Top 5 New Zealand Great Walks & Treks
Boasting 13 national parks, New Zealand is a wonderland for intrepid hikers looking to enjoy a stroll with a view. Both islands are packed with trails that treat visitors to incredible vistas, but there are certain routes that cannot be missed. Discover these top five New Zealand great walks and treks on your holiday in New Zealand.
1. Milford Track
Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most popular tourist attraction. A stunning, serene landscape set in the mystical and magical Fiordlands, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of tranquil waters speared by imposing rock formations, the most famous of which is Mitre Peak. Milford Sound is best explored by boat, but it’s well worth discovering the beauty of the surrounding park on foot. The Milford Track is arguably New Zealand’s most famous trek. Stretching approximately 53 kilometres, this scenic route offers everything from thundering waterfalls to tracks covered by tree canopies, glacial valleys and rumbling rivers.
Many people choose to spread the trek over the course of several days. Although the terrain isn’t as challenging as many of the other hikes on offer in New Zealand’s national parks, it is a long way, and there are obstacles along the way. Visitors will encounter different types of terrain, the weather conditions can be difficult and unpredictable, and there are a few calf-busting up-hill ascents. Most commonly, hikers opt for a four day trip, which begins at Lake Te Anau.
There are several suitable stop-off points along the way, and the route takes visitors along a path that is scattered with dramatic geographical features including the Mackinnon Pass, Lake Mintaro, Clinton River, Pompolona Ice Field, Arthur Valley and Mount Balloon. The highlight for many is Sutherland Falls. Standing at over 1,900 feet, it is the highest waterfall in New Zealand. The track also boasts pristine clear lakes, rambling streams, mountain peaks and deep gorges. Visitors will also be required to cross a suspension bridge.
To conquer the famous Milford Track and make the most of this incredible tour, visitors are encouraged to pack layers and waterproof clothing, suitable, sturdy walking shoes, plenty of bottled water and snacks, and of course, a good camera. Another great way to enjoy Milford Sound is on a Milford Cruise.
2. Abel Tasman Coast Track
Located at the tip of the South Island, the Abel Tasman Coast Track offers an idyllic opportunity to explore Abel Tasman National Park and enjoy spectacular views of the wild, beautiful coastline.
The whole of the coastal hike is around 50 kilometres long. Some people choose to walk the entire way, while others combine trekking with boating or kayaking. Those who choose to walk usually take around three to five days to complete the course, stopping off to spend a few nights in the beautiful wilds on offer in the surrounding nature.
Most tours begin at Marahau, where there is a causeway that stretches to Tinline Bay. From here, visitors head to Torrent Bay via the forests that flank Apple Tree Bay. After that, the trail runs to Bark Bay, climbing to viewpoints overlooking a series of valleys and a suspension bridge that offers amazing views of forests and a stunning coastal inlet. The next point of interest is Tonga Quarry, which lies adjacent to Tonga Island. This tiny land mass is surrounded by a marine reserve bursting with sea creatures. It is a perfect spot to rest the legs and enjoy some snorkelling. The route then winds past Onetahuti Bay to Tonga Saddle and the Awaroa Inlet. After crossing the estuary at low tide, visitors make for Waiharakeke Bay and Whariwharangi Bay. The final stretch comprises a series of picturesque inlets.
Experienced hikers will enjoy the Abel Tasman coastal hike, but it’s accessible to anyone who wishes to take a walk in New Zealand and take advantage of breathtaking coastal views. The level of difficulty here is low-moderate, meaning it’s one of the more accessible routes travellers can take.
3. Tongariro Crossing
A highlight of many New Zealand North Island tours, the Tongariro Crossing is a challenging hike, which takes in some of the most dramatic scenery on the North Island. Covering 19.4 kilometres, this trek takes visitors on a unique voyage of discovery in the heart of the country’s famous volcanic landscapes.
Hiking in Tongariro National Park is not for the faint-hearted. Although the Tongariro Crossing route is shorter than many other well-known treks in New Zealand, it is still a difficult hike, which demands endurance, strength and stamina. Far from being a leisurely stroll, this is a trek that involves steep inclines, tricky terrain and environmental conditions that can change in an instant.
