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Top 10 Walking Tracks in New Zealand

  • 13 min read

New Zealand is a hiker's paradise, with an abundance of walking tracks that offer a wide range of experiences, from easy coastal walks to challenging alpine hikes. Here are some of the top walking tracks in New Zealand that should be on every hiker's bucket list:

1. Milford Track

Milford Track

The Milford Track is a world-renowned hiking trail located in the Fiordland National Park in the southwest of New Zealand's South Island. It is widely considered one of the most beautiful and spectacular walks in the world, and for a good reason. The track is approximately 53.5 km (33 miles) long and is typically completed in four days.

The Milford Track starts at the head of Lake Te Anau and follows the Clinton River to its source at the Clinton Canyon. From there, hikers climb through the Mackinnon Pass, which reaches a height of 1,154 meters (3,776 feet) above sea level. Along the way, hikers will pass through lush rainforests, crystal-clear lakes, and rugged mountain landscapes. Some of the highlights of the hike include the Giant's Gate waterfall, the Mackinnon Pass, and the Sutherland Falls - one of the highest waterfalls in the world. The hikers also pass through the beautiful Clinton Valley and the Clinton Canyon, where they can admire the area's natural beauty.

The Milford Track is considered a "Great Walk" by the Department of Conservation. It is one of the most popular tracks in New Zealand. As such, hikers are required to book in advance, and during the peak season (October to April), the huts on the track are often fully booked. The track is well-maintained and well-marked, making it suitable for hikers of all abilities. However, hikers should be prepared for challenging terrain and unpredictable weather. The trail passes through areas of high altitude, so hikers should be prepared for cold temperatures, especially when climbing the Mackinnon Pass. It's also important to note that the track is closed during winter months (May-September) due to snow and the high risk of avalanches.

In summary, the Milford Track is a challenging and rewarding hike that offers spectacular views of alpine landscapes, rainforests, and crystal-clear lakes. It is a must-do for any hiker visiting New Zealand and is considered one of the finest walks in the world. The track is a great way to experience the natural beauty of New Zealand and provides an opportunity to appreciate the unspoiled wilderness of the Fiordland National Park. The experience of Milford Track is unforgettable, with the awe-inspiring scenery and the rugged beauty of the wilderness. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience that any nature lover should not miss.

 

2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a one-day hike that takes you through volcanic landscapes and past crystal-clear lakes. The track is considered one of the best one-day hikes in the world and is located in the Tongariro National Park, a World Heritage site in the central North Island of New Zealand. The track is approximately 19.4 km (12 miles) long and takes around 7-8 hours to complete.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing starts at the Mangatepopo car park and takes hikers through the Tongariro National Park, passing by the active volcanoes of Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Ruapehu. Along the way, hikers will be treated to stunning views of the emerald lakes, alpine meadows, and crater landscapes. The highlight of the hike is the ascent to the summit of Mount Tongariro, where hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding volcanic landscapes. The track also passes by the beautiful Blue Lake and the Red Crater, a volcanic crater that is still active.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered a challenging hike and hikers should be prepared for steep and rocky terrain, as well as unpredictable weather. It's important to be properly equipped with good hiking boots, warm clothing, and enough food and water. Hikers should also be aware that the track is closed during winter months (June-August) due to snow and ice, and the risk of volcanic activity.

In summary, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a challenging and rewarding hike that offers spectacular views of volcanic landscapes, alpine meadows, and crystal-clear lakes. It is a must-do for any hiker visiting New Zealand and is considered one of the best one-day hikes in the world. The track provides an opportunity to experience the unique geothermal landscapes of the Tongariro National Park and to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. The hike is challenging, but the views from the summit of Mount Tongariro make the effort more than worth it. It's an unforgettable experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.

 

3. Kepler Track

Kepler Track

The Kepler Track is a six-day hike through the stunning Mt Aspiring National Park, located on the South Island of New Zealand. The track is known for its glaciers, alpine meadows, and stunning mountain vistas. The track is approximately 60 km (37 miles) long and takes around 3-4 days to complete.

