It’s easy to see why Shaun Liddy loves his job. As the Queenstown-based track operations manager for Ultimate Hikes New Zealand, he has the South Island’s dramatic landscape as his backyard.

“It’s certainly not a bad part of the world,” he laughs. “The scale of everything is staggering – the mountains, the lakes, the waterfalls. It’s like a snapshot of how the world used to be. It really is such a special place.”

Here, Liddy shares five natural wonders you must see on New Zealand’s South Island.

Earn 75,000 bonus Qantas Points* when you apply online by 31 October 2023, are approved, and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. Available to new American Express Card Members only.

Ultimate hiking adventure: Sutherland Falls

Sutherland Falls, New Zealand

“To see the highest permanent waterfall in New Zealand, you have to walk the Milford Track. Sutherland Falls cascades 580 metres from a glacier-fed lake at the top so it’s always flowing, and when it rains, which is often, it becomes absolutely huge.

“You encounter it on day three of the four-day hike, which you can do with Ultimate Hikes New Zealand or independently. You need to be of at least moderate fitness to tackle this walk, but we take children as young as 10, so it’s something families with slightly older children could consider.

“The falls themselves are a four-kilometre side trip from the main track. Sometimes people skip it, which is a shame as they’ve just crossed the McKinnon Pass, the track’s highest and most strenuous point.

“You hear it long before you see it; it sounds like a jet engine.”

Tip: Before tackling the Milford Track, book a stay at Te Anau Lodge, a converted nunnery which includes the chance to eat breakfast in the former chapel.

Lake Wanaka’s “That Wanaka Tree”

Qantas Amex Ultimate Card

Ultimate Insta moment: Lake Wanaka’s “That Wanaka Tree”

“In the Central Otago region, around an hour’s drive north-east of Queenstown, Lake Wanaka is a huge drawcard no matter the season. With the Southern Alps as the backdrop to the turquoise lake, it’s beautiful year round. In summer it’s all about water sports while in winter it’s a real ski town, with three ski resorts within half an hour.

“These days it’s also become famous for what’s known as ‘That Wanaka Tree’. It’s a willow tree that appears to be growing out of the water but really, it’s an optical illusion as the water is very shallow at that point. It makes an incredible photograph. It’s around a 10-20 minute walk from the cafes and restaurants at the township of Wanaka’s waterfront.”

Tip: Once you’ve taken your Insta-shot, kick back at Kika to enjoy acclaimed chef James Stapley’s locavore take on tapas, with dishes such as beef tartare with soy jelly. Feel like staying longer in town? Check into the family friendly Wanaka Hotel, just a minutes’ walk from the lake.

Natural Wonders, New Zealand

$450 Qantas Travel credit

TIP: The Qantas American Express Ultimate Card has an annual fee of $450. However, you’ll receive a $450 Qantas Travel Credit each year to use for eligible international or domestic Qantas flights^. Learn more.

Ultimate serenity: Doubtful Sound

Fiordland Lodge, New Zealand

“Doubtful Sound is the lesser-known little sibling to Milford Sound and is found in the heart of Fiordland, at the south-western tip of the island. It’s a dramatic World Heritage landscape that’s so remote you can’t drive there. You have to go as part of a tour, with day and overnight cruises leaving from Te Anau.

“The main draw is the pristine scenery, with forest that comes right down to the water’s edge, steep cliffs and waterfalls. The thing that really hits people is the eerie quiet. You feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. The cruise captains will switch the engines off for what they call ‘the sound of silence’, and it gives you goosebumps. It’s such a powerful experience.”

Tip: Being at the edge of the world doesn’t mean going without creature comforts as Te Anau’s Redcliff Café proves with its smart menu of goats cheese profiteroles and NZ prime steak. Perched on the lake’s shore, Fiordland Lodge enjoys a prime position to soak up the mesmerising views.

TIP: With the Qantas American Express Ultimate Card, you’ll receive two complimentary Qantas Club Lounge invitations each year after your first Card spend on selected Qantas products and services+ Learn more.

Ultimate swimming spot: Blue Pools

Blue pools, New Zealand

“Around an hour’s drive north of Wanaka, the remote Blue Pools are stunning swimming holes filled with pale blue and green water thanks to the glacial melt. They’re actually part of the Makarora River, but are perfectly still and surrounded by untouched beech forest. The water is chillingly cold but it’s worth jumping in. There’s even a small gravel beach and on a sunny day the rocks soak up the warmth, making it a great spot for a picnic. The half-hour walk from the carpark is equally epic as it crosses several swing bridges with fantastic views.”

Tip: Tiny Makarora is the closest town to the Blue Pools and boasts the button-cute Wonderland Makarora Lodge, where guests stay in A-frame huts; some with outdoor bathtubs for soaking up the scenery. Hungry? Makarora Country Café (5507 Makarora-Lake Hawea Road, Makarora) will fill the gap with sausage rolls and excellent lemon pie.

Ultimate 'wow' factor: Te Anau Glowworm Caves

Te Anau Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

“There are few things as beautifully surreal as the sight of hundreds of glowworms inside an ancient limestone cave. The insects are native to New Zealand and live inside the caves on the edge of Lake Te Anau in Fiordland. To visit, you’ll need to do a tour with Real NZ, which involves a 45-minute scenic cruise to the western side of the lake. Seeing the glowworms involves a small boat ride into the second cave, an intensely quiet grotto where you feel like you’re looking at a sky full of stars. It gets cold in there so take a jumper!”

Tip: Centrally located in Te Anau just a short walk from the cruise boat’s docking point, Radfords on the Lake has a tour desk ready to arrange your visit to the caves. Feeling peckish? Taste the simple pleasures of a burger and a Kopiko Bay merlot at The Ranch Bar & Grill.

With the Qantas American Express Ultimate Card, you’ll receive a complimentary Qantas Wine Premium Membership#. Learn more.

Getting there

Fly Qantas Economy return from Melbourne to Queenstown from 36,000 Qantas Points, plus $231 in taxes, fees and carrier charges.ˇ

Experience the unforgettable with the Qantas American Express Ultimate Card. Earn 75,000 bonus Qantas Points* when you apply online by 31 October 2023, are approved, and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. Available to new American Express Card Members only. Learn more.

Plus, build your Qantas Points balance by earning up to 1.25 points per $1 spent on purchases using your Qantas American Express Ultimate Card.~

SEE ALSO: Epic Roadtrips to Take From Los Angeles  

Cards are offered, issued, and administered by American Express Australia Limited ABN 92 108 952 085, Australian Credit Licence No. 291313. American Express income and credit approval criteria applies.
The card products referred to on this page are not Qantas products and not offered or issued by Qantas but by the relevant credit licensees referred to above. The information about the credit products has been provided by the relevant credit licensees and not Qantas. Qantas does not hold an Australian Credit Licence and is not a licensee in relation to the credit activity being engaged in by the relevant credit licensees.
The information on this webpage is factual and of a general nature only and does not consider your personal objectives, financial situation or particular needs.
Qantas is not recommending the products described on this page. We recommend that you obtain independent advice before you apply for any product which is described on this webpage.  Qantas does not accept liability for any loss arising from the use of, or reliance, on the information provided on this webpage.
ˇQantas Points and taxes, fees and carrier charges quoted for Classic Flight Rewards are accurate as at 10 August 2022 and are subject to change. Classic Flight Rewards are subject to capacity controls, availability is limited and some flights may not have any Classic Flight Rewards available. Taxes, fees and carrier charges are payable to Qantas (excluding any amounts payable to third parties at the airport) in addition to the points required. For more information, visit .

You may also like