The crossing is not a circular path, and visitors can either choose to drive themselves to the start point and then arrange transport at the end or join an organised tour. These are widely available from Lake Taupo. The best time to hike is in the summer, as snow can fall right up until spring.
Despite the level of difficulty on the hike, the crossing takes in mesmerizingly beautiful scenery, from rocky plains that are reminiscent of some far away planet to active volcanoes that pierce the clear skies and tranquil glades. It’s worth noting that weather conditions can change very quickly and unexpectedly, and anyone who plans to hike the Tongariro Crossing is advised to listen and look out for advisory notices and instructions. Walkers should ensure they come with provisions for a sudden change in weather.
4. Kepler Track
Located around two hours from the bustling hub of Queenstown on South Island, the Kepler Track is a hike that offers visitors the chance to see the best of Fiordland and take in scintillating vistas of valleys carved by glaciers, powerful waterfalls, limestone cliffs and shrub-covered flats. Most of the route is easy to navigate thanks to boardwalks, bridges and steps.
The Kepler Track is 60 kilometres long or so and can usually be completed in around four days. There are plenty of places to stop off along the way, so visitors keen to document their journey on film or camera won’t be disappointed with the chance to stop and snap as they trek. The diversity of the geography makes for a fascinating trip too.
Unlike many hiking trails in New Zealand, the Kepler Track was custom-designed for travellers, natives and tourists who enjoy hiking. Opening in 1988, the track offers those keen to stretch their legs a snapshot of the beauty of the national park. In addition to awe-inspiring scenery, visitors can also enjoy unrivalled bird spotting opportunities here.
As the Kepler Track has been designed with the public in mind, it is an excellent option for those who aren’t seasoned hikers, as well as experienced walkers. Steep inclines have been fitted with steps and many of the streams and boggy areas have bridges that save getting toes wet.
Highlights along the Kepler Track include Brod Bay, the Te Anau Basin, Takitimu Mountains, Snowdon and Earl Mountains, Luxmore Cave, Lake Manapouri and Waiau River Terrace.
5. Lake Waikaremoana Track
Set amidst a backdrop of vivid green forests, Lake Waikaremoana is a magnificent base for a trek in the North Island. The area, which boasts the most expansive collection of native trees in the country, is known for its outstanding natural beauty. A true gem in the North Island’s crown, this brightly-coloured lake and surrounding misty valleys have an ethereal quality, which is palpable.
The track follows the shoreline of this vast lake, taking visitors on a tour of clouded valleys, verdant woodland and rippling rivers. The trail is undulating, and there are areas that will test the mettle, but there are plenty of stretches that offer a chance to rest the muscles, take in the views and enjoy the peace and quiet. Huts are located around the lake, so it’s easy to break up the journey and find a place to sleep.
The region of Te Urewara is home to the Maori tribe, the Ngai Tuhoe. The name translates as ‘Children of the Mist’ in English. Highlights of the Lake Waikaremoana Track include Panekire Bluff, the Waiopaoa Inlet, Te Totara Bay and Korokoro Falls.
New Zealand is a truly wondrous place to take a hike. Visitors with limited experience won’t struggle to find a suitable place to trek, and those who are eager to put their skills to the test will be spoilt for choice. There are organised tours available for many of the high-profile routes and walking with a guide is a great idea for those who are keen to learn more about the area, the history of the national parks and the relationship between the land and the people. The weather can be temperamental, and conditions can change very quickly, so it’s always wise to check the forecast and listen out for advice from rangers and guides.
Hiking trails in this spectacularly beautiful country offer glorious views and stunning scenery, like the Nature & Coast Walk. It’s the perfect place to take in the glory of nature and marvel at the amazing outdoors, but don’t forget to charge the phone and pack the camera for the snap of a lifetime, too! Hiking in New Zealand isn’t always easy but the vistas on offer after a steep uphill climb are always worth the effort!