South Island
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Our most recommended South Island National parks

Kaikoura: Whale Watching Cruise

1. Kaikoura: Whale Watching Cruise

Take a whale-watching cruise off the Kaikoura coast, and see giant sperm whales in their natural environment. Enjoy onboard commentary as you encounter a range of wildlife, including fur seals, pods of dolphins, and the endangered wandering albatross. Set sail on a catamaran, equipped with engines that minimize underwater noise and nonpolluting toilets. Take in the views from the large outdoor decks or stay inside the air-conditioned interiors with comfortable seating and plasma screens displaying marine wildlife animations. Gain an insight into the habitat with scientific information and indigenous knowledge about these creatures from the crew. Passenger numbers are kept well below the vessel's capacity to ensure a more personal experience.

Queenstown: Milford Sound Coach & Cruise Full-Day Trip

2. Queenstown: Milford Sound Coach & Cruise Full-Day Trip

Enjoy a fun and leisurely day trip to admire the glacial features, wild flora and fauna, and picturesque backdrops of the world-famous fiord at Milford Sound. Start with pickup for the bus journey to Te Anau. Your driver will share their local knowledge as you stop along the way to see spectacular scenery. Marvel at views of waterfalls, wildlife, and the rainforest. Soak up the sights from any of the three indoor and outdoor viewing decks during your cruise and join your jovial crew at the bow as you nose close to Stirling Falls to feel the spray from some of the world's freshest water.  Benefit from complimentary tea service is available for the entire cruise and, snacks cakes and drinks can be purchased from onboard cafe / bar.

Te Anau: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour

3. Te Anau: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour

Experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of hundreds of glowworms.  Your trip to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves begins with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau. At the entry to the caves, view the informative displays and learn about this geological wonder before you head underground. On the tour of the caves, your friendly guide will point out the highlights and share their knowledge of the caves and its history. This underground world is astonishingly beautiful. The caves are 12,000 years old which by geological standards is still very young and they are still being carved out by the force of the river that flows through them. The result is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall. Deep inside the caves, beyond the roar of the water, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms, unique to New Zealand. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a glittering display that is nothing short of extraordinary.

Milford Sound: 2-Hour Small Boat Scenic Cruise

4. Milford Sound: 2-Hour Small Boat Scenic Cruise

Sit back and relax as your cruise departs from Milford Sound Wharf, and makes its way out past the iconic Mitre Peak. Cruise the length of the 16km fiord, out past St Annes Point Lighthouse, while listening to informative commentary from our skipper who will highlight points of interest along the way including the mighty Lady Bowen Falls, Lion Mountain, Copper Point, Seal Rock and Stirling Falls. We go further, and get you closer than any other operator in Milford Sound. Whether you choose to keep warm with a complimentary tea/coffee seated inside our lounge or want to get outside and breathe in the pristine alpine air, you are going to be inspired by the majesty of the region. Our cruises have strictly limited passenger numbers, rewarding you with an intimate experience of Milford Sound while allowing for unobstructed photo opportunities from our outdoor viewing decks. Be sure to keep an eye out for seals basking in the sun, pods of dolphins or rare Fiordland Crested Penguins that can be found seasonally within the region.

Milford Sound: Nature Cruise on a Modern Catamaran

5. Milford Sound: Nature Cruise on a Modern Catamaran

Climb aboard one of the most recently refurbished vessels in the fiord for a Milford Sound nature cruise. Capture the best views of the incredible fiord with three-levels of indoor and outdoor seating, large windows and spacious viewing decks. Be welcomed on board by a friendly crew and marvel at one of the most stunning places on earth. Relax in the comfortable seating and feel relaxed in the knowledge you won't miss a moment of Milford, as high-definition cameras project outdoor footage live onto TV screens throughout the vessel. Admire New Zealand fur seals basking on rocks and feel the spray of cascading waterfalls. Look out for playful dolphins and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the rare and elusive Fiordland Crested Penguin. Travel the length of the fiord and out into the Tasman Sea, to see why Captain Cook failed to discover Milford Sound after charting the Fiordland National Park.

