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New Zealand’s South Island is filled with diverse and rugged landscapes – which is perfect for walks and hiking! From scenic viewpoints to waterfalls to glaciers, there really are some incredible walking trails on the South Island.
And the best part? Lots of the best walks on the South Island are super easy and suitable for families with kids! Read on and I’ll tell you about my personal favourite hikes in South Island of New Zealand.
10 Tips For Hiking In New Zealand
New Zealand is a beautiful country with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, including hiking.
If you’re planning a hike in New Zealand, even if it is just a short walking track, here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience:
Check the weather forecast – New Zealand’s weather can be unpredictable, and conditions can change quickly. Be prepared for all kinds of weather by having a better idea of what to expect on the day.
Tell someone where you’re going – It’s always a good idea to let someone know your plans in case of an emergency.
Wear appropriate clothing and footwear – Make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes and clothes that are suitable for the conditions. Don’t forget your hat and sunscreen!
Bring plenty of water and snacks – It’s important to stay hydrated and fuelled when hiking, especially in hot weather.
Charge Your Phone – In case of emergency, it’s good to have a fully charged phone with you. A portable battery charger is always good for back up too!
Know your limits – This is especially important when hiking with kids! Don’t expect them to be able to do a 30km hike on their first attempt. Ease them into it, starting with a short and flat track before you move on to the next level of challenge.
Follow the tracks – It’s important to stay on the tracks to avoid getting lost or damaging the environment. Or worse, injuring yourself by attempting to navigate an area that is dangerous.
Take your time – New Zealand is a stunning country, and there’s no rush to get anywhere. Take your time to enjoy the views and the experience.
Pack a first aid kit – New Zealand is a natural environment, and that means plenty of trip hazards and potential for blisters or itchy bites. Bring basic first aid supplies such as bandaids and antiseptic cream.
Have fun! – Hiking is meant to be enjoyable so make sure you take the time to appreciate your surroundings and have a good time.
These New Zealand South Island walks are all very different from each other, but the one thing they have in common is that they are easy and family-friendly!
Make sure you check out our epic New Zealand bucket list with 50 things you need to do in NZ. There are some great walks of New Zealand featured for when the kids are older!
1. Bob’s Cove Track
Bob’s Cove Track is a short 2-kilometre-long trail that takes you up to a viewpoint about Bob’s Cove. This short hike is located on the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy only about a 15-minute drive from Queenstown.
Although short, Bob’s Cove Track is a little steep at the end as you hike up to Picnic Point. It’s steep, but only takes a few minutes of effort before you reach the and are rewarded with views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains.
After hiking the trail, be sure to relax at the beach for a little while.
The Glenorchy Walkway is a super fun walk for kids. The flat 5-kilometre-long trail starts at the lakeshore in Glenorchy before making its way to the Glenorchy Lagoon.
Here, the trail turns into a series of boardwalks in which you can explore the lagoon, take in stunning mountain reflections, and spot a variety of birds!
The Glenorchy Walkway is one of the best things to do in Glenorchy, a small town located a 40-minute drive from Queenstown. And even though it’s a really beautiful walk, the trail is never busy and makes for a peaceful and enjoyable experience.
3. Routeburn Nature Walk
Just a 20-minute drive from the Glenorchy Walkway is another one of the best walks on the South Island – the Routeburn Nature Walk!
I know what you’re thinking, isn’t the Routeburn Track one of the difficult Great Walks in New Zealand? Well, yes it is, but there is a section of it that you can hike in less than an hour that is mostly flat and super easy!
The Routeburn Nature Walk starts from Routeburn Shelter just outside of Glenorchy in Mt Aspiring National Park.
It is the first section of the famous Routeburn Track that goes through the native forest and crosses one suspension bridge. Walk on the trail for about 15 minutes before you see a sign to turn left, which is where the track loops back around to the car park.
