The majority of the South Island, approximately two-thirds, is dominated by the Southern Alps. This long mountain range starts in Fiordland in the south, reaches a high point at Aoraki/Mt. Cook (3,754m), and descends toward the temperate coastline in the north. The Southern Alps bisect the island and seperate the West Coast from the eastern regions such as Canterbury. 

The bottom corner of the South Island is home to the powerhouse Te Wāhipounamu - South West New Zealand UNESCO World Heritage Area. This includes Fiordland National ParkMilford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, Mt. Aspiring National Park, and Mt. Cook National Park. The diversity of landscapes in this relatively small area is astounding.

East of Fiordland is the Otago region and Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capitol. Central Otago was once the gold mining center of the country. In recent years it has transformed into a hotspot for wineries and biking on the revamped Otago Rail Trail.

North of Otago are the West Coast and Canterbury Regions. The West Coast is known for mammoth glaciers, tall mountains, and wild coastline. Canterbury is home to alpine Arthur's Pass and the recovering city of Christchurch.

The Southern Alps make one last push in Nelson Lakes National Park before dropping down to the clear waters of the South Island's northern coast. The north offers the full range of ocean activities, great seafood, and Marlborough has earned its reputation as one of the world’s premier wine regions, in particular for Sauvignon Blanc. Abel Tasman National Park has white sand beaches and world-class kayaking; the Marlborough Sounds are considerably bigger with more room to explore. 

There are many other great places to visit on New Zealand's South Island. On the whole, the towns are small and unobtrusive and the island functions essentially like one big national park. Enjoy the journey.

Fiordland, New Zealand

When people imagine New Zealand, the scenery of the Fiordland Region often comes to mind. Situated in the southwestern corner of the South Island, Fiordland is dominated by the verdure of rainforests blanketed in ferns, the snow...

Milford Sound, New Zealand

World-renowned Milford Sound is the pearl of New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park. The 15-kilometer length of mysterious dark waters is lined by 4,000-foot rock walls, the peaks of which remain snow-capped during all...

Otago, New Zealand

Otago on the South Island is one of New Zealand’s most varied regions, from high alpine terrain to remote coastline and almost everything in between. The outdoorsy towns of Queenstown and Wanaka are most popular...

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown has been dubbed the “Adventure Capital of the World” and the reputation is well earned. In close proximity are seemingly endless adrenaline-inducing activities such as bungee jumping, skydiving, jet boating, whitewater rafting, heli-biking...

Wanaka, New Zealand

The title of “Adventure Capital of New Zealand” belongs to Queenstown, but Wanaka is close on its heels. The latter can’t complete with the quantity of adventure offerings but the quality and scenery are right on par...

Mt. Cook Village, New Zealand

Mt. Cook Village is a tiny town at the foot of New Zealand’s highest mountains. Located in a narrow valley at the end of Highway 80 four hours north of Queenstown, the surrounding landscapes are steep and dominated...

West Coast, New Zealand

The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island has a way of sneaking up on travelers and becoming one of their favorite destinations in the country. Just up the road from Queenstown, Fiordland, and Milford Sound...

Abel Tasman, New Zealand

On the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island is the warm coastal region of Abel Tasman. Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s smallest and most visited parks, renowned for pristine beaches, turquoise...

Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

Located at the top of the South Island east of Abel Tasman National Park, the Marlborough Sounds are as easy going as anywhere in New Zealand. Most of the wooded hillsides and peaceful bays are inaccessible by road...

New Zealand Adventure Directory

Choose an adventure activity and New Zealand likely has world-class terrain to match. From Milford Sound at the bottom of the South Island to Ninety Mile Beach at the top of the North Island...

Queenstown's Best Hiking Trails

For those visiting Queenstown, hiking is a great way to stretch your legs, see the famous South Island scenery, and spend far less than you would on any of the area’s many adrenaline activities. A number of trails...

Fox Glacier's Best Hiking Trails

Many visitors to Fox Glacier pay for a guided walk on the ice, but there also are a number of free hiking trails that lead to excellent viewpoints. All of the trails listed below are within close proximity to the Fox Glacier...

New Zealand's Best Adventure Towns

New Zealand firmly has established itself as one of the world’s top adventure destinations. Queenstown receives much of the attention—it is indeed chock-full of adventure opportunities—but a host of other...

Otago Rail Trail

Not long ago the small towns of New Zealand’s gold country were all but dead—the luster from the gold rush of the late 1800’s had long faded and the railroad between the mining communities had grown obsolete. With dwindled economic...

Kayaking Milford Sound

For those interested in exploring Milford Sound via kayak, a range of kayaking trips are available and no prior experience is required. Here are important things to know before you hit the water...