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YHA Nelson beach coastline at dawn in the Abel Tasman

Top 9 walks for people that 'aren't that fit'

Sometimes it's nice not to have to break too much of a sweat to immerse yourself into nature. We've compiled 9 easy to moderate walks that get you into the wilderness with a little assistance.

South Island
North Island
Walking and Hiking
Must-Do

Walking a multi-day hike without a heavy pack, cruising to and from your walk or stopping for lunch at a fancy resort - there are plenty of walking options in NZ where you can experience just that - and a YHA hostel is usually never far.

Bridge to Nowhere:

Combine a walk in nature with a history lesson and a jet boat ride.  

Grade: Easy; Time: 40 min one-way


Photo credit: Evan Goldenberg

The walk to the Bridge to Nowhere starts from the Mangapurua Landing. It’s an easy gradient and only takes approximately 40 minutes. The historic Bridge to Nowhere symbolises a failed attempt at back country pioneering by a community of returned World War 1 servicemen and their families.

The steel enforced, concrete bridge opened in 1936 and was replacing a wooden swing bridge that had been constructed across the Mangapurua Stream to connect the isolated valleys with the riverboats that brought goods along the Whanganui River.

By the time construction was finished, many of the Mangapurua settlers had abandoned their holdings. The many obstacles and hard labour to make a living in this remote area had overthrown the attraction of the natural beauty of the valley.

Today the Bridge to Nowhere is a popular destination as part of the Whanganui River Journey Great Walk, Mountains to Sea Bike ride or as a day trip. Bridge to Nowhere runs tours to the Mangapurua Landing from Pipiriki (45 min from Ohakune) with different combos possible, for example jet boat up river, walk to the Bridge to Nowhere and canoe back down river.

Rangitoto Summit

Cruise through the Hauraki Gulf to summit a dormant volcano.

Grade: Moderate; Time: 1-1.5 hours one-way (includes return trip to the Lava-caves)

Rangitoto island is only a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland but seems like another world away. The island erupted from the sea only 600 years ago which makes it the youngest island in the Hauraki Gulf. The best views are of course to be had from the summit. Follow the well signposted track on its gentle climb through lava fields and pōhutukawa forest (New Zealand Christmas Tree).

It takes approx. 1 hour to climb the 3km to the top. From the summit you get rewarded with panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf and further to Auckland’s skyline. On your way up or down the detour to the Lava Caves is well worth your time (15 minutes one-way), however keep in mind that if you want to explore the tunnels and caves you need to bring a torch. Fullers takes you over to the island in just 25 minutes from the downtown ferry terminal.

Stay at YHA Auckland International

Queen Charlotte Track

Cruise the Marlborough Sounds & stop at a resort for lunch.

Grade: Moderate; Time: 3-4.5 hours to multi-day

Explore the magnificent Marlborough Sounds by walking parts of the Queen Charlotte Track. The track is accessible by boat from many bays and water taxis can drop and pick you up at pre-arranged spots. A popular stretch for a day walk is the section between Furneaux Lodge and Punga Cove. Beachcomber Cruises take you from Picton to Furneaux Lodge, where you can pre-load on coffee or even brunch before you start your walk to Punga Cove Resort. The track follows the coastline around Endeavour Inlet through native bush, it’s almost 13km so depending on your fitness it may take you anywhere from 3-4.5 hours.

Once you arrive at Punga Cove you can reward yourself with food and beverages at the Boat Shed Café before returning to Picton via cruise boat in the late afternoon. For those with a bit more time try walking several sections of the track on a multiday walk, there are plenty of accommodation options along the track from basic campsites to luxury resorts . You can even get your luggage transported from accommodation to accommodation meaning you only need a light day pack.

Stay at YHA Picton

Abel Tasman Great Walk

Have a great time on a Great Walk.

Grade: Easy; Time: 1 hour - multi-day

Experience a great walk without having to do too much of walking. The Abel Tasman Great Walk is a fantastic way to see New Zealand’ smallest National Park. The walk leads you along the coastline through native forest, occasionally dropping down to secluded beaches perfect for a mid-walk dip. There a plenty of ways to explore the best bits of the Abel Tasman Coast Track without having to walk the entire length of 60km. Choose from one of the many operators dropping you by Water Taxi to one of the beaches and walk a stretch of the track to be picked up at another bay by the end of the day. If you are feeling a bit more energetic try a Cruise, Kayak & Walking Combo.

