South Island National Parks

10 of New Zealand's 14 National Parks are situated on the South Island.  

Many are within just a few hours drive of Queenstown. Our guide features the national parks in descending order, from closest to furthest from Queenstown.

Mount Aspiring National Park: +2 Hours

Mount Aspiring National Park is popular with ramblers, serious trampers and mountaineers, thanks to the wildly beautiful landscape. Situated on the West Coast, north of Fiordland, the park gives easy access to the Southern Alps and is part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site.

Mount Cook National Park: +3 Hours

Mount Cook National Park boasts 19 of the highest 20 mountains in New Zealand. Jaw-dropping glaciers and vast, snowy peaks encapsulate this incredible natural wonderland. Spread across 700 square kilometres of the central South Island, it's Aoraki/Mount Cook that dominates this majestic landscape, and shouldn't be missed.

Fiordland National Park: +3 Hours 40 minutes

Fiordland National Park, the country's largest, inhabits the whole southwestern corner of the South Island. It's full of fairytale mountain valleys, fiords, gushing waterfalls, and islands literally carved from ice. For many, this park epitomises the Tolkienesque magic of New Zealand landscape at its most raw and beautiful.

Rakiura National Park: +3 hours 45 minutes 

Rakiura National Park is the 'baby' of the country's national park family. Situated on its own out on Stewart Island (Rakiura), it's a wild, untamed landscape of rocky outcrops, isolated coves, an abundance of nature reserves. You're also more likely to spot wild kiwi here, than anywhere else in the world. The driving time includes a 1 hour ferry from Bluff.

Westland Te Poutini National Park: +4 Hours 15 minutes

Westland Te Poutini National Park is one of the most varied parks in the country. You'll find glaciers (Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are the most famous), stunning rainforest, old gold mining towns, untouched beaches, and even hot springs. It stretches from some of the country's highest peaks, down to a wild and rugged coastline. 

Arthur's Pass National Park: +6.5 Hours

Arthur's Pass National Park sits right in the middle of the Southern Alps. A popular stop-off for those travelling cross-country, there's more than 1,000 square kilometres to explore.

Everything from tramping tracks, mountains, river gorges and beautiful, tranquil valleys awaits you here. The park is very popular with rafters, skiers, climbers and year-round adventurers.

Paparoa National Park: +7 Hours

Paparoa National Park sits between Westport and Greymouth on the northwest coast of the South Island. A combination of forest, wild coastline, and mountains, the scenery is spectacular.

Most people come to experience the Dolomite Point blowholes at Pancake Rocks – nature spitting back! A fantastic mix of peaceful woodland and stunning seascape – a favourite destination for artists.

Nelson Lakes National Park: +9 Hours

Nelson Lakes National Park is a tranquil, relaxing park outside Nelson. Full of glassy lakes, pretty streams, inquisitive wildlife and magical sun-dappled forests, it's popular with those who like to take it easy.

Numerous gentle walking tracks, campgrounds, fishing lakes and slow-water rivers make it a great place to kick back and relax.

Abel Tasman National Park: +10 Hours

Abel Tasman National Park is famous for its beaches and cliff walks. In the far north of the South Island, the park combines shady forest, dramatic clifftops, pretty coves and acres of peace, quiet and serenity. Easy to access from Nelson, it's unsurprisingly popular all the year round, helped by the welcomingly mild climate.

Kahurangi National Park: +10 Hours

Kahurangi National Park nestles on the South Island's northwestern tip and is the second largest in the country. This is ultimate tramping country, with a rich mix of dense vegetation, cliffs and coves, and is one of the few national parks to allow some mountain biking.