New Zealand South Island Attractions

An amazing experience to travel the road beside Lake Pukaki on your way to see Mt Cook, New Zealand/s highest mountain
Lake Pukaki with Mt Cook in the distance

When you visit New Zealand, South Island, the attractions are numerous.  What a fabulous place to spend some time… a truly beautiful country with the South Island being my favourite.

I’ve been fortunate to spend 4 years of my life living in New Zealand with most all of that time down south.  I’ve been just about everywhere on both the north and south islands and really, I could go there again and again.

But here I want to talk about the power system being generated by the Waitaki River.  This takes place in a most beautiful part of the world.  The first time I was taken for a day trip around this powerful river I could hardly believe what my eyes were seeing.  You see, here in Australia, although we have many wonderful things to see and enjoy, we don’t have any river systems that look like the amazing rivers in New Zealand.

Rivers hurry to the Sea

In non-flood times the river is braided by many smaller channels
Example of braided river

What attracted me to them was both their colour and their strength.  The South Island of New Zealand is long and narrow, with alps right down the middle of it.  It means rivers don’t have far to travel to the sea and as they are being fed from snow melt, they are in an enormous hurry to make it back to the sea from whence they came.

The beds of the rivers are usually very wide because at the height of their flood they fill the beds completely. But at other times of the year, although they still flow swiftly, they create many small streams that interweave along the river bed.  This is referred to as a braided river.

There are several large glacial lakes which are worthy of a visit in their own right.  Each one is different and has its own character.  It’s certainly not a matter of “seeing one, you’ve seen them all”.  No way!  Each one it totally unique.

Two of the Glacial Lakes

New Zealand South Island Attractions Gorgeous coloured water and alps behind the Church of the Good Shepherd
Church of the Good Shepherd – Lake Tekapo South Island New Zealand

The last time I visited the Church of the Good Shepherd, all on its own on the shores of Lake Tekapo, we were actually there when a Japanese wedding was taking place.  They have a window at the back of the church that looks out over the lake to the alps beyond and is truly one of the most incredible scenes you could ever see from inside a church.

See the flowers in the foreground?  Yeap, they are really there… everywhere!  Lupins, a wonderful array of glorious colour at certain times of the year.  You will see them all along the sides of the main roads all through that area. The mountains behind are covered with snow more often than not.

If you are not familiar with the New Zealand Maori language some of the names are tongue twisters. The best way to manage is to remember that unlike English, the Maoris pronounce every syllable.  For example: Tekapo is te-ka-po  and Pukaki is pu-ka-ki etc.

An amazing experience to travel the road beside Lake Pukaki on your way to see Mt Cook, New Zealand/s highest mountain
Lake Pukaki with Mt Cook in the distance

The next lake down is called Lake Pukaki which is a different colour again to that of Lake Tekapo.

All glacial lakes appear to be “glacial blue”, but the distinctive turquoise colour of Lake Pukaki is something else again.

And… to see it against the backdrop of Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, is breath-taking.





“Lord of the Rings” film location

This is the same area they filmed Lord of the Rings
Backdrop scenery of Lord of the Rings Movie

This is the location they used for the filming of the movie called Lord of the Rings.  It’s at the head of Lake Pukaki, where the waters off the glacier run into the lake.  It’s virtually at the foot of Mt Cook.

If you saw the movie/s you may recognise the backdrop.  By the time they changed things and added their computer generated images, some of it was almost unrecognisable.

The highest peak is Mt Cook.  3,724 mtrs / 12,218 ft.

Fascinating, don’t you think?



River and Lake systems used for Hydroelectric Scheme

Position of the Waitaki River fed by glacial lakes in South Island New Zealand
Position of Waitaki River

The Waitaki River flows through Lake Benmore, Lake Aviemore and Lake Waitaki which are all fed by the large glacial lakes: Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau, before taking an almost direct path to the sea. The head of the river enters the Pacific Ocean between Timaru and Oamaru, two cities on the east coast of  the South Island.

