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10 Great Walks of New Zealand

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Tongariro Northern Circuit. Photo courtesy of Tourism New Zealand / Camilla Rutherford

Tongariro Northern Circuit. Photo courtesy of Tourism New Zealand / Camilla Rutherford

The 10 Great Walks in New Zealand can take you from lakeside wonder to the grandeur of the mountaintops, with each new hike opening a brand new view of the local land and culture.

New Zealand is a marvelous destination for hiking with more than 11,000 square miles of trails crisscrossing the islands with the essence of traipsing through the wilderness that distinguishes the premier trails for which the country is known. The different hikes around the country offer stupendous views of the coastline, towering mountain peaks, and mystical woodlands.

You can find any number of trails perfect for the region you visit with the variety of diverse scenery spread around the North and South islands to reach remote towns or grand coastlines, magnificent mountain passes or stunning grapevines.

  1. 1. Lake Waikaremoana
  2. 2. Tongariro Northern Circuit
  3. 3. Whanganui Journey
  4. 4. Abel Tasman Coast Track
  5. 5. Heaphy Track
  6. 6. Milford Track
  7. 7. Kepler Track
  8. 8. Routeburn Track
  9. 9. Rakiura Track
  10. 10. Paparoa Track
  11. Experience the Great Walks of New Zealand

1. Lake Waikaremoana

Hiker taking in the scenery on Lake Waikaremoana Track a Great Walks in New Zealand

Lake Waikaremoana, New Zealand

With prehistoric rainforest and emerald wetlands, Lake Waikaremoana creates a magical ambiance that encompasses over 28 miles of trails. The scenery takes on a cultural weight as the ancestral home of the Ngai Tuhoe Maori tribe while demonstrating the pristine wonders of New Zealand’s nature.

With untouched rainforest, regenerating wetlands, rushing rivers, crashing waterfalls, and valleys shrouded in mist, you can lounge in the majesty of the views or hear the stories of the community’s deep spiritual links to the landscape, search for nearly every species of North Island native forest bird or listen for the enticing calls of the kiwi bird at dusk.

2. Tongariro Northern Circuit

View of lake with Mount Ngauruoe and Tongariro and Mount Ruapehu on the Tongariro Northern Circuit

Tongariro Northern Circuit, New Zealand

Active volcanoes, emerald lakes, and hidden waterfalls immerse you in a wonderland of nature’s power when on the Tongariro Northern Circuit. The more than 25 miles of trail encircles Mount Nguaruhoe inside Tongariro National Park where explosion pits rest and historic lava floors emerge.

Getting to the top of the summit is its own reward but witnessing the changing landscape with each previous volcanic eruption is a new adventure. Whether a day hike or attempting the full circuit, the trail will show you the raw power and delicate possibilities of nature from cooled magma to blooming wildflowers.

3. Whanganui Journey

Landscape in Whanganui, New Zealand

Whanganui, New Zealand

The Whanganui Journey is not just about the trails and instead reveals the splendor of the Whanganui National Park. While named one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the exploration incorporates an adventure on the river and trails that travel 90 miles deep into pristine forests far beyond the reach of modern civilization.

Abundant birdlife and soaring cliffs that frame the riverbank can feel isolating as you cross into the deep ravine or look for ancient Maori heritage. Listen to nature, embrace seclusion, and indulge in the unique New Zealand experience.

4. Abel Tasman Coast Track

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

White-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and active wildlife create a trekking haven in Abel Tasman. Located at the very top of the South Island, the protected landscape of Abel Tasman National Park offers over 31 miles of trail that connect gorgeous coastline with impressive rock formations.

As one of the most famous Great Walks of New Zealand, the panoramas sweep over the bays and valleys, immerse you in manuka forest, and take you across an exciting suspension bridge to bring the adventures of nature to life.

