Best Day-Hikes Near Wanaka NZ

My pick of the best day-hikes near the holiday town of Wanaka, taking in walks around Lakes Wanaka & Hawea, & in Mt Aspiring National Park.

Wanaka has a reputation for being the lower-key sibling of Queenstown, and there is much to recommend the area. Many excellent day-walks are one of these things. I had only done a few until quite recently, but on my last two trips down that way I fit in a few others that were real classics. So now I feel ready to compile a best-of list, although I’m sure there are others to add.

The walks on this list can be broadly be split into two groups – those around Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, and those in Mt Aspiring National Park. The land around the lakes is generally lacking forest cover, whereas the national park is a bit lusher. There are some tall glaciated peaks in Mt Aspiring National Park as well, so the scale is grander.

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My Epic Year of Hiking in New Zealand

I review a year’s hiking in New Zealand post-Covid lockdown, a year in which I did 72 full sized day-hikes, 68 of them new to me.

In the year since the New Zealand Covid-19 lockdown ended in late April 2020 I completed 72 hikes (“tramps” in the NZ vernacular), and fifteen shorter walks. Of the 72 hikes 68 were new to me (I had done one before, and I repeated just three). I will explain how I came to do so many walks in a moment. But first, and in order to show off a bit, I will regale you with a few statistics:

  • 68,500m (~225,000ft) of ascent and descent
  • Almost 900km (~550mi) of walking
  • On 64 of these hikes I climbed to a peak or other high point, ranging between 445m and 2333m high, and averaging 1000m of ascent and descent each time
  • 58 of these high points were named peaks over 1000m of elevation, so I incidentally completed the 52 Peaks Challenge
  • All of these tramps were on New Zealand’s South Island, and completed as day-walks; I did all but three of them with my wife Sophia (& she did an overnighter I didn’t do)

Continue reading “My Epic Year of Hiking in New Zealand”

Coal Hill Track, Mt Peel Conservation Area, Canterbury NZ

The Coal Hill Track takes you up steeply through tussock grass to the summit of Coal Hill (1617m), with excellent views the whole way.

The Coal Hill Track takes you 1000m pretty much straight up to the summit of Coal Hill (1617m), with great views over the surrounding mountains, the Rangitata River, and east over the Canterbury Plains. These mountains include Mt Taylor to the north, nearby Mt Harper, the Main Divide to the north-west, and nearby Mt Peel to the south. There’s also views towards the open ground around the Ashburton Lakes. Continue reading “Coal Hill Track, Mt Peel Conservation Area, Canterbury NZ”

Scotts Saddle Track, Mount Hutt Range, Canterbury NZ

A nice half day walk up through Mount Hutt Forest on the Scotts Saddle Track to above the treeline and views of the Plains and Foothills.

A nice half day walk up through Mount Hutt Forest on the Scotts Saddle Track to above the treeline. There are views of the Canterbury Plains and peaks in the Pudding Hill Range to the west, and Mount Hutt Range further north, including South Peak (2081m). The forest is varied and attractive, and may be the highlight for some walkers, although the views are good for relatively little effort. We returned back along the Ridge Track  and Opuke Track for a bit of variation – worth it I think. Continue reading “Scotts Saddle Track, Mount Hutt Range, Canterbury NZ”

Mt Guy & Lake Clearwater Circuit Track, Canterbury NZ

A walk up Mt Guy (1319m) for excellent views of the Ashburton Lakes, and a return route via the Lake Clearwater Circuit Track.

As a shortish tracked route to the top of a mountain with views I had been thinking about climbing Mt Guy (1319m) ever since we moved to Christchurch. Somehow though it took us a year to get up there. The views from the mountain are very good, although the summit was clouded in so we missed all but the views south over the Ashburton Lakes. It was a pretty short trip up, so we’ll be back on a clear winter’s day to get those missing views. To compensate for a short walk and limited views we decided to finish the walk the long way, completing the Lake Clearwater Circuit Track. The weather actually cleared as we descended from Mt Guy so we got views from ground level of the Southern Alps and other peaks. Continue reading “Mt Guy & Lake Clearwater Circuit Track, Canterbury NZ”

Mt Grey / Maukatere Circuit, North Canterbury NZ

A circuit walk through native forest visiting the grassy summit of Mt Grey / Maukatere (933m) for extensive views, especially north east.

The circuit walk up Mt Grey / Maukatere (933m) is mostly a pleasant forest walk, but the views from the grassy summit are extensive. The views north-east up the coast are the best, with rolling hills between Mt Grey and distant tall mountains. We had interesting light and clouds when we did it, but I’d like to return on a clear day to get a proper look at those mountains. If you want to get good pictures of those peaks to the north then you’ll need a zoom lens. Continue reading “Mt Grey / Maukatere Circuit, North Canterbury NZ”

Mt Iron Circuit, Wanaka, Otago NZ

A shortish circuit walk up the glacial landform of Mt Iron (548m), with views in all directions including Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps.

Climbing Mt Iron is a popular circuit walk on the edge of Wanaka. Although there are steep sections it is a reasonably short and straightforward walk through a mix of private and conservation land. There are views in all directions, over Lake Wanaka, farmland, the towns of Wanaka and Albert Town, and various mountains including the Southern Alps. Continue reading “Mt Iron Circuit, Wanaka, Otago NZ”

Lorn Peak ascent, Kingston, Otago NZ

A walk at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu to the summit of Lorn Peak (1638m). Excellent views, including over the lake the whole way.

The route to Lorn Peak (1638m) takes you at first through farmland, then into the attractive tussock and alpine Remarkables Conservation Area. There are great views over the southern end of Lake Wakatipu all of the way from Kingston up to Queenstown. From the summit there are views up and down the Hector Mountains, and west over the Nevis Valley and Garvie Mountains. Continue reading “Lorn Peak ascent, Kingston, Otago NZ”

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range, Makarora, Otago NZ

Really spectacular alpine views of peaks, tarns and down into braided river valleys, accessed on the Mt Shrimpton Track and then off-track to tops.

The Mt Shrimpton Track takes you from lush broad leaf forest, through beech to above the bushline. From there you can wander at will, but a long and fabulous day walk is to keep going upwards to the ridge at about 1900m of elevation. There are spectacular alpine views of rock spires and numerous teal blue tarns, down into the Makarora Valley to the west, and the upper High Burn Valley to the east. My first look at the tarns and spiky peaks was one of those moments I let out a slight gasp of wonder. Continue reading “Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range, Makarora, Otago NZ”

Makarora Bush Nature Walk, Haast Highway NZ

The Makarora Bush Nature walk is a short 1km loop through attractive native forest besides the Haast Highway at Makarora.

The Makarora Bush Nature Walk is a short stroll through attractive native forest, starting on the highway near the DOC office in Makarora. We did it on our way out and then back on the all day Mt Shrimpton Track. I thought it was nice enough to give it its own post. Continue reading “Makarora Bush Nature Walk, Haast Highway NZ”