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Destinations

New Zealand 13 most beautiful trecks: the ultimate guide

New Zealand, often referred to as Aotearoa in the indigenous Maori language, is a hiker’s paradise with a vast array of trekking options that cater to all levels of experience and adventure. 

The country’s unique topography offers everything from snow-capped peaks to golden beaches, and lush forests in between.

Highlights of Trekking in New Zealand:

  • Diverse Landscapes: From the volcanic trails in the North Island to the alpine routes of the Southern Alps, each trek offers a unique experience.
  • Great Walks: These are premier tracks that pass through some of New Zealand’s most awe-inspiring landscapes.
  • Day Hikes and Multi-Day Treks: Whether you’re looking for a short walk or a multi-day adventure, there’s something for everyone.
  • Conservation Efforts: The Department of Conservation (DOC) manages the trails and provides infrastructure like huts and campsites to ensure a sustainable trekking environment.

Popular Treks Include:

  • 1. Tongariro Northern Circuit
  • 2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • 3. HeaphyTrack
  • 4. Mueller Hut Route
  • 5. Whanganui Journey
  • 6. Rakiura Track
  • 7. Kepler Track
  • 8. Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk
  • 9. Abel Tasman Coast Track
  • 10. Routeburn Track
  • 11. Milford Track
  • 12. Queen Charlotte Track
  • 13. Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track

Planning Your Trek:

  • Season: The best time to trek is during the warmer months from October to May.
  • Booking: For popular tracks, especially the Great Walks, booking in advance is essential.
  • Preparation: Ensure you’re well-prepared with the right gear and knowledge of the weather conditions.

For up-to-date information on safety and trail conditions, it’s recommended to visit the DOC website before embarking on your trekking adventure in New Zealand. Happy hiking! 🥾🏞️

1. TONGARIRO NORTHERN CIRCUIT

Tongariro Northern Circuit

Great Walks

Length: 43.1 km loop
Duration: 3 to 4 days
Difficulty: medium

The Tongariro Northern Circuit is the fifth most beautiful trek in the world according to our survey.  In the heart of the Tongariro National Park, you are surrounded by active volcanoes, breathtakingly colored lakes, fumaroles, lava fields and the smell of sulfur. You feel like you’re walking on another planet. After an approach walk into the valley, you slowly begin to climb up to South Crater. Then the slope becomes steep to reach the Red Crater (1,886 m). From there, you begin the descent crossing the Emerald Lakes and the Blue Lake. This is the end of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing for some. For you the wonder continues. The trail skirts the summits of Mounts Ngauruhoe (2,291 m) and Tongariro (1,967 m), but the latter still remain accessible from a variant. Allow two and three hours respectively per summit for these round trips which offer you exceptional panoramas. More than a trek, the Tongariro Northern Circuit is a journey through the history of our planet.

Departures: Usually from Whakapapa village, but other access points are possible such as Mangatepopo Road, Ketetahi Road and Desert Road.

Best time: December to February

Accommodation: shelters and campsites. Reservations required from the end of October to the end of April

2. TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Photo: Meggan Destouches

Length: 19.4 km
Duration: 7 to 8 hours
Difficulty: medium

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing has the advantage of offering you, in one day, a summary of the most beautiful volcanic landscapes of the Tongariro National Park. This popular route is aimed at walkers who do not have the time or desire to do a trek lasting several days. The trek is actually part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit and begins like the latter. You therefore cross the South and Red Crater and pass by the emerald lakes. Unlike the Northern Circuit, the busy schedule of the day gives you less freedom to explore the variations. Watch the time so as not to miss the end of day shuttle.

Start: The trail starts at the Mangatepopo Road parking lot and ends at Ketetahi Road. Daily shuttles provide travel between National Park Village and the start of the trail.

Best time: December to February

3. HEAPHYTRACK

Hearty Track

Great Walks

Length: 78.4 km
Duration: 4 to 6 days
Difficulty: medium

In the northwest of the South Island, the Heaphy Track connects Golden Bay to the West Coast via Kahurangi National Park. The longest of the Great Walks passes through rainforests, mountain ranges, grasslands and beaches. During the trek, the vegetation changes every day. You will be able to observe the flora and fauna, one of the richest in New Zealand. Along the coasts, it is not uncommon to see a few dolphins swimming. The diversity of landscapes crossed on a daily basis delights all the hikers who travel through it.

Departures: Brown hut (Golden Bay) and Kohaihai (West coast)

Best period: December to February (practical all year round)

Accommodation: shelters and campsites

4. MUELLER HUT ROUTE

Mueller Hut

Length: 10.4 km Return
Duration: 2 days
Difficulty: easy

Located in the Southern Alps, in the heart of the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, this trek is not very long. However, the climb on the first day is quite demanding. The path takes you to the famous Mueller Hut to spend the night there. From up there, enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the glaciers and Mount Cook.

Departure: Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

Best time: December to February

Accommodation: refuge. Reservations required from mid-November to the end of April

5. WHANGANUI JOURNEY

Whanganui Journey

Source: Department of Conservation (NZ)

Great Walks

Length: 145 km
Duration: 5 days

This is a slightly special Great Walks since it is done by kayak or canoe. The route is mainly located in the Whanganui National Park in the southwest of the North Island. You peacefully descend the Whanganui River from Taumarunui to Pipiriki: at the rhythm of the water, you will have time to admire the landscapes of the valley and observe the river’s ecosystem.

