In fact, South Island hosts some of the purest natural landscapes you will ever traverse on the face of the Earth and there are so many incredible things to do here for tourists.

Check out our list of the best activities you must do when visiting New Zealand’s gorgeous South Island.


1. Seek Out Adventure in Queenstown

Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world and one of the most stunning cities in the world. Located on the beautiful Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is awesome and there are so many thrilling experiences available here including sky diving, bungee jumping, canyon swings, jet boating, skiing/snowboarding, quad biking, white water rafting and more. You won't be bored in Queenstown!


2. Swim with Dolphins in Kaikoura 

Kaikoura, a gorgeous little seaside town, brings in visitors by the numbers who want to get acquainted with the whales and wild dolphins. Make sure you include this on your New Zealand South Island tour bucket list because the experience of swimming with wild dolphins is unparalleled. Dolphin Encounter in Kaikoura sees to it that all “encounters” are on the dolphins’ terms – making it a great option as opposed to swimming with captive dolphins, which is never recommended. 


3. Swimming in Lake Pukaki

At the base of Mount Cook lies Lake Pukaki, where you’ll get the opportunity to feast your eyes upon unbelievable views of the giant peak. If you want to see some of the purest waters ever, then the alpine lake stretching over nine miles offers just that: crystal clear water that is a treat for the senses. Go for a refreshing swim if you like, or take photos of the alluring beauty before you. 


4. Trekking/Hiking

Going on a trek, is something you do not want to miss on your visit to the South Island. New Zealand is famous the world over for its “Nine Great Walks” and seven of them happen to be on South Island, which all offer downright stunning routes to explore the country.

Take the 20-mile long Routeburn Track and the 37-mile long Abel Tasman Coast Track, for instance – even though the latter is a good 17 miles longer, it boasts a gentler route that’s more beginner-friendly – although both offer equally picturesque views. Camping in one of the huts along the way becomes all the more adventurous and satisfying because you must hike and earn it!


5. Explore the Fiordland National Park

The Fiordland National Park located in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and famous for glacier-carved fiords of Doubtful and Milford sounds. You can traverse Fiordland National Park by boat, air or on foot and this location will leave you speechless due to the natural beauty and scenery. This is one of the best places to see in New Zealand and somewhere you must visit before departing the country. 


6. See Wildlife at Marlborough Sounds

Marlborough Sounds is spectacular area covering 1,500km of New Zealand coastline. Lots of cruises and activities are available here where you can see scenery, secluded bay, marine reserves, beaches and wildlife. Marlborough Sounds is home to so many different species including dolphins, seals, whales and penguins. This is one of the best places to go kayaking in New Zealand.


7. Be in Awe at Mount Cook

Sitting proudly at a little over 12,200 feet is New Zealand’s highest peak, Mount Cook. The summit takes the crown for being the highest in the Southern Alps – which makes it hard to miss unless it’s snugly tucked away in cloud cover. You just have to make this place a part of your New Zealand South Island tour because the lovely village here in Mount Cook National Park makes for a fantastic base to explore glacier tours, hiking trails, stargazing, and more. 


8. Skiing in Wanaka

Wanaka is a spectacular town located close to Queenstown, it is also one of the top places to go skiing in New Zealand. The slopes here are amazing with options for complete beginners and also more advanced levels.


9. Cycling in Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park is a stunning wilderness reserve located in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. This is one of the best places to go cycling in the country due to the trails between Marahau and Wainui. You will get to see lots of beaches, seals, penguins, bottlenose dolphins and seals which inhabit the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. 


10. Birdwatching, Stewart Island

Stewart Island houses the country’s largest and most diverse bird population. Here you’ll get to see weka, kiwis, penguins, kakas, the majestic albatross, and many more wildlife creatures first-hand. And with walking tracks stretching over 240 km, you can explore all of the island’s hidden gems at your own pace, including rainforests and beaches. Even if you have never been bird watching before, you will love this experience on Stewart Island.


Whether you are planning to travel or work in New Zealand Hopefully our list of unforgettable activities to do on the south island has given you some ideas. If you would like to do as much as possible check out New Zealand tours which include most of the places included on our list.

Have you ever been to New Zealand? Got any recommendations to share? Let us know in the comments section below.