In total, this South Island hike only takes about 40 minutes to an hour. It’s the perfect way to see a portion of one of NZ’s Great Walks!
4. Milford Foreshore Walk
No South Island itinerary is complete without visiting Milford Sound. But don’t make the same mistake as most, and simply just jump on a boat. Be sure to take a few minutes and walk the trail along the foreshore.
The Milford Foreshore Walk starts from the main car park in Milford Sound and is a 400-meter loop walk. It’s so easy that this trail is even wheelchair accessible!
The Hooker Valley Track is a world-renowned hike located in Mount Cook National Park on New Zealand’s South Island.
Although a little bit of a longer walk at 5 kilometres each way (10 km in total), it is mostly flat. The trail is also really well maintained and suitable for families.
The Hooker Valley Track takes you across a series of boardwalks and suspension bridges as you walk through the valley to reach Hooker Lake. At Hooker Lake, you’ll see Mount Cook in the distance – it’s spectacular!
This is one of the New Zealand South Island walks that you can actually do all year round.
The walk to the Omarama Clay Cliffs is one of the lesser-known walks on the South Island, but still one of my favourites! It is a super unique trail that takes you around a series of cliffs made of clay.
These ancient cliffs were once carved by glaciers and now showcase interesting colours and shapes.
The Omarama Clay Cliffs can be found just outside of the town of Omarama (not far from Mount Cook National Park).
There is a $5 fee that needs to be paid before visiting the cliffs in an honesty box at the entrance.
It only takes about 30 minutes to walk the trail, but you could easily spend longer there wandering around the cliffs and checking out different views!
These falls are huge and seriously impressive at 22 metres tall!
The trailhead is located about a 2-hour drive from Dunedin in the South Island’s famous Catlins region. This area is known for its waterfalls, and Mclean Falls is just one of the many falls you can explore on short walks nearby.
8. Blue Pools Track
The Blue Pools Track is one of the best family-friendly walks on the South Island. Not only is this trail easy, but it crosses a couple of suspension bridges before reaching the Blue Pools beach area.
Here, you’ll see some of the bluest water you could possibly imagine.
The beach area is perfect for hanging out and having a picnic. If you can brave the freezing cold water, it’s possible to go for a swim here too!
The Blue Pools Track is 3 kilometres long (there and back) and takes most people about 30 minutes to walk each way.
The trailhead is located in Mt Aspiring National Park, about a 50-minute drive from Wanaka. Because of its close proximity, visiting the Blue Pools on a day trip is one of the best things to do in Wanaka.
9. Devil’s Punch Bowl
The Devil’s Punch Bowl is another amazing waterfall well-worth checking out. It is located along Arthur’s Pass on the South Island and is one of the best stops on this scenic drive.
The Devil’s Punch Bowl is a 131-meter-tall waterfall that is known for its power. You must walk for about 20 minutes before you’ll reach the falls.
This track is definitely one of the easiest walks on the South Island, and the fact that it ends at a waterfall makes it fun for families with kids.
10. Franz Josef Glacier
The Franz Josef Glacier Walk is a short 5-kilometre-long walk (there and back) that is slightly more challenging than some of the other walks on this list. With that said, it is still family-friendly and mostly flat.
Along the trail, you’ll pass a couple of small waterfalls before making it to the end at the viewpoint of Franz Josef Glacier.
Now I must warn you, the glacier has receded quite a lot in recent years so the viewpoint isn’t overly close to it. With that said, it is still a really nice walk, and with seeing a glacier at the end it’s a must-do!
Conclusion – New Zealand South Island Walks
There you have it, 10 amazing walks on the South Island of New Zealand that are easy and family-friendly! Each hike is unique in its own way and a fun way to get some exercise while checking out some of the South Island’s best attractions!
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Author Bio: Bailey is a Canadian-born travel blogger who after travelling the world for years, decided to make Queenstown, New Zealand her home. She shares her passion for New Zealand on her blog, My Queenstown Diary.