Aoraki, Mount Cook, New Zealand

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New Zealand South Island is the biggest of both islands.

So, more land to explore more miles to hike.

With Southern Alps extending along much of the length of the island, you can be sure that almost every hike you take is gonna be stunning. Different types of hiking trails are available here. To help you make the right choice, here we have listed 10 of the best hikes in New Zealand, South Island.

If you take all of them, you’ll experience everything from lakes and rivers to beaches, mountains and even glaciers.

Yep, South Island hikes can offer you all of that.

Best Hikes in New Zealand, South Island

Here they are, some of the most breathtaking hiking trails in South Island. These are the hikes you should definitely consider of including in your NZ travel itinerary.

There are countless hiking trails in New Zealand South Island.

We have tried to find something for everyone. 

The hikes are listed in no particular order.

1. Avalanche Peak Trail

Probably the most challenging day hike on the list.

But the perfect one for those who wants to do something memorable and are not afraid to deal with all sorts of obstacles. From my own experience I can tell you, that the hike is doable also for those with medium levels of fitness.

If you have the right amount of determination.

STARTING POINT: Behind the Arthur’s Pass Visitor Center

TIME: 6 – 8 hours

DIFFICULTY: Hard / Advanced

TIPS: For a round trip, start with the Avalanche Peak Track and come down via Scots track.

Check the conditions of the trail in Arthur’s Pass Visitor Center. For safety reasons tell someone where are you going, and when are you coming to return.

2. Ben Lomond Trail

Quenstown lake, New Zealand
Quenstown from above / Pixabay

Here is one of the most rewarding hikes in Queenstown.

By being one of the Queenstown’s most rewarding hikes it has gained popularity in the recent years. You can expect hiking through tussock grasslands with stunning views of lake Wakatipu. Choose a clear day, if you want to have a 360-degree view of the nearby lakes and mountains.

STARTING POINT: Bottom or Top of the Skyline Gondola.

If you hike from the bottom, take the “Tiki Trail” and follow signs for Ben Lomond Saddle.

TIME:  6 – 8 hours

DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate

TIPS: You can shorten the hike by taking the Skyline gondola to the tree line (tickets for adults cost 44 NZD).

3. Roys Peak

Surely one of the most photographed hikes in South Island.

And also clearly one of the best hikes in New Zealand, South Island.

Located just some 3 miles / 5 kilometers from Wanaka it’s an easily accessible trail.

You can expect a steep climb through meadows and tussock grasslands to the summit. Breathtaking views over lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring will accompany you all the way up to the peak. If you have time, here is my recommendation to you – make a camp at the peak, and spend a night there.

STARTING POINT: Roys Peak Track car park, Mount Aspiring Road

TIME:  5 – 6 hours

DIFFICULTY: Easy

TIPS: The track is closed for lambing from the 1st of October – 10th of November each year. Take into account, that the trail becomes really muddy after rain or snow. It is highly recommended to start hiking long before sunrise to avoid waiting in line to take a photo with the famous Roys Peak view (this view).

4. Hooker Valley Track

Mount Sefton, South Island
Mount Sefton, South Island / Pixabay

Here comes the best short hike in South Island.

It is also the easiest way to get closer to New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook (Aoraki). Duriang a short distance hike you will be able to see changing landscapes with fast river, swing bridges, glaciers, mountains and grassland. And at the end you will be rewarded with the majestic Mount Cook closer than ever.

You’ll see the Hooker Lake, where you can watch floating icebergs.

STARTING POINT: White Horse Hill car park, at the end of the Hooker Valley Road

TIME:  3 hours

DIFFICULTY: Easy

TIPS: It’s a very popular track, so start this hike early to avoid the crowds. It crosses many swing bridges, so be aware if you are scared of heights or they make you uncomfortable. Check if the trail is open before you arrive, because sometimes the river overflows.

5. Milford Track

The Milford Track is one of the most popular of the New Zealand’s Great Walks.

This is the trail for those who are not afraid to get wet. On average this area gets 182 days of rainfall EVERY year. That’s a lot. But it also has its upsides. Expect many beautiful streams and waterfalls along the way, as you’ll be hiking the Milford Track. That includes also the Sutherland Falls, which is one of the highest waterfalls in New Zealand.

The trail is 33 miles / 53.5 kilometers long, and every day comes with even more surprising and dramatic landscapes.

