Top 12 Favorite South Island Activities

The South Island of New Zealand was recently hit hard with an earthquake. Our hearts ache for the communities which were affected. We have seen pictures and reports coming from some of our favorite spots and are saddened by the damage to such a beautiful place. We hope they are able to get back on their feet quickly.

It was just last month that we left this little South Pacific Ocean island after exploring for nearly eight weeks. Often, we would look at each other with our mouths agape because of the natural beauty. It was a place we won’t soon forget.

Here are 12 of our favorite activities and experiences from the South Island:

Punakaiki Rocks and Blow Holes

The day we visited Punakaiki will go down as one of my absolute favorite days in all of New Zealand. Not only were the rocks unlike anything I’d ever seen before but the blow holes were making sounds and scenes I didn’t know water could produce. Ben and I were like kids in a candy store jumping from one place to another to see what the next stop on the path would offer. One thing to note, it is best to experience the blow holes an hour after low tide since the tide is coming in and causing most of the action. If you arrive during high tide you will still get to view the gorgeous rocks but won’t be able to hear and see the blow holes at their best.

One of the many beautiful views in Punakaiki.

One of the many beautiful views in Punakaiki.

Hokitika Gorge

Shortly after we left Punakaiki, we headed here. We wrote an entire post about why we loved Hokitika Gorge so much but it can be easily conveyed in the picture below. Check out that water!

Yes, the water was this bright turquoise.

Yes, the water really was this color.

Hooker Valley Trek

This goes down as my favorite hike in New Zealand for many reasons. It was a trek which had a lot of different natural features including mountains, glaciers, rivers, and valleys filled with grasses. Each view was more beautiful than the next. The trek culminated at the base of Aoraki/Mt. Cook at a glacier filled lake.

Hooker Lake with Aoraki/Mount Cook in the background.

Hooker Lake with Aoraki/Mount Cook in the background.

Mount Cook drive from Twizel

I find it hard to come up with words to describe the 65 km drive from Twizel to Mount Cook. But I tried here.

This picture doesn't even show the electric blue water that is on the right side of this road.

This picture doesn’t even show the electric blue water on the right side of this road.

Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike

Glaciers are remarkable. Flying over a glacier in a helicopter before landing on the glacier, is even more so. Then, hiking and climbing through tunnels of blue ice on that glacier made it extraordinary. We had an incredible time on our Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike.

The start of a crevasse in the glacier.

The start of a crevasse in the glacier.

Wanaka

If we were forced to name our favorite town in New Zealand, I think this would be it. Set on the shores of a lake surrounded by mountains, the scenery cannot be beat. Add on a challenging but rewarding Roy’s Peak hike, that Wanaka Tree, and a quaint downtown; Wanaka is hard to beat.

#thatwanakatree

#thatwanakatree

Kaikoura

We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived in Kaikoura but after driving through town, we booked three nights at our campground. This adorable place was unfortunately the epicenter of the recent earthquake and has suffered significant damage. We hope it can recover quickly. The people there were incredibly warm, the cafes and restaurants were delicious, and the beach is beautiful. We happened to visit the same weekend as the muscle car show and enjoyed sitting outside and watching all the cool cars drive by.

Nins Bin

Just outside of Kaikoura is a little shack which serves some of the most incredible seafood we had in New Zealand. Known for their crayfish, which they call Rock Lobster, Nins Bin is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. We were also lucky enough to try some of their Green Lipped Mussels as well and died and went to seafood heaven right then and there.

If we could eat seafood like this everyday, we would be happy, and break the scales.

If we could eat seafood like this everyday, we would be happy, and break the scales.

Moreaki Boulders

This one was all me. Ben, who is the research king, hadn’t even heard of the Moreaki Boulders when I told him we needed to see them. I knew about them from following travelers on Instagram and wanted to visit them in person. After showing him a few pictures he quickly agreed, so we set out before sunrise to photograph these circular rocks that I am still convinced might be dinosaur eggs.

Boulders or dinosaur eggs? It's up for debate.

Boulders or dinosaur eggs? It’s up for debate.

Church of the Good Shepard, Lake Tekapo

In the midst of a dark sky reserve, this little church has been a draw for night photography. We jumped on the bandwagon and tried our first attempts at night photography here as well. It was so much fun, aside from the people who walked through our long-exposure photographs completely oblivious to the fact they were walking through photos.

Our first venture into night photography. Definitely won't be our last!

Our first venture into night photography. Definitely won’t be our last!

Dunedin

New Zealand is full of cute little coffee shops and cafes, but some of our favorites were in Dunedin. Add on Speights Brewery and the Cadbury Chocolate Factory and Ben and I are forever happy.

The Dunedin train station is beautiful inside and out.

The Dunedin train station is beautiful inside and out.

The Catlins

The Catlins is an area on the south eastern coast of the South Island filled with natural sites. We spent an entire day driving through The Catlins, pulling over at every brown sign we saw to admire waterfalls, a fossilized forest, and beautiful coastlines.

One of the waterfalls we found in The Caitlins.

One of the waterfalls we found in The Caitlins.

If you missed our North Island post, check out our favorite activities and experiences here.

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