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Considering the seemingly endless amount of untouched natural beauty in New Zealand’s South Island, it’s hardly surprising that the island is often frequented by adventure junkies and expert hikers. However, for those who prefer gentler nature walks to imposing and time-consuming hikes, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the snowcapped mountains, cascading waterfalls, spectacular glaciers and other breathtaking features.
Below are five introductory hikes that are easier for beginners and families alike to enjoy.
Castle HillAn hour-and-a-half drive from Christchurch, Castle Hill is sure to delight fantasy lovers. With its towering limestone formations, visitors will feel like they have stepped into a medieval wonderland.
After a 10-minute walk up a steadily ascending meadow, clients will find themselves gazing at tall limestone boulders and letting out their inner mountain goat while they climb on the smaller boulders. This natural playground is perfect for kids who love jungle gyms. It also makes an ideal spot for a picnic after a stroll among the colossal rocks, all against the enchanting backdrop of the mountains that make up Arthur’s Pass.
Franz Josef Glacier WalkExplorers of the South Island’s west coast should not miss a visit to Franz Josef and its glacier that seems to watch over the town. For those looking to stay off the ice, the Franz Josef Glacier Walk is an ideal way to enjoy the glacier from afar, explore the surrounding rainforest, walk along the Waiho River and see some waterfalls on the way.
Guided tours from local tour operators are available for those that want to learn more about the glacier and its surroundings, but there is also a track that visitors can explore for free. This particular hike can take between an hour and a half and three hours depending on clients’ pace; however, the track itself is considered very easy, with only a steady incline.
Haast Pass Blue Pools TrackA walk through the forest and a jaunt across a swing bridge over the Makarora River — all while listening for birds — will take visitors to the crystal-clear waters of the Blue Pools of Haast Pass. An hourlong drive from Wanaka, the clear waters of the pools are icy blue because of the glaciers that feed them.
The flat stones that surround the pools are also perfect for building cairns, or rock stacks, as well as for skipping along the surface of the pools. The walk itself takes around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on pace and stops.
Milford Foreshore WalkTravelers who want to see Milford Sound without finding themselves seasick on a ferry will love this loop around the iconic fjord, one of the jewels of Fiordland National Park near the southern tip of the island. The breathtaking views of waterfalls and mountains in both rain and sunshine give this landmark its icon status; the more it rains, the more temporary waterfalls cascade down the cliffs.
Clients should be sure to listen and watch for birds, as well as explore the shore of the fjord. The walk is flat and accessible. It loops around Milford Sound, starting and ending at a parking lot.
Nichols Creek WalkThis track is a 10-minute drive from the Dunedin city center and can make visitors feel like they are exploring an untouched rainforest. This very short (less than half a mile) walk through dense green flora ends at the Nichols Falls, a waterfall that is especially impressive after it rains.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Ellen Cayford ✨ (@ellencayford) on Nov 16, 2019 at 11:34am PST
A post shared by Ellen Cayford ✨ (@ellencayford) on Nov 16, 2019 at 11:34am PST
The trail is perfect for explorers who don’t mind a little mud, and nighttime visitors can expect to see glowworms twinkling away.