New Zealand

Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring NP

Introduction to Hiking (Tramping) in New Zealand (South Island)

Firstly, before 2020 most of my hiking had been around Queenstown, but now I’m living in Christchurch I’m steadily adding many walks in Canterbury to the blog. I’m yet to even tramp in the North Island, but New Zealand’s South Island is just fantabulous, and is a must-visit destination for any keen hiker. The scenery varies from the steep glaciated peaks of the Southern Alps, with deep forested valleys and turquoise waterways, to the golden domed mountains of the arid interior, and the coastal scenery I’ve only touched upon. Read on for more info, or go straight to a list of the walks.

Mt Olivier - Mueller Hut - Sealy Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Sophia watches a handglider from a vantage point at 1740m of elevation above Sealy Tarns.

Queenstown and Central Otago

When holidaying in NZ we’ve stayed mostly in Queenstown. For a good long walk I’m willing to drive up to 2.5 hours, and there’s a huge number of well maintained walks within that distance from Queenstown. This makes it a great base for hiking, or tramping as it’s called in New Zealand. Queenstown is a famous outdoor centre and attracts a large amount of visitors in the summer and winter peak seasons. But hiking’s not for everyone, and there are enough hikes on offer that you can sometimes complete a walk without meeting a single person, even in summer.

Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Queens Drive high up on the Remarkables.

Queenstown

Queenstown is on the shores of the picturesque Lake Wakatipu, and is surrounded by peaks of around 2000 metres elevation, including the rather dramatic and aptly named Remarkables. There are plenty of walks nearby, including some that start near the centre of town, so that you could knock those over without even having transportation. (I’m thinking of Queenstown Hill, and the more strenuous ascent of Ben Lomond).

View roughly north from the summit of Ben Lomond (1748m), Queenstown
View roughly north from the summit of Ben Lomond (1748m), Queenstown

Mt Aspiring National Park & Glenorchy

Mt Aspiring National Park can be accessed from the town of Glenorchy, which is situated in a particularly attractive spot at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. It’s about a 45 minute drive from Queenstown, and I recommend the drive even if you don’t want to hike. The walks around here are almost all scenic and spectacular, often passing through beech forest, along tumbling frothy rivers, and providing views of many a snow capped mountain and a few glaciers to boot.

Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
I love youse all! Or so says Lake Harris. The lake is actually shaped a bit like South America, but from this particular angle, and with the right framing, you can feel the love.

There are a number of famous multi-day walks accessible from Glenorchy, such as the Routeburn, Greenstone and Caples Tracks, but you can also do sections of these as day-walks of various lengths. I highly recommend getting down this way on any trip to Queenstown.

Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Mt Earnslaw / Pikirakatahi and a frozen tarn.

Wanaka

The attractive town of Wanaka, (on Lake Wanaka), also offers access to Mt Aspiring National Park and other areas of the Southern Alps, and hence to more spectacular walks of this ilk. There are also good walks on the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea. It’s about a one hour fifteen minute drive north-east from Queenstown to Wanaka, and then a bit further to the walks.

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Sentinel Peak has one of the most attractive summits of any mountain I’ve climbed. Sophia down there crossing tussock to get to the base of the summit rocks. To climb up you can probably take the scree slope on the right and go around the back (though I’m not sure), but I know that the first chute (channel) on the left is a straightforward climb on scree. We took the second chute and it was a bit trickier with a couple of spots requiring some scrambling.

Central Otago

Going further inland (east) into the Central Otago District, the environment becomes more arid. The mountains are generally domed and their slopes often covered with tussock grass, or else grazing land for sheep. (Note that some tracks are closed during lambing season, roughly Oct to mid Nov depending on the location: best check those dates). The peaks and plateaus are sometimes barren moonscapes. I tend to prefer pointy mountains, but these areas offer a fairly remote tramping experience that you won’t get on the likes of the Routeburn.

