The best things to do in New Zealand - East Coast South Island

South New Zealand attractions

New Zealand Attractions / June 14, 2017

Make the most of your time down south – get inspired with the following suggestions.


Become an outdoor explorer and get to know local wildlife when you board a scenic cruise in the Marlborough Sounds. Spot dolphins and seals from the boat or step ashore to search for endangered birds, lizards and insects. For something a little different don't miss the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre for a showcase of rare WWI and WWII aircraft and memorabilia.


Whale watching is the name of the game all year round in Kaikoura! Kaikoura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – that includes fur seals, dolphins and many seabirds. Tours leave multiple times a day and there are lots of cafés, restaurants and shops to explore. If you have time, the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is a three-hour return hike that visits a seal colony, limestone formations and a seabird colony.


Explore genteel Christchurch at your own pace - take a relaxing boat journey down the Avon River in a punt or stroll through the perfectly manicured Botanic Gardens. At the International Antarctic Centre you can experience polar life for yourself – find out what it’s like to be in the midst of an Antarctic storm.

Lake Tekapo

Be dazzled by the night skies in the Dark Sky Reserve, which covers most of the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie region – there’s no better place for stargazing. During the day, Lake Tekapo is a photographer’s dream, with clear turquoise waters and lupins that bloom in a rich display of colour every November/December.

West Coast

The West Coast is glacier country, with Fox Glacier and Franz Josef being the most easily accessible to visitors. Heli-hiking is a great way to get up onto the glaciers with plenty of energy to spare for walking across the ice.


For epic views across Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, climb aboard the Skyline Gondola. On the lake, take a cruise on the classic steamship TSS Earnslaw – this can be combined with farm tours, horse treks or simply a tasty lunch or dinner option.

From Queenstown you can take a day trip to Milford Sound by road or air, or explore Lord of the Rings filming locations by 4WD or on horseback.


Escape the bustle of Queenstown and get away to Wanaka, another lakefront destination with a laidback vibe. Relax waterside among the cafes and restaurants, with perhaps a jaunt over to Puzzling World – a truly unique place with the world’s first 3D ‘Great Maze’, illusion rooms and other eccentric activities and architecture.

Dunedin and Southland

Southland’s rugged terrain is home to penguins, seals, albatross and many more species; it’s a great place for a wildlife tour. At the tip of the Otago Peninsula, in Dunedin, is the Royal Albatross Centre, the only mainland in the world with a breeding colony of northern royal albatross. Colonies of little blue penguins - the smallest species of penguin of all – are also found in this region.