Diversity in seven regions – New Zealand’s South Island

I am happy to welcome other authors on these pages, who are on sunny paths in the world. The guest post about the regions on New Zealand South Island comes from Phine, who reports about her travels on phinetravels blog:

Phine from phinetravels

Hey, my name is Phine, I’m 22 years old and I’ve only been blogging for a few months. The desire for blogging has grabbed me during my trip through Australia and New Zealand! Since I discovered so many great places, I wanted to capture those memories somewhere! And what could be better than a blog?

The South Island of New Zealand: As diverse as its seven regions

New Zealand has always fascinated me. A place so far away that usually a whole day is not enough to reach it. A place that many would probably not consider because of this distance, but that is exactly why it made me so curious. And I know I’m not alone in that! 3.69 million tourists traveled to the country in 2018. Since 1998, the number of New Zealand explorers has grown almost steadily. Why this is so, I try to bring you closer with the introduction of the South Island of New Zealand!

The South of New Zealand and its regions

But first a few facts about the geographical and cultural classification of the country and the South Island. New Zealand consists of two large islands, which are simply called North and South Island. My New Zealand journey led me so far only on the south island of the country, because one said to me that there the nature should be somewhat more beautiful! Whether this is true, I can now unfortunately not confirm due to the lack of comparison. What I can tell you, however, is that the nature of the South Island has thrilled me like no other place!

Map New Zealand North and South Island

The South Island of New Zealand has just about one million inhabitants, who are distributed over an area of 150,437 km² (which is more than twice the area of the state of Bavaria). So if you are on the road here, you are often alone! The South Island can be divided into seven regions: Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough, Westcoast, Canterbury, Otago and Southland. I would like to introduce you to the individual regions together with my favorite places.

The country is characterized by the Maori culture. It is still an important part of the inhabitants and can be experienced during a visit to the country.

The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and today still make up 14% of the country’s population. The Maori culture is characterized by performing arts and legends! To learn about this culture, there are tribal meeting centers called „Marae“ throughout the country. In the Canterbury region on the South Island, for example, there is the possibility to visit such a „Marae“.

The starting point of my New Zealand trip: The Canterbury Region

For me and for most visitors to the South Island of New Zealand, the starting point of the trip is the Canterbury region. This is where the largest city on the island is located: Christchurch. With an international airport, Christchurch is simply the ideal starting point! The city has over 300,000 inhabitants, accordingly one third of the South Islanders live in Christchurch.

Canterbury is the largest region of the South Island in terms of area and also the administrative seat. On the eastern border of the region is the Pacific Ocean. The west, the north and the south are characterized by the New Zealand Alps. In the middle of the region, there is a great view, because here are the Canterbury Plains.

New Zealand - Canterbury Region, Astro-Café Lake Tekapo, South Island
Astrocafé Lake Tekapo

For me, Canterbury is my secret favorite. But this is not because I didn’t like the other regions. I would even say that they are in no way inferior to the Canterbury region. However, the region is still my favorite! The simple reason is that it was the first thing I saw of New Zealand. The fascination and enthusiasm that I immediately felt has simply remained in my memory. That’s why Canterbury simply has its own place in my heart.

My favorite places in Canterbury are Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo. I had also been looking forward to these beautiful lakes for a long time before the trip. The first place I went to was Lake Tekapo! The drive from Christchurch takes about four hours and leads through beautiful landscapes – that makes you want more! Since I traveled New Zealand with a campervan, the first port of call was the campsite directly on the lake. To travel the country by car, I can only recommend. Because so you are really free to stop where it is just beautiful. That is my personal epitome of freedom.

Should you also come to Lake Tekapo, then you can’t miss the Mount John Observatory! The observatory is located on a mountain near the lake. You can either walk up there (about 45min hike from Tekapo) or drive up. If you choose to drive, the last part of the road will cost you 8 NZD – the road is a private road. At the top you can enjoy the view and have a snack at the Astro Café.

Action and adventure in Otago region

South of Canterbury is the region of Otago. It is the second largest region of the island and I didn’t see everything of the region on my trip! But I especially liked the area around Queenstown and the town of Wanaka.

On a trip to the South Island of New Zealand, you can not really get around the city of Queenstown. It is the city of backpackers, adventurers and adrenaline lovers! I would say that there is nothing action-packed that you can’t experience here – from bungee jumping, rafting, and skydiving to scenic flights and kayaking! If you’re into that kind of thing, Queenstown is the place to be. And while you’re in Queenstown, don’t miss the burgers from Fergburger. They were the best burgers I’ve ever had!

South Island New Zealand: Roys Peak in Otago Region at Lake Wanaka
Roys Peak

However, I liked the town of Wanaka even better than Queenstown. The place is with about 6500 inhabitants more contemplative and quieter than Queenstown. In addition, things are not quite as wild here! However, this does not mean that it is boring in Wanaka. I rented a kayak here to paddle a relaxing lap on Lake Wanaka against a stunning mountain backdrop, and set out the next night at two in the morning to climb Roys Peak! A hike that is unforgettable and I can only recommend to everyone. At the top of the mountain you can overlook the entire surrounding area and the sunrise is a spectacle in itself! The hike to the top takes three to four hours and it’s really all uphill. But the effort is rewarded.

