The South Island of New Zealand is full of some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. You could easily spend months to explore the island, visiting every single gorgeous spot. It’s hard to narrow it down, but here are the seven natural beauties of the island you won’t want to miss when you are there!
1.Milford and Doubtful Sounds
Most of the people that have visited the South Island of New Zealand can’t reach this conclusion: Is Milford Sound the #1 most stunning place in the South Island, or is it Doubtful Sound? The two sounds are located not too far from each other, but you won’t be able to cover them in the same day by land and water. Both places could be accessed from a small town called Te Anau. I’ll speak for Milford Sound, actually a misnamed fjord, since it’s the one we ended up going. The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is the most beautiful drive we’ve ever taken and fjord itself is the most beautiful place we’ve ever seen! Just imagine cruising along the fjord where gorgeous mountains plunge straight down to the water, waterfalls pour down everywhere, and fur seals playing all around.
2. Fox and Franz Josef Glacier
Both Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are stunning and easy to access. There are various ways to approach the glacier, from helicopter rides, walking yourself to the mouth of the glaciers, or joining one of the glacier expedition where you can clamber on it with an experienced guide. The helicopter rides usually have an option to visit Mount Cook too, the highest peak in New Zealand, in the setting of gorgeous Southern Alps.
3. Queenstown, the Southern Alps and the Lakes
Queenstown is a charming city located in the middle of the Southern Alps and the lakes. It’s home to many adventurous activities and the gateway to many sight seeing destinations. My personal favourite thing to do around Queensland is the drive between Queensland to Glenorchy, followed by picnic lunch somewhere off Glenorchy, facing the river and snow capped mountains. Following the road along the Lake Pukaki, you can reach the Aoraki/Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, that sits in the Southern Alps. In one edge of Lake Tekapo, there’s a little charming stone-walled Church of the Good Shepherd that together with the turquoise lake and alps surround it, looks very beautiful. Cross your fingers for good weather there.
4. Punakaiki Pancake Rock Formation
Located in the western beaches of the island, the Punakaiki rocks is an intriguing gigantic pancake pile-like rock formations. If you are lucky to be there in the high tide, you can witness giant water sprays from the big blow hole among the rocks, like maple syrup squirting out high from the middle of your pancake stack.
5. Oamaru Penguins
Apparently you don’t have to go all the way to Antarctica to observe penguins in their natural habitat, there are many penguins that live in New Zealand. Oamaru is home of two kinds of penguins, the rare yellow eyed penguins that look like bandits with yellow eye masks, and the little blue penguins, that are only a foot tall. The best time to observe the penguins in nature is around dusk, when they are coming home to their nest from feeding in the ocean.
6. Moeraki Boulders
Moeraki beach in the East Coast, not far south of Oamaru, offers you the natural oddity Moeraki Boulders. Moeraki Boulders are naturally-formed unusually large and almost perfectly spherical boulders, with diameters up to 2 meters. They are just scattered around the beach, which is best observed during low tide. This is one of the best places to see this type of intriguing large and spherical boulders.
7. Kaikoura Whale Watch
Just two and a half hours north from Christchurch is Kaikoura, a very popular location for whale watching. Because of its unique underwater geographical feature that direct massive flows of nutrients and their attendant marine life, the ocean around Kaikoura is a natural habitat for the giant sperm whales. There are many of these sperm whales in the area, so many that the Kaikoura’s Whale Watch Company guaranties 80% of your money back if there’s no whale spotted on your tour! Not only sperm whales, you will also see many fur seals, dusky dolphins, and many different kind of sea birds, including the endangered albatross. If you are lucky, you can also see the other types of whales. When the sky is clear, you can enjoy this with the snow capped Southern Alps in the background.