When the Northern hemisphere begins to heat up, New Zealand becomes one of the very few ski locations around the world. As the days shorten and the mercury drops, many head to New Zealand’s most idyllic town – Queenstown.
Located in the very south of New Zealand’s South Island, Queenstown is a winter lover’s paradise. The surrounding mountains are dipped in snow, warm mulled wine is sold in every bar, and winter sport enthusiasts fill the town. It’s vibrant, fun, and a little bit cold!
Winter is the perfect time to explore Queenstown and there’s so much to see and do! From festivals under lights, fireworks over the lake, and of course ski parties up in the mountains, you won’t get bored during winter in Queenstown.
So without further ado, here’s a guide to enjoying winter in Queenstown including events, things to do, and more!
About Winter in Queenstown
Winter in Queenstown officially runs from June to August; however, cold temperatures begin in early May and you can expect snowfall as late as November.
The ski fields around Queenstown also open in early June and stay open until the middle of October. Depending on the year, these dates can change (but only slightly.)
During the Australian and New Zealand school holidays which run at different times in late June and early July, Queenstown is at its busiest in winter.
At these times, hotels in Queenstown completely book up and those wanting to visit should be prepared by booking accommodation and tours well in advance.
Despite summer being Queenstown’s busy season, winter in Queenstown still draws a large crowd. With plenty of festivals and off-season prices on tours and attractions, winter is a surprisingly cheap time to visit Queenstown.
Winter Weather in Queenstown
Queenstown doesn’t get that cold when compared to other winter destinations around the world such as Canada.
In fact, winter temperatures throughout the season average highs of 9C and lows of 0C. With that said, it’s common to see temperatures drop to –5C in town and –10C in the mountains, even during the day.
For this reason, visitors should come prepared with winter clothing like warm jackets, beanies, and gloves.
Winter in Queenstown usually brings lots of sunshine with the odd snow shower. Throughout the winter, Queenstown sees around 3 to 4 snow days where heavy snow will cause issues such as road and business closures in town. Other than that, snowfall is limited to the mountains with light rain usually reaching Queenstown.
Road conditions in Queenstown are fine during the winter, but on surrounding mountain roads such as the route to Wanaka via Crown Range Road and those to the ski fields, can become icy and carrying snow chains are required! If you plan on driving in the winter months, allow time for delays during your visit.
Winter Events in Queenstown
LUMA is a light festival held in the Queenstown Gardens that’s been running since 2015. During the event, organizers fill the Queenstown Gardens with impressive light displays that expand every year. Within the gardens, there are also pop-up bars and food stalls.
LUMA is an annual event that that runs on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend on the first weekend of June. Although a smaller event than the Queenstown Winter Festival, LUMA still draws a crowd and is a really fun event.
Queenstown Winter Festival
The Queenstown Winter Festival is one of the largest festivals in Queenstown. The yearly event is huge and usually runs for four days around the 3rd week of June. Dates do change every year so be sure to check the Queenstown Winter Festival website for official dates.
During the four-day event you can expect lots of entertainment including the Red Bull Rail Jam (where skiers and snowboarders perform tricks down a rail in the middle of town), live music from popular New Zealand bands, and even fireworks.
Queenstown is a place known for its diversity, inclusion, and acceptance of everyone from all walks of life. It’s one of the reasons I love this place so much and why Winter Pride is such a huge event.
In 2021 Winter Pride will run from the 27th of August to 5th of September. Although some of the entertainment is free, there are also paid events such as dinners, private parties, even comedy nights.
During Winter Pride the streets of Queenstown are buzzing, and it’s a great time to visit!
10 Best Things to Do in Winter in Queenstown
Head up the mountain for skiing or snowboarding
It should come as no surprise that the best things to do in Queenstown in winter is hitting the slopes. There are three different ski fields all located within close proximity to Queenstown – so it’s safe to say you have plenty of choices!
The closest ski field to Queenstown is Coronet Peak but this ski field really struggles to get good snow. Instead, venture a little further and go to The Remarkables. This is my favorite ski field in Queenstown and my local recommendation.
The third ski field you can visit from Queenstown is Cardrona. Although I love it there, it’s over an hour drive away making it just a little far to go on a regular basis.
You can either drive yourself to the ski felids that all have ample parking, or take a shuttle from Queenstown centre for about $20 NZD per person.
Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll always have fun skiing or snowboarding from Queenstown!
Enjoy a scenic cruise
The best thing about winter in Queenstown is how beautiful it is. There’s just something about snowcapped mountains that I love! One of the best ways to admire the views is on a scenic lake cruise.
There are a few scenic cruise options in Queenstown but they all more or less follow the same route on Lake Wakatipu. For budget travelers, the Spirit of Queenstown cruise is a good option as it starts at only $39 NZD per person. This cruise lasts for 90 minutes and has a bar on board that sells snack, tea, and coffee, as well as beer and wine.
This lunch cruise with a BBQ feast lasts 3.5-4 hours with a lunch or dinner stop at Walter Peak High Country Farm. The views from out on Lake Wakatipu are unrivaled!
Go on an epic road trip
Winter road trips are the best. Not only are the road much quieter but the scenery is even more beautiful. From Queenstown you can go on quite a few including the road trip from Queenstown to Wanaka. However, my favorite is the drive to Glenorchy.
On this epic road trip, you’ll be able to take in views of Lake Wakatipu as you wind you’re way to Glenorchy. Along the way, you can stop at Moke Lake or enjoy hikes such as Bob’s Cove Track. It’s truly beautiful, and the best part? You get to enjoy all the best things to do in Glenorchy once you arrive.
What better way to warm up than with Queenstown’s best burger. Fergburger is famous all around New Zealand and it’s easy to tell when you see the huge line out the door every day. During lunch and dinner hours you’ll need to wait over an hour to get your burger, but seriously it’s worth it!
Their “Classic Ferg” burger costs $12.95 NZD so it’s definitely one of the cheaper things to do in Queenstown. They also have lots of different burgers including venison, vegetarian, chicken, and pork. With that said, you can’t beat the classic with extra cheese!
Mulled wine wasn’t invented in New Zealand but during the winter it’s so common you’d think it was. For those who don’t know, mulled wine is just warm wine that’s flavored with spices… it’s delicious!
One of my favorite things to do in the winter months in Queenstown is to head into town and visit one of the rooftop bars to enjoy a mulled wine by the fire.
The best place in Queenstown for this is at The Sundeck. They have lots of heaters at every table and serve amazing mulled wine!
Relax at the Onsen Hot Pools
Onsen Hot Pools are the most famous hot pools in New Zealand. Seriously, if you want to enjoy Onsen Hot Pools you’d better book soon as this place often books up months in advance for the entire winter!
Of course, if you are one of the lucky ones who secure a booking, you’ll get to enjoy a steaming hot private pool overlooking the Shotover Canyon.
The pools are large enough for up to four people (but two is most comfortable in my opinion.)
For two people it cost $126 NZD for an hour soak and there are both semi-indoor and outdoor tubs – but all have breathtaking views!
Go on a hike
Hiking in winter is not only more fun, but the lack of people makes it even more peaceful.
There are a few easy trails in Queenstown for those without winter hiking experience including Mt Crichton Loop Track and the famous Queenstown Hill. Both are relatively easy and although icy conditions can occur, most of the time the trail is fine without crampons.
If you’re more experienced then you could tackle one of the best hikes on the South Island – Ben Lomond Track. This grueling hike is even harder in winter and involves a 1,400-meter elevation gain over 7 kilometers one way.
All up, it’ll take you 7 to 8 hours in winter and you’ll need alpine equipment and experience to summit Ben Lomond.
Visit an ice bar
It’s already cold outside, so why not head to one of Queenstown’s ice bars? In fact, depending on the day it may be warmer inside!
With a warm jacket on you’ll get to sip cocktails or mocktails in a bar completely made of ice out of a glass made of ice. Cool, huh?
Queenstown is home to two ice bars called Minus 5 Ice BarandBelow Zero Ice Bar. Both are much the same and prices are almost identical so it doesn’t matter which one you go to.
Entrance to both is $32 NZD for adults and includes one cocktail. It’s a unique experience that you have to do once!
Taste wine in the Gibbston Valley
The best part about wine is that you can drink it at any time of the year. In Queenstown, the closest and best wine region is the Gibbston Valley. This region is famous for producing some of the best Pinot Noir in the world. It’s seriously good!
From Queenstown, you can either do a self-drive tour, hop-on-hop-off tour, or full guided tour with lunch!
I’ve done all three and prefer either the self-drive option or a full guided tour. On a guided tour you can sit back and relax while your guide does all the work for you.
All you have to do is taste wine and eat great food! Who wouldn’t want to do that?!
