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BEST South Island Tourist Attractions

Here’s a list of some of the BEST South Island tourist attractions, and activities in New Zealand. For your self-drive tour/itinerary on the South Island, we suggest the following day tours & sightseeing options – a range of tourist experiences, from adventure activities to cultural encounters, that showcase the highlights of the South Island – including Stewart Island.

South Island Tourist Attractions Map & Trip Planner

To make it easier for you, we have listed these tourist attractions in Google Maps & list format below. The listed South Island attractions & activities are displayed from north to south of the South Island when you drive your car or motorhome and are not based on popularity.

Pre-planned South Island Tour Packages

Choose from a variety of South Island tours & itineraries to suit your interests and preferences. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely road trip or an action-packed adventure, there’s a perfect tour to match your style. Looking for a tailor-made New Zealand tour? Contact us!

You´ll ❤️ these 26 great things to see & do…

1. Abel Tasman National Park Sightseeing

Abel Tasman Scenic Cruise

Abel Tasman is New Zealand’s most visited national park and it’s no surprise given the unique combination of golden beaches and forest extending down to the water’s edge in a region enjoying generous sunshine hours. You can enjoy scenic Abel Tasman Scenic Boat Cruise from Kaiteriteri beach, Abel Tasman cruise & Walk (7hr), full day sailing tour from Kaiteriteri, Farewell Spit Tour from Collingwood, skydiving at Motueka Airport, kayaking, hiking, or relaxing on pristine beaches in this stunning Abel Tasman National park.

2. Wine Tours in Marlborough

Wither Hills Winery Wine Tasting

 Explore the renowned Marlborough wine region with guided wine tours, biking wine tours, and visiting multiple wineries (Wither Hills winery,…) to sample their award-winning Sauvignon Blanc and other varietals. A Wither Hills wine for every occasion!

3. Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre near Bleinhem

Omaka Aviation Heritage Center

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre houses a display like no other and you don’t have to be an aviation buff to enjoy it! Omaka is one of Marlborough’s major visitor attractions and offers a captivating experience for the whole family. Guided tours are available on request, or you can self-guide at your leisure.

4. Nelson Art and Craft Trail

Nelson Art Galleries

Explore Nelson’s thriving arts and crafts community with a guided tour of local galleries, studios, and artisan workshops. The people of Nelson Tasman are well-known for their creative work, and we take immense pride in the independent, pioneering artists and artisans who flourish in our community. Nelson Art Trails >

5. Kaikoura Tours & Whale Watching Tour

Kaikoura Day Tour inc Whale Watch, Photo Credit: Chris McLennan

Take a boat tour from Kaikoura to see majestic sperm whales, dolphins, and other marine wildlife in their natural habitat. Enjoy the sampling of fresh seafood in this coastal town known for its marine life.

6. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks Day Tour

Punakaiki (Pancake) Rocks, Photo Credit:

Marvel at the unique limestone formations and blowholes along the Punakaiki coastline.

7. Hokitika Gorge Scenic Reserve – Hokitika Gorge 

Hokitika Gorge West Coast, Photo Credit:  Fraser Clements

Hokitika Gorge, nestled on the scenic West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is a natural wonderland renowned for its stunning turquoise waters and lush native bush surroundings. The gorge is carved by the vibrant Hokitika River, which flows through a narrow rocky chasm, creating a breathtaking spectacle of vivid blue hues against the rugged landscape.

Visitors can experience the gorge’s beauty by crossing a suspension bridge that offers panoramic views of the pristine waters below. The area is also popular for outdoor activities such as hiking, picnicking, and photography, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts exploring New Zealand’s diverse wilderness.

8. Maori Cultural Experience in Christchurch

Cultural Experience in Christchurch

Immerse yourself in Maori culture with a guided tour at a local marae (Maori meeting ground), including traditional performances, storytelling, and a hangi feast.

9. Arthur’s Pass National Park

Experience the dramatic alpine scenery, waterfalls, and native wildlife on hikes and scenic drives through Arthur’s Pass.

10. Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo

Church of the Good Shepherd Tour, Photo by Sergio Del Rosso

The Church of the Good Shepherd stands as an iconic landmark on the shores of Lake Tekapo, nestled amidst the stunning landscapes of New Zealand’s South Island. Built-in 1935, this quaint stone church blends seamlessly with its natural surroundings, offering a serene and picturesque setting for worship and contemplation.

Its picturesque location against the backdrop of the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo and the majestic Southern Alps makes it a popular spot for visitors and photographers alike.

Whether admiring the beauty of the lake or simply soaking in the serenity of the surroundings, the Church of the Good Shepherd offers a truly unforgettable experience for all who visit.

11. TranzAlpine Railway Journey

Tranz Alpine Train

Take a scenic train journey on the TranzAlpine Railway from Christchurch to Greymouth, crossing through the spectacular Southern Alps and Arthur’s Pass National Park.

12. Tekapo Springs Hot Pools

Tekapo Springs, Photo Credit:

Relax in the hot pools and stargaze at the clear night skies in this picturesque alpine setting.

13. Dunedin & Otago Peninsula

Dunedin Tours

Visit the historic city of Dunedin and explore the nearby Otago Peninsula, home to diverse wildlife, including albatross, penguins, and seals.

14. Franz Josef Glacier Heli-Hike

Franz Josef Glacier, Photographer: Gareth Eyres

Experience the Franz Josef Glacier from above and below with a helicopter ride followed by a guided glacier hike, exploring ice caves, crevasses, and stunning ice formations.

15. Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park & Alpine Explorer

Hooker Valley, Mount Cook, National Park Canterbury, Photo: Miles Holden

Join a guided tour to Mount Cook National Park from Lake Tekapo or Queenstown, including scenic drives, short walks, hikes, and opportunities for photography amidst the stunning alpine landscapes. Hike or take a scenic flight to see New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook, and surrounding glaciers.

16. Akaroa Harbor Nature Cruise

Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise

Explore the stunning coastal scenery and encounter wildlife such as dolphins, seals, and seabirds on a harbor cruise in Akaroa.

17. Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka

Enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and water sports in the beautiful surroundings of Lake Wanaka.

18. Heli-Skiing in Wanaka or Queenstown

Skiing Activities

Experience the thrill of skiing or snowboarding on untouched powder snow in the remote backcountry of the Southern Alps with a helicopter-accessed tour.

19. Lord of the Rings Tour in Glenorchy

Lord of the Rings Tour,  Glenorchy

Embark on a journey through Middle-earth with a guided tour of the filming locations from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies near Glenorchy. Embark on a 21-day Lord Of The Rings New Zealand Tour Self Drive Tour from Auckland, New Zealand, and experience ‘A Journey to Middle Earth’ in the footsteps of the hobbits.

20. Queenstown – the adventure capital of New Zealand


Queenstown offers activities such as bungee jumping, skydiving, jet boating, and skiing in the winter months.

21. Jet Boat Adventure in Queenstown

Hold on tight for an adrenaline-pumping jet boat ride through the narrow canyons and braided rivers of the Shotover or Kawarau rivers near Queenstown.

22. Penguin Encounter Tour in Dunedin

Penguin and Seal Tour

Visit the Otago Peninsula for a guided tour to see the rare yellow-eyed penguins and other native wildlife in their natural habitat.

23. Te Anau Glowworm Cave Tour

Te Anau Glowworms Tour

Explore the mysterious underground world of the Te Anau Glowworm Caves with a guided tour, including a boat ride through the illuminated cave system.

24. Discover the Majestic Milford Sound & Doubtful Sounds

Milford Sound, Fiordland

Join a guided coach tour from Queenstown or Te Anau to Milford Sound. Explore the breathtaking fjords, waterfalls, and wildlife on a cruise through Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most iconic natural attractions.

25. Southern Scenic Route

Drive along this scenic highway to see stunning coastal vistas, lush rainforests, and charming coastal towns.

26. Stewart Island/Rakiura Day Tour

Stewart Island Day Tour

Explore New Zealand’s third-largest island, known for its pristine wilderness, hiking trails, and abundant birdlife, including the elusive kiwi bird.

These South Island tourist attractions showcase the diverse natural beauty and outdoor adventures New Zealand has to offer.

All the BEST South Island Self drive and Coach Tours >


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