How to Live like a Local on New Zealand’s South Island

May 24, 2016 by Flight Centre UK

Thinking of visiting New Zealand’s majestic South Island? At Flight Centre, we work closely with in-destination Experts who offer first-hand tips, advice and secrets so we can tailor make your perfect holiday. While creating some of our latest New Zealand itineraries, we spoke to several such Experts on the South Island to get their top tips on how you can live like a local on your next trip:

Roys Peak, Wanaka

Roys Peak, Wanaka (Image: Catriona McCormack)

Visit Roys Peak

WHERE? Wanaka
TRAVEL EXPERT: Catriona McCormack

I’ve just moved down to Queenstown and have been lucky enough to explore the surrounding areas. This picture is from a walk I just did in Wanaka, to Roys Peak. It has absolutely incredible views. It’s a tough slog to the top, but so worth it.

Driving on Oreti Beach, Manu

Driving on Oreti Beach, Manu (Image: Manu Reiri)

Explore Invercargill

WHERE? Invercargill
TRAVEL EXPERT: Manu Reiri

Invercargill is an amazing little place to come to. In the summertime the days are long and warm, which means that you can enjoy a late barbecue with friends, ride that afternoon surf at Oreti Beach a little longer (did I mention you can drive right onto the beach?) and stay out diving in some of the most pristine places. The seafood is bountiful, the cheese rolls are on-point and the southern hospitality is second to none.

Sea lion at Piha (Image: Rose Ingram)

Sea lion at Piha (Image: Rose Ingram)

Meet a sea lion

WHERE? Auckland
TRAVEL EXPERT: Rose Ingram

Piha is only a short drive from the city centre. It has amazing beaches, great surf, awesome treks and the possibility of spotting sea lions or whales.

Fidel's in Wellington (Image:)

Fidel’s in Wellington (Image: Lara Rye)

Eat chicken waffles

WHERE? Wellington
TRAVEL EXPERT: Lara Rye

This is my favourite café in the whole country: Fidel’s in Wellington. The chicken waffles are amazing and it’s an awesome place to go All Black / Hurricanes spotting. Coffee with a side of Ma’a Nonu is no bad thing.

Rangitoto in the distance (Image:)

Rangitoto in the distance (Image: Holly Summer)

Hike a volcano

WHERE? Auckland
TRAVEL EXPERT: Holly Summer

Rangitoto is a monumental volcanic island which sits across the water from Auckland city itself. Rugged and uninhabited, the views across to the city from the summit are unparalleled.

You can take the ferry over (departs twice a day) or my favourite way to explore the island is via a sunset tour. You’ll paddle over in the afternoon sun before enjoying a delicious barbecue dinner, hiking to the summit of the volcano (when all other tourists have left for the day), and watching the sunset over the calm city. It’s a must-do unique experience in Auckland, subject to season and weather of course.

The Fell Locomotive Museum (Image:)

The Fell Locomotive Museum (Image: Stevie Morrison)

Discover dangerous train history

WHERE? Featherston
TRAVEL EXPERT: Stevie Morrison

The Fell Locomotive Museum is a hidden gem! I only just discovered this myself a couple of months ago. It focuses on the history of the Fell trains that were used to get across the Rimutaka Hill (famed for its steep incline) back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as well as the settlement that was built there for the train community. The trains were incredibly dangerous for the operators and took a lot of maintenance. This is a slice of really interesting local history and not many people know about it.

Fish and Chips from Mxxx (Image: )

Fish and Chips from Mangonui (Image: Wynona Gallagher-Dekker)

Try famous fare

WHERE? Northland
TRAVEL EXPERT: Jacqui Dickson

One of the most iconic places for fish and chips up North is the Mangonui Fish Shop.

The water along the Huka Falls Walkway ()

The Waikato River (Image: Abbey Hay)

Get hot at Huka Falls

WHERE? Taupo
TRAVEL EXPERT: Abbey Hay

Stroll along the Waikato River to the Huka Falls Walkway. As you follow the trail, you’ll walk past an amazing hotspot (literally) where the water heats up to 42ᵒC as it comes from the small water falls.

Hells Gate, Rotorua (Image:)

Hells Gate, Rotorua (Image: Amanda Aldridge)

Step through Hells Gate

WHERE? Rotorua
TRAVEL EXPERT: Amanda Aldridge

I love Hells Gate. Otherwise known as Tikitere, it is a big geothermal park on the way out of town towards Whakatane, and is perfect for spending an hour or two just wandering around. Afterwards you can enjoy a thermal mud pool (great for your skin!) and then clean off in the sulphur hot pool. They will bring you water to drink in the pool, so you don’t have to get out for any reason so is good for winter too. Alternatively you can opt for Te Puia, which has the Pohutu Geyser that erupts up to 20 times a day.

Food at Madam Woo ()

Food at Madam Woo (Image: Catriona McCormack)

Drink Woo Brew beer

WHERE? Queenstown
TRAVEL EXPERT: Catriona McCormack

Madam Woo is an awesome spot for dinner – delicious hawker rolls, warming laksa and their Woo Brew beer are all top notch.


Explore this incredible region on our New Zealand: Best of the South Island Journey, a tailor-made holiday that will take you through Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Queenstown and Wanaka – to name a few. Speak to one of our Travel Experts about creating you holiday, complete with all these unique things to do.


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