No trip in New Zealand is complete without squeezing in a hike or two in your itinerary. The country’s islands are practically bursting with must-see trails that you, or your hiking boots, wouldn’t want to miss. With thousands of trekking sites to go to, it’s hard to choose which one to visit. So, I’ve rounded up a few hiking trails in New Zealand to tickle your senses. I’m quite sure being in one of these iconic tramps will leave you giddy to see more.
Volcanic Terrain of Tongariro Alpine Crossing
If you’re in the North Island, make sure to allocate a few hours of your trip for one of the world’s best day hikes at Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This trail is at New Zealand’s oldest national park, which also happens to be a world heritage site. It’s home to three volcanoes, Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe (or the epic Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings), giving you unforgettable views of steaming vents and volcanic landscapes.
What makes it one of the beautiful hiking trails in New Zealand is the contrasting combination of barren lava fields with stunning lakes and rainforests. Going here is like being in different places at one time. The hike starts at Mangatepopo Road, passing through South and Red Craters, where you’ll see Emerald Lakes, aptly named for its brilliant colour caused by volcanic minerals. Next stop will be the Blue Lake at the Central Crater. Near the end of your hike at Ketatahi Hut, you’ll be rewarded with the serene view of Lake Rotoaira.
- Distance: 19.4km
- Length: 6 to 8 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Best time: Summer months
- Tip: Plan your trip for the shuttle transport. This thru-hike can be tough, so it’s best to go in groups or with a guide.
Golden Beaches of the Abel Tasman Coast Track
What could be better than going on a hike and being at the beach at the same time? And if you plan to stay in South Island, make sure to go tramping at the Abel Tasman Coast Track for its 30-mile-long sandy beach coupled with clear waters, granite cliffs and wildlife. One of the highlights of this trip is camping on the beach and waking up to amazing views. Some of the campsites to try here are Apple Tree Bay, Onetahuti Bay and Mosquito Bay.
Your trip starts in Marahau, a coastal town, where you get to walk past beautiful forests surrounded by nikau palm and New Zealand flax. You can spend the day on a kayaking trip, rather than going on foot, to hike your way from one beach to the next. Kayaking around Adele Island is perfect for bird spotting and watching seals and penguins swim.
- Distance: 60km
- Length: 3 to 5 days
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Best time: November, March and April
- Tip: Some estuaries are only accessible during low tide, so make sure to check the tide timetable.
Alpine Vista of the Kepler Track
Reaching any summit is bound for an epic experience and breath-taking views. So, if you’ve packed enough stamina with you plus have legs made for a mountain adventure, the Kepler Track in Fiordland National Park, one of the famed hiking trails in New Zealand, is the place to be. Hikers often describe this track as the adventure above the clouds. And they couldn’t be more accurate, especially once you get to Luxmore Saddle, where you’ll be 1400m above sea level. Here, you’ll see lush beech forests while standing on the alpine ridgeline.
Your adventure starts at Lake Te Anau. Be warned that this hike is for advanced hikers, and there will be steep and zigzag trails ahead. There are camping and hut stays along the way though. However, make sure to consult the hut warden and check weather forecasts before continuing as it may take hours before reaching your next shelter.
- Distance: 60km
- Length: 3 to 4 days
- Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
- Best time: Late October to April (Great Walk season)
- Tip: You’re likely to experience all sorts of weather elements while on track, from strong winds to heavy rains to snow, so make sure to wear enough layers and have waterproof gear with you.
Native Forests of the Rakiura Track
The North or South Island is often the centre of hiking in New Zealand. However, Stewart Island is also a hidden gem of some of the most scenic trails in the country. One of which is the Rakiura Track, which in Maori translates to the land of the glowing skies. This trail is indeed glowing with lush forests and amazing wildlife. Rather than steep mountain trails, Rakiura boasts diverse vegetation, rimu and kamahi forests, tree ferns and orchids. Its beautiful sandy beaches are perfect for hiking while watching a flock of kiwis, which are abundant on this remote island. The Paterson Inlet is also excellent for spotting wading birds like herons, godwits, New Zealand dotterel and oystercatchers.
Maori Beach, one of the track’s main features, was once a settlement for a school and a sawmill company in 1920. A rusty steam boiler off-track serves as a historical relic of these times. Next to the beach is the Port William Hut, where you’ll pass through old tramlines and beautiful podocarp forests. Fern Gully’s gentle terrain marks the end of the hike. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder this track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
- Distance: 32km
- Length: 3 days
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Best time: Summer
- Tip: The trail can get muddy when it rains. A bug repellent may also come in handy for protection against sand flies.
Diverse Landscapes of the Te Araroa Trail
If you plan to spend four months with nature, make sure to include Te Araroa in your dream vacation. This track became available to hikers in December 2011, making it the youngest of the world’s longest trails to date. This tip-to-tip adventure runs from Cape Reinga of the North Island to the Bluff of the South Island. Experienced hikers and daredevils are in for a monster hike with this one, particularly when they reach the gruelling 90 Mile Beach. On top of the 24km daily trek target, the constantly changing weather is also a challenge.
Despite the difficulties, adventure seekers can witness almost everything Mother Nature has to offer on this hike, from alpine lakes, snow-capped peaks, volcanoes, subtropical forests, dunes, glacial river valleys and grasslands. You’ll be taking home memories of amazing coastlines, cities and farmlands. This one-of-a-kind trip also features birdlife endemic to New Zealand, including kea, kiwi and tui. It’s one of the best hiking trails in New Zealand that lets you experience it all. Make sure to prepare and pick the perfect time to start your journey.
- Distance: 3000km
- Length: 4 months
- Difficulty: Very Difficult
- Best time: Spring is the ideal time to leave for Cape Reinga. This way, you’ll have enough time to pass the Southern Alps before winter.
- Tip: If four months is too long, short hikes are also available. Also, remember to hike at your own pace and enjoy this extraordinary trail!
Ready for more adventure? Add these best hiking trails in Australia to your plans!