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Southern Alps

National parks

Our most recommended Southern Alps National Parks

From Queenstown: Lord Of The Rings Tour to Glenorchy

1. From Queenstown: Lord Of The Rings Tour to Glenorchy

Enjoy a small-group tour of the most iconic Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand, specially designed for fans of the films. Within minutes of leaving Queenstown, reach the Glenorchy Road, which follows the edges of the Great Lake Wakatipu, and has been voted  one of the top 10 drives in the world. Admire snowcapped mountains that arise around every corner of the journey. Your first stop will be the 12 Mile Delta. Here, enjoy a short nature walk over the 12 Mile canyon footbridge and spot trout and salmon in the crystal-clear water below. Learn about the local flora and fauna and visit the locations, where scenes from the films were shot. Next, refuel with a delicious morning or afternoon tea picnic near the famous Glenorchy red shed and wharf. Once you have eaten enough to satisfy a Hobbit, adventure further into the World Heritage Mt. Aspiring National Park, home of Lothlorien Forest, where you will have the opportunity to snap some photographs dressed as your favorite Lord of the Rings character with replica swords from the trilogy. Next, head up the Dart Valley through "Paradise" to Isengard for some time to enjoy this amazing location in this spectacular glacier-carved valley. Stories and behind-the-scenes secrets will be shared by your passionate local guides on the way back to Queenstown.

From Queenstown: Mount Cook and Hooker Valley Day Trip

2. From Queenstown: Mount Cook and Hooker Valley Day Trip

Visit breathtaking locations in Queenstown as you make your way to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Travel with a reliable tour guide who will share stories and rich background knowledge on Queenstown and the Mount Cook area. Start your tour in the stunning city of Queenstown. Drive through the Kawarau Suspension Bridge and marvel at the scenery the Kawarau Gorge has to offer. Stop at the Roaring Meg Lookout to take photos of your stunning view. Then, enter the region of Cromwell, famous for fruits and wine and where you can see huge fields of vines. Next, traverse the majestic Lindis Pass which lies between two valleys against a backdrop of a bright blue sky. This stretch of highway is one of the only three Alpine roads through the otherwise impassable Southern Alps. After taking photos at the top of the pass, drive through the Mackenzie District and visit the township of Omarama. Turning west, you'll enter Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, and Lake Pukaki will emerge in front of you. Proceed to the start of the Hooker Valley Track and depart on a 3-hour self-guided hike with amazing views of Hooker Lake, Hooker Glacier, and Mount Cook. Finish your tour by visiting High Country Salmon as you make your way back to Queenstown.

Franz Josef Glacier: 2-Hour Scenic Lake Mapourika Cruise

3. Franz Josef Glacier: 2-Hour Scenic Lake Mapourika Cruise

Soak up panoramic views of the Southern Alps and glaciers reflecting on the mirror-like waters of Lake Mapourika on this 2-hour scenic cruise. The lake was created by the Franz Josef Glacier as it retreated 14,000 years ago and now sits calm and reflective between the Southern Alps and the sea. Meet your experienced skipper and small group at the office in Franz Josef and take a complimentary transfer out to Lake Mapourika. Board the boat, then sit back and relax onboard the Hanna-k in the comfortable enclosed cabin or on the covered back deck. Your skipper will take you through to the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary on the far shorelines of the lake and will help you spot New Zealand's native birds. Enjoy informative commentary and fascinating stories as you cruise past untouched Jurassic rainforest and 900-year-old Kahikatea trees. Sip on a cup of complimentary tea or coffee as you unwind in beautiful Glacier Country, a picture perfect way to escape the crowds and enjoy the West Coast’s scenery.

Franz Josef: 3-Hour Kayak Tour on Lake Mapourika

4. Franz Josef: 3-Hour Kayak Tour on Lake Mapourika

Gear up for an incredible, three-hour guided kayaking experience. Begin your adventure by meeting your experienced team at the local partner's office in Franz Josef. Join them and your small group on a complimentary transfer out to Lake Mapourika. Glide effortlessly across the water, taking in panoramic views of the Southern Alps, glaciers, and untouched Jurassic rainforest reflected on the glassy waters of Lake Mapourika. Paddle into the heart of the Okarito Kiwi Bird Sanctuary, exploring the protected area with your knowledgeable guide. Tours depart at various times throughout the day. Mornings are often the calmest time of the day on the lake, a perfect choice for photographers looking to capture the beauty of the area. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an experience not to be missed during your visit to Franz Josef.

Franz Josef Glacier: 2.5-Hour Lake Mapourika Cruise and Walk

5. Franz Josef Glacier: 2.5-Hour Lake Mapourika Cruise and Walk

Begin your adventure at the meeting point in Franz Josef to join your small group and transfer out to Lake Mapourika with your guide. Cruise across the lake in the comfort of the boat and enjoy a stunning vista of Southern Alps and glaciers. On a clear day enjoy views as far as Mount Cook.   Sit back as you arrive into the calm estuary of the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary. Your local knowledgeable skipper will provide you with exclusive access and will guide you through a private rainforest trail.   Follow your skipper through the Jurassic rainforest track and get local insight on the region. Spot native birds as you find your way to the scenic lookout, the perfect spot for a cup or tea or coffee made on the spot.

