As you head towards Kingston, be sure to pull over at the Devil’s Staircase Lookout Point and soak up the stunning lake and snow-capped mountain peaks stretching into the distance... While this view’s an easy win, it’s just the beginning, because these Kingston walks are (mostly) big on effort, and big on spectacular scenic rewards.

Lower Wye Creek Track

  • Distance/duration: 6.66km / 4 hours return
  • Difficulty: Advanced. This is a steep track only suitable in summer.
  • Getting there: 20-minutes’ drive from Queenstown on State Highway 6. Park at Wye Creek.

On your way to Kingston, stop off on the left-hand side of Drift Bay Road for this challenging short walk. The Lower Wye Creek Track track starts by following the pipeline to a hydro dam, about a 45-minute climb with excellent views back over the lake. You may meet rock climbers heading up to tackle the rocky bluffs around the creek.

Stay on the same side of the creek and climb up through the native beech forest to the bush line and the Lower Wye Creek basin. This is the end of the Lower Wye Creek Track, but experienced trampers can continue 6-8 hours to Lake Alta on an unmarked trail through challenging alpine terrain.

The track takes 4hrs return (on the same route) so bring snacks and water. The higher portion of the track is exposed, so make sure to wear appropriate layers.

Women at viewpoint overlooking Lake Whakatipu at Wye CreekLower Wye Creek track lookout. Image: @sundaystorms

Te Kere Haka Track

  • Distance / duration: 3.7km / 1 hour return
  • Difficulty: Easy. Some stream crossings.
  • Getting there: Starts at the Te Kere Haka reserve carpark in Kingston.

The Te Kere Haka Track follows the lake shore for an easy stroll through bush and woodland to a small waterfall. The track has views of the lake and the Hector Mountains. It’s popular with Kingston locals, and if you’re feeling brave (or hot) you can scramble down to one of the little beaches for a dip in the icy waters of Lake Whakatipu. Can be muddy in wet weather. Find out more about the Te Kere Haka Track.

Shirt Tail Track

  • Distance/duration: 1.6km / 1-1.5 hours return
  • Difficulty: Advanced. Steep and rough with no marking after the waterfall.
  • Getting there: Starts at the Te Kere Haka reserve carpark in Kingston.

The Shirt Tail Track is a short but steep tramp that follows the Shirt Tail Stream. You zigzag up through red beech forest to a waterfall, and then above the bush line for spectacular views over the lake, the old railway line, Kingston, and the surrounding mountains.

Beyond the waterfall, the track is rough and unmarked, more of a scramble than a walk therefore hiking boots and a moderate fitness level are required. In damp weather, this section can be slippery and treacherous. Walking poles are a great idea for the descent as it can be tough on your knees, but the views are well worth the effort. Find out more about the Shirt Tail Track.

View over Kingston from the Shirt Tail TrackShirt Tail Track, Kingston. Credit: @lee_johnson1983

Eyre Mountains / Taka Ra Haka Conservation Park

  • Distance/duration: A range of walks from 1.5 hours to a multi-day tramp.
  • Difficulty: Advanced. For expert trampers only.
  • Getting there: The park can be accessed from a number of points along SH6 between Kingston and Five Rivers.

Experience remote backcountry tramping over conservation land in glacier country. Above the treeline you’ll find tussock, scree slopes, alpine tarns and bogs. There are also extensive beech forests. You may see the only known population of piwauwau or rock wren outside the Southern Alps. There are also karearea, kea, kereru, and kakariki.

If you’re up for more than just a day walk, you can hike in and stay in historic huts or set up camp in this remote and scenic landscape. Visit the historic Dog Box Hut, the smallest hut in New Zealand, a tiny bivvy built for horseback sheep musters barely bigger than a dog kennel.

The Eyre Mountain walks around Kingston are for experienced trampers and hikers only. The terrain is remote and demanding and weather can change dramatically without warning. If you’re planning to explore the outdoors, tell people where you’re going and make sure you know the five simple rules of the New Zealand Safety Land Code before you go. Find out more about the Eyre Mountains here.