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Short walks

Best 10 family friendly walks in the South Island

  • 4 minutes

Routeburn Track, New Zealand

Grab kids’ attention and mix in variety for a great family walk. Places to go for family and friends check out Short Walks in New Zealand attractions, things to do. Unmissable, unforgettable walks and that’s just the start of things to do with the kids outdoors. Let’s get the family experiencing the ‘Routeburn’ GREAT WALK the easy way or peering into the depths of a lake for eels or becoming a kiwi guardian with the Department of Conservation.

Picton, Queen Charlotte Sounds, Marlborough, New Zealand
Queen Charlotte Sounds

The iconic Queen Charlotte Track is the definition of a brilliant multiple day New Zealand walk. For many visitors fitness levels dictate the walk is not possible. There are a number of short walks and lookouts where bite sized distances mean kids can participate in one of New Zealand’s outstanding multiple day walls.  Experience the joy of walking the Queen Charlotte Track the ‘short way.’


Check out further details about the Queen Charlotte Track and, as day passes are required ensure you have ticked this box if required.

  • CULLEN POINT LOOKOUT. When is a walk not really a walk? The lookout stroll from the car park is about 10 minutes. Perfect for all fitness levels. The bonus stunning is Mahau Sound, as well as the Kaituna and Pelorus estuaries. On the Queen Charlotte Drive approximately 4.5 km from Havelock look for a lookout road sign. There is a small car park. No Queen Charlotte Track pass required.
  • Karaka Point Lookout. Head towards Port Underwood and stop at the small car park signposted Karaka Point. Your short 10 minute passes historic Maori pa (village) earthworks and offers spectacular views of Queen Charlotte Sounds. No Queen Charlotte Track pass required as officially not part of the walk.
View of Pelorus Sound from Cullen Point Lookout on Queen Charlotte Drive, Marlborough Region on South Island of New Zealand
View of Pelorus Sound from Cullen Point Lookout on Queen Charlotte Drive
Royal Spoonbill New Zealand bird resident Wairau Lagoon
Royal Spoonbill New Zealand bird resident Wairau Lagoon

Kids can observe

  • Birds in their natural habitat
  • An interesting rusting shipwreck
  • A place where pre-European Maori archeological finds – objects over 800 years old
  • A boardwalk floating above an estuarine environment

A natural place where people have trod lightly is now a protected estuarine environment. Walk or kayak the saline lagoons enjoying the sight of over 70 bird species who nest and forage in the channel networks. The spectacular royal spoonbill is a frequent visitor and attracts birding fans from all over the world to the Marlborough Wairau Lagoon bird hides. For lovers of moody sunset photos the Wairau Lagoon is home to a rusting wreck. TIP insect repellant is very useful in the twilight as the sandflies come out to play. The lagoon is part of the Wairau River flow to the sea where the Wairau Bar is home to archeological finds such as artifacts identifying the ancestral origins of early East Polynesian navigators.



  • Hand feed eels
  • Peer into the crystal deep depths of massive cold water spring

Te Waikoropupu (Pupu) Springs is captivating. The massive upwelling water is memorizing. It is one of the premier attractions in Nelson however do not let that put you off. There is plenty of space on the wide boardwalks. The excellent boardwalks have information plaques explaining the springs origins, significance to the local Maori, history of the springs in the last two hundred years and regulations around water safety as well as explanations of which areas are tapu (sacred).

Te Waikoropupu Springs (pupu Springs), near Takaka, Golden Bay, Nelson, New Zealand.
Pupu Springs
Pupu hydro walkway canal, Takaka, New Zealand
Pupu hydro walkway canal

Pupu Springs are the clearest spring water in the world, the welling waters cover an extensive area due to the water flow of ischarg 14,000 litres of water per second. This is a great walk for families with its interpretive history for New Zealand and the importance of the springs in New Zealand’s cultural identity. This walk is part of our Top Walks in Nelson.


For kids who like the idea of hand feeding eels, plan your walk around a visit to Feed the Eels at Anatoki Salmon Farm for lunch. The day will be a roaring success.



