Southland is a sparsely populated region with extreme natural contrasts. Landscapes here range from the steep mountainous terrain in Fiordland to cultivated plains at the southern tip of the South Island. Notable towns in this region include: Invercargill, Te Anau, and Mossburn. There is enough variety here to keep even the most ardent traveller enthused.
Fiordland National Park is the most scenic area in Southland and arguably New Zealand. Highlights of this huge park include 14 fiords surrounded by extremely steep mountains, lush rain forest and beech forest, and countless waterfalls, On a rainy day it is possible to see hundreds of temporary waterfalls side by side tumbling down sheer cliff faces. Some of the permanent waterfalls rate among the highest in the world and range from single cascades to waterfalls that tumble down gentler forested slopes. Fiordland is one of the biggest national parks in the world and covers the entire western coastline of Southland. Even to this day, some areas in this park have never been sighted by man due to its vastness and inaccessibility. The park is part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area and is comparable in granduer to other famous World Heritage sites around the world such as the Grand Canyon or the Amazon Rainforest.
The Catlin's Coast is another natural area worth visiting. Situated on the opposite coast to Fiordland and straddling the boundary of Southland and Otago, this park encompasses the South Island's most southerly point. There exists abundant marine mammals on this coast and because the coast is battered by large waves, it attracts big-wave surfers. Inland from ths coast is a tract of pristine temperate rainforest populated by rare bird species including the yellow-eyed penguin.
Southland is also the departure point to Stewart Island which is New Zealand's third largest island.