St Bathans Range (2098m) viewed from Lindis Peak (1226m)
St Bathans Range (2098m) viewed from Lindis Peak (1226m)

Canterbury

In early 2020 I moved Christchurch, and set about getting to know walks in this region. I had previously visited Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and that is really spectacular. Closer to Christchurch there are excellent walks in the foothills of the Southern Alps, in the really excellent Arthur’s Pass National Park, and closer by in the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula.

Mt Olivier - Mueller Hut - Sealy Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Mt Sefton (3151m) from Sealy Tarns (about 1300m of elevation).

There are both short and long day walks starting at or near Aoraki Mt Cook Village that are well worth it, despite the crowds. Navigating these walks was straightforward so you’ll only need the brief notes you can get from the NZ DOC website. We stayed in the larger town of Twizel, which is a 50 minute drive away.

Mt Olivier - Mueller Hut - Sealy Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Mueller Hut and Aoraki Mt Cook from Mt Olivier (1931m).

Many of the Canterbury Foothills are hardly hills, some of them rising above 2000m of elevation. There’s many a scree slope, lots of tussock grass, and some patches of attractive forest too. There’s also braided rivers, gorgeous gorges, and many of the walks border the flat as a pancake Canterbury Plains. Most walks are about 1-2 hours drive from Christchurch.

Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The view from Red Hill in Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park, Canterbury NZ.

Arthur’s Pass National Park, in the Southern Alps, has spectacular scenery similar to that around Glenorchy. It lacks a big lake, but the high peaks, deep valleys and beautiful forest are highly recommended, and I hope to do lots more walking there.

Avalanche Peak Circuit, Arthur's Pass National Park
Crow Valley and Jellicoe Ridge, viewed from Avalanche Peak in Arthur’s Pass National Park. Fabulous scenery.

The Port Hills and Banks Peninsula are to the south-east of Christchurch, the Port Hills being on the city boundary. The scenery is pretty but tamer than the mountains to the west. It’s a mostly altered landscape, but the volcanic topography and coastal scenery are very nice, plus some of the walks are less than 30 minutes drive from Christchurch.

Ohinetahi Reserve Circuit, Governors Bay
Lyttelton Harbour

Fiordland

The spectacular scenery of Fiordland is immediately apparent on the drive to Milford Sound. If the drive and maybe a cruise on a fiord is not enough, you can sample more of this wonderous place on some very accessible day-walks from the Milford Road, some easy enough for non-hikers to do. The only downside to the accessible regions of Fiordland is their understandable popularity, and then there’s the extremely wet weather, and the often aggressive sandflies. But the region is magical, and I highly recommend a visit. It is also home to various multi-day walks, including the world famous Milford Track, and one end of the also famous Routeburn Track.

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Looking towards Milford Sound (just visible) from Gertrude Saddle.

Westland/West Coast

Many locals in New Zealand recommended I visit the lush West Coast of the South Island, and it didn’t disappoint. Having said that, the typically wet weather restricted our options on our first trip there in 2020, but I saw enough on short walks to know I want to return in a better weather window. The unique forests are fabulous, and down south there is easy access to view two of NZ’s biggest glaciers. There are lots of walking options so this will be a region we’ll return to in the future.

Pororari River Track to Lookout, Paparoa National Park
A picturesque bend in the Pororari River.

Track Notes

When in Queenstown we’ve mostly used track notes from Day Walks of New Zealand: Central Otago and Queenstown by Peter Dymock. It looks like in early 2018 it’s becoming a little hard to get online, but you might still get it in Queenstown and surrounds. I also found James Milne’s website helpful.

More generally, the Department of Conservation offices have lots of their own paper and online resources for hiking.  In 2020 I subscribed to Wilderness Magazine, and this has lots of great tramping ideas. If you are a multi-day hiker / mountaineer, or are just hankering for a bit of NZ mountain porn, then you can’t go past Danilo Hegg’s blog Southern Alps Photography. I salivate on my computer every time I look at his blog.

Plateau near the summit of Mt Pisa (1963m), Central Otago
Plateau near the summit of Mt Pisa (1963m), Central Otago

Weather

The weather in Queenstown and particularly Central Otago can be quite dry, but Mt Aspiring National Park is wetter. And anywhere on the West Coast / Fiordland is wet. Very wet. It gets bloody windy in the Canterbury Foothills, and Arthur’s Pass is particularly known for its wild weather.

