Five of New Zealand's greatest short walks
New Zealand's Great Walks are world-renowned, multi-day adventures that take you through some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes.
But for those short on time, but still looking to immerse themselves in New Zealand nature, there are plenty of beautiful day hikes and short walks too.
From coastal walkways to native forest trails and ancient glaciers, New Zealand is packed with short walks suitable for all levels of fitness.
Mount Manaia Track, Northland
2 – 3 hr (3.5 km return)
Highlights: Spectacular ocean views, native forest
This short but scenic hike winds its way through regenerating native forest to the summit of Mount Manaia, 420m above sea level. As you climb, the landscape becomes increasingly spectacular, with views overlooking one of New Zealand's most dramatic harbour entrances. To reach the mountain's true summit, you will need a strong head for heights, but the views from the top are well worth the effort.
Travel Tip: Recommend your clients stop off at Mount Manaia on their road trip on Northland’s Twin Coast Discovery touring route, which tours both coastlines of New Zealand’s warmest region.
Pouakai Crossing, Mount Taranaki
8 hours return (19 km return)
Highlights: Mountain views, scenic alpine tarns
Winding across the slopes of mighty Mount Taranaki, this track is one of the best day hikes in the North Island. You'll get spectacular views of the mountain, particularly at the picturesque Pouakai tarns. On a clear, calm day, these small alpine pools reflect the mountain perfectly, offering unmissable photo opportunities.
Travel Tip: Mount Taranaki is just a short drive from New Plymouth, a base from which your clients can start guided tours of the Pouakai Crossing.
Hooker Valley Track, Canterbury
3 hrs (10 km return)
Highlights: Glaciers, clear alpine streams, snowy peaks
Enjoy the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Southern Alps on this short walk, winding up the Hooker valley past alpine streams and glaciers in the shadow of Aoraki/Mount Cook. Along the way you will cross three swingbridges and encounter picturesque icebergs, glaciers and majestic mountains that will have you reaching for your camera at every turn.
Travel Tip: This a well-formed track that is suitable for all levels of fitness and most ages too, ideal for a family adventure.
Lake Matheson Walk, West Coast
1 hr 30 min (2.6 km loop)
Highlights: Reflections of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman
Ideal for stretching the legs on a road trip down the West Coast, this gentle walk leads to views of the New Zealand’s highest peaks reflected on the still waters of Lake Matheson. The colour of the water and the position of the mountains combine perfectly to create the ideal reflective surface, and therefore also stunning photo opportunities.
Travel Tip: For the stillest waters and the best chance of getting the “money-shot”, visit the lake around dawn or dusk.
Roy’s Peak, Wanaka
5 – 6 hrs (16 km return)
Highlights: Lake views, panoramic mountain vistas
Popular for a reason, Roy’s Peak Track takes you on a steep climb through alpine meadows and tussock grasslands to the summit where you’ll be rewarded with breath-taking views over Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring and surrounding peaks.
Travel Tip: During the summer months, the track's car park can get busy. If your clients are staying in Wanaka, suggest they walk or cycle the scenic lakeside Waterfall Creek Track as it links up to Roy's Peak Track.
For more information on short walks and day hikes in New Zealand, check out our handy fact sheets:
Short Walks (pdf)
Day Hikes (pdf)