5 things you may not be expecting to see in the South Island of New Zealand

Planning a trip to Franz Josef Glacier? 

Here are 5 things you’re probably not expecting to see in the South Island 


1.  The rarest Kiwi

New Zealand’s native kiwi is a small, flightless bird that is struggling to survive.  Out of the five kiwi species, four are on the endangered list. 

So, did you know the rarest of all kiwi is found just down the road from Franz Josef Glacier?  The Rowi is the rarest of Kiwis, its population is estimated to be just 400 birds and the only place they are still found in the wild is Okarito, on the West Coast.  The chances of seeing a Rowi in the wild are slim so make sure you visit the West Coast Wildlife Centre to catch a glimpse of this rare bird and learn about the centre’s successful breeding program.

rowi closeup


2.  Nothing to kill you

Australians, rejoice! Here is a country where you can walk through long grass with bare feet, rummage carelessly around in wood piles and crawl through tunnels without fear of death.  New Zealand is free from poisonous snakes and venomous spiders or insects.  In fact, there are very few creatures (on land!!) that will do you harm.  The rarely seen Katipo spider is poisonous but its shyness means few New Zealanders have ever seen one. 

So, march on, bare footed! Apart from some cheeky keas or a cantankerous goat, your trip to the South Island should be free from animal-related injuries.


3. We know how to drink … well. 

Yes, Kiwis love a good drink.  But don’t underestimate our sophistication in this area.  Visitors are always impressed by the quality of our beverages.  Check out a perfectly made flat white or long black at any of the many independent cafés, and you won’t be disappointed.  In Franz Josef there’s loads of great cafes, bars and restaurants to keep you happy.   Check out The Landing or Eighty-Eight for your daily fix. 

At the end of a hard day exploring the South Island, you’ll probably be looking for something a little stronger and you’re in luck.  Don’t miss the world-famous Sauvignon Blanc made in Marlborough, in the top of the South Island. Internationally recognised, the area produces 77% of New Zealand’s wines.  In Central Otago you can sample heavenly Pinot Noirs, whose grapes thrive in the cooler climate.  There are loads of wine trails to follow throughout the South Island. 

Beer? Yes, we’ve got that too.  Microbreweries are found throughout the South Island.  For the full experience check out the West Coast’s most famous Ales at the Monteith’s Brewery in Greymouth.  Drop in and sample a few for yourself.


4.  Sandflies

New Zealand’s surprise secret for visitors!  The lush bush of the South Island is a feast of stunning scenery for visitors.  Just be prepared to become a feast yourself!  The biting, flying black bugs known as sandflies are found throughout the country, particularly in areas where there is flowing water and bush (yes, that covers a lot of the South Island!).  Some places have greater numbers of sandflies than others.. like the West Coast and Fiordland.  But just do what the locals do, and don’t let it get to you. 

If you worried too much about the sandflies you would miss out on seeing some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery.  So, the best way to manage is to cover up.  Dress in light colours as sandflies are attracted to dark colours.  You can use repellents like DEET but you’ll find most locals just cover up and put up with it. 


5. A glacier landscape could be another planet

If you’re planning on heading our way, then the Franz Josef Glacier may be no surprise to you at all.  But what you will be surprised at is just how amazing the landscape up on the ice is.  Accessing a glacier by helicopter gives you the chance to hike amongst ice crevasses and caves.  You can touch turquoise blue ice and drink from ancient glacial water.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  We love to see how amazed hikers are when they are dropped into this jaw-dropping landscape.  Our best advice - don’t miss it.

Snow covered ice makes the glacier look like a winter wonderland

We'll see you on the ice.