Get ready to push your limits and embrace your sense of adventure as we take you on a journey through the stunning South Island of New Zealand. This rugged and diverse landscape is a playground for adventurers, with endless opportunities to get that perfect photo op, enjoy an afternoon with friends, or make unforgettable memories with your family.
Whether you’re a seasoned thrill-seeker or a first-time adventurer, there’s something for everyone on the South Island. So pack your bags, buckle up and get ready for an unforgettable experience. We highlight the top experiences that will take you on a journey through the heart and soul of New Zealand.
From West Coast Tree Top Walkway experience to swimming with dolphins in Akaroa, let’s discover the top 16 unforgettable experiences that await you on New Zealand’s South Island.
1) Soar Through The Skies: Skydiving In Queenstown
Skydiving in Queenstown is an adventure like no other, offering the opportunity to freefall from up to 15,000 feet and experience the rush of adrenaline as you soar over some of New Zealand’s most stunning natural scenery. This once-in-a-lifetime experience offers breathtaking views of the Southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu. It’s perfect for adrenaline junkies who want to push their limits and try something new.
2) Dive Into Adventure: Swimming With Dolphins In Akaroa
Swimming with dolphins is a unique and unforgettable experience that is available in the picturesque town of Akaroa. Visitors can interact with playful Hector’s dolphins in their natural habitat, creating a once-in-a-lifetime memory. Visitors to Akaroa can also enjoy stunning views of the harbour and the surrounding hills, as well as a variety of other water-based activities, such as kayaking and paddleboarding.
3) Trek On Ice: Glacier Hiking In Franz Josef
Glacier hiking in Franz Josef offers a rare opportunity to experience a dynamic and constantly changing environment, where visitors can witness firsthand the dramatic effects of climate change on the glacier. Visitors can explore the stunning ice formations and learn about the unique ecology of this frozen landscape. You can also take a helicopter ride to the top for a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding mountains and glaciers.
4) Savour the Flavoyrs of Marlborough: A Wine Tour Through NZ’s Largest Wine Region
Indulge in a sensory adventure in New Zealand’s largest wine region, Marlborough. Known for its world-renowned sauvignon blanc, Marlborough boasts an impressive array of wineries and vineyards that are perfect for a tasting tour. Whether you prefer a self-guided bike tour with Explore Marlborough or a chauffeured driving tour with the Marlborough Tour Company, you’re sure to enjoy the stunning scenery and delicious wines.
5) Sail Through Wonderland: Milford Sound Cruise
Milford Sound is one of the most iconic natural attractions in New Zealand, and a cruise through the sound is an incredible way to experience its beauty. Visitors can see towering waterfalls, towering peaks and stunning wildlife. The calm waters provide a serene environment to take in the stunning scenery, and the knowledgeable guides on the cruise provide fascinating insights into the history and ecology of the area.
6) Kiwi Kingdom: Meet Our Beloved National Bird at Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park
New Zealand is home to a unique and beloved creature: the kiwi bird. As a flightless bird, the kiwi is an iconic symbol of New Zealand’s native wildlife and a must-see for any nature lover. One of the best places to spot this adorable bird is at the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown. Here, you can witness these feathered creatures up close and learn more about their natural habitat and behaviour. The best part is that you’re contributing to the conservation of these special creatures just by visiting.
7) Explore The Depths: Canyoning In Wanaka
Canyoning is an adventure activity that involves descending through narrow canyons, jumping into pools of water and abseiling down waterfalls. Wanaka is one of the best places to try canyoning in NZ, offering a range of experiences for all levels of ability. Choose from a variety of canyoning experiences, including half-day or full-day trips that explore the stunning natural beauty of the region. Experienced guides provide all the necessary equipment and instruction, ensuring that participants can safely enjoy the thrills and challenges of this exciting activity.
8) Witness Giants of the Sea: A Whale Watching Adventure in Kaikoura
Kaikoura is home to a unique oceanic ecosystem where warm and cold currents meet, attracting an abundance of marine life. With a whale watching tour, visitors can witness giant sperm whales up to 20 metres long, acrobatic dusky dolphins, and playful fur seals in their natural habitat. Get ready to be awed by the sheer size and grace of these majestic creatures as they breach and dive just meters away from your boat. With Kaikoura’s pristine waters as your backdrop, this adventure promises to be an experience you’ll treasure forever.
