New Zealand South Island

TRAVEL DATE : 2016 – 2019

Kia Ora! After living on the island for 2 years, I can say I have a pretty good list of must sees during your time on Te Waipounamu, such as meeting with Penguins and flying over breath-taking mountains and glaciers.

Public transportation in New Zealand isn’t very developed, so the best way to explore remote gems is to have a vehicle. You could rent a camper or a car, but what most travellers on a Working Holiday Visa do, is buy a car and sell it when you leave the country. On the road, you can easily find places to camp for free (Free Camp Sites, find them on WikiCamp app) or for cheap at DOC’s campsites. Camping in the wild is forbidden, and there are enough remote designated areas where you are allowed to camp, so please, respect the nature and the law.


  • Get lost through Christchurch, the town that was hit by a huge earthquake back in 2011, slowly rising from the ashes. Visit the Christchurch Cathedral, the Earthquake memorial, The Bridge of Remembrance, The Botanic Garden, The Cardboard Cathedral and the New Brighton Pier. Read here a detailed guide on how to keep yourself busy for a few days in Christchurch (aka the first blog I’ve wrote back from when I was a tourism intern for Active Earth Adventures).
  • Take a scenic drive to Akaroa, a town founded by French settlers. Enjoy the little streets and cheese factory, visit the Māori Museum in Okains Bay and stop over Duvauchelle Bay for a great view over the peninsula.
  • Head north of Christchurch to Hamner Springs for soaking up in beautiful thermal pools in the middle of the mountains.
  • Visit Kaikoura for an unforgettable experience of swimming in the middle of hundreds of Dusky Dolphins at Dolphin Encounter.
  • Head South to Late Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and Aoraki Mt Cook. Enjoy various hikes in the area or even take a scenic flight to enjoy the beauty from above.
  • Depending on the season, enjoy skiing in Mt Hutt. Have fun sliding down the slopes while looking over the ocean in the distance.


  • Drive through Te Anau to Milford Sound for an incredible boat ride across the fjords. Encounter with seals and dolphins if you’re lucky. We went with Mitre Peak Cruises for a smaller boat option, allowing our captain to drive super close from waterfalls during the cruise. Passing by Te Anau, while waiting to cross the tunnel, watch out for Kea birds, I know I know they’re very cute, but they will destroy your car! For a less famous option you can also visit Doubtful Sound.
  • Further south, you’ll find Curio Bay, a beach with a petrified forest where you can also observe Yellow Eyed Penguins in the very early mornings (remember to respect distance with the wildlife, a yellow rope is indicating the limit)
  • Head to the southern most point of New Zealand South Island: Slope Point.
  • If you have time, take a boat to Stewart Island, known as the place where you have the most chances to encounter with Kiwis, the endemic bird and emblem of New Zealand.


  • The famous Queenstown awaits for you, enjoy the beauty of the town between lake and mountains. Take a gondola ride for a view from above or head to Glenorchy for some bungy jumping.
  • If you happen to drive past Dunedin, take the time to check the steepest street of the world: Baldwin Street.
  • Make your way to the Otago Peninsula for a scenic drive to the Royal Albatross Center, hoping to encounter with this majestic bird.

West Coast

  • You will be busy on your way between Queenstown and Nelson, starting with Blue Pools, a short hike to crystal clear water where swimming is allowed. But watch out for Sun Flies!
  • Hike to Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers or take a scenic flight and land on one of them if your wallet allows you to.
  • Next stop is the impressive and funny looking Pancake Rocks. The West Coast is known for its rainy days, so don’t forget your raincoat.


  • Hike to Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach where you can encounter with some seal pups. Once again, be calm and keep your distance with the wildlife, even if they are used to see humans, they need their own space.
  • On your way east, find Te Waikoropupu Springs for turquoise spring water (no swimming allowed)
  • Rent some kayaks or put your hiking shoes on to explore the Incredible Abel Tasman National Park. We paddled from Warahau to Anchorage Bay and back, an had the chance to meet with some cute seals on the way around Adele Island.
  • Finally, stop at Kaiteriteri for the most famous golden sand beach of New Zealand.


  • Be careful, the road along the Malborough Sounds is very windy. Finish your journey in the South Island of Aotearoa by driving through Nelson and catch your ferry in Picton heading to the North Island. See here for the guide through Te Ika-a-Māui.

If you are looking for a trustworthy company to organise your itinerary through New Zealand, I recommend Leisure Tours New Zealand with whom I had the chance to work with during my tourism studies.

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Adventure by Emily – 2022 ©