South Island Travel Guide
Lake Ohau, South Island © Michael Button
The South Island is less populated than the North and appears to have a slower pace of life, with rural scenes of sheep-filled pastures and remote farm settlements backed by rugged snow-covered mountains. The scenery is magnificent, and with its alpine mountains, fjords, glaciers, lakes and forests it is possibly even more spectacular than the North Island. Often arrogantly referred to as 'the mainland' by South Islanders, the South is the main destination of New Zealand tourism.
Canterbury is the hub of the South Island containing the largest city, Christchurch, an English epitome, with punting on the River Avon and a grand Anglican cathedral dominating the central square. The Queenstown region is the capital for adrenalin-inducing activities and the home of the bungy jump, with a history of gold in the hills and rivers and set on a beautiful lake at the foot of the Remarkables Mountains.
The southwest holds some of New Zealand's finest scenery and natural wonders, including its highest mountain, Mount Cook or Aoraki, 'cloud piercer'; the Frans Josef and Fox Glaciers stretching down to within a few kilometres of the coast, the magnificent Fjordland National Park with beautiful fjords, waterfalls and forests, and several world-famous walking tracks.
The South offers an abundance of activities and attractions set in wondrous surroundings, with a huge diversity of things to see and do.
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