This was my favourite thing do while backpacking in the South Island, as driving around allowed you to really see all the different parts of the island that you otherwise wouldn’t see!
One downside can be the weather, especially during the winter, when it can get quite cold and rain a lot. If you plan on venturing to Fiordland, which you absolutely should, then be prepared for rain.
This area of the South Island has some of the highest rainfall of anywhere in the world!
Wet weather clothes are a must-have item, that’s for sure!
Disregarding the weather, the South Island has some incredible sights, from the awe-inspiring Mt Cook, Lake Tekapo and the strange Moeraki Boulders, there is so much to see and do here, it is ridiculous.
But ridiculous in a good way, because you’ll never be short of things to do on New Zealand’s South Island!
Where to stay on the South Island
Choosing where to stay on the South Island can be difficult, as there are so many great hostels to choose from. However, during my time travelling around the South Island, I stayed in many decent hostels.
Below is a selection of my favourite hostels in the South Island, which come highly recommended!
This is without mentioning Nelson, which is the main city in the area, and a great place to visit in its own right!
Farewell Spit is a must-visit in Golden Bay, as you reach the northernmost point of the South Island. Everywhere you look there is just sand!
It is an incredible sight! Abel Tasman National Park has a lot of cool places you can visit, with many interesting waterfalls to check out.
Two days should be spent backpacking around this area, as it is just incredible, and any less would not do it justice!
Milford Sound is one of the must-visit places in New Zealand, not just the South Island! Yes, it is that incredible! We went on one of the 300+ days of the year, that the area experiences rainfall.
However, it did dampen our enthusiasm or make the views that less incredible. This is the great thing about New Zealand, even in bad weather, the country is still beautiful!
Even though we could barely make out the structure of the sound, the sight was still awe-inspiring! It was like we had set foot into an ancient Nordic world!
To get a sense of the scale of Milford Sound, you have to take a boat trip and get up and close and personal.
For the hikers, there is also the Milford Track for you to tackle. Although, at 53.3km, it’s a beast, so be prepared!
Queenstown is a place that should be included on any South Island itinerary. It is a haven for backpackers and I’m pretty sure there would only be about ten people living here if all the backpackers just upped and left!
If you visit during the winter, you can go to the Remarkables and experience some of the best ski slopes in New Zealand!
This is without mentioning the incredible scenery, which is apparent, from virtually every area of this great town. The lake is a particular highlight, and if you drive into Queenstown during the day, you will be treated to some incredible views!
3 days in Queenstown is a good amount of time to take in everything this beautiful part of New Zealand has to offer!
Wanaka is more laid back than Queenstown, and it is easy to get the impression, that the place is boring, but that is not the case.
There is a lively nightlife scene here, if not on the level of Queenstown, and there are quite a few things to do in Wanaka, such as check out the weird and wacky Puzzling World!
You can also hike up Roy’s Peak, which provides excellent views of the surrounding area. It will take around 5 to 6 hours in total, but it’s worth it for the views you will see!
South Island Tours
There are a number of fantastic available for you to do on the South Island. There are so many to do, it can be hard to know which ones you should prioritise.
Luckily for your guys, I did a number of tours while I was on the South Island, and I’ve listed some of the best below!
Milford Sound Nature Cruise – This was on the best tours I did in New Zealand. You get up close and personal with the Sound, seeing it in all its glory. Our tour was done in atrocious conditions, but it was still incredible! The sight of the Sound up close is one to behold! Click here to book now!
Lord of the Rings Full-Day Tour – If you love the Lord of the Rings as much as me, this is a tour you have to do! Starting in Queenstown, you visit a number of locations that were used in the films, learning tidbits of juicy information along the way! Click here to book now!
Hanmer Springs White-Water Rafting Tour – The South Island is one of the places in the world to go white-water rafting. It’s an exhilarating experience as you make your way downstream, trying to avoid falling into the river! Click here to book now!
How much does it cost to travel in the South Island?
Travelling New Zealand is certainly cheaper than backpacking Australia. However, that doesn’t mean it’s cheap.
It can be expensive in some places, Christchurch, in particular, can be pricey. If you’ve been working in Australia before coming here, everything will seem a lot cheaper!
Below are a few South Island travel tips to help you save money while travelling in this beautiful place.
A bed in a hostel generally costs around $20-30 a night. This does depend on what city you are in, expect to pay more in big cities such as Christchurch and Dunedin!
Obviously, the more beds in a room the cheaper it will be, however, you have to weigh up whether this is for you or not. The more people in the room, the harder it is to get to sleep.
Food can be quite expensive and eating out is not exactly cheap, unless you are eating fast food such as McDonald’s or Burger King. My advice would be to cook your food as much as you can and learn to love eating pasta.
It’s ridiculously cheap, with 500g bags costing less than $1! A weekly shop shouldn’t cost too much more than $50. Although that does depend on what you’re buying!
Travelling around the South Island is not too expensive. If you are travelling by yourself, a great option is to use Naked bus, which has prices starting from $1.
You shouldn’t pay much more than $20-30 to get to most destinations in the South Island.
Renting a car is also cheap, especially if you are in a group, so this is a great idea, for travelling around the South Island.
A week’s car rental should cost $120-150 a week, which between 4-5 people, works out quite well!
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