3 of the Best Places to Visit in New Zealand’s South Island
New Zealand is quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Known for its clean and green approach, many people visit New Zealand for the beautiful, untouched wilderness and mountain areas. Many of the most popular places to visit in New Zealand are actually on the South Island. This is a guest post from Destinationless Travel who has spent time exploring New Zealand.
The South Island of New Zealand is a vast area with a very low population. This lack of population means the South Island has remained rather untouched compared to other places in the world. It is also home to the impressive Southern Alps which have become New Zealand’s biggest attraction. It’s safe to say the South Island of New Zealand is an adventurer’s dream!
There are so many places to explore in the South island that it can become quite overwhelming to choose. Many who visit this rather small island don’t have a huge amount of time. So in this post, I outline the 3 Best Places to Visit on New Zealand’s South Island and things to do so you can tick off all the best spots!
1.Mount Cook National Park
Mount Cook National Park is my favourite place to visit in New Zealand. This pristine national park is all about stunning lakes, giant mountains, and ancient glaciers. In fact, Mount Cook is actually the tallest mountain in New Zealand. The National Park is filled with hiking trails for all experience levels and is one of the most scenic places on this list.
There are many different things to do in Mount Cook National Park, and some of the most popular are:
Hooker Valley Track
The Hooker Valley track is a 5km (one way) hiking trail that leads to the Hooker Lake at the base of Mount Cook. This trail is by far the most popular in the National Park and in my opinion, is a must do. At the end of the trail, you can see reflections of Mount Cook on the Hooker Lake as well as large icebergs floating in it! It’s nothing short of breathtaking!
Mount Cook National Park is actually located in a dark sky reserve. This is the most ideal place to see the stars and on a clear night you don’t need any fancy equipment. The best part is that for this activity you just have to look outside – no hiking required!
Tasman Glacier Walk
The Tasman Glacier walk is the shortest hike in the National Park and only takes around 15 minutes. This short trail is super rewarding though! At the end of the trail, you sit opposite to the Tasman Glacier with the Southern Alps as a backdrop. A great tip is to visit at sunrise!
The Mueller Hut hike is an alpine hike that leads to the Mueller Hut. Sitting at 1800m above sea level and high above the valley of Mount Cook National Park, this hike gives you by far the best views of the Park. This hike is rewarding but also challenging starting with over 2000 stairs and then onto some very steep terrain – this trail isn’t for the faint-hearted.
During winter the trail is completely covered in snow and both alpine equipment and experience are required! If you still want the amazing views but don’t want to hike all the way you can just hike the Sealy Tarns Trail which takes you to halfway!
Queenstown is New Zealand’s most iconic town. This small vibrant town got its name based on the fact that it is literally fit for a Queen! It is nestled along the shores of Lake Wakatipu in one of the most beautiful and untouched parts of New Zealand. However, it’s not just the town itself that brings in the visitors and instead the many hiking trails, adventure sports, and scenic views.
There are hundreds of things to do in Queenstown but here’s a few to get you started:
Scenic drive to Glenorchy
The drive between Queenstown and Glenorchy is one of the most scenic in the country. This 45-minute drive can take a lot longer as you stop a million times along the way! Some highlights include Bob’s cove, The Humboldt Mountains, and the cute town of Glenorchy itself!
The Ben Lomond Trail
The Ben Lomond Trail is, in my opinion, the most scenic hike in Queenstown. This rather long trail ends on the summit of Ben Lomond where you have views of Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps. The trail to the summit is actually a long hike and you should allow at least 6 hours to complete it. If that sounds like too long, then you can simply hike to the saddle which makes the hike much shorter.
Go Bungey jumping
Queenstown is home to the highest bungey in New Zealand! The Nevis bungey is the ultimate activity for any adrenaline junkie. At 134m tall, it certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted however once you make the plunge that feeling after can’t be achieved any other way!
3.Fiordland National Park
Fiordland National Park is one of the most remote areas in the South Island. This large area is made up of towering fiords, huge lakes, and mountainous terrain. The area has very few roads that pass through it. However, where these roads do pass, you can find some of the most beautiful places on earth. Below are just a few:
By far, Milford Sound is the most visited place in New Zealand. Milford Sound is actually a fiord, not a sound, meaning it is glacier carved. This massive valley has a prehistoric feeling and exploring Milford Sound is a humbling experience! Milford Sound is known for its rain and during and after hundreds of waterfalls begin to flow! Some people say visiting Milford sound when it’s raining is the best way!
Some of the best ways to explore Milford is via a scenic cruise or kayaking tour. Both provide you with insight into the history and significance of Milford Sound. There are also some other waterfalls to explore and hiking trails nearby to keep you busy!
Lake Marian is nestled a few hours hike from the main road to Milford Sound. This beautiful alpine lake shines green on a sunny day and is situated below stunning mountain peaks. The hike to Lake Marian takes around 2 hours and 1 hour to return. Many people miss this stunning lake because of the hiking time, but trust me this one’s a must see!
The Great Walks
Fiordland National Park is home to 3 of the 9 Great Walks. These 3 are the Milford Track, Kepler Track and Routeburn Track. To visit this region and not even spend a day on at least one of these trails would be such a shame. These trails have been made famous for their spectacular views and very well maintained trails. My personal favourite is the Kepler Track!
The list of places above and the things to do have been comprised of my 9 months exploring New Zealand. I have been so lucky to see so much of this beautiful country and hope this list helps you have the best time you can in New Zealand!
Author Bio Daniel Caracciolo
Daniel is a travel blogger and freelance writer/photographer. Along with his partner Bailey, they are Destinationless Travel. For the past 3 years, they have travelled to over 20 countries writing about their travels along the way. Daniel ‘s writing style is based around the idea of helping (and not just inspiring) by writing informative guides and finding the coolest off the beaten path places! If you would like to follow his journey you can see their blog here!
Have you been to South Island I am hoping to go in 2020 so if you have any tips please do get in contact as I would love to hear more.
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