Things to do in
Southland

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Top sights in Southland

Our most recommended things to do in Southland

Fiordland National Park: Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise

1. Fiordland National Park: Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise

Spend a day in the remote wilderness of Doubtful Sound, located in the heart of Fiordland National Park and three times longer than Milford Sound. Self-drive to Manapouri and board a cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri, followed by a coach trip across Wilmot Pass. Stop en-route to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest. At Deep Cove, board the Patea Explorer, a purpose-built catamaran, for a 2 hour and 45-minute cruise on Doubtful Sound. See waterfalls, rainforest and mountains during the cruise. You might spot the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins, the colony of fur seals at the mouth of the fiord, or even rare Fiordland crested penguins. During the cruise, knowledgeable nature guides will provide informative commentary.  When it rains in Fiordland, the landscape is dramatic - rock faces stream with waterfalls, mist hangs around the tops of the mountains, and rivers and streams rage.  From a dry comfortable vantage point on board the coach or vessel this landscape is spectacular. Always be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during your visit. Many say you have not seen Fiordland unless you have seen it in the rain!

Milford Sound: Cruise, Underwater Observatory, and Lunch

2. Milford Sound: Cruise, Underwater Observatory, and Lunch

Explore the beauty of the fiord on a vessel that’s purpose-built for the best daytime viewing. Set off on a day-trip that includes a delicious lunch, complimentary tea and coffee, and a visit to the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory. Climb aboard a smaller vessel at the Milford Sound Cruise Terminal to discover more of the fiord on an authentic and insightful experience. Get within touching distance of impressive rock walls and waterfalls. Join the skipper in the open wheelhouse and say hello to the native seals basking on the rocks as you pass them by. A knowledgeable local guide will ensure you discover the wildlife, nature, and history of this remarkable sanctuary. Take a break for a picnic lunch. Choose between a regular, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free picnic option that includes a wrap, cheese, and crackers, seasonal fresh fruit, crisps, a cookie, and a small chocolate bar. Visit the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory, New Zealand's only floating underwater observatory for an experience unlike any other. Hidden under the surface in Harrison Cove in the middle of Piopiotahi Marine Reserve, the Observatory enables you to experience a different perspective of the fiord. Descend 64 steps (10-metres) underwater into a large, fully air-conditioned viewing area and peer out through large windows at the deep underwater haven. Unlike an aquarium, the fish are free to come and go; it’s the people who are contained.

Te Anau: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour

3. Te Anau: Glowworm Caves Guided Tour

Experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of hundreds of glowworms.  Your trip to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves begins with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau. At the entry to the caves, view the informative displays and learn about this geological wonder before you head underground. On the tour of the caves, your friendly guide will point out the highlights and share their knowledge of the caves and its history. This underground world is astonishingly beautiful. The cave are 12,000 years old which by geological standards is still very young and they are still being carved out by the force of the river that flows through them. The result is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall. Deep inside the caves, beyond the roar of the water, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms, unique to New Zealand. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a glittering display that is nothing short of extraordinary.

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Bus & Boat

4. From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Bus & Boat

Take the hassle out of driving to Milford Sound and join a guided coach tour from Queenstown. Sit back, relax and enjoy magnificent scenery and informative commentary. Your experienced local coach driver will show you the best views along the Milford Road and connect you seamlessly with a 2-hour nature cruise. Travel in a spacious coach with USB charging ports. Marvel at the native rainforest, spectacular waterfalls and glacial lakes. Pause briefly in Te Anau before continuing along the spectacular alpine Milford Road. Admire incredible views at Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, Knobbs Flat or Monkey Creek and pose for photos. Be wowed by the glaciar-carved Milford Sound as you approach the visitor terminal. Seize your cruise and lunch passes from the driver who’ll help you find your cruise departure gate.  Climb aboard a purpose-built catamaran for a nature cruise along the fiord’s deep blue waters. Savor a freshly prepared picnic lunch. Marvel at the impressive natural landscape and keep a lookout for native wildlife like dolphins, seals and penguins. Be fascinated by live commentary from your skipper in the open wheelhouse. Get within touching distance of impressive glaciar-carved rock walls and feel the full force of the powerful 15,000-year-old Stirling Falls on your face. Awed and satisfied, rejoin your driver for the scenic return journey to Queenstown. 

Milford Sound Cruise

5. Milford Sound Cruise

Self-drive through the Fiordland National park to cruise the stunningly iconic Milford Sound. This fiord is the most accessible of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords and can be reached by road. Allow 5-6 hours (one-way) driving time from Queenstown and around 3-hours (one-way) from Te Anau.  Check-in at Milford Sound Visitor Terminal then climb aboard a purpose-built vessel for a leisurely, informative, and interactive experience. Admire the towering Mitre Peak rising straight out of the sea. Cruise the fiord, riding near waterfalls and listening to the informative commentary about the region.  Your experienced skippers customize the cruise route on the day depending on the weather and wildlife sightings to ensure you see the best of Milford Sound. Keep a lookout for wildlife, including seals, dolphins and penguins. The vessels have spacious decks, comfortable seating, and large viewing windows.  Sit back and take in the magnificent views of Milford Sound. The landscape is especially dramatic when it rains in Fiordland. Enjoy the spectacular landscape from a dry comfortable vantage point on board the vessel. You are more than welcome to bring your own picnic on board, or you can purchase food and non-alcoholic drinks on board the vessel using cash.

