New Zealand is a diverse landscape waiting to be explored. From volcanoes and rainforests to native bush and glaciers, the great outdoors is simply that, great! It is hard to imagine so many dramatic landscapes in such a small island nation, but tramping even one of these great walks will give you a real sense of achievement and tranquillity - taking you back to being one with nature.
With thousands of kilometres of hiking trails out there to discover, it can be hard to know where to start. We've compiled a list of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks that will take you through the country's most stunning and breathtaking places, for you to tick off your list while you're travelling throughout New Zealand.
1. Tongariro Northern Circuit
The Centre of the North Island is a Volcanic Plateau, made up of three active peaks; Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe (A.K.A Mt Doom in The Lord of the Rings), as well as one dormant volcano; Lake Taupo.
The Tongariro Northern Circuit is a 4 day, 41km circuit, best undertaken in the summer months. Day One includes one of the most popular day walks in New Zealand; the Tongariro Crossing. You'll see craters, explosion pits, lava flows and an unbelievable view of the Emerald Lakes that fill the volcanic craters. Hiking around an active volcano would have to be one of life’s most memorable experiences.
2. Whanganui Journey
This epic 5-day journey is a canoe or kayak through 145km of the beautiful Whanganui River. Experience steep valley walls and native forest in this wildly stunning National Park.
The Whanganui Journey takes you away from modern civilisation to some of the most remote parts of New Zealand. Spend an evening in a Marae (Maori Meeting House) for an added cultural appreciation, find peace in the abundant birdlife and watch the awe-inspiring native forest that clings to the cliff faces along the river.
3. Lake Waikaremoana Track
Secluded Lake Waikaremoana is a moderate walk full of culture and history. It will take you on a journey through pristine rainforest and wetlands, beaches, magnificent rivers and waterfalls, and ghostly valleys of mist, mostly following the shores of the great lake over 3 or 4 days.
The region is the ancestral home of the Maori Tribe Ngai Tuhoe (the Children of the Mist), this is the largest area of native forest in the North Island, Te Ureweras. The Tuhoe people have lived in the region for centuries and have a deep connection with the land. It is a living treasure, where nature is in charge, mostly due to its isolation. The forest is home to nearly every species of native forest bird, listen out for the Tui and Kereru, and Kiwi call at dusk.
4. Abel Tasman Coast Track
Golden sand beaches and crystal clear blue water are what comes to mind when thinking about this stunning National Park, located at the top of the South Island. This is one of the most accessible great walks and its unmatchable beauty cannot be ignored.
The 3 to 5 day coastal track can be broken down into smaller full day or half day excursions or spend a bit longer and tackle the whole 30km. You could even break up the journey by taking a water taxi or kayaking alongside the stunning coastline.
5. Heaphy Track
Welcome to the West Coast of the South Island. The Heaphy Track is the great walk that delivers the strongest landscape diversity over a 4 to 6 day, 80km hike.
This track is located in the second largest National Park in New Zealand, Kahurangi National Park. It is home to many Great Spotted Kiwi Birds and follows an ancient Maori trail that was used by pounamu (jadestone) hunters. It follows luxuriant rainforest, sub-alpine tussock grasslands and high, rugged mountains down to the palm-fringed surf beaches on the West Coast.
6. Kepler Track
This awe-inspiring track was and designed to show off all the best features of the Fiordland National Park over a 60km, 4 day journey. Experience huge mountain ranges, native moss-draped beech forest, cascading waterfalls and vast glacier-carved valleys.
This magnificent hike through Fiordland is one of the 3 great walks in the area. What makes the Kepler track unique is that it has been custom made for easier walking, with bridges, boardwalks and steps. Make sure you bring a torch to explore the limestone caves.
7. Routeburn Track
Fiordland is an exquisite corner of the world and is best experienced throughout the summer months. The Routeburn track, while being one of the shortest walks, gives you the best views of the glacier-carved valleys and majestic lakes.
This 3-day hike will take you through soaring mountain peaks, huge valleys, waterfalls and jewel-like lakes. Reaching 1,255m above sea level, this track is super challenging but you are rewarded with stunning views at the top. The birdlife is plentiful in the area, look out for the world's only Alpine Parrot, the cheeky Kea bird.
8. Milford Track
New Zealand's most famous walk, the Milford Track finishes at the base of the stunning fiord, Milford Sound. The track has been running for more than 150 years through the stunning Fiordland National Park on a 4 day, 54km adventure.
The pure green rainforest will lead you across suspension bridges, boardwalks and a mountain passes. Experience mountain peaks, an enormous glacier-carved valleys and abundance of waterfalls, including the tallest in New Zealand - Sutherland Falls.
9. Rakiura Track
New Zealand's most southern Great Walk, the Rakiura Track is on the third biggest island, Stewart Island. The track covers 80% of the island in 3 days, making it the perfect way to explore this untouched beauty. Most of the track is on boardwalks and follows the coastline.
Here you will find solitude and peace in a habitat that has hardly changed in thousands of years. The island is home to only 400 people but a sanctuary of native wildlife. You have the best chance of spotting a kiwi down here.
You can access these great walks while travelling with Kiwi Experience throughout New Zealand, just make sure you allow extra time to complete them. If multi-day hikes are not quite your scene, check out our list of short, but scenic walks available along our travel network on the minimum travel time.