Southern Alps: Franz Josef Glacier Quad Bike Tour

6. Southern Alps: Franz Josef Glacier Quad Bike Tour

Drive a 2-seat Quad Bike along the ancient glacial pathways of Westland Tai Poutini National Park, carved into the landscape by ice and water over thousands of years. Admire the lush landscape of the dense rainforest and reconnect with Mother Nature. Meet your guide on State Highway 6 and take a short 5-minute walk to the adventure base to gear up in the provided waterproof jackets, pants, and gumboots. Listen to a detailed safety briefing before you jump on the bike and power across the ancient terrain of Te Wahipounamu. Get an adrenaline rush as the real action starts and you speed along the dirt tracks for up to 2 hours. Stop to take souvenir photos, and discover where the ice and temperate forest meet to spectacular effect.

Franz Josef: Glacier Helicopter Ride with Snow Landing

7. Franz Josef: Glacier Helicopter Ride with Snow Landing

Board the helicopter at the local partner’s base in Franz Josef, then ascend into the New Zealand's highest mountain range known as the Southern Alps, where panoramic views await. Soar across the sky, passing over the spectacular ice pinnacles and crevasses of Franz Josef Glacier on the way to the snow landing site. Throughout the tour, soak up once-in-a-lifetime views of snow-capped mountains, ancient glacier as well as some of New Zealand’s highest peaks. Arrive at the landing site and take your first steps onto the snowy landscape. Be amazed by the sheer beauty of your surroundings as you are dwarfed by the size of this mountainous West Coast region. Enjoy enough time to take photos and soak up this magical location, then board the helicopter for the return journey to the base. Another view of this amazing and unique glacier formation as you descend back down across temperate rainforest and safe landing back at base.

Queenstown: 50-Minute Southern Glacier Helicopter Flight

8. Queenstown: 50-Minute Southern Glacier Helicopter Flight

Take off on a spectacular round-trip flight from Queenstown. Experience the Southern Alps like you have never seen them before by helicopter. Enjoy commentary from your expert guide along the way. Start at Heli Base at Queenstown airport. Venture across to the Southern Alps - the spiny mountain range that divides the South Island. Take in stunning views over Mount Aspiring. Next, see the vast untouched tracts of native forest and ancient glacial icefalls in the national park. Enjoy a landing amongst the snow-capped peaks of the Mount Aspiring National Park. Upon landing, take up the photo opportunities before heading back to Queenstown.

New Zealand: 9 Day South Island Tour

9. New Zealand: 9 Day South Island Tour

Day 1 - Christchurch to Lake Tekapo Marvel at the stars at the Dark Sky Project, Lake Tekapo. Visit The Church of the Good Shepherd. Hike up Mount John for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. Day 2 - Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook (return) Spend the day at Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Hike the Hooker Valley Track to Hooker Lake. Day 3 - Lake Tekapo to Queenstown Enjoy a buffet dinner with panoramic views of Queenstown at the Skyline Stratosphere Restaurant (At your own expense). Day 4 - Queenstown free day Have the whole day to yourself and explore the wonders of Queenstown. Day 5 - Queenstown to Glenorchy day trip Cruise past the lake, soaking up the views, and onto Glenorchy for some short walks. Day 6 - Queenstown to Wanaka Roys Peak hike (6-hour return). Take in breathtaking views over Lake Wānaka (only accessible from November to May). Mt Iron hike (alternative to Roys Peak) that provides 360-degree views of The Pisa range. Visit the famous Wanaka tree. Day 7 - Wanaka to Franz Josef Thunder Creek falls in Mt Aspiring National Park. Head to Lake Matheson, famous for mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook. Day 8 - Franz Josef Design and carve your own Greenstone jewelry in a West Coast workshop (included). Walk the Glacier valley walk in Franz Josef Day 9 - Franz Josef to Christchurch Take a scenic hike across Arthurs Pass, walk the Castle Hill track, and visit Devils Punchbowl waterfalls.

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Frequently asked questions about Southern Alps National Parks

What are other things to do than National Parks that are worth visiting in Southern Alps?

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Other Sightseeing Options in Southern Alps

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What people are saying about Southern Alps

One of the most incredible scenic flights I've ever taken for sure, and an absolute must-do while you're in Queenstown. The staff were fantastic, our flight time had to moved slightly due to availability but the admin team went above and beyond to ensure the time suited us as we were departing Queenstown straight after. Our pilot was entertaining & informative, the flight itself was quite bumpy due to wind but he talked throughout the flight explaining what was happening and ensuring everyone felt comfortable. The flight went over tonnes of snowy mountains and glaciers around Queenstown, with an alpine landing in a gorgeous spot with panoramic views. It was absolutely freezing outside, -4 for us, so take warm clothes and gloves in winter. On the way to and from the landing we saw Skippers Canyon and some incredible braided rivers. The only downside is that two people sit in the middle seats without a window but we were able to switch seats at the snow landing so everyone got a turn.

I love this tour because the group is very small (only 5 of us). Ride in a spacious mini bus. Pick up timing was punctual. Tour guide is knowledgeable and friendly, brought us to several places with magnificent view. He is also very good at taking nice portrait photos.

Great outing with a good experience of the different settings from misty to clear sky and a Shalom settings with such quietness in an open lake that is unbelievable experience.

John was an excellent guy with a good sense of humour and knowledgeable about the area. It was a great trip and highly recommend it to everyone.

My young adults love the kayaking tour. Wonderful, beautiful and the experience of such peaceful quietness is unbelieveable.