You don’t have to embark on full-day or multi-day hike to experience New Zealand’s beautiful scenery! Here are 7 of the best short hikes around the country to add to your itinerary.
New Zealand is a hiker’s paradise. The whole country is beautiful, and much of it accessible via trails (sometimes ONLY via trails). There are a variety of hikes and walks to choose from everywhere you go, some wildly popular, and others less well-known. Most people hear about the Great Walks when visiting the country and all of the most-hyped day hikes, but those aren’t the only hiking options in the country.
While I did a couple of longer day hikes, like the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, I mostly did short walks in New Zealand. I traveled the country without a car, so most of the time I focused on short, easy walks that were easily accessible from nearby towns on foot.
Even if you don’t have the time (or inclination) to go on the more difficult day hikes or a multi-day trek on one of the Great Walks, you can still spend your time in New Zealand hiking, enjoying the fresh air, the nature, and the views.
These are some of the best short walks in New Zealand that I completed throughout my time in the country. They range in landscape, difficulty, and location. But overall, they are relatively short and simple.
What You Need to Know About Hiking in New Zealand
Here are a few quick tips and useful things to know for hiking in New Zealand:
- Hikes are usually referred to as “walks”, especially shorter walks like the ones in this post.
- Hiking in general is called “tramping”.
- Trails are called “tracks”.
- Always bring plenty of water!
- Wear plenty of sunscreen/sun cream and bring bug spray.
- Dress in layers and prepare for all weather.
- Tracks are usually measured in time rather than distance.
- These are great options for solo hiking, since they are short, easy, and most will have other hikers on the trail.
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Best Short Walks in New Zealand
Location: Wellington, North Island
Distance: Depends on your route
Mt. Victoria Lookout is the place to go for great views of Wellington. It’s one of the top places to see in the city, and well worth the walk. While you can drive up to the lookout point or take a bus, hiking to the lookout is the best option. There are multiple trails starting in the city, heading through the hills, and ending at the summit.
Location: Hahei (Coromandel), North Island
Distance: 2.5 km (1 hour 30 minutes return)
Cathedral Cove is another popular walk in New Zealand. The white sandy beaches at the end of the walk are the main draw of this track. Some people don’t realize that reaching the beach requires a bit of a hike, but overall it’s quite easy. They completely re-did the track while I living in the area, so an asphalt trail now takes you from the parking lot to the beach. It is very crowded during the summer, but in early fall and late spring, you can walk to Cathedral Cove without too many people around.
Read Next: Visiting Cathedral Cove
Location: Picton, South Island
Distance: 12 km from parking lot (3 hours return)
This walk is called “The Snout” because it traverses the ridge line of a hill that juts out into the Marlborough Sound—like a snout. You can drive to the parking lot at the trail head, or you can walk from town through Victoria Domain. Walking from town requires some extra time and distance compared to the listed distance. The track is very hilly, and is mostly up and down the whole way through. You will be exposed to the sun (no tree cover) through part of the track, so wear sunscreen, a hat, etc.
Read Next: Finding Peace of Mind in Picton
Location: Hanmer Springs, South Island
Distance: (1 hour return)
The walk up Conical Hill is a series of switchbacks to reach the top of the hill. While the full trail is incline, it’s relatively easy and short. You can easily walk to the trail head from town (Hanmer Springs is small), so it’s easy to access. There is a lookout shelter at the top with a beautiful view of the area. During the right time of year, you’ll also be surrounded by violet lupine. You can take the same route back to the bottom, or continue on the loop trail (2.9 km loop).
Read Next: Quick Guide to Hanmer Springs
The Centre of New Zealand
Location: Nelson, South Island
Distance: 2.5 km (45 minutes – 1 hour return)
This trail takes you up to a lookout point that is considered to be the center point of New Zealand. It’s a relatively easy walk through a local park on Botanical Hill, with a trail gently zig zagging uphill. At the top, you get a nice view and a good place to sit and rest. The trail spurs off throughout the walk, so you can take a slightly different route back down.
Read Next: Walking to the Centre of New Zealand
Charming Creek Walkway
Location: Upper West Coast, South Island
Distance: 6-7 km (2 hours return)
Charming Creek Walkway follows an old tramway that was used for coal mining. The trail can be walked from one start point to another (9.5 km / 3 hours one way), or you can walk to a certain point and then walk back. I recommend starting at the Ngakawau end and walking to the waterfall just past the suspension bridge, and then returning from there (listed distance is for this route). The track is flat so it’s a really easy walk, and filled with lots of beautiful things to look at along the way.
Read Next: 3 Short Walks on the Road to Karamea
Location: Karamea, South Island
The Oparara Basin is a wild and wonderful limestone complex north of the tiny town of Karamea. Within the basin, there are lots of short walks that allow you to explore the area. You can walk to the Oparara Arch, the Box Caves, the Moria Gate, and more. All trails are short and easy.
Read Next: Karamea and the Oparara Basin
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