Four more walks in New Zealand’s South Island


After last year’s visit to NZ I was very keen to go back and explore some more of the beautiful South Island.

Following are four more fantastic walks.

1. Mt. Somers, Canterbury

Mt Somers provides for an invigorating and reasonably tough day walk. The effort to reach the summit is rewarded with excellent views of the Southern Alps and the Canterbury Plains.

The walk commences from Sharplin Falls carpark, a small parking area at the end of Flynns Rd, accessed via the small village of Staveley. The start of the walk is clearly marked and initially follows the Mount Somers Walkway before branching off just after Staveley Hill to climb towards the summit. The track climbs pretty much all the way – there’s very little respite – and the last section to the summit is exposed and steep.

Time: At least 6 hours return
Grade: Hard day walk
My rating: A
Photo gallery.

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2. Bealey Spur, Arthur’s Pass National Park

This is a simply fantastic walk that provides expansive views while not being particularly strenuous.

The walk starts at Bealey, 10km or so before Arthur’s Pass Village. ¬†There’s a signposted parking area just off the SH73 (note there’s nowhere to park within Bealey itself). After climbing to meet the end of the road into Bealey, the track then climbs though beech forest before entering an open area with tremendous views. The track continues uphill past a tarn and through some more forest eventually reaching Bealey Hut. Although the track officially stops here, you can continue further up the spur if time and weather permits.

Time: 4 hours or so
Grade: Moderate day walk
My rating: A++
Photo gallery.

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3. Avalanche Peak, Arthur’s Pass National Park

A classic walk with magnificent views. This is a fairly tough walk and the last part of the ridge is exposed, narrow and requires a bit of scrambling and a head for heights, but experienced walkers will find it well worth the effort.

The walk starts at the DOC visitor centre in Arthur’s Pass Village, where there’s plenty of parking. The initial part of Avalanche Peak Track is a rather steep and strenuous haul up through beech forest with lots of tree roots across the path to trip up any walkers not paying attention. Once the track breaks through the tree line it follows a spur and then climbs up to meet Scotts Track. From here there’s a rocky and narrow ridge which leads to the summit.

From the summit you can either return the same way or go down Scotts Track which is a bit longer and not quite as steep as Avalanche Track, but provides some variety and also passes the Arthur’s Pass Chalet on the way back to the visitor centre, providing a great spot for a beer.

Time: At least 6 hours
Grade: Hard day walk
My rating: A+
Photo gallery.

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4. Lewis Tops, Canterbury

This was a great walk to finish my trip Рthe Lewis Tops route provides for some fine ridge walking, with great views and attractive alpine tarns.  Thoroughly recommended.

The walk commences off the Lewis Pass Highway about 20km from Springs Junction. There is an old car park right next to the start but when I was there it was overgrown and flooded. The St James Walkway carpark to the east is a better choice and is only a short walk away (it does require you to cross the highway though so care needs to be taken).

The path itself soon enters beech forest and starts climbing. After an hour or so the tree line is reached and the track follows a spur, marked with poles, to a knoll. From here the track is not marked, so it is worth taking a note of the descent point before continuing along the ridge. You can continue as far as time and energy allows, taking in great 360 degree views before returning the same way.

Time: A minimum of about 4 hours
Grade: Medium day walk
My rating: A++
Photo gallery.

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Four walks in New Zealand’s South Island


Last year I made my first visit to New Zealand’s South Island for pleasure rather than business and was able to do four terrific walks, all of which are thoroughly recommended.

The walks are in the southern part of the South Island, in the general Queenstown area and are as follows:

1. Key Summit, Routeburn Track

The Routeburn track is a famous New Zealand walk of 32km. It commences (if walking west to east) from The Divide which is on the road that goes from Te Anau to Milford Sound. Key Summit is accessible from the first part of the track and provides for an excellent half-day walk with excellent views if weather permits.

Starting from The Divide which is a parking area by the road with a shelter and toilets, the well-formed track climbs steadily for an hour or so, before reaching a sign-posted turn-off to Key Summit. From here it’s a steep climb to the treeline and thereafter a more moderate walk along a track that loops about the tops and provides fantastic views of Fiordland.

Time: Around 3 hours or so
Grade: Easy/moderate half-day walk
My rating: A++
Photo gallery.

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2. Routeburn Flats Hut, Routeburn Track

This walk takes in the eastern end of the Routeburn Track finishing at Routeburn Flats Hut.

The walk commences at the Routeburn Shelter at the northern end of the Routeburn-Kinloch Rd. In addition to the shelter there’s a carpark and toilets. The trail itself soon crosses the Route Burn river and continues through forest before climbing steadily, crossing the river again and then eventually reaching the hut which has a delightful setting.

The hut itself is designed for overnight walkers, but has a large common room which provides a good spot for lunch before returning via the same route.

Time: Around 4 hours
Grade: Easy/moderate half to full day walk
My rating: A
Photo gallery.

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3. Ben Lomond, Queenstown

Ben Lomond holds a commanding position above Queenstown and is an obvious target for a walk. There’s a reasonably well formed track to the top, and experienced walkers will enjoy an excellent day walk.

I took the (expensive – like everything in Queenstown) Gondola to Ben Lomond Saddle to save some climbing. From here there’s a short walk past a luge track and then a brief section within forest, before a steady climb to a saddle and then the final pull westwards to the summit. The summit has magnificent 360 degree views, taking in Lake Wakatipu, Mt Earnslaw and The Remarkables.

Time: 5 hours or so
Grade: Moderate/Hard day walk
My rating: A+
Photo gallery.

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4. Roys Peak, Stack Conservation Area, Wanaka

This walk takes in Roys Peak in Wanaka and like the other three walks provides excellent walking and fantastic views. To start with there a great views over Lake Wanaka and when you finally crest the ridge fine views of the Southern Alps.

The route commences at a small carpark just off the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Road about 6km out of Wanaka. Following a jeep track for most of the way, the route is easy to follow although not signposted other than at the start. It actually looks a bit easier than it is, in the end it’s a solid climb and will probably take at least 5.5 hours. I got the full four seasons on this walk, with sun, then rain, then a bit of snow and then a fine afternoon.

Time: 6 hours or so
Grade: Moderate/Hard day wlak
My rating: A++
Photo gallery.

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