New Zealand’s stunning landscapes and unique landforms are a hiker’s paradise. Networks of trails wind past rugged coastlines, farmlands, river valleys and even around glaciers. The diversity of tracks across New Zealand’s national parks and reserves means there’s something for everyone, from Sunday strolls to overnighters to catch the first glimpse of the morning sun, welcome to New Zealand’s untouched wilderness.
The Hooker Valley Track is one of the most popular walking tracks within Aoraki National Park and leads through sacred areas within the Hooker Valley itself, consisting of swing bridges, stunning views and distant rumblings of avalanches from Mount Sefton. You can catch views of Glaciers, Lakes and Mountains as you weave your way along the valley floor. You may even be lucky enough to spot an avalanche before it crashes into the Mueller Glacier below, from a safe distance away. We recommend walking this track either dawn or dusk where you can be rewarded with absolute serenity of the first or final sun rays as they creep over the Southern Alps while sharing the track with only a handful of other walkers. One of the best parts of this walk is how easy it is to complete for people of all ages and reasonable fitness levels. The path is well maintained and easy to follow, so you can concentrate on the epic views which are all along the way!
BEST TIME: November to March
Fiordland National Park, South Island
Once described as ‘the finest walk in the world’, the Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s most popular walks. This track begins at the head of Lake Te Anau and finishes in Milford Sound. You will see pristine lakes, sky-scraping mountain peaks and enormous valley views. You will be able to taste the mist of the tallest waterfall in New Zealand, Sutherland Falls. On a sunny day, this track is picture-perfect yet if you do get rain while you’re there, some walkers describe it as truly experiencing mother nature at her finest with torrents of water cascading down the steep mountainsides, a magical sight to behold. As this walk is going to consist of overnight stays, we recommend heading over to the Department of Conservation to check out the public lodges and to book in. Keep in mind you won’t be able to camp along this track, after walking all day what better way to rest inside a lodge with a bed!
DIFFICULTY: Easy – Intermediate
BEST TIME: Late October to Late April
Lake Ohau Track
Waitaki, South Island
The Lake Ohau track runs along the Lake Ohau shoreline offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains, both in summer and winter. If you are into mountain biking this track is known for having a well-maintained track, ideal for mountain bikers of any age and is part of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. It is also a dog-friendly track, which adds to the uniqueness of this trail. Whether you’re into gentle walking or higher intensity hikes, Lake Ohau can accommodate for all levels. To get you started, we recommend heading down to the lake to wander the shore, skim stones into the Lake itself or even having a dip in its refreshing waters. Weather can change quite rapidly when you’re within the valley of the mountains so we encourage you to always check the forecast, plan ahead and pack for extreme temperatures, including plenty of water and sunblock!
DISTANCE:8 km one way
BEST TIME: Late October to late April
Roy’s Peak Track
Wanaka, South Island
Roys Peak is one of the most popular tracks and one you may have heard of before. Starting from lake level, you will climb your way up into the tussock tops, right to the 1578m summit. The sounds of grasshoppers will guide you as you weave your way upward through the well-formed track. You will see Lake Wanaka, its islands, bays and the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps which will make for spectacular views. If you love a good sunrise, you can get up early and start making your way up, in time to catch one of the most memorable sunrises at the top of Roy Peak Track. It will still be dark and quite cold if you decide to go on an early morning trek, you will need to be very prepared including warm gear (hats, gloves, layered clothing), plenty of water, sturdy footwear and torches. There are toilets at the beginning and the end of the track.
DISTANCE:16 km return
BEST TIME: 11th November – 30th September (In winter you will need alpine equipment)
Rob Roy Track
Mount Aspiring National Park, South Island
The Rob Roy Glacier Track leads you into a spectacular world of mountains, glaciers, river valleys and alpine lakes. Also known as Mount Aspiring National Park, follow Rob Roy Stream through beech forest, enjoying waterfalls and the luxuriant understorey of ferns and mosses. At the tree line, the forest gives way to alpine vegetation and unique views of the hanging glaciers beneath Mount Rob Roy. You will cross a few swing bridges along the way as well as countless flora and fauna. From a safe distance, you are able to listen for signs of avalanche movement while taking a picnic lunch at the viewing point. Watch out for the Kea (mountain parrots) as they are known to be very persistent when it comes to food! As much as you may want to share your lunch with them it is prohibited to feed the wildlife. As this is an alpine environment, weather conditions can change rapidly, so ensure you take appropriate clothing and check conditions prior to starting your trek.
