South Island of New Zealand: An Exploration Photo Diary

South Island Of New Zealand - Milford Sound

Planning a trip to New Zealand’s South Island?

New Zealand was my first country on my round the world trip and a very memorable one. I wanted to share photos from my time on the South Island. Besides Nelson in the north, I also visited Christchurch, Queenstown and Milford Sound in February of 2011.


After visiting my friends in Nelson, I took the Intercity bus to Christchurch. On the way to Christchurch, we drove by a town called Kaikoura and I wish that I had known about it. We stopped for a bathroom break but a quick glimpse made me want to stay for a few days. It was so beautiful! From the bus, I saw that you could go skydiving or whale watching there. Something about it stuck in my mind since it was so picturesque. I guess that’s something for the itinerary the next time I go to New Zealand’s South Island!

Read more here: A Lovely Time In Nelson, New Zealand

Only being in Christchurch for a night, I picked a hostel that was centrally located. The city doesn’t seem so big so I chose to walk around and explore. My first stop was Christchurch Cathedral. The crazy thing is, the cathedral and much of the city was damaged, just weeks after I was there, by the big earthquake.


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Look For Your South Island Accommodations Here



When the earthquake happened I had just landed in Auckland. My mom frantically messaged me to see where I was and if I was okay. During my round the world trip natural disasters were just a few steps behind me. Sheer luck kept me from harm’s way. 

New Zealand's South Island - Christchurch Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral (just a few days before the earthquake)

New Zealand's South Island - Christchurch Cathedral

Inside Christchurch Cathedral

As I was exploring the city, I came across the Christchurch Botanical Garden. My (now late) mother was a gardener and green thumb so I sent her photos from the road. 

New Zealand's South Island - Christchurch Botanical Garden

I stopped and smelled the New Zealand roses!

Christchurch Botanical Garden - New Zealand's South Island

Mom loved dahlias so I took photos to email her

Christchurch Botanical Garden - New Zealand's South Island

So pretty!


When I was on the South Island of New Zealand, my original plan was to take the bus to Queenstown from Christchurch. Randomly I checked airfares online and found a flight on Jetstar that was nearly the same price. There was a difference of about $10 so I chose to fly rather for one hour than take a 12-hour bus ride. Sometimes it’s worth it to compare flight prices!! Always shop around!

Queenstown is amazing. It is so picturesque and for some reason it Whistler, Canada. Both are mountain resort towns with loads of adventurous activities to partake in.

South Island Of New Zealand - Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown

Gorgeous around Lake Wakatipu

South Island Of New Zealand - Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown

So picturesque!

South Island Of New Zealand - Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown

I’d love to go back again, maybe even in the winter and get some snowboarding in.

Queenstown Botanical Garden

At the Queenstown Botanical Garden

Queenstown Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden Bridge

If you go to Queenstown you have to have a Fergburger. It was one of the top recommendations for Queenstown for food and I’m glad that I went. It was really delicious. Just remember they call ketchup tomato sauce in New Zealand and Australia! The names of the burgers were pretty cheeky. I recall the veggie burger was called Bun Laden.

Fergburger Queenstown



This Asian was missing Asian food while travelling through New Zealand. So when I walked by Hikari Izakaya in Queenstown and saw their specials board I couldn’t resist going in. 

Hikari Izakaya Queenstown

Hikari Izakaya lunch bento box

Check out these guided tours by Viator




Milford Sound

While I was in Queenstown, I took a day trip down to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a fiord in Fiordland National Park in the southwest of New Zealand's South Island. It would have been great to go for a few days but as a solo traveller, I didn't have a car. Things are not cheap in New Zealand, so a bus day trip was really my only option.

The day trip and ferry for an hour and a half into the sound was over $100. Pretty pricey for a day trip but so worth it in the end. A lot of decisions I made while I was in New Zealand were about money. Travelling solo costs a bit more and at the beginning of my RTW, I was more cautious about how I spent my money. 

The photo below was taken from inside the Naked Bus (a bus company that is now defunct) on the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound. It's another view of Lake Wakatipu. Pretty gorgeous from all sides!

South Island Of New Zealand -Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand's longest lake and third largest

On the way to Milford Sound, we stopped at a place The Chasm Walk. It's two-foot bridges over Cleddau River where you can see waterfalls. Over thousands of years, the water has shaped the rock. Two-foot bridges over the Cleddau River give you beautiful views of the powerful waterfalls. It's like water torture in nature!

The Chasm New Zealand

The Chasm Walk

South Island Of New Zealand - Mirror Lakes

We stopped at a place called Mirror Lakes on the way to Milford Sound. It's so serene and beautiful there.

South Island Of New Zealand - On The Way To Milford

It's amazing that there's nothing else around

We stopped at one lookout point and sadly, I forgot the name. Horrible, I know. One thing I remember the most was seeing an alpine parrot. What? Yes, a mountain parrot.

South Island Of New Zealand - Alpine Parrot

He would be totally camo!

When we got to Milford Sound, we loaded onto a ferry that drove us around the sound. The boat ride was about an hour and a half long through the fiords. If the weather was sunny I would have wanted to go for longer but this amount of time was perfect. The weather determines what it will be like in Milford Sound. When we went it was rainy so there were loads of waterfalls. Initially, I was bummed by rain but looking back it was quite cool and mystical.

South Island Of New Zealand - Milford Sound

Chasing waterfalls much to TLC's dismay

South Island Of New Zealand - Milford Sound

And a not so great selfie but one to prove to my family that I was indeed travelling

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South Island Of New Zealand

Have you been to New Zealand's South Island? 

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