Waterfalls in the Southland Region

Unfortunately I could not visit many places in the Southland region. There was not enough time. But I was able to visit one of the most beautiful places on my trip in the region: Milford Sound! The fjord is located on the west coast of the South Island and can only be reached via a path that leads through the town of Te Anau. The best way to explore the fjord is by boat. For a boat tour there are many boats of some providers in the harbor of Milford Sound. A trip with Southland Discoveries is worthwhile, because there is also an underwater museum in one of the boats!

New Zealand South Island: Milford Sound waterfall in Southland Region
Milford Sound

During the boat trip you pass beautiful waterfalls and with a little luck you can even spot seals. The nature in this environment really impressed me!

Westcoast – the wild region

The Westcoast region is located, who would have thought it, on the west coast of the island. The nature there is wild, because it has to withstand the winds of the sea. On the way to the Franz Josef Glacier you drive along the beautiful coast – that’s a highlight in itself!

New Zealand Westcoast region: Franz Josef Glacier at the South Island
At Franz Josef Gletscher

Besides that, a hike to the Franz Josef Glacier is also very nice. I had never seen a glacier before, so the mass of ice and the ice-blue color impressed me very much. On the other hand, this hike also made me sad. Through the information signs, one learns how far the glacier actually once reached. In these moments I became really aware that this earth must be protected at all costs!

I also liked the place Punakaiki. It is located at the so-called Pancake Rocks, which you can walk through there. The Pancake Rocks are rocks that have taken on the shape of stacked pancakes due to the wild conditions of the coast.

Tasman region

New Zealand, Abel Tasman National Park, at the Tasman Coast Track
In the Abel Tasman National park

The Abel Tasman National Park is what the Tasman region is all about! The national park makes up 225 km2 and is home to many secluded bays and stunning beaches. If you have three days, you should not miss the Abel Tasman Coast Track. On three days you hike here along the coast and can camp on excellent sites. However, I only opted for a day hike, which also offered many great views! If you don’t want to explore the area on foot, you can also rent a kayak or take a water cab.


The Nelson region is the smallest district of the South Island. Except for the city of the same name, I don’t think there is that much to see. Because of this I drove through the city only once and enjoyed the view from the promenade to the sea!

Nelson belongs with over 45,000 inhabitants to one of the larger cities of the South Island. Here you can stroll leisurely, walk along the promenade or visit the Farmers Market. If you don’t have so much time on the South Island, you can skip this region.


The Marlborough District borders directly on Nelson and is for many the first point of contact with the South Island after visiting the North Island. This is because the harbor town of Picton is located here, which can be reached from the North Island by ferry. The ferry ride leads through the idyllic Marlborough Sounds, which can also be explored on a hike.

I hiked the Snout Track to get to know the beautiful area better. The hike is not really strenuous and always allows a view of the water. Simply wonderful!

Conclusion about New Zealand’s South Island

I hope I could give you a good overview of the South Island of New Zealand. If you are now curious about the country, I can recommend my other New Zealand posts on my blog. There you will find even more information and tips for your New Zealand trip and a detailed description of my New Zealand travel route!

So far the contribution of Phine with her impressions of the regions of the South Island of New Zealand. At the moment New Zealand is almost inaccessible due to corona – the island has closed itself off. Travel plans can probably be started again only for the year 2022 meaningfully.

Nevertheless, New Zealand is always a dream destination for many. Breathtaking landscapes, the influence of active volcanoes and the charm of the islands always inspire the imagination and arouse the desire to travel. Movies like „Lord of the Rings“ or the „Hobbit“ contribute with their fantasy stories to the New Zealand myth. Just the knowledge that these film landscapes exist for the most part real, provide for numerous curious people who want to see the fairy tale world of New Zealand with their own eyes. Even the Austrian painter and „architecture – doctor“ Friedensreich Hundertwasser was a great New Zealand – admirer and spent much time of his life there. He has even created a flag for reconciliation with the Maori – natives for New Zealand.

Travel tips for New Zealand’s South Island

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Tourist travel to New Zealand possible again

For more than 2 years New Zealand has been completely closed off because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the year 2022 a gradual opening takes place. From May 2, 2022 tourist travel to New Zealand is possible again – condition is a complete vaccination against Covid-19. VISA for tourists and also in work-and-travel – programs are now issued again for New Zealand.

Time and time zone New Zealand

New Zealand is a very distant Island. From Central Europe it is half around the globe! That is, the time zone is shifted by -12 hours compared to the „world time“ UTC from the Greenwich Meridian. But in the New Zealand summer from about September to April there is daylight saving time, then the time difference is -12 hours to Central European Time (CET). Look at the display on the right side, here you can compare with the current time in Christchurch / New Zealand. So far away, New Zealand has its own time zone – the NZST „New Zealand Standard Time“, (NZDT = New Zealand Daylight saving Time).

Weather at New Zealand’s Southern Island

The weather in New Zealand is – how could it be otherwise – strongly influenced by the maritime climate. This means more frequent precipitation and faster weather changes. You should be prepared for this. The South Island is on average a bit cooler. Winter temperatures are 2-12°C, summer temperatures between 12 and 23°C in the long-term average.

Current weather and temperature data for Christchurch in the Canterbury region is shown in the small graphic on the right.

Money in New Zealand

The currency used in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). The easiest way is to withdraw this currency locally at ATMs. For this purpose, common credit cards (VISA, AmEx) can be used. Payment by credit card is also possible. This usually costs „foreign currency fees“, which your bank charges for the exchange.

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Image source in guest post: phinetravels; product photos: Manufacturer/ Dealer

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