When it comes to picking a great place to stay in Queenstown during the winter it’s important you know exactly what you’re coming for. That’s why below you’ll see recommendations based on winter specific attractions.
JUCY Snooze Queenstown: For budget travelers, there are a few great options in Queenstown but my favorite is JUCY Snooze. This hostel is clean, comfortable and they have a rooftop bar and restaurant that serves amazing pizza. They have both dorm rooms and privates for guests and it’s located in the heart of town! >> Check photos, reviews, and availability here
Winter in Queenstown is a magical time to visit this remote mountain town. From fun in the mountains to fun in town, there’s no shortage of amazing things to see and do in Queenstown in winter!
The best part is you’ll avoid the crowds at many of the best attractions as well as enjoy cheaper prices on tours and excursions in winter in Queenstown. It’s a win-win if you ask me!
Bailey is a full-time travel blogger who visited Queenstown on a working holiday. However, after spending a year there, Queenstown stole her heart and she has since decided to make the move there permanently. Her blog, My Queenstown Diary, documents her love for Queenstown in the form of travel guides. If you liked this article be sure to follow along here for more!
Not only is New Zealand a dream destination for most travelers, but it’s also a place you will want to visit over and over again.
The land of the long white cloud has many sights to discover. Whether you have plans for a return trip or you intend to backpack throughout NZ for a couple of months, you will want to take in all that the island has to offer.
Before you pack up for an adventure, you have to consider the wild and beautiful landmarks that New Zealand has to offer. Here’s a list of the best New Zealand landmarks you should visit.
The Bay of Islands
For people who love water activities and stunning beaches, the Bay of Islands is the perfect NZ landmark to visit. If you’re exploring by car, it’s a three-hour drive from Auckland. This breathtaking sub-tropic has more than 100 islands found between the Perera Peninsula and Cape Brett.
There’s a lot to do in this history-rich region, and you’re bound to catch a glimpse of dolphins and whales on a good day. Discovering marine life while on a cruise isn’t the only thing to do in the Bay of Islands. If you love exploring, you can always try it underwater after a short diving class.
One of the most famous sights in the Bay of Islands is the Hole in the Rock. When the tide is just perfect, sail through the rock formation, which opens up into a peculiar opening. If you prefer to explore dry land, you can always voyage into the awe-inspiring subtropical rainforest and catch your breath under the majestic Kauri Tree.
To the southwest of South Island, NZ, lies a fjord that’s known as Milford Sound. It’s most popularly known for rainforests, waterfalls such as Bowen Falls and Stirling, and the towering Mitre Peak. Milford Sound is home to penguins, dolphins, and fur seal colonies.
There’s a reason why Rudyard Kipling referred to Milford Sound as the “eighth wonder of the world.” The region is made of gigantic glaciers formed in the Ice Age and manifests itself in the area’s epic scenery. The fjords give rise to a majestic crown of cliffs, mountains, and waterfalls.
Any visitor to Milford Sound should know that the best way to see the scenery is via boat. There’s a lot of wildlife for you to discover, including penguins and dolphins. If you like, you can take the adventure into your own hands and go kayaking.
Alternatively, you can go down to the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory for satisfying views of more marine life and rare black coral.
Hobbiton is popularly known as the movie set for The Lord of The Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit.
It’s located in the Waikato region, North Island, in the Matamata grassy hills. You can access the area from Taupo, Rotorua, or Auckland.
Unfortunately, as much as Hobbiton is one of the best New Zealand landmarks, you cannot just drive up to the movie set. Visitors have to book the guided experience to enjoy the movie set and experience Hobbiton!
Mt.Cook/Aoraki National Park
Mt. Cook National Park is home to some of the longest glaciers and the highest mountains in New Zealand. The region has alpine sceneries, high peaks, and never-ending snow peaks. Aoraki Mt. Cook is made of 23 peaks that are more than 3000 meters high.
The region is very accessible and allows for the perfect stargazing opportunities. In addition to stargazing, one of the best activities anyone can do in Mt. Cook is mountaineering, hiking, and exploring this New Zealand landmark on foot.
The Sky Tower
Construction of the Sky Tower in Auckland was completed in 1997 after three solid years. It is one of New Zealand’s most noteworthy human-made landmarks and was designed by Architect Gordon Moller in partnership with Fletcher Building.
It is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike who love fine dining and thrill-seeking. Also, the tower serves as a center for transmission for radio stations, tv channels, and weather forecasting providers.
In Maori, Tane Mahuta means King of the Forest. If you visit this New Zealand landmark, you can quickly tell why.
The tree is 13 meters wide, has a height of 51 meters, and is 2,300 years old. You can find the ancient native New Zealand tree after hiking into the Waipoua Kauri Forest Sanctuary in the North Island.
If you like, you can stretch your adventure further and camp in the forest. Once you meet Tane Mahuta, there’ll be no doubt as to why it has its name.
Tongariro Crossing makes up the second landmark in New Zealand featured in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
New Zealand’s oldest national park offers visitors hiking opportunities over the vast 19.4 kilometers spotted with lava flows, craters filled with water, hot springs, and awe-inspiring views.
The peculiar landforms are sure to make you feel like you’re walking on a different planet!
One Tree Hill/Maungakiekie
One Tree Hill is a historically significant volcanic peak that is a memorial site for European New Zealanders and the Maori.
On the top of the hill, there is an obelisk commemorating the Treaty of Waitangi, which the Indigenous Maori population signed with the British Empire.
The site is picturesque, and together with Cornwall Park, it is the most significant parkland in Auckland — a must-visit whether you have just a day in Auckland or several.
The Maori were not wrong when they named this landmark Huka Falls! Translated into Maori, the name means “foam.”
Huka Falls is one of the most popular natural tourist attraction sites in the country. The amount of water that pours from the waterfall is mind-boggling. With a force of 220,000 liters of water per second, it is understandable why the water would look like foam!
The water comes from Waikato River, a long lake in the country that releases its flood into Lake Taupo.
If you would like to enjoy a different view of the waterfall, you can do it via a boat ride that will take you to the base of Huka Falls. There are various activities to indulge in at Huka Falls, such as swimming, canoeing, bird watching, and mountain biking.
Conclusion & Additional Resources
New Zealand is a land that radiates beauty and wildness that is not only mind-boggling but awe-inspiring.
With the number of must-see landmarks in the country, it is not enough to plan a return visit. To get the most out of New Zealand, you must choose to visit again and again.
Why is everyone raving about the outdoor adventure scene in New Zealand?
For starters, this smallish country in a faraway corner of the planet is a beacon of unspoiled nature drawing globetrotters in. Home of bungee, tandem paragliding, and all-things-extreme, you don’t need to be an adrenaline-head to live a proper Kiwi adventure – enter New Zealand’s hiking scene!
Hiking in New Zealand is an absolute joy. There are about a billion hikes -really… THAT many? Yup. It’s possible to spend days at the time heading from hut to hut, connecting with nature without dangerous predators — which you’ll totally appreciate if you are coming from Australia!
You’d see parents hiking with small kids, retirees that are way much fitter than you, and the occasional backpacker carrying a guitar to liven up the night.
Truth is, trekking in Aotearoa – New Zealand in Te Reo Maori language – is a wonderful experience you can adapt to your schedule, skill, and level of fitness.
For this guide to the top 13 New Zealand South Island hikes, I’ve curated a roundup of the most important and famous trails to take on.
You’ll also find a few off-the-beaten-path ones, and a stack of info gathered during the 6 years I’ve been living in this stunning country.
But before we get crackin’, lemme walk you through the basics of planning your trip…
How to Arrive in New Zealand
Kia ora, and welcome to Aotearoa! New Zealand is located in Oceania, in the South Pacific Ocean, 1800 kilometers east of Australia.
There are only 2 ways to get into the country: by plane or on a cruise ship from Sydney. If cruising’s not your jam, then you’ll have to fly in.
There are 6 international airports, 3 in the North Island and 3 in the South Island. Auckland is where most international arrivals land.
For the sake of this guide to the South Island hikes and treks, let’s say that if you landed in Auckland first, then you could head to any airport from there. Christchurch and Queenstown airports are the main ones in the South Island.
Getting Around New Zealand
Honestly, there’s not a whole lot of public transport to get around the country.
Most travelers either rent or buy a vehicle, book a hop-on hop-off tour, hitchhike, or join a rideshare Facebook group.
My bestie and I hitchhiked 512 kilometers this last summer along the South Island and can tell you it’s easy, safe, and fun!
If you love train rides, get on the Kiwi Rail. This scenic train has 2 routes on the South Island. Sadly, there’s only 1 route open for bookings at the moment, the TranzAlpine Great Journey. This half-day ride crosses Arthur’s Pass connecting Christchurch with Greymouth.
Of course, you can also fly… but it can be expensive. Plus, short flights are terrible for the environment.
