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5 Awesome Day Hikes On The South Island Of New Zealand

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When we traveled New Zealand last winter, we were amazed by the spectacular landscapes. New Zealand’s South Island has a lot to offer, and its stunning mountain scenery makes it the perfect place for hiking. We have done a lot of hiking – or tramping as the Kiwis call it –  and we’ve walked on well-known tracks (like the Great Walks), but we also did off the beaten tracks hikes that we enjoyed just as much. Here is my list of 5 awesome day hikes on New Zealand’s South Island.

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1. Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Abel Tasman coastal track is one of the ‘Great Walks’ of New Zealand. We only did a short part of the entire walk as we were short on time. We started in Marahau and walked to Anchorage which took us approximately 4 hours. The track is very well indicated and very easy to follow. Abel Tasman is definitely one of the most beautiful national parks on the south island of New Zealand. The coastal views and the landscape are just incredible, especially in the summertime when the sun is shining. If you’re looking for a challenge, you can do the entire great walk which is a 60kms trail following the coast. It can be done in 3  to 5 days, stopping at the huts or camping in the park.

Duration: Marahau to Anchorage: 4 hours/Marahau to Wainui: 3 to 5 days

Hiking Level: Intermediate

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2. Key Summit

This fantastic trail, part of the Routeburn track, is a must do when going to Milford Sound. From outstanding mountain views to alpine ponds and small waterfalls, this track has it all. It’s a steady climb from the beginning, and it is definitely not an easy walk to get to the top of Key Summit, but it is well worth it. When you get to the Summit, be sure to follow the Alpine Nature Trail which is amazing and also leads to another set of beautiful views of Lake Marian in the distance. 

Duration: 3-4hours

Hiking Level: Intermediate

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3. Mt Iron Loop Track

The Mt Iron Track is one of the most popular walks in the Wanaka area. This wonderful track offers incredible 360-degree views of Wanaka, its lake, and the surrounds. The loop takes around two hours and climbs 545 meters to the summit of Mount Iron. It has some steep sections, but the effort is certainly worth it once you’re on top. The track is well defined and kept in good condition, and being so close to town it gets a lot of use from locals, often walking out with their dogs. Go early in the morning if you want to avoid the crowd.

Duration: 1 – 2 hours

Hiking level: Easy

READ: Top 10 New Zealand Campsites Under 15$

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4. Rakaia Gorge Walkway

Rakaia Gorge Walkway is a beautiful trail located 1 hour from Christchurch. The track offers stunning views of the river and the cliff faces and goes through gorgeous lush bush. It follows the rim of the gorge all the way to old coal mine tunnels and the remains of equipment used for extraction. This gorgeous hiking trail is in very good condition and easy to walk along. We did this walk in the spring with very few people around, but any time of the year, Rakaia Gorge is a great day trip from Christchurch.

Duration: 3-4 hours

Hiking Level: Easy

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5. Twelve Mile Delta to Bob’s cove

We planned Bob’s cove hike last minute and were definitely not disappointed. The track starts at the Twelve Mile Delta campsite, where you can also see a Lord of the Rings film location. The Bob’s Cove track is a short distance from Queenstown and is both shady and sunny in spots as well as a very easy hike with nice water views. The track follows the shore of Lake Wakatipu until it reaches the Picnic Point lookout climb, which affords magnificent views from the top. This amazing track is great for those wanting to escape from the crowd of Queenstown, and it is one of the best tracks we did on the South Island.

Duration: 2-4 hours

Hiking level: Easy

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If you’re traveling to New Zealand soon, you should definitely not miss these 5 amazing hikes on the South Island of New Zealand. Let me know in the comments below what are your favorite hikes in New Zealand!

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  • Reply
    Nandih A.
    January 20, 2019 at 4:11 pm


    I thought New zealand is a great country to visit and your post makes me motivated to go there one day, it is so informative. It gives travelers an idea what to choose once they get there. Thanks!!

    I have never been there but it may interesting the hike at Abel Tasman Coastal Track. I like national park with the stunnig view as you mentioned above. Would love to achive the 3-5 days hiking and camp in the park!!!

    Best wishes,

    Greeting from Madagascar

    • Reply
      Crafty Explorer
      January 20, 2019 at 6:43 pm

      Thank you for your comment! Abel Tasman is an amazing place, and you should definitely try to do the 3-5 days hike, it’s beautiful!

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