If you haven’t been able to tell from my Instagram or this blog, I am obsessed with New Zealand. The pristine landscapes, unique flora and fauna and the fact barely anyone lives there is my kind of heaven. I was fortunate enough recently to travel New Zealand’s South Island for three weeks in partnership with Stray – an experience that made me fall even more in love with this great nation.
While I spent all of my time on my New Zealand Working Holiday Visa on the North Island, it came as no surprise why everyone kept saying, “go south before you leave.” The north offers gorgeous beaches, lush hillscapes and modernity; New Zealand’s South Island boasts rocky alps, mystical fjordlands and moss-blanketed forests.
I’d have a hard time trusting anyone who said they didn’t enjoy their time on the South Island. There is so much to do and see – from extreme sports to chilled out cruises. If you’re curious as to what type of activities you can do during your visit, I’ve included some of my favorites below.
1. Jump 16,500 feet out of an airplane
New Zealand markets itself as the adventure capital of the world, and for good reason. This country’s natives are some of the most badass folk on planet Earth, and it often feels as though nothing is too extreme. There are several world-class skydive locations throughout New Zealand’s South Island, so take your pick! I personally chose to jump 16,500 feet over the Fox Glacier and loved every second.
2. Walk to Roy’s Peak
Wanaka is one of those towns that I’ll always hold close to my heart. The tiny town features some of the most breathtaking scenery on New Zealand’s South Island and is far more inviting than its boisterous and touristy neighbor Queenstown. One of the most challenging walks you can do in town is the summit of Roy’s Peak – one of the most Insta-famous mountaintops in New Zealand. Although the steep trail may have you groaning of muscle aches, the views are worth it.
If you want to hike a lesser known mountain, there are plenty of hikes in Wanaka listed here.
3. Eat a Fergburger
I want to disclose that I have been a vegetarian for nearly two decades. With that said, the veggie Fergburger options were some of the best I’d eaten in my lifetime. This is the sort of place I heard about while traveling through Southeast Asia – yep, it’s that good. While it may not be the “best in the world,” as it claims to be, it’s definitely a must-do while you’re in Queenstown. If you’d like a meat eater’s opinion, check out travelFREAK’s take on Fergburger.
*The burger in the photo is a meat burger that James devoured.
4. Walk the Hooker Valley Track
With all the walks throughout New Zealand’s South Island, this one stood out. For starters, there were almost no hills along the entire path, which was quite different. Although I love a bit of a challenge, it was nice to give my legs a break after doing extensive walks nearly every day for three weeks. The trail comes to a finish at the base of Mount Cook, also known as Aoraki. We got to the end around dusk, and it was pretty cool to see the moon shining over the mountains on the trek back.
5. Cruise the Milford Sound
This special fjordland is a bit magical. The region generally gets rain about 300 days out of the year, however, it was sunny when I visited. While I would have loved for a bit of rainy mist, the sunshine glistening over the waterfalls and waves was a unique occurrence within itself. The number of boats that go out each day are minimal, making it for a touristy-but-not-touristy experience.
6. Sail on a catamaran in Abel Tasman National Park
Start your day off with a 2.5 hour coastal walk through the park and end at Anchorage Bay. The catamaran will pick you up from the Bay; you can relax and check out nature for the next 2 hours. Keep your eyes open for seals and little blue penguins!
7. Tour the region’s renowned vineyards
Although Australia gets a lot of praise for its wine production, New Zealand is starting to make a name for itself. Should you find yourself in this northern part of New Zealand’s South Island, I highly recommend touring a vineyard. The Marlborough region is renowned for its white wines, some of which have unique hints of passion fruit and gooseberry. The Rippon vineyard in Wanaka (pictured) uses biodynamic farming techniques, which makes for delicious and completely organic products. Almost all of the vineyard offer super cheap — if not free — tastings, so why not take advantage of it?
*Honorable mention: Bungy jump in Queenstown
If you weren’t aware, New Zealand is the birthplace of bungy jumping. The extreme sport was invented by Kiwi A.J. Hacket in 1986. The sport is a safer version of the jumping ritual performed on the Pentecost island of Vanuatu, which inspired Hackett, called Ngol. Hackett and his friends introduced bungy to the global population by jumping off some of the world’s most famous landmarks – including the Eiffel Tower.
Wondering how you’ll get around New Zealand’s South Island? Hitch a ride with Stray!
If you are keen on adventuring through this magical country and region, I do recommend booking a ticket with Stray. Your hop-on, hop-off ticket will enable you to travel with 100 percent freedom, and you’ll get to meet some incredible people along the way. The Stray bus routes are certainly not limited to New Zealand’s South Island; you can travel the entirety of the country – and your ticket is valid up to one year. If you’d like to read more of my experience, feel free to click here, or else check out the Stray website for more options!
Which of the above would you do if you had the opportunity?
Disclaimer: James and I were guests of Stray during our three week journey. Regardless of this perk, I wouldn’t recommend the service if I didn’t love it. And I LOVED it.