Planning Your Kiwi Adventure
Up until not long ago, you could pretty much walk into the country with little to no requirements.
Under the current situation, and while borders are still closed, it’s hard to guess what the future beholds once borders open again.
So for the sake of this roundup to the top hikes in New Zealand’s South Island, let’s focus on understanding how to organize a trip to Kiwiland. A few hints:
If you are going to focus on hiking New Zealand South Island, you need to learn a bit about the 10 Great Walks – more on this below.
You’ll also need to research requirements for renting a car under an international driver’s license and map out your itinerary to fit your hiking goals.
I’d suggest creating a Google Map with your points and hikes of interest. Add estimated driving times connecting each. New Zealand has a reputation for winding roads, so you must allow some extra time.
When a walk piques your interest, find out if it’s a one-way or a loop. In many cases, one-way trails end up like… 400 km away from the starting point somehow, and you need to arrange a way back to your car.
You can freedom camp in many places. Ideally, if your car is not self-contained, you’d need to stay either at a Department of Conservation spot or a private campsite.
Currency in New Zealand
The country’s currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). It fluctuates, but 1 dollar is about 1.50 USD.
The great thing is you can pay with your card pretty much everywhere, even if it’s only a few cents. You’d need cash for campsites and local markets, but that’s pretty much it.
New Zealand is one of the safest countries in the world, so the chances of getting robbed are low!
What to Pack for a Hiking Trip to New Zealand?
You’ll use most of your gear, especially if you are planning for overnight or multi-day hikes. A great backpacking backpack and sturdy hiking boots are of the absolute essence. Keep in mind though, that you may not need a tent if you’ll be staying in huts instead of campsites.
Weather in New Zealand can change fast, so plan accordingly and bring layers of clothing. All in all, I’d leave the fancy outfits at home, and pack just the outdoorsy stuff.
I’d suggest keeping your hiking and camping checklist handy. Go through it and focus on the gear that meets your hiking New Zealand South Island needs without overloading your backpack.
It can be challenging if you are not driving as you’d need to carry with you all the general travel essentials for your trip, plus your hiking gear. In this case, you may want to plan to leave stuff at your hostel and come back once you’re done hiking. Or you can stick to day hikes, or read up about freedom camping in New Zealand.
Best Time of the Year to Visit
Sync your trip with the hiking season! Spring and summer are the ‘official hiking’ months, when you’ll find all trails open and ready for you. Crowd-escapists!
Swing by around October – November. You’ll enjoy fairly good weather without stepping into everyone’s steps.
Also, know that the whole country goes on holiday for 2 weeks after Christmas, as it’s the summer holiday and most companies shut down. So, between the 23rd of December to approximately the 9th of January, you’ll come across local holiday-makers everywhere!
New Zealand is also a great place for winter and alpine hiking, but be mindful of your skills and don’t take chances. Many trails are not recommended between June and September.
Still, even at the peak of the season, you need to check weather conditions before you hit the trails. Some trails close due to river floodings, wind conditions, and landslides. So, to avoid disappointment, stay flexible, and don’t get hung up on that one you missed!
What are New Zealand’s Great Walks?
The Great Walks are 10 ‘premium’ hikes scattered across the country.
There are 3 hikes on the North Island and 7 hikes on the South Island.
These New Zealand hikes are particularly stunning, correctly marked, and designed to cater to hikers of all levels. They can be done by sections during day hikes or be completed in full in about 3 to 6 days.
You’ll find loops and one-ways. Alpine landscapes and estuary crossings. Wild deers, sandflies, and cheeky wekas trying to steal your food.
It’s of the essence to organize these hikes with time and in detail as bookings are required, and spots fill fast!
In this roundup of South Island New Zealand hikes, you’ll find quick summaries of each of the Great Walks located here. You’ll also get the hang of other day hikes, plus overnight and multi-day trails that are just as beautiful and fun.
For the sake of geography, this roundup goes from north to south. Be my guest!
Welcome to THEMOST popular Great Walk in New Zealand!
Perched along the coastline of the Abel Tasman National Park, this hilly trail has sun, golden beaches, low-tide estuary crossings, and some serious summer vibes.
Type of walk: Great Walk, one-way.
Landscape: Hills, coastline, beaches.
Length and duration: 60 km – about 3 to 5 days in full.
Difficulty: The hike itself is easy but hilly. Prepare to go up and down, over and over.
Elevation gain: Nearly 200 m at its highest point. The hike starts at sea level.
Time of the year: Year-round.
Abel gets crowded over summer, but the great thing is you can go for a swim and maybe get lucky and see dolphins — cute!
There are many campsites and huts along the way, but you need to book about 2 months ahead (this is one of the most popular South Island hikes, after all!)
You can also kayak, do a day hike, or tour the Tasman Sea on a water taxi.
2. Queen Charlotte Track
You’ll find the Queen Charlotte Track on the top east of the South Island, just a quick water taxi ride from Picton.
This 70-km trail is a great alternative to the Abel Tasman as it presents similar scenery of beaches, emerald and blue waters, and stellar nights.
Type of walk: Multi-day. It may become an official Great Walk soon.
Landscape: Rolling hills, lush native forests, and beaches.
Length and duration: With 70 km, it’s one of the longest single-track hikes in the country, and takes between 3 to 5 days.
Difficulty: Easy tramping trail, but with more sustained elevation gain than Abel Tasman.
Elevation gain: Nearly 500 m from sea level.
Time of the year: Year-round. I hiked it mid-September and experienced rain showers on most days.
If you’d rather not carry your backpack, you can book water taxis that take your heavy pack from spot to spot.
There are no DoC (Department of Conservation) huts. Only campsites with facilities and cooking shelters. However, there’s also private accommodation available.
If you want to experience a fancy hike, this may be it! There are a lot of luxury villas and eco-resorts along the trail for a spot of ‘glamping.’
This is an ideal hike to get into multi-day solo hiking.
3. Heaphy Track
Picky hikers keen to traverse a wide variety of landscapes, this is for you!
At this point, we are still located on the top of New Zealand’s South Island. You’ve seen Queen Charlotte on the east, Abel Tasman on the center, and now the Heaphy Track on the west. This Great Walk is tucked in Golden Bay, a region that’s beyond stunning. Wide gold-sand beaches, silver waters reflecting the sun’s sparks, and pretty much nothing else to do other than enjoying the fresh salty seaside air.
The Heaphy Track receives 4 times fewer visitors per year than Abel Tasman. However, this also means it’s a bit more difficult to plan your itinerary.
This is due to the hike’s ending point that’s 400 km away from its beginning, and there are limited transport options.
Type of walk: Great Walk, one way.
Landscape: Changing views ranging from beech and rimu forest to tussock grasslands and beaches.
Length and duration: 78.4 km, spread throughout 4 to 6 days.
Difficulty: Moderate. It can be tiring as it’s quite long and has a fair share of elevation gain.
Elevation gain: About 800 m if starting from Brown Hut, the northernmost point. If starting from the south, at Kōhaihai Shelter (sea level) then it’s a 915 m altitude gain.
Time of the year: Year-round.
You’d need to arrange transport beforehand. You can book a car relocation service for NZD 395. Alternatively, arrange a car key swap with fellow hikers, book a shuttle bus from the nearest towns for NZD 170 return, or take a flight (not recommended if possible — go green!)
It’s also possible to bike the Heaphy Track between May and November.
4. Paparoa Track
Meet New Zealand’s newest Great Walk!
The Paparoa Track opened in 2019, after many years without adding any new trails to this ‘exclusive’ group of hikes.
The Paparoa Track showcases the magic of the Paparoa National Park, which is the most similar thing to Jurassic Park you could encounter in your life. Dark green rivers, steep cliffs, and moss-covered trees seemingly hanging from huge rocks.
The Paparoa Track can be hiked in any direction, but it’s mainly designed to be walked from south to north. However, if you’d like to take your tramping itinerary to the next level, you could connect the hike with the Heaphy Track.
Note that the tracks are not connected per se. I’m suggesting this as an itinerary because you could do the Heaphy from north to south and then head to Punakaiki and hike the Paparoa Track from north to south. Bear with me, this will make sense if you check it on the map!
Type of walk: Great walk. One way.
Landscape: Karst limestone cliffs, river bridge crossings, alpine forest, gold-mining historic sites, and panoramic views of the South Island.
Length and duration: 55 km, 3 days.
Elevation gain: If starting from the Smoke-Ho car park, you’d go from 400 m elevation to 1190. Hikers beginning from the track’s north end would start at sea level.
Time of the year: Year-round.
First Great Walk specifically designed for both bikers and walkers.
You must arrange transport or hire a shuttle service as the car parks at both ends of the trail are for day use only.
