As the larger landmass of the two major islands in New Zealand, the South Island (Te Waipounamu) is highly renowned for its majestic natural landscapes given its number of breathtaking glaciers, mountains and lakes. (Things to do in South Island)
Where to Stay in South Island?
Though you might be wondering now: “What’s the difference between the two islands?” Well… the way I see it, the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) holds a greater deal of Māori culture and geothermal wonders — whereas the South Island is predominantly packed with rugged wilderness and thrilling adventures!
That being said, there is a wide range of spectacular activities that you can check off on your bucket list here. In fact, to make it hassle-free for you, I have listed below the top must-do’s and must-see’s for your New Zealand adventure in the South Island! The best part…? You can do most of these epic activities if you join a road trip adventure with Wild Kiwi!
Top photo by: Shutterstock
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Step into Fiordland National Park
- 2 2. Explore Marlborough Sounds
- 3 3. Experience natural spas
- 4 4. Go fishing
- 5 5. Go up high
- 6 6. Go jump
- 7 7. …Or “swing”!
- 8 8. Go fast
- 9 9. Kayaking
- 10 10. Chase after waterfalls, rivers, gorges & lakes
- 11 11. Cycling
- 12 12. Do city or town tours and stops
- 13 13. Try a quad bike
- 14 14. Enjoy some glaciers and snow
- 15 15. Eat, eat, eat!
- 16 16. Go hiking or trekking / tramping
- 17 17. Climb mountains and summits
- 18 18. Go off-road with a 4×4 adventure
- 19 19. Go Witness the wildlife
- 20 20. Explore Middle-Earth
- 21 New Zealand Travel Guide
- 21.1 » Best Time to Visit
- 21.2 » Getting in to New Zealand
- 21.3 » Visa for New Zealand
- 21.4 » Where to Stay (New Zealand Accommodations)
- 21.5 » New Zealand Currency
- 21.6 » Cost of Travel in New Zealand
- 21.7 » How to Get Around New Zealand’s South Island
- 21.8 » Safety in New Zealand
- 21.9 » Helpful Māori Phrases
Top Things to Do in South Island
1. Step into Fiordland National Park
Photo by: Shutterstock
This is a famous UNESCO World Heritage site that is known for its glacier-carved fiord of Doubtful and Milford Sounds (large sea inlets) which can be explored by air, by boat, or by foot. I personally visited Milford Sound by doing a scenic cruise through its waters, and you bet that I had a swell time witnessing the towering Mitre Peak in the distance as well as the sound’s two majestic waterfalls: Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls.
Though truth be told, en route to Milford Sound with Wild Kiwi, we had to make so many stops along the way because the surrounding terrain was just far too breathtaking — you’ll understand what I mean when you get to this national park yourself!
Now for the array of activities that you can do in Milford Sound, you can choose from any of the below:
- Milford Sound Scenic Cruise
- Milford Sound Day Tour from Queenstown or Te Anau with Cruise
- Milford Sound Day Tour from Queenstown with Cruise & Aircraft Ride
- Milford Sound Overnight Cruise
- Milford Sound Airplane Sightseeing
- Milford Sound Helicopter Sightseeing
2. Explore Marlborough Sounds
Photo by: Shutterstock
Found at the northern end, the Marlborough Sounds is a collection of ancient sunken river valleys that you need to include in your things to do in South Island! After all, it is home to spectacular rugged coastlines, abundant marine reserves, pristine islands, and historic sites — needless to say, there is an array of activities that you can do here! Some of the notable ones are doing the Queen Charlotte Track, driving down the French Pass, swimming with dolphins, or just cruising around the Marlborough Sounds.
For a complete list of options, you can check by here.
3. Experience natural spas
Photo by: Onsen Hot Pools
The North Island may be full of geothermal spas, but the South Island has its own specialties too, namely…
- Welcome Flat Hot Pools: It takes a bit of a hike through Copland Track to reach this place but you will surely be rewarded by stunning alpine views along the trail — not to mention, you’ll have the pools at the end to enjoy that actually range in temperature and can accommodate up to 10 to 12 people.
- Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools: This is a thermal pool complex that is an easy 90-minute drive from Christchurch! A great place to indulge, there are several types of pools for you to enjoy here such as sulfur pools, water jets, rock pools, and more!
- Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools: After a day of hiking, reward yourself with a relaxing dip in the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools. This is open until 9:00PM and you can choose to soak in one of the 3 main outdoor pools that range from 36 to 41 degrees Celsius (if you want privacy, there are also private pools available).
- Onsen Hot Pools: If you want something boutique and luxurious, the Onsen Hot Pools in Queenstown will be your best bet. With its high cliffside location that overlooks the Shotover River canyon, you are always guaranteed utter relaxation with a view!
4. Go fishing
Famous for its abundant wildlife and rich sea resources, Kaikoura is a top choice destination for those looking for an excellent fishing experience! So with a special tour, I suggest hopping on board a boat to venture out to Kaikoura’s fishing grounds. Rest assured, you’ll be with a knowledgeable captain who will not only teach you how to fish but who will also tell you about the town’s famous crayfish/lobsters. It will surely be all effortless though with the electric reels that they have so get ready to snap some photos to commemorate the affair! (You could even be lucky and find yourself swarmed by dolphins or seals while out in the sea!).
By the end of the tour, you can choose to release your catch back to the ocean or have them bagged so you can take them home fresh to cook and enjoy.
5. Go up high
As the land of adventure and breathtaking landscapes, admiring New Zealand from up high is a MUST on your things to do in South Island!
- Sky diving: Dive with highly-trained tandem skydiving instructors and free fall from thousands of feet in the air — it’s sure to be an experience that will leave you speechless (and you’ll even get to go home with bragging rights!). For this, I suggest doing it either in Queenstown or Wanaka.
READ: My Skydiving Experience
- Gondola Ride: For a less thrilling experience, you can also get 360-degree panoramic views of the South Island by taking a gondola ride and to date, you can either do this in Queenstown or Christchurch.
- Hot Air Balloon Ride: Though if you want something a bit more unique yet still relaxing, choose to do a sunrise hot air balloon ride over Queenstown so that you can see the Southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu in all its golden glory. It will even come with a champagne breakfast full of pastries, fruits, and hot drinks. (To reserve your spot, book here).
6. Go jump
Did you know that New Zealand invented bungy jumping? …Well okay, technically, people in Oceania have been leaping from tall towers for centuries — BUT, it was a group of Kiwis who commercialized bungee / bungy jumping in the 1980s, and as you know: the rest is history. Given this fact, it will be a blast to challenge your fears and do a bungee jump in the country that started it all. For the best places, see below…
- Kawarau Bridge Bungy: This is said to be the world’s 1st commercial bungy jump where you get to jump 43 meters off from the Kawarau Bridge. If you want to share the thrill, you can also have a tandem bungy jump with a friend! (To reserve your spot, book here).
- Nevis Bungy: This is New Zealand’s highest bungee jump as it stands 134 meters over the Nevis River — as such, you’re sure to have this as a precious memory! (To reserve your spot, book here. You can also pair this with the Nevis Swing as a here).
- The Ledge Bungy: With this activity, you can jump above Queenstown and since it has a full-body harness, you have the freedom to choose from several types of jumps (they even have a ‘Jump Menu’) or you can just invent/freestyle your own! (To reserve your spot, book here).
7. …Or “swing”!
This is a bit similar to doing a bungy jump given that you’ll still be ‘jumping’ — but you’ll be swinging like how you would in a park when you were a child, but just ten times more thrilling.
- Nevis Swing: This is not for the faint-hearted because you will stand 160 meters above the Nevis River and then you will drop to swing across the canyon at 120kph! With 300m arcs, you can swing forward. backward, in tandem, or ‘back2back’. Either way, they have a ‘Jump Menu’ for you to choose from to double the fun! (To reserve your spot, book here. You can also pair this with the Nevis Bungy as a here).
