Experience dramatic landscapes and snow-capped mountains
In contrast to the more populous North Island, the South Island of New Zealand is less inhabited, untamed and wild: perfect for adventure seekers. From the lush nature of Abel Tasman National Park to the majestic mountain ranges of the Fiordland: this is nature at its most dramatic and awe-inspiring.
For those looking to experience New Zealand’s unique nature, there are iconic hiking trails to explore, turquoise lakes to kayak across and glacier-carved fiords to cruise down.
Adrenalin junkies are naturally drawn to the South Island too, especially Queenstown, for skydiving, white-water rafting and a chance to visit the birthplace of the modern bungee jump.
In the north east of the island, the Marlborough wine region produces two-thirds of the nation’s wine. The region’s distinctive sauvignon blanc, with its tropical, mineral finish, has helped put New Zealand’s award-winning wine on the map.
Marvel at star-filled skies in remote luxury lodges, embark on an adventure to the Southern Alps or just explore the boundless nature, alive with native birdsong. The South Island is a rugged wilderness just waiting to be explored, an experience certain to create unforgettable memories.
The South Island provides such a stunning contrast of landscapes, unique wildlife and great food and wine. Swim with dolphins in Marlborough Sounds or watch yellow penguins arrive on the beaches around Dunedin. Drink Sauvignon Blanc in the north and Pinot Noir in the south, kayak the bays of Abel Tasman or soar above Milford Sound in a helicopter to land on a icy glacier. The South Island is made for those who want to be awed every moment of the day.
New Zealand South Island example trips
Our favourite places to stay in the South Island
- The Lindis$$$$$Sitting snug in the idyllic surrounds of the Ahuriri Valley on the working Ben Avon Station, and covering 600 acres of rugged landscape, is the unique and iconic Lindis. Here, one can experience Kiwi hospitality at its best while enjoying the serenity and stillness of nature away from the stresses of modern-day life. The Lindis has five suites located within the main lodge building, each featuring an outdoor area and fireplace. Expertly designed to blend into the landscape, it has a smooth curved roofline, which parallels the dramatic undulating mountains around it. Inside, the lodge combines timber and rock with elegant and sophisticated designs, accentuating the bold beauty of the area. The artistic ceiling in the lounge evokes the sense of a chequered blanket suspended above you, adding a sense of warmth and security to the otherwise cool and spacious open-plan design. With glass panel walls, you are pulled into the rugged landscape that lays before you as you wake, bathe and relax. Positioned in close proximity to the lodge, distinctively designed pods, enclosed with mirrored glass and floor-to-ceiling windows reflect and frame the spectacular environment. Wooden interiors encompass soft furnishings and cosy bedding while outdoor bathtubs promise toasty relief in the winter, under a canopy of galaxies. The restaurant makes use of ingredients that are sourced from their own garden and local farmers to create a menu inspired by the seasons. You can further relax knowing your pre-dinner drinks, dinner and afternoon tea are all included. Its location, far from any light pollution, makes this the ideal place for stargazing. Hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, gliding, horse riding and fly fishing are more examples of the wide range of activities you can immerse yourself in here.
- Split Apple Retreat$$$$$High above Tasman Bay, Split Apple Retreat offers both every indulgence as well as the promise of a focus on good health. This quiet Abel Tasman National Park luxury retreat and wellness hideaway is the ideal place to relax and pamper yourself in pristine surrounds. Two of the ocean-facing rooms, Fuji and Lotus, boast the best in Japanese-style luxury with private decks and gardens and Japanese granite baths. The third, Rainbow, a two-level room with a separate lounge, features colour-changing LED lights in the bath and shower. Split Apple retreat specialises in serving gourmet food with a focus on good health and mouth-watering presentation. The result of a collaboration between a doctor specialising in nutrition and a culinary artist, the retreat has become known for its dedication to fine food that promotes longevity. To ensure guests can continue eating mindfully at home, the chef guides budding culinary artists through a number of her popular dishes. Continuing the focus on wellness, there are a wide range of services to help guests unwind, relax and rejuvenate. Choose from a selection of massage treatments, learn how to meditate, or sign up for a private yoga session. The gym, infrared sauna, steam room and infinity pool leave guests feeling thoroughly refreshed. For adventuring beyond the lodge, private boats and water taxis land at Split Apple Beach to collect guests keen on visiting the Abel Tasman National Park.
- Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses$$$$$The work of a family of architects and builders, Hapuku Lodge is an extraordinary ecolodge perfectly placed between the white peaks of the Kaikoura Mountain Range and waves of Mangamaunu Bay. With an environmentally-friendly focus, this lodge was carefully constructed from salvaged timber and seeks to be sustainable in every area. There are four ultra-spacious rooms in the main lodge with wonderful mountain views, Japanese soaking tubs with room for two and immense custom beds – said to be the best on the island. The two suites also have their own fireplaces and a living area. However, the real stars of the show are the luxurious treehouses, standing 10m (30 feet) above the ground in the canopy of a native Manuka grove, each with a wood-burning fireplace, spa bath, open rain showers and large glass windows with a birds-eye view to the coast. There are two storey options for families, and the standalone Olive House Suite has room for two adults and up to three children. Dining at Hapuku means an organic and locally-sourced menu, with produce collected from the hotel’s own herb and vegetable gardens, free-range chicken populations and meat from nearby hunters and fishermen. Constantly changing and evolving offerings may include venison, wild blackberries, a variety of cheese, crayfish and even homemade plum ice cream. A comprehensive wine list makes sure to incorporate vintages from all over New Zealand, the ideal accompaniment to a wonderful meal. There are adventures to be had in every corner of Kaikoura’s coast, dubbed the ‘Maritime Serengeti’ by the local National Geographic. Head out on the waves in a sea kayak, swim with dolphins and seals or go whale watching to spot the gentle grey giants in the ocean blue. Mountain bikes can be borrowed from the lodge to traverse the surrounding trails while there are also Maori cultural tours, horse riding and the acclaimed surfing of Mangamaunu Bay a short walk away.
- Annandale$$$$$Nestled among the rolling hills of the Banks Peninsula are Annandale’s four luxury villas. Each one has its own unique character and enjoys an idyllic and secluded location within the a 40,000-acre working coastal farm. A stay at Annandale allows you to totally immerse yourself in this most incredible of landscapes. On arrival, you will be driven cross-country to your private villa where you can enjoy total seclusion. The Homestead and Scrubby Bay are perfect for families and groups, sleeping up to 12 and 14 guests respectively. The Homestead, built in the 1800s, features an outdoor swimming pool and floodlit tennis court and is surrounded by beautiful gardens, where guests are free to pick flowers from the borders and lemons from the tree. Scrubby Bay is a cedar-clad beach house that looks out over its own private bay. Cosy up in front of the open fire, take a dip in the outdoor pool or simply relax on the decking and gaze out across the water. The most romantic of them all, Seascape features a glass facade so you can make the very best of the incredible ocean views, and the outdoor lounge area with fireplace means you can appreciate your surroundings all year round. The Shepherd’s Cottage is perched on a hill overlooking the sea and the Kaikoura Ranges, a real rural retreat with an open fireplace, wooden ceilings and sheepskin rugs. The farm is home to 500-strong herd of cattle and around 14,000 sheep and various vegetables, fruits and herbs are grown on their land. There is the option to hire a private chef or you can enjoy the ‘We Create, You Serve’ programme where breakfast, a picnic lunch and three-course dinner are prepared and left in your fridge for you to simply pop in the oven and enjoy. Although Annandale’s villas are a chance to escape, there are also a host of activities so you can make the most of the incredible surroundings. Hike through the rolling hills, take to the water in a kayak or explore the rugged terrain on a 4WD adventure – the list is endless.
- Mahu Whenua$$$$$Close to central Wanaka and a 90 minute drive (or 10 minutes by helicopter) from Queenstown, Mahu Whenua is an enormous private estate spanning some 55,000 hectares. The property consists of four adjoining high-country sheep stations, stretching from Glendhu Bay all the way through to Arrowtown, encompassing some of the most dramatic alpine scenery in New Zealand. The land is gradually being restored to its wilder former self – the name Mahu Whenua aptly translates to ‘healing the land’ – giving the feeling of being within your own private national park. Indeed with just four suites, you almost are. From the Homestead, relax, absorb the breathtaking views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains while being looked after by the attentive team. Inside, find two of the suites and a rustic design combining locally sourced materials and modern features with plenty of spaces to unwind including a sprawling farmhouse kitchen, large open living room, dining room and library. Outside find the two cottage suites nestled privately amongst native beech forest, swimming pool, spots for some alfresco dining as well as the impressive stables. Stays here include breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning and afternoon teas, pre-dinner canapés, refreshments and picnics. A creative and innovative chef will tailor the menu to your specific requirements and source the freshest local produce, some having been produced at Mahu Whenua itself. Experiences here include including hiking, horse riding, biking, helicopter adventures (including heli-skiing, Milford Sound is also within range), spa treatments, yoga, nature tours and off-road excursions. The chef can also lead cooking classes and gourmet safaris.
