New Zealand Great Walks
New Zealand has a dramatic selection of different landscapes, making it a hiker’s dream destination. Nine walks around the country have been given ‘Great Walk’ status, meaning they have amazing scenery, are easily accessible and enjoyable to take on.
A little bit of house keeping before you lace up your hiking boots.
New Zealand is a beautiful place but has unpredictable weather. Always check the forecast before you go, and pack for the worst. If the forecast comes in the way of your safety, there’s only one thing to do; post-pone the hike! On hikes over multiple days it’s a huge hazard to take a chance with the weather.
1. Tongariro Northern Circuit
The Tongariro Northern Circuit takes walkers roughly three to five days to complete, and spans just over 43 kilometres long. You’ll hike through a smorgasboard of landscapes; glacial valleys, beech forest, emerald lakes, active volcanic areas and alpine meadows. The landscape is constantly changing as well due to the volcanic activity. Something noteworthy here is that the weather can change in a heart beat so hikers need to take something for all seasons.
The Tongariro crossing is New Zealand’s best day walk, and goes over a section of the Northern Circuit. It’s good if your fitness isn’t quite there yet, or if you’re on a family holiday. The only downside is that because it’s such an attraction that during the peak of summer it can get very busy. The Northern Circuit is never quite as busy as the Crossing.
Check out holiday homes in the area for before and after accomodation, or check out our general guide to Ruapehu for other activities around the area. To learn more about the Tongariro Northern Circuit, click here.
2. Milford Track
The Milford Track takes roughly four days to complete and is 53.5 kilometres long. It’s a one-way track so it’s a good idea to organise transport at the other end before you go. You’ll pass through giant valleys, lush rain forests and past plummeting waterfalls. The Mackinnon Pass is the highest point on this track. On clear days you can see just how dramatic the glacier-carved landscape is, and on low-cloud days you’ll get the magical view in the picture.
3. Abel Tasman Coast Track
The Abel Tasman Coastal Track takes about three to five days to complete, with a total distance of 60 kilometres. It’s a one-way track through the Abel Tasman National Park that covers a range of different sceneries; beautiful beaches, lush forest and the crystal clear pools. You can either walk its entire length, or catch water taxis to different points in the track. For those tackling the entire track, you have the option of staying in the DOC campsite or cabins. Overall this is a challenging walk, but a beautiful and varied one as well.
P.S. it’s not uncommon to see a fur seal or two along the way, so remember to bring your camera!
4. Heaphy Track
The Heaphy Track weaves through the Kahurangi National Park, and is one of the longest Great Walks at 78.4 kilometres. During the four to six days it takes to complete (or two to three days if you go by bike), you’ll be taken through coastal, forest and tussock-lined tracks. You’ll pass by Gorge Creek along the way, which is a popular swim and picnic spot among hikers. Some birds you might see along the way include the native Weka, Kea, Kaka and the Blue Duck.
5. Kepler Track
The Kepler Track is a 60 kilometre loop track that takes three to four days to complete, and has two large hill climbs. You’ll start in tall beech forest terrain, then as you climb you’ll be surrounded in alpine plants, and finishing off with more beech forest at the end of the loop. A great stop along the way is at the Luxmore Caves; these are just a 10 minute walk from the Luxmore cabin (day 1) where you’ll climb steps down into an amazing cave. Make sure you bring some torches for this! Another point of interest along the way is the Iris Burn Falls, a great backdrop for a lunch stop.
To learn more about the Kepler Track, click here.
6. Whanganui Journey
The Whanganui Journey is more like a Great Drift than a Great Walk. It’s 88 or 147 kilometres long, and takes about three to five days to complete by Kayak, depending on which length you choose. You’ll drift down the Whanganui River that slices through the National Park, past a mix of scenic bush lands, gorges and exciting rapid sections along the way.
For more information about the Whanganui Journey, click here.
7. Routeburn Track
The Routeburn Track is 30 kilometres long, and takes roughly two to four days for hikers to complete. There are a couple of steep climbs along the way but you are rewarded with absolutely breathtaking views of the Hollyford Valley and Darren Mountains. You’ll also pass through lush meadows, alpine plant-life and along crystal clear waters.
Another option for day-hikers is to take the shorter track to the Key summit. Here you’ll be rewarded with 360 degree views of spectacular mountains, and can make it home for dinner!
8. Lake Waikaremoana
The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk is 46 kilometres long and takes three to four days to complete. It’s a one-way track that will take you up the Panekire Bluff, where you’ll get the fantastic view in the picture. You’ll also travel along hidden beaches and through native forests. At night keep an ear out for kiwi calls, they are known to frequent the area! A great detour to do along the way is to the Korokoro Falls, a stunning 22m high waterfall surrounded by mossy rocks and forest life.
For more information on the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk, click here.
9. Rakiura Track
The Rakiura Track is a 32 kilometre loop walk that takes three days to complete. It’s located on Stuart Island, and has plenty of native wildlife and plantlife (including kiwis). The terrains you’ll pass on this walk include beaches and forests with clear streams running through them. A bit of history is sprinkled throughout the track as well, with Maori settlement sites and an old sawmill site operated over a hundred years ago. This walk is relatively easy compared to the others, so it’s a good one for first-timers!
For more information on the Rakiura Track, click here.
Over to you…
Have you done any of the Great Walks? Let us know about your experience, or any other insider tips in the comments!