by Mac Candee
things to do in new zealands south island

Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2020

New Zealand is one of those countries that truly feels like it is meant to be part of another planet in another solar system. There are so many exotic landscapes and formations that have led to many movies being filmed like the Lord of the Rings series. So as you could probably imagine, New Zealand has some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen! As I spent three weeks in awe of its magnificent nature and feeling like I’m in paradise, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite places that truly felt magical to me on the South Island.

I will mention that this is only a brief highlight of some of these places, but if you want more information you can check out my video on the Ultimate Road Trip around New Zealand’s South Island.

If you are thinking about taking a road trip around the South Island, I have a full travel guide that I have curated for you to have the best possible experience and you can find it here.

1) Milford Sound


Milford Sound is a beautiful scenic fjord in the south-west of the South Island. It has been judged as the world’s top travel destination in an international survey done by TripAdvisor in 2008, as well as called the eighth Wonder of the World by famous writer Rudyard Kipling.

This was definitely one of the biggest highlights to my New Zealand road trip, as I got to experience one of the most exquisite views I’ve ever seen.

I would recommend getting there as early as possible – waking up with the break of dawn, having a nice coffee and starting your trip. I chose to go on a cruise with “Go Orange” – but there are others you can pick from. Other alternatives are helicopter and sea plain tours. Keep in mind – it does often rain, so you should plan ahead for that. Some argue that it is better when it rains because the waterfalls are bigger, but at the end of the day it’s all about your preference. We got lucky and had a clear day with some beautiful clouds covering the mountains, we witnessed rainbows – and for me, this was definitely one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. You’re seriously going to feel like you’re in a movie while sailing between the waters, surrounded by massive mountains, so I definitely recommend this as something you shouldn’t miss. You can watch the footage from my experience in my YouTube video.

It’s absolutely breathtaking and you should definitely bring your camera to capture the moment – I promise, you’ll be taking photos nonstop.

2) Blenheim Bike Winery Tour


Are you a fan of wine? Well then I’ve got just the thing to suit your taste. In one of my stops, I got to experience something truly unique. This was in Blenheim, a cute New Zealand town, surrounded by many wineries. I did a really cool winery bike tour, where you get safety equipment and a bike, along with a map with a lot of recommendations on wineries to go to, where you can do tastings. It’s a self-guided bike tour. This too was one of the highlights from the New Zealand experience for me as well. The people we met working at the different venues had such a passion for their work, taking the time to explain everything there was to know about their production.

3) Lake Pukaki


This is the most beautiful lake I have ever seen to this day! It was such an unbelievable sight to me– I was looking back on some footage from there and it was breathtaking how icy blue and surreal the water was. It’s truly something you must see for yourself to believe.

Another great thing is that if you decide to go with a self-contained vehicle, you can sleep there for free on the Pines Freedom Camping” site. It’s an amazing place to wake up in the morning, and my favorite camping stop so far – and you don’t have to pay anything! You can walk around the waters and enjoy the nature and I really recommend you do.

If you’re staying there for a bit, you can also experience some really nice beginner-friendly hikes and enjoy the nature while walking around and getting some exercise in. It’s also one of the most beautiful places to watch a sunset, so if you like doing that, this is something you will definitely enjoy.

4) Hooker Valley Track - Mt. Cook


This hike is very enjoyable. It takes about two hours, and it’s pretty easy. It’s only about three miles or about five kilometers. You’ll have an amazing experience walking through landscapes that are constantly shifting. There are bridges, beautiful valleys – the environment is always changing which will make your hike that much more fun.

This is the most popular short walking track within this National park, as it’s allows people of all fitness levels to partake. Since it gains only about 100 m in height, it’s very enjoyable and not at all tiring.

The lookout point at the end of this hike is seriously one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, it offers a beautiful view to the highest mountain in New Zealand, as well as the glacier below.

If you’re ever in this area, this is definitely something worth visiting, since it’s not only incredibly beautiful, but also a calm and enjoyable walk.

5) Isthmus Peak


This hike is a bit more difficult, but it’s so worth it! If you want to challenge yourself and receive a beautiful view at the end, this is exactly for you. This track overlooks two lakes - Wanaka and Hāwea, with incredible views of the surrounding mountains. It’s truly a breathtaking view you’ll remember for life, so if you’re anywhere in the area, don’t miss out! It was such a highlight, maybe the hardest hike I did on the New Zealand trip, but it also paid out greatly, since I saw some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen not only in this country, but in general.

Closing Thoughts

As you could probably guess, these are only a tiny fraction of all of the things there are to do in New Zealand. I could have easily spent months there and I am definitely planning on returning at some point to explore even more.

If you would like to learn more about what my trip to New Zealand was like, as well as plan YOUR OWN in the South Island, don’t miss out on my 14-day road trip guide! It includes a lot of helpful information, my favorite beautiful photos from my trip and it will make sure you’re perfectly prepared for the experience. If the land of Lord of the Rings is on your bucket list, don’t miss out and start planning for your dream trip today!

Want to learn more about New Zealand? Check out these YouTube videos:

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