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Day walks

New Zealand day walks, attractions, things to do, places to go

  • 5 minutes

New Zealand day walks are an immersive experience in New Zealand’s backyard. Places to go range from coastal cliff tops in Mangawhai Heads to the joy of an instagram favourite Roy’s Peak, Queenstown. A day walk is an indepth exploration’ a compact adventure shared with family and friends. Hike through flourishing native bush, find emerald green mossy fern filled gullies and marvel at glaciers, lakes and rivers as you pass by. Ascend volcanic slopes where views sweep from ocean to sky. The day walk’s reward are amazing views over Hooker Lake with the majestic Southern Alps and Aoraki Mount Cook as a backdrop.

Routeburn Track, New Zealand
Routeburn Track

Is it a tramp, a hike or walk?

It is everything you want in adventure, the thrill of getting there and the reward of being in nature.

DEFINITION OF A DAY WALK

  • Walk is completed between 4 to 8 hours, although your day gear will include an emergency foil blanket just in case.
  • Walk can be a one way (not a return to the start) and is measured by kilometres and the estimated time taken. The Department of Conservation (DOC) provides these details as they are undisputed premier experts of walks within New Zealand. How difficult a walk has been assigned a grade by DOC.

TIP

Explore New Zealand on foot with sturdy comfortable boots (forget jandals / thongs; they do not cut it as footwear; it’s not a beach).

FOOTWEAR – THE DEBATE ABOUT JANDALS / THONGS?

Are they suitable for a day walk?

No. jandals / thongs are for the beach or BBQ

  • You can slip on an uneven surface and snap your favourite pair (and have nothing to wear)
  • In muddy or wet areas they are hazardous with the wet area / mud creating an impromptu skateboard
  • Jandals / thongs do not support the ankle or foot, good trainers work well for short walks
  • Sturdy walking sandals are an option when it is hot

UNFORGETTABLE DAY WALKS

Places to go and things to see. New Zealand heritage stories, Birdlife / wildlife, Scenic - day walks.

learn more
Bealey Spur, Arthur's Pass National Park, New Zealand
Matheson Lake New Zealand on a still morning with mist rising and Mount Cook in the background
Fiordland Crested penguin, tawahi, Munro beach, West Coast, New Zealand

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

TAKING THE KIDS FOR A WALK; Nothing grates like kids muttering phrases … “I’m bored” or ‘When are we going to get there?”

New Zealand is a great place for family and friends (plus kids) great place to go walking as there are no snakes, wild animals with the predator instinct to bite and eat and walks are very well signposted with relevant safety information clearly displayed (Department of Conservation walks).

Punakaki Pancake Rocks in Paparoa National Park, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
Punakaki Pancake Rocks
  • Weather is changeable, ensure you have layers for kids and yourself sorted
  • Walks are selected for the variety of things to do and places to go from waterfalls with rusting abandoned machinery, wildlife spotting to views and changes in the landscape
  • Encourage the kids to go in front, to be the leader of the pack and read the information plaques and tell you what is happening
  • Carry snacks and energy bites for flagging kids
  • Consider the thrill of getting to the walk and returning back to your accommodation, a boat ride, promise of an ice cream (for everyone including the kids), a chance to check out nearby attractions and fold these into the conversation about the walk
  • If the kids or anyone for that matter wants to explore interesting finds during the walk, take time to look around. Department of Conservation kiwi guardians is an amazing programme with very handy factsheets so the hard work is already done for you

SECURITY – CAMERAS & MOBILES

While you might not have wifi everywhere you walk, carry your mobile at all times. Download maps, click photos and take selfies. And your camera and its safety in a locked vehicle. No guarantees and some areas are unfortunately known for opportunity car thief incidents.

SANDFLIES

We don’t want to put you off.

The nasty bite can be incredibly itchy. HEALTH & SAFETY & insect repellent. It is necessary as the swarms of black clouds of sandflies are known to cause acute discomfort to holiday makers. Repellent such as deet can be effective, but many people don’t like using it. There are numerous natural remedies available. Sandflies do not like wind, smoke and rain. Sandflies are most numerous during daybreak and dusk in humid, overcast conditions, just before it rains.

TIP

The West Coast of the South Island, particularly Fiordland, is notorious for New Zealand’s biting insects.

CAN YOU DRINK UNFILTERED WATER ON THE WALK?

The inviting stream is a crystal clear babble of water. It is unwise to drink water directly from a stream, creek, river or any unfiltered water supply. No matter how clear the water appears it could contain GIARDIA.

Picton, Queen Charlotte Sounds, Marlborough, New Zealand

WALKING GRADE

Check out the helpful guide Walking track categories by the Department of Conservation on required fitness levels for graded walks.

WHAT TO WEAR

Forget about a heavy multiple day supply of goodies, forget trying to pack the kitchen sink. Snacks, energy bars, lunch and water plus clothing layers. Yet what to wear is important.

New Zealand is an island country with a deserved reputation for uncertain weather. New Zealand’s geography and exposure to the Pacific Ocean creates unpredictable weather conditions. Remember to check the local weather forecast BEFORE departing and wear appropriate clothing. Watch the Department of Conservation for helpful tips on what to wear and carry with you.

Check out the Short Walks in New Zealand – Top Picks series for what takes your fancy and lace up the walking boots. Remember to check safety information before departing. Enjoy New Zealand outdoors; the best bits come in short walks.  There is a walk for everyone, everywhere in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Check out the helpful guide Walking track categories by the Department of Conservation on required fitness levels for graded walks.

Pancake Rocks Cafe, Punakaiki, New Zealand
Pancake Rocks Cafe

SAFETY

Walking and up to date information about status of the walk, safety or closures. Always check online links before departing.

Check out the New Zealand walks & hikes, attractions, things to do, places to go for what takes your fancy and lace up the walking boots. There are a number of short walks to consider for those time challenged or are not sure of their fitness levels. There is a walk for everyone, everywhere in Aotearoa New Zealand.

ACCOMMODATION

Day walks can be areas that are remote or require an hour or two getting to the walk’s entrance / exit. Ensure you have planned travelling time getting there and returning. Your local accommodation provider will be knowledgeable about the local walks in the area and might even provide transport to a specific walk. Check these details beforehand.

TIP

A day walking + an overnight stay = 2 days holiday time

St Bathans former police camp now accommodation, New Zealand
St Bathans former police camp now accommodation

WALKING WITH MOBILITY ISSUES & FITNESS CHALLENGED

New Zealand walks are largely for people who do not use a wheelchair and are able to walk fully unaided.

Historic rail tunnel, a part of an old gold mine transportation system, Karangahake Gorge, New Zealand
Historic rail tunnel, Karangahake Gorge

The outdoors can have muddy paths, wet slippery areas, steps, stiles and require ascent and descending steep paths. If you are a slower walker however, walk independently and plan your walking distance accordingly.

Most toilets and facilities alongside a walking track are not disability friendly, there could be steps or an awkward entranace.

TIP

Hiking poles are a popular accessory and useful for stability as they provide a firm foundation for the next step.

Older walkers with hip and knee issues carefully check the steepness / slope of the walk, steps and other impediments to enjoying the walk.

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