Conservation that operates a Visitors Centre in Saint Arnaud providing up-to-date and reliable information on all aspects of the National Park.

Pancake Rocks

One of the many natural attractions to be found on the South Island are the Pancake Rocks, formed over a limestone base that started 25 to 35 million years ago and getting its’ name and looks through the erosion of this limestone area. They can be explored by walkways within the rock formations. You can reach the Pancake Rocks on the West Coast, driving on State Highway 6 going through the nearby town of Punakaiki.

Hokitika driftwood festival

The town of Hokitika was founded in 1864 during the West Coast Gold Rush. On a clear day, visitors can clearly see Mt Cook from the town’s main street. The main attraction today is the yearly driftwood festival, bringing Art and the environment together; Build a sculpture with anything you find on the beach and some imagination. This is ideal for family trips, providing fun and creativity for the kids.

Queenstown

Located in the South West of the Island, this resort town is a major center for snow sports in New Zealand, offering visitors and locals a multitude of activities, ranging from skiing and snowboarding, jets boating, whitewater rafting, bungy jumping, mountain biking, skateboarding, tramping, paragliding, sky diving to fly fishing. The town offers a lively change from nature hikes with a large choice of restaurants, bars and festivals and is close to the Central Otago Wine Region. For those who like a little adventure inside, the town even has one of the 6 casinos in New Zealand. For the best online casino New Zealand also offers a great platform.

Kaikoura

On the way back to the North, travelers can enjoy a range of wildlife experiences of all kinds in the coastal town of Kaikoura where marine mammal encounters are common. Whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters. One of the most exciting activities is swimming with dolphins. The town is small but it’s well worth staying more than 1 night as the surrounding scenery is spectacular with the mountains overlooking the sea.

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