Hiking ‘Best-Of’ Compilations

Here’s my pick of the best walks in some of the most scenic regions of South-Eastern Australia and New Zealand’s South Island.

Now that I’m living in Christchurch New Zealand there’ll be new best-of articles on their way for sure, but let me do some more classic walks first before I start these.


Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Best Day-Hikes Near Wanaka NZ

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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Pororari River Track to Lookout, Paparoa National Park
Ten NZ West Coast Short Walks

On our first trip to New Zealand’s picturesque South Island West Coast we met with the area’s infamously wet weather. But during gaps in the weather we fit in quite a few short walks, something we wouldn’t usually do. These turned out to be an excellent way to sample a wide variety of the area’s famed scenery. All of my selection could be done over 3 days on a road trip between Canterbury and Otago (eg, between Christchurch and Wanaka/ Queenstown) travelling via the Lewis Pass / Route 7 and Haast Pass / Route 6. 

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Panorama from The Castle, Morton National Park, NSW
Best Summit Day-Hikes in South-East Australia

There’s nothing more satisfying to me than climbing a mountain from the bottom in a day. It’s my favourite form of hiking, combining the best views with a sense of achievement. It seems I’m built for short but steep hikes. The steeper they are the more of an adrenaline fuelled high I get, and rugged mountainous landscapes add to this natural high. And by completing the walk in a day I can then return to the comforts of civilisation, such as indoor plumbing.

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The Hump Track, Mt Buffalo NP
6 Great Bushwalks in Victoria, Australia

Until Christmas 2017 I hadn’t walked anywhere in Victoria, perhaps thinking it wouldn’t be so different from NSW. I was pleasantly surprised on that first trip, so much so that we stopped by Victoria on two subsequent trips to Tasmania. The walks we’ve done have been of a high quality, and included experiences that can’t be had in NSW.

These include climbing almost 2000m high mountains from the bottom in a day, such as Mt Bogong (1986m) and Mt Feathertop (1920m). Nearby Mt Buffalo (1723m) and the further flung Grampians Range are unique and rugged landscapes that have numerous walking tracks. And the small but prominent Cathedral Range in Central Victoria offers another unique walking experience.

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Mt Stilwell Track, Kosciuszko National Park NSW
10 of the Best Day-hikes in Kosciuszko National Park

Kosciuszko National Park contains mainland Australia’s highest ground. The area looms large in the Australian imagination, an exotic landscape tied to the frontier spirit through epic poems like The Man From Snow River.

The highest ground of the Main Range contains all of the nation’s ten highest peaks, and lies in the southern section of the park. It’s a unique alpine landscape of grasslands, herb fields, and delicate sections of bogs, fens, and stony fjeldmark vegetation. The peaks are generally not very prominent, that is, unless you venture over to the Western Ranges, and my first pick of the walks takes in those vistas. There are glacial lakes, and Blue Lake is a real highlight visited on three of my top ten walks. At lower elevations there are iconic snow gums, one of Australia’s most distinctive and hardy eucalyptus trees.

Mt Twynam, Little Twynam, Blue Lake, & Hedley Tarn, Kosciuszko National Park
Snow gums near Charlotte Pass.

The northern section of Kosciuszko National Park is not so elevated, and perhaps lacks the glamour of the alpine region. Nevertheless, we discovered some excellent short walks taking in spectacular and atmospheric gorges and waterfalls, so it’s definitely worth a visit.

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Barn Bluff ascent, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Bushwalking in Tasmania: 12 of the Best Day-Walks

The mountainous island state of Tasmania offers probably Australia’s best hiking. It’s the only place in the country where you can find a high concentration of pointy rugged mountains for a start. There are many plants and animals unique to Tasmania, and this wildlife tends to be more visible than in the south-eastern states of the mainland. The landscape is also unique, with a variety of vegetation from rainforest to alpine heath, many attractive waterfalls, and a lot of rock on offer, including sometimes extensive boulder fields (I’m a particular fan of boulder hopping).

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Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Six of the Best Day-Hikes Near Queenstown NZ: Glenorchy Edition

The sleepy village of Glenorchy sits in a dramatic landscape at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. It’s a spectacular 45 minute drive from Queenstown along the shore of the lake, and worth making the trip for the drive alone. The scenery on offer is amongst the best in New Zealand, and there are some really world-class hikes in the area, including the famous multi-day Routeburn Track.

Following are six of my favourite day-hikes around Glenorchy. There are majestic mountains, alpine lakes, glaciers, tumbling streams, and atmospheric beech forest. And you might be joined by some of New Zealand’s friendly bird life along the way.

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Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Best Day-hikes in Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is truly a hiker’s paradise. There’s dramatic scenery in all directions, and the mountains are filled with well maintained hiking trails. And as a major adventure-tourism destination the area is well serviced and cosmopolitan.

Plenty of tourists visit the area, and yet it seems the majority of people choose not to go hiking. In fact, I’ve sometimes not seen a single other person on the best hikes in the area. So if you are willing to put in the effort, you can have New Zealand’s magical scenery mostly to yourself.

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Burning Palms Circuit, Royal National Park, Sydney
Sydney’s Royal National Park: 6 Of The Best Day-Walks

The Royal National Park is the world’s second oldest, established in 1879. It sits on the south-eastern border of Sydney, encompassing about 30km of picturesque and often dramatic coastline. The coastal sections are dominated by unique heathland, cliffs, rock formations, headlands, lagoons and sandy beaches. Further inland there are eucalypt forests and patches of rainforest.

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Rodriguez Pass Circuit, Blue Mountains NSW
12 of the Best Hikes in Sydney’s Blue Mountains

The spectacular New South Wales Blue Mountains sit on the western edge of the greater Sydney area. They are easily accessible by car or train from the neighbouring metropolis of over 5 million people. More of a plateau, they gradually rise from the Sydney basin to over 1100m of elevation. The area’s largest town of Katoomba is perched high up at 1017m.

These upper sections are justifiably famous for their deep cut valleys lined by sandstone cliffs, as well as lush forests, impressive waterfalls and windswept heathlands. Thankfully this dramatic and rugged scenery has remained largely unaffected by urban or agricultural development. And since 1959 it has been protected in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park.

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