Covering an area of 150,437 square kilometres, the South Island - known in the Maori language as Te Wai Pounamu - is the larger of New Zealand's two main islands, although it is considerably less crowded than its more populous counterpart to the north.
Dominated by the imposing Southern Alps which run the full length of the island, its main settlements are Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and Nelson, with most attractions located in and around these four major cities.
The gold rush of 1861 sparked a wave of migration, however the South Island's relative global isolation and the fact that both Auckland and Wellington are located in the North ensure it boasts a more laidback lifestyle than its bustling neighbour.
- Currency - New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
- Population - approx. 1,050,000
- Time Zone - UTC+12
Did you know..?
Dunedin is certified by the Guinness Book of Records as being home to the steepest street in the world – Baldwin Street – featuring a truly dizzying gradient of 38 degrees!
Who goes there?
Exploring the shores South Island is a breeze, with big-ship lines like Celebrity Cruises, P&O Australia, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, and Holland America Line all offering regular itineraries to the region.
Luxury and expedition cruise lines such as Crystal Cruises, Oceania, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Silverseas, and Hapag-Lloyd also offer unique itineraries throughout the year.
Best time to go?
Weather conditions, school holiday periods and your personal preferences for things to do all influence the best time of year to travel to the South Island.
Weather patterns on the island are diverse and can vary dramatically, ranging from the drier temperatures of the semi-arid inland interior to the wet and windy west coast. In general, the South Island is colder than the North, with temperature averages around eight degrees. January and February tend to be the region’s warmest months, and July usually the coldest.
Things to See and Do
The South Island's many attractions feature numerous natural attractions, some of which are best appreciated from the sky.
- Home to both Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Fjordland National Park is one of the South Island's most visited attractions
- Set on the shores of shimmering Lake Watatipu, vibrant Queenstown is considered the adventure capital of New Zealand, with bungy jumping, jet boating and rafting all popular activities
- The truly spectacular Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers located on the island's West Coast offer a landscape so incredible, it's perhaps best appreciated on a scenic flight.