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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.
Located in Christchurch City Centre, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of New Regent Street and Canterbury Museum. Riccarton House is 2.3 mi (3.7 km) away.
Situated near the airport, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Russley Golf Club and International Antarctic Centre. Omarino Wine Park and Jellie Park Recreation and Sport Centre are also within 3 mi (5 km).
Located in Christchurch City Centre, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Cardboard Cathedral and Canterbury Museum. Riccarton House is 2.6 mi (4.1 km) away.
This family-friendly Queenstown hotel is located near the airport, within 1 mi (2 km) of SKYCITY Wharf Casino, Kiwi and Birdlife Park, and Skyline Gondola. Steamer Wharf and Creative Queenstown Arts & Crafts Market are also within 1 mi (2 km).
Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa is on the eastern shore of Lake Wakatipu in Kawarau Village, 5 minutes’ drive from Queenstown Airport and 15 from the center of Queenstown. A free shuttle bus ferries guests to sights like the Skyline Gondola, as well as to all kinds of adventure sports.
This family-friendly Queenstown hotel is located on a lake, within a 10-minute walk of SKYCITY Wharf Casino, Steamer Wharf, and Creative Queenstown Arts & Crafts Market. Toi o Tahuna and TSS Earnslaw Steamship are also within 10 minutes.
Conveniently located near the ski slopes, this Lake Tekapo resort is within 1 mi (2 km) of Mount John Observatory, Tekapo Springs, and Church of the Good Shepherd. Sheepdog Statue is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) away.
Located in Christchurch City Centre, this apartment is within 1 mi (2 km) of Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology and Canterbury Museum. Riccarton House is 2.6 mi (4.2 km) away.