The South Island has mild summers, and we’ve walked a lot in mid-summer, though it can be a bit too hot for comfort some days when exposed to the sun for long periods. Summer snow will fall on high ground from time to time. The bonus of walking during the summer months is having about 15-16 hours of daylight to play with.

Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Beech forest, NZ

The winters are coldish, but snow seldom settles at lower elevations in winter. The alpine areas can be very cold and windy at any time of year, and the weather moves fast so be prepared. We’ve walked in winter and found the conditions can be quite mild, but it depends a lot on the wind.

Hawkdun Range, Maniototo, Central Otago
Hawkdun Range, Maniototo, Central Otago

And lastly, the sunsets are really nice. This is the view over Lake Wakatipu from the place were we stay.

Lake Wakatipu golden sunset, viewed from Kelvin Heights
Lake Wakatipu golden sunset, viewed from Kelvin Heights
Sunset over Lake Wakatipu, viewed from Kelvin Heights
Sunset over Lake Wakatipu, viewed from Kelvin Heights

The New Zealand Walks

You can browse through a list of the walks I’ve posted on so far:

Queenstown Day Trip

Firstly, those walks manageable in a day trip from Queenstown (up to 2.5 hours drive one way):

Around Queenstown

Brow Peak via Big Hill Saddle, Arrowtown
Brow Peak (1456m) is an accessible mountain near Arrowtown, and climbing it provides excellent views of golden brown mountains to the north, and of the Wakatipu Basin to the south. It starts on the fairly well trodden Sawpit Gully Circuit, but once off this you might not meet another person. And the approach to the summit along a  sometimes narrow ridge feels just a little adventurous, adding to the appeal of this walk. There’s also a very pleasant stand of beech forest on the way to Big Hill Saddle. (more…)
Bush Creek Track, Arrowtown

I’d done part of the Bush Creek Track a few months earlier on a loop taking in Brow Peak, and quite liked that section. So on a clear Autumn day we returned to do the whole thing, and I was pleasantly surprised. The walk offers a wide variety of native and non-native vegetation along the pleasant Bush Creek, which eventually passes through a gorge on its way to a saddle, where there are good views over the Wakatipu Basin. I liked the open aspect of the upper sections, and the rugged cliffs lining the gorge. There are also nice stands of beech forest and some autumn colours early on in the walk courtesy of introduced trees. (more…)

I’d climbed Brow Peak (1456m) twice from Arrowtown, and it was one of the better walks I’d done, especially in nice lighting. I knew the route continued to Coronet Peak (1650m), and on Christmas Day my wife Sophia and I decided to fit this into the morning before a Christmas date with neighbours in the afternoon.

Walking through the ski field to the summit of Coronet Peak was not the best experience, but the views are excellent once at the summit. And then the ridge walk to Brow Peak is a much wilder affair, being free of ski apparatus. And as open tussock grass country you get views the whole way, over the Wakatipu Basin and rugged slopes on the southern side of the ridge, and numerous golden hills and valleys in all other directions. (more…)

Crown Peak ascent, Otago NZ

The walk up Crown Peak (1735m) from Arrowtown is yet another underrated hike near Queenstown. There were excellent 360 degree views from the summit rocks, and a variety of scenery with Central Otago’s roly-poly mountains and wrinkly ridgelines, some pointy peaks, valleys, the Wakatipu Basin, and a nice angle on Lake Wakatipu itself. (more…)

Crown Peak from Crown Range Road

This was our second time up Crown Peak (1735m), one of the mountains accessible from Arrowtown. However, this time we climbed it on a marked route starting on the Crown Range Road, on the Cardrona side of the mountain. This route is shorter, and offers a wilder walking experience than climbing the mountain on a vehicle track. Nevertheless, there was more variety of scenery on the walk up from Arrowtown. The 360 degree views from the summit are the same of course, and very nice. (more…)