- Minaret Station$$$$$Accessible only by helicopter, the isolation of Minaret Station is what gives it its unique draw and inescapable rustic beauty. Four simple chalets populate the grounds. Deceptively minimalist from the outside, they foster a pastoral serenity not found in the extravagance of inner city establishments. The luxurious chalets are warm and comfortable with all the modern indulgences and amenities, from sheepskin carpets to spacious en suite bathrooms with underfloor heating, and each has its own private deck with hot tub. With the establishment being a working farm, the cuisine at the hotel is one of seasonal produce and local excellence. Using only the freshest ingredients for their menu, the Mountain Kitchen is connected to all the chalets by a wooden walkway. The gourmet offerings are paired with a fine collection of vintages, making this culinary experience a highlight of your stay. Savour the moment on a deck with sweeping views, in the warm dining room or even in the privacy of your own residence. There is no shortage of things to do here, whether in snow or sunshine. A haven for fishing enthusiasts, there are both saltwater and freshwater opportunities with guided trips leading guests to some of the best spots. For adventure junkies, tackle some of the hiking tracks or hop onto a mountain bike and battle some of the most exhilarating ascents and descents in the country. Jet boats speed along emerald blue waters which carve their ways through lush geographies while nearby Fiordland is the most spectacularly remote national park in New Zealand.
- Cabot Lodge$$$$$With 2,000 acres of farmland bordering the Fiordland National Park and overlooking Lake Manapouri, this iconic luxury hotel showcases the awe-inspiring landscape of New Zealand’s untouched deep south. Accommodating a maximum of ten guests, Cabot Lodge welcomes all visitors with an arrival drink, before enjoying on-farm activities. Each evening guests are offered a pre-dinner drink and canapés and can then book to dine at Cabot Lodge with a thoughtfully prepared set-menu showcasing the best of New Zealand farm-style cuisine. Guests are also provided a large continental and cooked breakfast offering each morning and can request lunch hampers, designed to be enjoyed while exploring Fiordland. The inviting suites are spacious and bathed in natural light thanks to large windows. Many of them offer breathtaking views over Lake Manapouri, the farm and the surrounding mountains. Each suite offers special touches of Fiordland, with local artists, local books, and home-baked goods. Located at the centre of Cathedral Peaks Station, the lodge is just a short distance from Lake Manapouri and the departure point of Doubtful Sound. It is also near to the Kepler Track and Milford Road, making it the ideal base from which to explore the area. There are a variety of activities to fill your days with here, including fishing, hiking, boating, kayaking and biking.
- Bay of Many Coves$$$$$Located in the heart of the beautiful Marlborough Sounds, the Bay of Many Coves is a tranquil haven where switching off and reconnecting with your natural surroundings has never been easier. This is a place where dolphins, orcas and seals come to splash in the waters; sweeping views of Queen Charlotte Sound greet you at every corner; and where you can meet the local wildlife during the day and relax with a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc overlooking the bay as the day draws to a close. The Bay of Many Coves is reached by boat, cruising across a sheltered bay until you reach the resort perched on the water’s edge. Nestled within the native bush that surrounds, are a selection of one, two or three-bedroom apartments, each with their own balcony that looks out over the bay. The Kereru Suite has its own private entry and features two en-suite bedrooms, making it a perfect option for families. When it comes to eating and drinking, guests are spoiled for choice. Enjoy fine dining in the award-winning Foredeck Restaurant, brunch in the lounge and signature seafood dishes at the cafe on the jetty. Of course wherever you choose to eat, a crisp glass of local Marlborough wine is never far away. With such beautiful surroundings, you’ll want to head out and explore what’s on your doorstep. Grab a kayak or paddleboard and take to the water, go bush walking, visit the cormorant breeding colonies or head out at night to witness the spectacle of hundreds of twinkling glow worms.
- Matakauri Lodge$$$$$Sat on the shores of the deep Lake Wakatipu, Matakauri Lodge is a tranquil haven of serene blue waters and sweeping mountain landscapes. Snow-capped peaks reach towards the sky, providing a backdrop like no other to this incredible luxury establishment. Modern, bright and with plenty of room, the 16 suites have been styled by the highly celebrated designer Virginia Fisher. Four suites are found in the main lodge section while others have been built in a native forest with alpine panoramas. All have their own private balcony, lounge area and decadent bathroom, not to mention the cosy fireplace. The sizeable Owner’s Cottage is an idyllic getaway for larger groups or families. Boasting a menu that changes constantly with the availability of seasonal produce, the kitchen at Matakauri Lodge focuses on a clean and fresh experience for the palate. There are a number of settings in which to savour this modern New Zealand cuisine, from the privacy of your own patio to the property’s spacious courtyards. Located near great pine thickets, the spa provides an exclusive space where you can rejuvenate and reinvigorate your body with completely personalised treatments. Fall in love with the heated pool, let off some steam in the sauna or enjoy a leisurely time in the hot tub. Whether you arrive to the long, warm days of summer or to a winter wonderland of snow, there is always so much to do during your stay at Matakauri. Walks and hikes dominate the area, as do scenic horse riding trails and wine tours. Avid golfers will rejoice to know a PGA-rated course is nearby; The Hills is surely one of the most stunning and gorgeously isolated round of 18 you can play anywhere in the world.