Few are the islands of the world to have landscapes as varied and mesmerizing. Separated from the
North Island by the Cook Strait, the South
Island is the 13th largest island in the world. Here, the majesty of the New Zealand Alps merges with the tranquillity of natural sounds, the rugged coastline blends with the immensity of the plains. The northern part of
the island hides magnificent beaches like the Abel Tasman National Park as well as vineyards reputed around the world!
While the southern part is made up of majestic mountains that adsorb us, enchanting lakes and sublime fjords that leave us contemplative. Difficult to list all these sites and cities that take us by the throat and subdue our pupils on this immense playground that is the South island. Alone, in couple or with friends, the South Island will surely offer you pleasant surprises and magnificent memories.
Queenstown is located in the southwest of the South Island, surrounded by the high mountains of the "remarkables" and framed by the sinuous coves of Lake Wakatipu, a real spectacle. It looks like a small town but gives off a great energy. It bears the title of "Global Adventure Capital" with pride and most visitors take the time to do crazy things they've never done before! Then there is the other Queenstown. The one with the cosmopolitan restaurants and the arts scene, excellent vineyards and five courses of international standard golf. Go ahead and jump from a bridge or plane, but take the time to slow down and experience Queenstown without the adrenaline as well. Every season, the city and its surroundings are transformed to offer you new landscapes and new adventures. Autumn and spring are slightly calmer but all equally attractive. The bars in the city are usually filled by a mostly younger crowd looking to have fun. If you are looking to be more intimate and away from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown, it is possible to visit Glenorchy between sumptuous mountains and the relaxing lake, with an equally exceptional nature that have served as a setting for many films such as "Lord of the Rings". Go on the road of "Ben Lomond summit" (1748m) to discover views to take your breath away of Queenstown, the lake and its campaign with frontline "The remarkables" which is a ski resort in winter. Queenstown, between Adrenaline and restful landscape, remains one of the favorite places of the South Island!
Fantastic, majestic, imposing, grandiosity, monumental ... The adjectives are not lacking when you discover this gigantic National Park inscribed in
the world patrimony of the UNESCO, located in the south-west of the South island.
It is the largest of the 14 National Parks of the country with more than 12,500 km2 of stunning landscapes.
The Fiordland National Park created in 1952 counts no fewer than 14 fjords, lakes, dense rainforests, and much more. The most accessible and visited Fjord remains the "Milford Sound". Not less than 550,000 tourists visit this fjord each year, and they can either hurry on the shuttle or go canoeing to explore this magical place.
Leave early in the morning to discover the scenery beyond the time when the waterfalls that seem so small, flow uninterruptedly into the deep and black waters of the fjord.
Along its cliffs, which are sometimes 2000 m high, they will make you feel almost tiny, and where most of the time the clouds hide their peaks. Do not miss the road to Milford Sound which offers stunning landscapes. The second known Fjord is the "Doubtful Sound" which is very large and imposing ! With this name we let you imagine the mysterious and fabulous landscape that this fjord has to offer you! This fjord is not served by the road.
First a boat is taken to cross the Lake Manapouri, followed by a crossing of the primary forest by minibus before enjoying a long cruise in this fjord wider and longer than that of Milford. It is also in the latter that we find the only Spanish-speaking names of New Zealand, since a Spanish scientific expedition in 1793.
The Dusky Sound, further south than Milford and Doubtful Sound, is very difficult to access. It is the most complex and largest of all fjords with 40km length and 8km in its widest width. In all these fjords, you will find a rare and fascinating fauna and flora: deer, dolphins, fur seals, kakapoo (only parrot without the ability to fly) or even for the luckiest : whales.
If you have lot of time and you are well equipped and motivated, it is possible to discover the National Park by long treks of several days! Good luck !
A mystical moment, enchanting and idyllic that we advises you to discover without moderation despite the difficulty of access of this magical and unreal place!
On the way to the Mueller Hut
Hooker Glacier and Mont Cook
Located on the South island of New Zealand near the town of Twizel. It is part of the region called "Te Wāhipounamu", which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list as the Fiordland, Mount Aspiring National Park or even the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park is a wilderness made of ice and rock, with 19 summits over 3000 meters, including New Zealand's highest mountain, Mount Cook (3753 meters). Mount Cook National Park also contains some very beautiful glaciers, including the Tasman Glacier (the largest in New Zealand). The road leading to the heart of the national park and alongside the fabulous Pukaki Lake is quite sublime and gives a taste of what the park has to offer. The main hike in the park is the "Hooker Valley Track": a short 3 hour hike that leads closer to Mount Cook and the Mueller and Hooker glaciers through a splendid, surprising landscape with some hanging bridges. It is possible to discover during this hike the Tasman Glacier and its cascade valley opening on the turquoise blue Pukaki lake. At 1,800 meters above sea level, Mueller Hut is one of the places offering a 360 ° panorama of the entire park, including glaciers, ice cliffs, vertical rock faces and the highest peaks of New Zealand. It is also at the "Mueller Hut" that you will find one of the most beautiful sunrises of the island! Lovers of snowy summits sometimes hidden in the clouds, come to discover the highest peaks of New Zealand and the Oceanian continent !