9) Gliding Through Paradise: Kayaking the Golden Coasts of Abel Tasman
The golden beaches, sculpted granite cliffs, and the internationally acclaimed coast track have all contributed to the fame of Abel Tasman National Park. Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or a first-timer, Abel Tasman’s breathtaking coastline, serene bays and inlets, and diverse wildlife will leave you awestruck. With guided kayaking tours available, you’ll have the chance to explore hidden coves, only accessible by water. This is your chance to soak in the stunning scenery of one of New Zealand’s most iconic national parks.
10) The Turquoise Gem of Hokitika: Discover the Majestic Beauty of Hokitika Gorge
Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Hokitika Gorge and be transported to a world of peace and tranquility. The vibrant turquoise waters are a result of glacier runoff that has been filtered through the surrounding rocks, creating a surreal and captivating sight. Follow the winding path through the lush native bush and emerge onto a viewing platform that overlooks the gorge, offering panoramic views of the stunning landscape. This is a place where time stands still, and visitors can relax and unwind in the midst of NZ’s unspoiled natural beauty.
11) Rejuvenate in Nature’s Hot Tub at Hanmer Springs Thermal Springs
Nestled amidst the stunning alpine scenery of Hanmer Springs lies a natural oasis of tranquility: the Hanmer Springs Thermal Springs. Treat yourself to the ultimate relaxation experience as you sink into the warm, mineral-rich waters of the natural hot pools. Surrounded by lush gardens, with the picturesque Southern Alps in the background, this is the perfect place to unwind and let the stresses of everyday life melt away. Whether you want to soothe tired muscles after a day of adventure or simply indulge in some much-needed self-care, a visit to Hanmer Springs Thermal Springs is an absolute must.
12) The Twinkling Nightlife of Te Anau’s Caves: A Glow Worm Adventure
Discover the natural wonders of Te Anau’s underground caves, where thousands of twinkling glow worms create an enchanting and surreal atmosphere. The caves are a fascinating labyrinth of limestone passages, underground waterfalls and deep pools. As you journey through the cave system, you’ll marvel at the beauty of the illuminated ceilings and walls, and the sparkling reflections in the pools. Let the stars of the underground sky light your path. The experience is truly awe-inspiring and will leave you with a sense of wonder.
13) Reflecting on the Beauty of the Southern Alps: Lake Matheson
Lake Matheson, also known as the ‘Mirror Lake,’ is located near the Fox Glacier on the South Island of New Zealand. This picturesque lake is surrounded by native rainforest, making it an ideal place to experience nature at its finest. The still waters of Lake Matheson create a mirror-like reflection of the Southern Alps, including Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, which make for an incredible photo opportunity. The best time to visit is during the early morning or late afternoon when the light is just right for capturing stunning reflections. The walk around the lake takes about an hour and is easy enough for all fitness levels. Visitors can also take a guided tour to learn about the history and geology of the area.
14) Ride the Rapids: Embark on an Epic Jet Boat Adventure in Haast
The Haast River is a prime location for jet boating, with a range of operators offering tours that take you through the heart of the stunning wilderness area. With speeds of up to 80 km/h, you’ll experience a thrilling ride through the rapids and narrow gorges of the river while taking in breathtaking views of the surrounding rainforest and mountains. Jet boating in Haast is a must-do for anyone seeking an exciting and unforgettable adventure in NZ.
15) Zip Through The Treetops: The West Coast Tower Zipline
The West Coast Tower Zipline is a thrilling must-do attraction for travellers of all ages. With a length of 425m and a speed exceeding 60km/hr, riders will fly through the Rimu treetops at a height of 45m. The two-hour adventure starts at the West Coast Tree Top Visitor Centre and includes an educational tour of the Rimu rainforest. The experience is suitable for all fitness levels, and expert guides ensure a safe and enjoyable time.
16) Walk On The Wild Side: West Coast Tree Top Walkway Experience
The West Coast Tree Top Walkway is a unique way to experience the beauty of the South Island’s forests. Experience the thrilling Hokitika Tower, standing 47m above the forest floor, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. Visitors can also explore the forest through the Mahinapua Springboard and catch a glimpse of Lake Mahinapua. Take a virtual tour to get a sneak peek and be inspired to explore the beauty of New Zealand’s forests.
Book your West Coast Tree Top Walkway experience today and create unforgettable memories in the heart of New Zealand’s natural beauty.