17 “Must-Go” Places to See in South New Zealand by Yasmeen Hassham

I am so excited about this particular summary post, Reason – this post contain insights about some of the very best days of our trip. New Zealand is more beautiful as compared to Australia, I had already concluded that from our visit of North island’s part of the country but it is wayyyy more arresting and heavenly, this is what I deduced as soon as we set foot on South island. No second thoughts about that AT ALL!

This was the part of trip for which our itinerary was unclear (as I have stated in the last summary post here), we had outsourced the plan’s responsibility to Noman bhai (HI’s friend). He chalked out our plan- huge shout out to him, he and Ray were very helpful indeed. I was a little skeptical about the plan, the cities and days were divided though but the attractions we had to visit were debatable. I had tried to do little research on the internet but it was fruitless. Not much relevant stuff was coming up in the results or probably I was laid back and counting on Noman bhai to fill that part for us in the itinerary. So basically I had no idea what was in store for us in this part of Kiwi land.

This post will aid you in finalizing the trip schedule to South NZ (if you are looking for one) or if you are not planning to go there than you can just enjoy the amazing attractions I am about to list.
Caution: This will make you crave to go there soon ;).

Furthermore, I’ll be providing the relevant information about accommodation, food, what to wear, weather and transportation ideas based on our encounters. So brace yourself for a detailed post…

The South island is known for its mountains, waterfalls and lakes. The cities in this part are small and less populated. I’ll be talking about them as well in addition to the points to interest because that is how we traversed our way there.

DUNEDIN

It is home to landscapes, fascinating cultural history and wildlife creatures situated at the top of Otago Peninsula. Definitely a not-to-be-missed attraction in the South. Following are some key points which you would not want to miss in the city.

  1. Baldwin Street: World’s steepest residential street (no further elaboration required  )

  1. Opening Times: Always
    How to get here: Car
    Ticket costs: Free
  2. Octagon – the city centre:

  1. Take a walk down the eight-sided plaza which reflects the city’s rich heritage that dates back to 1840s. Don’t miss the street art trail if you want to experience those 25 vibrant paintings that are painted by local and international artists on giant walls. You can pick up a copy of the trail map at the Dunedin i-SITE visitor centre.
    Opening Times: Always
    How to get here: Car / Public Transport
    Ticket costs: Free
  2. Railway Station:

  1. You can catch a train ride that will take you on a picturesque journey through the Central Otago hinterland. Or just take a tour of the historic location all by yourself (we chose the latter one because our plan was to drive along the peninsula the next day)
    Opening Times: Check out the trains’ time tables here
    How to get here: Car / Public Transport
    Ticket costs: Check out the journey wise ticket prices here
  2. Larnach Castle & Grounds:

  1. A treat to history lovers, New Zealand’s only castle that has been restored to showcase the original Victorian grandeur as it was built in 1871.
    Opening Times: Open 365 days a year including Public Holidays
    9am daily, last admission 7pm (1 October to 31 March)
    9am daily, last admission 5pm (1 April to 30 September).
    How to get here: Car (20 mins drive from Dunedin city centre) / Public Transport
    Ticket costs: They have multiple ticket options. Check out and book yours here.
  2. Allan’s Beach:

  1. A secluded wild beach situated in Portobello, so pristine and well preserved. It is where you can spot a seal and walk the beach with the resident yellow eyed penguin (if you are lucky enough)
    Opening Times: Always
    How to get here: Car
    Ticket costs: Free
  2. Royal Albatross Centre & Reserve:

The world’s only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross is situated at Pilot’s beach. You can take a guided tour at the reserve or just watch the albatrosses soaring to sky from outside (iff the wind is blowing at top knots). Also, Little blue penguins come ashore at sunset. You can buy a ticket to watch them sliding, playing and waddling at the beach as well.
Opening Times: Summer: 10:15am until dusk, Tours from 11:00am
Winter: 10.15am until dusk, Tours from 10.30am
How to get here: Car / Public Transport
Ticket costs: Ticket prices start from NZ$30. Check out prices of different tours (including transport) in detail and book them here

TE ANAU

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A small town which is known as Gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. From here you can take a cruise to Milford Sound or spend the night and rest before hitting the Te Anau – Milford Sound Highway (this is what we did).

