New Zealand's Great Walks

New Zealand's nine Great Walks are the country's finest hikes showcasing the very best of its beautiful landscapes. The Tongariro, Milford, Abel Tasman and Routeburn tracks are well-known and very popular, but some of the lesser known tracks such as the Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park and Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urewera National Park are no less spectacular.

Lake Waikaremoana

Resting in the heart of Te Urewera National Park on the eastern tip of the North Island, this track heads through lush native rainforests and remote beaches in an area that was home to a local group of Maori, the Nga Tamariki o te Kohu or 'the children of the mist'.

Duration: 46km in 3-4 days

Difficulty: Moderate, suitable for families

Accommodation/Facilities: Hut and campsites available. Hut accommodation costs $32 (approx. £18) per night, children 17 and under stay for free.  Booking essential, especially in the summer months.

Highlights

  • In the summer months take your swimming gear (or 'togs' to the Kiwis), to enjoy a dip in the pristine clear waters and cool off after a long day on the trails.
  • Stop at Panekire Hut, after a 1185m climb, to catch your breath and enjoy the spectacular views dotted with lakes and bordered by the ocean. Spend the night in the hut, get up early and see the sunrise.
  • A worthy thirty minute detour, the Korokoro Falls is a spectacular sheet of water dropping from a jagged cliff that rises above the native rainforest.


Tongariro Northern Circuit

In the centre of North Island, weaving past Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe, the volcanic landscape of this great walk is both vibrantly coloured and dramatic.

Duration: 43.1km in 3-4 days

Difficulty: Moderately challenging, not suitable for children under 10

Accommodation/Facilities: Huts and campsites available. Hut accommodation costs $32 (approx. £18) per night, children 17 and under stay for free. Booking essential, especially in the summer months.

Highlights

  • Cross the jagged volcanoes at the heart of the park, including Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, which are two of the most active composite volcanoes in the world.
  • Visit the Tama Lakes, explosion craters which have been filled with bright blue water and are named for the high chief Tamatea, an explorer of the area six centuries ago.
  • Head two hours off the main track to the tumbling Taranki Falls, which cascades over a lava flow into a boulder-ringed pool at its base.


Whanganui Journey

The Whanganui River has been a central highway for the Maori and European settlers for centuries. Now a popular route for kayakers, this 'walk' takes to the water to explore the remote beauty of the area's hills and valleys.

Duration: 145km in 3-5 days by kayak

Difficulty: Beginners with good fitness, but not recommended for children under 12 due to the potential for rapidly changing weather conditions

Accommodation/Facilities: Primarily campsites with two huts available. Hut accommodation costs $32 (approx. £18) per night, children 17 and under stay for free.  Booking essential, especially in the summer months.

Highlights

  • Watch for the life that makes this fast-moving river home, such as eels, crayfish and flounder, listen for the brown kiwi or catch sight of a bat in the night.
  • Enjoy the gentle 40 minute walk to the Bridge to Nowhere, a bridge abandoned by service men after World War I.
  • Soak up the Maori history, including a stay at the Tieke Kaina hut which is also used as a marae, a Maori communal or sacred place.


Abel Tasman Coast Track

Crowning the South Island, the Abel Tasman National Park offers long sunny days and golden beaches which can be covered by trail, kayak and water taxi.

Duration: 54.4km in 3-5 days

Difficulty: Easy, suitable for families

Accommodation/Facilities: Huts and campsites available. Hut accommodation costs $32 (approx. £18) per night, children 17 and under stay for free. Booking essential, especially in the summer months.

Highlights

  • Swim, snorkel or just soak up pthe southern sun on Onetahuti Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the park.
  • Slide down the moss-lined waterslide of Cleopatra's Pool, a natural rock pool only twenty minutes from the main trail.
  • Keep an eye out for the protected wildlife of the Tonga Island Marine Reserve which covers 1835 hectares and provides ample opportunity to swim, snorkel and kayak.
  • Fall asleep listening to the gentle sigh of the ocean and wake up to a sunrise over a beautiful golden beach.


Heaphy Track

Passing through expansive tussock downs, rich emerald forests and the palm bordered beaches of the South Island's west coast, this trail heads through some of New Zealand's greatest variety of wilderness.

Duration:78.4km in 4-6 days

Difficulty: Moderate, but a day walk is recommended for families with young children

Accommodation/Facilities: Huts and campsites available. Hut accommodation costs $32 (approx. £18) per night, children 17 and under stay for free. Booking essential, especially in the summer months.

