Best of the South Island: Sights

Abel Tasman National Park. Image:

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

Aoraki Mount Cook. Image: Miles Holden

Moeraki Boulders. Image: Miles Holden

Best of the South Island: Sights

Mountains! Seas! Castles, glaciers and rainforest! It’s hard to pick the top things to see in Te Waipounamu, the South Island, but we’ve got your unmissable list.

Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes

If you time the tide right, you’ll be treated to blowholes blasting seawater far into the sky among these curiously stacked natural rock formations. Take a 20-minute loop walk around the pancake rocks at Punakaiki on the West Coast – it’s a gentle, wheelchair accessible track that delivers spectacular return on effort.

Banks Peninsula

The sparkling blue waters and craggy hills of Banks Peninsula are a postcard-perfect sight from almost anywhere, but one of the best places to drink it in is next to the Hilltop Tavern on the drive over from Christchurch, where you get panoramic views of Akaroa Harbour and its picturesque surrounds. Most of the big bays around the peninsula are seal-spotting photo opportunities, and there are scenic walks all over the show.

Church of the Good Shepherd

A true Aotearoa icon, this stone church is backdropped by the turquoise-blue Lake Tekapo and the towering Southern Alps. In winter, the snow-capped mountains only add to the magic.

Aoraki Mount Cook

It’s the highest mountain in New Zealand, and there are a few prime spots to see it in all its glory, especially in the winter months when it’s cloaked in snow and looking like a picture. Peters Lookout is a great spot to grab a photo on the road to Aoraki Mount Cook Village, and the Hooker Valley Track offers some of the best views around.

Moeraki Boulders

The huge, uniquely spherical collection of boulders scattered along a stretch of sandy Otago beach like so many giant marbles might have you scratching your head over the mystery of it all, but not before you’ve taken a good few photos!

Larnach Castle

Our only castle sits proudly on a hilltop on the Otago Peninsula, a majestic sight you won’t want to miss. Thoroughly explore the gardens and discover all the best angles of this historic landmark before heading inside to check out the stories, Victorian antiques, and tower views.

Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier

Glaciers you can walk right up to: these two and their blue-white ice rivers are uniquely accessible. They’re close to the coast and just about touching the temperate West Coast rainforest – unlike anything else in the world.

Mitre Peak

A greenery-draped mountain looming photogenically out of the dark, reflective waters of Milford Sound. Fiordland as a whole is a South Island must-see with its untamed, out-of-this-world natural beauty, and Mitre Peak is one of the absolute highlights.

Abel Tasman National Park

The golden sands, crystal water and emerald forests of Abel Tasman National Park are a feast for the senses, and whether you’re taking it in on an Abel Tasman hike, kayaking around the coastline, or taking a cruise to see the iconic Tokangawhā Split Apple Rock, this is definitely one to keep high on your list.

That Wānaka Tree

Is there a tree more widely photographed than the iconic Wānaka tree? Growing determinedly and stunningly out of the water (at certain tides) with a pristine mountain backdrop, this tree has attracted photographers from all around the world. Get to it from the Waterfall Creek Track carpark at sunrise for the best colours and least amount of people.

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