The Kepler Track starts at the Divide and takes hikers through the beautiful alpine landscapes of the national park, passing by the stunning glaciers of the Darran Mountains. Along the way, hikers are treated to some of the most spectacular views of the Southern Alps, including Mount Aspiring, the highest mountain in the park. The track also passes by the beautiful Luxmore Cave, a limestone cave system that is open to the public, and the Iris Burn Hut, a historic hut that offers great views of the surrounding landscapes.

The Kepler Track is considered a challenging hike, and hikers should be prepared for steep and rocky terrain and unpredictable weather. It's important to be properly equipped with good hiking boots, warm clothing, and enough food and water. Hikers should also be aware that the track is closed during winter months (June-August) due to snow and ice.

In summary, the Kepler Track is a challenging and rewarding hike that offers spectacular views of alpine landscapes, glaciers, and mountain vistas. It is a must-do for any hiker visiting New Zealand and is considered one of the best hikes on the South Island. The track provides an opportunity to experience the unique alpine landscapes of Mt Aspiring National Park and appreciate the area's natural beauty. The hike is challenging, but the views from the top of the mountain make the effort more than worth it. It's an unforgettable experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.

 

4. Abel Tasman Coast Track

Abel Tasman Coast Track

 The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a popular coastal walk in the Abel Tasman National Park, located on the north of the South Island of New Zealand. Known for its golden beaches, clear waters, and native bush, the track is considered one of the best coastal hikes in the world. The track is approximately 51.4 km (32 miles) long and takes around 3-5 days to complete.

The Abel Tasman Coast Track starts at Marahau and takes hikers along the beautiful coastline of the national park, passing by some of the most picturesque beaches in New Zealand, including Apple Tree Bay and Anchorage Bay. Along the way, hikers can take in the views of the sea and the lush native bush and even take a dip in the crystal-clear waters. The track also passes by the beautiful Split Apple Rock, a natural rock formation that is a popular spot for photography.

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is considered an easy to moderate hike, and hikers should be prepared for uneven terrain, rocky sections and tide-dependent sections. It's important to be properly equipped with good hiking shoes, a sunhat, sunblock, and enough food and water. Hikers should also be aware that the track is closed during winter months (June-August) due to rough sea conditions.

In summary, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a beautiful and rewarding hike that offers spectacular views of the sea, the beaches and the native bush. It is a must-do for any hiker visiting New Zealand and is considered one of the best coastal hikes in the world. The track provides an opportunity to experience the Abel Tasman National Park's unique coastal landscapes and appreciate the area's natural beauty. The hike is easy to moderate, but the coastline and sea views make the effort more than worth it. It's an unforgettable experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.

 

5. Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track

 The Routeburn Track is a popular three-day hike through Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks, located on the South Island of New Zealand. Known for its alpine scenery and diverse landscapes, the Track is considered one of the best hikes in New Zealand. The Track is approximately 32 km (20 miles) long and takes around 2-3 days to complete.

The Routeburn Track starts at the Divide and takes hikers through some of the most spectacular alpine landscapes in New Zealand, passing by the beautiful lakes of the Humboldt Mountains and the stunning vistas of the Earland Falls. Hikers will also pass along the beautiful Routeburn Flats, a lush alpine meadow with great views of the surrounding mountains. The Track also passes by the beautiful Routeburn Falls, a picturesque waterfall that is a popular spot for photography.

The Routeburn Track is considered a moderate hike, and hikers should be prepared for steep and rocky terrain and unpredictable weather. It's important to be properly equipped with good hiking boots, warm clothing, and enough food and water. Hikers should also be aware that the Track is closed during winter months (June-August) due to snow and ice.

In summary, the Routeburn Track is a challenging and rewarding hike that offers spectacular views of alpine landscapes, lakes, and waterfalls. It is a must-do for any hiker visiting New Zealand and is considered one of the best hikes on the South Island. The Track provides an opportunity to experience the unique alpine landscapes of the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks and appreciate the area's natural beauty. The hike is moderate, but the views of the surroundings make the effort more than worth it. It's an unforgettable experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.