- The Ledge Swing: Much like The Ledge Bungy, this is located at the top of Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola and it will set you flying 400 meters across and over Queenstown! (To reserve your spot, book here).
8. Go fast
There are various things to do in South Island that will let you go through a thrilling yet fast experience…
- Luge: Somewhat of a mix between a go-kart (without the engine) and a toboggan (without the snow), “Luge” is a fun and fast-paced adventure activity in Queenstown that is great for people of all ages! I enjoyed this so much and it is a fit for any age, so go and give this a try!
- Shotover Jet Boat: This is an adrenaline-pumping activity that was invented by New Zealand. So if you like speed (at 85kph!), spins, and thrills combined with marvelous water scenery in Shotover River, going on a jet boating activity will be worth your while!
- Kawarau Zipride: Want to know how it feels like to fly down like superman? With Kawarau’s three 130-meter ziplines, you can! Choose from a solo or tandem ride to maximize the rush. (To reserve your spot, book here).
There are diverse kayaking opportunities in the South Island wherein you can get up close with the nature’s wildlife as well as its spectacular coastal formations in clear subtropical waters. Some of the best places to do it are in Nelson Lakes National Park, Marlborough Sounds, Lake Tekapo, and Abel Tasman National Park among many others!
…Better yet, if you ever sight a body of water, look for the nearest kayaking shop to rent some for you and your family and friends!
10. Chase after waterfalls, rivers, gorges & lakes
With New Zealand’s majestic natural terrain, there is always a gorgeous waterfall or lake nearby — wherever you may be. Some of the notable ones will be…
- Lake Matheson: This lake offers awe-inspiring mirror reflections of Mt. Cook (the highest mountain in New Zealand) and Mt. Tasman. It basically involves a short circuit walk, and if I may share a tip, it’s best to hike here during dawn or dusk in order to see the best lake reflections of the surrounding snowcapped mountains.
- Lake Tekapo: Located south-west of Christchurch in the Mackenzie Basin, Lake Tekapo is a sight to behold with its milky-turquoise waters that are backdropped by alps and beautiful flora. Nearby on the shores of the lake, you will also find the ‘Church of the Good Shepherd’ which is a popular photo spot for visitors.
- Lake Wanaka: This is New Zealand’s 4th largest lake and a lot of people enjoy kayaking, jet-boating, rafting, and swimming in its clear waters. Don’t forget to spot the famous ‘Wanaka Tree’ that has taken the internet by storm!
- Lake Pukaki: A stunning blue lake set in an alpine playground with Mt. Cook included. Here’s a bit of trivia for you, this has been used as a backdrop for scenes in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ trilogies.
- Hokitika Gorge: You will certainly fall in love with its pretty blue-green waters that are surrounded by lush native bush. What’s more? The walk to Hokitika Gorge is so short so you should not miss it on your things to do in South Island!
- Purakaunui Falls: This is an incredible cascading 3-tiered waterfall on the Purakaunui River and it is arguably the most photographed waterfall in Caitlins Forest Park!
- Fantail Falls: A 23-meter waterfall that is nestled within Mt. Aspiring National Park along the Haast Highway. It is quite beautiful up close — but watch out for the sandflies because there are tons of them around there.
- Thunder Creek Falls: Towering at 96 meters, this waterfall is also found in Mt. Aspiring National Park. When we visited here, there happened to be a rainbow at the foot of the falls and it was remarkable!
- Pelorus Bridge: You’ll find a bit of Middle-earth in this spot because this is actually the filming location in the scene of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” when the dwarves were floating in barrels down a river.
New Zealand’s South Island has some of the world’s most enjoyable trails such as…
- Queen Charlotte Track: This track stretches 70 kilometers from the Meretoto Ship Cove to the Anakiwa in the Grove Arm of Queen Charlotte Sound. This is, without a doubt, a great Marlborough tramping (walking) or biking experience. (For more info, go here).
- Otago Central Rail Trail: This is said to be the trail that inspired the beginning of the New Zealand Cycle Trail network. If you’re a beginner cyclist, this will be an easy one for you, so go and give it a try! (For more info, go here).