STARTING POINT: The track starts at Glade Wharf at the head of Lake Te Anau. There are three scheduled daily boat services (10.30 am, 1 pm and 2 pm) and on-demand water taxi services from Te Anau Downs. Boat transport takes about an hour from Te Anau Downs to the start of the track.

TIME:  4 days

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

TIPS: Trail is open from late October through early May. Pack your rain coat and be prepared for rain. Be careful as the wet rocks might be slippery. Bookings for huts are required.

6. Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Beach in Abel Tasman National Park
Beach in Abel Tasman National Park / Pixabay

Abel Tasman Coastal track is the perfect hike for beach lovers.

This more like a vacation-type of hiking route, will take you along the coastline of Abel Tasman National Park.

There aren’t that many steep climbs and cliffs as in other hikes mentioned in this article. During the hike you’ll be able to enjoy white sand, clear blue water, fern and manuka groves.  You can easily adjust the length of your hike if you don’t want to spend too many days by the beach.

STARTING POINT: Abel Tasman car park, Marahau

TIME: 3 – 5 days

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

TIPS: Several tidal inlets require that you time your crossings with low-tide, so plan ahead. Bookings for huts and campgrounds are required. You can use a water taxi to get back at the starting point as this is a one-way trail.

7. Muellers Hut and Mount Ollivier

This is another hard, but… a very spectacular day hike.

It goes high above the Hooker Valley in Mount Cook National Park. The good news is, you can easily make this into a two day adventure and spend a night in the lovely hut after a hard climb.

You can make your reservation here.

STARTING POINT: White Horse Hill car park, at the end of the Hooker Valley Road

TIME: 6 – 8 Hours

DIFFICULTY: Hard / Advanced

TIPS: It’s best to attempt this hike in the warmer months as snow can be very deep on the slopes of Mount Ollivier. Best advised from Mid November until the end of April.

8. Blue Pools Track

A mountain river
Mountain river / Pixabay

This is the shortest hike on the list, but also the best for a hot summer day.

This easy walk will take you through mossy forest and lead to natural glacial water pools.

The water there looks very beautiful, it’s bluish – greenish, and it’s very cold.

If you are an adrenaline junky, this is the place for you to be. Go on and try jumping in the pools from the swing bridge.

STARTING POINT: Blue Pools car park off the Haast Highway

TIME:  ~ 1 hour

DIFFICULTY: Easy

TIPS: Test the water before you get in. It can be freezing cold even in a sunny day.

9. Roberts Point Track

The perfect hike with the perfect view of a glacier.

What makes this day hike special is the view you’ll be awarded with – the one of the Franz Josef Glacier. Trust me, it looks spectacular. Expect to cross 6 swing bridges of all shapes and sizes on your way. For most part you are going up, it’s a steady climb, but at the same time it’s not as challenging as many other trails in South Island.

STARTING POINT: Franz Josef Glacier car park

TIME:  ~ 6 hours

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

TIPS: As this is a one way trail, you will have to come back the same way. For safety reasons do not try make any shortcuts, especially by crossing the river. Pack your food for a nice pickic at the end with a glacier views.

10. Lake Marian Track

Do you want more? Try the Lake Marian Hike.

This hike takes you through dense forest and rewards you with a view of a beautiful emerald colored lake surrounded by mountains.  It’s a perfect spot for camping or just a quick dip in a hot summer day. The track starts easy, but after you reach the waterfall it gets a bit rocky and steep.

Don’t let that stop you as you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views afterwards.

STARTING POINT: Lake Marian car park

TIME:  3 hours

DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate

TIPS: Weather can change dramatically , so be prepared. Check if the roads to Milford Sound are open before you go. Track can get muddy after rain.

If you want more, check out our list of the best hikes in New Zealand.

Have you been in New Zealand? What is your experience with hiking in New Zealand? Have you done any of these hikes?

Featured photo: Pixabay

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2. Book Your Accommodation

Booking.com, Agoda.com and Airbnb. I use Booking and Agoda at least a dozen times a year, and Airbnb – when looking for a long-term stay. My best tip is to ALWAYS compare the price. Sometimes the same hotel is cheaper on Booking.com, other times – on Agoda. Always compare the price!

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World Nomads and SafetyWings are two companies I can recommend. World Nomads offers some extra benefits, that will be important for those doing some higher risk activities, while SafetyWings is significantly cheaper. SafetyWings is only $9.25 / week.