6 Lesser-Known but Still Incredible Day Hikes in the South Island

From big, uphill slogs to gentle lakeside strolls, we’ve hiked close to 100 trails in New Zealand. We’ve put together what we think are some of the South Island’s best hikes that you probably don’t even known about!

Peninsula Walkway (Lake Tekapo)

Peninsula Walkway Hike Lake Tekapo

Just a short drive out of Lake Tekapo township, Peninsula Walkway is an easy, 2ish hour return walk, crossing open moorland and traversing Lake Tekapo. We did this hike a couple of hours before sunset, and even on a cloudy day it made for a gloriously dramatic panorama of the lake surrounded by mountains.

Mount Fyffe (Kaikoura)

Mount Fyffe Hike Kaikoura

Offering an incredibly rewarding view, the Mt Fyffe hike takes you from near sea level to 1602m and offers a 360 degree view of the ocean and the surrounding mountains. We were lucky enough to get a super clear day, where we could see all the way to the mountains of the North Island and down to the Banks Peninsula surrounding Christchurch.

Set aside a whole day to hike Mt Fyffe or stay in the hut just below the summit and hike up to the top for sunrise.

Mount Sunday

Mount Sunday Hike LOTR

Fans of Lord of the Rings will love this one, as Mount Sunday is the location for Edoras (the ruling seat of Rohan). Non-fans of LOTR can still admire this epic location, which is certainly worth the 40+ km drive down a gravel road to get to.

Mt Sunday is a short but sweet 1 hour return hike, with views of the Rangitata river and the surrounding mountains and is one of our favourite scenic locations that you really have to see in person to appreciate.

Lewis Tops Track

Lewis Tops Track Hike Lewis Pass

The Lewis Tops Track is a three-hour return, moderately difficult hike in the Lewis Pass area. This was one of our first hikes in New Zealand after living in comparably flat Australia for a year, and suffice to say, we struggled!.

However, we made it to the top and were rewarded by layers upon layers of surrounding mountains, and a beautiful ridgeline to hike along. We did this at the end of summer, and are planning to repeat now that the mountains have a dusting of snow!

Bealey Valley Track (Arthur’s Pass)

A 20-30 minute walk takes you to the end of the marked track, and after that it’s a scramble across rocks following a not very easy to see mountaineering track. However, you don’t have to go far to get incredible views, and the big boulders make an awesome spot to sit and enjoy your lunch. This is a really great stop off and short hike as you drive through Arthur’s Pass.

Rob Roy Glacier

Rob Roy Glacier Hike

OK, so Rob Roy Glacier is quite well known, but we find visitors to Wanaka tend to opt for the iconic hike at Roy’s Peak and overlook this one. A couple of years back we had planned to hike Roy’s Peak, but for whatever reason the track was closed. It turns out this was a blessing in disguise, as we looked into alternatives and discovered the Rob Roy Glacier hike.

Well, we were blown away. It may sound dramatic but Rob Roy Glacier has become one of our favourite places… in the world. This 3-4 hour return hike takes you across swing bridges, over glacial-blue rivers, and through beautiful bush until you emerge in a clearing dominated by the overhanging mountain and glacier. This is definitely one of the best hikes in New Zealand. Ugh… take us back, RIGHT NOW.

Feel like we’ve missed any great South Island hikes? Comment below to let us know your favourite!

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