5. Welcome Flat Hut Track – via Copland Track
The Welcome Flat Hut Track is quite popular amongst folks already settled in the country, or living the camper life.
Located on the West Coast, the glacier region is sometimes neglected by travelers heading toward Queenstown and Fiordland. I don’t blame them, QT is my fave!
But there’s a lot to explore around the West Coast too, so I wanted to share this hike, even though it’s a bit off-the-beaten-path.
Welcome Flat is part of the Copland Track, a multi-day trip that’s suited for advanced hikers.
The best part? Once you reach the end of this section you’ll encounter… natural hot springs! Simply awesome. The hike itself it’s quite beautiful as you walk near the Copland River and get to enjoy snow-capped mountain views in the background.
Type of walk: Overnight hike. One way.
Landscape: River, valleys, mountains, hot springs — yay!
Length and duration: 18 km, one way. Done as an overnight hike in 6 to 7 hours.
Difficulty: More of a tramping trail, so it’s a bit more challenging. You start by crossing a river on foot and then walk on tree roots and rocks.
Elevation gain: 440 m
Time of the year: Autumn and summer.
Know that it rains heavily on the West Coast, which means the track is sometimes closed due to flooding, even during the hiking season.
If attempting the track over winter, beware of icy conditions. It gets slippery, trust me!
Even though this is not a great walk, you still need to book a hut spot.
6. Roys Peak
Roys Peak is one of New Zealand’s busiest hikes, and it’s known as the most ‘Instagrammable’ hike in the South Island.
You can indeed expect crowds and a full car park, but there are ways around it. The hike is beautiful and a treat for those keen to get more into hiking.
You gain altitude really fast, but you’ll hike on a walking path, so it’s very safe. Beware that getting down is harder than going up — you may end up with sore knees and black toenails!
Type of walk: Day hike. One way.
Landscape: Mountains and lake views.
Length and duration: 16 km return, usually done in 5 to 6 hours.
Difficulty: It depends on your level of fitness. It’s an easy walking track but it’s quite steep and, in the end, you sort of walk on a ridge. It’s not dangerous, but you must be okay with going up, up, up!
Elevation gain: You’ll gain exactly 1,228 m from the departing point.
Time of the year: Year-round. You’ll need snow gear to go up over winter.
Access to this hike is very easy as it’s located only 6 km from Wanaka.
Make a fresh start over night time and aim to summit at sunrise. It’s not only an amazing experience, but you’ll also beat the crowds. I did it just at the beginning of winter and got to enjoy the clearest night sky and impressive views. I couldn’t see Lake Wanaka as it was covered by an inversion layer, but still…magic!
7. Mueller Hut
Want to head on a challenging but absolutely breathtaking track? Then welcome to Mueller Hut! Mueller Hut is located ‘just’ in front of Mt. Cook, the country’s highest peak. I must say this is, personally, my absolute favorite place in the whole country.
When you reach the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park you’ll encounter a wee village with some hotels, a hostel, and camping sites. The Hooker Valley is overlooking the mountain range and provides dramatic alpine views.
I’ve chosen Mueller Hut for this roundup of the top hikes in New Zealand’s South Island, but there are many short – and still superb – trails in the area. On your way from the beginning of the Mueller Hut Track, you’ll find a half-way stop, Sealy Tarns, which can easily be made as a day hike.
Type of walk: Overnight. One way.
Landscape: This is a proper alpine adventure as you’ll be facing Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak.
Length and duration: 5 km. It takes about 4/5 hours to hike up and roughly the same to go down.
Elevation gain: 1,052 m
Time of the year: Don’t recommend it at the peak of winter. We did it early September and it was a total alpine adventure, with snow up to our knees.
Sealey Tarns is a great stop for day hikers. You’ll get there after tackling a 2,200-steps stair going up the mountain. If you decide to keep heading to Mueller Hut you’ll walk mostly on rocks.
Do not attempt to do this hike over winter if not with an expert guide.
You need to book from November to April. However, you always need to register at the I-site.
Note that, even over summer, weather conditions can change. So don’t push it! We were about to hike up again this summer but we didn’t because of strong winds.
8. Routeburn Track
The Routeburn Track is New Zealand’s second most popular Great Walk. The track starts at the Routeburn Shelter, only 24 km from the cute little town of Glenorchy, and ends on The Divide Shelter, on route SH94 to Milford Sound, 85 km from Te Anau.
Side note! Te Anau is the perfect base for eager hikers as it’s just a few km away from the Kepler Track, and about a 1.5 hrs drive from the end of the Routeburn Track.
There’s another track that I’ve listed below, the Greenstone and Caples, that can be connected with the Routeburn Track if you just can’t stop hiking in New Zealand!
Type of walk: Great Walk. One Way.
Landscape: Subalpine, valleys, wetlands, native forests, and lakes.
Length and duration: 33 km, usually done in 2 to 4 days.
Elevation gain: 820 m
Time of the year: Hiking season -October to April.
This is one of the most expensive Great Walks if you visit over the hiking season. Keep in mind bookings are compulsory between October and April.
Some sections of the hike had to be shut down because of massive floods from last summer, so it’s essential to check-in at the nearest information center.
Arrange or book transportation beforehand. My friend and I hitchhiked from The Divide to Te Anau, but we were waiting for nearly 30 minutes -we got there after 5 pm.
9. Greenstone and Caples
The Greenstone and Caples track is a fabulous alternative for hikers keen to head on a trail similar to the Routeburn Track, without the hassles and costs of a packed Great Walk.
This is a beautiful hike in the South Island where you’d be walking on valleys and wetlands before climbing up to McKellar Saddle to relish on its subalpine landscape.
There’s a trick though! This hike is actually 2 hikes that connect to create a loop. You can tackle both and end at the starting point, the Greenstone Car Park. Alternatively, you can do the Caples, a section of the Greenstone, and then connect with the Routeburn for the last 2 hours of the trail -you’ll finish at The Divide.
Type of walk: Can be hiked as a loop or a one way.
Landscape: Native forest, valley, wetlands, subalpine tussock grassland.
Length and duration: 38.5 km, 3 to 4 days.
Difficulty: Moderate. Long hiking days.
Elevation gain: With McKellar Saddle at the highest point (947 m), if starting from the Greenstone Car Park (477 m altitude), you’d gain nearly 500 m.
Time of the year: The track is open all year, but hiking over winter is not recommended.
You can drive and do the whole loop, or you can arrange transportation from Queenstown or Glenorchy.
We hitchhiked from Queenstown. Even though this is totally doable, the local road that connects Glenorchy with the beginning of the track barely sees any cars go by.
Get ready to sweat bullets and enjoy amazing views in equal doses on one of the nicest South Island walks! The first day of the Kepler Track is pretty much nothing but going up, but it’s 100% worth it.
A detail that sets the Kepler apart is that it starts almost in town, only a few km away from Te Anau, and it’s a loop. This means that you don’t have to plan for transport — extra kudos for the Kepler!
That said, it’s a stunning trail because it portrays a variety of landscapes as you walk by the Te Anau Lake, then enter native beech forest, and finally start walking on the mountain ridge as you get to the track’s highest point.
Type of walk: Great walk, loop.
Landscape: Native beech forest, mountains, lakes, and all the ferns in the world.
Length and duration: 60 km, 3 to 4 days.
Difficulty: Moderate. I found it a bit more difficult as you walk on a ridge to reach Mt Luxmore Summit.
Elevation gain: Luxmore Saddle is the highest point at 1400 m. The lowest point is 178 m, so you’d climb almost 1200 m.
Time of the year: Hiking season (spring/summer)
Don’t attempt to hike it over winter if you are not an expert.
As with all Great Walks, you need to book in advance!
I personally find that even though this is a Great Walk, it’s a bit more challenging as on day 1 you’ll be pretty much climbing all day.
11. Milford Track
Nestled in the grand Fiordland National Park, this is a remote land of fiords, constant rains, mist, waterfalls, and deep, dark waters.
Out of all Great Walks, the Milford Track is, in a way, the most structured. It’s not possible to camp, and hut booking needs to be made well in advance — like, as soon as they open!
It’s also the most expensive of all Great Walks, with a hut stay for non-residents coming at NZD 70 — but note that this can change! Up until this year, the cost of the hut for foreigners was NZD 130.
Type of walk: Great walk. One way.
Landscape: Valleys, rainforest, waterfalls, and glow worms!
Length and duration: 53.5 km, 4 days.
Elevation gain: Highest point 1154 m. Lowest point 0 m. But as the hike can be done only in one direction, your initial elevation will be 250 m.
Time of the year: Hiking season.
A major flood destroyed some sections of the trail last summer. Keep an eye on booking changes and trail openings.
Getting in and out of the trail is a bit of an adventure on its own! You’ll need to catch a boat from Te Anau Downs to get started and then can hop on a bus or take a short boat trip back to the Milford Sound Village.
