A trip to New Zealand should be more than just a road trip. If you were to take some time out of the scenic drives, and get your legs moving, you would not regret it. Hikes and walks are equally enjoyable for us during our recent trip to New Zealand, where we started our two weeks road trip from Christchurch.
For many of us, perhaps the main concern would be the fitness level required for some hike routes, and more importantly, if the experience and view are even worth that many hours of walking up steep slopes and countless steps.
Here is our guide to the 10 Best Short Walks and Day Hikes to do while in South Island New Zealand:
Mount Iron Track, Wanaka
Get the view of Wanaka town with the mountain ranges around. This 4.5km loop track is amongst one of the most rewarding short walks in South Island New Zealand, and depending on your speed, you could potentially complete this trek within 1 to 1.5 hours. The parking at the bottom of the track is rather limited, our advice is to start the trek up early.
Blue Pools Track, Haast Pass – Makarora Roads
Driving north from Wanaka, through the Hasst Pass – Makarora Road, this is perhaps the main highlight of the drive here. The 20 minutes walk would bring you to two suspension bridges above the Makarora River, and as the name of the track suggests, be awed by the blue rivers which flow below. The intense blue hue of the river water is mainly due to the reflection of the sunlight off the pristine glacier waters.
The Chasm Walk, Te Anau-Milford Sound
For many of us, a visit to South Island New Zealand is perhaps not complete without heading out on a cruise at Milford Sound. If you are taking a drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound, or booking a day trip out, make very sure to do a quick 10 minutes stop at The Chasm. You might have seen waterfalls, but Chasm gives you a top-down view of the waterfall and the sound of water crashing when it makes landfall.
Mt John Observatory, Lake Tekapo
The blue waters of Lake Tekapo could be enjoyed from many spots around the town. Although with just a 45 minutes hike up, or take the 10 minutes drive if you are feeling lazy, Mt John Observatory would get you a sweeping view of the entire lake amidst the mountain range. While at the peak, grab a coffee from Astro Cafe to reward yourself for the climb. Make sure you order the carrot cake from the cafe too – it is amongst the best carrot cake I have had, not kidding.
Sandfly Bay, Dunedin
This was a surprising find for me. Dunedin may not be featured in most road trips down south at New Zealand, but the second biggest city on the island has much to offer. In addition to the popular Tunnel Beach Walk, take a drive towards Sandfly Bay. Walk through the private farms, down to the bay below, and if you are lucky enough, you might spot penguins and seals in their natural habitat. Just the views of Sandfly Bay and its serenity is worth the trip there!
Hooker Valley Track, Mt Cook
This is perhaps amongst one of the rewarding hikes despite the relatively flat 10km walk. Taking 3 hours return, you would cross 3 suspension bridge while walking through Hooker Valley, before arriving at Hooker Lake where you would find glaciers at the far end. Make very sure you make time to do this hike while at Mt Cook, and cater more time for this walk if you are an avid photographer.
Tasman Glacier Walk, Mt Cook
Another hike at Mt Cook, as an alternative to the Hooker Valley Track, the Tasman Glacier Walk would also bring you to a glacier lake. While the walk would not be as scenic as Hooker Valley, the short walk which takes less than 30 minutes each way to either the Tasman Glacier View and Tasman Glacier Lake would get you a sweeping view of the glaciers. Do note that the climb to Tasman Glacier View is a steep climb up to the viewpoint, and it might not be suitable for everyone.
Ben Lomond Summit Hike, Queenstown
This is the highlight of our trip to New Zealand, and while the climb was tough, it was all worth it. The 6 to 8 hours return hike starting from the streets of Queenstown could be shortened slightly by taking the overpriced Skyline Queenstown cable cars.
Once at the top of Skyline, follow through with the signages which would bring you to the Tiki Trail, start the trail following the arrows pointing towards the Ben Lomond trails. From here, the climb would be steeped, going from 800 meters to 1,326 meters at the Ben Lomond Saddle, and eventually to 1,748 meters at the summit. Do exercise caution at the last segment of the climb to the summit, as the rocky terrain should be climbed with much care. Once at the summit, you would not regret the tough climb, that’s guaranteed!
Queenstown Hill, Queenstown
For folks who are worried that the Ben Lomond Summit walk might be too tough, go for the neighbouring Queenstown Hill. Taking 3 hours return, hikers would have to climb 500 meters before reaching the peak of the hill at 907 meters. Despite its relatively short height, you get to soak in the views of The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu, and of course with Queenstown right beneath all of these natural wonders.
Roy’s Peak, Wanaka
This would be one hike the Pandas regretted not doing. Make plans to cater sufficient time to rest between the hikes, as back-to-back climbs took us out before we arrived at Roy’s Peak. This 6 hours return hike is an upslope from the start to the end, climbing 1200 meters over a 8km stretch to reach the peak at 1578 meters. Zigzag your way through the side of Roy’s Peak, and enjoy the views of Lake Wanaka and Wanaka town as you ascend. At the peak, the favourite instagram shot would be that of the mountain ridge.
Ranted by The Rantee