New Zealand is well-known for their ridiculously stunning and pristine landscapes – many of which require a little hike to get to. We’ve picked out the 5 best day hikes in the South Island of New Zealand, with varying degrees of challenge.
So whether the toughest walking you’ve done is down a busy shopping street, or if you’re an avid tramper – we’ve got something you can attempt. The hikes have been arranged from easy peasy to a full-day huffer of a trek.
Fox Glacier, 1 hour return
Fox Glacier is the largest and longest glacier on the West Coast of the South Island. It has more 3,000m peaks at its head than any other valley in the country. If your budget doesn’t allow for a NZD$450 helicopter flight up to the glacier for the spectacular views, you can still see it with this easy 2.6km walk.
It’s amazing that a phenomenal natural feature like this is so accessible. You’ll glimpse the glacier just five minutes in, and the final section involves a short climb to the viewing area 500m from the glacier face. The ice recedes every year so it’s worth heading up to witness it before it retreats even further.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, 3 hours return
Mount Cook – Aoraki is its Maori name – is the highest mountain in New Zealand at 3,724m. Make sure you have your camera in hand as this entire hike is like one extended viewpoint – incredible for a trail that’s only 1.5 hours each way!
You’ll cross three swing bridges, traverse along rivers, see the vegetation change from green forest to golden tussocks on a wide valley floor, gawk at the surrounding snow-capped mountains and glimpse more glaciers – all with the majesty of Aoraki looming in front of you.
Nelson Lakes National Park, 5 hours return
A hike with a little bit more challenge, requiring a medium level of fitness! This loop circuit combines Pinchgut Track and Paddy’s Track. The zigzag start up the steep, bare face of Mount Robert on Pinchgut track will get you huffing.
You’ll reach Bushline Hut after 2 hours, and then Robert Ridge after another 30 minutes. There, you’ll get some panoramic views of Lake Rotoiti with its deep blue hue, and the surrounding rugged mountains that separate the Tasman and Malborough regions.
Keep your eye out for native birds as well! If you feel like staying the night, Bushline Hut has 14 bunk beds, usable for free on a first come, first served basis.
Wanaka, 5 – 7 hours return
A longer route with a huge height gain of 1,300m – you’ll want an evening in after that. Your day starts with a zigzag along a steep 4WD track from the carpark to the conservation area before winding through green-golden tussock grassland to the 1,578m summit.
The walk along the ridge towards the summit is simply incredible for its panoramic views of Lake Wanaka, the surrounding peaks and Mount Aspiring (Tititea in Maori). The pointed summit itself makes for a fantastic Instagram shot. Most of the hike is very exposed so be sure to pack enough sunscreen, water and windproof clothing.
Queenstown, 6 – 8 hours return
There’s something very humbling and awe-inspiring about seeing waves of mountain peaks stretched out before your eyes. At the summit of Ben Lomond, you can witness that – plus the distinct jagged edges of The Remarkables, Cecil Peak, Walter Peak, Lake Wakatipu, Moke Lake, Skippers Canyon, Shotover Canyon, and more.
For a bigger challenge, start on the trail just after passing the Skyline complex, otherwise take it easier with a Skyline Gondola trip up through the forest to shave an hour off your time (NZD$35 for adults). The track gets steeper and rougher nearing the 1,748m summit. Pack a lunch, lots of snacks and water, and allow yourself plenty of time on this unforgettable hike.
Your flights and accommodation for your New Zealand trip is likely to set you back by a few thousand dollars. So make sure you maximise your credit card rewards when making your bookings. We suggest using the DBS Woman’s World MasterCard for 10x points on your online transactions (up to S$2,000 per month), or the HSBC Advance Credit Card for up to 3.5% cashback on all purchases (capped at S$125 a month for Advance banking customers).