Roisin Dixon outlines her trip to New Zealand, giving an insight into the best places to visit on the South Island from top to bottom

Written by roisin.dixon

New Zealand is a country full of amazing people, incredible wildlife and even better scenery and there is no end to the things that you can see and do. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking to tick a skydive off your bucket list or simply take in the white sand beaches and crystal-clear water on the coast, then New Zealand is the place for you.

After spending four weeks road tripping New Zealand and being completely overwhelmed by everything this country has to offer, I thought I would compile a list of the top things I would recommend for anyone to see or do. So, from the bottom of the South Island right to the top, here is my New Zealand South Island ultimate bucket list.

Milford Sound: 

Situated in Fiordland National park, which is one of the most unexplored areas of New Zealand, Milford Sound is a spectacular fiord that runs into the Tasman sea. Surrounded by cascading waterfalls (including the Sutherland Falls which is the tallest in New Zealand) as well as natural New Zealand bush and colonies of Fur Seals, it is a must-see! The best way to see this marvel of nature is from the water with several cruises running tours every hour. I would highly recommend using a company with a smaller boat such as Cruise Milford, although it was a little more expensive, the boat is much quieter allowing you to get away from the crowds and enjoy the extraordinary scenery in peace and quiet. Despite the long drive to Milford Sound there are plenty of things to see along the way making it well worth the trip.


Queenstown is surrounded by the dramatic Southern Alps and sits around the beautiful Lake Wakatipu. The town is a tourist hotspot but enjoy the buzz and make the most of the great restaurants in the centre. We especially liked Public Kitchen which sits right on the wharf encircled by incredible mountains. If you’re looking to save money, give the gondola to the top of the Queenstown skyline a miss and instead take the Tiki Trail to the top. This walk should take around an hour one way, depending on your pace. It is definitely steep and pretty hard work, but the views from the top are amazing and even better when you know that you have worked for them.

Lake Tekapo: 

It is not often that you get the opportunity to marvel at lakes as blue as Lake Tekapo and the neighbouring Lake Pukaki. As if the beauty of the lakes themselves were not enough, the whole area is covered in pink and purple lupins as well as being surrounded by vast mountains that frame the landscape. Be sure to hike to the top of Mount John for views of the Lake from above and grab a coffee and delicious cake at the Astro Café whilst you are up there. Lake Tekapo is undeniably beautiful and belongs on everyone’s bucket list when travelling around New Zealand’s South Island.

Nelson Lakes National Park :

This is a picture-perfect location with pristine docks leading out to crystal clear lakes. Although it is a popular spot, you cannot help but be absorbed by the tranquillity and calm of the area with most people around the lake being New Zealanders themselves. The two lakes, Lake Rotoiti and Rotoroa are great for swimming and boating but watch out for the Longfin Eels who reside in the lakes and are usually found underneath the docks, don’t worry, they are harmless. While you are in the area be sure to check out the Whiskey Falls which have a fairy-tale like quality. The walk to the falls leads you along the lapping Lake Rotoiti and through the New Zealand bush, a very calming experience.

Abel Tasman National Park:

Don’t miss this off your South Island itinerary. With its white and golden sand beaches, turquoise water, subtropical weather and arguably the best kayaking in New Zealand it truly is the South Islands own little paradise. The world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track is a must while visiting the National Park. We decided to do the twelve-kilometre section from Bark Bay to Anchorage Bay, it was worth every step and exceeded all of our expectations. You cannot miss Split Apple Rock, the gorgeous Golden Bay area and a trip to the Smokey Barrel in the nearby town of Motueka to try the best doughnuts! Most of the stunning beaches in Abel Tasman are not easily accessible and so unless you are willing to walk the whole sixty kilometres of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, I would definitely recommend making the most of the water taxis and kayaks. It’s the only way to really experience the true beauty of this extraordinary place.

If you ever have an opportunity to travel to this amazing country, then grab it with both hands. The immense waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes and huge mountains all make for scenery like nothing I have ever seen before. It is truly worth every penny, every hour spent travelling and every single step of the hikes that you will inevitably do. I hope that I have inspired you to travel to New Zealand because I can say, with my whole heart, that I will never forget my time there.

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