With Westland, Aoraki / Mount Cook and Fiordland, Mount Aspiring National Park belongs to the quartet southwestern national parks Unesco World Heritage Site. Its jewel, the angular Mount Aspiring (3,033 m), rises in a superb Alpine landscape, a paradise for the mountaineers. Located at the southern tip of the New Zealand Alps and west of Wanaka Lake, it covers 3,555 km2 of landscapes leaving us dreamy. Created in 1964, it is the 10th national park created in New-Zealand and the 3rd by its area. This park is a true paradise for hikers, Mount Aspiring National Park offers a large number of short walks that are concentrated mainly at the end of the access roads of the park allowing to visit some glaciers with dazzling panoramas. For longer trips that take place over a number of days, head for the Dart River, Rees, Greenstone / Caples and the Wilkin Trails on the Routeburn Road near Glenorchy. In summer it is easier to reach the summit and walk on the mountain passes of these spectacular mountain. Shorter walks are also possible as Routeburn Nature Walk which is a walk in the forest or even the Haast pass summit. The 30-minute Blue Pools Drive leads through the beech and tahina forests and a swing deck to a panoramic deck overlooking beautiful pools at the mouth of the Blue River. Coming from Wanaka go on to the Rob Roy Glacier track which was our favourite hike in a breathtaking landscape between sweet valley and steep mountain with some of the walking near a quick water gorge and taking you to an incredible view! We leave you the surprise ! Obviously it is very difficult to see everything from this huge and extraordinary park, but with a little time and motivation you can take the best of Mount Aspiring National Park. So an advice, stretch your legs and feed your soul in this beautiful desert of native forests, high mountains and long river valleys that makes Mount Aspiring National Park an unusual and beautiful place.
Rob Roy Glacier Track
Wanaka lac and Mount Aspiring NP in the background
Banks Peninsula / Akaroa
One of the real surprises of the South Island, a magical and surprising place not far from Christchurch on the east coast of the island. The Banks Peninsula was formed by the successive eruptions of two volcanoes: the Lyttelton and the Akaroa, which are advancing in the Pacific Ocean, giving way to many natural harbours, leaving few incredible panoramas. The village of Akaroa is ultra charming with its French past of former whaling colony, it offers an excellent stop to visit the region. It is possible to visit this jewel by making the many tracks across the peninsula. If you have the opportunity to rent a kayak to discover this piece of land by the sea entering the flooded valleys with tortuous rocks and cliffs in places. Walk the Summit Road for a panoramic view of these beautiful bays and its wild, majestic outer coastline between steep cliff and small sandy beach. "Okans Bay" and "Le Bons Bay" are renowned for the most beautiful beaches on the peninsula. Pigeon Bay in the north of the peninsula is quieter and allows you to dodge the little tourist in the area. Between nautical activity and hiking in the mountains, the Banks peninsula is a rare place that is offered us after centuries of erosion and of which it is very difficult to get tired.
On the north coast of the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park, founded in 1942, is the smallest national park of the country. We mainly come there to discover its paradisiacal beaches far from everything. The beach of Totaranui, which is a real wonder between sandy cove and lush forest. Other beautiful beaches, sometimes backed by wooded hills, sometimes with primitive forests, mostly gilded in the sun in a blue turquoise water leave us dreamy. The Abel Tasman Costal Trail is one of the best ways to discover the park. This trek of several days is very famous in New Zealand and it is imperative to reserve the camp-sites or Huts in advance (Especially the summer). A second itinerary is possible inside the park with the Abel Tasman Inland Track. It is good to know that no road crosses the park and the access is on foot from Marahau to the south of the park or from Wainui Bay to the north or by sea taxis operating from Kaiteriteri and Marahau to the southern tip of the park. You can also opt for kayaking which is a good way to discover its limestone cliff coast and sandy beach. Small in size but great in its charm, the national park of Abel Tasman will put you in full view and will offer you many surprises!
Abel Tasman National Park
Wanaka is the city that competes strongly Queenstown ! Smaller and less animated than her older sister, she still has an enormous asset ! The busy town of Wanaka is located at the southern tip of the lake of the same name and also serves as a gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. The Wanaka lake is a true recreation base for the region. You can go fishing, water-skiing, hiking or just sunbathing. Hiking lovers, there is for all levels. The walk of Roy Peak is simply fabulous and will offer you breathtaking views! The Mount Iron Trak near the center of Wanaka offers you a splendid 360 ° view of the city and its countryside and is very easy to reach. Difficult to get bored near Wanaka and its lake surrounded by its splendid peaks at the doors of the most beautiful New-Zealand national parks!
