The South Island of New Zealand's Secret Day Hikes

The best South Island Hikes

The South Island of New Zealand has retained more of its virgin forests and the scope and scale of the hiking opportunities - whether coastal or inland alpine are outstanding. 

Best Day Hikes in the South Island

The South Island of New Zealand's Secret Day Hikes

The South Island is the ‘crown jewel’ when it comes to hiking, offering an overwhelming amount of the best New Zealand day hikes set amongst an untouched wilderness. We’ve put in the miles for you and come up with six world-­class day walks to consider conquering on your South Island New Zealand vacation.

Mount Robert Circuit, Nelson:

Scour the face of Mt Robert on this 5­‐hour track, meeting towering beech forests, rare native birdlife and ancient geology along the way. Because of the mountainous terrain, a medium level of fitness is required for this hike, but the unlimited views of Lake Rotoiti’s somber waters against the rugged hinterland is worth it.

Secret Hikes of the South Island

Mount Stokes Track, Marlborough Sounds:

Prepare to be blown away – both literally and metaphorically – on your ascent to the highest point in Marlborough Sounds, where views to as far as the North Island greet you. If you aim to complete this half-­day trek near sunset, the views are made even more breath-­taking by the sun’s fiery reflection in the sounds as the day takes its final bow.

Marlborough Sounds

Hooker Valley Track, Mount Cook/Aoraki:

Considered one of the best day hikes in the South Island, the Hooker Valley Track guides you over the Hooker River on fun swing bridges, through the golden tussocks and rocky outcrops of the Hooker Valley, with the snow-­capped peak of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mount Cook/Aoraki looming ahead. Your journey ends with the most epic of photo opportunities: a glistening glacial lake clad with bobbing ice bergs, and the majestic mountain standing sentinel in the background.


Hooker Valley

Fox Glacier Te Moeka o Tuawe Valley Walk, Westland:

In no other country of similar climate are glaciers this easily accessible, and this easy 1-hour walk, through lush rainforest and glacial valleys, takes you right to the face of an 8-mile-­long ancient ice anomaly. Don’t let the serene landscape trick you, the dramatic ever-­‐changing environment is prone to icefall, landslips, and flooding, which can close the track so, to make sure you don’t miss this once-­in-‐a-­lifetime opportunity and plan ahead.


Fox glacier

Queenstown Hill Time Walk, Queenstown:

A challenging 500m climb to the summit of Te Tapu-­nui is well rewarded by the uninterrupted 360 degree views over Queenstown, the Remarkables, and Lake Wakatipu. Along your way through lofty pine forests walk through time, as plaques explain the evolution of Lake Wakatipu, from the settlement of Maori, to the gold-­rush, and the birth of Queenstown as the ‘adventure capital of the world.’



Kaikoura Shoreline Walk, Kaikoura:

From Point Kean to South Bay, this track follows the base of the cliffs past fur seals and nesting birdlife in their natural habitat as the Pacific Ocean laps at your feet and the Southern Alps shoot up above you. Pack a picnic and a camera for this leisurely stroll along the dynamic Kaikoura coastline.



Would you like to add one of these day hikes to your dream New Zealand holiday? To receive a free, no-obligation, personalized itinerary - just follow the link and answer a few brief questions.

First Light Travel's Hiking & Walking Tours


Brent Narbey
Brent Narbey
: 8 Aug 2016 (Last updated: 17 Sep 2021)

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