15 Facts about South Island Mountains


Tourism West Coast
Dec. 11, 2016

11th December is International Mountain Day and to celebrate we have collated this list of interesting facts about the South Island mountains.


  1. Approximately 60% of the South Island is covered by mountain ranges.
  2. All of New Zealand's peaks over 3,000 metres are in the Southern Alps.
  3. The Southern Alps are by far the highest, longest and most glaciated chain of mountains in the country.Mt Cook
  4. Aoraki/Mt Cook is New Zealand's tallest mountain at 3,724 metres (12,218 feet) high.
  5. Mount Tasman is nearby at 250 metres shorter than Aoraki/Mt Cook.
  6. The South Island has 23 named peaks over 3,000 metres high.air safaris
  7. One of the best ways to get up close to the peak of Aoraki/Mt Cook is with Air Safaris, Franz Josef.Fox Glacier Guiding New Zealand
  8. There are more than 3,000 glaciers or permanent snow patches in the South Island, including Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier that extend down to the floor of the valley. Take a tour with Franz Josef Glacier Guides and Fox Glacier Guiding to see both of the glaciers.
  9. Lake Mapourika is a kettle lake that was formed from a large block of ice was left behind by the Southern Alps Franz Josef Glacier over 14,000 years ago.Oparara Arch
  10. The best example of glaciated karst terrain with limestone formations such as fissures, sinkholes and underground stream can be found at the Oparara Arches in Kahurangi National Park.
  11. The Southern Alps stretch for 500kms.
  12. The mountains are made of schist on the West Coast.Neve Fox
  13. The Southern Alps contains all of the névés (large high snowfields) .Alpine Fault Tours
  14. On the West Coast the mountains end steeply and abruptly at the line of the Alpine Fault. Take a guided trip with Alpine Fault Tours to learn more and see this for yourself.
  15. The Southern Alps are a mountain barrier to the moist westerly winds of the Southern Ocean, this causes the rainfall on the West Coast.

To finish off a quote from Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings) “The beauty of it (New Zealand) was not lost on us and the fact that it looked like CGI … kinda looked more perfect than nature, it was just funny because we were just looking at mountains thinking no one is going to believe this is real.” 


Thank you Te Ara for this information.