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Dayhikers' South Island Itinerary

Daywalks Trip in the South (2 weeks)

The South Island, and particularly the southern half of it, provides an almost limitless list of dayhikes for the keen walker through spectacular mountains and lakes country.

Don’t forget to visit the DoC Visitor Centres in Mt Cook, Wanaka, Queenstown, Te Anau and on Stewart Island for track updates and weather forecasts.

Days 1-3: Christchurch to Mt Cook

The drive from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo takes around 3hrs and from there to Mt Cook, around 1.5hrs. If time permits at Lake Tekapo, either walk up Mt John or around its summit track before heading to Mt Cook Village. The Hooker Track is a must here, while the Mueller Hut Hike is a big mission. Head over to the Tasman Valley for the 1hr return Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier walk.

Days 4-6: Mt Cook to Wanaka

It’s a 2.5 to 3hr drive to Wanaka, where you’ll want to spend a night or two. Top day walks around here are the Rob Roy Track, Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Walk, and if you want to get that classic Insta shot, the climb up Roys Peak.

Days 7-9: Wanaka to Queenstown

Not far to Queenstown via Cardrona and the Bra Fence over the Crown Range (only a 1hr-drive). You could spend a week walking around Queenstown, so consider these options: Sawpit Gully Track and Lake Hayes Walkway near Arrowtown, the Ben Lomond Hike above Queenstown itself, and Lake Sylvan Track and Routeburn Daywalk at the head of Lake Wakatipu, past Glenorchy. A trip to Glenorchy comes highly recommended.

Days 10-12: Queenstown to Te Anau & Fiordland NP

It’s only a 2hr drive to Te Anau and from there, another hour into Fiordland NP and a further hour of spectacular driving out to Milford Sound. In the NP, consider the Milford Track Day Hike and the Key Summit Hike options, while closer to Te Anau, various Kepler Track options, including the Shallow Bay Walk.

Days 13-15: Stewart Island/Rakiura

It’s worth giving yourself a few days here to visit NZ’s third largest island. From Te Anau, it will take 2.5 to 3hrs to drive to Bluff, where you’ll hop on the ferry. Predator-free Ulva Island is a joy to walk around, while the Port William to Oban walk is a top dayhike.

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DoC Dayhikes

Ben Lomond Track

Big climb to the peak (6-8hrs)

Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Walk

Hill climb for glorious views near Wanaka (3hrs)

Hooker Valley Track

Valley track to glacier lake below Mt Cook (3-4hrs)

Kepler Track

Walk 60km or a few hours

Key Summit Hike

Enjoyable 3hr hike for views

Lake Hayes Walkway

Gorgeous walk near Queenstown (3hrs)

Lake Sylvan Track

Beech forest walk in Routeburn Valley (2hrs)

Milford Track

Walk the legendary Fiordland track

Mt John

Stars & views

Mueller Hut Hike

Vigorous climb up to altitude (7-8hrs)

Port William to Oban Walk

Rakiura NP daywalk (4-5hrs)

Rob Roy Track

Walk to foot of the glacier (4-5hrs return)

Routeburn Track

A 1hr nature walk or a 3-day mission

Roys Peak Hike

Big climb near Wanaka for 'that selfie' (6hrs)

Sawpit Gully Track

Scenic hike behind Arrowtown (3hrs)

Shallow Bay Walk

Enjoyable flat walk; good for families (3hrs)

Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara)

Predator-free paradise for birds

Text © Craig McLachlan

Image by craig