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Things to do in South Island

Our most recommended things to do in South Island

Milford Sound: 2-Hour Small Boat Scenic Cruise

1. Milford Sound: 2-Hour Small Boat Scenic Cruise

Embrace the grandeur of Milford Sound's towering peaks and tumbling waterfalls on a scenic and boutique 2-hour cruise. Self-drive to Milford Sound Visitor Terminal enjoying the views en route. Sit back and relax as your cruise departs from Milford Sound Wharf and makes its way out past the iconic Mitre Peak. Cruise the length of the 16-kilometer fiord and out past St Annes Point Lighthouse. Go further and get closer to the magic that is Milford Sound as you travel through the fiord and out into the Tasman Sea. Hold your breath as your Skipper navigates closer to the shoreline, getting you right up close to the incredible surroundings. Be sure to bring your camera, as you'll be close to sights like the mighty Stirling Falls and Copper Point. Keep an eye out for seals basking in the sun, pods of dolphins or rare Fiordland Crested Penguins that can be found seasonally within the region.

TSS Earnslaw: Queenstown Cruise & Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ

2. TSS Earnslaw: Queenstown Cruise & Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ

This half-day activity begins and concludes with a 45-minute cruise across Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu onboard the historic TSS Earnslaw. Spend a few hours enjoying the culinary delights at Walter Peak High Country Station, including an entertaining farm demonstration the whole family will enjoy. Feel free to take advantage of the extensive lay-out of this incredible steamship – she is a floating museum of her own history, and you are more than welcome to enter the engine room where you can watch our hardy coal-stokers as they keep this beautiful lady of the lake gliding across the waters of Lake Wakatipu. Overlooking Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown’s incredible alpine scenery, the Colonel’s Homestead at Walter Peak is the perfect place to spend a beautiful day in Central Otago. Its colonial architecture and sweeping grounds evoke the elegance of a bygone era. Spend your time wandering the award-winning gardens, or saying hello to the animals that call the station home. The BBQ Buffet includes salads, vegetables, and succulent local meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie or grill. There is a wide range of desserts on offer, including a vast array of fresh bread and cheese. If you have any dietary restrictions, please let the supplier know directly so we can safely accommodate your requests.

Franz Josef: Half-Day Glacier Helicopter and Hiking Tour

3. Franz Josef: Half-Day Glacier Helicopter and Hiking Tour

Get out into nature and experience the wilderness on this tour of the Franz Josef Glacier. Soar in the air in a helicopter, trek with glacier boots and crampons, and take in the fascinating colors of the ice flow. Meet at the Franz Josef Village base in the Westland National Park and hop into a helicopter. Fly up to the glacier and land on a section pre-checked for safety by your guide. Equipped with glacier boots and crampons, walk through ice formations and pinnacles for 2 hours. Touch the ice, breathe in the fresh air, and take note of the unique color of the glacier. Hike back to the helicopter and return to the base with a profound respect for nature.

Milford Sound: Cruise, Underwater Observatory, and Lunch

4. Milford Sound: Cruise, Underwater Observatory, and Lunch

Explore the beauty of the fiord on a vessel that’s purpose-built for the best daytime viewing. Set off on a day-trip that includes a delicious lunch, complimentary tea and coffee, and a visit to the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory. Climb aboard a smaller vessel at the Milford Sound Cruise Terminal to discover more of the fiord on an authentic and insightful experience. Get within touching distance of impressive rock walls and waterfalls. Join the skipper in the open wheelhouse and say hello to the native seals basking on the rocks as you pass them by. A knowledgeable local guide will ensure you discover the wildlife, nature, and history of this remarkable sanctuary. Take a break for a picnic lunch. Choose between a regular, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free picnic option that includes a wrap, cheese, and crackers, seasonal fresh fruit, crisps, a cookie, and a small chocolate bar. Visit the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory, New Zealand's only floating underwater observatory for an experience unlike any other. Hidden under the surface in Harrison Cove in the middle of Piopiotahi Marine Reserve, the Observatory enables you to experience a different perspective of the fiord. Descend 64 steps (10-metres) underwater into a large, fully air-conditioned viewing area and peer out through large windows at the deep underwater haven. Unlike an aquarium, the fish are free to come and go; it’s the people who are contained.

Queenstown: Milford Sound Coach & Cruise Full-Day Trip

5. Queenstown: Milford Sound Coach & Cruise Full-Day Trip

Enjoy a fun and leisurely day trip to admire the glacial features, wild flora and fauna, and picturesque backdrops of the world-famous fiord at Milford Sound. Start with pickup for the bus journey to Te Anau. Your driver will share their local knowledge as you stop along the way to see spectacular scenery. Marvel at views of waterfalls, wildlife, and the rainforest. Soak up the sights from any of the three indoor and outdoor viewing decks during your cruise and join your jovial crew at the bow as you nose under Stirling Falls for a free shower in some of the world's freshest water.  Benefit from complimentary tea service is available for the entire cruise and espresso coffee, snacks cakes. Additional drinks can be purchased from onboard cafe / bar.

Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers Helicopter Flight & Snow Landing

6. Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers Helicopter Flight & Snow Landing

Explore the ancient icefalls of the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on a 30-minute helicopter flight. Experience the thrill of a snow landing with spectacular photo opportunities, and create unforgettable memories. Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers provides stunning ice architecture and are two of the few glaciers in the world which exist in such close proximity to both an ocean and a rainforest. Make your way to a central location in Franz Josef township, where you will check in for your flight. Strap yourself in to your seat and prepare for a once-in-a-lifetime ride, soaring above the pristine scenery for spectacular aerial views of the glaciers. Listen to engaging inflight commentary from your experienced pilot and admire the stunning frozen landscape below through the panoramic windows. Midway through the flight, your helicopter hovers above the ice and snow before making a thrilling snow landing at the summit of one of the glaciers. Step out onto the breathtaking, frozen landscape to soak in the views and capture some incredible photos. Then return to the helicopter for the flight back to base.

Kaikoura: Whale Watching Cruise

7. Kaikoura: Whale Watching Cruise

Take a whale-watching cruise off the Kaikoura coast, and see giant sperm whales in their natural environment. Enjoy onboard commentary as you encounter a range of wildlife, including fur seals, pods of dolphins, and the endangered wandering albatross. Set sail on a catamaran, equipped with engines that minimize underwater noise and nonpolluting toilets. Take in the views from the large outdoor decks or stay inside the air-conditioned interiors with comfortable seating and plasma screens displaying marine wildlife animations. Gain an insight into the habitat with scientific information and indigenous knowledge about these creatures from the crew. Passenger numbers are kept well below the vessel's capacity to ensure a more personal experience.

Milford Sound: Nature Cruise on Premium Glass-Roof Catamaran

8. Milford Sound: Nature Cruise on Premium Glass-Roof Catamaran

Climb aboard 'Gem of the Sound', the newest vessel to cruise in the fiord, for a Milford Sound nature cruise. Capture the best views of the incredible fiord with three-levels of indoor and outdoor seating, unique glass roofs, and large viewing decks. Be welcomed on board by a friendly crew and marvel at one of the most stunning places on earth. Relax in the comfortable booth seating with stylish decor and ambient lighting. High-definition cameras project outdoor footage live onto TV screens throughout the vessel - so no matter where are, you won't miss a thing. Admire New Zealand fur seals basking on rocks and feel the spray of cascading waterfalls. Look out for playful dolphins and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the rare and elusive Fiordland Crested Penguin. Travel the length of the fiord and out into the Tasman Sea, to see why Captain Cook failed to discover Milford Sound after charting the Fiordland National Park.

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Plane & Boat

9. From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Plane & Boat

Combine a flight and a cruise on Milford Sound on this excursion from Queenstown. Take in the area's outstanding natural beauty as you savor the sights from both air and water. Enjoy a pickup and transfer to the air hanger in Queenstown. Listen to informative commentary in English and marvel at the stunning views of lakes, mountains, and waterfalls on the 40-minute flight. Upon landing, transfer to the Milford Sound Boat Terminal. Board in Milford Sound and experience 2 hours onboard an intimate vessel with English commentary by your skipper, and complimentary tea and coffee. Cruise to the mouth of the Tasman Sea, while enjoying views of waterfalls and marine life like fur seals, dolphins, and penguins. Next, board your scenic flight back to Queenstown. Take a different flight path from your outbound flight as you admire the spectacular views of Fiordland National Park. After the 40-minute journey back to Queenstown, enjoy complimentary transfer back to your accommodation.

Kaikoura: Dolphin Encounter Cruise

10. Kaikoura: Dolphin Encounter Cruise

Cruise along the scenic Kaikoura coast as you watch for dolphins. During the cruise, you'll be able to swim with the dolphins in their natural habitat or watch their antics from the comfort of the boat. Kaikoura is one of the best places in the world to encounter the Dusky Dolphins in their natural environment. The Dusky Dolphins are some of the most interactive and acrobatic species of dolphins, making them thrilling to watch and interact with. 

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What people are saying about South Island

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

based on 10,383 reviews

Heli hike was amazing. However…. Get your Guide tell you completely the wrong time for check in. Make sure you are there 1hr 15mins before your flight otherwise you will miss it. We were luckily able to hang around and two spaces came up on a later flight. The staff at the heli-hike were incredible and kind. Get your guide just tried to push the blame onto us.

Luke is a legend, funny and above all got us to our destination and home again safe. Great personality for the role and super helpful with any questions we had! Can’t thank him enough has he really made the whole day an amazing experience!!!

We had a fantastic time on the two hour tour today. Segways are easy to ride and terrific fun. Everyone should try one at least once in their life.

Amazing day. Fortunately we had great weather. Wonderful hike. Ana, our guide and driver, did her job well.

An amazing trip to a stunning location guided by a very knowledgeable , friendly Tourguide.