Great Walks of New Zealand
New Zealand is a country that is most well known for its stunning scenery, so it’s no surprise that one of the most-loved activities by travelers is simply to walk among its natural beauty. The walks detailed here take from as little as two days, to a maximum of five days, to complete.
The Paparoa Track (Distance: 45km, 2-3 days)
Located in the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the Paparoa track features a Karst limestone landscape, and is made of ancient alpine rain forest. There is plenty of signage to help you along the way, and ranges from a steady uphill gradient to a majority of downhill pathway towards the Pororari River. For a faster option, it’s also possible to use mountain bikes. A longer, alternate route takes you to Pike Valley, to the memorial centre, dedicated to the twenty-nine men that died in the Pike River Mine disaster.
The Rakiura Track (Distance: 32km. 3 days)
Located on Stewart Island, the Rakiura track is considered the best way to see the island, with the national park making up 80% of it. You will find yourself walking amongst golden sand beaches, as well as its forestry. Filled by the ‘morepork’ calls of owls, and the screech of the odd kiwi bird, the forest acts as a sanctuary for native birds. Most of the track is board-walked, but you might find yourself straying towards the wonderfully wild beaches, with Maori Beach once being the site of a Maori village and a sawmill.
The Routeburn Track (Distance: 32km. 2-4 days)
For great views of the glacier carved valleys and expansive lakes, the Routeburn track in Fiordland National Park is dominated by the alpine environment of the Southern Alps. It is another destination which welcomes birdlife, with plenty of robins, fantails, and bellbirds, and the world’s only alpine parrot, Kea. It is not a loop track, so you will be walking from one side to the other.
The Milford Track (Distance: 53.5km. 4 days)
The Milford track is easily New Zealand’s most famous walk, having been in use by seasoned hikers for over 150 years, and was dubbed ‘the finest walk in the world’ by poet Blanche Baughan. From Lake Te Anau, you will be lead across suspension bridges, board walks and a mountain pass. Key views include its lakes, high mountain peaks, large valleys, and waterfalls. Sutherland Falls feature here – the tallest waterfall in the whole of New Zealand at 540m high.
The Kepler Track (Distance: 60km. 3-4 days)
The third hike here in Fiordland National Park, the Kepler track offers all you could desire from your walk, with mountains, native forest waterfalls, and valleys. Although less wild and natural than other locations, the track was carefully planned before opening in 1988 to specifically showcase all the best features of the park. For this reason, it is relatively easy to walk, with bridged streams, boardwalks over boggy land, and steps made in steep areas.
The Heaphy Track (Distance: 78.4km. 4-6 days)
The Heaphy track has the best of both, with the contrast of its rainforests, sub-alpine tussock grasslands, and high mountains ranges. At the end of the lowland forest you’ll be rewarded with palm-lined beaches, perfect for surfing the west coast. It’s also home to many great spotted kiwi birds, and set in the Kahurangi National Park, it contains the largest cave system in the whole of New Zealand.
The Abel Tasman Coast Track (Distance: 60km. 3-5 days)
For true adventurers, the Abel Tasman Coast track, at the top of the South Island, has the option to travel across water either by kayaking or taking a water taxi. It’s known as a fun-filled trek through golden sand beaches and native bush, but there are a few climbs to coastal cliffs throughout.
The Whanganui River and Bridge to Nowhere (Distance: 145km. 3-5 days)
For those that are at one with water, the Whanganui Journey is completed by either canoe or kayak, rather than on foot. To explore the park on foot (or on bike) there’s the option to take the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, which is also part of the river trip. These trips are a reminder that life is about the journey, not the destination, as you will marvel at the sights that surround you. The abandoned bridge was in use for only six years until 1942, and now stands deep in the forest, isolated from any signs of civilisation, spanning a deep ravine.
The Tongariro Northern Circuit (Distance: 43km. 3-4 days)
Although covering a few days, the Tongariro Nothern Circuit also contains the Tongariro Crossing, which is one of the most popular day walks in New Zealand. This features the view of the Emerald Lakes that form in craters of volcanos. The circuit goes around Mount Ngauruhoe, and as this is New Zealand’s most active volcano, you’ll also witness lava flows and explosion pits.
Lake Waikaremoana (Distance: 46km. 4-5 days)
Located in the Te Ureweras, this walk is a moderate one that takes you along the shoreline of Lake Waikaremoana, through rainforest, wetlands, waterfalls, and quiet beaches. This track features the largest area of native forest in the whole of the North Island, part of which has become known as a magical ‘goblin forest’, with its misty moss-covered bending trees, it is straight out of a fairy-tale.
Through walking some of New Zealand’s great stomping grounds, you’ll discover the magic of the natural world. Whether you stay in a five-star lodge, or camp in the wilderness, the walking you do each day will rejuvenate your soul.