Around Glenorchy

Invincible Mine Track, near Glenorchy NZ

The Invincible Mine Track is a good easy-to-moderate walk through beech forest and manuka trees to an old gold mine. There are excellent views up the Rees Valley from the mine. I originally chose this as a warm up walk before we hit the longer trails, and it served that purpose nicely.  (more…)

Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area

The views from the summit of Mt Alaska (1965m) are some of the best I’ve seen, and climbing this mountain isn’t as difficult as some other walks around Glenorchy. You don’t have to go all the way to the summit for excellent views, but if you have the time and energy I highly recommend it. (more…)

Mt Alfred ascent, near Glenorchy NZ

Mt Alfred stands alone in one of the most picturesque spots in New Zealand. The summit provides some of the finest views in the country, with archetypal scenery north into Mt Aspiring National Park, and south over Lake Wakatipu. The Dart River runs from the former into the latter, and adds to the already starkly contrasting colours. (more…)

Mt McIntosh Loop Track, Whakaari Conservation Area

After enjoying the excellent hike to Mt Alaska in the Whakaari Conservation Area near Glenorchy, I had looked forward to returning and doing the Mt McIntosh Loop Track. Although this can be done as a loop by crossing over the Buckler Burn, we did it as an out and back tramp to the summit of Mt McIntosh (1701m) entirely on the northern side of the burn. Like the walk to Mt Alaska the views of surrounding peaks and valleys are excellent. A highlight for me were views of rugged Temple Peak (2089m), and views over the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. (more…)

Pigeon Island Summit Track, Lake Wakatipu

Pigeon Island is a small island at the Glenorchy end of Lake Wakatipu. You can only get there by boat/kayak, (unless you’re a really good swimmer!) There’s a handful of short tracks on the island, and when we visited we climbed to the island’s high point for good views over the grand peaks at that end of the lake. There are also plentiful weka there, an otherwise rare flightless bird confined to just a few islands in New Zealand. (more…)

Central Otago District

Double Peak from Lindis Pass

The Lindis Pass Scenic Reserve is a particularly attractive area of tussock covered mountains bisected by state highway 8.  If you have driven between Otago and Canterbury along this route then you may have stopped at the Lindis Pass viewpoint for a quick look. This is already very nice, but to supercharge your views then invest around 1.5 hours heading up to Double Peak (1323m). (more…)

Duffers Saddle to the Old Woman Range, Central Otago

I realised the other day that I hadn’t posted all of my NZ walks to date. This is the walk I missed: A longish but mostly flat walk to the tops of the Old Woman Range, an arid alpine plateau near Cromwell in Central Otago. There were many tors along the way, and views of nearby mountains. (more…)

Hawkdun Range pt 1857m from Shepherds Hut Ck

An excellent walk to the top of the Hawkdun Range (1857m) in the remote Maniototo region of Central Otago, famous for its isolated vistas of golden tussock grass and mountains. The walk starts in the Manuherikia Valley, and after a flat start rises steeply up to the long and barren summit plateau of the Hawkdun Range: about 1100m of ascent and descent. Not as dramatic as the Southern Alps, but very atmospheric, and we had the place to ourselves.  (more…)

Kanuka Loop Track, Bendigo, Central Otago

On our seventh visit to Queenstown in May 2017 I had to work a bit harder to find decent sized day walks that we hadn’t already done. In doing so I came across the reasonably unique Kanuka Track, situated in Bendigo, an old mining area near Cromwell in Central Otago. The walks in Central Otago generally pass through fairly arid country, and they often start in farmland, then end up in grassland reserves or sometimes on arid alpine plateaus. But this one took us through native Kanuka forest, and up and down the foothills of the Dunstan Mountains, which were peppered with rocky outcrops. There were views of the almost 2000m high Pisa Range which we had climbed a couple of years earlier, and of the wide open Clutha Valley, which contains vineyards, farmland, and Lake Dunstan, which was formed by damming the Clutha River. (more…)

