Despite being a third larger than the North Island, the South Island has less than one quarter of the population. Here, nature rules supreme and everything looks better in snow. Spending time in the South Island is pole-opposite of a relaxing beach holiday - you’ll find snow-capped mountains, glaciers, forests, fjords, lakes, stunning bays and sea teeming with whales, dolphins and seals.
Options are endless, the landscape is hugely varied and heading out with a hire car, beyond Christchurch, the only problem you’ll have is deciding in which direction to point it. We know New Zealand very well at Different Snow so what we’d do is weigh up the time available, listen intently to your likes / dislikes, keep a keen eye on your interests, be mindful of the budget and create a tailor-made itinerary for you to follow. We’ve done the drives, know the hotels and experienced most of the activities – so you find yourself in knowledgably hands.
Christchurch - considered the most 'English' of New Zealand's cities, standing on the edge of the Canterbury Plains, with colonial buildings, numerous parks and gardens and the willow-lined Avon River, complete with ducks, boatsheds and punts. Easy access to several ski areas – Mount Hutt being the most notable. Many of Christchurch’s famous buildings were damaged in the earthquake of 22 February 2011 but the city remains the gateway to the South Island.
Lake Tekapo - halfway between Christchurch and Queenstown. The route into town is a spectacular drive through amazing scenery. Make a dash through the cold air from the changing rooms to the piping hot pools, with awesome views of the snow-covered Southern Alps as your backdrop.
Kaikoura – a gorgeous little coastal town, renowned for its variety of marine mammals offshore. Spot sperm & humpback whales, dolphins and seals are all attracted by the rich feeding grounds. There’s no better time of year to spot a humpback, blue or southern right whale at Kaikoura than during the winter, bang in the middle of their migration from the Antarctic to the tropics they’re often spotted closer to shore in winter than at any other time.
Fiordland - Thought by the Maoris to be the work of superhuman masons, the fiords of New Zealand are stunningly beautiful, whether glistening in sunlight or dark and moody in the rain. Milford Sound is without doubt one of the most beautiful. Doubtful Sound is less visited and here, the power of nature stuns.
Marlborough Sounds - Formed by the glaciers of an ancient ice age, deep valleys were flooded by the sea, leaving a mass of bays, inlets and hidden coves. The winding, weaving Sounds are home to an abundance of wildlife, including the rare Okarito brown kiwi, which lives in the miles of coastal forest fronting the sheltered waters. To really experience the solitude and uninterrupted peace of the region you need to venture out to one of the guest houses tucked away in the coves and usually only accessible by water taxi.
Abel Tasmin National Park - famous for glorious, golden beaches and a cruisy coastal track, this region is swamped by walkers and yachties in the summertime. Despite consistently clement weather year round, the winter is your chance to savour New Zealand’s most popular national park in blissful solitude, when wildlife viewing is at its best and prices are lowest. Kayaking and tramping are great ways to see the park in winter.
West Coast - The West Coast, or ‘the Coast’ as locals call it, is a wild place of rivers and rainforests, glaciers and geological treasures. Never more than 50 kilometres wide, the whole stretch down the West Coast of the South Island - of which Greymouth is the largest town - is home to only 31,000 people. The Great Coast Road stretching from Westport to Greymouth was recently voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet – a drive made all the more special during the drama of the winter months. Visit the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers - giant rivers of ice have squeezed down the valleys to just 250 metres above sea level