Towering mountains and crystal-clear sea inlets ensure that the South Island is a fantasy experience of epic proportions.
The national parks
In the Abel Tasman National Park you can climb a glacier for sublime views before heading further south to sail between the mountains of Milford Sound. When the sun glints off the peaks you will feel like you have been transported into the pages of a fairy tale.
If you like rambling as much as South Islanders, an area called the Fiordland National Park will delight at every step. There are many paths to explore for all levels of walkers and a picnic here might just be the best meal you'll ever have, or the backdrop will certainly take some beating, that's for sure.
The adventure capital
A two-hour drive will then bring you to Queenstown; fondly known as the South Island's adventure capital.
This lake-side township is one of the most breathtaking to be found anywhere in the world. Just gaze out at the alpine landscape and you’ll want to hire a canoe, bike, campervan or 4x4 to explore more of the area.
The garden city
Further north, Christchurch wears its colonial heart on its sleeve. You could easily be forgiven for thinking you never left the airport back home, if it weren’t for the presence of whales off the coast, thermal springs and the stunning Southern Alps further inland. The Avon River runs through the city and on its banks are numerous cycling paths, couples with the green expanse of Hagley Park and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
This is also your chance to experience one of the world's great train journeys - the TranzAlpine from Christchurch through to the picturesque village of Arthurs Pass. You can then climb on board a jet boat for a 15 kilometre cruise along Waimakariri River to Woodstock Sheep Station for afternoon tea; only in New Zealand!
The wonderful wildlife
For some, watching whales break the surface in Kaikoura is an experience of a lifetime. But for a chance to add some interactive value to a jaunty cruise, try a fishing charter and eat what you catch. You won't eat fresher crayfish than this.
Situated in the Otago region of the South Island, Dunedin (pronounced: Dun-eden) is famed for the incredible wildlife that flocks to this part of the peninsula. It’s also the place where hardy settlers from Scotland landed, giving the town a unique Caledonian feel.
New Zealand must be one of the finest places to drive anywhere in the world. Hiring a motorhome to explore the country is well worth considering, giving you the freedom to come and go at your own pace, stopping only to close your mouth after too much jaw-dropping.
Your suggested self-drive itinerary
Start at Christchurch and drive north to Kaikoura to go whale watching. Then onto Abel Tasman National Park to climb glaciers.
From this vantage point turn south to the lakes and mountains of Wanaka before heading into lively Queenstown to have fun in the numerous bars and quality dining restaurants.
A two-hour drive will bring you to Fiordland and Milford Sound. After absorbing the stunning scenery head across the South Island to discover the Otago Peninsula and Dunedin's unique wildlife before turning back to Christchurch to finish your tour.
These South Island must-dos can be added to your self-drive itinerary:
Shotover Jet, Queenstown
Take a thrilling speedboat ride between the beautiful canyon walls on the Shotover River. Quite simply, this is one of the most famous and hair-raising adventure excursions in the world.
Milford Sound Nature Cruise
Hop on a coach at Queenstown and enjoy the relaxing journey along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Te Anau, before arriving at Milford Sound to cruise between the stunning mountain peaks.
Nomads Safari of the Scenes
Fans of Tolkien will be delighted to explore the countryside where scenes from The Lord of the Rings movie were filmed. A 4x4 will gently bounce you through this landscape of outstanding natural beauty.
Catch all these wildlife wonders and jaw-dropping natural sights on your next holiday to New Zealand's South Island.