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Cruise and Coach Day Trip

6. From Queenstown: Milford Sound Cruise and Coach Day Trip

Travel to Milford Sound for an extended nature cruise on a day trip from Queenstown. Experience one of the most beautiful drives in the world in the comfort of a state-of-the-coach. Board the luxury glass-roof coach in Queenstown and journey along the shores of Lake Whakatipu into rolling countryside through to Te Anau. Here we take a short rest stop at a cafe before continuing along the spectacular alpine route of the Milford Road. Enjoy spectacular photo stops and short walks along the way. Relax on the 2-hour cruise of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea and admire the fiord’s wildlife, waterfalls and mountains. Our experienced skippers tailor each Milford Sound cruise, considering the weather and recent wildlife sightings, ensuring you'll see the best Milford Sound has to offer. Specialist nature guides will provide live informative commentary.Our vessels have large windows, spacious decks and offer uninterrupted views of the dramatic Fiordland landscape. Experience the cool spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces.  You can bring your own lunch or purchase delicious locally curated dishes, wines, craft beer and barista coffees on-board. Following the cruise, board the coach for your return journey to Queenstown.

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Plane & Boat

7. From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Plane & Boat

Take off from Queenstown, and fly above the rugged backcountry of Central Otago, before heading westward to where the glacial fed rivers empty into Lake Wakatipu. Witness what the power of nature has created over the years, as you journey over two remarkable National Parks; Mt Aspiring and the world heritage listed Fiordland National Park. On arrival in Milford Sound, join your purpose-built small boat for a comfortable two-hour cruise through one of the world’s natural wonders. Make your way out past the iconic Mitre Peak and cruise the length of the fiord while our skipper highlights points of interest along the way, including the mighty Bowen Falls, Lion Mountain, Copper Point, Seal Rock and Stirling Falls. Keep an eye out for wildlife that can be found in the region including seals, pods of dolphins and the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin (seasonal). Complete your journey with a birds-eye view of the largely untouched region as you fly back over the Southern Alps and are welcomed to the incredibly blue Lake Wakatipu upon landing in Queenstown.

Queenstown: TSS Earnslaw Cruise & Walter Peak w/ Gourmet BBQ

8. Queenstown: TSS Earnslaw Cruise & Walter Peak w/ Gourmet BBQ

Cruise to Walter Peak High Country Farm across Queenstown’s Lake Whakatipu onboard the historic TSS Earnslaw. Feel free to take advantage of the extensive lay-out of this incredible steamship – she is a floating museum of her own history, and you are more than welcome to enter the engine room where you can watch our hardy coal-stokers as they keep this beautiful lady of the lake gliding across the waters of Lake Whakatipu.Once at the lakeside Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant savour the delicious aromas as our chef has the best of local produce sizzling away on the grill. The buffet includes salads, vegetables, and succulent local meats cooked on the wood-fired BBQ. There is a wide range of delicious desserts on offer, including a vast array of fresh bread and cheese.Overlooking Lake Whakatipu and Queenstown's alpine scenery, the Colonel’s Homestead at Walter Peak High Country Farm is the perfect place to spend a few hours. Its colonial architecture and sweeping grounds evoke the elegance of a bygone era. An entertaining farm demonstration the whole family will enjoy is also included. If there is time remaining, explore the beautiful lakeside gardens before re-boarding onto the TSS Earnslaw for the return trip to Queenstown. 