The Tekapo-Waitaki system contains 8 hydroelectric power stations in all and accounts for about 50% of New Zealand’s hydroelectric storage.

It’s fascinating to realise that Lake Benmore feeds the Benmore Power Station, which spits out its water to feed the Aviemore Power Station where the same water moves on to feed the Waitaki Power Station, and so it goes.  They just use basically the same water to feed power station after power station.



Bird’s Eye View of Waitake River

Waitaki River from space shows how it flows almost in a straight line to the sea
Waitaki River from space

As you can see by this image taken from the International Space Station, the Waitaki River doesn’t waste any time making its journey to the sea, being virtually in a straight line.

New Zealand is not renowned for its beaches.  Coming from Australia – the land of the most fabulous surfing beaches, New Zealand’s beaches did nothing for me at all.  But, they more then make up for it with their rivers and alps.  I fell deeply in love with both of them. 🙂

Although when you look at a braided river from the air it doesn’t seem to be much, every one of those little streams is running very swiftly and reminds you that you are standing within a great and mighty river… just wait until the snow melts!

I’ve used the Waitaki River as an example of power, and as we’ve seen… the power of that river system generated much energy in the form of hydroelectricity.


How electricity is generated

My main website is about creating energy in our bodies, through the food (fuel) that we eat and drink on a daily basis. In the same way they use the flow of falling water to convert it into the flow of electrons, which we call electricity,

our bodies also require
good healthy food sources
to give us the energy we need
to live our lives to the fullest extent.

Do you find yourself lacking in energy?  Find it hard to do all the things you want to do?  Is it hard to squat down?  Can’t walk hardly at all before you find yourself puffed out?

Do you think it’s just old age creeping up on you and there’s not much you can do about it?

The truth is you need more energy and unfortunately we can’t go down to the local shop and buy a bottle of energy… scoff it down and we’re right to go.  Doesn’t work quite that way, but it is certainly very related to the food and drink you have on a daily basis.

Mouthful Matters

Have you ever travelled to New Zealand?  Have you visited the lake and river system I’ve described above?  Leave a comment below as I’d love to hear how you found it.  If you have any questions I’d be happy to try and answer them for you.

I absolutely love the country of New Zealand, and the South Island attractions are particularly wonderful. Don’t think I don’t also love the North Island, because I do… it’s just different, that’s all.  I could very  happily spend a holiday in either of the islands as there’s just so much to see.  But the South Island holds my heart.

Warm regards,
Marilyn Williams shares her experience of the difference it made when she concentrated on building her health rather than trying to lose weight




Marilyn Williams



    • Actually, I understand you! I was 18 years of age when I said to myself… I’m going to New Zealand! I planned it and did it when I turned 19. Guess you have to speak it into being first, and then just do it. Go and visit and experience, I’m sure you won’t be sorry.

  1. Its hard to top New Zealand when it comes to pure natural attractions and beauty. This is a great run down on places to visit that anybody traveling there would make use of. The south island especially has an abundance of places that will truly take your breath away. Anybody heading out there would do well to check out this site.

    • Thanks Chris! Sounds like you’ve been there and experienced it also. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment… much appreciated.

  2. Hi Marylin, you are so lucky to live in a country with lots of stunning view. I personally would love to see the braided river by my self, as well as the filming location of Lord of the Ring. Btw, I heard that NZ has a great animation industry (not sure if it is animation, but it produces some special effects for LOTR ) that offers free tours daily for public. One of my colleague went there and very fascinated with their projects. Have you had any chance to visit this company?

    • Hi Nina! I do not live in NZ. I live in Australia but I did live there for a total of 4 years… my longest time there was 2 years without returning to Australia.

      No, I haven’t heard of that company, but I’m sure it would be fun to do the tour. I must look into it.

