The ultimate guide to planning your New Zealand South Island holiday

Make the most of a visit to the incredible South Island of New Zealand with these key considerations to help you plan the ultimate adventure.  
With so many wonderful things to see and do in New Zealand’s South Island (Te Waipounamu in Māori), it pays to be prepared so that you can make the most of your trip and tick off all the must-dos on your bucket list. Here’s our ultimate guide to planning your New Zealand South Island holiday so you know the best times to go, what to see and do, what to budget for and what to pack.  

When to go? 

The spring and summer months are the best times of the year to experience the South Island’s varied landscapes and visitor attractions. 

Spring (September to November) sees longer days (daylight saving time begins at the end of September) and warmer weather, with an average daytime temperature of 16 degrees Celsius. You’ll also benefit from fewer crowds than in the summer months when many Kiwis take their well-deserved summer holiday. 
December to February presents the opportunity to experience the great Kiwi summer, with average temperatures in the South Island around 22 degrees Celsius. You’ll likely see the native Pohutukawa tree, a marker of the festive period in New Zealand with its distinctive red flowers in full bloom. 

During the winter months (June to August), skiers and snowboarders typically descend on the South Island for the ski season and some attractions, such as walking tracks, can close due to the unpredictable weather conditions. 
Tui bird on Pohutukawa tree 

Must-see attractions 

Whether it’s cruising through the majestic peaks of Milford Sound, whale-spotting in Kaikoura, viewing the elusive national kiwi bird, or experiencing the thrill of Queenstown’s world-famous adventure activities, some of New Zealand’s most iconic attractions are found in the South Island. 

But there are also lesser-known treasures waiting to be discovered on a South Island trip. The small town of Blenheim is home to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, where you can view Sir Peter Jackson’s collection of WWI and WWII aircraft. On the west coast, the fittingly named Punakaiki Pancake Rocks are a geological marvel with their limestone formations that resemble stacks of pancakes – watch as water from the ocean shoots upwards from blowholes, creating an impressive wall of spray. 
The cities of the South Island offer attractions that provide an insight into New Zealand’s history and culture. In Christchurch, experience an interactive Māori performance at Ko Tāne, while learning about the history of Aotearoa and the customs and traditions of the indigenous Māori people. 

On the Otago peninsula, visit the city of Dunedin, home to New Zealand’s only castle, Larnach Castle, and its celebrated gardens before touring the historic Speights Brewery, which has been brewing beer since 1876. 
Maori performance 

What budget do I need? 

With Evergreen, all the must-see sights and experiences are included in the tour price. On this trip, 25 meals are included, as are the airport transfers. Some dinners are not included so that you can make the most of experiencing the local dining scene. If you’d like to tailor your holiday, optional Discover More excursions could include a helicopter flight over Franz Josef Glacier or a daytrip to Fox Glacier, which are available at a small extra cost. 
 Franz Joseph Glacier 

What to pack? 

The weather in the South Island is generally cooler than in the North Island, particularly in the southern regions like Otago and on the west coast, which is known for its unpredictable weather. To be safe, pack warm layers and water-resistant options.

  • Merino wool layers are ideal for travelling in the South Island, especially when enjoying the great outdoors. Merino is known for its insulating properties while being lightweight and breathable.  
  • A waterproof jacket is essential in case of heavy rain, especially when travelling through the west coast. 
  • A good camera with sufficient hard drive space or film to capture your South Island memories. Don’t forget extra batteries or your charger! 
  • Comfortable shoes with soles that have a good grip are ideal for outdoor activities. 
  • An SPF 50+ sunscreen and a sunhat – the sun in New Zealand is very strong, especially during the summer months. Ensure you bring a good sunscreen and a hat to avoid sunburn. 



New Zealand’s South Island has such a variety of stunning sights and experiences waiting for you. Now you know when to go and what to pack, you can start planning your South Island holiday. 

Read more about Evergreen’s New Zealand South Island or Evergreen’s South Island Discovery tour

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