From Manapouri: Premium Doubtful Sound Wilderness Day Trip

9. From Manapouri: Premium Doubtful Sound Wilderness Day Trip

Please note: the temporary 10am option added to allow for more guests to visit will be a shorter round trip: 5 hours 45 minutes (including a 2 hour cruise of Doubtful Sound Inner Fiords), compared with the 7 hour round trip (including 3 hour cruise of Doubtful Sound). Spend a day in the remote wilderness of Doubtful Sound, located in the heart of Fiordland National Park and three times longer than Milford Sound. Self-drive to Manapouri and board a cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus trip across Wilmot Pass. Stop en route to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest. At Deep Cove, board the Patea Explorer, a purpose-built catamaran, for a 3-hour cruise on Doubtful Sound. See waterfalls, rainforests, and mountains during the cruise. You might spot the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins, the colony of fur seals at the mouth of the fiord, or even rare Fiordland crested penguins. During the cruise, knowledgeable nature guides will provide informative commentary.  When it rains in Fiordland, the landscape is dramatic - rock faces stream with waterfalls, mist hangs around the tops of the mountains, and rivers and streams rage.  From a dry comfortable vantage point on board the bus or vessel, this landscape is spectacular. Be prepared for rainfall during your visit. Many say you have not seen Fiordland unless you have seen it in the rain. At the end of your tour, be returned to the departure point.

Milford Sound: Cruise and Underwater Observatory

10. Milford Sound: Cruise and Underwater Observatory

Explore the beauty of the fiord on a vessel that’s purpose-built for the best daytime viewing. Set off on a day-trip that includes complimentary tea and coffee, and a visit to the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory. Climb aboard a smaller vessel at the Milford Sound Cruise Terminal to discover more of the fiord on an authentic and insightful experience. Get within touching distance of impressive rock walls and waterfalls. Join the skipper in the open wheelhouse and say hello to the native seals basking on the rocks as you pass them by. A knowledgeable local guide will ensure you discover the wildlife, nature, and history of this remarkable sanctuary. Visit the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory, New Zealand's only floating underwater observatory for an experience unlike any other. Hidden under the surface in Harrison Cove in the middle of Piopiotahi Marine Reserve, the Observatory enables you to experience a different perspective of the fiord. Descend 64 steps (10-metres) underwater into a large, fully air-conditioned viewing area and peer out through large windows at the deep underwater haven. Unlike an aquarium, the fish are free to come and go; it’s the people who are contained.

South Island

South Island

Our most recommended South Island National parks

Kaikoura: Whale Watching Cruise

Kaikoura: Whale Watching Cruise

Take a whale-watching cruise off the Kaikoura coast, and see giant sperm whales in their natural environment. Enjoy onboard commentary as you encounter a range of wildlife, including fur seals, pods of dolphins, and the endangered wandering albatross. Set sail on a catamaran, equipped with engines that minimize underwater noise and nonpolluting toilets. Take in the views from the large outdoor decks or stay inside the air-conditioned interiors with comfortable seating and plasma screens displaying marine wildlife animations. Gain an insight into the habitat with scientific information and indigenous knowledge about these creatures from the crew. Passenger numbers are kept well below the vessel's capacity to ensure a more personal experience.

Queenstown: Milford Sound Coach & Cruise Full-Day Trip

Queenstown: Milford Sound Coach & Cruise Full-Day Trip

Enjoy a fun and leisurely day trip to admire the glacial features, wild flora and fauna, and picturesque backdrops of the world-famous fiord at Milford Sound. Start with pickup for the bus journey to Te Anau. Your driver will share their local knowledge as you stop along the way to see spectacular scenery. Marvel at views of waterfalls, wildlife, and the rainforest. Soak up the sights from any of the three indoor and outdoor viewing decks during your cruise and join your jovial crew at the bow as you nose close to Stirling Falls to feel the spray from some of the world's freshest water.  Benefit from complimentary tea service is available for the entire cruise and, snacks cakes and drinks can be purchased from onboard cafe / bar.

Te Anau: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour

Te Anau: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour

Experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of hundreds of glowworms.  Your trip to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves begins with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau. At the entry to the caves, view the informative displays and learn about this geological wonder before you head underground. On the tour of the caves, your friendly guide will point out the highlights and share their knowledge of the caves and its history. This underground world is astonishingly beautiful. The caves are 12,000 years old which by geological standards is still very young and they are still being carved out by the force of the river that flows through them. The result is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall. Deep inside the caves, beyond the roar of the water, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms, unique to New Zealand. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a glittering display that is nothing short of extraordinary.