      I will always love NZ. I use this saying “You can take the girl out of NZ, but you can’t take NZ out of the girl!” I remember saying that exact thing on my last evening before flying back to Australia. I was standing beside an absolutely beautiful lake that was surrounded by snow clad mountains… I closed my eyes and thought to myself… whenever I close my eyes I will come back here to enjoy this amazing beauty.

  3. Marilyn, I can see why you love South Island. I am also absolutely stunned by the efficient use of one river to power three power stations! My dad always talks about how our country (Ghana) is wasting its largest river to only one hydro-electric power plant. I wish we had the template of the Waitaki river system. I also see why you have fallen for the Lord of the rings mountain. It looks exquisite without all the computer alterations. I do hope that we can have an energy efficient body as the Waitaki

    • Hi Emmanuel! What a great thought – “an energy efficient body as the Waitaki”!!! That’s it you know.

      Your dad is smart thinking – he should be somewhere where he has the authority to set such a plan into motion.

      I really appreciate you sharing this with me as it helps me understand how things are in other places. 🙂

  4. Hi Marilyn,

    Thank you for your article. You gave me a very good impression of what I can see, what I would expect to see in New Zealand if ever I go for a holiday there. Honestly, without bluffing you, all I know of NZ is a laid back and antiquated place, untouched by modernization. To top it all, I have the impression that all I will ever there are sheep!

    That would change now, although I think in New Zealand, a big part of the attraction is still the unadulterated nature as it is. That I love!

    I hope that I will have the chance to go to New Zealand with my family. To see with my own eyes the beauty that is New Zealand’s alone is one experience of a lifetime.

    • Isn’t it funny how we think certain things about different places. I can remember when I was a teenager thinking of Japan as totally covered with houses and not having anything else! Makes you wonder where you pick up these thoughts doesn’t it!

      I would say that NZ is fairly “laid back” though, which is actually a very good thing! “Untouched by modernization” – I don’t think so! “Sheep”… yeap there certainly are a lot, especially down in Southland (the furthermost south of the South Island). I don’t think I have ever seen so many sheep in one paddock… after another paddock… after another. It’s so green and rich they can really pack them in there. “Unadulterated nature” – yes siree it’s a wonderful place indeed.

      I also hope you get the chance to visit NZ… put it on your bucket list. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing with me.

  5. Thanks for this article. I just love New Zealand South Island. It’s one of the most beautiful places that I have been to. I love the picture of the Church of the Good Shepherd. I haven’t been there before, but would like to one day.

    I just watched that video of “How to produce electricity from water” and thought it was a very interesting concept. It’s always good to learn something new. Watching a video on how it all works makes it much easier to remember than reading something like this in textbook 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Oh another one who loves this marvelous place. It tells me you’ve tripped around there and enjoyed it just like I have. When you visit the Church of the Good Shepherd, make sure you go in. You will want to take a photo across the lake… it’s magnificent.

      Videos are good for sure as they make learning so easy and as you say, you can remember it. Thanks for coming by and sharing with me your thoughts. 🙂

  6. Hi Marilyn

    What a great article and site! I love the South Island and think it is one of the most beautiful parts of the world!

    My top would have to be the MIlford Sounds (especially in early spring when everything is melting and there are waterfalls everywhere!), Te Anau, gold panning in Arrowtown and I love the entire West Coast. There is so much sea life to see on it and the lakes are beautiful!

    The Frans Josef and Fox Glaciers are pretty spectacular as well.

    Good luck and I wish you all the best with the rest of your recommendations and reviews.

    Stacey 🙂

    • Hi Stacey! I’m so glad you agree with me about how lovely New Zealand is. It is really a spectacular place. Milford Sound is so amazing also… in particular I remember the kia’s (birds) jumping on our car to see what it could rip off… the snow flakes falling… go down through the tunnel and coming out way below where it is snowing. So much to remember and enjoy.

      I also love all the other places you’ve mentioned and who knows, I may just write about a few of them later on.

      Thank you for your good wishes etc… it’s much appreciated.

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