The South Island of New Zealand has some of the most beautiful postcard-like landscapes in the world. It’s a paradise for hikers or bikers – with proper trails and walkways around the whole island, along with camping grounds and resting areas. Pictures and videos just cannot justify the beauty of this place. The locals are so helpful and nice that you’ll be constantly greeted while you pass by them on the treks. It’s such a warm feeling 🙂 ❤ .
Before we jump into listing down our favourite treks, here are our two cents on the things you should know while trekking around New Zealand, some of them are obvious ones, but a reminder once in a while never hurts :
- Be prepared for unpredictable weather. It could rain any time or get extremely windy and minutes later the sun can shine bright and harsh. Don’t forget sunscreens on a sunny day. The hole in the ozone layer is literally above New Zealand! We suggest SPF 80 or higher.
- There are treks for all fitness levels – low, moderate and high. You can enquire the difficulty levels at the visitor centre or iSite before starting off.
- Always carry some snacks & quick bites with you. Some treks may be steep at some areas or may take longer than expected – especially when you can’t resist clicking a picture at every 100 meters =) You’ll find it hard to find shops or vending machines in nature’s wilderness.
- Some of the treks may go through private property. Be mindful of those and stick to the designated routes. There will be signs almost everywhere to guide you.
- Carry insect spray with you. Sand flies can really bite!
- Most of the touristic locations in New Zealand do not permit the use of Drone.
Here is a list of our favourite treks – in no particular order, all were spectacular. All these must-do treks are best for solo-travel (you will get ample ‘me’ time – with no one around to disturb you 😉 ), fun for romantic couple travellers and also family friendly with low-moderate difficulty level. So almost anyone with any fitness level can hike on these beautiful treks 🙂 :
1. Peninsula Walkway Kaikoura:
Imagine this – hundreds of seals happily sunbathing while waves bash into a white rocky peninsula. You can see little baby seals playing and jumping around the shores just a few feet from you. Soak in the views of the ocean from the cliff with hundreds of seagulls flying and chirping around. One thing Kaikoura is famous for is it’s wildlife – whales , dolphins, albatrosses and native New Zealand Fur Seals. Stretches in Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway have beautiful landscapes of sea on one side and land on another.
Head along the peninsula itself towards the furthest end from Kean View point to reach the Seal colony. Take a hike up the cliffs at the Point Kean Viewpoint for spectacular views of the peninsula, the ocean, the greens nearby, endless fields, pretty picturesque view points and much more. The walk is quite long but you can do some stretches of it specifically near the Seal colony area to make the most of your hike. More details here.
Location for (Point Kean view point parking) is here.
2. Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk:
While in Glacier country, other than the activities that involves getting into a helicopter/boat to get up close with the glaciers, we recommend doing the several hikes these places have, depending on the level of difficulty you are comfortable with. More information on treks will be available at your hotel or information center at Franz Josef Village.
Start the Franz Josef Glacier walk from the Franz Josef Glacier Car Park. This walk takes you up close to the Franz Josef glacier face almost 1KM away. You can’t go further as it can be dangerous. This trek is well maintained on some parts up until you walk into the empty Waiho river bed and walk all the way up to the viewpoint of the Glacier itself. Look out for beautiful waterfalls in the valley and hop on some pebbles to cross small streams of glacial waters and soak into the beautiful postcard-like landscape around! You may take 1.5 to 2 hours to hike up to the glacier face and back.
Location for Franz Josef carpark is here.
3. Fox Glacier:
If you have already done Franz Josef valley trek and do not have much time in that area you can skip this one. Usually it’s a two hour walk all the way up to the last Glacier view point and back – not on the river bed, but just through the woods.
Walk all the way to the face of the Glacier. This glacier is more dramatic than Franz Josef, but we went on a cloudy day so missed it. There were a lot of landslides on the way with rocks just balanced on the mountains, take note of all warnings and do not go off route. Walk along the famous New Zealand silver fern trees and discover some warm springs on the way!
4. Truman Track:
This is definitely one of the shortest of all the treks mentioned here yet a rewarding experience on a relatively low tide day! An easy 30 minute return trek through the woods to the beach and back!
This spot is near the Punakaiki Blowholes of the Paparoa National Park in the West Region. Walk down towards the beach through the woods on the track to a point where you’ll start hearing the sounds of the ocean, rogue waves and a natural waterfall!
There are cave like huge structures beautifully carved out over years. You can find few seals lazing away, beautiful waterfall and amazing beach side all in one spot – making it magical and so picturesque. And if you go in the right season, you might spot some blue penguins in their natural habitat.
Location for car-park here.
5. Tasman blue lakes and glacier valley trek:
Tasman Glacier, 27 km in length, is the longest glacier in New Zealand and the most serene and mesmerising one! The area around Mt. Cook has amazing views while you are on the road and equally rewarding views on treks. One of the famous hikes is the Hooker Valley loop which takes 3 hours. If you do not have so much time on your hands we recommend taking this one. To get a view of the glacier, it’s face, ice river and the Tasman River moving into Pukaki lake all at once, climb up the stairs to the top from the car park (Location here).
There is a diversion somewhere in between on the way up the hike that takes you to Tasman Glacier Lake and Jetty (from where they operate the tours) and that’s where the views get super amazing. This one is the less chosen path so literally most parts of the treks are all to yourself amongst the nature, the greens and the beautiful peaceful lake 😉 ! It freezes in winters and has icebergs floating in summers!
Go down towards the glacial lake hopping off one rock after another and see the icebergs up close! Just sit on the rocks and take in the view of the valley 🙂 and the river!!! It’s so calm and serene – you are one with nature which makes it one of the best spots ever!
There are other beautiful treks all around the South Island – loops around lakes, fiords around Milford Sound, trails through the glacier country, vineyards in and around Blenheim and wildlife tracks around Abel Tasman region! So, this list is definitely not exhaustive! Happy Exploring!! Drop up a note if you found other trails equally breathtaking in the South Island of New Zealand!
Reach out to us for a free customized itinerary for South Island!!! 🙂