Things to do in
South Island

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Our most recommended things to do in South Island

TSS Earnslaw: 1.5-Hour Cruise From Queenstown

1. TSS Earnslaw: 1.5-Hour Cruise From Queenstown

Join the TSS Earnslaw for a 1.5-hour cruise across Lake Wakatipu. Admire spectacular alpine scenery and enjoy plenty of time to explore a piece of living history. Listen to engaging commentary from your experienced captain who will highlight points of interest throughout your cruise. Make your way to Steamer Wharf at Queenstown’s waterfront. Climb aboard the oldest working coal-fired passenger steamship in the southern hemisphere and feel free to explore! View the collection of historical photos in the small onboard museum and check out the skipper’s wheelhouse. Visit the engine room to feel the heat of the giant steam engines at work and see the stokers shovel coal into the glowing fireboxes.  Soak in the dramatic mountain views surrounding Lake Wakatipu and relax at the cafe where you can enjoy a wine or beer and snacks are also available for purchase. 

TSS Earnslaw: Queenstown Cruise & Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ

2. TSS Earnslaw: Queenstown Cruise & Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ

This half-day activity begins and concludes with a 45-minute cruise across Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu onboard the historic TSS Earnslaw. Spend a few hours enjoying the culinary delights at Walter Peak High Country Station, including an entertaining farm demonstration the whole family will enjoy. Feel free to take advantage of the extensive lay-out of this incredible steamship – she is a floating museum of her own history, and you are more than welcome to enter the engine room where you can watch our hardy coal-stokers as they keep this beautiful lady of the lake gliding across the waters of Lake Wakatipu. Overlooking Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown’s incredible alpine scenery, the Colonel’s Homestead at Walter Peak is the perfect place to spend a beautiful day in Central Otago. Its colonial architecture and sweeping grounds evoke the elegance of a bygone era. Spend your time wandering the award-winning gardens, or saying hello to the animals that call the station home. The BBQ Buffet includes salads, vegetables, and succulent local meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie or grill. There is a wide range of desserts on offer, including a vast array of fresh bread and cheese. If you have any dietary restrictions, please let the supplier know directly so we can safely accommodate your requests.

Fiordland National Park: Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise

3. Fiordland National Park: Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise

Spend a day in the remote wilderness of Doubtful Sound, located in the heart of Fiordland National Park and three times longer than Milford Sound. Self-drive to Manapouri and board a cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri, followed by a coach trip across Wilmot Pass. Stop en-route to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest. At Deep Cove, board the Patea Explorer, a purpose-built catamaran, for a 2 hour and 45-minute cruise on Doubtful Sound. See waterfalls, rainforest and mountains during the cruise. You might spot the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins, the colony of fur seals at the mouth of the fiord, or even rare Fiordland crested penguins. During the cruise, knowledgeable nature guides will provide informative commentary.  When it rains in Fiordland, the landscape is dramatic - rock faces stream with waterfalls, mist hangs around the tops of the mountains, and rivers and streams rage.  From a dry comfortable vantage point on board the coach or vessel this landscape is spectacular. Always be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during your visit. Many say you have not seen Fiordland unless you have seen it in the rain!

Te Anau: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour

4. Te Anau: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour

Experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of hundreds of glowworms.  Your trip to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves begins with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau. At the entry to the caves, view the informative displays and learn about this geological wonder before you head underground. On the tour of the caves, your friendly guide will point out the highlights and share their knowledge of the caves and its history. This underground world is astonishingly beautiful. The cave are 12,000 years old which by geological standards is still very young and they are still being carved out by the force of the river that flows through them. The result is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall. Deep inside the caves, beyond the roar of the water, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms, unique to New Zealand. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a glittering display that is nothing short of extraordinary.

Milford Sound: Cruise, Underwater Observatory, and Lunch

5. Milford Sound: Cruise, Underwater Observatory, and Lunch

Explore the beauty of the fiord on a vessel that’s purpose-built for the best daytime viewing. Set off on a day-trip that includes a delicious lunch, complimentary tea and coffee, and a visit to the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory. Climb aboard a smaller vessel at the Milford Sound Cruise Terminal to discover more of the fiord on an authentic and insightful experience. Get within touching distance of impressive rock walls and waterfalls. Join the skipper in the open wheelhouse and say hello to the native seals basking on the rocks as you pass them by. A knowledgeable local guide will ensure you discover the wildlife, nature, and history of this remarkable sanctuary. Also, enjoy a delicious picnic. Visit the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory, New Zealand's only floating underwater observatory for an experience unlike any other. Hidden under the surface in Harrison Cove in the middle of Piopiotahi Marine Reserve, the Observatory enables you to experience a different perspective of the fiord. Descend 64 steps (10-metres) underwater into a large, fully air-conditioned viewing area and peer out through large windows at the deep underwater haven. Unlike an aquarium, the fish are free to come and go; it’s the people who are contained.

