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7 unmissable attractions to include in your South Island itinerary

Looking for the best things to squeeze into your South Island Itinerary? Look no further! We’ve got you covered.

Okay, we'll admit it - we’re obsessed with the South Island. And not just because we live here. I mean - come on - it's known as God's Country for a reason. Right?

We’ll paint a picture for you. Imagine snow-capped mountains, glacial valleys and subtropical rain forest all in the same vicinity. Oh, and sweeping plains, rugged coastlines, glassy lakes and braided rivers.

We should also mention the extremely friendly, down-to-earth locals. Like us! We're really down-to-earth. and friendly. And we’re also really helpful. Anyway...

By now you’ll be itching to travel the South Island. So - being really helpful - we’ve put together our top seven things to include in your itinerary.

We’ll see you soon!

Lagoon in Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park

Known for its coastal hiking track, this natural playground has an abundance of golden beaches, inlets and private lagoons. Enjoying a mild climate year-round, the park is a great place to visit in any season. Take a scenic cruise through the sounds or embark on a kayaking tour around it’s many sheltered bays. You’ll also have the opportunity to spot some of the park's animal residents including native birds, bats, geckos and marine mammals.

Sunset at the Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

A 30 million year old geological rock formation on the west coast, these iconic ‘stacked’ rocks are a spectacular addition to any south island itinerary. They were formed over thousands of years by sand and small marine creatures becoming buried and compressed on the ocean floor - then lifted by subsequent tectonic activity - resulting in the unique ‘pancake’ like structures.

Helicopter landing on Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef glacier

Franz Josef is small but lively town in the heart of the West Coast, known for its 12 km long glacier. Surrounded by lush rain-forest-clad mountains, the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice up close walk along the valley floor to the terminal face without a guide. However, to go on the glacier itself or get within 100m you must take a licensed tour. Strap on some crampons and give it a go with Franz Josef Glacier Guides or take the easier option and book in a helicopter landing instead. Whichever way you choose to ascend, once on top you’ll have the chance to explore the crevasses, caves and ice flows - resulting in a truly memorable experience.

Guided boat trip, Tasman Glacier Lake

Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake Glacier Explorers tour

Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Tasman Glacier terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand - and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat. You’ll also view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier - The Tasman.

TranzAlpine train journey

The TranzAlpine Train

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine scenic train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You'll travel across the South Island through the Arthur's Pass National Park from the east coast to the west. From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.

Overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise

Known as the ‘Sound of Silence’ Doubtful Sound is a vast, untouched wilderness. Rich in flora and fauna, its winding arms are surrounded by blush clad mountains. You’ll begin your cruise with a short boat ride across picturesque Lake Manapouri to the West Arm. You then travel by coach over the Wilmot Pass through dense rain forest. Once at Doubtful Sound you’ll board your accommodation for the night and cruise through the spectacular fiords to the Tasman Sea. On board you'll enjoy excellent views of waterfalls, rain forest and mountains. Of particular interest, if sighted, are fur seals basking on the rocks, or a resident pod of Bottlenose dolphins. And rare Fiordland crested penguins are sometimes encountered in the right season.

Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula

Otago Peninsula

Stretching 20 kilometres south of Dunedin, the Otago Peninsula is a renowned New Zealand eco-tourism area and is home to the only mainland albatross colony in the world. You’ll also have a chance to spot seals, sea lions and dolphins from either kayak or boat, and before you leave take a moment to visit Larnach Castle, the only one of its kind in the country.