BEST TIME: December – April
North Island Hikes
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Tongariro National Park, North Island
From November to May, trek across a volcanic, alpine landscape of dramatic contrasts. From June to October, snow and ice mean alpine skills and experience are essential. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is heralded as the best one-day trek in New Zealand and in the top ten single-day treks in the world. It is world heritage listed with people coming from all over the world to experience this unique environment. The trek commences in the Tongariro National Park which is rich in both cultural identity and dramatic, awe-inspiring natural scenery. The unique landforms including the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu ensure the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered a world-renowned trek. There are shuttle services that can take you back to your car as it is a one-way trek. Due to the alpine environment, extreme and sudden weather is to be expected and can be dangerous if you are not prepared. Always make sure you are prepared and do your research before starting the trek.
BEST TIME: November – May
Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve, North Island
Easily one of New Zealand’s hidden gems, every traveller to New Zealand should aim to do this track at least once! Located upriver from the Thames in the stunning Kauaeranga Valley, this track is an overnighter with an 80 bed DoC hut which will need to be booked in advance. If you begin the trek at an early time and are of a higher fitness level this trek can be completed in a day. You will walk through the historic foothills of the valley as you continue to incline toward the summit. Crossing streams via swing bridges, you will be winding your way through groves of Nikau palms and huge rata trees. You should allow at least 8 hours to complete the hike. For those who decide to stay overnight, an early rise the next day will see you clambering carefully up the peak of the Pinnacles to see some of the first rays of sun hitting the Pacific Ocean and offshore islands of the Coromandel. You will be rewarded with 360-degree panoramic views of both coasts of the Coromandel, the Bay of Plenty, Hauraki Gulf and Plains.
DISTANCE:8-hour loop track
BEST TIME: All year round
Blue Lake Track
Rotorua, North Island
The Blue Lake Track begins at the north-east end of the Lake. The track consists of walking along the shore, following the roadside and steering off into the bush where you will come to a secluded beach at the south end. The track will slowly descend into native bush at lake level and you can exit at the north-eastern side of the beach. There are spots along the track where you can have a picnic lunch, a quick dip in the freshwater Lake or just relax in the grass fields. This track is an easy walk with also being long enough to be slightly more than a stroll in the park. It is one of the most popular walking tracks in Rotorua and on a good day, the views around the Lake will be incredible. You won’t need to prepare too much for this walk; good footwear, a water bottle, and a sun hat should be worn.
DISTANCE:5.5 km loop track
BEST TIME: All year round
Mount Taranaki Summit Track
Taranaki, North Island
The Mount Taranaki Summit Track is the ultimate trekking experience. This challenging journey should only be attempted by those of a higher fitness level and experience. Standing at 2518m high, this track can become dangerous very quickly and it is advised to only attempt this track in good weather conditions. This adventure will take you anywhere between 8-10 hours and the views from the summit will be absolutely worth the hike as you will be rewarded with an overwhelming sense of achievement and the feeling of being on top of the world. There are multiple huts along the way for you to rest and gather your energy before continuing on. When you near the top you will need to climb your way over rocks, once you reach the summit crater you know you are nearly there as snow sits in the crater all year round, take extra care as it can be slippery.
DISTANCE:12.6 km return
BEST TIME: December to April
Rangitoto Summit Track
Auckland, North Island
Just off the shore of Auckland City is Rangitoto Island, an icon that dominates the Hauraki Gulf with its conical peak. A short ferry ride from downtown Auckland will take you to the dormant volcano island. This is a popular track that begins at the Rangitoto Wharf and climbs through lava fields and the world’s largest pohutukawa forest, right up to the island’s peak at 259m above sea level. Experience panoramic views from the summit of Auckland City and the surrounding Hauraki Gulf islands. On your way back from the summit take a detour to discover the volcanoes fascinating lava caves (you will need a torch!) The regular ferries to and from the Island mean you can stay for a longer time or a shorter time. There is no access to drinking water on the island so you will need to bring your own supply as well as sturdy shoes.
BEST TIME: All year round
Whether you tackle the Tongariro Crossing, walk through the hooker Valley and steal a glimpse of the tallest mountain in New Zealand, or set an early morning alarm to catch sunrise up Roys Peak, the trails in New Zealand are like no other. Well-established and well-maintained trails offer a remarkably diverse array of hikes for every ability and interest.
These are only a few of the endless trails in New Zealand, we have chosen our top favourite and most popular ones to make it easy for your next adventure.
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.