 

6. Heaphy Track

Heaphy Track

 The Heaphy Track is an eight-day hike through Kahurangi National Park, located in the northwest of the South Island of New Zealand. Known for its lush rainforests, rugged coastline, and rich wildlife, the track is considered one of the best hikes in New Zealand. The track is approximately 78.4 km (49 miles) long and takes around 4-6 days to complete.


The Heaphy Track starts at the Brown Hut and takes hikers through the lush rainforests of the national park, passing by the beautiful beaches and rugged coastline of the Karamea Bight. Along the way, hikers can spot a wide variety of wildlife, including the endangered kiwi bird, as well as the beautiful Heaphy River, a popular spot for trout fishing. The track also passes by the beautiful Gouland Downs, an alpine meadow with great views of the surrounding mountains.

The Heaphy Track is considered a moderate to challenging hike, and hikers should be prepared for uneven and muddy terrain, as well as unpredictable weather. It's important to be properly equipped with good hiking boots, warm clothing, and enough food and water. Hikers should also be aware that the track is closed during winter months (June-August) due to snow and ice.

In summary, the Heaphy Track is a challenging and rewarding hike that offers spectacular views of rainforests, beaches, and wildlife. It is a must-do for any hiker visiting New Zealand and is considered one of the best hikes on the South Island.

 

7. Queen Charlotte Track

Queen Charlotte Track

 The Queen Charlotte Track is a scenic coastal walk in the Marlborough Sounds, located in the north of the South Island of New Zealand. Known for its stunning views of the sea and mountains, as well as opportunities for wildlife viewing, the track is considered one of the best coastal hikes in New Zealand. The track is approximately 71km (44 miles) long and takes around 3-5 days to complete.

The Queen Charlotte Track starts at Ship Cove and takes hikers along the beautiful coastline of the Marlborough Sounds, passing by some of the most picturesque beaches and bays in New Zealand. Along the way, hikers can spot a wide variety of wildlife, including dolphins and seals. The track also passes by the beautiful Endeavour Inlet, a picturesque bay with a historic settlement and great opportunities for swimming and fishing. The track also passes by the beautiful Torea Bay, a secluded bay with great views of the surrounding mountains.

The Queen Charlotte Track is considered an easy to moderate hike, and hikers should be prepared for uneven terrain, rocky sections, and tide-dependent sections. It's important to be properly equipped with good hiking shoes, a sunhat, sunblock, and enough food and water. Hikers should also be aware that the track is closed during winter months (June-August) due to rough sea conditions.

In summary, the Queen Charlotte Track is a beautiful and rewarding hike that offers spectacular views of the sea, the beaches and the native bush. It is a must-do for any hiker visiting New Zealand and is considered one of the best coastal hikes in the country.

 

8. Rakiura Track

Rakiura Track

 The Rakiura Track is a three-day hike on Stewart Island, located off the south coast of New Zealand's South Island. The track is known for its lush rainforests, rugged coastline, and rich wildlife. The track is approximately 32 km (20 miles) long and takes around 2-3 days to complete.

The Rakiura Track starts at Lee Bay and takes hikers through the lush rainforests of Stewart Island, passing by the beautiful beaches and rugged coastline of the island. Along the way, hikers can spot a wide variety of wildlife, including the Stewart Island kiwi bird and the rare weka bird. The track also passes by the beautiful Mason Bay, a picturesque bay that is a popular spot for swimming and fishing. The track also offers excellent views of the surrounding mountains and the sea.

The Rakiura Track is considered a moderate hike, and hikers should be prepared for uneven terrain and rocky sections. It's important to be properly equipped with good hiking boots, a sunhat, sunblock, and enough food and water. Hikers should also be aware that the track is closed during winter months (June-August) due to rough sea conditions.

In summary, the Rakiura Track is a beautiful and rewarding hike that offers spectacular views of the rainforests, coastline, and wildlife. It is a must-do for any hiker visiting Stewart Island and is considered one of the best hikes in New Zealand.