The Milford Track can only be hiked in one direction!
12. Rakiura Track
Finally, here’s the southernmost hike on our roundup of the top hikes in New Zealand’s South Island!
What gives the Rakiura Track a special place in my heart is how far south it is. Quite isolated and the least visited Great Walk -except for the Milford Track that has quite limited spots- this wee corner of the world is wild and lush.
It may not have the world-class beaches of the Abel Tasman or the alpine landscapes of the Kepler. But it’s still stunning, short-ish, and a great hike for beginners.
This Great Walk is cheap as chips! However, you need to make it to the cute and gorgeous Stewart Island first by taking a ferry from Bluff to Oban.
A visit to Stewart Island itself is a joy. The island is small, friendly, has a really cute town, and you can visit Ulva Island — a predator-free bird sanctuary — as a day trip.
13. Te Araroa Trail
Well… this is something a bit different, but it felt right to finish this roundup with New Zealand’s very own thru-hike.
The Te Araroa Trail is a 3000-km long route that begins in Cape Reinga, at the top of the North Island, and ends in Bluff, just before crossing to Stewart Island.
About 1,000 hikers take on the challenge every year, but many locals have become savvy section hikers. The trail goes through some famous hikes, like the Queen Charlotte Track, so pay attention to the signs as you may set foot on the Te Araroa without even knowing!
As a New Zealand resident, I love it when we are hiking and, just by chance, we find out we are doing – even if only a few km – the Te Araroa!
Final Thoughts on the Top Hikes in New Zealand’s South Island Roundup
It’s been such a joy to share all this information with you, my dear fellow hiking friends! As said before, plan with care and detail, and be aware of seasonality and weather conditions.
Make sure to be eco-aware, always follow the best ‘No Trace’ practices, and follow the trails’ instructions. Hiking in New Zealand is an experience of a lifetime for both experts and beginners, so find the trail that suits you best!
Martina Grossi is a content creator and SEO specialist based in Christchurch, New Zealand. Originally from Argentina, 7 years ago she packed a suitcase and set on her first big trip.
After spending a year backpacking Europe and living in Denmark, she moved to New Zealand, fell in love with the country, and became a happy hiker, yogi, and travel blogger.
You can always find her sneaking into the kitchen to eat from the pan, passionately planning her own and everyone else’s adventures, and drinking mate.
Victoria is a beautiful state in the Australian mainland with plenty to offer. Its capital city, Melbourne, doubles as Australia’s capital of cool. It’s known for its signature coffee and hip vibe. However, there is much more to explore in Victoria outside of the capital city!
Surrounding Melbourne, you’ll find fantastic tourist destination known for their beautiful natural sceneries, a plethora of activities, and Aussie wildlife. If you are visiting Victoria, don’t miss these top five things to do in the state.
The Top 5 Things to Do in Victoria
Whether you like outdoor activities or city living, you will find something to do in Victoria.
If it is your first time in Victoria, these top places to visit will make you want to come back time and time again.
Drive the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is a 243 kilometer stretch from the tiny coastal town of Torquay to Allansford. It is hailed as one of the best road trips in the world and one of nature’s most marvelous creations.
Located about an hour’s drive from Melbourne City, this iconic roadway is known for its incredible beaches, waterfalls, old-growth rainforest and Aussie animals.
Driving this stretch gives you the opportunity to enjoy multiple Great Ocean Road waterfalls. Erskine Falls, Phantom Falls, and Hopetoun Falls are some of the most well-known. They are great places to stretch your legs or pose for a photo with a beautiful background.
If you like surfing or sunbathing Torquay, Apollo Bay, and Lorne all have excellent beaches and towns which are well equipped for holidaymakers.
In Torquay, Bells Beach is famous for its swells which surfers from across the world come to experience. In fact, during Easter holidays, professional surfers converge on Bells Beach for the RipCurl Pro.
If maritime history and whale watching is more up your alley, Warrnambool or Port Fairy are excellent places to stop on your road trip of the Great Ocean Road. Whereas if you like hiking, drop driving all together and embark on the Great Ocean Walk. This 5-day trek hugs the famous coastline.
No visit to Victoria is complete without a visit to Melbourne. It epitomizes Australian city life and does coffee really, really well. In fact, it beat Rome and Vienna for the best coffee in the world in a 2017 Booking.com survey!
Melbourne has a blend of friendly locals, world-class restaurants, and captivating museums. The Old Melbourne Gaol is one of the most popular historical landmarks to visit in the city. It was an operational jail until the 1920s and provides a stark reminder of Australia’s convict past.
Another great landmark to visit the Shrine of Remembrance. You can find it in the midst of the Royal Botanic Gardens which are a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
Art lovers will enjoy the National Gallery of Victoria, with its more than seventy thousand works of art. However, that’s just the beginning of galleries in Melbourne. There are over 100 in the city. For an extensive Aboriginal art collection, head to the City Gallery.
Melbourne continues to appease culture vultures with its plethora of theatres. You can find everything from musical, comedy, and cabaret performances from both local and international artists at venues across the city.
However, if you love a live music performance, then head to Bird’s Basement Jazz Club during the evening hours for an exceptional performance that’s in reach.
The famous Queen Victoria Market provides ample space and a wide range of products for shoppers looking to brush shoulders with locals.
Another market is the Southern Melbourne market where you can buy seasonal produce and artisan foodstuffs. On weekends, you can take a free tram ride from the city center to Fitzroy’s Rose St. Artists’ Market for handmade pieces from emerging Australian designers.
Go Wine Tasting in the Yarra Valley
Yarra Valley is situated 25 kilometers east of Melbourne and is the oldest wine-producing region in Victoria State. However, you’ll need your own wheels to go wine tasting in the Yarra Valley. You can arrange a tour or rent a car from Melbourne City but there is very limited public transport available. The journey takes less than an hour from the CBD by car.
Once in Yarra Valley, you have several options of wineries to visit, with the four main ones being the Balgownie Estate, Domaine Chandon, Steels Gate Winery, and Yering Farm. Those who love the French-style sparkling wine should head to Dominique Portet Winery for the Fontaine Rosé experience.
For a private wine tasting with cheese plates, Yering station is a good option. However, to experience something really different and to support local businesses, why not get off the beaten path and visit one of the smaller family-owned wineries in the Yarra Valley?
Sometimes you’ll see hot air balloons floating through the sky in the Yarra Valley. These elevated experiences are great for special occasions. They typically take place at sunrise or sunset and offer incredible aerial views of the Yarra Valley and it’s an interesting combination of vineyards and classic fauna and flora.
After a long day traveling across the Yarra Valley tasting different wine varieties, you should head to Piaf Day Spa for a luxurious pampering session to relax. Pick one or more pampering packages that include body exfoliation, unique heated stone massages, among other customized services.
Explore Phillip Island
Phillip Island is found on the south coast of Victoria. It is rugged, wild, and known for its beautiful beaches and interesting wildlife. Melbourne holidaymakers head there in droves in the summer… but for good reason! It has something to offer even the pickiest travelers.
Phillip Island is located approximately two hours’ drive from Melbourne City. When visiting the island, be sure to stopover at San Remo. The last mainland town provides visitors the chance to spot pelican birds in their natural habitat. The morning hour is the best time to have a glimpse of these beautiful birds as they get fed.
The Penguin Parade is by far the most popular tourist attraction of the island. Each evening you can watch these adorable little birds, scamper, and parade across Summerland Beach as they come home from a day at sea.
You’ll have to buy a ticket from the visitor center for this sunset activity but watching these little birds in their natural habitat waddle through the coastal sand is a once in a lifetime experience for many.
Beyond pelicans and penguins, you can also spot sleepy koalas, seals, wallabies, echidnas, and possums in excess on Phillip Island. There is a large colony of seals living just off of the coast of Phillip Island which you can take a boat to go and see.
Hikers may encounter wildlife alongside one of the island’s many walking tracks. The Cape Woolamai loop has incredible coastline views. So does the Summerland lookout track located at Nobbies Center. However, for something a little different, moto lovers will enjoy the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. They put on many events and activities throughout the year.
Visit Mount Buller
Mount Buller is an all-season mountain destination with the largest lift network in Victoria. At an altitude of 1804 meters above sea level, it provides an excellent space for multiple activities. However, the mountain is most well known as a place to hit the slopes in the winter months. The mountain has runs for skiers and boarders of all abilities.
The Mount Buller village has everything you may need for a weekend away in the snow. They have ski and snowboard rentals and lessons available, and a plethora of restaurants and accommodation options.
Tobogganing is available at two points in Mount Buller. There is one at Celia’s Kiosk next to the car park. The other is found at Alpine Central within the village. Here, children can enjoy the experience of speeding down the toboggan without worrying about how to learn to ski or snowboard.