- Great Taste Trail: This is a leisurely track that goes through Nelson, Wakefield, Richmond, Motueka, and Kaiteriteri. You’ll love the wineries, boutiques, and quaint towns that the region has to offer. But if you’re looking for a more challenging trail, you can do the Dun Mountain Trail in the same area. (For more info, go here).
- Queenstown Trail: As you would expect, this trail aims to highlight the best of Queenstown as it links to Arrowtown and Gibbston Valley. (120km, more info here).
- Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail: This is New Zealand’s longest cycle trail at 306km as it starts from the foot of Mt. Cooke and finishing up on the Pacific Ocean shores in Oamaru. You’ll certainly enjoy the rivers, glacier-carved valleys, lakes, and plains that you’ll be going through on this journey. (For more info, go here).
12. Do city or town tours and stops
All throughout your road trip adventure, make sure that you do several stops along the way for your itinerary of things to do in South Island. Some of the key places — other than Christchurch and Queenstown — are…
- Wanaka: A resort town famous for its lake, ‘Wanaka Tree’ and range of fun activities.
- Punakaiki: The town’s highlight is its ‘Punakaiki Pancake Rocks’, limestones that have eroded over millions and now look like pancake stacks.
- Picton: A charming little town that is the main gateway between the North and South Island as well as inlets of the Marlborough Sounds.
- Central Otago: If you’re into wineries, this should be an area that you keep in mind. And as you bike or walk through, don’t forget to try their famous pinot noir.
- Dunedin: This is known for its Scottish and Maori heritage as well as Victorian and Edwardian architecture, so one of the places you should not miss is ‘Larnach Castle’, the only Australasia castle.
13. Try a quad bike
This could be the best fun that you can have on ‘mini’ four wheels!
With the help of professional guides, you can go through nearby trails in Queenstown for over 2.5 hours to enjoy panoramic views, splash over puddles and fly over hills. And at the end of the journey, you will sit down and relax with hot drinks as you enjoy the surrounding terrain. How’s that for a quaint adventure? (To reserve your spot, book here).
14. Enjoy some glaciers and snow
Photo by: Shutterstock
Naturally, if you want a ‘chilling’ experience, the South Island has no shortage of choices to offer…
- Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike: Through this once-in-a-lifetime tour, you’ll go on an exhilarating helicopter ride and do a 3-hour hike through the most awesome glacier ‘ice architecture’. Evidently, this is a pricey tour to make but it’s an expense that will be worth your money and while — guaranteed. Though, if you only have the budget for just one tour in your whole Franz Josef visit, this is the experience you should invest it on. Just take note that this is weather-dependent, so if the day turns out sour then no worries because there are other things for you to do around town. (To reserve your spot, book here).
- Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk: This is an activity that you must make if you have a lower budget or if the weather turned out bad (and you can’t do a heli hike). You can do this with a guide or by yourself and it will take about 3 hours to go past the Waiho river bed in order to see the grand terminal face of the Franz Josef Glacier.
- Fox Glacier Heli Hike: If you rather want to witness the glacier to the south, this heli hike tour to Fox Glacier is an option. Much like the Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike, this will take you on a ride on a helicopter over the Fox Glacier and then land in an area where you can do a 4-hour guided hike. (To reserve your spot, book here.)
- Cardrona Alpine Resort: This is one of New Zealand’s most popular ski areas. No matter if you have no prior experience, you can enjoy and learn how to ski. Besides, there are beginner and intermediate levels to choose from. For those who are advanced skiers, don’t fret because the resort has extensive facilities and Olympic halfpipes.
15. Eat, eat, eat!
New Zealand’s cuisine is largely influenced by America, Europe, and Southeast Asia and closely-related to Australia. Whereas Maori cuisine is a different thing altogether; but to give you an idea, below is a list of food that you must try!
- Afghans: Crunchy chocolate cookies
- Crayfish: If you’re from the Philippines like me, shelling out about NZ$80 might be overkill, but New Zealand fishermen pride themselves when catching this so give it a try!