Leaning Rock via Lilico Spur

A fairly long walk to the summit of Leaning Rock (1647m), the latter half of which is off track in the Waikerikeri Conservation Area. Starting in farmland, the walk ascends up Lilico Spur to the edge of the conservation area. From there the scenery is predominantly tussock grass, rocky areas, and finally the barren summit moonscape replete with multiple tors of various shapes and sizes. The overall feeling is one of remoteness, (although there are major  communications installations on the summit). (more…)

around Wanaka

Deep Gully - Eastern Hills Loop, Wanaka

The Deep Gully-Eastern Hills Loop is a reasonable half-day filler, although nothing to0 spectacular, at least in summer when we did it. There were some nice wildflowers out (albeit non-native) and there are decent views in all directions over Central Otago including the Upper Clutha Valley, and out towards the Southern Alps. (more…)

Grandview Mountain Track, Lake Hawea

On entering New Zealand in March 2020 we were soon hit with increasingly severe restrictions due to the Covid 19 epidemic. Before the complete lock-down we snuck in a final hike to the summit of Grandview Mountain at the southern end of Lake Hawea, a new walk for us. The views from the top were indeed grand, although I most liked the views of rugged country we passed by along the way in the Grandview Creek Conservation Area. (more…)

Mt Iron Circuit, Wanaka

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. (more…)

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range

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. (more…)

Red Rock via Shotover Saddle, Wanaka area

For some time I have contemplated doing the highly rated Cascade Saddle walk as a day trip from Raspberry Flats, but the length (~32km?) and reputed danger of descending the route has put me off a bit. I may still get to this classic walk, but in the summer of 2020 I settled instead for this lesser known but excellent day-walk through the West Matukituki Valley up to Shotover Saddle, and then on to Red Rock (1858m). You get spectacular views up and down the valley, of multiple peaks in Mt Aspiring National Park including Rob Roy and its glacier, and nearby Mt Tyndall. A great way to sample the spectacular Mt Aspiring Scenery on a day walk and without undue risk. (more…)

And now walks in Canterbury…

Canterbury

Christchurch Day Trip

These next walks are manageable as a day-trip from Christchurch…

Canterbury Foothills

Coal Hill Track, Mt Peel Conservation Area

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. (more…)

Donald Hill via Turtons Saddle, Canterbury

This is a pleasant walk along a section of the Te Araroa up to Turtons Saddle, where there are views back towards the Rakaia River. If you have extra energy you can climb Donald Hill (1525m) for extended views over towards Lake Coleridge, and the confluence of the Rakaia and Wilberforce Rivers to the north. The scenery is best once you climb up onto the saddle, with many domed peaks lining a wide open valley. You can continue along the Te Araroa to a couple of huts if you wanted to make this an overnight trip. (more…)

Dry Acheron Track, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park

We’d originally intended to walk this track for access to Big Ben Mountain*, but low cloud put us off climbing this. So we settled for finishing the Dry Acheron Track, which follows the Dry Acheron Stream from where it passes through a series of small gullies and other valley landforms, to where it emerges from a rugged valley in the Big Ben Range. I’d heard the area around the stream described as ‘handsome scrublands’, and I think this is an apt description. (more…)

Godley Peak & Moorhouse Peak via Homestead Hill, Palmer Range

I rather like the idea of climbing 2000m high peaks in a day, and the route to Godley Peak (2087m) offers this experience, plus you can bag a second, Moorehouse Peak (2025m), for just another kilometre of walking. The patchwork of colourful pink scree and golden tussock of the surrounding slopes is very attractive if you like that sort of thing. There are views of the Rakaia Valley for almost the whole walk, and there are higher peaks in the Main Divide not too far away. (more…)

Helicopter Hill-Lyndon Saddle-Camp Saddle Circuit

This circuit walk in the Craigieburn Range visiting Lyndon Saddle and Camp Saddle is a good half day option with views of the Castle Hill Basin, Craigieburn Range and Torlesse Range. We took a side trip to Helicopter Hill (1256m) for the first of the views, and that would make a much shorter but worthwhile walk if you had limited time. For a bit more adventure then climb off-track along a ridge at about 1500m to Camp Saddle, with views all the way. The return section is a pleasant enough walk down through tussock and then back into native forest. (more…)