In the summer months, the mountain transforms into a mountain biking destination. Mout Bullers even organizes the Victorian Downhill State Series Race for downhill mountain biking. It attracts hundreds of bike enthusiasts each year.
Hikers are also welcome in the summer months and there are trails available for all levels of fitness. However, those looking to make multi-day treks must bear in mind that camping is prohibited on the mountain.
Those looking to connect with nature can make arrangements at the nearby Toombullup School Site Campground, which is located 2 kilometers away. Other camping sites close to Mount Buller include Stringybark Creek Campground, Fords Bridge, and Jones CampGround.
Whether you are visiting Victoria for the first time or returning, you’ll agree there is a lot to do in Australia’s second-most populous state! So to get the most out of your visit and to experience the state like a true local, don’t miss these top things to do in Victoria Australia.
About the Author
Henry is part of the Great Ocean Road Collective, a website dedicated to sharing the beauty of the Great Ocean Road in Australia with travelers far and wide. If you are planning your trip, need some inspiration, or are looking for authentic advice on Aussie travel visit our website The Great Ocean Road Australia or check us out on Instagram.
The mistake is often made — myself included — in thinking that Australia is a small island.
Really, it only looks that way because our Northern hemisphere-centric maps artificially squeeze Australia’s size. In fact, it’s about 80% of the size of the continental U.S., making it perfect for long extended Australia road trips.
While many people who plan a road trip in Australia stick to cities on the East and the Great Barrier Reef, venture off the beaten path a little to see the best Australian landmarks: wonders of the Outback, tropical rainforests, national parks, hidden waterfalls, and so much more you never knew Australia had.
So hop in your car, pack up your car, and take the Australia road trip of your dreams!
As far as I’m concerned, the absolute best way to travel is to road trip around Australia is by car. There’s so much to see that you would be missing out otherwise! Perhaps the best road trip in Australia is from Adelaide to Darwin. On this trip, you cut through the heart of the country, as you make your way to the tropical North.
Admittedly, it’s not an easy trip. At over 3,000 km (1,800 miles) it’s a beast of a drive! However, that just means there’s more places to see! Surprisingly, for a route that takes you through Australia’s outback, there’s a lot of them!
You can visit the underground town of Coober Pedy, which is the site of the world’s largest opal mine. The temperatures here are so hot that living underground is a necessity!
One of the best parts of the trip is going to the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park. Here, you get to see one of the most iconic images of Australia, Uluru (Ayers Rock). It’s an amazing sight and a must visit!
As well as Uluru, there’s also Kata-Tjuta and King’s Canyon that you can explore here as well. Both are great destinations in their own right and are somewhat overshadowed by Uluru. Make sure you walk through both Kata-Tjuta and King’s Canyon as the views are spectacular and you really get to appreciate the gigantic scale of the place!
From Uluru onwards there’s a few more interesting places to explore. Not far from Alice Springs are the Devil’s Marbles, which are freestanding boulders that look like they have carefully place in position. Yet, they are the result of thousands of years of erosion!
The Mataranka Thermal Pools are about halfway between Alice Springs and Darwin. They’re a great place to stop and relax for a few hours if you’re sick of being in your car.
Finally, before you reach Darwin, you can visit Nitmulik National Park which has some beautiful scenery and great hikes. Checking out Katherine Gorge here is an absolute must!
It’s a long trip that takes about a week, but it’s more than worth it! Seeing the landscape change from arid desert to tropical plants is incredible. You’ll see things you won’t see anywhere else in Australia. The East Coast is great, but get off the beaten track and road trip around Australia and you’ll be greatly rewarded!
Road tripping from Brisbane to Sydney is the perfect way to see a swath of Eastern Australia’s most picturesque coastline. Make it a loop by returning to Brisbane via the alternative inland road, and you’ll also experience some of the region’s best small towns and impressive interior landscapes on one long Australia road trip.
This route might not have the same reputation as the Great Ocean Road, but it’s a favorite among locals and a rite of passage for anyone who grew up in Queensland. The 1,000 kilometres (620 mile) drive involves at least 10 hours on the road one-way, so you’ll want to pace yourself and spread the driving out over at least 5 days. It’s not difficult – there are plenty of pit stops to make along the way.
From Brisbane, head south via the Gold Coast Highway, crossing the border into New South Wales to visit charming Mullumbimby and iconic Byron Bay, known for its swimming beaches and cafe culture. Be sure to visit the Cape Byron lighthouse, Australia’s easternmost Point.
The small town of Ballina just south of Byron is a good place to rest for the night. If you’re wanting to tick some ‘giant objects’ off (pretty much essential on an Australia road trip), here is your first: Ballina’s Big Prawn.
Continuing south, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie are both worthwhile stops on your way to Newcastle, one of Australia’s most underrated cities. Spend a few days here to visit the Ocean Baths and walk along the beaches and wharves, admiring the inner city’s heritage architecture, antique shops, and museums dedicated to its industrial past. The final leg of the drive takes you through the gorgeous Central Coast before arriving in Sydney.
Also worth visiting is Blue Mountains National Park, which you can incorporate into your itinerary either by taking a short detour on the way into Sydney, or visit on the way back if you’re returning to Brisbane. Katoomba and Blackheath are both beautiful little towns with quaint bed-and-breakfasts and access to the area’s best hiking and lookout points.
For a nice contrast to the coast, take the inland route back to Brisbane via Tamworth (Australia’s country music capital), Armidale and Stanthorpe, all lovely country towns.
A road trip through Australia’s red center is an epic journey. Across some 2000 km, you’ll experience the beauty of Australia’s outback, including spectacular landscapes, amazing wildlife encounters, and learn about Australian history including Aboriginal culture and how locals live in the harsh environment of the Australian outback.
Start in Darwin where you can spend a few days before starting the road trip. Head down to the lagoon on Darwin’s Waterfront for swim or a picnic. Close by you can visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Bombing of Darwin Museum at Stokes Hill. There are also some great restaurants around here too. If you happen to be in town on a Sunday or Thursday night don’t miss the Mindil Beach night markets.
Your first stop after leaving Darwin is the Top End’s Litchfield and KakaduNational Parks. Here you’ll see spectacular waterfalls, swim in freshwater rock pools and marvel at massive termite mounds. The area is best visited with a 4WD, but you’ll access plenty of wonderful sites with a standard vehicle. Also don’t miss a cruise on Yellow Water to see some amazing wildlife including some of the biggest crocodiles you’ve ever seen!
The next major stop is Katherine where you will see the beautiful Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge. The gorge is stunning and as well as cruises in the gorge there are plenty of walking trails, hidden waterfalls, and aboriginal art to explore as well as swimming in the hot springs.
Alice Springs is another great town on this road trip. A visit to the school of air is well recommended where you can see how kids in outback Australia do their schoolwork. Other great attractions in town include the Reptile Centre and the Kangaroo Centre.
Of course, the most iconic sight on this road trip is Uluru – but also go a little further and don’t miss the mighty Kings Canyon. Make sure you bring some good walking shoes, because the best way to explore these stunning areas is on foot. Don’t miss a sunrise and a sunset here – the colors are spectacular.
With almost 2,000 km on this road trip, expect to have some long days driving. However, you will be surprised how fast it goes with so much to see along the way. Allow at least two weeks to do this trip.
Adelaide to Melbourne
By Holly of Globeblogging
While it may not be the most direct route, driving between Adelaide and Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road is one of the great Australian road trips. While the 243 kilometers of the Great Ocean Road is a spectacular display of the Victorian coastline, much of the stretch of road between Adelaide and Melbourne follows the coastline if you choose to take it.
If you are taking your time on the drive then Victor Harbor is worth a stop after leaving Adelaide. At the right time of year, it is known for its sightings of whales and is surrounded by National Park. You can also take a horse-drawn tram out to Granite Island, in the middle of a marine park.
It offers a great launch point for a drive through the Coorong National Park which runs along the coast and offers some fabulous views. Robe is a potential spot to stop for the night. Between Robe and Port Fairy, the road will divert inland for a time. Call in at Mount Gambier to check out the spectacular Blue Lake.
Approximately 280 kilometers from Melbourne is the little fishing town named Port Fairy, home to the oldest licensed hotel in Victoria which puts out a good meal. From here take a walk to check out Griffiths Island, which has a breeding colony for the Short-tailed Shearwater and a lighthouse that is picturesque even though it isn’t open to the public.
This stretch of coastline between Port Fairy and Cape Otway is known as the Shipwreck Coast, and is the watery grave of over 600 ships. As such the coastline is populated by a number of lighthouses.
The Split Head lighthouse, star of television and film at Airey’s Inlet is open to the public, offering views of the Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary wrapping around the point. It is also worth a visit to Cape Otway to see the heritage-listed lighthouse which has the honor of being Australia’s oldest working lighthouse. The National Park offers the opportunity to walk through rainforest and see a number of waterfalls.