Milford Sound: 2-Hour Small Boat Scenic Cruise

Milford Sound: 2-Hour Small Boat Scenic Cruise

Sit back and relax as your cruise departs from Milford Sound Wharf, and makes its way out past the iconic Mitre Peak. Cruise the length of the 16km fiord, out past St Annes Point Lighthouse, while listening to informative commentary from our skipper who will highlight points of interest along the way including the mighty Lady Bowen Falls, Lion Mountain, Copper Point, Seal Rock and Stirling Falls. We go further, and get you closer than any other operator in Milford Sound. Whether you choose to keep warm with a complimentary tea/coffee seated inside our lounge or want to get outside and breathe in the pristine alpine air, you are going to be inspired by the majesty of the region. Our cruises have strictly limited passenger numbers, rewarding you with an intimate experience of Milford Sound while allowing for unobstructed photo opportunities from our outdoor viewing decks. Be sure to keep an eye out for seals basking in the sun, pods of dolphins or rare Fiordland Crested Penguins that can be found seasonally within the region.

Milford Sound: Nature Cruise on a Modern Catamaran

Milford Sound: Nature Cruise on a Modern Catamaran

Climb aboard one of the most recently refurbished vessels in the fiord for a Milford Sound nature cruise. Capture the best views of the incredible fiord with three-levels of indoor and outdoor seating, large windows and spacious viewing decks. Be welcomed on board by a friendly crew and marvel at one of the most stunning places on earth. Relax in the comfortable seating and feel relaxed in the knowledge you won't miss a moment of Milford, as high-definition cameras project outdoor footage live onto TV screens throughout the vessel. Admire New Zealand fur seals basking on rocks and feel the spray of cascading waterfalls. Look out for playful dolphins and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the rare and elusive Fiordland Crested Penguin. Travel the length of the fiord and out into the Tasman Sea, to see why Captain Cook failed to discover Milford Sound after charting the Fiordland National Park.

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Cruise and Coach Day Trip

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Cruise and Coach Day Trip

Travel to Milford Sound for an extended nature cruise on a day trip from Queenstown. Experience one of the most beautiful drives in the world in the comfort of a state-of-the-coach. Board the luxury glass-roof coach in Queenstown and journey along the shores of Lake Whakatipu into rolling countryside through to Te Anau. Here we take a short rest stop at a cafe before continuing along the spectacular alpine route of the Milford Road. Enjoy spectacular photo stops and short walks along the way. Relax on the 2-hour cruise of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea and admire the fiord’s wildlife, waterfalls and mountains. Our experienced skippers tailor each Milford Sound cruise, considering the weather and recent wildlife sightings, ensuring you'll see the best Milford Sound has to offer. Specialist nature guides will provide live informative commentary.Our vessels have large windows, spacious decks and offer uninterrupted views of the dramatic Fiordland landscape. Experience the cool spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces.  You can bring your own lunch or purchase delicious locally curated dishes, wines, craft beer and barista coffees on-board. Following the cruise, board the coach for your return journey to Queenstown.

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Plane & Boat

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Plane & Boat

Take off from Queenstown, and fly above the rugged backcountry of Central Otago, before heading westward to where the glacial fed rivers empty into Lake Wakatipu. Witness what the power of nature has created over the years, as you journey over two remarkable National Parks; Mt Aspiring and the world heritage listed Fiordland National Park. On arrival in Milford Sound, join your purpose-built small boat for a comfortable two-hour cruise through one of the world’s natural wonders. Make your way out past the iconic Mitre Peak and cruise the length of the fiord while our skipper highlights points of interest along the way, including the mighty Bowen Falls, Lion Mountain, Copper Point, Seal Rock and Stirling Falls. Keep an eye out for wildlife that can be found in the region including seals, pods of dolphins and the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin (seasonal). Complete your journey with a birds-eye view of the largely untouched region as you fly back over the Southern Alps and are welcomed to the incredibly blue Lake Wakatipu upon landing in Queenstown.

