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++
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
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+
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++