wanaka mou wahu

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 easygoing activity in that famous New Zealand scenery.  Add to that a unique and colourful history, a burgeoning food culture and genuinely friendly people you've got all the ingredients for the trip of a lifetime.

Over the past 10+ years, we have guided many guest 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'.

Map of eight places for your New Zelaand hiking bucket list

1. Arthur's Pass and Castle Hill, Canterbury.

Amazing high country only a 2 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.

Arthurs Pass Hiking in the sunshine

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

Caving 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.

gentle afternoon paddle in okarito

4. The Southern Lakes - Wanaka, Hawea, Wakatipu & 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.

lake wanaka mou waho views

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 real Lord of the Rings country!

routeburn track3

6. Milford Track & 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 sound2

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!

martins bay

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.

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 available from spring to autumn.


Gidday, we’re New Zealand Trails.

New Zealand Trails is an exciting new adventure between two established New Zealand hiking and outdoor tour companies - First Light Travel in Auckland and Hiking Guys in the South Island.  These two separate journeys began back in 2002, with the values and goals that still guide us today – to showcase the best of the great New Zealand outdoors to overseas visitors in style and comfort. operating small group guided tours featuring some of the best walking and experiences New Zealand has to offer.

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