Best period: December to February (practical all year round)

Accommodation: campsites and shelters. Reservations required from the beginning of October to the end of April

6. RAKIURA TRACK

Rakiura Track

Great Walks

Length: 32 km loop
Duration: 3 days
Difficulty: medium

In the far south of New Zealand, on Stewart Island is Rakiura National Park. It covers almost the entire island. Along the way, you alternate between passages of tropical forests with lush vegetation and magnificent beaches. The Rakiura Track will introduce you to many species of birds, including the famous Kiwi, but also Maori sites.

Departure / Arrival: Oban

Best period: December to February (practical all year round)

Accommodation: campsites and shelters

7. KEPLER TRACK

Kepler Track

Great Walks

Length: 60 km loop
Duration: 3 to 4 days
Difficulty: medium

Kepler track is one of three Great Walks in Fiordland National Park. This trek takes you into the mountains between Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri on the South Island. You cross rivers, forests and climb mountains from the top of which you will enjoy exceptional panoramic views of the fjords.

Departure: Te Anau

Best time: December to February

Accommodation: shelters and campsites. Reservations required from the end of October to the end of April

8. LAKE WAIKAREMOANA GREAT WALK

Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk

Great Walks

Length: 46 km
Duration: 3 to 4 days
Difficulty: medium

Lake Waikaremoana is located in Te Urewera National Park in the east of the North Island. The ascent of Panekire Bluff on the first day will be a nice warm-up rewarded by a splendid view overlooking the lake. No difficulty is noted for the rest of the route. You then cross primary forests to discover remarkable species of birds and trees. After observing a few waterfalls along the way, you walk along the banks of the lake and can rest on the beaches available to you.

Departures: Onepoto or Hopuruahine

Best period: December to February (practical all year round)

Accommodation: shelters and campsites. Reservation strongly recommended

9. ABEL TASMAN COAST TRACK

Abel Tasman Coast Track

Great Walks

Length: 60 km
Duration: 3 to 5 days
Difficulty: easy

Located in the north of the South Island, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a coastal path. This is probably the most popular of the Great Walks. It passes through stunning golden sandy beaches, coves and lush coastal forests. You can take water taxis to shorten the route. Kayaking is also a great way to explore the national park. Don’t hesitate to enrich your experience by combining the two activities. Some parts of the trek become impassable with the tides. Check their schedules carefully and adapt your itinerary accordingly. The Abel Tasman Coast Track has 18 campsites and 4 huts, giving you plenty of flexibility in choosing stages.

Departures: Marahau (North entrance), Wainui (South entrance), Totaranui, Kaiteriteri

Best period: passable all year round. In summer, from December to February, swimming is possible, but there are more visitors and insects. Outside of summer, there are fewer visitors, but the days are shorter and the temperatures cooler.

Accommodation: shelters and campsites. Reservations strongly recommended in season.

10. ROUTEBURN TRACK

Routeburn Track

Photo: Benjamin Benard

Great Walks

Length: 33 km
Duration: 2 to 4 days
Difficulty: medium

Between Fiordland and Mt Aspiring national parks, Routeburn Track is a mid-mountain trek in the Southern Alps. This trail leads to peaks and passes where you will enjoy breathtaking views, including the magnificent Hollyford Valley. Passing through the valleys, you cross forests and rivers. The variety of landscapes is there along this mountain path.

Departures: Routeburn Shelter (Glenorchy), The Divide (Milford Road)

Best time: December to February

Accommodation: shelters and campsites. Reservations required from the end of October to the end of April

11. MILFORD TRACK

Milford Track

Great Walks

Length: 53.5 km
Duration: 4 days
Difficulty: medium

The Milford Track is a trek in Fiordland National Park, in the southwest of the South Island. Very busy, the route can only be traveled in one direction. In high season, from the end of October to the end of April, it is even obligatory to complete it in four days and three nights with required shelters. The price of the night in a shelter is quite high (NZ$140 or around 75 euros). You walk through the tropical forest with its giant ferns, cross exceptional glacial valleys and rivers. Finally, on the second and third days, you climb the impressive Mackinnon Pass from where you can view high peaks, waterfalls and steep peaks. You have a good chance of hiking in the rain. Purists say it contributes to the mystical atmosphere of the Milford Track.

Departure: Glade Warf (North of Lake Te Anau)

Best time: December to February

Accommodation: shelters. Reservations required from the end of October to the end of April. Remember to book well in advance

12. QUEEN CHARLOTTE TRACK

Queen Charlotte Track

Length: 71 km
Duration: 3 to 5 days
Difficulty: medium

Located in the Marlborough Sounds region in the north of the South Island, the Queen Charlotte Track is a popular multi-day hike that can be completed on foot, by bike or by kayak. You follow a superb coastal path “stuck” between two fjords. Lush forests, hills, bays and beaches are on the agenda for your visit. Note that some parts of the trek are on private land and require the purchase of a pass.

Departures: Meretoto / Ship Cove, Anakiwa

Best period: passable all year round

Accommodation: Hostels and campsites

13. PAPAROA TRACK AND PIKE29 MEMORIAL TRACK

Paparoa Track

Great Walks

Length: 55 km
Duration: 3 days
Difficulty: medium

The latest addition to the Great Walks, the Paparoa Track is located on the northwest coast of the South Island. Discover the landscapes of karst peaks in the spectacular Pororari River Gorge. You penetrate into grandiose subtropical forests. Finally, the trail crosses the Paparoa Range. From the peaks you will enjoy beautiful views of the national park and the Tasman Sea. As of this article, the Pike29 Memorial Track, an alternative branch of the Paparoa Track, is still under construction. No opening planned before 2021.

Departure: Smoke-ho parking lot

Arrival: Pororari river car park

Best period: December to February (practical all year round)

Accommodation: Refuges only

More information on the DOC website

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