5 short walks to stretch your legs while travelling the South Island

23rd May 2022|4min

Road tripping around Aotearoa? Short walks while on a road trip are the best way to explore nearby gems while stretching your legs. They are perfect for beginners and young families to feel a sense of adventure within a short time and can be anything from a simple boardwalk loop in the native forest just off the main highway to an amazing lookout off-the-beaten track.

As part of TourismNZ's 30th Anniversary of the Great Walks, we decided to share some stories to celebrate this incredible aspect of New Zealand's tramping culture. For those travelling South to take on a Great walk, our team at the NZ Mountain Safety Council share some of their favourite short walk options for those road tripping in the South Island.

Header photo: 
Purakaunui Falls Walk, Jonothan Astin

A great detour while heading from the East to West Coast, or if exploring from Greymouth, the Lake Brunner tracks. There are many walks of all lengths to choose from depending on your road trip timeframe.

Aoraki/Mt Cook is one of the country’s most spectacular vistas, a rugged land of ice and rock, and the area is filled with many day walks that showcase the ancient landscape. While Aoraki/Mt Cook is a detour from any state highway, making the effort to explore the area is well worth it. On the Hooker Valley Track you’ll cross swing bridges, encounter icebergs and alpine streams, witness glaciers and walk in awe at the towering mountains. Pack sensibly and check the weather beforehand. Photo: Jen Hayto

Hooker Valley Track, Jen Hayto

This easy 20-minute walk is worth the detour off the Papatowai Highway. Located in the Catlins, it’s one of Otago’s iconic and most photographed sights. A leisurely bushwalk takes you to the spectacular three-tiered falls. Often seen on calendars and postcards, it’s well worth seeing for yourself.  

State Highway 6 from Blenheim to Nelson is a scenic yet winding drive, and a good way to break it up is by stretching the legs and getting some fresh air. The collection of easy short walks in this area offers beautiful forest and river scenery, relaxing picnic areas, a suspension bridge and even picturesque swimming holes in the Pelorus River. A great option for the kids to have a refreshing swim mid-journey.

Wander through majestic limestone rock formations on one of the region’s best short walks. The car park is directly off the main highway and the track allows for an easy walk to witness the rock formations up close. Kura Tāwhiti has Tōpuni status, meaning legal recognition of the site’s importance to the local Ngāi Tahu tribe. Make sure you show respect to the area while witnessing one of nature’s marvels.

Kura Tawhiti Access Track, Campermate

Celebrating the Great Walks

As part of TourismNZ's 30th Anniversary of the Great Walks, we decided to share some stories to celebrate this incredible aspect of New Zealand's tramping culture and showcase other incredible options to up-skill and explore. Read the other stories in the series:

Prepare for your adventure

Wherever you might be travelling to around New Zealand, there are plenty of pit-stops along the way to stop by and safely soak in the scenery. Aotearoa’s tracks can differ dramatically and require different levels of fitness, equipment and planning, so it pays to do some research first before you hit the track.

Find other stories about places to go or search for tracks using our Plan My Walk app.