Bucketlist Travels logo

Bucket list ideas:

8 Best places to stay in New Zealand’s South Island

  • South Islands, New Zealand

Last updated: 23 July, 2024
Expert travel writer: Mark Chipperfield
  • Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

  • Official star rating:

Right in the heart of Queenstown, this luxury boutique hotel is an oasis of indulgence in this outdoorsy, adrenaline-pumped adventure capital, for those seeking some element of seclusion.

The hotel offers just 10 guest rooms – each with its own gas fireplace. There’s an in-house Mediterranean/Turkish restaurant, and guests have access to the local gym 4-minutes’ walk away. Service is personal and impeccable, including an in-house concierge.

For many years now, one of the most desirable addresses in Queenstown – especially if money is no object.

Average £400

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

  • Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

  • Official star rating:

Ignoring the faux alpine design, Hotel St. Moritz offers just about everything the outdoorsy visitor to Queenstown could want: stylish, comfortable rooms, a great location and enthusiastic staff.

The hotel is set up for skiers, with its own specialist storage facilities, and the hotel’s elevation means fantastic views of Lake Wakitipu – but it does mean a walk up the hill to the hotel from the town below.

There’s a good choice of room types – from standard guest rooms to two-bedroom apartments – and a full complement of bars and restaurants.

It’s a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Queenstown – so the ideal base for exploring everything Queenstown has to offer.

Average £240

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

  • Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand

  • Official star rating:

This comfy lodge, a ‘luxury B&B’, is like a home away from home, Kiwi style.

A few streets back from the main township of Wanaka, the property is an oasis of calm, with comfortable rooms, fine mountain views and an 8-seater garden spa bath to admire them from.

The staff are a fount of knowledge about Wanaka, and operate a great activities desk, making this an excellent base to explore from. There are also a couple of in-house mountain bikes for guests’ use.

Average £120

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

  • Punakaiki, South Island, New Zealand

  • Official star rating:

This solid-looking eco-resort offers a safe harbour from the buffeting winds and raging ocean – and a great launch pad for exploring Paparoa National Park – one of New Zealand’s hidden gems.

The rooms are on the Spartan side, but the resort is well-run and within easy striking distance of all the major local attractions such as Pancake Rocks and the Punakaiki Blow Holes. There are superb walking and cycling trails nearby – and e-bikes for hire – plus beautiful bays and beaches to explore.

Prices are reasonably high – but you’re paying for glorious isolation, adventure and as much clean air as your lungs can absorb. It’s a 90-minute drive from the nearest town, and 3.5 hours from Christchurch, but the untamed wilderness is on your doorstep.

Families with children of all ages are welcome.

Average £175

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

  • Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand

  • Official star rating:

The George

Place to Stay

The George

Small, intimate and extremely well-run, the 53-room George is the best small hotel in Christchurch – and possibly the whole of New Zealand.

One of the few luxury hotels to survive the 2011 earthquake, it’s an impressive 5-star property, with delightful guest rooms and suites and a faultless level of service – the hotel has one staff member for every guest.

The outstanding, in-house ’50 Bistro’ is one of the best dining spots in the city, and they also serve a rather good traditional high tea. The location is excellent too – 5 minutes from the city centre, and close to the airport.

The perfect base for sightseers, who want to return to some welcome, cosy luxury.

Average £380

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

  • Glenorchy, South Island, New Zealand

  • Official star rating:

Blanket Bay

Place to Stay

Blanket Bay

This small property has a deservedly outstanding reputation, attracting discerning travellers from around the globe.

Each of the 12 rooms has large picture windows to take in sweeping views of Lake Wakitpu, plus special touches like a private steam room and generous lounge room – and fewer rooms mean it’s intimate, quiet and private.

More country hunting lodge than opulent luxury retreat, it’s the ideal base to explore this part of New Zealand – Glenorchy is the best base for exploring the Otago Region.

There are outdoor activities on tap – notably wine tours and jetboating on the Dart River. The lodge offers its own activities too including horse riding, fly fishing and mountain biking.

They can also arrange a helicopter flight to Milford Sound and the Franz Josef glacier, and Queenstown’s plethora of adventures are a 45-minute drive.

Or simply surrender to the awe-inspiring landscape – the pristine alpine countryside, framed by snow-capped mountains.

Average £1400

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

  • Franz Josef, South Island, New Zealand

  • Official star rating:

Westwood Lodge

Place to Stay

Westwood Lodge

Franz Josef Glacier is one of New Zealand’s biggest drawcards, but finding suitable accommodation in this part of the wild West Coast is tricky. This genuinely comfortable lodge-style property, complete with a billiard room and a fantastic bush garden, is therefore a pleasant surprise.

All nine rooms are spacious, warm and comfortable, with en-suite bathrooms and fine views of the surrounding native bushland. A cooked breakfast is included in the tariff, though you’ll need to make your own arrangements for dinner.

The lodge is conveniently just off the main West Coast freeway, and the main settlement of Franz Josef is a short drive away.

Average £190

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

  • Hapuku, South Island, New Zealand

  • Official star rating:

Occupying a narrow coastal strip between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean, this luxury lodge provides an unrivalled base from which to explore the Kaikoura region, famous for its ecotours.

The five treehouses – quirky, rustic but brilliantly furnished – are mounted 30 feet above the ground, all come with jaw-dropping ocean and alpine views, open fires and deep baths. Three have one bedroom, 2 family ones with separate bedrooms for kids.

The treehouses perfectly capture the spirit of the place; indeed, the whole property (which includes four lodge suites, a lap pool and sauna) seems at one with the landscape.

There’s a great in-house restaurant too, serving local specialities, notably seafood, accompanied by locally sourced and even home-grown ingredients.

Kaikoura town is a 20-minute drive away, so as well as a quirky, memorable place to stay, it is sufficiently close for access to Kaikoura’s whale-watching, dolphin swimming and other eco-adventures.

Average £600

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club