South Island Holidays

There are few places in the world where you can sit on a beach and view snow-capped peaks, but this is certainly one of them. Add to this, crystal clear, shimmering fiords where steep cliffs reach up to iridescent blue skies, deep undergrowth which opens out to dramatic vistas of sea, mountains and the long white cloud clinging to distant hills and you have a snapshot of a destination which promises much and delivers more.

The largest city on South Island is Christchurch and a must on any itinerary. The city is the gateway to the island and has bounced back after the earthquake of 2010 with innovative new attractions as well as some old favourites. Also on South Island is New Zealand's adrenalin city, Queenstown, which sits on the shore of Lake Wakatipu and is home to all manner of adventure activities.

World Heritage listed Fiordland National Park is one of the most striking and beautiful parts of New Zealand. Carved by glaciers over 100,000 years the landscape is one where waterfalls cascade into deep black fiords, where ancient untouched rainforest clings to mountains and where shimmering lakes and granite peaks look as they did a thousand years ago.

Further up the west coast are the breathtaking expanses of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glaciers, which are not to be missed. Half an hour apart in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, it's an easy walk to the foot of both glaciers and not long before you feel like you've entered another world. Another wonderful natural splendour is Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense – with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snow fields, all set under a star-studded sky.

In the north, Picton is the arrival point for those travelling by ferry across the Cook Strait. South of Picton is Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine growing region while Marlborough Sounds is a collection of secluded bays and enjoys the most sunshine hours in the entire country. The northern section also includes the lively yet relaxed city of Nelson, famed for its arts and crafts; Abel Tasman National Park, which has some of the country's most gorgeous walking trails and dazzling golden beaches; and the quaint town of Kaikoura, where you may spot sperm whales just a few miles off shore.

The south eastern corner contains some of the least-visited parts of New Zealand including the harbourside city of Dunedin. Surrounded by dramatic hills, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the southern hemisphere and ideally located for the phenomenal wildlife of the Otago Peninsula. New Zealand's southernmost city is Invercargill, which is full of character while just off the southern coast is Stewart Island, which is known for its extraordinary birdlife.

Additional scenic highlights of South Island include Arthur's Pass National Park which offers various walking, climbing and skiing opportunities; Lake Wanaka, which is the most tranquilly set of the South Island lakes; and Punakaiki, where columns of water shoot skyward from rocks that resemble giant stacks of pancakes.

    Why visit South Island?
  • Incredible national parks
  • Glaciers and mountains
  • Scenic fiords
  • Wineries
  • Activites galore in Queenstown
  • Beautiful cities

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Where to stay in South Island











River Kwai


Essential facts about South Island
Local Time

GMT +12 hours.


New Zealand dollar

Travel information

Christchurch is approximately 26 hours from the UK (including a stopover). Key areas on the island have domestic airports or are within an easy drive.

Best time to go

There really isn’t a bad time to visit South Island, although there is a far greater seasonal difference than on the North Island. In winter temperatures can get as low as -10ºC while summers can experience temperatures as high as 40ºC. The west coast of South Island has the island’s highest rainfall.

Most popular in South Island