You might be interested in visiting those Glowworm caves but make sure to pre-book your cruise beforehand, they get sold out real quick especially in peak season.

The only attraction in this town is Lake Te Anau though.
Opening Times: Always
How to get here: Car / Public Transport/ Walk
Ticket costs: Free

FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK

DSC02133

One of the most amazing and breathtaking places one can ever visit. As soon as you start your journey from Te Anau, you get the idea why I said so. There are a number of stopping points and lookouts on this highway so better to leave earlier than regret later on. There are several points along the road but we stopped at the following ones, highly recommended:

  1. Lake Mistletoe: It is 45 minute hike away from the road so better go prepared if you are planning to visit this one.
  2. Eglinton Valley: 5 min walk to the valley from highway
  3. Mirror Lakes: 5 min walk down the boardwalk
  4. Pop’s View: You just have to park the car to inhale in the beauty of the scene
  5. Falls Creek: waterfall thundering and pounding right beside the road
  6. Monkey Creek: stopping point to capture some scenic beauty in your cameras

Opening Times: Always
How to get here: Car / Public Transport
Ticket costs: Petrol in Fuel Tank ( since we were road tripping in a rented car so no idea about the transport fares)

MILFORD SOUND

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Heaven on earth! simply awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping. The Te Anau – Milford Sound highway ends here. Keep your mobile devices in bag (this place has no signals), take out your cameras and hop on a scenic or nature cruise to experience the ultimate beauty of nature. Words are not enough to describe the beauty of this place. Go and see for yourself 🙂
Opening Times: The cruise terminal closes at 3pm (they don’t sell tickets after that, better to pre-book)
How to get here: Car / Bus / Helicopter
Ticket costs: starts from NZ$90 per person (you can check out rates of different cruise companies on their websites) For further information about prices of other modes to reach, check out the link here

QUEENSTOWN

Queenstown17

The first impression of this alluring city was very groovy and happening. The reason was, we arrived here on a weekend. The city is renowned for adventurous sports and adrenaline activities such as bungee jumping, zip lining, mountain biking, paragliding, jet boating etc etc. It is situated at the shores of stunning lake Wakatipu hence the breathtaking scenes in every direction you look. You can go on a country farm tour to Walter Peak from here as well (perfect for kids). The main point of interests are:

  1. Skyline Queenstown:
    Queenstown25Scenic gondola ride all the way up to Bob’s peak, home to all the adventure activities I mentioned in the above paragraph (except for jet boating of course). Don’t miss the Luge ride, it is a MUST-DO activity for sure up there.
    Opening Times:From 9.00 am daily 365 days of the yea
    How to get here: Walk (recommended) It is located 5-10 minute walk from central Queenstown.
    Ticket costs: starts from NZ$35. They offer certain deals which you may find appealing depending on the activities you want to perform. Check out the multiple options here.
  2. Main Town Pier:
    Queenstown24Take a stroll alongside the prepossessing Lake Wakatipu, enjoy a cup of tea/ coffee on one of those floating restaurants, hop on a cruise ride down the lake or take a dose of adrenaline by doing jet boating or riding seabreacher. There is an underwater observatory as well (your kids might be interested in it).
    Opening Times: Always (the activities closes down at 6 pm though)
    How to get here: Car / Public Transport/ Walk (preferred)
    Ticket costs: The jet boat ride ticket prices start from NZ$99
    underwater Observatory from NZ$10
    Steamship cruise ride starts from NZ$59
    Visit this page and find some very attractive deals on the activities (I wish I had found it before)
  3. Devil’s Staircase:
    DSC02358This is an amazing spellbinding lookout point located at Milford Sound – Queenstown highway about 50 kms away from Queenstown but worth a visit. Such an arresting sight it was!

Others:

Apart from the above mentioned locations you can check out Invercargill, Wanaka, Cromwell and Fox Glacier as well.

Accommodation:

Queenstown1

Any average 3 star hotel would cost around 100-150 NZD per night depending upon the type of room in all of the above mentioned destinations.

