Departing from Wellington, the ferry takes 3 hours to cross the Cook Strait and reach Picton in the South Island. Cruising through the Marlborough Sounds maze is a fantastic introduction to the great scenery of the South Island, especially when the sun is out.
Only a short drive away, Blenheim is at the heart of a number of vineyards and has a lot of nice wine tasting experiences to offer.
1/ Abel Tasman National Park:
To the northwest, Abel Tasman National Park is considered by some the most beautiful in the country and can be explored over a few days on foot, by boat or sea kayaking.
It is a reasonably busy place in summer, but it reveals beautiful beaches of black or golden sand and breathtaking outlook colonised by tree ferns.
Further north, the Golden Bay ending with the Farewell spit is also definitely worth a visit.
2/ Western coast
The nearby West Coast oceanic influence is obvious here. The waves are roaring, the beaches stretch to infinity, only populated by a few rare blue penguins or simply stacked with big polished pebbles.
The Northwest Coast host the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki, which are interesting rock formation carved by erosion over time.
Further south are the most accessible glaciers in the world: Franz Josef and Fox.
3/ To the East
Accessible by road or train, Arthur’s pass is the highest and most spectacular pass across the Southern Alps that connects the West coast with Christchurch on the East coast.
North of Christchurch, Kaikoura is the headquarters of sea excursions: the sperm whales are here all year round and they are the stars of the show. But you may also see other species during migrations such as dolphins, humpback whales and blue whales.
On land, you won’t have any issues spotting sea lions and fur seals.
Christchurch is the main city of the South Island and is still in a reconstruction stage, subsequent to the violent earthquake in February 2011.
However, it still displays a very British style of architecture.
Not far away is the Banks peninsula host to the lovely touristic town of Akaroa, still influenced by early French settlers.
The scenic route from Christchurch to Akaroa takes just over 2 hours.
5/ The New Zealand Alps
On small roads of the New Zealand Alps, sheep and stock often block the roads so be patient and enjoy the experience.
Clear and blue rivers, lakes and glaciers offer a magical backdrop to your adventures.
At altitude, the flocks pile up in the valleys until the middle of summer, forming thick carpets, future seracs.
The highest point of the country is the majestic Mount Cook, rising to 3,754m above sea level and covered in snow year round. On its western side, the superb Lake Pukaki features turquoise waters.
The main touristic and trendy town of the New Zealand Alps is Queenstown, which is also known as the sports capital of New Zealand. If the thrills of extreme sports are your thing, this is the place to be with experiences such as Skydiving, Bungy Jumping, Canyon Swing, Paragliding, Whitewater Rafting, Jetboating, Ski…
Fiordland, on the South-western end of the country is, as its name suggests, the fantastic land of the New Zealand Fjords.
Milford Sound is a popular natural attraction, with on the opposite shore Mitre Peak its iconic and most photographed mountain in the South Island of New Zealand.
Dolphins and sea lions are at home here, boats and kayaks allow you to discover this isolated world from the water, where heavy and frequent rainfalls create numerous amazing waterfalls.
Hikers will love one of the most beautiful walks in the country, the Milford Track, which connects Lake Te Anau.