Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Zealand's Short but Sweet Walks

The long-distance Milford Track is hardly the only scenic hiking trail in New Zealand, but it's the one on every visitor's mind. There are dozens of other shorter hikes -- some quite secluded with few visitors, perhaps because they believe it requires several days of trekking to see New Zealand's natural beauty. Some trails only take five minutes, others are several hours, where you'll have the opportunity to see glowworms, glaciers, thundering waterfalls and rare penguins. These are some of my favorites:

• On the Minnehaha walk, you'll pass through a cool, lush rainforest almost adjacent to a fast-flowing glacier. Moss drapes kamahi trees and giant ferns abound as you prowl around at night with glowworms lighting your way.

• Stroll the Lake Matheson walk for ever-present views of the snowy peaks of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman. (They're visible on the mirror-like surface of the lake.)

• Less than an hour walk down an old mining trail takes you to Monro Beach where you can spy rare Fiordland Crested Penguins nesting.

• Off the road to Haast, a two-minute walk through a silver beech forest takes you to Thunder Creek Falls that gracefully tumbles some 90 feet into the Haast River. This is hardly an undiscovered locale but it's worth visiting because of the intimacy you'll have with this waterfall in this rocky gorge.

• Queenstown alone has half a dozen short, often superbly scenic, walks, including the 1,600-foot-climb through Douglas fir, mountain ash and sycamore to the summit of Queenstown Hill with 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding dramatic peaks.

• A 20-minute walk in Paparoa National Park on the ever popular Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes trail will take you on one of the most beautiful short walks in New Zealand. One moment, you're on the blacktop road, the next you are enveloped in the coastal rainforest with giant rata and kahikatea trees; the trail ends on the rocky coast where you'll find curious limestone rock formations and the sea surges that produce some even more curious sound effects, with one sounding like a train rushing through a New York City subway tunnel. (It's best to visit during high tide and when the sea is rough to get the full effect.)


• The longest of this lot is the two-hour jaunt on the Whakapapanui trail where you'll cross a golden river bed and have views of the active volcano, Mt. Ngauruhoe, that was Mt. Doom in my favorite movie of all time, Lord of the Rings.

13 comments:

About the book said...

Sounds and looks lovely. Those photographs are spectacular.

JTravel said...

Hi "about the book," New Zealand is a very spectacular place. And, though the long walks are amazing, it's nice to know that you can enjoy some jaw-dropping scenery that's right off the road.

Ruth said...

What incredible photos. They make me want to go back to New Zealand and explore even more.

Lisa said...

I'm bookmarking this: We're hoping to visit New Zealand soon,and these walks sound wonderful. Thanks!

Vera Marie Badertscher said...

Ahh, lovely New Zealand. My favorite short walk was a dawn stroll (and I'm generally allergic to dawn) to Mirror Lake on the South Island. Through jungle paths to a still lake perfectly mirroring the trees around. Do I have the name right? Or was it called something else? At any rate, it was idyllic, as so much of the country is. Thanks for the reminder.

JTravel said...

Hi Ruth, There's so much to explore in New Zealand. I spent weeks there and didn't feel like I even touched the surface.

JTravel said...

Hi Lisa, Hope your upcoming trip is a good one. And glad my tips might help you with your travel plans. Enjoy.

JTravel said...

Hi Vera, Yes, I know of Lake Matheson referred to as Mirror Lake because of it's amazing reflections of the surrounding peaks. Gorgeous.

Lara Dunston said...

Great tips! Love to walk! Sadly, had to knock back a trip to New Zealand this week - too busy - but will keep these in mind for when I eventually get there.

BTW, thanks for your message - finally got around the updating my blogroll and adding you today.

Lara Dunston said...

Oh, but I've just realised you don't have a blogroll yourself...? Are you adding one?

Lara Dunston said...

Hey, just thought I'd let you know that your blogroll didn't show up for me in Safari, but I see it in Firefox.

Having said that, it may not be your problem - the internet is appalling here in Australia - can't wait to get back to the northern hemisphere - so I'm finding lots of little glitches like that here that I don't experience elsewhere.

JTravel said...

Hey Lara, Glad these walks I've described can provide some cool ideas for your next NZ trip. Hope u have fun when you get there -- I'm sure u will. And thanks for letting me know about the blogroll. I checked it today and all seems fine. But u never know with browsers.

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