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The South Island’s landscapes are famous the world over, and one of the best ways to experience them is on foot. Here, we’ve listed a collection of what we think are the South Island’s best day walks, with lengths ranging from a couple of hours to a full day. All are easygoing in nature.
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, Kaikoura
Cross the cliff top of the Kaikoura Peninsula and soak up the grand ocean views on this impressive coastal trail. It’s the wildlife you’re likely to see that makes this walk a must-do. Spot dolphins and seals just off the coast; and see how many rare sea birds you come across. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot the telltale spout of water coming from a whale out at see. There is also plenty of whaling sites en-route to explore.
The full walk is 11.7km (7.2mi), but you can choose to walk anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours.
Kea Point, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Always wanted to see a glacier up-close? Stroll the Kea Point Walk, in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, for incredible views of the Mueller Glacier and the Main Divide. You’ll also get to enjoy awesome views of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook. Look out for the Kea bird, the world’s only alpine parrot. Found only in high alpine areas of the South Island, the Kea Parrot is famous for being cheeky and intelligent – watch it doesn’t steal your morning tea!
This is a short walk, taking around 1 hour return. It’s suitable for all fitness levels.
Blue Pools Track, Mount Aspiring National Park
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard when you walk this stunning South Island track. Stroll through ancient beech forest to the pristine Makarora River, and cross to the other side via swing bridge. Soon after crossing you’ll come to a viewing platform that hovers over the Blue Pools, where you’ll also get a glimpse of the large river gorge.
This is an easy walk, taking around an hour return, and its 1.5km in distance (0.9mi).
Glacier Country, Lake Matheson
One of the most iconic scenes in New Zealand, Lake Matheson is famous for its mirror-like reflections of Aoraki/Mount Cook, the country’s tallest mountain. This circuit has got to be one of the most special day walks in the South Island. The mirror-like qualities of the lake is due to the dark brown of the water, created by organic matter leaching from the forest floor.
Starting and returning to the carpark, this easy circuit takes around 1 hr 30 mins. Don’t forget your camera!
Experience the best of the South Island’s Day Walks with MoaTrek
We love exploring New Zealand on foot ourselves, so it’s only natural that we included as many day walking opportunities as possible in our small group New Zealand tours. When we visit the South Island, guests are able to choose if they would like to walk any of the above trails, and more. Our tours leave plenty of time for relaxed, easy going walking. Inspired? Get in touch!