Must Do Walks and Hikes in New Zealand - The Walking Capital of the World

Updated on Jan 25, 2024 | New Zealand eTA

New Zealand is truly a paradise for hiking and walking, the 10 Great Walks truly help represent the landscape and rich diverse natural habitat of the country. The walks cover about one/third of the total area of New Zealand, which itself sums up why the nation is seen as the walking capital of the world. The walks are the best way to experience their culture, native environment, and the flora and fauna. It is the ideal and most relaxing escape from city life.

The walks are managed extensively and carefully managed by the Department of Conservation, the walks can be taken on guided or unguided but require prior booking as they are quite popular and not many people are allowed to take them at one time. Tramping even one walk gives you a strong sense of serenity, achievement and is the best way to explore the backcountry in New Zealand.

Be sure to research all aspects of the track before you head out, from the weather, food, accommodation, and clothing, and for information on the walks you could download the Great Hikes App for android users and NZ Great Hikes for iOS users.

Lake Waikaremoana

46 km one way, 3-5 days, Intermediate track

Accommodation –   Stay at the five paid backcountry huts or numerous campsites on the way.

This track follows the Lake Waikaremoana which is nicknamed the ‘sea of rippling waters’ which is located on the east coast of the northern island. On the way, you will encounter some beautiful and isolated beaches and the Korokoro falls which make the track highly worthy. The high suspension bridges you cross while on the track will ensure a highly thrilling experience. The region is protected closely by the Tuhoe people that will ensure you catch a glimpse of native and pre-historic Rainforest before European settlers coming to the country. The sunsets viewed from the Panekire bluff and the magical ‘goblin forest’ make this walk a highly enriching experience. Apart from the steep climb to the Panekire bluff the rest of the walk is leisurely.

This is not a circuit track so you will have to make your transport arrangements to the beginning of the track and from the end of the walk. It is a 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Gisborne and 40 minutes drive from Wairoa.

Tongariro Northern Circuit

43 km (loop), 3-4 days, Intermediate track

Accommodation – Stay at the number of paid backcountry huts/campsites on the way.

The walk is a loop track that begins and ends at the foot of Mount Ruapehu. The core of the hike takes you through the volcanic area of the world heritage Tongariro National Park, throughout the trail you get spectacular views of the two mountains Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. The diversity of the natural environment makes a huge impact on the hikers taking on this track, from the red soils, hot springs, volcanic peaks to glacial valleys, turquoise lakes, and alpine meadows. The walk should be on the bucket list for Lord of the Rings fans as the famous Mt Doom can be witnessed on this hike. The best time to go on this walk is from late October to late April due to the altitude of the climb and the climatic conditions of the region.

For a short experience of the hike, you can go on New Zealand’s ‘best day walk’ across the Tongariro crossing which is around 19kms.

The location is a 40 minutes drive from Turangi and 1 hour 20 minutes drive from Taupo.

Whanganui Journey

Entire trip 145 km, 4-5 days, Paddling

Accommodation – There are two overnight huts – one of which is Tieke Kainga (also a marae) and campsites

Whanganui River New Zealand

This journey is not a walk, it is a quest one takes on to conquer the river Whanganui on a canoe or a kayak. There are two options available, the entire journey of 145km or a shorter 3 day trip from Whakahoro to Pipiriki. The journey offers an adrenaline high adventure experience as you paddle through rapids, waterfalls, and shallow waters. The best break you can take on the way is while exploring the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ which is an abandoned bridge.

It is an unconventional Great walk, but a worthy experience if you enjoy being in the water and want to navigate your way through a river.  The best time to go on this ultimate canoe journey is from early November to April.

The starting point Taumarunui is a 2-hour journey from Whanganui and is walkable from Ruapehu.

Abel Tasman Coast Track

60 km, 3-5 days, Intermediate track

Accommodation – Stay at the number paid backcountry huts/campsites on the way. There is also the option of staying in a lodge.

Abel Tasman Coastline New Zealand

The Abel Tasman Park is home to this beautiful track, at the heart of the trek are the beautiful white sand beaches, the crystal clear bays with the backdrop of cliffs. The sunniest place of New Zealand offers the only coast side-walk in New Zealand. The most impressive part of the track is the 47-meter long suspension bridge which takes you to the Falls River. On the way,you could also Kayak or take a water taxi to experience and revel in the coastal scenery. You could also go on a day walk to get a short experience of this track.

As the difficulty level is low for this walk, it is recommended to take on as a family adventure and the track offers some best campsites on the beaches.

The park is a 40 minutes drive from Nelson. The best part about this track is that it is an all-season route and there are no seasonal restrictions.

