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Stretch your legs: The South Island’s best hikes

Stunning fiords and mountains straight out of Middle Earth – here are some of the top places to visit on your hiking holiday on the South Island.

Mount Sunday, New Zealand

We've already discussed the best walks on the North Island, so now it's time to turn our attention southwards.

With emerald fiords and majestic mountains straight out of Middle Earth, the South Island is a whole different world to the North. Just as stunning and with no less variety in terms of length, landscape and difficulty, it's a hiker's dreamland.

Here are three quality hikes to include when planning your next South Island hiking adventure.

Mount Sunday Hike

This short hike of moderate difficulty is one for the Lord of the Rings fans. Mount Sunday, roughly an hour from Christchurch down the gravelly Hakatere Potts Road, is the location used as Edoras in the famous trilogy.

The track around Mount Sunday is only two kilometres long and can be completed in a very leisurely two hours. The views from the summit across the Canterbury plains are jaw-dropping. You'll see the Rangitata River wind its way across the landscape too.

There are various longer and more challenging tracks in the surrounding Rangitata Valley for more serious hikers to get their teeth into.

Charming Creek Walkway

35 kilometres northeast of Westport on the outer reaches of the west coast, near the town​ of Ngakawau​, is the Charming Creek Walkway - the site of an old abandoned mine.

This 10.5-kilometre route takes on average six hours to complete and passes beautiful river flats, spectacular gorge views and interesting flora and fauna. Its many curious features make it a great track for families.

Franz Josef, New Zealand

Franz Josef Glacier / Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere Walk

One of the South Island's most iconic landmarks, the Franz Josef Glacier is a must on any hiking holiday. The glacier itself is only suitable for experienced hikers, but anyone can visit and observe it via this walk. It only takes in or around 90 minutes return and can be reached from the Franz Josef Waiau township.

Some of the track is composed of rough shingle, so good footwear is essential.