 

9. Pouakai Circuit

Pouakai Circuit

 The Pouakai Circuit is a challenging, multi-day hike located in the Taranaki region of New Zealand's North Island. The track offers stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges and opportunities to explore the area's unique ecosystems. The track is approximately 19 km (12 miles) long and takes around 2-3 days to complete.

The Pouakai Circuit starts at the North Egmont Visitor Center and takes hikers through the beautiful alpine landscapes of the Taranaki region, passing by the stunning Pouakai Ranges, the beautiful Pouakai Tarns, and the impressive Pouakai Hut. Along the way, hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges and the Tasman Sea. The track also offers excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, including the chance to spot the endangered takahe bird.

The Pouakai Circuit is considered a challenging hike, and hikers should be prepared for steep and rocky terrain, as well as unpredictable weather. It's important to be properly equipped with good hiking boots, warm clothing, and enough food and water. Hikers should also be aware that the track is closed during winter months (June-August) due to snow and ice.

In summary, the Pouakai Circuit is a challenging and rewarding hike that offers spectacular views of alpine landscapes, mountain ranges, and wildlife. It is a must-do for any hiker visiting the Taranaki region. It is considered one of the best hikes on New Zealand's North Island. The track provides an opportunity to experience the unique alpine landscapes of the region and appreciate the natural beauty of the area. The hike is challenging, but the views of the surroundings make the effort more than worth it. It's an unforgettable experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.

 

10. Catlins Coast Track

Catlins Coast Track

 The Catlins Coast Track is a scenic hike located in the Catlins region of New Zealand's South Island. The track offers stunning views of the surrounding coastal landscapes, as well as opportunities to explore the unique ecosystems of the area. The track is approximately 70km (43 miles) long and takes around 4-6 days to complete.

The Catlins Coast Track starts at McLean Falls and takes hikers through the beautiful coastal landscapes of the Catlins region, passing by the stunning McLean Falls, the beautiful Nugget Point Lighthouse, and the impressive Kaka Point beach. Along the way, hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding coastal landscapes and the Tasman Sea. Hikers will enjoy the chance to spot the diverse wildlife that calls the region home, such as seals, penguins and even dolphins.

The Catlins Coast Track is considered a moderate hike, and hikers should be prepared for uneven terrain and rocky sections. It's important to be properly equipped with good hiking shoes, a sunhat, sunblock, and enough food and water. Hikers should also be aware that the track is closed during winter months (June-August) due to rough sea conditions.

In summary, the Catlins Coast Track is a beautiful and rewarding hike that offers spectacular views of coastal landscapes, wildlife and the sea. It is a must-do for any hiker visiting the Catlins region and is considered one of the best hikes in New Zealand's South Island. The track provides an opportunity to experience the unique coastal landscapes of the region and to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. The hike is moderate, but the views of the coastline and the sea make the effort more than worth it.

 

How to hike safely in New Zealand?

The New Zealand government has guidelines in place to help hikers hike safely in the country. These guidelines include the following:

  1. Planning your trip
    Before heading out on a hike, make sure to plan your trip by checking the weather forecast, the trail conditions, and the expected duration of the hike.

  2. Choosing a suitable track
    Choose a track that suits your fitness level, experience, and the time you have available.

  3. Be prepared
    Make sure you are properly equipped for your hike, including wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, carrying enough food and water, and bringing a map and compass.

  4. Know your limits
    Be aware of your own physical limitations and don't take unnecessary risks.

  5. Being aware of the hazards
    Be aware of the potential hazards on the track, such as slippery rocks, steep cliffs, and unstable terrain.

  6. Being aware of the weather
    Be aware of the weather conditions and how they may affect your hike.

  7. Respecting the environment
    Follow Leave No Trace principles, and respect the natural environment by not disturbing plants and animals and leaving no trace of your presence.

  8. Seeking local advice
    Seek advice from local authorities and DOC (Department of Conservation) offices before heading out on a hike.

  9. Carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB)
    It is recommended to carry a personal locator beacon in case of emergency.

In summary, the New Zealand government encourages hikers to plan their trip, choose a suitable track, be prepared, know their limits, be aware of hazards and weather, respect the environment, seek local advice and carry a PLB to hike safely in the country.