Arthur’s Pass National Park

Kellys Hill via Carroll Hut, Arthur's Pass

This is a nice but steep walk up through lush West Coast forest to Carroll Hut, then up to Kellys Hill (1394m) on a marked route for excellent views over Arthur’s Pass National Park and out to the West Coast. There’s some scrambling required in a few places to get up through the forest, but otherwise it’s a fairly straightforward and shorter walk than many in Arthur’s Pass. It’s a good option if you want a West Coast experience that is accessible from Christchurch in a day, and you don’t mind a rough forest track. (more…)

Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park

On our first visit to Arthur’s Pass National Park we climbed the popular Avalanche Peak. On this walk there were great views across the valley, and I was particularly enamoured by a smaller valley that bent around out of sight behind some mountains. (This valley contains Devils Punchbowl Creek, and the impressive waterfall of the same name is easily visited). I noticed that a route up Mt Aicken would provide views of this valley, and after a little research we decided to return a few days later to climb it. The views were fabulous, at least as good as Avalanche Peak but with much fewer people. And it felt a bit more adventurous being mostly off track and unmarked. (more…)

Climbing Mt Bealey is one of a few classic walks starting conveniently on the highway through Arthur’s Pass Village. The others include the popular walk up neighbouring Avalanche Peak , Mt Aicken across the valley, plus more we’ve yet to do. As for all of these walks you start with a steep ascent in beech forest, then once above the bushline there are extensive views of very scenic country, with many a rugged peak and deep valley to feast your eyes upon. (more…)

Mt Binser ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park

Mt Binser had been recommended by a mountaineering neighbour of ours as a walk with great views and a bit of bush bashing to add to a sense of adventure. My wife Sophia rated the views as possibly the best we’d seen since arriving in NZ seven months earlier, which was a big call considering the quality of walks we’d done in that time. The views were spectacular though, taking in two river valleys, including views right up the Waimakariri River, countless peaks in every direction, many of them now familiar to us from other walks, and the rugged bare slopes of Mt Binser itself. (more…)

Mt Cassidy - Blimit Traverse, Arthur's Pass

The Mt Cassidy – Blimit Traverse starts on the Cons Track and finishes on the Temple Basin Track and Arthur’s Pass Walking Track. But in between it is one of the more adventurous of the very accessible walks starting on the highway at Arthur’s Pass. I’ve got used to these walks being spectacular but I think this one probably took the views to a new level.

You get to bag two peaks, Mt Cassidy (1850m) and Blimit (1922m, apparently short for “Bloody Limit”), the latter being a longish scramble to probably the best views of the day. Returning via Temple Basin makes it a quite varied circuit. Apart from epic alpine vistas, there is very attractive beech forest on the way up the Cons Track, amongst the nicest I’ve seen in New Zealand. So for views and adventure in a medium to long day this route is hard to beat. (more…)

North Canterbury

Dumblane and Mt Charon, Hanmer Range

We wanted a quieter walk to do on our first trip to the Hanmer Springs area, and this was a great choice. We met nobody else on a Sunday doing this long but very enjoyable walk to the summit of Mt Charon (1560m) via Dumblane (1303m) from Jacks Pass (870m). The very colourful heath vegetation was a real highlight, as were the views towards numerous other mountains, over the Hanmer Plains, and into a few valleys. Going as far as Mt Charon felt satisfyingly remote, but the much shorter trip to only Dumblane and back would also be a good option. (more…)

Mt Clara via Fowlers Pass, St James Conservation Area

Although I’d read about the walk to Mt Clara (1945m) before, I decided to do it when the knowledgeable owner of Hanmer Backpackers (Tristan) recommended it to us. In winter conditions it turned out to be one of the better walks we’ve done. The conditions on the tops in winter were proper alpine, and the views north and east in particular were quite spectacular. And you get those views for much of the walk. It’s a long and remote enough tramp to be a bit adventurous, but short enough to fit comfortably into a long winter’s day. (more…)

