Beautiful South Island National Parks

New Zealand is widely known as one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and for good reason. If you’ve ever come across a particularly stunning photo of New Zealand’s scenery however, chances are it was taken in one of the South Island’s famous national parks. Here are five of the most beautiful.

Aoraki / Mt Cook, Canterbury

At 3,754 metres tall, the centre piece of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is the highest mountain in New Zealand. A truly picturesque area, the majestic peaks are complimented by the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki, making for a photographer’s dream. Mount Cook Village lies at the foot of the mountain providing a base for those wanting to stay a night or two. To enjoy the area on foot, there are fairly easy alpine walks accessible from the village, taking around 3 hours each return. For a slightly different perspective, you can even take to the skies with a scenic flight, you won’t believe the views! The mountain has its own place in history as well, used by Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for Everest.

Arthur’s Pass, Southern Alps

In the heart of the famous Southern Alps lies Arthur’s Pass National Park. Around 2 hours from Christchurch, the area is known for its stunning walking and hiking tracks. The many trails are suitable for every fitness level, ranging from 15 minute walks to multi-day hikes! As you journey through the alps, you’ll discover mountain peaks, winding rivers, flowing waterfalls and vast panoramic views. You’re also bound to come across one of New Zealand’s rare endemic parrots, the kea. Among the most intelligent birds in the world, there are estimated to be less than 5,000 left in the wild, so spotting a kea is always a real treat!

Fiordland National Park, Fiordland

Fiordland is New Zealand’s largest national park at 12,600km2, three times larger than its next competitor. Home to the world famous Milford Sound and the iconic Mitre Peak, the Fiordland National Park scenery is the definition of breath-taking. The vast landscape is a collective of soaring mountain peaks, ice-carved valleys, glistening fiords, icy lakes, winding rivers and native forest. It’s the kind of thing you might expect to see in the cinema rather than real life! If that’s not enough, there are also three world class Great Walks in the area. The Kepler Track, Routeburn Track and Milford Track each have spectacular views you have to see to believe. The latter of the three has even been described as ‘the finest walk in the world’.

Mt Aspiring National Park, Wanaka

Mt Aspiring National Park is an absolute wonderland full of snowy peaks, river flats, waterfalls, glaciers and native forest. Drive in via the access road and you’ll quickly be surrounded by 360 degrees of rugged hills & soaring mountains. In fact, the area was actually one of the filming locations for the Lord Of The Rings films, so you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped into another world! Mt Aspiring National Park also boasts picturesque day walks leading to spectacular locations. The crown jewel of these locations is the Rob Roy Glacier. Covering the steep slopes of the mountains, the iconic glacier is also surrounded by waterfalls up to 150 metres high!

Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson

Located at the top of the South Island, Abel Tasman is New Zealand’s most well-known coastal national park. Famous for its golden beaches, crystal clear streams & granite cliffs, Abel Tasman has a few points of difference compared to most other South Island national parks. At just 237km2, it’s the smallest national park in New Zealand, though still a perfectly formed hotspot for both relaxation and adventure. Visitors love the variety of activities Abel Tasman has to offer, lending itself to days of hiking, kayaking, sailing, mountain biking, swimming or sun bathing. One of the area’s real highlights is its resident Great Walk, the Abel Tasman Coast Track. The 3-5 day tramp takes you on a journey through native forests and sandy beaches, with plenty of interesting sights along the way.


North South Holiday Park is located just 5 minutes from Christchurch Airport and many vehicle rental depots. With excellent facilities and a serene setting, it's a perfect quick-stop for travellers to the South Island. Check out our range of Christchurch accommodation options. If you’re looking for recommendations for activities during your time in Christchurch and the rest of the South Island, please give us a call, email or let us know when you arrive. We can help you book activities and give you the best advice for your holiday.