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South Island Holiday

Larger, less populated and harder to reach than the northern “Main Island,” this area features New Zealand’s longest glacier, its highest mountain and much more.

The landscapes of New Zealand’s South Island are hard to believe. Perhaps this is why New Zealand film director Peter Jackson featured them so often in his world-famous adaptations of the fantasy book trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Massive peaks rising out of plains, crystal-clear mountain lakes and near vertical-faced fjords all await you on New Zealand’s less populated but more picturesque island.

Begin by discovering the island’s Pacific Coast. Christchurch is the largest city on South Island and the second largest in New Zealand. Enjoy the massive Botanic Gardens of the “Garden City,” and then travel nearly a kilometer out of town by gondola to get an overhead view of Crater Rim, a collapsed volcano to the east. If you’re looking for more of a beach town, drive south along the coast to Dunedin. Surf on St. Clair Beach, then head into town to enjoy its heritage buildings and Scottish charm.

Running all the way along South Island is a dramatic mountain range that rises abruptly from the eastern plains. Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, stands at the heart of the range. Hike along one of the many lakes nestled at the foot of the mountains, like Lake Wanaka. Come during winter to ski down from the mountains while you overlook this 75-square-mile (193-square-kilometer) body of crystalline glacier water.

Take a long mountain drive to Fiordland National Park in the island’s southwest for even more breathtaking sights. Here, the towering mountains have been carved into sheer cliffs shooting up from the shores of inlets from the Tasman Sea. Milford Sound is perhaps the most beautiful, as its high annual rainfall causes giant waterfalls to stream down from the cliffs. Do some hiking around the area. When night falls, take a tour of the nearby Te Anau Glowworm Caves.

The South Island has direct flights to the North Island and Australia from Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown. The South Island may be harder to reach and larger than its northern neighbor, but the views here are more than worth the extra effort.


Guide to Exploring South Island


Top South Island Hotel & Accommodation Deals

See all 5,142 properties in South Island
BreakFree on Cashel NZ$79
Reviewed on 23 Oct. 2019
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BreakFree on Cashel

BreakFree on Cashel

165 Cashel Street, Christchurch
     
    4.0 of 5
    3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    No towels in the room on arrival but quickly rectified by staff.

    Sudima Christchurch Airport NZ$215
    Reviewed on 23 Oct. 2019
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    Sudima Christchurch Airport

    Sudima Christchurch Airport

    550 Memorial Avenue, Christchurch
       
      4.2 of 5
      4.5 out of 5.0 Stars

      Excellent facility. Easy to check in and the transfer service from the airport was great with young kids

      Heritage Queenstown NZ$204
      Reviewed on 20 Oct. 2019
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      Heritage Queenstown

      Heritage Queenstown

      91 Fernhill Road, Queenstown
         
        4.4 of 5
        4.5 out of 5.0 Stars

        Great place to stay, close enough walk to town, has everything you need

        Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa NZ$195
        Reviewed on 21 Oct. 2019
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        Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa

        Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa

        Kawarau Village, 79 Peninsula Road, Queenstown
           
          4.5 of 5
          5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Nice Place to stay with nice view. Staff at the front desk and at buffet breakfast very helpful and nice.

          Oaks Club Resort NZ$189
          Reviewed on 25 Aug. 2019
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          Oaks Club Resort

          Oaks Club Resort

          171-179 Frankton Road, Queenstown
             
            4.3 of 5
            4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            House keeping was not up to standard , not enough Carparks and to use the gym/ sauna, need to go to the reception to get the doors open.

            Novotel Queenstown Lakeside NZ$213
            Reviewed on 14 Oct. 2019
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            Novotel Queenstown Lakeside

            Novotel Queenstown Lakeside

            Corner of Earl and Marine Parade, Queenstown
               
              4.4 of 5
              4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Great Location, Very clean and tidy, Friendly Staff

              Oaks Shores NZ$195
              Reviewed on 6 Oct. 2019
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              Oaks Shores

              Oaks Shores

              327-343 Frankton Road, Queenstown
                 
                4.1 of 5
                4.5 out of 5.0 Stars

                The property was in a nice area with a nice view; however, there was construction going on and the construction blocked the view of the lake from our room. I paid extra to get a nice view, but ended up getting half a lake and half a metal scaffolding view. It would have been nice to have been notified ...

                Peppers Bluewater Resort NZ$145
                Reviewed on 20 Oct. 2019
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                Peppers Bluewater Resort

                Peppers Bluewater Resort

                State Highway 8, Lake Tekapo
                   
                  4.0 of 5
                  4.5 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Friendly staff and greatly location! The hotel rooms would have great views, but I didn’t see them from my room :)

                  Top South Island Flight & Hotel Packages

                  South Island Flight Deals

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