Mt Fyffe & Gables End, Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a coastal town in the far north of Canterbury, and is famous as a place where tall mountains meet the sea. Those tall mountains are the Seaward Kaikoura Range, peaking at the summit of Manakau (2608m). Grandstand views of these mountains on one side, and the sea on the other, are available from Mt Fyffe (1602m) and nearby Gables End (1592m). Most people would stop at Mt Fyffe, but the relatively easy walking (with one steep bit) across the tops to Gable and then Gables End was the highlight of the day, and so if you have the energy I can recommend this extension. The views at Gables End are also very good. (more…)

Mt Isobel from Jacks Pass, Hanmer Forest Park

Mt Isobel (1319m) is said to be Canterbury’s most climbed mountain. One reason would be good accessibility, sitting as it does just on the edge of the popular resort town of Hanmer Springs. But it is a very nice mountain, with wide open views over mountains, valleys and the Hanmer Plains, forested lower slopes with colourful heath vegetation higher up, and some rugged rocky sections to boot. Walking from Jacks Pass is fairly short, and there are great views the whole way. (more…)

Mt Norma Route, Lewis Pass

I came across the Mt Norma Access Track on my way up Nina Valley, and as always got a bit excited at the prospect of another easily accessible mountain summit in the Lewis Pass area. I waited a long time for a good weather window to get up there, but it finally came in the middle of a very snowy winter, so the views of mountain peaks and valleys galore were extra beautiful. With so much snow this turned out to be a bit adventurous also, and probably the closest we’ve come to mountaineering.

(more…)

Banks Peninsula/ Port Hills

Hinewai Reserve & Stony Bay Peak, Banks Peninsula

We recently watched a documentary on the advice of friends-Fools and Dreamers-about the establishment of Hinewai Reserve, and also its passionate and somewhat maverick manager, Hugh Wilson. With gale force winds forecast for the mountains on my day off we decided to make our first visit to Hinewai, near Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. The circuit route we chose took in a variety of waterfalls and viewpoints, the highest being Stony Bay Peak at 806m, where there are views over Akaroa Harbour. (more…)

Mt Bradley from Gebbies Pass, Banks Peninsula

On our first ever walk in the Port Hills I spied the two highest points on the Banks Peninsula, Mt Herbert (920m) and Mt Bradley (855m). I knew you could climb Mt Herbert on a few different routes, but Mt Bradley looked to be the more interesting mountain, and I researched options to climb this. I settled on walking the Te Ara Pataka/Summit Walkway from Gebbies Pass, past Packhorse Hut, and then taking a short unmarked side track up onto Mt Bradley.  Despite being mostly a modified landscape, the varied vegetation was nevertheless interesting and the views extensive. Low cloud on Mt Herbert added to the experience on the day. (more…)

Mt Herbert from Diamond Harbour, Banks Peninsula

Te Ahu Patiki / Mt Herbert (919m) is the highest point on the Banks Peninsula. Although not that high, the views from on the way up and near the summit are very good, and you can climb it from sea level if you start to the north at Diamond Harbour. The walking experience is just mediocre, being mostly through slightly pooey farmland, but it’s not a hard walk, and I think worth it for the views. Those views include Mt Bradley (a good alternative walk from Gebbies Pass), Mt Evans, plus Lyttelton Harbour and the surrounding crater rim. (more…)

Mt Vernon Park Circuit, Christchurch

There are a variety of tracks available in Mt Vernon Park, passing through sections of native bush, paddocks and tussock. As you climb higher towards Mt Vernon itself there are increasingly good views over Christchurch and of the lumpy crater rim from on the tops. Like many walks in the Port Hills it is far from a wilderness experience, but I was pleasantly surprised how remote some sections felt given you start in the suburbs of Christchurch. (more…)

During our first weeks living in Christchurch we were limited as to where we could hike due to the Covid 19 restrictions. Consequently we did a few walks in the Port Hills and surrounds because they met the definition of ‘local’. This walk was in the Ohinetahi Reserve on the hills above Govenors Bay, only about 20-30 minutes drive from Christchurch. We did a loop around the outer edge of the reserve, through sections of forest but also wide open sections with excellent views of Lyttelton Harbour. We added a short side trip to Cass Peak for lunch. (more…)

