Things to do in
South Island

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Our most recommended things to do in South Island

TSS Earnslaw: Queenstown Cruise & Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ

1. 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 steam-ship – 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 aqua 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. It’s 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.

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TSS Earnslaw: 1.5-Hour Cruise From Queenstown

2. TSS Earnslaw: 1.5-Hour Cruise From Queenstown

Join the TSS Earnslaw for a 1.5-hour cruise across Lake Wakatipu. Admire spectacular alpine scenery and enjoy plenty of time to explore a piece of living history. Listen to engaging commentary from your experienced captain who will highlight points of interest throughout your cruise. Make your way to Steamer Wharf at Queenstown’s waterfront. Climb aboard the oldest working coal-fired passenger steamship in the southern hemisphere and feel free to explore! View the collection of historical photos in the small onboard museum and check out the skipper’s wheelhouse. Visit the engine room to feel the heat of the giant steam engines at work and see the stokers shovel coal into the glowing fireboxes.  Soak in the dramatic mountain views surrounding Lake Wakatipu and relax at the cafe where you can enjoy a wine or beer and snacks are also available for purchase. 

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Milford Sound Cruise

3. Milford Sound Cruise

Self-drive through the Fiordland National park to cruise the stunningly iconic Milford Sound. This fiord is the most accessible of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords and can be reached by road. Allow 5-6 hours (one-way) driving time from Queenstown and around 3-hours (one-way) from Te Anau.  Check-in at Milford Sound Visitor Terminal then climb aboard a purpose-built vessel for a leisurely, informative, and interactive experience. Admire the towering Mitre Peak rising straight out of the sea. Cruise the fiord, riding near waterfalls and listening to the informative commentary about the region.  Your experienced skippers customize the cruise route on the day depending on the weather and wildlife sightings to ensure you see the best of Milford Sound. Keep a lookout for wildlife, including seals, dolphins and penguins. The vessels have spacious decks, comfortable seating, and large viewing windows.  Sit back and take in the magnificent views of Milford Sound. The landscape is especially dramatic when it rains in Fiordland. Enjoy the spectacular landscape from a dry comfortable vantage point on board the vessel. You are more than welcome to bring your own picnic on board, or you can purchase food and non-alcoholic drinks on board the vessel using cash.

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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. Also enjoy a delicious picnic. 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.

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Nelson: Skywire Experience

5. Nelson: Skywire Experience

Set 300 meters above the base cafe, your adventure starts with a 4 kilometer mini-bus journey up through the park to the launch platform of the Skywire. Your guides will entertain you on the ride up with facts and stories of the park and surrounding areas. The Skywire experience takes up to 4 people at a time, seated side by side, strapped into individual racing car style seats with 5 point harnesses, and can reach speeds of up to 100 kilometers per an hour. Move forward and backwards on the Skywire, with 800 meters of gravity assisted freewheeling in each direction. With 700 meters of scenic journey in each direction, finish back at the start after nearly 10 minutes of this thrilling experience. Many people rate the return backwards as the highlight of the trip.

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Te Anau: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour

6. Te Anau: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour

Experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of hundreds of glowworms.  Your trip to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves begins with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau. At the entry to the caves, view the informative displays and learn about this geological wonder before you head underground. On the tour of the caves, your friendly guide will point out the highlights and share their knowledge of the caves and its history. This underground world is astonishingly beautiful. The cave are 12,000 years old which by geological standards is still very young and they are still being carved out by the force of the river that flows through them. The result is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall. Deep inside the caves, beyond the roar of the water, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms, unique to New Zealand. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a glittering display that is nothing short of extraordinary.

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Fiordland National Park: Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise

7. Fiordland National Park: Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise

Spend a day in the remote wilderness of Doubtful Sound, located in the heart of Fiordland National Park and three times longer than Milford Sound. Self-drive to Manapouri and board a cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri, followed by a coach trip across Wilmot Pass. Stop en-route to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest. At Deep Cove, board the Patea Explorer, a purpose-built catamaran, for a 2 hour and 45-minute cruise on Doubtful Sound. See waterfalls, rainforest and mountains during the cruise. You might spot the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins, the colony of fur seals at the mouth of the fiord, or even rare Fiordland crested penguins. During the cruise, knowledgeable nature guides will provide informative commentary.  When it rains in Fiordland, the landscape is dramatic - rock faces stream with waterfalls, mist hangs around the tops of the mountains, and rivers and streams rage.  From a dry comfortable vantage point on board the coach or vessel this landscape is spectacular. Always be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during your visit. Many say you have not seen Fiordland unless you have seen it in the rain!

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TSS Earnslaw: Cruise and Walter Peak Farm Tour

8. TSS Earnslaw: Cruise and Walter Peak Farm Tour

Start with a scenic cruise, crossing Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm. Explore the decks, visit the steam room, or chat with the captain in the wheelhouse. You’ll find a licensed cafe on board. Disembark at Walter Peak and join the host for a farmyard tour. Get up close to sheep, deer, and highland cattle. Help feed the farm animals, watch a farm demonstration, and explore the lakeside gardens. Enjoy a morning or afternoon tea including scones, muffins, coffee, and tea. The Walter Peak Farm tour is the perfect way to get a taste of New Zealand's farming lifestyle in an interactive way. This 3.5-hour tour is suitable for all ages.

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Milford Sound Nature Cruise on Premium Glass-Roof Catamaran

9. 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. Your friendly crew will welcome you on board and embrace you as one of the family, whilst you 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.

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

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

Combine a flight and a cruise on Milford Sound on this excursion from Queensland. 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.

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Frequently asked questions about South Island

Which tours in South Island are taking additional COVID-19 precautions?

These experiences in South Island are taking additional COVID-19 precautions:

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Other Sightseeing Options in South Island

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What people are saying about South Island

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 7,005 reviews

It was exciting, fun and yet so comfortable. Cima the instructor made me feel as I was made for doing it everyday. Pick up amd drop off offered and a must do for all.

Very relaxing afternoon. Enjoyed the time cruising and listening to live music. Once in a lifetime experience!!

Views are truly stunning and majestic. Words can't describe how beautiful it is.

Really enjoyed it and the guide was great. Highly reccomend

It’s awesome and very beautiful. We enjoyed whole journey