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Why We Think the South Island is the Most Beautiful Island in the World

Why We Think the South Island is the Most Beautiful Island in the World

This is a dispatch from Super World Travel News: In news out of New Zealand, a local travel blog has crowned Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand’s South Island, the most beautiful island in the world today in a move which caused internet-wide outrage and prompted a please explain from senior government officials from around the world. He contacted Super World Travel News to set the record straight.

Jon, Dunedin. South Island Travel Website Co-Owner: In regard to the controversy over our claim that the South Island is the most beautiful island in the world, I present the following points along with dozens of photos to back them up.

Southern Alps | The Coasts

There are plenty of mountainous islands at the extreme ends of the Earth, but none of them have the beautiful coastlines of the South Island. White sand beaches, tropical-looking coves and rugged coastlines with long lengths of lonely sand. Rock formations created by ancient volcanos. White sand and black. Busy and lonely. Lush native bush right up to the shoreline.

READ MORE: Top 12 Beaches in the South Island

Stunning view of Lake Wanaka from Roys Peak, New Zealand

Those things are rarely found on the same island as glaciers, snow-capped mountains and lush forest valleys. You won’t find a more striking mix of mountain range, rainforest and glistening coastline anywhere in the world.

READ MORE: Top 12 Mountains in the South Island


There are very few places on Earth where you can easily enjoy the kind of scenery you’ll see in Fiordland. Milford Sound has long been known as the 8th wonder of the world, and it’s right up there with the best example of this kind of landscape — fiords and valleys surrounded by wild, rocky peaks and miles of native bush. To have that on the same island as glaciers, gorges, postcard worthy beaches and many other types of scenery is very rare indeed.

Add in the abundance of hikes, both short and ones that last several days, and a road winding through to Milford Sound and you have a region that is both staggeringly beautiful and easy to explore.

READ MORE: 25 of the Best Things to Do in Fiordland 

Variety of Scenery

Gorges, glacier carved valleys, rock formations, ancient forests, high altitude moonscapes, wine regions, rolling hills, rivers flowing with some of the clearest water you’ll ever see. The variety of scenery, and the access granted to all (thousands of free walking trails, viewpoints and other attractions) is mind blowing when you dig into it.

READ MORE: Top 12 Natural Wonders in the South Island

Hokitika Gorge, West Coast, New Zealand

I’ve published around a post a week for seven years, and if I keep going at this at this rate I don’t think I’ll ever finish. That is if I wanted to visit and write about every proper walking trail, beach, waterfall, historic place, etc (which is the long-term plan). There are always new ones popping up too — the Paparoa Track, Bennetts Bluff and new Blue Pools Track all opening in the last few years.

Sunrise at Moeraki Boulders, Coastal Otago, New Zealand

Lovely Neighbours

A boat ride away (or a short flight), Stewart Island and the North Island are the perfect back-up crew to the South Island. There are geothermal areas in the North Island similar to those in Yellowstone National Park in the US and several volcanoes — Mount Taranaki is a perfect example of a cone volcano. 

Stewart Island has wild nature — basically forest trails and beaches, coves and viewpoints. Nothing you can’t see in the South Island, but a cool place to have in our backyard, with quite a unique atmosphere compared to the rest of New Zealand.

17 of the best things to do on Stewart Island, New Zealand

South Island on Screen

No other Island on Earth has been captured so well and used so extensively on screen as a stand in for a fantasy world. Watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy again and try and argue it’s not the most beautiful island in the world! Most of the best parts (all the mountains outside of Mount Doom etc.) were captured in the Southern Alps.

The Competition

If you’re going to compile a list of the most beautiful islands in the world, with quality and variety of scenery as the most important aspect, Crete, Honshu, Java, Reunion, Iceland, Greenland, Borneo, Madagascar, Vancouver Island, Sicily, Hokkaido and Oahu are probably the biggest competition. These islands may do certain things better but none of them tie it all together quite like the South Island. Wildlife is a bit of weakness of the South Island, although it is home to lots of interesting birds and marine creatures.

Bird watching at Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Dunedin, New Zealand

Why Is it Such a Pretty Island?

New Zealand is the very upper reaches of Zealandia, an ancient sunken continent. This somewhat explains the rugged, mountainous nature of the island I guess. It’s in a good location too — not quite far south enough to be cold all the time and the distinct seasons create a well-balanced climate. 

The South Island’s Best Places

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves in this next section — I’ve written heaps about these places so explore this website a bit and you’ll find all the information you’ll need (this page is a good place to start).

Marlborough Sounds

Otago Coastline

Cannibal Bay, the Catlins, New Zealand

Queenstown Lakes

Mount Cook National Park

Other Places in the Southern Alps

Church of the Good Shepherd, New Zealand

West Coast



Hiking to Goat Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

Canterbury Coastline

Central Otago

Do you agree that the South Island is the most beautiful island in the world? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.


Monday 11th of December 2023

Absolutely Agree


Friday 8th of December 2023

Absolutely agree. We have been here for a year motorhoming around both north and south island but the south has our hearts and there is so much to see and do . Love it

Jon Algie

Tuesday 12th of December 2023

Sounds like a fun year, enjoy the rest of your travels!

Comments are closed.