- Fish and chips: This might not be an original of New Zealand but it’s a vital part of the local food
- Hokey Pokey: A vanilla ice cream mixed with caramelized sugar
- L&P (Lemon & Paeroa): This is a soft drink that’s proudly made by Kiwis. I’m not into soft drinks but I love this for its sweet lemony taste
- Lamb: This meat is cheaper in the country — after all, the sheep population is larger than New Zealand’s human population!
- Manuka honey: You’ll find a lot of things in New Zealand mixed with this and it makes sense to bring home a jar as a souvenir too
- Paua: A large sea snail that is eaten raw, fried, etc. (The shell of this snail is beautiful, by the way!)
- Pavlova: I am in LOVE with this meringue dessert which has a crispy outer layer and soft inner core
- Meat or mince pie: Kiwis love their mince pies and this is basically a pastry filled with meat and gravy
- Tuatua: Eating this kind of shellfish is believed to be a Maori tradition
- Whitebait fritter: A kind of omelette mixed with small juvenile fish
16. Go hiking or trekking / tramping
Photo by: Shutterstock
Choose from any of the following…
- Hooker Valley Track: I absolutely enjoyed hiking (or tramping, as Kiwis call it) through this track since it offered awe-inspiring landscapes that were backdropped by the Southern Alps — and of course, the icing to the cake at the end of the trail: the magnificent Mt. Cook! (For more info, go here. If you want a guided walking tour, see here).
- Abel Tasman Coastal Track: Spanning at about 60 kilometers, this impressive trail takes you through pristine beaches, impressive rock formations, and the wildlife of Abel Tasman National Park. (For more info, go here).
- Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway: This is a 3-hour scenic hike full of clifftop views and wild animals (in fact, you can sight seabirds and seals up close!) as you cross the peninsula to South Bay. If you don’t have 3 hours, there are smaller hikes or detours along the way for you to do. (For more info, go here).
- Milford Track: This is said to be the country’s most famous walk which starts from Lake Te Anau and then taking you through Mackinnon Pass and up to Sutherland Falls which is New Zealand’s taller waterfall. (For more info, go here. There is a choice of doing this independently or with a guide..
17. Climb mountains and summits
With the South Island’s topography, you should take advantage of the marvelous summits that it has:
- Aoraki / Mt Cook: As New Zealand’s highest mountain, you should not skip out on this beauty. If you’re not prepared enough to climb its top, don’t worry because there is an easily accessible trail called the Hooker Valley Track (as I mentioned in #16) where you can get close to this beauty. While you’re also in the area, go and visit Mt. John Observatory to witness clear starlit skies in the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve.
- Mount Alfred: Found at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, this is a popular 4 to 6-hour day hike which starts from the car park in Gleorchy-Routeburn Road. The route is perfectly marked and is at 1.3km high with the whole trail rewarding you with great alpine and valley views.
- Roy’s Peak: This mountain stands between Wanaka and Glendhu Bay, and a lot of visitors have started to give this place a great deal of attention given the glorious views over Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring/Tititea, and the surrounding bay that it offers from the top. The whole trail can last from 5 to 6 hours with about 16km return.
18. Go off-road with a 4×4 adventure
At #13, I suggested quad biking — for this time around, go bigger and go on a 4×4 tour as you journey across the rugged landscapes, dirt roads, and winding paths around Queenstown (while also discovering Middle-earth locations along the way!).
With this 4×4 tour, there is actually a choice for you to either do a Skippers Canyon or Macetown journey. The former takes you along steep roads cut into sheer cliff faces, suspension bridges, and steep canyons while the latter takes you to the abandoned gold mining town of Macetown, some heritage sites, and some filming locations for LOTR. (To reserve your spot, book here).
19. Go Witness the wildlife
Photo by: Shutterstock
New Zealand has long evolved into a continent with unique flora and fauna, so if you want to sight its local wildlife, go and visit any of the following spots…
- Marlborough Sounds: Around its terrain and in Queen Charlotte Sound, it’s quite typical to spot animals such as dolphins, penguins, shags, seals and whales in their natural environment.
