I didn’t plan to love New Zealand’s South Island as much as I did. Over 2 weeks on and I am still telling anyone who will listen about this incredible place. Beautiful. Surreal. Jaw-dropping. Those are just some of the words I’d use to describe New Zealand’s South Island. Locals claim that is the best NZ Island and after a two-week road trip where we stumbled upon some of the country’s best landscapes and natural wonders, I would have to agree!
From Mt Cook, the country’s highest peak, to the mysterious fiords of Milford Sound and the adventure capital of Queenstown, to unique blue lakes, the photos below will inspire you to pack your bags and head to New Zealand’s South Island!
Whether you’re an adrenaline junky, avid hiker, foodie or nature lover, you will fall in love with New Zealand’s South Island! This photo diary will put NZ on the top of your bucket list, whilst our posts that follow will help the planning process and give you all the tips you need for an epic road trip around the South Island!
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A Photo Diary: New Zealand’s South Island most wild and beautiful places
Lake Tekapo is about three hours drive south-west of Christchurch in the Mackenzie Basin. It is most visited for its remarkable turquoise coloured lake that’s surrounded by the dramatic mountain range. The lake gets its unique colour from the fine rock-flour, ground by glaciers, which is suspended in the water.
Lake Pukaki is the largest alpine lake in the area and is my personal favourite as it proudly showcases New Zealand’s tallest peak, Aoraki/ Mount Cook, from the main campground.
The lake is bright turquoise due to glacial flour and becomes even brighter when the sun hits it surface. The combination of the magnificent lake, snow-capped peaks and wide open skies are a dream for photographers and the free campground makes this place a must-do when visiting New Zealand’s South Island!
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home to the highest New Zealand peak and longest glaciers. There are many mountain walks, including The Red Tarns Track, Kea Point and the Hooker Valley Track that all take around 3 hours return. For the more adventurous, helicopters and ski planes provide access to the parks fabulous glaciers whilst climbing Aoraki/Mount Cook peak remains the ultimate challenge!
Dunedin is a city in New Zealand, at the head of Otago Harbour on the South Island’s southeast coast. It’s known for its Scottish and Maori heritage, Victorian architecture, and being a university town. It is also home to the worlds steepest residential street! Head up to Unity Park for incredible views of the entire city! Just out of Dunedin you will find magical Tunnel beach. Explore the sea-carved sandstone cliffs, rock arches and caves!
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Milford Sound is a fiord in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. It is famous for towering peaks, majestic rainforests and stunning waterfalls. The fiord is home to fur seal colonies, penguins and dolphins. The Milford Sound cruise is a great way to experience the natural wonder and is best experienced during a raining/cloudy day! If time permits immerse yourself in New Zealand’s nature with one of the finest walks in the world, the Milford Track.
Queenstown New Zealand has been named the Adventure Capital of the World this is because of its adrenaline-inducing activities including bungy jumping, skiing, jet boating and skydiving! It is also home to some of the best views NZ has to offer! Hike up the Ben Lomond summit and be rewarded with panoramic views of the town below. Need a little RnR? The Onsen Hot Pools are a great way to relax whilst still taking in the magnificent landscapes of Queenstown!
This charming resort town on New Zealand’s South Island, is set on the southern end of the lake with views of snowcapped mountains. Wanaka is also home to incredible wineries including Rippon Winery and Maude. About an hour out from Wanaka you will find the amazing blue pools. The walking track is off the Haast Highway, which is just a 20 minute walk down to the swing bridge crossing the Makarora River that boasts the famous crystal clear water!
Abel Tasman Park
Coastal Abel Tasman National Park blankets the northern end of a range of marble and limestone hills that extend from Kahurangi National Park. Various tracks in the park include an inland route, although the Coast Track is what everyone is here for – it’s New Zealand’s most popular Great Walk.
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