  • Kids have an opportunity to harvest fruit and edibles on this walk
  • Kiwi guardian Department of Conservation fact sheet available

This flat pleasant walk in Branford Park has been planted in a variety of fruit trees as part of the Open Orchard initiative supported by Council. For over 25 years, mainly in areas like the Grampians, high health apples and nuts form a welcome part of the scenery. Enjoy a free healthy snack, while walking and relaxing in one of Nelson’s favourite parks. Two popular swimming areas are nearby, plus a playground, BBQ and toilets, making the area a favourite picnic and recreational area for many generations. Dennes swimming hole, was named after a tenant of Ralph Richardson who owned this land here from 1840. Kiwi Guardians at Branford Park Edible Walk



  • Kids go gold panning
  • Walk through a not so spooky tunnel

Explore the area around Goldsborough Campsite on these short walks. Kids will love the option of exploring mossy tunnels hand cut over a hundred years ago by prospectors intent on finding richs. For details how to get there check out Goldsborough Things To Do & Places To See.

Shamrock Creek gold fossicking area, Goldsborough, West Coast, New Zealand
Shamrock Creek gold fossicking area, Goldsborough
Dunedin Botanic Garden entrance, New Zealand
Dunedin Botanic Gardens entrance


Check out the youtube clip on the gardens



  • Look for fossils embedded in the clay cliffs
  • Visit New Zealand’s own badlands
  • Take a selfie in Omarama with a woolly merino sheep

Paritea Clay Cliffs are extraordinary in their jagged appearance. The cliffs are one of the featured Geosites in the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark. The ‘badlands’ are where you expect to see a western film set. The sharp pinnacles and ridges are separated by steep and narrow ravines. The cliffs are on private land, respect the property and use the honesty box. The ancient sharply eroded cliffs were carved by glaciers and eroded by wind and weather. You are near AORAKI MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK as well. The small settlement of Omarama has plenty of things for kids to do, check out What’s so great about Omarama best things to see and find the concrete woolly sheep for a family selfie.

Omarama, Waitaki Valley, clay cliffs, Canterbury, NZ
Omarama, Waitaki Valley, clay cliffs
Routeburn Track, New Zealand
Routeburn Track


  • A taste of the Routeburn without the hard slog
  • And you don’t need kids to enjoy this walk

The Routeburn Nature Walk is an easy going, well interpreted loop track ideal for a family walk. It passes through beech/tawhai forest and other vegetation, similar to what the famed Routeburn Track passes through.The Routeburn Nature Walk starts from Routeburn Shelter just outside of Glenorchy in Mt Aspiring National Park. The walk is actually part of the first section of the ROUTEBURN GREAT WALK. For kids there is a suspension bridge and the chance to tell friends they have walked the Routeburn. For details about this walk check out Routeburn Nature Walk: Mount Aspiring National Park, Otago region.


You are near Wanaka with plenty to do and see for the kids.



  • The scenic drive to Milford has a great family break – The Chasm. It is a very easy 400m stroll here that offers views of powerful waterfalls and deep chasms. It’s fascinating to see how water has sculpted the landscape. There are two footbridges offering glimpses of the depth of the chasm. Fascinating for children and adults alike. The footbridges provide opportunities to view the abyss that is the Chasm with its torrents of water forced through a narrow rock opening.
  • Milford Foreshore Walk. Learn about the area through the interpretation panels. Watch boats taking visitors out on cruises on Milford Sound. Some of the best views of Mitre Peak are from this walk


Sandfly repellent is essential.

Amazing aerial view of mountain Lake Quill and Sutherland Falls on the scenic flight from Milford Sound to Queenstown, Fiordland, New Zealand
Milford Sound
The Blue Pools - bridge walking track. Mt. Aspiring National Park. South Island, New Zealand
Blue Pools, South Island


  • Suspension bridges
  • Crystal clear blue water with shiny river stone bed
  • Swimming is possible (TIP it is very chilly even in summer)
  • Kiwi Guardians at Blue Pools programme with lots of interesting things to do

The Blue Pools Track is one of the best family-friendly walks on the South Island. Not only is this trail easy, but it crosses a couple of suspension bridges before reaching the Blue Pools river beach area.The trailhead is located in Mt Aspiring National Park, about a 50-minute drive from Wanaka.



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