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Plane & Boat

6. From Queenstown: Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Plane & Boat

Combine a flight and a cruise on Milford Sound on this excursion from Queensland. Take in the area's outstanding natural beauty as you savor the sights from both air and water. Enjoy a pickup and transfer to the air hanger in Queenstown. Listen to informative commentary in English and marvel at the stunning views of lakes, mountains, and waterfalls on the 40-minute flight. Upon landing, transfer to the Milford Sound Boat Terminal. Board in Milford Sound and experience 2 hours onboard an intimate vessel with English commentary by your skipper, and complimentary tea and coffee. Cruise to the mouth of the Tasman Sea, while enjoying views of waterfalls and marine life like fur seals, dolphins, and penguins. Next, board your scenic flight back to Queenstown. Take a different flight path from your outbound flight as you admire the spectacular views of Fiordland National Park. After the 40-minute journey back to Queenstown, enjoy complimentary transfer back to your accommodation.

Milford Sound Nature Cruise on Premium Glass-Roof Catamaran

7. Milford Sound Nature Cruise on Premium Glass-Roof Catamaran

Climb aboard 'Gem of the Sound', the newest vessel to cruise in the fiord, for a Milford Sound nature cruise. Capture the best views of the incredible fiord with three-levels of indoor and outdoor seating, unique glass roofs, and large viewing decks. Your friendly crew will welcome you on board and embrace you as one of the family, whilst you marvel at one of the most stunning places on earth. Relax in the comfortable booth seating with stylish decor and ambient lighting. High-definition cameras project outdoor footage live onto TV screens throughout the vessel - so no matter where are, you won't miss a thing. Admire New Zealand fur seals basking on rocks and feel the spray of cascading waterfalls. Look out for playful dolphins and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the rare and elusive Fiordland Crested Penguin. Travel the length of the fiord and out into the Tasman Sea, to see why Captain Cook failed to discover Milford Sound after charting the Fiordland National Park.

From Te Anau: 1-Day Milford Sound Coach & Cruise

8. From Te Anau: 1-Day Milford Sound Coach & Cruise

If Milford Sound is the 8th wonder of the world, the road to Milford is surely the 9th. The overland journey is a spectacular showcase of sheer mountains and towering cliffs, rugged valleys and the native rain forest surrounded by spectacular waterfalls and glacial lakes. Be taken to Milford Sound while you sit back, relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery and informative commentary. Your experienced, local coach driver will show you the best short walks and photo stops on the Milford Road, and will connect you seamlessly with the Milford Sound Nature Cruise. Milford Sound is approximately a 5-hour drive or 45-minute flight from Queenstown. The Milford Coach and Cruise trips depart daily from Te Anau.

From Te Anau: Milford Sound Coach and Cruise Day Trip

9. From Te Anau: Milford Sound Coach and Cruise Day Trip

Discover Milford Sound on an 8-hour adventure with round-trip transport from Te Anau and a 2-hour cruise through the fiord. If you are looking to explore both Milford and Doubtful Sounds, it is worth staying one or two nights in Te Anau. There is plenty to do plus you will save yourself the long journeys to and from Queenstown. At Milford Sound, climb aboard the leisurely nature cruise for an informative, interactive, and relaxed experience. A specialist guide will provide live informative commentary and you can admire the fiord’s wildlife, waterfalls, and mountains. Enjoy lunch on board the cruise — you may bring your own lunch or purchase snacks and drinks (cash only) on the vessel. Be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during your visit; the landscape is especially dramatic when it rains in Fiordland. Enjoy the spectacular views from a dry, comfortable vantage point on board the vessel. Following the cruise, immediately board the luxury coach for the return journey to Te Anau, arriving between 4:30 PM and 5:45 PM, depending on the season.

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Flight and Boat Cruise

10. From Queenstown: Milford Sound Flight and Boat Cruise

Enjoy an exclusive sightseeing tour to the very best locations in Queenstown and the South Island of New Zealand. Discover New Zealand’s magnificent fiords, native forests, and glaciers, as well as the island's stunning native birdlife, seals, penguins, and dolphins. Embark on a scenic flight and admire the views of the fiord below. Hear insightful commentary about the region and the wildlife that inhabit it from your pilot guide. Soar above the Southern Lakes, Tutoko Glacier, and the Milford Fiord. After, if time permits, take a bush walk with your pilot to the cruise departure point. Learn more about your surroundings as you pass through the dense forest. Continue your sightseeing adventure on a relaxing cruise and see the fiord from the water. After the cruise, make your way back to the plane. Take an alternative return route to see even more highlights, including the famous Southerland waterfalls, and New Zealand's longest lakes, Te Anau and Wakatipu.

Other Sightseeing Options in Southland

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What people are saying about Southland

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

based on 3,416 reviews

Would highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting the South Island. Bus is comfortable with plenty of room, and you have regular stops to take in amazing views. Brad was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly - even helped us organise a spontaneous scenic flight back! Thank you so much.

The 'must do' of the country. Beautiful cruise through the Fiord. Picnic lunch was good and scenery was spectacular. Guides were informative but not over the top, and entertaining. The lovely trip in was all part of the experience and the Homer Tunnel worth the drive.

Loved it! Very informative and interesting, plus an absolute beautiful and special part of the country!

Everything was perfect, the place amazing, customer service awesome… thank you guys a lot !!!

It was a beautiful day and the flight into Milford Sound was spectacular.