The South Island, or Te Waipounamu in Maori, is one of the two major islands in New Zealand. Of the two, the South Island is the largest, sometimes called the “mainland” of New Zealand. New Zealand has always been the perfect destination for travelers, mainly because it offers the most unique places to visit. It has more nature based venues than the usual urban jungle in other countries. It is definitely refreshing to be surrounded by lush greens and purple mountains rather than buildings and skyscrapers.

And there is no other perfect destination than the South Island during the holidays. It offers lots of breathtaking views from countless mountains to amazing beaches. So if you are already planning to go to New Zealand anytime this year, check out this list of South Island destinations to see what you can expect on your trip.

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Visit Franz Josef or Fox Glacier

You might want to check out the glaciers in the South Island first, since they are in danger of melting away as climate change is getting worse.

The Franz Josef Glacier, or the Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere, and the Fox Glacier, or the Te Moeka o Tuawe, are located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. The Franz Josef Glacier is 12 km long while the Fox Glacier is 13 km long. Both are in an area that is part of the Te Wahipounamu which has been dubbed a World Heritage Site.

Enjoy great views at Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is located at the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin, the second largest lake of three parallel lakes in the South Island. The source of the lake’s water is the Godley River which also has its source from the Southern Alps. It has been given the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve title, which means this is the best place for stargazing. If you are looking for a place where the skies are not polluted by lights all night, Lake Tekapo is where you should head to. An observatory is perched high on Mount John. You can witness the Southern Lights between April and September.

Bask in the natural beauty of The Catlins

One of the first things you will notice in The Catlins is there is a lot of green. It has a rainforest filled with endangered species of birds like the yellow-eyed penguin. There are also marine animals who love living here like sea lions and dolphins. You will see beaches, rugged coasts, waterfalls, and green rolling hills. This is another place to visit if you want to forget about the city for a little and just enjoy being surrounded by nature and diverse wildlife.

Within The Catlins, you can visit the Curio Bay where you can see 160 million year old tree fossils. For amateur surfers, there is a surf school here so you can test the waves. You can also visit the Cathedral Caves, 30 metres high and accessible only at low tide. Then you can drop by the Invercargill where you can go to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, and the botanical gardens of the Queens Park.

So when you fly to South Island for the holidays, make sure to make your way to these destinations and appreciate the beauty of nature like you never had before.