Bucket list hiking in New Zealand

Hiking in New Zealand for Your Bucket List

By New Zealand Trails

4 minute read

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Like all Kiwis, we love our backyard and reckon you will too. The New Zealand Southern Alps and surrounds offer an amazing natural environment that makes it so easy to get right into the heart of the outdoors and enjoy easy-going activities in that famous New Zealand scenery. Add to that a unique and colourful history, a burgeoning food culture and genuinely friendly people, and you've got all the ingredients for the trip of your lifetime.

Over the past 10+ years, we have guided many guests on some of the best walking and hiking in New Zealand so have learnt a lot about what kind of experiences people enjoy and lots of local secrets that add so much to travel memories. Our new itinerary for the New Zealand summer season is the product of these years of guiding and listening to guest feedback, we'd like to bottle the best of the South Island and package them together in one active, easy-going, fully-guided itinerary. So here's our take on the best of New Zealand's South Island, all of which are included in New Zealand Trails World Heritage Walking Tour.

1. Arthur's Pass and Castle Hill, Canterbury

Amazing high country only a two-hour drive from the international airport, a real alpine national park with great hiking trails and a world-renowned alpine train experience - there aren't too many places in the world that can say that. Some great characters in local history too.

Hiking in Arthurs Pass

Hiking through tussock in Arthurs Pass on a glorious day.

2. The Nile River Caves in Paparoa National Park

Surely one of the most natural glowworm caving experiences anywhere on the planet and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more idyllic spot than nearby Punakaiki. We're not sure why but think it's got something to do with the native Nikau Palms and white sandy beaches!

Nile River Caving

Exploring the world beneath in the Nile River Caves in Paparoa National Park.

3. Glacier Country, Westland

South West New Zealand world heritage area - The native bird haven of Okarito lagoon followed by the ice world of Fox Glacier makes for a pretty memorable 24 hours. The drive south and over the Haast Pass looks like a perfect place to shoot car commercials.

Fox Glacier hiking

Fox Glacier begins in the Southern Alps and runs all the way to the coast!

4. The Southern Lakes - Wanaka, Hawea, Wakatipu and Te Anau

It's hard to imagine that these huge lakes were carved from the rock by a river of ice hundreds of metres thick, but that's what happened. To give you an idea of how impressive these lakes are, the longest is 80km (50 miles) from end to end! The roadside views alone will be worth sending home to the family but we really rate the high country of Mount Aspiring National Park and the Lake Wanaka district for some great walking with picture-postcard photo opportunities around every corner.

Mou Waho Island, Lake Wanaka

The beautiful eco-sanctuary of Mou Waho Island, Lake Wanaka.

5. The Routeburn Track, Mt Aspiring National Park

One of New Zealand's great walks, the Routeburn offers what we think is the best one day walk anywhere in New Zealand, from Routeburn road end to Routeburn Falls. Don't be surprised if the views around the head of Lake Wakatipu make you feel every so slightly Hobbitish, this is the real Lord of the Rings country!

Routeburn Flats

The views from Routeburn Flats are simply stunning.

6. Milford Track and Milford Sound

We should also mention the Milford road, a journey you won't forget in a hurry - for all the right reasons. The added bonus of hiking Milford Track from the 'wrong' end is visiting Milford Sound before we hike - Milford Track and Milford Sound in the same day, we like the sound of that.

Milford Sound

Cruise the waters of the iconic Milford Sound with us.

7. Martins Bay and the Hollyford Track

Martins Bay, on the Tasman Sea at the end of the Hollyford Valley, is one of those special places on earth and somewhere we think you'll remember for a long time. Wildlife up close, a real 'Wild West' history and the untouched Hollyford valley make this real New Zealand and one place we think you must visit!

Hollyford Track

One of many swing bridges along the tranquil Hollyford Track.

8. Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo

The glaciers and peaks of Mount Cook National Park were the training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary and have a deserved spot right in the heart of New Zealand life. The perfect backdrop for great days hiking in Mount Cook, right at the foot of Aoraki, the cloud piercer. For a new perspective, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve offers a night sky the likes you have never seen before awaits.

Lake Tekapo New Zealand

Blue on blue at Lake Tekapo.

In a country like ours, it's no easy task recommending where you should go when on your New Zealand vacation, but we are sure that if you are looking for real travel experiences, not just a whistle-stop tour of famous landmarks, then you'll love our World Heritage Walking Tour. For more information or any questions about our tours please contact us now, we'd love to hear from you. This is a fully guided small group guided tour including some of New Zealand's best hiking trails, iconic Kiwi activities with all the comforts of home. For more information about our tours please download a brochure here or see all the details of our 13-day World Heritage Walking Tour with all the best hiking in New Zealand here. Departures are available from spring to autumn.

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