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Things to Do in South Island - page 3

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Fox Glacier
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Not only is 8-mile-long (13-kilometer-long) Fox Glacier New Zealand’s longest glacier, it’s also one of the most accessible and fastest-moving glaciers in the world, traveling 10 times the speed of other ice fields. The glacier constantly shifts as it advances, creating spectacular scenes of ice cliffs and crevasses.

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Penguin Place
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On the New Zealand’s South Island, a short drive from Dunedin, Penguin Place is a conservation reserve for the endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguin. It’s entirely funded through guided tours, so your visit will directly contribute to the birds’ preservation. In addition to bird sightings, the reserve offers beautiful views of Otago Harbour.

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Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
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Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is a family-friendly reserve on the outskirts of Christchurch. Meet both native animals and creatures from all over the world while supporting and contributing to Willowbank’s conservation efforts. Get close to all kinds of critters, from kiwi to kunekune pigs and everything in between.

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Waimakariri River
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Meandering from the majestic Southern Alps through the Canterbury Plains to the Pacific Ocean, the Waimakariri River is known for its scenic beauty. It is also the hub for a number of popular water sports and outdoor activities, from beech forest–lined canyon hikes to jet boat rides that take you spinning around rugged Waimakariri Gorge.

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Skyline Queenstown
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Hang on tight! Skyline Queenstown affords the city’s best views, but the gondola ride isn’t for the faint of heart. Zipping up 1,475 feet (450 meters) to the top of Bob’s Peak takes about 10 minutes aboard the steepest gondola in the southern hemisphere. En route, enjoy 220-degree vistas of Queenstown, the Remarkables, Coronet Peak, and Lake Wakatipu. At the top, dine at the mountaintop Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar amid panoramic views while the Skyline Luge track—with two steepness options, one easy enough for kids—sends adventurous riders screaming on their return trip to the mountain’s base.

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Dunedin
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Known as the Edinburgh of the south, the charming city of Dunedin is a wonderful vacation spot for visitors of all interests. Known primarily for its incredible wildlife attractions, the city itself is filled with interesting activities.

For food-lovers, take a tour of Cadbury World, and sample the famous milk chocolate as it journeys from cocoa bean to chocolate bar. If you don't have much of a sweet tooth, check out Speights Brewery, a city landmark that offers daily tours and tastings for those over 18. The city center, known as the Octagon, is bustling with shops and restaurants, and is always a lively place to visit.

For nature lovers, the Royal Albatross Centre, Dunedin Botanical Gardens, Orokunui EcoSanctuary, and Penguin Place are must-sees. Also visit the Otago Peninsula for stunning sea views, as well as the beautiful Tunnel Beach.

A trip to Dunedin would be incomplete without a visit to Baldwin Street, which holds the Guinness World Record for the steepest street in the world. If you're visiting in the summer, take part in the Baldwin Street Gutbuster, an annual festival in which participants run up and down the street.

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Sumner Beach
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The beach suburb of Sumner might be hidden from Christchurch by the Port Hills, but this vibrant summer hot spot is only a short drive east from the CBD. Visitors can enjoy a dip at Sumner Beach, relax on the beach’s golden sands, or enjoy a coffee or ice cream on the waterfront at one of the suburb’s promenade cafés.

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Doubtful Sound
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While tour buses may flock to neighboring Milford Sound, the wild landscapes of Doubtful Sound are equally enchanting and much less crowded. Framed by looming cliffs and dotted with rocky islets and tumbling waterfalls, this natural fjord is three times longer and has 10 times more surface area than Milford Sound. It is also centrally located at the heart of Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Christchurch Arts Centre
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Christchurch is bursting with independent artists, artisans, and storytellers producing vibrant and cutting-edge work, and many of them call the Christchurch Arts Centre (Te Matatiki Toi Ora) home. Redeveloping and reopening in stages following the damaging 2011 earthquake, the center is an exciting, creative hub full of studios, stores, galleries, and museums.

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Lake Manapouri
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Nestled within Fiordland National Park, Lake Manapouri is surrounded by the majestic Cathedral Range and dotted with 33 islands. Forested slopes descend into the water, creating impressive waterfalls and isolated sandy coves perfect for swimming and picnics. It is also the jumping-off point for travel to Doubtful Sound.

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More Things to Do in South Island

Kawarau River

Kawarau River

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Not far from Queenstown, Kawarau River offers a variety of thrill-seeking possibilities including jet boating, whitewater rafting, and riverboarding. Alternatively, visitors can go off-road into the surrounding hills during an all-terrain quad bike tour or try bungee jumping from the Kawarau Suspension Bridge. There’s something for history buffs too, who come to check out the gold-miners’ huts and relics from the river’s gold-rush days.

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Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum

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Covering three floors of a stunning neo-Gothic building in heart of Christchurch, the Canterbury Museum tells the stories of the region and the world around us. Walk down a re-created 19th-century Christchurch street, see the skeletons of dinosaurs and extinct native birds, and marvel at the vehicles Antarctic explorers once used to get to the South Pole.

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Port Hills

Port Hills

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This range of green, rumpled hills divides Christchurch from the harbor community of Lyttleton to the southeast. Walking and cycling trails crisscross the landscape, making the hills an outdoors playground. Now that there’s a 1.25-mile (2-kilometer) tunnel linking Christchurch and Lyttleton, the trip over the hills is the long way around. The extra time pays off in great scenery and gorgeous views.

