Top 3 places to visit on New Zealand's South Island

To be honest, 2 weeks are just not enough to see all the beauty of New Zealand’s North and South Island. Nevertheless kiwiexperience‘s buzzy bee pass made it possible for us to see as much as possible in such a short time. So now that I already uploaded a detailed North Island Travel diary, I will keep this post a little bit shorter and tell you about our three favorite spots along the way.

First of all, I have to say that the ferry right was a highlight itself. It took us about 4 hours to get from Wellington to Picton and the views from the upper deck were absolutely stunning. Luckily it was a really sunny morning and the colors of the water with the mountains in the background were just beautiful.



1.Abel Tasman National Park

Let’s start with Abel Tasman as this was our first stop on the South Island. We stayed in Kaiteriteri - a lovely little village next to the beach. Our driver told us that it’s a very popular holiday destination during summer, but this time there were barely any other people around, so we had the beach almost to ourselves - even at sunset. 

The next morning we hopped on a watertaxi. It’s the most convenient way to get into the National Park and they dropped us right at the beach where all the walking tracks start. During the boat trip we were even able to spot some baby seals chilling in the sun.

We did a rather short walk, but there are lots of different tracks and even camping facilities if you’re really into nature and wilderness. Before we went to Abel Tasman I thought that New Zealand is mostly about mountains and lakes, but the beaches and seaside are just as beautiful.



2. Franz Josef Glacier 

Franz Josef is the cute little township from where all the tours to the glaciers depart. Luckily we were able to spend two nights here and therefore had one full day to see everything we wanted to. 

The afternoon we arrived, we had to do all our laundry and then spent the rest of the day walking around town and chilling out in the hot tubs of the rainforest retreat we stayed at. It was one of my favorite overnight places and they offer accommodation for every budget: camping and glamping facilities, a backpackers lodge, double and deluxe rooms. 

The next morning we got up quiet early because something pretty exciting was about to happen... we had booked ourselves a scenic flight up to the glacier. Definitely not cheap, but as it’s the only way to really see Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, it was definitely worth the money. We were blessed with beautiful weather and the views from the helicopter were beyond amazing. 30 minutes felt like eternity and we even landed on the snow, went out of the helicopter and were able to take some pictures. For me the flight really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I can only recommend doing the 30 minute one to make the most out of it.

Of course there are also various other activities you can do in Franz Josef: hiking, kayaking and horse riding are just some of them. Another really popular one is the Heli Hike, where they take you up to the glacier by helicopter as well and then get to explore all the snow and ice by foot. 

Apart from that there are the Hot Pools. That’s where we went for the second afternoon and the perfect spot to relax after an exciting day.



3. Wanaka 

For me Wanaka was something really special. The little town is located right next to picturesque Lake Wanaka and has got its own special vibe. It’s full of cute shops, cafes and restaurants and we really enjoyed just strolling through the streets and along the lakefront. 

In summer you can even go for a swim, but we were just not brave enough and still used to the water temperatures in Australia. Anyways, the beach is still a lovely spot to chill in the sun or have a picknick. Just grab something from one of the fancy food-trucks or take-away places around town and enjoy the scenic views. 

If you’ve got enough time, there are lots of walking and mountain biking tracks nearby. The most famous one is Roy’s Peak - you’ve probably already spotted it on Instagram if you’ve searched for New Zealand pictures. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do any long walks (it takes between 4 and 6 hours return) on the afternoon we arrived, so I can only recommend spending at least two or three days in Wanaka and use at least one of them to hike up to Roy’s Peak. The whole city and lake are surrounded by stunning mountain formations, so it’s really a must to check them out by foot or bike. 

Another very well-known spot is the Wanaka Tree. Of course I had already seen pictures of it as it’s the first thing you get to see when looking for pictures of Wanaka, but I was rather skeptical. A tree in a lake didn’t sound that exciting to me. We gave it a try anyways and I have to admit that it indeed is a lovely photo location, especially at sunset. Although there were obvious lots of other tourists around the whole atmosphere was really relaxed and there was even a pianist playing right at the waterfront. 


I hope you’d like this rather short blogposts about my South Island highlights and I’d love to know if you have been to any of these places or what you’re favorite South Island spots were!