Choose from 89 Fun Things to Do in South Island
- It can get chilly on the mountaintops even in summer, so bring a jacket, as well as sunscreen, suitable hiking boots, and plenty of water.
- The glacial landscapes are constantly changing and icefalls and flash floods are common, so it’s best to visit with a guide.
- Some tours and scenic flights over the Franz Josef glacier are wheelchair accessible—check with your tour operator in advance.
- The Bridge of Remembrance and its stone arch now function as a memorial site for those who also fought in conflicts after the Great War.
- Visits to the historical landmark are a must-do for war veterans and history buffs.
- The site is popular for family picnics overlooking the Avon River.
- Cashel Street is a must-see for all first-time visitors to Christchurch.
- The Riverside Market offers a boutique food shopping experience, including baked goods, produce, fish, and meats.
- The nearby Quake City multimedia exhibit provides an in-depth appreciation of Christchurch’s fall and rebuild.
- Weather in Fiordland National Park can be temperamental, especially around the fjords, so be prepared for wind and rain—even in summer.
- If you’re hiking, remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water and snacks, as there are limited places to purchase supplies.
- There is no public transportation within the park, so you’ll need to join a tour if you don’t have your own transport.
- Cell phone coverage is limited, but free Wi-Fi is available at the Fiordland National Park Visitor Center.
- Some cruises and attractions are wheelchair accessible but not all activities within the park are accessible to those with limited mobility, so it’s best to check in advance.
- Coronet Peak is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, and with daycare options and free passes for children under 5 years old, it’s a great ski field for families.
- Temperatures on the mountain can dip below freezing, so make sure to wear boots, warm layers, and waterproof jackets and pants.
- Ski and snowboarding gear, jackets, pants, and helmets are all available for rent from Coronet Peak’s rental shop.
- If heading to the nearby Remarkables ski field the next day, you can have your rental gear transferred to the field.
- Coronet Peak has two cafés and a restaurant that are open for most of the day. If you fancy a wine or beer while looking out over the Southern Alps, the Ice Bar is located just off the M1 trail.
- A local farmers market is held in front of the station every Saturday morning. It’s a great place to go if you’re self-catering in Dunedin.
- To learn more about the history of Dunedin and the gold rush that led to the building of the station, visit the nearby Toitū Otago Settlers Museum.
- Sports fans shouldn’t skip a visit to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, housed in the station building.
Known as the architectural heritage capital of New Zealand, Dunedin was once the largest and wealthiest city in the country. Sitting on the Otago Peninsula on New Zealand’s South Island, this lively university town with Scottish roots is increasingly popular among tourists.
How to Get to Dunedin
Cruise ships dock at Port Chalmers, a suburb of Dunedin located about 8 miles from the city. Shuttle buses are available to take you into the center of town, typically dropping you off at the Octagon in the heart of Dunedin. Public buses also run between Port Chalmers and Dunedin, picking passengers up from the corner of Harrington, Fox and Meridian Streets. Taxis are also available to make the 15 minute drive to Dunedin.
One Day in Dunedin
Whether you take a shuttle or a public bus, you will likely arrive in Dunedin at the Octagon – an eight-sided plaza in the center of town full of bars and cafes. Start with a visit to the Otago Museum to learn more about the region’s cultural and natural history. If you’re interested in contemporary art, stop at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery on the southwestern corner of the Octagon as well. Spend some time checking out the charming Victorian and Edwardian architecture of the city, including Otago University and the Railway Station. Then, head over to bustling George Street, just off of the Octagon, to peruse some of Dunedin’s best shops before taking a break for lunch at one of the many restaurants lining the street.
After lunch, it’s time for dessert! Make your way to Cadbury World on Cumberland Street, where you can sample Cadbury chocolate or even take a guided tour of the factory. Beer-lovers may want to follow that up with a tour of Speight’s Brewery, home of the South Island’s most popular beer. Or, pay a visit to the Royal Albatross Center at Taiaroa Head, home to the world’s only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross.
Time permitting, you might also head out to New Zealand’s only castle, Larnach Castle. Sitting on a hilltop a few miles outside of the city, the castle is another example of Victorian architecture and offers spectacular views of Dunedin Bay. Or, save some time to explore the galleries, boutiques and antique shops of Port Chalmers before returning to your ship.
Those wishing to see more of the region surrounding Dunedin might consider an excursion on the Taieri Gorge Railway, a four hour trip with morning and afternoon departures. The train typically departs from the Dunedin Railway Station, but if you book a tour, you will likely depart from, and return to, the port instead.
The official language is English and the local currency is the New Zealand dollar. ATMs are readily available and credit cards are widely accepted. Temporary visitor information booths are set up at the port when cruise ships are in port.
- Akaroa Harbour is a marine mammal sanctuary where encounters with wildlife are regulated.
- No touching or harassment of wildlife is allowed, and in events such as mother animals seen swimming with babies, or dolphins appearing to be feeding, guests can view the wildlife from the boat as opposed to getting in the water.
- Boat crews brief passengers on how to safely observe the world’s smallest and rarest (and endangered) dolphins.
- If getting on—or in—the water isn’t your preference, it’s easy to meander around the charming village, browsing shops, bistros, bakeries, and cafés.
The striking Fox Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world and offers dazzling views of the river of ice as it travels through the valley into the temperate rainforest below. The glacier, along with Franz Josef glacier, moves at ten times the speed of other glaciers around the world and it constantly shifts as it advances, creating spectacular scenes of ice cliffs and crevasses.
Fox Glacier is the longest glacier in New Zealand at 8 miles (13 kilometers) long and is surrounded by striking mountains 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) high. The glacier has been advancing since 1985.
Over 1,000 people visit the glacier daily, a third of those that visit Franz Josef. It is possible to climb the glacier or take helicopter flights, weather permitting.
The drive from Queenstown is around six hours so many people stay in the town at Fox Glacier and there are two bus companies that drive the route daily. It is a small, remote town but there are plenty of tourist beds available.
- The weather in Doubtful Sound can be unpredictable, so prepare for wind and rain even in summer.
- If hiking, wear comfortable shoes and bring water and snacks—there are limited places to purchase supplies.
- Cell phone coverage is limited, but free Wi-Fi is available at the Fjordland National Park Visitor Center.
- Most Doubtful Sound cruises are wheelchair accessible, but not all activities within Fiordland National Park are accessible to those with limited mobility, so it’s best to check in advance.