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Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools

Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools

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Whether you’ve finished the hike to Alex Knob and back or you’ve just traveled to New Zealand’s West Coast for rest and relaxation, the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools—situated within a local rain forest—offer a scenic way to recharge. Kick back in the one of three public pools or book a private pool for your group.

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Transitional Cathedral (Cardboard Cathedral)

Transitional Cathedral (Cardboard Cathedral)

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The Transitional Cathedral opened in 2013, after the city’s iconic ChristChurch Cathedral was severely damaged in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. In contrast to the 19th-century stone church it replaces, the cathedral has a very modern, A-frame design supported by dozens of cardboard tubes, lending it the nickname the Cardboard Cathedral.

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Bridge of Remembrance

Bridge of Remembrance

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Stretching across the Avon River, the Bridge of Remembrance was unveiled in 1924 to honor the servicemen and women who bravely fought in World War I. Hundreds of soldiers have since marched on its stones. Today, the bridge and monument arch are viewed by many as the center of downtown Christchurch.

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West Coast Wildlife Centre

West Coast Wildlife Centre

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One of the largest kiwi hatching facilities in the South Island, the West Coast Wildlife Centre is a must-do for visitors of all ages. Go to learn all about New Zealand’s native birds and other animals. You’ll also have the chance to see some kiwis, rarely encountered in the wild, and tuataras, an ancient New Zealand lizard species.

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Cashel Street

Cashel Street

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The face of Cashel Street is ever-changing—from the heart of Christchurch’s once-bustling downtown to its post-earthquake Re:START mall. Today the city mall, also known as Cashel Street Mall, is rebounding as a thriving pedestrian thoroughfare offering shopping, a farmers market, and top-grade people watching.

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Mount Hutt

Mount Hutt

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Towering high above the Canterbury Plains, Mt. Hutt Ski Area is an award-winning, internationally recognized ski resort suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. But it’s not only a hot destination during ski season—there’s plenty to do during the summer, including hiking, hot-air ballooning, and jet boating in the Rakaia Gorge.

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Central Otago

Central Otago

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From Naseby and Ranfurly in the east to Cromwell and Arrowtown in the west, Central Otago is a sprawling alpine landscape known for winemaking and natural beauty. Spanning more than 3,800 miles (9,900 square kilometers) but with only 18,000 residents, this isolated, historical part of New Zealand is a great escape from the urban jungle.

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Toitu Otago Settlers Museum

Toitu Otago Settlers Museum

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Recently refurbished, the Toitu Otago Settlers Musuem is a fascinating look at the life and times of Dunedin’s early settlers. Because of its sheltered, deep water port and fertile coastal plain, Dunedin was one of the South Island’s earliest places where Europeans settled. Arriving by boat in 1848, European settlers—predominantly Scottish—slowly began to build a community in the coastal Otago frontier, which exploded into hyper-growth when gold was found in the hills. From the time of the gold rush in 1861, Dunedin continued to serve as the center of life in Otago and the Southland, all of which is on display in this massive downtown museum. Aside from exhibits on European settlers, visitors will also find info relating to native South Island Maori, as well as a look at how Dunedin was New Zealand’s “First Great City.” At the Smith Gallery, look in the eyes of early settlers through the stunning collections of portraits, all of which feature early settlers from pre-1864. You’ll also find newer, more modern exhibits on Dunedin in the digital age, and this one of the city’s best activities on a cold or rainy day.

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Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa

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Spa-lovers may find it hard to leave Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa. The standout attractions are the nine open-air geothermal pools, ranging in temperatures from 91°F to 107°F (33°C to 42°C). There are also three sulphur pools, six private indoor thermal pools, and a sauna. Anyone who wants to relax will search for reasons to linger.

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Kiwi Birdlife Park

Kiwi Birdlife Park

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There are two different ways to see a kiwi bird when traveling in Queenstown, New Zealand: Drive hours away to remote regions in the exceptionally slim hopes of spotting one, or drive two minutes from downtown Queenstown to Kiwi Birdlife Park. When visiting this 5-acre wildlife compound, visitors can spend time with—and even feed—New Zealand’s iconic birds, and also spot species such as alpine parrots and the rarely seen New Zealand falcon. When finished walking through the darkened hides that house the furry brown kiwis, gawk at the prehistoric tuatara that scientists claim has survived virtually unchanged for over 200 million years. Conservation is another key element of this informative and educational park, and funds from admission are used to rehabilitate and release birds back in the wild. Daily conservation shows discuss the programs in depth, and you’ll also find talks on Maori culture and the pounamu, or greenstone, that led the Maori to originally inhabit these hills.

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Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory (Milford Sound Observatory)

Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory (Milford Sound Observatory)

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For as stunning as the Milford Sound scenery can be when viewed above the water, there’s an entire other, underwater world that visitors rarely see. Thankfully, the Milford Discovery and Underwater Observatory (Milford Sound Observatory) allows visitors to journey beneath the waves without even getting their hair wet. After descending over 30 feet beneath the Milford Sound surface, see rare species of black coral and schools of colorful fish, all from the air-conditioned, protected enclosure of the underwater observatory. Aside from simply catching a glimpse of the underwater environment, travelers can also visit the discovery center that’s located above the surface, and hear the ancient Maori history of Milford, or Piopiotahi. There are even videos of terrifying avalanches crashing down on the Milford Road, and documentaries showing the struggles of building the Milford Tunnel.

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