Naturally, the Twelve Apostles need to feature on any Great Ocean Road itinerary. While several of the limestone pillars standing off the coast have collapsed into the ocean, it is still a popular tourist attraction.
It is best to plan your trip in order to be there early, not only because the tour buses get there from Melbourne in the mornings and it can be like Disneyland queues on the coast, but because the sun is over the ocean in the afternoon, making the light challenging for good photos. The nearby towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay offer accommodation and photo options.
One thing is for sure, once you are on this stretch of road you will find there is no shortage of things to see. It is best to plan plenty of time, it’s easy to underestimate how long it can actually take!
One of the
most rugged and iconic experiences you can set out to do in Queensland is a
loop through the Outback. Get ready for
vast landscapes and wide, open spaces.
It’s important to be mindful that you will be entering a hot and dry part of the country, so picking the right time of year is crucial. The cooler months in the middle of the year are ideal (from May through to August).
The daytime temperatures will be warm and even hot as you head further west, but be prepared for very cold nights. Be sure to pack warm clothing for night time as well as a wide-brimmed hat, T-shirts, and sunscreen for during the day.
Heading off from Rockhampton, head west through Emerald and out to The Gemfields. Yep, you guessed it – the first stop is all about fossicking for Sapphires! As you turn off the highway, you’ll be entering a world like you’ve probably never seen before.
You will likely notice lots of signs pointing you in the direction of ‘fossicking parks,’ ‘tag-along-tours’ and ‘gem shops.’ The best way to tackle The Gemfields is to head to a Fossicking Park, where your Miner’s Licence and equipment is all included for you in your entry cost. The staff are more than willing to teach you how to find Sapphires and identify them for you as well.
Once you’ve had your gemstone fix, continue west to Longreach, the real gateway to Outback Queensland. Longreach is famous for a few things, but most notably the QANTAS Founders Museum. QANTAS is a huge commercial Australian Airline, which interestingly started at roots level in the middle of the Outback.
The Museum is huge, with many interactive attractions included. You can even walk out onto the wing of a Jet and stand in one of the massive engines (don’t forget to get your photo taken!). For the full Australian Outback experience, be sure to also do the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which is right across the road to the QANTAS Museum.
Making your way further west still, you will run into the town of Winton. Here you’ll find the biggest piece of Australia’s Dinosaur Trail – the Australian Age of Dinosaurs.
Even today, they are still digging up ancient dinosaur fossils and bones out there as we speak. There are three other parts to the Dinosaur Trail, the second is about an hour south of Winton in Opalton.
After you’ve completed the first two parts of the dusty Dinosaur Trail, it’s time to continue west to Julia Creek for a well-earned Artesian Bath. The tiny little town, with a population of 500 has put itself on the map with its four recently built Artesian Bath Houses.
Located at the local Caravan Park, you can book yourself in for a 45-minute private session where you’ll get to sip on champagne while watching the sun set over the Outback plains. The claw foot baths are filled with steaming hot water straight from the Artesian Basin below.
Now it’s time to turn right and start making your way back towards the Queensland Coast. Along the way you will be able to complete the final two parts of the Dinosaur Trail in the towns of Hughenden and Richmond.
From there, if you take a slight detour north for 60km you can hike down into the gorgeous Porcupine Gorge. Although it’s only a 1km walk down into the gorge, do not be deceived – it’s a very steep climb to get back up, especially in the heat of the day! In fact, some people call it ‘Australia’s mini Grand Canyon.’
While that wraps up your Outback Queensland experience, there is still a 400km drive back to Townsville on the coast. So, take your time and make sure you’ve always got plenty of food, water, and fuel.
When most people think of visiting Australia, their thoughts drift to Sydney, Melbourne, the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru. Most of which take forever to fly to from nearly anywhere in the world (and are separated by huge distances).
But there is one place in Australia that is closer to the rest of the world: the Top End. With flights from Bali or Singapore taking just a few hours (far less than from Sydney or Melbourne), it’s an ideal destination to head to for just a quick trip. And the best way to experience this fairly compact region? On a road trip around the Top End!
Darwin will be the first stop on your trip, as it’s the location of the international airport and all the hire car companies. More of a large country town than a city, it’s still worthwhile spending some time here to check out the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, World War II historic sites and the twice-weekly Mindil Beach Sunset Market.
But next it’s time to head out of town and grab a taste of the Outback. Top of your list should be Kakadu, the huge national park that’s only a couple of hours down the road from Darwin.
Home to a huge expanse of wetlands, the edge of the Arnhem Land sandstone plateau and thousands of years of Aboriginal culture, there’s so many must-visit sites. Don’t miss the wetland cruises at Yellow Water, the rock art at Ubirr Rock and Nourlangie, or exploring the gorgeous gorges and waterfalls at Gunlom, Maguk, Jim Jim or Twin Falls (4WD required).
For a more chilled out waterfall experience, head back to Darwin via the Litchfield National Park. Must-do waterfalls are Florence, Wangi and Buley Rockpool. All are easily accessed on sealed roads with a 2WD hire car. The last is my favorite – it’s like a natural outdoor spa, particularly if you visit midweek and manage to have it to yourself.
If you’ve got extra time on your trip, it’s only a few hours further south to Nitmiluk or Katherine Gorge. Take a boat ride up the series of gorges, or hire a canoe and take your time exploring the sandstone cliffs, sandy beaches, and Aboriginal rock art.
Oh, and of course I’ve got another waterfall recommendation for you: Edith Falls, not far north of the gorge, where you can camp right next to the waterhole in Outback style!
If you have driven along the Great Ocean Road or are heading west across Australia, make sure you explore the Limestone Coast between Mount Gambier and Adelaide in South Australia. You could drive the 550 kilometers it in a day, but don’t. There is so much to see it’s worth taking your time.
Mount Gambier is a picturesque town built around a volcanic landscape. Its centerpiece is the Blue Lake that sits in a dormant volcano. During summer, the water turns iridescent royal blue, it is a spectacular sight.
There are many other craters, caves, and sinkholes in the area. The best known are Piccaninnie and Ewens Ponds. They are both world-renowned dive sites. Ewens Ponds is also suitable for snorkeling. Underwater visibility can be as much as 80 meters and the underwater gardens are beautiful.
The Coonawarra is one of South Australia’s best-known wine regions. It is definitely worth visiting a few of the nearly 50 cellar doors to try the local product. Katnook Estate, Wynns Coonawarra Estate and Leconfield Wines are amongst the most popular wineries.
The next stop is Naracoorte. The World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves not only have many ornate structures, they are also home to a significant fossil collection. Guided tours are available.
From Naracoorte, turn east towards the seaside town of Robe. It has beautiful white beaches, stunning coastline, lakes and bushland to explore. Get off the bitumen and onto the sand at Long Beach. With 17 kilometers of coastline you’re bound to find a little patch of sand to call your own.
Back on the road, on your way to Meningie you’ll drive alongside the Coorong National Park. It is a large system of lagoons and sand dunes. If you have camping gear it is an interesting place to spend a night. The birdlife is fantastic.
If you are not packing a tent, from Meningie you can access lookouts and walking trails through the Coorong. Meningie sits on the shore of Lake Albert and is a great spot to stop and have lunch. The local bakery is sensational.
The final stop before Adelaide are the Adelaide Hills. While only 30 minutes from Adelaide, it feels a world away. Dotted with historic villages, great wineries, and wonderful views, the Adelaide Hills are a great spot to explore year-round.
Visit Cleland Wildlife Park and feed kangaroos and emus and cuddle a koala. They really are as cute as they look! The Mount Lofty lookout, five minutes away, has fantastic sunset views across the city.
Your final destination, Adelaide, is a gem. It lacks the hustle and bustle of Sydney and Melbourne and his home to a thriving boutique bar and restaurant culture. Just 20 minutes from the CBD are a strip of beaches perfect for cooling off in summer. Adelaide is also the launching pad for two more iconic Australian road trips – the drive across the Nullarbor Plain or heading North to Darwin.
The stunning eastern coastline of Queensland stretches for an incredible 3000kms, and the drive from Brisbane to Cairns alone, just shy of 1,700kms.
The main highlight most visitors come to Queensland to experience is the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef that stretched along most of the Queensland coast; however, there are plenty of fabulous stops on dry land too.
Whilst conservatively you could cover the drive in 7-8 hour stints in 3 days, you’d be doing yourself a huge injustice not to allow yourself at least 2 weeks to take on this incredible coastal journey – plus time to be spent at either end in Brisbane and Cairns.