Further Afield in Canterbury

Aoraki Mt Cook & Mackenzie

Tasman Glacier Lake Walk, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

If you visit Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park there are a number of excellent short walks that you could do in the same day, or squeeze into the day you get there, or the day you leave. Visiting the Tasman Glacier Lake is one of these, and offers excellent views of the Tasman River Valley and of course the lake, all for under an hour’s walking. (more…)

Tekapo Mt John Walkway, Lake Tekapo

The Tekapo Mt John Walkway is an easy route that takes you to the observatory complex on the top of Ōtehīwai Mt John (1031m). You can continue as we did to make a loop walk, returning by the shore of Lake Tekapo. The views are very spacious: this roche moutonnee is surrounded by lakes and wide plains, and beyond these are numerous high peaks. (more…)

And finally, elsewhere on the South Island…

Fiordland

No posts found.

West Coast

Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Pouhini National Park

On a typically wet and cloudy visit to Franz Josef Glacier we wanted to at least get a good look at the glacier before moving on to our next destination. We did get a look from Rata Lookout two days earlier on the Alex Knob Track, however with some clear weather on the morning we left we stopped to do two very short walks, both with glacier views: The Forest Walk to Glacier View (the first part of the Franz Valley Track), and the Sentinel Rock Walk, which is a short side trip up a hill. You get a decent look at the quickly receding Franz Joseph Glacier from the end of these tracks, however the highlight is probably the overall Franz Valley. (more…)

/ Easy, mountains, New Zealand, views, West Coast
Goat Hill via Barrack Creek Route, Arthur's Pass

This somewhat adventurous climb up the Barrack Creek Route to Goat Hill (1656m) was our first walk on the West Coast side of Arthur’s Pass National Park. The views are really spectacular, and include Mt Rolleston and numerous other peaks, the Otira River, Deception Valley, and the attractive Barrack Creek Valley. Also, the vegetation is different enough to add interest for someone used to the plants back east. The route is quite rough in sections, both through the forest and up towards the summit, and requires some scrambling. If you are okay with this then it will only add to the adventure. All in all a very satisfying day tramp that we’ll be sure to repeat. And you’ll probably have the place to yourself.  (more…)

Heaphy Track to Big Rock Beach & Swan Burn

I was keen to see some quintessential West Coast scenery when we visited the Coast’s northernmost town of Karamea for the first time. A four kilometre section of the multiday Heaphy Track offers just that: a selection of nikau palm lined beaches, lush rainforest and river scenery. The brochures suggest the hour long walk to Scotts Beach as a short day-walk, but continuing on to Big Rock Beach and Swanburn Bridge provides better scenery for not much more effort. I was especially impressed with the nikau palms besides Big Rock Beach, and dense bush lining the Swan Burn (River). (more…)

Hokitika Gorge Walk, Hokitika Gorge Scenic Reserve, Westland

The short but spectacular Hokitika Gorge Walk had been recommended by friends, and so we took the 30-odd kilometre diversion from the main road (and the town of Hokitika) when on our first West Coast road trip. With overcast weather I did not expect the vibrant blues and greens I’d seen online, and had adjusted my expectations accordingly. But when we got there the colours were intense despite the sunless skies, so I think the gorge is worth a visit in any but the dreariest weather conditions. (more…)

Kellys Hill via Carroll Hut, Arthur's Pass

This is a nice but steep walk up through lush West Coast forest to Carroll Hut, then up to Kellys Hill (1394m) on a marked route for excellent views over Arthur’s Pass National Park and out to the West Coast. There’s some scrambling required in a few places to get up through the forest, but otherwise it’s a fairly straightforward and shorter walk than many in Arthur’s Pass. It’s a good option if you want a West Coast experience that is accessible from Christchurch in a day, and you don’t mind a rough forest track. (more…)

Other South Island

No posts found.

And here’s an interactive map of the lot. Click on the icons to view the walk details and access trip reports.