Queenstown: TSS Earnslaw Cruise & Walter Peak w/ Gourmet BBQ

Queenstown: TSS Earnslaw Cruise & Walter Peak w/ Gourmet BBQ

Cruise to Walter Peak High Country Farm across Queenstown’s Lake Whakatipu onboard the historic TSS Earnslaw. Feel free to take advantage of the extensive lay-out of this incredible steamship – she is a floating museum of her own history, and you are more than welcome to enter the engine room where you can watch our hardy coal-stokers as they keep this beautiful lady of the lake gliding across the waters of Lake Whakatipu.Once at the lakeside Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant savour the delicious aromas as our chef has the best of local produce sizzling away on the grill. The buffet includes salads, vegetables, and succulent local meats cooked on the wood-fired BBQ. There is a wide range of delicious desserts on offer, including a vast array of fresh bread and cheese.Overlooking Lake Whakatipu and Queenstown's alpine scenery, the Colonel’s Homestead at Walter Peak High Country Farm is the perfect place to spend a few hours. Its colonial architecture and sweeping grounds evoke the elegance of a bygone era. An entertaining farm demonstration the whole family will enjoy is also included. If there is time remaining, explore the beautiful lakeside gardens before re-boarding onto the TSS Earnslaw for the return trip to Queenstown. 

From Manapouri: Premium Doubtful Sound Wilderness Day Trip

From Manapouri: Premium Doubtful Sound Wilderness Day Trip

Please note: the temporary 10am option added to allow for more guests to visit will be a shorter round trip: 5 hours 45 minutes (including a 2 hour cruise of Doubtful Sound Inner Fiords), compared with the 7 hour round trip (including 3 hour cruise of Doubtful Sound). Spend a day in the remote wilderness of Doubtful Sound, located in the heart of Fiordland National Park and three times longer than Milford Sound. Self-drive to Manapouri and board a cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus trip across Wilmot Pass. Stop en route to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest. At Deep Cove, board the Patea Explorer, a purpose-built catamaran, for a 3-hour cruise on Doubtful Sound. See waterfalls, rainforests, and mountains during the cruise. You might spot the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins, the colony of fur seals at the mouth of the fiord, or even rare Fiordland crested penguins. During the cruise, knowledgeable nature guides will provide informative commentary.  When it rains in Fiordland, the landscape is dramatic - rock faces stream with waterfalls, mist hangs around the tops of the mountains, and rivers and streams rage.  From a dry comfortable vantage point on board the bus or vessel, this landscape is spectacular. Be prepared for rainfall during your visit. Many say you have not seen Fiordland unless you have seen it in the rain. At the end of your tour, be returned to the departure point.

Milford Sound: Cruise and Underwater Observatory

Milford Sound: Cruise and Underwater Observatory

Explore the beauty of the fiord on a vessel that’s purpose-built for the best daytime viewing. Set off on a day-trip that includes complimentary tea and coffee, and a visit to the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory. Climb aboard a smaller vessel at the Milford Sound Cruise Terminal to discover more of the fiord on an authentic and insightful experience. Get within touching distance of impressive rock walls and waterfalls. Join the skipper in the open wheelhouse and say hello to the native seals basking on the rocks as you pass them by. A knowledgeable local guide will ensure you discover the wildlife, nature, and history of this remarkable sanctuary. Visit the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory, New Zealand's only floating underwater observatory for an experience unlike any other. Hidden under the surface in Harrison Cove in the middle of Piopiotahi Marine Reserve, the Observatory enables you to experience a different perspective of the fiord. Descend 64 steps (10-metres) underwater into a large, fully air-conditioned viewing area and peer out through large windows at the deep underwater haven. Unlike an aquarium, the fish are free to come and go; it’s the people who are contained.

Frequently asked questions about South Island National parks

What are other things to do than National parks that are worth visiting in South Island?

The other unmissable things to do in South Island are:

Things to Do in South Island

Other Sightseeing Options in South Island

Want to discover all there is to do in South Island? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about South Island

Overall rating

4.7
(643 reviews)

Dan was amazing! Lots of knowledge and very warm & accommodating which made the tour fun for everyone.

Excellent. Murray was a brilliant guide and made the trip so much easier than going ourselves!

AJ was an excellent guide with good knowledge and a reassuring manner.

Fantastic experience, great itinerary, informative and friendly guide

Wonderful views and lots of information along the way