When visiting Queenstown you’ll eventually have to dust off your hiking boots and hit a trail or two. The scenery, which mostly consists of jagged snow-capped peaks, glassy lakes and calm coves, kind of demands it. But what to do if you’re unfit, lazy or short on time? Luckily there are numerous short and easy hikes near Queenstown — I recently did four of them on a quick winter road trip.
Queenstown is cold in winter. That may sound like an obvious statement, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the freezing temperatures I encountered. Icy roads, fields covered in frost and frozen car windows all made an appearance as I inched my way from Cromwell to Queenstown.
I eventually made it to the Queenstown Hill trailhead (Belfast St, close to the centre of town) and started the climb. It certainly wasn’t easy (sorry for the false advertising in this article’s title) but it didn’t take long to reach the top. It’s a mirage though — to see the best views you need to keep walking up from what looks like the climax of the trail (there are seats and signs but no clear views).
It’s another 15 – 20 minutes to the summit from there. There are a couple of different tracks and I veered left down a narrow path. It turned out to be a great detour. I saw frozen lakes and a mountainous side of Queenstown that most people don’t see.
I eventually ended up at the top of the hill, with those iconic views of the Remarkables mountain range coming into focus. It has to be one of the best viewpoints in Queenstown and is worth the uphill effort.
The hike to Queenstown Hill took around two hours. It’s a fairly simple track and is popular with hikers, hung-over people (I met one on the way up) and everyone in between. I took a detour and got a little lost (which I’d recommend) but if you stick to the main track you shouldn’t have any trouble.
The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one of the most scenic in New Zealand. Bob’s Cove, roughly 14 km outside of Queenstown, is one of the best places to stop along the way. The undoubted highlight of hiking at Bob’s Cove is the incredible viewpoint overlooking Lake Wakatipu.
First you’ll pass by an idyllic beach (I can’t wait to visit it in summer), an historic lime kiln and a forest filled with chirping birds. You’ll soon come to a turnoff for a 15 minute loop track. This leads up a steep hill to the viewpoint, which is a pretty amazing spot on a sunny day. That view alone makes this one of the best short hikes near Queenstown, but there is heaps more to see.
I continued on to the 12 Mile Delta car park, which is about an hour past the main viewpoint. There were more awesome views to be found on the way but if you’re in a rush you could call it a day after seeing that trademark Bob’s Cove view. It took me just under three hours to hike from Bob’s Cove to 12 Mile Delta (return). It’ll only take an hour to hike to the main viewpoint and back, and it’s mostly flat (the last hill is quite steep though).
The turnoff to Moke Lake is also located along the road to Glenorchy. The tarmac soon gives way to gravel, at which point you’ll see a sign claiming the road is only suitable for 4WD in winter and spring. No one, including myself, heeded the warning.
The road was mostly fine (very frosty though) and I soon made it to the shores of Moke Lake. It was completely still, allowing the surrounding mountains to reflect in the chilly water. Hiking around Moke Lake is a simple task. It’s mostly flat and easy to follow, but make sure to wear decent shoes as it gets muddy in places. I did manage to take a wrong turn at one point, ending up on a little peninsula thing. The views from most parts of the track were stunning and you’ll likely get some space to enjoy them as this hike isn’t as popular as others in the area.
I did this hike in around an hour and a half but the sign said it takes two – three hours (I was in a rush).
I hiked around Lake Hayes on the same day as Moke Lake and Bob’s Cove, so I was wilting a little by that point. Thankfully it was the easiest of these four hikes near Queenstown — it’s very flat and the track is in great condition. You’ll see more locals jogging or walking their dogs than hiking, and most people only do a section of it. It’s worth walking right around though. On a calm day it’s like one massive mirror, reflecting mountains in every direction. It’s a really beautiful place, especially after recent snow.
It took me two hours to hike around Lake Hayes. If you don’t have that long but want to see the best views, head to the recreational ground, drive right to the end then walk a short distance around the lake.
There are lots of other easy hikes near Queenstown, but these are definitely some of the best. They won’t take up too much of your day and they’ll get you into the midst of some incredible scenery.
Are you keen to try one of these easy walks near Queenstown? Let me know in the comments below!
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