If you crave for gorgeous hikes, numerous lakes of different hues of blue, friendly people and rugged coastline, then New Zealand’s South Island has it all. Visit to New Zealand’s South Island requires proper planning.
The itinerary begins in Christchurch, but one can easily alter it if needed to begin and end in Queenstown. A two-week trip is a must for this beautiful place. Most of the streets in New Zealand are just two lanes and if one is comfortable with driving on the left-hand side then picking up a rental car at the airport or going for a camper van for even more ease and flexibility can be tried.
New Zealand is a mountainous island nation sitting isolated in the Southwest Pacific, and so the weather tends to be unpredictable. That said, it means that one can come at any time of year and still get glorious days. The seasons are opposite to the Northern Hemisphere’s and most people who visit New Zealand choose to come during the summer season, which is December through February.
Summer - Warm and bustling
Months: December to February
South Island weather: 19-23⁰C, 35-60 mm of rainfall each month
New Zealand truly does come into its own in the summer, as an outdoor lover's paradise. Particularly between the months of December to February one can see people at the beach, hiking in the forest or biking on cycling trails. It's a popular time of the year for getting outdoors in nature and experiencing life at a slower pace.
Autumn/Fall - Perfect for Hiking
Months: March to May
South Island weather: 13-19⁰C, 60-100 mm of rainfall every month
Cooler, less crowds on the trails, and very consistent weather. Incredible photography too.
If one wants to escape the busiest season on the trails, then fall months are great for hiking. It's a little cooler, a little quieter, but so beautiful as the leaves on the trees change colour and the first dusting of snow arrive on the hills.
Months: June to August
South Island weather: 7-12⁰C, 70-130 mm of rainfall each month
If one is not a skier, then it's an amazing time to come winter hiking in New Zealand – the trails are quiet and the mountains all around are snow-capped. There is even a few hot pools that one can explore.
Months: September to November
South Island weather: 13-19⁰C, 60-100 mm of rainfall each month
The clocks spring forward, the sun warms up and the days are longer.
Spring is an excellent time to visit New Zealand and while November tends to be fairly quiet on the tourist front, it's certainly not a bad time to be here.
Places not be missed while travelling South Island, New Zealand
The Botanic Garden: Christchurch has a huge park with big, old trees from around the world, including a California Redwood, and lots of hydrangeas, dahlias and roses.
It is a gorgeous lake with a nice view on the other side of Mt. Cook.
It’s crazy because as a crow flies it looks like it would be right next door, if only there weren’t a huge mountain range in the way.
The drive is scenic, along that same gorgeous west coast and then up and along Lake Pukaki. On a clear day it’s worth stopping at the viewpoint and walking down to the shore to marvel at the baby blue water.
Wanaka is one of the favourite stops thanks to the great hiking in the area. One can easily be spoilt for choice of lakes, lookout points, and variety of hiking that can be long or short, challenging or easy depending on what one wants.
On arriving in Queenstown there’s a lot more of a party and adventure vibe to this place. It’s a ski town in the winter and a spot for bungee jumping, skydiving, and speed boating as well. There are lots of bars and breweries in town and hostels as well.
Do take a short drive to Glenorchy, a cute little town just north of Queenstown. There are a few cool tracks one can do (Lake Sylvan track for example) near Glenorchy. Otherwise, the drive up from Queenstown to Glenorchy is just beautiful.
Milford Sound via Te Anau
Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park are gorgeous, and the Gertrude Saddle hike is worth the trek out to Te Anau.
Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
Like many places in New Zealand, this isn’t going to be quick or easy to get to, and one has to retrace his/her steps all the way back past Wanaka (perhaps stop there for another hike) and continue upwards up the west coast. That said, it’s a gorgeous drive in a more rural and lush part of the island and the glaciers are incredible to see.
If one decides to keep heading north after Fox Glacier, it’ll be a long drive, but surely it will be a rewarding ride to the amazing Marlborough Sounds. They do dolphin swims and boat cruises there.
With New Zealand’s majestic natural terrain, there is always a gorgeous waterfall or lake nearby — wherever you may be.
Image Credit: Nomadic Matt
Please Note: Any information picked from here must be attributed to skymetweather.com