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8 Reasons to Visit the South Island in 2021

8 Reasons to Visit the South Island in 2021

North Islanders, I have some news for you! Did you know that, just a short ferry ride away, sits quite possibly the most beautiful island on Earth? You’ve probably heard of the South Island already, and you may have even been there, but with international travel off the cards for much of 2021, it’s time to really discover the gem of New Zealand – the South Island. So, here are 10 good reasons to visit the South Island this year! Note: This post is obviously aimed at New Zealand, as our borders are closed to foreign tourists and will be for most of 2021. Be inspired to visit in 2022 though, it’s going to be a great year!

It’s easy

With fast, cheap flights from places like Auckland and Wellington, the South Island is quick, cheap, and convenient to visit. You could leave Auckland in the morning and be eating lunch on a mountain trail in Queenstown within a few hours. Of course, there’s always the looming threat of lockdowns, but even if your flight gets cancelled you won’t lose out on too much money (assuming your flight was cheap). One way to keep the risks down is to not book hotels, tours and vehicle hire until the last minute, or make sure you can easily cancel them.

There are heaps of mountains

Perhaps the best reason to visit the South Island is to see the spectacular Southern Alps up close. This mountain range covers most of the island and there are countless hikes, viewpoints, and scenic drives to explore. I can guarantee even the most well-travelled North Islanders (and most southern locals) won’t have come close to seeing everything the Southern Alps have to offer.


I know a lot of people talk down on Dunedin, mostly due to its perceived bad weather, but this southern city has a lot to offer in terms of scenery, hikes, beaches, and city sights. There are around 30 beaches within a short drive of Dunedin, most of which have viewpoints and short hikes nearby. There are also some great city viewpoints (Mount Cargill in particular), waterfalls, wildlife (penguins, sea lions, birds), St Clair Beach (the best city beach in New Zealand – prove me wrong!) and the old-school city centre featuring some of New Zeeland’s best architecture. Think you know Dunedin? Visit again and really explore!

READ MORE: Why Dunedin is New Zealand’s Coolest, Best Looking City

The West Coast

It’s hard to pick a “most beautiful place in New Zealand” winner, but the West Coast would have to be up there (it’s a big place though, so that may be a little unfair to all the smaller ones). Take a few days to explore and you’ll see so many amazing sights, including Hokitika Gorge, glacier views in Franz Josef, the exotic river trails near Punakaiki (and the famous Pancake Rocks) and heaps of nice beaches, mountain viewpoints and lakes.

We Need You

The tourism industry is obviously struggling everywhere, but in New Zealand the hardest hit places include tourist towns like Queenstown, Te Anau and Franz Josef. These towns are a long way from the major centres and have a daunting 2021 ahead. Help out some of our most scenic towns by visiting soon – it’s the best time to do it as these places are a lot quieter without international tourists.

The Changing Seasons

I’m assuming you, the mystery North Islander reading this, has been to the South Island before. But when did you go? Was it summer, when the days are long and the mountains are lacking in the snow department? Go in winter, it’ll look a lot different (especially places like Queenstown). Have you ever been to Arrowtown during Autumn, or Lake Tekapo when the lupins are out? I think you should!

But I’ve already been there…

So, you’ve been to Milford Sound before, so why go again? But did you do the Gertrude Saddle Track, or see Key Summit, or do the Milford Sound boat trip in pouring rain, with hundreds of waterfalls cascading around you? How about Doubtful Sound?

You’ve been to Queenstown? But did you visit Bobs Cove, and its unique view of Lake Wakatipu? Or how about Paradise, Kinloch, or the Ben Lomond Track. I’ve been to Queenstown, Milford Sound and most other places in the South Island multiple times, and there’s always something new to see. No matter where you’ve been already in the South Island, I can be there are heaps of cool things that you missed!

It could be your best adventure yet

I know a lot of people, myself included, are stuck in New Zealand for the foreseeable future. That’s thousands of honeymoons, OEs, holidays and extended bouts of travelling cancelled. Why not adjust your thinking slightly and do those things on the South Island instead? You could do your “OE” in Nelson or Hokitika, have your honeymoon in Queenstown or Wanaka, or go on extended backpacking trip around the island. The things you’re seeing are as good, if not better than what you’ll see overseas (in terms of scenery at least) and it’ll be an adventure you’ll never forget if you have the right attitude. I’ve gotten to know the South Island well over the last four years and I think it’s very underrated by New Zealanders, especially North Islanders.

Have I convinced you to visit the South Island in 2021? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.

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