Lonely Planet Writer

Pathfinder pics: epic hiking on New Zealand’s South Island

New Zealand is home to nine ‘Great Walks’: premier hiking tracks that pass through the country’s most spectacular scenery. The South Island in particular offers some the finest hiking in the world. We spent two weeks touring the island to get a taste of these pristine trails, several of which are featured in Lonely Planet’s Epic Hikes of the World.

Here are some of our hiking – or as the locals call it, 'tramping’ – highlights.

Our first view from the Abel Tasman Coastal Track

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The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is peppered with vistas like this along its 60km of oceanside trail. Located in the Abel Tasman National Park, the trail is named after Dutch seafarer Abel Janszoon Tasman, the first known European to reach New Zealand during his voyage of 1642.

A secluded cove on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track

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The Abel Tasman National Park boasts golden beaches, clear waters and lush coastal native bush – ideal terrain for long-distance hiking. The total trail length is around 60km (2-3 days), but we only had time for a brisk 13km during our half-day hike.

The boardwalk of the Ōkārito Trig Walk

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Just north of Franz Josef Glacier sits the coastal settlement of Ōkārito and the Ōkārito Lagoon. The Trig is a short but vigorous walk up to a lookout of sweeping views: a panoramic vista across the surrounding ocean, estuary, sea cliffs, lush forest and, of course, the Southern Alps.

Crossing the Routeburn Flats in Mount Aspiring National Park

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We completed a section of this classic New Zealand hike as part of our active tour with G Adventures and Lonely Planet. The 32km alpine track follows the Routeburn River for 15km through ice-carved valleys beneath the majestic peaks of the Southern Alps.

A perfect place to pause for a picnic

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We arrived at this picturesque picnic spot halfway through our hike of the Routeburn Track. Situated in the shadows of the Humboldt Mountains is the Routeburn Flats Hut, a popular bunkhouse and camping site for hikers. It also offers captivating views across the valley floor.

Perhaps the finest view in all of New Zealand?

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The short but sweet hike around Lake Matheson in Westland Tai Poutini National Park provides one of the finest views in all of New Zealand. The reflective, still waters make for stunning views of New Zealand's highest mountains: Aoraki / Mount Cook at 3724m and Mount Tasman at 3497m.

Lace up your boots and hit the tracks of the planet's greatest walking trails, with our new title Epic Hikes of the World.

Kia and Peter travelled to New Zealand with support from G Adventures. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.