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Bus & Boat

6. From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Bus & Boat

Take the hassle out of driving to Milford Sound and join a guided coach tour from Queenstown. Sit back, relax and enjoy magnificent scenery and informative commentary. Your experienced local coach driver will show you the best views along the Milford Road and connect you seamlessly with a 2-hour nature cruise. Travel in a spacious coach with USB charging ports. Marvel at the native rainforest, spectacular waterfalls and glacial lakes. Pause briefly in Te Anau before continuing along the spectacular alpine Milford Road. Admire incredible views at Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, Knobbs Flat or Monkey Creek and pose for photos. Be wowed by the glaciar-carved Milford Sound as you approach the visitor terminal. Seize your cruise and lunch passes from the driver who’ll help you find your cruise departure gate.  Climb aboard a purpose-built catamaran for a nature cruise along the fiord’s deep blue waters. Savor a freshly prepared picnic lunch. Marvel at the impressive natural landscape and keep a lookout for native wildlife like dolphins, seals and penguins. Be fascinated by live commentary from your skipper in the open wheelhouse. Get within touching distance of impressive glaciar-carved rock walls and feel the full force of the powerful 15,000-year-old Stirling Falls on your face. Awed and satisfied, rejoin your driver for the scenic return journey to Queenstown. 

Kaikoura: Whale Watching Cruise

7. Kaikoura: Whale Watching Cruise

Take a whale watching cruise off the Kaikoura coast, and see giant sperm whales in their natural environment. Enjoy up-close encounters with a range of other wildlife, including fur seals, pods of dolphins, and the endangered wandering albatross. Your experienced crew will provide scientific information and indigenous knowledge about these amazing creatures throughout the tour. Set sail in a modern catamaran, equipped with engines that minimize underwater noise and nonpolluting toilets. Large outdoor decks offer great viewing and photo opportunities, and the air-conditioned interiors are fitted with comfortable seating and plasma screens displaying award-winning marine wildlife animations. Passenger numbers are kept well below the vessel carrying capacity to ensure a more personal experience.

Milford Sound Cruise

8. Milford Sound Cruise

Self-drive through the Fiordland National park to cruise the stunningly iconic Milford Sound. This fiord is the most accessible of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords and can be reached by road. Allow 5-6 hours (one-way) driving time from Queenstown and around 3-hours (one-way) from Te Anau.  Check-in at Milford Sound Visitor Terminal then climb aboard a purpose-built vessel for a leisurely, informative, and interactive experience. Admire the towering Mitre Peak rising straight out of the sea. Cruise the fiord, riding near waterfalls and listening to the informative commentary about the region.  Your experienced skippers customize the cruise route on the day depending on the weather and wildlife sightings to ensure you see the best of Milford Sound. Keep a lookout for wildlife, including seals, dolphins and penguins. The vessels have spacious decks, comfortable seating, and large viewing windows.  Sit back and take in the magnificent views of Milford Sound. The landscape is especially dramatic when it rains in Fiordland. Enjoy the spectacular landscape from a dry comfortable vantage point on board the vessel. You are more than welcome to bring your own picnic on board, or you can purchase food and non-alcoholic drinks on board the vessel using cash.

Milford Sound: 2-Hour Small Boat Scenic Cruise

9. Milford Sound: 2-Hour Small Boat Scenic Cruise

Embrace the grandeur of Milford Sound's towering peaks and tumbling waterfalls on a scenic and boutique 2-hour cruise. Self-drive to Milford Sound Visitor Terminal enjoying the views en route. Sit back and relax as your cruise departs from Milford Sound Wharf and makes its way out past the iconic Mitre Peak. Cruise the length of the 16-kilometer fiord and out past St Annes Point Lighthouse. Go further and get closer to the magic that is Milford Sound as you travel through the fiord and out into the Tasman Sea. Hold your breath as your Skipper navigates closer to the shoreline, getting you right up close to the incredible surroundings. Be sure to bring your camera, as you'll be close to sights like the mighty Stirling Falls and Copper Point. Keep an eye out for seals basking in the sun, pods of dolphins or rare Fiordland Crested Penguins that can be found seasonally within the region.

Milford Sound Nature Cruise with Optional Lunch

10. Milford Sound Nature Cruise with Optional Lunch

Climb aboard a purpose-built catamaran in Milford Sound Cruise Terminal and set sail across the water to discover the unique wildlife of one of South Island's most picturesque attractions. Enjoy complimentary tea and coffee onboard and pre-purchase a picnic lunch when booking. Journey down the south side of the fjord and out into the Tasman Sea, before returning up the north side of the fjord. Listen to fascinating commentary about the region from your skipper in the open wheelhouse and say hello to the native seals basking on the rocks as you pass them by.  Get within touching distance of impressive rock walls carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. Feel the full force of the powerful 15,000-year-old Stirling Falls. The friendly staff will roam the vessel available to answer your questions on the history, geology, and wildlife of the fiord along the way.

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What people are saying about South Island

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

based on 7,925 reviews

We did the Ice Bar Crawl, Was Overall an awesome experience. Highly recommend doing the bar crawl with these guys if your coming to Queenstown. We had the best night, our guides took good care of us making sure we were doing okay throughout the night. Free shot at every bar we went to and pizza. Discount drinks. It was all good vibes the entire night. 100% worth it. Would definitely do it again. Don't miss out, book your bar crawl now.

Such a great day out was lovely myself (mum) and little miss (4yo) on a Wednesday as it wasn't that busy the staff are very approachable and informative we got a good look at all the animals and we got to see the cheaters as they sometimes are hard to see which was amazing bring on the day you can watch the lions eat up close and we will be back in a heart beat. ❤️

Wonderful trip to the farm… guide was excellent very informative.. thankyou to her.. the Earnslaw is gracious don’t let them put an electric motor in her!! Let our grandchildren enjoy how it was..

This was well worth it. Got a lot of good information and such a thrill seeing a whale so close

Great experience, slightly intrepid so perfect for our 6 and 9 year old