New Zealand – South Island
While the North Island of New Zealand is know for its bigger cities and maritime history, the South Island is all about the landscape. Whether you visit during winter or summer (and we recommend both as you’ll have a remarkably different experience in either season) you will be blown away by the serene setting. Of course the serenity is sometimes interrupted by the joyous screams of plane-diving, bungy jumping, thrill-seeking tourists!
The best way to see New Zealand is by driving. Hire a car for the duration of your stay and truly take in the beauty around you. A bus tour is also an option although the South Island is full of little places to see and stop at, so a car gives you the freedom and flexibility to see what you want.
Where to go
A great place to begin your New Zealand honeymoon is at Christchurch. Christchurch is New Zealand’s second largest city and is situated on the east coast of the South Island. The town centre is known for its beautiful parks and gardens, as well as old stone buildings and the peaceful restaurants and shopping. For honeymooners, make sure you give punting on the Avon River a try. Similar to a romantic gondola ride in Venice, this tranquil boat ride takes you through the stunning Christchurch Botanic Gardens. One of our real wedding couples, Emily & Mark even got engaged on this romantic tour.
Lake Wanaka is a beautiful blue lake surrounded by a rugged mountain range. This is the perfect place for hiking and enjoying the great outdoors. This laidback town offers a great range of luxury resorts and B&B’s. Looking for something different? Stop by the quirky Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World for some fun and games, including the Great Maze. Of course, adventure is also in the air here too. Choose from quad bike rides, canyoning, rafting and jet boating, among many others.
Milford Sound is one of the South Island’s most picturesque locations. Travelling by road, plane or boat you will find sheer peaks, plunging waterfalls and wildlife including native dolphins, seals and penguins. If you have the time and the legs for it, consider the famous Milford Track, which is 54km long. This four day trek starts at Glade Wharf and travels through the rainforest, over the mountain ranges and down to Milford Sound. It is considered one of the finest walks in the world!
This quaint little town is a great stop for honeymooners. Only a 20 minute drive from Queenstown, it’s the perfect afternoon trip. Arrowtown is a former mining town and features many historic and beautiful buildings and homes. While only small, the town centre offers a range of shopping including fashion, galleries, jade, gifts and local wine.
Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
You can’t go to the South Island without a stay in the Franz Josef Glaciers or the Fox Glaciers. These two natural glaciers are something you are unlikely to ever see again in your lifetime. You can choose to hike up the glacier (which we highly recommend), take a flightseeing tour over the ice valley or stand at the base and admire its beauty from below.
If it’s adventure you seek, then Queenstown is the place to find it. With everything from white water rafting to sky diving and hand gliding, every action-packed activity imaginable is available.
Adventure activities to try:
- Sky diving
- Bungy jumping
- 4WD, quad and motor bikes
- Jet boating
- White water rafting
- Scenic flights
- Horse riding
- River surfing
- Lord of the Rings tour
Knot recommendation: For those wanting to do something adrenalin-pumping but not quite as intense as plunging 300 metres straight down into a gorge on a bungy, then the Shotover Jet is a great option. The Shotover Jet takes you through a spectacular canyon travelling at speeds of up to 85kph in as little as 10cm of water. The excitement doesn’t end there. Your driver will swerve you unbelievably close to the rocky edges of the canyon and send the jet boat in a full 360o spin. The whole experience will be captured on video camera so the memory will last well after your speedy adventure.
What to do
Apart from the adventurous expeditions in abundance at the South Island, you can also embark upon a number of relaxing indulgences. The hot pools at the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are the perfect treat after a day of ice climbing and offer a brilliant view of the stars at night. Queenstown also offers the chance to unwind at their pure, spring fed hot pools. Another way to take in the culture is with one of the South Island’s many wine tours. Don’t forget to take in your beautiful surroundings every chance you get with the thousands of walking trails on offer.
What to pack
A camera and walking shoes are a must for your New Zealand adventure. Regardless of the time of year, layers of clothing and a warm jacket will also come in handy. Don’t forget the sunscreen because even if it’s nippy outside, the sun still shines bright in New Zealand.
Suggested Itinerary Plan
There are so many places to see in New Zealand’s South Island and where you go and what you see will ultimately be come down to personal preference. But if you’re looking for a basic starting point, we recommend beginning your honeymoon in Christchurch. You only need 2-3 days here to take in the city and maybe even embark on a day trip to the historic French and British settlement, Akaroa. Next we recommend driving towards the west coast through Arthurs Pass and stopping at Greymouth. Your next major stop should be the Franz Josef or Fox Glaciers. Both have a little town at the base of each glacier. Spend 1-2 nights. For your final destination, make your way to Queenstown. How long you stay will be dependent on what you plan to do (and how many bridges you plan to jump off!), but somewhere between 5-8 days will give you time to really enjoy what the town has to offer. If you have time, continue onto Dunedin for a 3-4 day stay.