- Stewart Island: If you’re into birds, this place is home to the largest and most diverse bird population in the country. Some of those that you can spot are kiwis, penguins, albatrosses, wekas, and kakas.
- Kaikoura: As I’ve previously mentioned in this entry, this town is home to rich marine life and you can enjoy several activities such as..
20. Explore Middle-Earth
Apart from the aforementioned spots above that have been used or shown in the LOTR or The Hobbit trilogies, you can also do a more exclusive tour on a 4WD from Queenstown as you visit the films’ cinescapes such as Glenorchy or Wakatipu Basin, Isengard, the 12 mile Delta, the Misty Mountains, the Pillars of the Kings, and more!
To top it off, you will also be visiting an old mining town where you can try gold panning — and naturally, your driver-slash-guide will provide all the commentary and trivia that you need throughout the tour.
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New Zealand Travel Guide
- IMPORTANT: New Zealand has STRICT quarantine laws for undeclared food and other biohazards. This means that you should not bring in any kind of fresh food such as bananas, apples, honey, etc. as you make sure that you dispose of them before going through the baggage claim area. Processed or packaged food can be accepted but you are supposed to declare them on your arrival card. If you’re ever in doubt, ask for clarification — otherwise, you will be charged with a hefty fine.
If you’ve got outdoor equipment like diving gear, hiking boots, etc. you must clean them before you travel to New Zealand in order for the inspection process to go more quickly for you. Be advised that New Zealand is firm about this given how they have sniffer dogs and bio-sensitive X-ray machines to detect any unwanted items.
» Best Time to Visit
Technically, there is NEVER a bad time to go to New Zealand; yet of course, since both the North and South Islands are long and narrow, the weather is not uniform. So as an overview, below are New Zealand’s seasons:
- Winter: (June to August) Queenstown for instance will be your winter wonderland, but there surely are a number of ski areas around the country. If you come in June you can enjoy the Queenstown Winter Festival.
- Spring: (September to November) This is one of the ‘off peak’ seasons as you get to enjoy warmer days and longer daylight hours.
- Summer: (December to February) This is the most popular time; hence, the busiest — but the beaches are great during this time of the year. Take note by the way that January will be the warmest month. Thinking about this, New Zealand is a great escape for these months of the year if you want to get away from harsh winters.
- Autumn: (March to May) This time is gorgeous as the leaves change colors and it’s also one of the best times to plan a getaway or a hiking spree since the summer crowds are mostly gone. To add, rates are on an ‘off peak’ level.
June to Aug
Sep to Nov
Dec to Feb
March to May
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» Getting in to New Zealand
By air. Auckland International Airport (AKL) is New Zealand’s largest airport, followed by Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, and Dunedin. To search for the best flight deals, I highly recommend scanning through SkyScanner.
Meanwhile, you can reach the city from the airport by Airbus Express (NZ$16), shuttle vans, or taxi (can be NZ$50 to NZ$100). Uber has a flat rate of NZ$70, whereas Zoomy charges between NZ$39 to NZ$66.
By boat. Auckland is a major cruise ship port of call with its main cruise terminal located on Queens Wharf.
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» Visa for New Zealand
You can check this list of countries to see who does NOT need tourist visas to enter New Zealand. Naturally, if you’re NOT a citizen of any of the listed countries, you will then need to apply for a tourist visa in the New Zealand embassy that’s near you. (If you’re a Philippine citizen like me, you can read my guide on ‘How to Apply for a New Zealand Visa‘.)
- Check full visa requirements here as per your nationality.
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» Where to Stay (New Zealand Accommodations)
There is a wide range of accommodations in New Zealand for you to choose from. To search for the best accommodations at the best prices, I suggest checking out Agoda and Booking.com. But if you’re rather interested in renting comfortable houses, check AirBnB.
