Best of the South Island: Walking

Roys Peak Track

Milford Track. Image: Great South

Routeburn Track. Image: Stewart Nimmo

Abel Tasman Coast Track. Image:

Banks Track

Best of the South Island: Walking

The South Island’s walks span mountains, fiords, forests, rivers and glaciers. Locals will tell you Te Waipounamu has the best hikes in Aotearoa and it’s easy to see why in country like this. Check out our pick of the best multi-day hikes and scenic strolls.

Milford Track

Maybe the most famous of the Great Walks, this hike through Fiordland National Park is a stunning five-day spectacular of glacial valleys, temperate rainforest and sub-alpine landscapes.

Routeburn Track

Linking the Mount Aspiring and Fiordland national parks, this world-renowned Great Walk takes in majestic mountain views, glassy blue lakes and cascading waterfalls over two to four days.

Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track

Walk through ancient terraced forests, see and hear native wildlife, and be blown away by the fabulous alpine and coastal views. This three-day loop walk was almost in the running to be added to the Great Walks list, and is acclaimed for its unique blend of nature and heritage.

The Queen Charlotte Track

One of the two definitive coastal hikes in Aotearoa. Stunning sea views abound on this coastal trail in Marlborough, running almost the entire length of the Queen Charlotte Sound. You’ll wind your way through subtropical rainforest, past historic bays and along gasp-inducing ridges, and there’s even the option to skip some of the harder sections or transfer your belongings by water taxi.

Abel Tasman Coast Track

The other definitive coastal hike, the Abel Tasman Coast track showcases the glorious golden sand beaches, turquoise water and fascinating rock formations of Abel Tasman National Park. Water taxis can deliver you (or your gear) to different sections, or you can walk the whole thing over three to five days.

Glacier walk

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier are two of only three glaciers in the world that you can take a guided walk on as an average citizen, as opposed to a qualified mountaineer. Experience the incredible majesty of these blue-white ice rivers and explore the ever-changing valleys, crevasses and caves with Franz Josef Glacier Guides.

Summit Road Walkway

Take in magnificent views of the Canterbury Plains, Lyttelton Harbour, Akaroa Harbour and the Port Hills on this two-to-three-day walk, meandering along a high ridgeline around Banks Peninsula from Gebbes Pass to the Akaroa crater.

Roys Peak Track

This three-hour hike gets pretty steep in parts, but the superb views of Lake Wānaka, Mount Aspiring and the Southern Alps are well worth it. Your climb will lead you through alpine meadows and tussock grasslands on the way to the summit.

Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park

Take a genteel stroll through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park to enjoy riverside tranquillity, the sounds of families playing, and the colourful blooms of this garden city. If you want to push the boat out, venture onto Te Ara Ōtākaro Avon River Trail, connecting the centre city to New Brighton Beach.

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

A guided walk or self-directed wander in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is the ideal way to soak in the incredible scenery of this area, from stunning alpine meadows to lakeside tracks with views of New Zealand’s highest mountain. Some top tracks in the area include Red Tarns Track, Hooker Valley Track and the Muller Hut Route.

Banks Track

One of New Zealand’s original private walking trails, this two-to-three-day experience wends its way through farmland and forest to stunning coastline and dramatic cliffs, ending up in the pretty French-settled town of Akaroa. The track is open from October to April.

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