The South Island of New Zealand is characterized by grand open landscapes. Divided by a backbone of mountain aptly called the Southern Alps, the South Island is known for spectacular and fiords, large beech forests, golden sand beaches and broad plains. Generally cooler in climate than the North Island but don't forget sunhats and t-shirts - temperatures are routinely in the 30°C's in summer. In winter the sea buffers the temperatures which rarely drop much below 0°C but except in mountainous regions.
- Marlborough - Wine, whales and the magical Marlborough Sounds
- Nelson Tasman or Top of the South (includes Golden Bay) - Sun, golden sands and culture
- West Coast including Buller and Westland - Wild wet wilderness
- Canterbury - The majesty of the Southern Alps sweeping down to the plains
- Otago - Picturesque mountain lakes
- Southland - Snowcapped mountains plunging into fjords
- Christchurch - The English city with the world's best collection of gothic revival architecture
- Blenheim - Sun and sauvignon blanc
- Dunedin - The Scottish city, proud of their rugby, their students and their beer
- Invercargill - The southern city
- Kaikoura - Whales and beautiful scenery
- Nelson - The sunshine city, a favorite tourist destination of Kiwis themselves
- Picton - Gateway to the Marlborough Sounds
- Queenstown - A tourist mecca high in the mountains
- Wanaka - Lakeside town with skiing and scenery
The South Island of New Zealand is the larger of the two main islands though it has fewer people and is sometimes referred to as the 'Mainland' - especially by South Islanders. Geographically the South Island is dominated by the Southern Alps. Dividing the island, the alps affect climate and flora. Most of the South Island's national parks are strung out along the main divide.
Generally, the West Coast is wetter and cooler than the east, and the north of the island is warmer then the south.
Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and Nelson are the main settlements, although the main attractions are rarely in the cities. All four cities are very different. Christchurch is the largest and has a certain English feel to it though it is definitely a New World city. Dunedin was settled by Scottish Presbyterians and is very proud of those roots. It also feels older than other cities in NZ because it was built by gold rush money in the late 19th century but has since been surpassed by bigger and brasher cities to the north. Nelson is still very young by European standards (although it was the second founded city in New Zealand) but has a very South Pacific feel with palm trees and a huge and beautiful white sand beach.
It should be noted that beautiful beaches are a dime a dozen in NZ, and some of the best do not average one visitor per day.
The Interislander and the Bluebridge  and runs from Wellington to Picton through the Marlborough Sounds and across Cook Strait. The ferries take cars, buses and trains. The scenery on a good day is spectacular. The ferries are substantial ships designed for the sometimes rough conditions and the journey takes between 3 and 3 1/2 hours.
Two standout train routes are on the South Island. The Picton - Christchurch Tranzcoastal begins traveling through the Marlborough wine region before hugging the Kaikoura Coast and crossing the Canterbury Plains. The Christchurch - Greymouth Tranzalpine crosses the Southern Alps at Arthurs Pass. Rated as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world.
Buses are a cheap way to get around to the main centers of the South Island. There are a range of types of services, from a luxury coach service to minivan shuttles. Shuttles which service a local area can be found in the regions and towns which they service.
- InterCity Coachlines, ☎ 09 623 1503(email@example.com), . High quality coaches and extensive network.
- Newmans Coach Lines, ☎ 09 623 1504, . High quality tourist coach linking Christchurch, Queenstown, Milford Sound and the West Coast Glaciers.
- nakedbus.com, (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Cheap alternative to Intercity with tickets starting from $1 - book early and get bargin bus travel. They do not have quite as many routes or services as Intercity but are catching up fast.
- Atomic Shuttles, ☎ 03 349 0697(email@example.com, fax: 03 349 3868), . Lower cost shuttles with extensive network
- Southern Link KBus, ☎ 0508 458 835 or 03 358 8355(fax: 03 358 8585), . Lower cost shuttles with extensive network
- Knight Rider, ☎ 03 342 8055 or 021 781 852(fax: 03 342 8055), . Evening/night bus service from Christchurch to Invercargill via Dunedin
- Bottom Bus, ☎ 03 434 7370(fax: 03 434 7376), . Dunedin, Catlins, Invercargill, Te Anau, Milford Sound.
- Coast to Coast Daily Bus Service Ltd, ☎ 0800 800 847(firstname.lastname@example.org), . Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthurs Pass
- West Coast Shuttle, ☎ 03 768 0028 or 027 492 7000 or 027 492 7488(email@example.com, fax: 03 768 0328), . Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthurs Pass
Roads in the South Island vary in quality and traffic, but as long as they are treated with respect they serve you well. Rental cars are available in most sizable towns. The best range (and hence lowest prices) are in Picton (off the interlander ferry) and Christchurch.
Internet based rideshare systems are growing as fuel becomes more expensive. Jayride  is a good ridesharing site designed for specifically for carpooling in New Zealand. See the New Zealand page for more options.
- Spectacular scenery
The South Island has become the home of Adventure Tourism. That is, ordinary people being encouraged to do crazy things; such as jumping off a bridge with a rubber band tied to their ankles, riding in a jet boat or rubber raft.
Things to do include:
- Otago Central Rail Trail A 150km trail on disused railway lines between Clyde and Middlemarch for walking, cycling and horse riding.
- Crayfish - from the seas around Kaikoura
- Mussels - farmed in the Marlborough Sounds
- Scallops - from the seabed off Nelson
- Wine - from Marlborough or Cental Otago.
- Beer - watch out for the local brews.
- Fruit Juice - in Cental Otago.
This page was last edited at 12:54, on 27 February 2009 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Quentin Davies, W. Frank Buchholz, Gaimhreadhan O'Coileain, Todd VerBeek, Ryan Holliday, Ian Kirk and Rob Payne, Wikitravel user(s) Tussock, Episteme, Texugo, Jonboy and Huttite, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.