Among other options Wilsons for example take you out to see the famous Split Apple Rock on a guided kayak trip. You then get ferried by cruise boat to Tonga Quarry from where you can enjoy a leisurely walk to Medlands Beach, before being picked up by the boat for the cruise home.

Stay at YHA Nelson

Mou Waho Island

A trip to an island on a lake on an island on the lake on an island on the sea.

Grade: Easy; Time: 20 min one-way to lake

Mou Waho Island is a predator free nature reserve in Lake Wanaka. You can find Kereru (wood pigeon), Korimaka (Bell Bird), Tomtits and Weka on the island. Wanaka Watertaxi take you on the 15 km journey along the lake to the island. Once there you have 1.5 hours to explore, a 20 minute walk bring you to a hidden lake, that has been created by glacial action a few thousand years ago. On that lake is a small rocky island which gives you the “island on a lake, on an island on a lake on an island on the sea” :) Head up to the top of the island (Tyrwhitt Peak) for expansive views of the lake(s) and the mountain peaks surrounding Wanaka.

Stay at YHA Wanaka

Franz Josef Heli Hike

Ride a helicopter and walk on ice.

Grade: Moderate; Time: Tour time 3 hours (up to 2 hours on the ice)

Want to experience a Glacier first hand but don’t fancy a long climb or walk? Join a Heli Hike with Franz Josef  Glacier Guides! A short scenic flight in the helicopter lands you on the ice. From there knowledgeable guides lead you on a two hour guide tour of the glacier exploring its many key features. Because the glacier is so fast moving, its features are constantly changing - you might find yourself sliding through a narrow crevasse or between towering walls of ice, crawling through blue ice tunnels or hanging out in ice caves.

Stay at YHA Franz Josef

Banks Peninsula Private Walk

Enjoy uncrowded walking on a private Peninsula track.

Grade: Moderate; Time: 3-5 hours walking each day (3 day option)

The Banks Peninsula Track is a 2-3 day private walking track on the Banks Peninsula near Akaroa. The track is limited to 16 walkers each day. It takes you through farm land and forest and offers views of the volcanic shaped coast line of the peninsula. Your luggage gets transported from your accommodation each day, leaving you to walk with just a light day pack with essentials.

Each night’s commotion is owned and run by a different farming family making them all individual and quirky places to sleep. The track is approx. 30 km long, for the 2 day version you’d be walking around 4-7 hours each day on reasonably hilly terrain. For a more leisurely pace you can take the 3 day option leaving enough time to explore some of the side tracks.    

Stay at YHA Christchurch

2 Bonus Tracks

Skyline Gondola Queenstown

Grade: Easy; Time: 30 min return

Take a scenic ride in the iconic Skyline Gondola all the way to the top of Bob’s Peak. Here you can enjoy breathtaking views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Walter and Cecil Peak and, of course, Queenstown. Stroll along the Skyline Loop Track (30 minutes return) before having a drink at the Bar or enjoying lunch at the Stratosfare Restaurant. Why not try out the Luge for a different way to travel down from the mountain. Over 1.6km the track takes you in purpose built Luge carts through banked corners, tunnels and dippers. There’s different options for all levels of adventurers.

Stay at YHA Queenstown Lakefront

Christchurch Adventure Park

Grade: Easy, Time: 10 min- full day

Take a trip on New Zealand’s longest chairlift from the base of the Christchurch Adventure Park to the top of the Port Hills. You may share the lift with some dedicated downhill mountain bikers out exploring the many different trails. From the top of the lift you get views across the city with the Southern Alps in the background, or on the other side over to the bays around Lyttelton and Quail Island in the harbour. There are options for shorter or longer walks along the Crater Rim Trail before taking the chairlift back down or you can just walk back down if you prefer. For anyone that tackles the uphill walking track the chairlift trip back down is even free!

Stay at YHA Christchurch


Saskia Wohlgemuth

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