The South Island is quite different from the North. The South Island is sometimes called the “Mainland”. It is an island of many contrasts and climates. While it has a 33% larger landmass than the North Island, only 24% of New Zealand’s population lives here. The geography of south island has given the region immense beauty. It abounds in peaks, fjords (Sounds), glaciers, valleys and many large lakes. This dramatic landscape has made it a popular location for the production of films, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the The Chronicles of Narnia and I hate Luv Story’s to name a few.
The island is divided along its length by the Southern Alps, the highest peak of which is Aoraki / Mount Cook at 3754 metres (12,316 ft). The east side of the island is home to the Canterbury Plains (through which you travel when going from Christchurch to Queenstown by road) while the West Coast is famous for its rough coastlines.
The famous fjords of South Island are all located in the southwest of the island in a mountainous area known as Fiordland, including the Doubtful and Milford Sound. Lake Te Anau is a gateway to this region.
The Marlborough Sounds being different from these, are a series of deep indentations in the coastline at the northern tip of the South Island.
The glaciers are generally found near the Main Divide of the Southern Alps. This region has more than 3000 glaciers. These include the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on the west coast, and the Tasman glaciers in the east.
There are some 3,820 lakes in all of New Zealand with a surface area larger than one hectare. The South Island has 8 of New Zealand’s 10 biggest lakes. They were formed by glaciers and include Lake Wakatipu, Lake Tekapo and Lake Manapouri.
There are also 4 extinct volcanoes also in the South Island, all of which are located on the east coast.
Most popular cities in the South Island are Christchurch and Queenstown. They form the base for visitors to travel through the South island travelling north of Christchurch upto the Marlborough region Or into the fiordland or the glacier region from Queenstown. Self drives in this region have gained tremendous popularity over the years and are indeed the best mode to travel across this wide region of geographical diversity.