Highlights

  • Witness the incredible flora and fauna of this isolated region, including on of 40 species of carnivorous land snail, huge podocarps and the giant northern Rata.
  • Keep your eyes peeled and binoculars ready to spot one of New Zealand's native birds, including keas, kakas and tuis.
  • Visit one of the country's oldest archaeological sites, an ancient village settled by Polynesians in the 13th or 14th century, situated next to the Heaphy Hut where you can bed down for the night.


Kepler Track

Circling the south west coast of South Island, this trail takes hikers from the beech-forested shores of the southern lakes to the summit of Mt Luxmore for spectacular views.

Duration: 60km in 3-4 days

Difficulty: Moderate with day walks, suitable for families

Accommodation/Facilities: Primarily huts with only two campsites available. Hut accommodation costs $54 (approx. £30) per night, children 17 and under stay for free. Booking essential, especially in the summer months.

Highlights

  • Head ten minutes off the main trail to explore the stalactites and stalagmites of a limestone cave.
  • Enjoy a swim beneath the Iris Burn Falls, before bedding down for the night and listening out for the iconic kiwi bird.
  • Watch the sunrise from the Luxmore Hut that illuminates Lake Te Anau and the rugged Murchison Mountains.
  • Test your fears and get great views crossing the trails creeks and rivers by swing bridge.


Milford Track

The most popular of the 'Nine Great' for a reason, this track heads through lush rainforest passing jagged canyons, towering mountains and pristine waterfalls before ending at Milford Sound itself.

Duration: 53.5km in 4 days

Difficulty: Moderate, but not recommended for children under 10 due to often adverse weather conditions

Accommodation/Facilities: Huts only at a cost of $54 (approx. £30) per night, children 17 and under stay for free. Booking essential year round.

Highlights

  • Spot eels and trout in the Clinton River from 72m above on the suspension bridge.
  • Breathe in the fresh air of the moss-clad forests, where bubbling rivers and thundering waterfalls make their home.
  • Take 1.5 hours to head to the 580m high Sutherland Falls, which jump between three tiers and cover hikers with their refreshing spray.
  • Follow in the footsteps of Quintin Mackinnon and take in the panoramic views from the memorial to this early explorer.


Routeburn Track

Heading into the alpine regions of New Zealand's Southern Alps, this track passes through ice-carved valleys and along bubbling rivers bordered by breathtaking mountain scenery.

Duration: 32km in 2-4 days

Difficulty: Moderate, but not recommended for children under 10. Day trails in the area or on portions of the trail (with an overnight stay in a hut) are a recommended alternative for families.

Accommodation/Facilities: Primarily huts with only two campsites available. Hut accommodation costs $54 (approx. £30) per night, children 17 and under stay for free.  Booking essential, especially in the summer months.

Highlights

  • Head 1.5 hours off the main trail, climb above the bush line to an alpine wetland for magnificent views of the mountains and valleys.
  • Spot the yellow mohua, an endangered songster whose chirpy song is often heard on the first day of the track.
  • Explore an old forge and blacksmith camp, which supported construction of the early bridle track.


Rakiura Track

An isolated island at New Zealand's southern tip, this track explores the beaches and bush of Stewart Island.  The best place to see the kiwi in its natural habitat, this is a trail for those who really want to get away from it all.

Duration: 32km or 3 days

Difficulty: Moderate, suitable for families.

Accommodation/Facilities: Huts and campsites available. Hut accommodation costs $22 (approx. £12) per night, children 17 and under stay for free. Booking essential, especially in the summer months.

Highlights

  • Catch sight of the iconic kiwi foraging during the day or overhear their call as night approaches.
  • Enjoy cliff-top walks, golden beaches and rocky coastlines as the air is filled with the songs of the island's birdlife.
  • Witness the remains of early Maori settlements and relics of the sawmilling days strewn along the track.
  • Head to the nearby Ulva Island, a paradise that is home to many of New Zealand's rare and endangered birds.
We have seen the wonders of nature in all her amazing beauty, from the tiny glowing insects on the roof of a cave, to the spectacular mountain pinnacles, lakes of unimaginable blue, and rivers so clean you could drink from them.
Kerry Allen & Amanda Thompson
Tailor made

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