P.S. Our accommodation in Dunedin was one of Dunedin’s oldest properties from the 1860s, that was quite an experience. I will do a post on it soon.

Food:

Queenstown6

There are lots of food options but finding halal food may be a bit difficult in those areas. I am sharing locations of some of the eateries we dined in. An average meal costs around 10-20 NZD:

Dunedin:

  • Yilmaz located at 906 George street (their Chicken, Tomato and Cream Cheese pizza is a must try)
  • Little India, located inside the Octagon

Te Anau:

NO halal food options, we had grilled fish and chips there

Fiordland National Park & Milford Sound:

There are NO restaurants/ super markets/ grocery stores along the highway, halal food is a far cry.. lol. Better pack loads of snacks and drinks before leaving for the trip.
Also, check and fill up your fuel tank if you are driving there (No gas stations along the highway as well)

Queenstown:

  • Turkish Kebab shop at 31 Beach street
  • Market Kitchen Cafe on Skyline Queenstown has a couple of halal food options
  • Tandoori Palace at 62 Shotover Street, Queenstown Central

Apart from these you can always look for Turkish Kebab Shops or Indian restaurants which are usually halal. And still if you are unable to find one, grilled sea-food and veggie meal is always an option 🙂

Weather

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One word ‘COLD‘ if I have to generalize the weather conditions of South New Zealand. The average temperature decreases as you travel towards south. Typically December to February is summer; March to May is autumn; June to August is winter; and September to November is spring.

But that’s just for the sake of book keeping I believe, we went there in December and we needed to wear our jackets all the time (except for the time we were in Te Anau). You can imagine how much layers you would want to carry in case you are planning to visit there in Winters. Also, you should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and temperature if you’re going hiking or doing other outdoor activities.

What to Wear:

Queenstown8
say mashaa Allah 🙂

As you already have read what we wore most of the time of our trip to South – The Jackets!. You can wear anything you like, no one is gonna judge you on the basis of your style statement there. Make sure you pack enough to layer yourself in case of sudden temperature change.
For kids, I used to pack E in 2-3 layers in December so you can get an idea how much clothing you would want to take along for them. Don’t forget to include a light rainproof jacket or coat in your luggage too.
It is also advised that you wear sunscreen during the day because the UV sun rays are scorching and harmful due to less pollution and a hole in ozone layer above this part of the world.

Recommended Mode of Transportation

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We traveled all the way from Dunedin to Queenstown in a rented car. This way we were able to enjoy the nature’s beauty on our own accord without any restrictions. We were in control all time – stopped at places we wanted to and skipped the ones which we think we should. E was also settled comfortably in her car seat (which she is used to and prefers over sitting in lap). All you need to focus is on the road rules over there because they can get you in trouble if taken lightly.

You can rent a car from any of the car rental companies at rates starting from 100 NZD. You may consider renting a caravan too if you are feeling a little more adventurous, that way you can save the money you would spend on accommodation. I have seen many camping/ caravan stopovers, you won’t find difficulty in finding an overnight place to park it 🙂

Proposed 5-Day Itinerary

DAY 1

Attractions inside Dunedin

  • Baldwin street
  • Railway Station
  • Octagon
DAY 2

Explore Otago Peninsula

  • Larnach Castle
  • Allan’s Beach
  • Royal Albatross Centre & Reserve (Pilots Beach)
DAY 3
  • Road trip to Te Anau
  • Lakefront Te Anau
  • Cruise to Glowworm caves
DAY 4
  • Fiordland National Park
  • Milford Sound Cruise

You can stay at the only lodge situated near Milford Sound Cruise Terminal or drive to Queenstown (I have no idea about the lodge’s environment because we drove to Queenstown the same day)

  • Devil’s Staircase on the highway
DAY 5
  • Skyline Queenstown
  • Main Town Pier

You can check out the shops/ market located near the pier too.


To get more interesting information, suggestions and insights about my experiences of South New Zealand; please visit the following posts. I have compiled the best information I could based on my personal experience.

Day one – Dunedin

Day Two – Otago Peninsula

Day Three – Te Anau

Day Four – Fiordland National Park & Milford Sound

Day Five – Queenstown

Author: Yasmeen Hassham

https://breaksandbites.com

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