I want to first start by saying that this post refers to ‘walks’ rather than ‘hikes’. I know there are many more hikes (Milford Track, Routeburn Track etc.) that would warrant making it into this top 5, but I am just posting shorter walks – about half a day or less. Having spent 5 weeks travelling around NZ’s South island I have chosen what I feel are the top 5 best shorter walks that we undertook during our travels.
Top 5 walks
1. Hanmer Springs Conical Hill Walkway
We really loved the time we spent in Hanmer Springs – especially the Conical Hill Walkway. This walkway started near our lovely holiday house and we really enjoyed the walk – and were blessed with gorgeous weather while we walked. The walk is pretty steep uphill at times – you are climbing to the summit of Conical Hill after all! It is well signposted and shaded most of the way though – and really worth the incredible views that meet you at the top. There are some well placed benches along the way – including a nice picnic bench at the top, along with a shaded hut and seating area. The 360 degree views from the top are breathtaking – making this one of our favourite walks.
2. Glenorchy Lagoon walkway
The Glenorchy Lagoon encompasses absolutely amazing views and is a fantastic mixture of boardwalks and gravel tracks. We thoroughly enjoyed our walk back in October. It took us about 1 hour 20 to complete the loop around the walkway. As I mention in my blog posting much of the boardwalk is brand new and had just been laid by the local community! There are stunning views of the mountains all around you as you walk. A definite must on a trip to Glenorchy.
3. Fox Glacier walk
During our visit to Fox Glacier the poor weather meant we weren’t able to do the glacier hike in our time frame (although we weren’t too disappointed as were lucky enough to do the heli hike on Franz Josef back in 2006). However, we decided to still walk to the glacier face ourselves – and it was a gorgeous walk! We were able to get within a few hundred metres of the glacier and the views of the glacier mouth were brilliant. There are some sections of the walk with a ‘do not stop’ rule due to the dangers of rockfall. On the whole though the walk is very safe, as long as you stick to the main paths and don’t go past the signs telling you not to! All in all a brilliant walk enabling you to get very close to the glacier, at your own pace and under your own steam.
4. Mount Cook Hooker Valley Track
Our time in Mount Cook was incredibly memorable and we made the most of it, despite being limited by time and weather. We had a spare hour or so and decided to walk part of the Hooker Valley Track. We drove to the car park by the camping area to reduce the walking time (you can walk from Mount Cook village which is about 45 minutes). We walked up past the Alpine Memorial to the first swingbridge on the walk and stopped to take some great photos of the Hooker river, which feeds into the Hooker Glacier terminal lake. The sweeping views across the landscape including the stunning Mount Cook were wonderful. In future we hope to return and do more/all of this great walk!
5. Kaikoura Coastal Peninsula walkway
This walk has it all! Taking about 3 hours 30/4 hours (with stops) to complete this 12 kilometre walk back in September we were tired but really enjoyed it! The walk enables you to see seals in their natural habitat, local wildlife and seabirds, and enjoy fantastic views from cliff top sites with views out to sea with the gorgeous mountain peaks as a backdrop. Some sections are steep in parts but on the whole it is well signposted and has a really great variety taking in much of Kaikoura’s best scenery. A great way to spend half a day in the area!
Others worthy of a mention:
Skyline loop walkway – Queenstown. Also referred to on my blog posting.
Blue Pools walk – part of Haast pass. Read more from my blog here.
Wainui falls walk in Golden Bay – a sense of adventure necessary for this one!
Pancake rocks and blowholes – part of the amazing wet and wild west coast.