Why the South Island should be on your travel list

Famous for its sweeping landscapes, friendly locals, award-winning wineries, and extreme sports; the South Island of New Zealand is a travellers paradise, and only a short flight from Australia.

Hailing from the South Island myself, you may think I am slightly biased in my love for the place…and you may be right, but here are seven reasons why you should definitely add the South Island to your next ‘down-under’ adventure!

Why the South Island should be on your travel list



Cromwell is a popular Summer holiday destination for local and International visitors alike, due to its beautiful fruit orchards, range of wineries, gold-mining history, and close proximity to the adventure capital of New Zealand — Queenstown.

Also, their welcome sign features a big fruit sculpture, so there’s that.

Cromwell is a relaxed and peaceful town with wide open spaces, lakeside location, and family-friendly atmosphere. The town centre is well equipped with a full supermarket, novelty stores, and a variety of eateries.

Growing up, my family and I spent nearly every Christmas holidays camping in Bannockburn, which is just over the bridge from Cromwell. I have such fond memories of playing tennis, swimming in the lake, eating barbeque every night, and making friends with the other children at the camp ground.



Wanaka is only around a 40-minute drive from Cromwell, but is a very different town. With more of a resort feel, it surrounds iconic Lake Wanaka, and is itself surrounded by the picturesque Southern Alps.

A popular hub for backpackers, tourists, and young families, Wanaka is packed with snow and water sport stores, fine dining options, and a great range of accommodations.

Two of Central Otagos snow fields — Cardrona and Treble Cone — are only a half-hour drive from Wanaka, making it a top destination for snowboarders and skiers alike.

Wanaka is also home to Puzzling World, which can be equal parts enjoyable and infuriating at times, but is a tonne of fun.



It would be considered a crime to visit the South Island and not spend any time in Queenstown.

Known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown is famous for its adrenaline-inducing activities such as jet boating, white water rafting, canyon swinging, and bungy jumping — which of course was made popular by our very own A.J Hackett.

The two snow fields closest to Queenstown are Coronet Peak and The Remarkables.

But if you’re not out for hair-raising adventures, Queenstown is also home to biking and walking tracks, golfing, the gondola, and The Earnslaw steam ship.

There really is something for everyone in Central Otago!

Te Anau

Te Anau

Further south, nestled in Southland near the Fiordland National Park, you’ll find Te Anau (pronounced Tee-Ah-Now). Te Anau is mostly a sleepy lakeside town, with a handful of shops and restaurants.

However, the surrounds are spectacular, and well worth the visit.

Two of New Zealand’s largest and most known hiking tracks (Milford and Kepler) begin at Lake Te Anau — they aren’t for the faint-hearted, so if you are considering taking on one of these tracks, you need to be prepared.

Te Anau is home to a well-preserved wildlife centre, which houses some of New Zealand’s beautiful and native birdlife. You can also take a tour from the lake to visit the glow worm caves — a trip I definitely recommend.

With a great golf course, the lakeside track, and mountains all around, Te Anau is a wonderful town to sit back and relax.

West Coast

Pancake Rocks

The West Coast of the South Island offers up an amazing range of natural formations and man-made attractions such as:

With ocean views on one side, and spectacular mountains on the other, The West Coast is ideal for road-tripping, and is a photographers dream!

Mount Cook

Mt Cook

The area surrounding Mount Cook is simply breathtaking. The highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook sits in the heart of the South Island, and offers up a spectacular view no matter what time of year you are visiting.

With turquoise coloured glacier waters, sweeping mountain ranges, and wide open plains, it’s no surprise Mount Cook is a popular destination for weddings, photographers, and visitors from all walks of life.

Many tours operate in the area, from adventure-based activities to sight-seeing and nature walks; Mount Cook has it all.



My final recommendation for your South Island bucket list is Lake Tekapo (pronounced Tech-a-paw).

Situated an hour and half from Mount Cook, and a little over three hours from Christchurch, Tekapo is a stunningly peaceful town, no matter what time of year you visit.

A must-do in Tekapo is to visit the Hot Springs. There is nothing better than sitting in a warm tub, looking out to the Southern Alps and turquoise lake, not a care in the world…

And that’s it.
Have I convinced you to visit the South Island yet?!

Over to you:

Have you been to the South Island?
Where did you go, and what did you do?
Have I missed anything?

Pin it!
Is the South Island on your Travel List?


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Author: Michelle

Michelle Harvey is a kiwi traveller, writer, photographer, list-maker, coffee drinker, and wanderer. Winter holidays are her favourite kind.

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