Fox Glacier and Josef Glacier are both located in the Westland Tai Poutin National Park, 23 kilometers from each other on the western edge of Mount Cook National Park in the center of the island. Fox Glacier is a glacier of 13km long that has the characteristic of being easily reachable. The flow starts from eternal snows and runs out in a river forest not far from the seaside. This glacier is very easy to visit and all this without any danger. For the Franz Joseph Glacier a little further north of the Fox Glacier, it will take you about an hour to get to the foot of this 12 km ice flow descending from the high peaks of the South Island. The two most famous glaciers in New Zealand are a must on the west coast of the South Island and are among the most accessible glaciers in the world, reaching 300 meters in a temperate and humid areas. Unfortunately the weather is very variable in the region. It is possible to access the glaciers by helicopter to contemplate these two ice giants ! It must be admitted that from the top these two colossi offer new panoramic and visual perspectives that we can not have at the foot of the glaciers. More than just a stop in nature, Fox Glacier and Josef Glacier are two must-sees of the road that runs along the west coast of the South Island!
The Marlborough Sounds are a vast set of surprising and beautiful valleys submerged by the sea at the northern end of the South Island. All the people who arrived by ferry to Picton from Wellington and the North Island were able to see a small part of it. The Marlborough Sounds are a unique destination for the richness of their wildlife and breathtaking scenery of secluded bays, small islands, deserted coves and multiple trails included the famous Queen Charlotte Track. After Portage, a narrow, winding 4WD trail continues north. It is possible to visit some bays using a taxi boat in Picton or Havelock. The visit of the Sounds can be done to the strength of the arms in canoe or kayak through these enchanting landscapes. The two main fjords are Pelorus Sound, accessible from Havelock, and the most popular Queen Charlotte Sound due to the famous hiking trail, the Queen Charlotte Track. Pelorus Sound is the largest and the wildest, it remains an untapped jewel. Kenepuru Sound offers very charming lodges that are accessible by boat only. For the Queen Charlotte track which is 71 km long from Ship Cove to the north, access by boat to Anakiwa in the South and the most beautiful views are between Te Mahia and Portage Bay, the second section to the South. The trail passes through the pine and tree fern forests, the wild bays and along the ridges offering sublime panoramas over Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds. It takes 4 days of walk and 3 days by mountain bike. Good physical condition is required. The Queen Charlotte Track is accessible to ATVs from March 1 to November 30 only. The rest of the year, mountain bikes are only allowed on the section between Kenepuru (Punga Cove) and Anakiwa, representing about 40 km. The Marlborough Sounds are 1,200 km of coastline which form a lace of islands and bays as remarkable as amazing. All this is a real escape offered by nature.
Located on the east coast of the South Island, the village of Kaikoura is stuck in a great scenery between mountain and ocean. This peaceful village 180 km north of Christchurch with about 2000 inhabitants is a real playground for hikers. Former whaling village, it keeps many traces in its center and its small port which faces the steep mountains. Kaikoura offers excellent fish restaurants, and many agencies offer to approach the sperm whale, the star of the place. Kaikoura is the ideal place to explore wildlife in all its forms, and it is also the best place to savour crayfish (in Maori, kai means "food" and koura means "crayfish"). The environment of Kaikoura is truly spectacular, the village being situated between the mountainous chain of Kaikoura and the Pacific Ocean. In winter, the mountains are covered with snow, making the landscape even more extraordinary. In hot weather, do not hesitate to take a swim at South Bay which is a stony beach despite everything very pleasant. You can meet many sea lions on the coast and even up the Ohau waterfall 20 minutes further north! The most popular hike is Mount Fyffe, which is a round-trip of about 7 hours on the beautiful summits of the region offering incredible views of the sea and Kaikoura! Difficult to resist to this picturesque coastal village of Kaikoura which is synonymous of adventure, whether it is at sea or on the coast, a beautiful and amazing place to visit!
Not far from the small village of Punakaiki on the west coast of the South Island in the Paparoa National Park lies the rock formations of the pancakes Rocks. A real attraction of the region, the astonishing Pancakes rocks are like thin stacked rock faces, small statues that stimulate the imagination. A very easy path to wander above these formations of limestone rock leaving place at the beginning of high tide of spectacular "blowholes". For a short break or simply to enjoy Paparoa National Park and Pancakes Rocks, Punakaiki is always a welcome stop on the west coast of the South Island.