Heaphy track

Around 78km, 4-6 days, Intermediate track

Accommodation – Stay at the seven paid backcountry huts/ nine campsites on the way

This walk is located in a remote region in the northwestern region of the South Islands in the Kahurangi National Park. The track offers you a beautiful view of the Heaphy river while you make your way through wetlands, mountains, and the west coast. The track is accessible year-round but the climb is a bit tricky during winter-months. This walk is for the nature lovers as the plethora of wildlife and fauna you come across here is unmatchable, ranging from the palm forests, lush green moss, and bushes to the great spotted kiwi bird, carnivorous snails, and takahe. 

This place is also great for cycling enthusiasts as the cycling track offers a great adventure through the forests and climbing the mountain peaks.

The park is a 1 hour 10 minutes drive from Westport and 1-hour drive from Takaka.

Paparoa track

Around 55km, 2-3 days, Intermediate track

Accommodation- Stay at the three paid backcountry huts, camping is prohibited within 500m of the track and there are no campsites.

 It is located in the Fiordland National Park in the Southern region of the Island. This is a new track which was open to hikers and mountain bikers only at the end of 2019, it was created as a memorial to the 29 men who died in the Pike River Mine. On the way, while climbing the Paparoa range you will be lead to the former site of the mine. The park and the track allow you to explore the landscapes similar to the limestone like Jurassic park, woodlands and ancient rainforests, and the breathtaking views from the Paparoa ranges.

The park is an 8 hours drive from Queenstown and a 10 hours drive from Te Anau. The best time to take on this walk is from late October to late April.

Routeburn track

32km one way, 2-4 days, Intermediate track

Accommodation – Stay at the four paid backcountry huts/ two campsites

It is located in the beautiful Otago and Fiordland region and it opted by many as the path to enter the Fiordland National Park while hiking through the Mount. Aspiring National Park. This route is for those who want to have the experience of being on top of the world as the track involves climbing alpine paths with the best mountain views. The track is as splendid from both the directions, as from one direction the remarkable Routeburn river leads the way for your walk to reach the alpine meadows and the other direction where you climb up to the Key Summit in Fiordland offers spectacular panoramic views of Fiordland. Throughout the route, the glacier valleys and majestic lakes (Harris) that adorn the track will keep you awe-inspired of the beauty of the path.

The best time to take this walk is from early November to late April and it is a 45 minutes drive from Queenstown and one hour drive from Te Anau.

Milford track

53.5km one way, 4 days, Intermediate track

Accommodation – Stay at the three public lodges run by the DOC (Department of Conservation) and the three private lodges as there are no campsites and it is prohibited to camp within 500m of the track.

It is considered one of the finest walks to go on in the world in nature amidst the alpine and fiord scenery. The walking track has been around for almost 150 years and is the most popular hike in New Zealand. While taking on the track you see the marvelous spectacle of mountains, forests, valleys, and glaciers which finally lead to the picturesque Milford Sound. The track covers various waterfalls including the tallest waterfall in New Zealand. You begin the trek after crossing the Lake Te Anau on a boat, walk on suspension bridges, and a mountain pass until finally culminating at the Sandfly point of Milford sound.

Fair warning, climbing the Mackinnon Pass is not for the faint-hearted, it can be quite challenging and requires a good amount of fitness.

As the trek is quite popular, you must make an advanced booking to not miss out on the opportunity at the last minute.  As climatic conditions restrict one from taking the trek at all times, the best time to visit is late October to late April.

It is a 2 hour 20 minutes drive from Queenstown to get there and only a 20 minutes drive from Te Anau.

Kepler track

60km (loop track), 3-4 days, Intermediate

Accommodation - Stay at the three paid backcountry huts/ two campsites

Kepler Track New Zealand

The trek is a loop between the Kepler mountains and you can also see the lakes Manapouri and Te Anau on this trek. The terrain in this track moves from lakeshores to mountaintops. The glowworm caves near the Luxmore Hut and the Iris Burn Falls are popular sites visited by tourists. This hike also gives you great views of the glacier valleys and the wetland of Fiordland. The track was custom-made to ensure that those taking the walk can make the most of this walk from seeing the tussock high country to the beech forest and witnessing the bird-life.

This track is also restricted by climatic conditions and hence the best time to visit is from late October to late April. It is a two hour drive to get here from Queenstown and a five-minute drive from Te Anau.

Raikura track

32km (loop track), 3 days, Intermediate

Accommodation - Stay at the two paid backcountry huts/three campsites.

This track is not either of the Islands. It is on the Stewart Islands located just off the coast of the Southern Islands. The Islands are home to a myriad of birds and the best place to go bird-watching. As the Islands are isolated, nature is in charge and the surroundings remain untouched by human beings. You can walk along the golden-sand beaches and through the dense forests in the hike. The walk is possible to take on throughout the year.

If you are looking to set out, live in nature, and experience the wholesome and varied diversity that our planet has to offer. Every single walk on this blog should be on your bucket list and you should take to tackling all of them!

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