Southern Lakes Holidays
This picturesque southern corner of New Zealand has achieved almost legendary status for its superb scenery and range of adrenaline-charged activities, including skiing. Stunning throughout the seasons, you don’t have to be a thrill-seeker to enjoy the resort towns of Queenstown, Lake Wanaka and Te Anau.
Popular Southern Lakes Holidays
Essential New Zealand
New Zealand by Rail, Cruise and Coach
Ultimate Rail, Cruise and Coach Experience
Whale and Dolphin Explorer
New Zealand by Motorhome
4×4 Hike and Drive
Some might say the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown is the place where just about everything is possible and anything is likely. Boasting an incredible location on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, in front of the impressive Remarkables mountain range, nature has purpose built this area for adventure.
It has a well earned reputation for offering adrenaline fuelled activities and will not disappoint even the most fearless visitor. It is here that bungy jumping first became a commercial venture back in the late eighties and since then a whole host of extreme activities have developed including white water surfing, jet-boating, canyoning, luging and parapenting. Added to that the more traditional pursuits of rafting, wind-surfing, horse-riding, mountain biking and skiing in winter and the only problem is finding the time to fit it all in!
However, you don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to appreciate Queenstown’s appeal. There is also much available for those wanting indulgence and relaxation, from the fine wines of the region to the many shops. The best mountain views are to be had from the Skyline Gondola, which has a panoramic restaurant, overlooking the town and Lake Wakatipu, where scenic cruises on a historic steamboat are on offer. A quality range of accommodation, restaurants, and lively bars and cafes complement the superb surrounds of one of New Zealand’s most relaxing and pleasant towns.
With all the charm but less of the hype, Lake Wanaka rivals Queenstown for scenery and adventure. It is more laid-back and enjoys a certain tranquillity that is favoured by many visitors. Mirrored in the lake’s placid waters is the incredibly scenic backdrop of Mt. Aspiring and the Southern Alps and within easy access is the West Coast, Fiordland and Mt Cook.
Quite apart from the obvious attraction of the landscape, Wanaka offers much for the visitor to see and do. There are several museums in town, including the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum, which is quite appropriate in a town that offers a range of aerial activities ranging from paragliding to sightseeing by Tiger Moth. Another worthwhile distraction is the intriguing Puzzling World, two miles out of town, featuring a 1.5 km maze designed to confuse!
For those looking to get out and about, there is a choice of easy day walks and boat cruises on the lake as well as a host of more adventurous activities such as canyoning, kayaking, mountain biking, horse riding and jeep safaris. During the winter months, Wanaka is a popular ski resort with three internationally rated ski areas.
The small town of Te Anau is best known as the gateway to the serene landscapes of Fiordland National Park. A very pretty lakeside community, it is the nearest town to Milford and Doubtful Sounds as well as many of the great walks of this area. It is a lively little town of waterfront cafes and restaurants and offers all manner of activities. The focus of many of these is Lake Te Anau itself. Several scenic cruises operate as well as motor boats, kayaks, jet-skis and rowing boats.
Perhaps the most popular and well-known excursion on offer is the cruise to the Te Anau caves. These are impressive limestone caverns of underground waterfalls, whirlpools and a magical glow worm grotto. Te Anau’s National Park Museum and Wildlife Centre offer the chance to get acquainted with the ecology and wildlife of the region and one of its rare birds, the endangered and flightless takahe.
Fiordland and Milford Sound
One of New Zealand’s most famous attractions, Milford Sound with its views of the distinctive Mitre Peak, is the most visited fiord in the country and is certainly no disappointment. More accessible than the equally spectacular Doubtful Sound, a day or overnight cruise on the usually calm inlet waters of Milford, feature on most South Island itineraries.
Accessible via an unbelievable scenic overland route, a cruise or scenic flight over Milford Sound offer close-up views of the countless waterfalls that stream down the slopes of the precipitous ice-carved mountains, which are draped in moss and bordered by fern-filled forests. Seals and penguins can be spotted on rocks below the sheer cliffs and bottlenose dolphins will sometimes bow-ride the passenger boats. Although the area receives higher than average rainfall, this only adds to the dramatic atmosphere of the place.
The other way to explore Milford is on foot. The Milford Track has long been considered one of the best in the world and is suitably very popular. A booking system is now in place to ensure that the track does not become overcrowded, but the effect of this means that advance booking is imperative. However, the Hollyford and Routeburn Tracks make more than adequate alternatives.