For a list of the top South Island accommodations, see my posts below…
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» New Zealand Currency
New Zealand Dollar (NZD) wherein about NZD 1.40~ is equal to USD $1, €0.85~ or Php 50~ (this is as of May 2021).
- How to best exchange your currency? Either exchange it at a bank or at a money exchanger in your home country or in any of New Zealand’s city centers. Better yet, just withdraw from an ATM with your debit/credit card — however, you must do one big withdrawal to minimize fees with your bank. Speaking of cards, a lot of New Zealand’s establishments accept credit cards but it’s always advisable to have cash on hand because a lot of smaller shops do not accept international credit cards.
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» Cost of Travel in New Zealand
The average cost of living in New Zealand is quite high so it can be quite an investment; nevertheless, I’m telling you as early as now that it will be worth every penny!
To give you an idea, you should expect to travel in New Zealand with an average daily cost of about USD $65~ per person on a budget, or at least $130~ if you want to experience more comfort on activities, tours, hotels, and more. (Values below show low budget to medium budget ranges).
- Hotels: $25 to $70 USD / day
- Food: $10 to $30 USD / day
- Fun: $13 to $35 USD / day
- Transport: $6 to $20 USD / day
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» How to Get Around New Zealand’s South Island
By air. Doing domestic flights from one place to another is very easy in New Zealand and they are often cheaper than driving or taking trains. Some of the airlines you can choose from are Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar.
By car. Driving in New Zealand is absolutely calm and pleasant (you drive on the left), that’s why a lot of visitors opt to go on road trips when visiting the country. It helps to note though that gas and rental fees can be quite expensive, this is why a lot of people who have a long holiday in the country would rather prefer to buy a car or van and then resell it before leaving — or better yet, they just join road trip tours that will take them to the best spots! My recommendation? Check out Wild Kiwi! I went with them during my stay in New Zealand and I had a blast!
By bus. This is a relatively cheap way to get around New Zealand and they range from luxury coach services to minivan shuttles. Some of the major lines are Atomic Shuttles, InterCity and Christchurch.
By bicycle. If you’re up for the challenge, riding a motorcycle or cycling is a great way to go around the landscapes of New Zealand, and it’s fairly easy to get a rental.
Meanwhile, when you’re mapping out your day-to-day route, just use Google Maps because it will show in detail the fastest connections you can do (by walking, by car, by bus, and by train). To stay connected while you’re on the road, pack a pocket WiFi!
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» Safety in New Zealand
There isn’t much to worry about when you’re traveling through New Zealand, after all, it is one of the most peaceful countries in the world (in fact, it’s ranked #2 out of 163 countries on the 2018 Global Peace Index). New Zealand is even one of the safest countries for female travelers — however, this is NO excuse to get too complacent. ‘Little crime’ does not mean ‘no crime’, so stay vigilant and be “street smart” by using your common sense at all times.
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» Helpful Māori Phrases
English is the dominant language spoken by most Kiwis (New Zealanders) but the country’s de jure official languages are Māori and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Rest assured, Māori people are bilingual and can speak English too, but they’ll be happy to hear you try and speak the Māori language.
If you want to learn a few helpful phrases, make sure that you pronounce the following properly!
- RELATED READ: Best translation apps for travel
Hello (to 1 person, formal): Tēnā koe (Te-na koy)
Hello (to 1 person, informal): Kia ora (Key-oar-rah)
Thank you: Kia ora (Key-oar-rah) ~ pronounced with a rising intonation
Yes: Āe (I)
No: Kāore (Kao-re)
Goodbye (said by person leaving): E noho rā (E-noho ra)
Goodbye (said by person staying): Haere rā (Hayre ra)
I’m sorry: Aroha mai (Ar-ro-ha-mai)
Help!: Āwhina! (Af-fin-nuh!)
Cheers!: Kia ora! (Key-oar-rah!)
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I hope this list of the top things to do in South Island will help you better streamline your New Zealand adventure itinerary!
In fact, to better make your adventure hassle-free, consider checking the road trip tours of Wild Kiwi. Enjoy!