Javi Lorbada – a Spanish travel blogger – travelled with us through New Zealand and is bringing you the below story – best day hikes in New Zealand.

New Zealand is one of the most naturally spectacular countries on earth. It’s the perfect place to hire a campervan and hit the road for the adventure of a lifetime.

Once you’ve chosen New Zealand as your next trip destination you would probably know there are hundreds of trails, tramping routes or day hikes if you are keen to explore the island in depth, the Great Walks are multi-day adventures through New Zealand’s best scenery.

Sometimes given your timeframe those walks are not feasible and you can enjoy same scenery doing day hikes.

You can see everything from native forests, lakes, and rivers to rugged mountain peaks, deep gorges, and vast valleys. So here are 10 of the best day hikes to visit on your New Zealand road trip.


Akaroa Skyline Circuit (5–7h return)

Banks Peninsula is usually out of the equation while travelling in the South Island, its certain requires a detour from Christchurch but it will not disappoint. From million years ago volcanic activity, this peninsula created a special landscape.

From Akaroa take the purple track up to purple peak curry reserve, steep track going through native bush leaving behind Akaroa harbour. Around 2–3h up you will have a spectacular view of the whole Akaroa Bay. Go around the mountain to see Hinewai Reserve and some of the many small bays formed by the lava many years ago. Take the Stony Bay Road on your way down, precious views will be your companion all the way down. More information at Akaroa Walks.


Mt Sunday (30min–1h30min return)

Mount Sunday is a relatively easy hike up to 611m, this walk is located in the Hakatere Conservation Park in Canterbury. The views though are priceless, Rangitata River and countless mountains around will make your time unforgettable.

Recently here was filmed The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and this site was Edoras, for those LOTR lovers this site will be special.


Mt John Observatory (3–4h return)

Mount John trail starts with an important elevation in the first 2km, more than 300 meters up that make this hike a bit steep. The track runs along the side of Lake Tekapo and once you reach the summit you’ll be amazed by the 360 scenic view of the Southern Alps, Lake Tekapo and Lake Alexandrina.

However if you don’t feel like walking up there, you can to enjoy the view you can just drive to the Observatory if you decided to do the latter, the road access has a fee of 8$ to get up there.


Hooker Valley Track (3h return)

This can be one of the most frequented tracks, it’s easy, mostly flat and doesn’t require a great fitness level. Early in the morning will provide solitude in the walk avoiding the crowds.

The hike is a 10km return via the same track with breathtaking views to Mueller Glacier, Hooker Lake, and Aoraki/Mount Cook. Given its complexity, it’s one of the most rewarding day walks.


Mueller Hut Route (4h one way)

The Mueller Hut track is also in the Aoraki/Mt Cook area, quite different from the Hooker Valley, this track is kind of advance and alpine experience may be required during the winter months.

Although we didn’t reach the hut itself due to heavy snowfall days before, we went up to the Sealy Tarns, 2h one way.

The track zigzags gently until the tarn, mostly steps you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Hooker Valley and the peaks in the area.

From the small pond follow the orange markers up the Hut, another 2h.


Roys Peak (5–6hr return)

You’ve most likely seen Roys peak pictures, and it’s true this hike it’s really common among trampers in New Zealand and that’s for a reason.

Very steep hike up to the summit will give you breathtaking views over Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring/Tititea, and surrounding peaks, definitely one of the best day hikes in New Zealand.


Ben Lomond Summit (6–8 hr return)

Probably the best views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, in here you can choose either to stop at the Saddle about 3h one way or continue to the summit to have 360 views. One one side Aspiring/Tititea and many more peaks, on the other
side Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables.

During winter times this may require crampons and alpine experience, on a fine weather day the views are simply unforgettable.


Bealey Spur Track (4–6hr return)

The track is really appealing, it’s gradually steep walking through mountain beech forest which means isn’t that cold or hot during summer.

At one point you have incredible views of Bruce Stream. Further up there are some tarns and the view gets better and better, especially to the Waimakariri River Valley and surrounding mountains.


Pouakai Circuit Reflective Tarn (4–5h return)

The walk starts at Mangorei Road and you’ll be going through “Enchanted Forest”, trees, locally known as Goblin Forest.

Sooner than you can imagine, on a clear day, Mt Taranaki will be seen and the rest of the walk will be pure joy.

Once you reach the Pouakai take a break and enjoy the coastline views, 20 min further up the tarn will be awaiting you for spectacular mountain reflections.


Tama Lakes (5–6hr return)

Easy walk with almost no steep areas, and very interesting points on the way.

About an hour from the start the Taranaki Falls will refresh your walk, 20 meters high with amazing views.

Keep going for another two hours, walking through alpine herbfields always seeing Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. Firstly, the view of the lower lake at 1240 meters and after a gently steep climb the second viewpoint to the upper lake at 1440 meters.

If you want to go down the lakes, there are not formed tracks, the descent will be steeply through gullies.


Bonus: Tongariro Alpine Crossing (7–8 hr one way)

In the beginning, we said the Great Walks are multi-day adventure tracks, however, Tongariro Alpine Crossing can be done in one day.

During the summer months, it can be quite crowded if you choose the winter times, be prepared, crampons may be necessary.

No matter how many people you find with you the walk it’s totally worth it, climbing the Mangatepopo Valley to reach the saddle between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, further up you will reach the highest point 1886 meters from where you can see the emerald lakes.

Whether summer or winter be prepared for a long and challenging day. So there you go, check weather conditions and choose your day walk in New Zealand.


Photography and article by Javi Lorbada, check his blog for more of his work.

After more? Check out New Zealand’s 10 Best Hiking Trails here…

Don’t forget to check out the latest deals and offers on campervan hire in New Zealand.

About the Author

Bastian Graf

Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.

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