The first stop as you head north just 1.5 hours away is the Sunshine Coast, a string of beach suburbs that have now merged into one stretching from Caloundra to Noosa Heads. It is a hugely popular beachside escape for Australians so it can be quite crowded but there are still quieter spots to be found.
Head inland to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and dramatic Glass House Mountains. Base yourself a couple of nights in Noosa to explore the surrounding region.
You can continue up the Bruce Highway for much of your journey north, or those with access to a 4WD can take an even more scenic coastal route known as the Great Beach Drive, from Noosa North Shore all the way up to Fraser Island, an incredible journey for wildlife lovers – those camping equipped can make several stops along the way.
If you aren’t keen on self-driving, there are many companies that can help get you over to the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island.
If you’re sticking to 2WD, 1770 (yes that’s a town!) and Agnes Water make stunning stops where you can catch reef cruises and enjoy the beautiful beaches, Yeppoon and a day trip out to great Keppel is another alternate to try further north. Don’t miss a stop at Bundaberg on your way north to try the infamous Bundaberg Rum distillery tour.
Our next mustn’t miss stop is Airlie Beach as a launching point to the incredible Whitsundays. You will not believe how white the sand is until you see it! This is tropical Queensland at its best – charter your own yacht and find your stretch of island paradise, or head with a commercial boat service to Daydream Island or Hamilton Island – very popular honeymooning destinations.
The next driving stretch is quite long, from Airlie Beach to Cairns so a stop in the regional city of Townsville is in order; Townsville is the gateway to Magnetic Island and further reef tours.
Take the final leg to Cairns through the more scenic Atherton Tablelands route to experience the lush and fertile lands, fresh produce, and incredible waterfalls.
It is truly one of the most spectacular and rewarding drives in the world for beach and nature lovers.
In 2013, we flew to Australia, bought a campervan, and headed up Australia’s west coast. We also eventually drove all the way to Sydney, but no region of that huge, beautiful country was quite as wonderful as Western Australia. This is much more remote and far less touristed than other parts of Australia. But it is epically beautiful, and one of the best places to road trip around Australia.
The ideal WA road trip starts in the capital city of Perth. A few days spent there should be enough to see the main sites. Don’t miss Rottnest Island off the coast (home of the adorable Quokka) or the hip town of Fremantle.
Driving up the coast, you’ll want to stop next at the Pinnacles of Nambung National Park. These bizarre earth formations will fascinate you.
Next up, stop anywhere along the endless coastline. The beaches here are just lovely, and you can enjoy a stunning Indian Ocean sunset.
Many hours of driving (it’s a big state) will take you up to Kalbarri National Park, one of our favorite places on our whole trip to Australia. There are breathtaking coastal cliffs on the ocean as well as the inland national park, which is all desert, red rocks, and fantastic hikes. Take a few days to have adventures here.
Continue north and visit the idyllic area of Shark Bay and Monkey Mia. The water here is turquoise and stunning, and at Monkey Mia you can see a daily dolphin feeding.
Finally, your last stop will be Exmouth, WA. This is at the very tip of the northwest and is a fantastic place to go snorkeling and, for the brave, whale shark swimming. If you only have time to visit one region of Australia, we highly recommend WA!
Tasmania (Tassie) is the land of rugged landscapes, sparsely inhabited towns and huge swaths of parkland waiting to be explored. We spent 10 wonderful days exploring Tasmania and hitting all the major hot spots on the east coast.
Start in the capital Hobart, a city rich in history and culture. You don’t want to miss the Saturday Salamanca Markets, driving up to the top of nearby Mt Wellington and the wandering the heritage streets of Battery Park.
Next stop should be the Tasman Peninsula where the main attraction is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Port Arthur, the best preserved convict site in Australia. This open air museum is full of fascinating historical buildings and stories. The day we visited was a dreary rainy day, perfectly setting the tone for this place of horror and hardship. The Tasman Peninsula also offers up some incredible geological formations and Fortescue Bay in the Tasman National Park is a great wilderness spot to camp and hike.
Continue to head north along the eastern coast to one of the most photographed spots in Tasmania: Wineglass Bay at Freycinet National Park. This sandy wineglass shaped bay set within rugged pink and white boulders is just as pretty in person as it is in photographs. You can see fairy penguins at Bicheno as you cruise up the coastline.
It is worth the extra time to get to the breathtaking Bay of Fires where you will have the secluded boulder-strewn beaches mostly to yourself. The turquoise waters may be chilly, but they will beckon you in.
Next up is the second largest city in Tassie, Launceston where you will want to spend some time at the lovely Cataract Gorge. You can also explore the nearby wine region of the Tamar Valley, while also feasting on the fresh produce and foodie delicacies of the Cradle to Coast tasting trail.
Last stop should be the beautiful Cradle Mountain. As you ascend into the National Park the landscape changes into a misty, eerie brush land. Dove Lake is the best place to get your shot of the iconic Cradle Mountain. The early evening is a great time to spot wombats in the grasslands.
Enjoy the mountain air and wilderness before routing back to Hobart. Tassie makes for a great road trip in Australia. Be flexible and allow yourself to get off the beaten path, wander aimlessly and soak in the fresh island air.
I recently finished a road trip around Australia’s east coast from Melbourne to Cape Tribulation in the Daintree Rainforest. In a straight line, it is about 4000kms so you can expect to do some driving, but there are so many amazing sites and things to do that you never actually drive much more than a few hundred kilometres in a day. There are so many more, but these are a few of the must-see spots.
If cities are your thing then Melbourne is a must see. It is by far the most cultural city in Australia and also very beautiful. From museums to the botanical gardens it has almost everything you could want from any modern city. It is also just a short drive to the Great Ocean Road which is a must-see if you’re in the area.
After Melbourne head to Buderoo, which is a national park southwest of Wollongong. It starts about 30-45 minutes inland and continues for a few hours. It is scattered with amazing rainforest walks and several different waterfalls and swimming holes.
About 2 hours north of Sydney is Nelson Bay. It is home to a range of different beautiful beaches and mountains. There is a hiking trail to the top of Mt Tomaree where you can get an incredible sunset view over the beaches and mountains.
Next up is Byron Bay. This one is actually my hometown! It’s an incredibly beautiful town with some of the most amazing beaches in Australia. It is a perfect place to try surfing for the first time or if you have surfed before there are amazing beaches all around the area! The lighthouse walk to see the sunrise or sunset is highly recommended as you will either see the sun rise over the ocean or set over the mountains.
Noosa Heads is another small town a lot like Byron, it can be quite touristy but that is normally pretty easy to ignore once you step into the beautiful Noosa National Park and take the long walk around the points and beaches. With beautiful beaches and natural rock pools to swim in it is a really nice beach stop.
Next up is Wallaman Falls, north of Townsville. There’s an incredible 268 meter high waterfall that breaks into a large pool. The rocks can be slippery but it you are brave enough you can go for a dip. Although not recommended if you are not sure footed.
Finish up at Cairns/Port Douglas. This region is your access to the Great Barrier Reef, Palm Cove, The Daintree Rainforest and a ton more amazing natural wonders in Australia. This is a must-see. It is a long way north but totally worth the drive!
The direct drive could be done in 15 hours (1,394 km / 866 mi) and takes you along a great deal of the beautiful east coast of Australia. Although it’s best to take at least 5 days for your trip so you can stop and enjoy the sites along the way.
Here’s a great route to take for this epic Australia road trip. As you leave Brisbane, make your first stop in Byron Bay. Just 2 hours south of Brisbane, this is a popular holiday spot with a beautiful main beach. Either walk along the beach up to the lighthouse, or stay overnight and head to the Beach Hotel for a drink and a party with live music most nights.
Next up on the road trip is Port Macquarie, just 4 hours south, a gorgeous beachside town worth a stop to relax, go for a swim, and enjoy a local meal at one of the local Surf Clubs overlooking the ocean.
After that, you’ll head to Newcastle – Australia’s second-largest regional center after the Gold Coast. Its rich mining history has been overtaken by its popularity as a coastal hotspot for Sydneysiders looking for a weekend getaway. Take in the beautiful beaches and coastal walkways before you hop back in the car.
Stop off in cosmopolitan Sydney to experience Australia’s most populated city. Visit the Opera House and perhaps even climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge for an adventure? A night or two in Sydney won’t disappoint with an almost unlimited amount of restaurants, bars, cultural activities and natural hotspots such as Bondi Beach.
Your last stop before reaching Thredbo is Canberra. The nation’s capital is the place to be to discover more about Australia’s history, whether of its war heroes, aboriginal culture, or political upheavals. You can even sit in on a Parliament meeting at Parliament House or take a guided tour.
The last stretch of driving from Canberra to Thredbo is exciting as you take in the natural surroundings of mountains and forests covered with crisp white snow.
Be sure to get a good night’s sleep so you can hit the slopes of Mt. Kosciuszko early!
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