5. Heaphy Track

Tourists walking through a path in Heaphy Track, New Zealand

Heaphy Track, New Zealand

Heaphy Track embodies New Zealand’s geographical diversity with over 48 miles of trail that crosses ancient Maori pathways and lush forests, Nikau palms and the crashing waters of the western coastline.

The strong contrasts of land and sea emerge against the palm trees fringing the beaches and the tussock grasslands overtaking the rainforest canopy. Limestone and marble rock formations lead to abundant cave networks and captivating archways with every corner revealing a new perspective of the landscape of the South Island.

6. Milford Track

Mackinnon pass at Milford Track in New Zealand

Milford Track, New Zealand

Milford Track is the most famous Great Walk in New Zealand and has attracted hikers for more than 150 years who are eager to explore the alpine scenery and fiordland beauty across 33 miles of trail.

The collection of suspension bridges, boardwalks, and mountain passes lead to remote pictures of mountains that scrape the sky and valleys expanding to the horizon as the mist rises from the base of Sutherland Falls.

In the sunlight, you can enjoy the emerald colors and reflective waters. In rain, you can embrace the magic of the countless waterfalls that cascade down the steep mountainsides for the perfect walk any time of year.

7. Kepler Track

Hiker at Kepler Track in New Zealand

Kepler Track, New Zealand

The natural splendor of Fiordland takes the spotlight on the 37 miles of Kepler Track. With tussock spanning the highlands, valleys carved by glaciers, and the echo of cascading waterfalls, you can easily fall in love with the mountainous terrain and native forest through which the trail travels.

The Kepler Track was custom-designed for visitors to take in the pleasures of the natural world where moss drapes beech forest, birdlife thrives, and limestone formations add texture to the rivers and mountain ranges. You can uncover the marvels of the captivating corner of Fiordland the comforts of a more manicured trail.

8. Routeburn Track

Scenery view in Routeburn Track, New Zealand

Routeburn Track, New Zealand

Instead of a single national park, Routeburn Track will connect you with the soaring mountain peaks of Mount Aspiring with the huge valleys and waterfalls of Fiordland linked by nearly 20 miles of trail.

With a focus on the beauty of the alpine scenery, the challenge becomes the reward as you find towering cliffs and lakes glistening like jewels, the world’s only alpine parrot or the valleys shaped by ancient glaciers. Instead of a loop, the track leads between two trailheads so you can choose at which the start and finish as you absorb the grassy flats, swing bridges, and key mountain summits.

9. Rakiura Track

Staircase leading through dense forest in Rakiura Track, New Zealand

Rakiura, New Zealand

With a peaceful ambiance created by birdsong and secluded quiet, Rakiura Track introduces you to a landscape barely changed over a millennium. Gorgeous beaches reflect an untouched wildness and Maori history shares special stories with the landscape.

Brown kiwis roam freely through the dusk and the night pulses with a captivating rhythm of the native birds in the forest sanctuary. Open coastline, forested ridges, and sheltered coves create dynamic vision of New Zealand’s wilderness along the nearly 20 miles of boardwalk track found on the remote features of Stewart Island.

10. Paparoa Track

Landscape of Paparoa Track in New Zealand

Paparoa Track, New Zealand

The Paparoa Track crisscrosses the beauty and power of the Paparoa Range for breathtaking views of limestone karsts and alpine peaks along the nearly 35 miles of trail. The diverse scenery features subtropical rainforest and a gorge carved by the Pororari River.

As the 10th Great Walk, the trailhead didn’t officially open until March of 2020 and captures the spirit of New Zealand’s connection to continuity and natural beauty, from the beech forests to mesmerizing colors of sunset.

Experience the Great Walks of New Zealand

Hiking couple crossing river bridge along the Routeburn Track in New Zealand

Routeburn Track, New Zealand

Hiking in New Zealand is not just a pastime but a way to connect with the natural history, nature’s beauty, and cultural landscape. The 10 Great Walks of the country embody the importance of the mountains, grasslands, seaside, and waterways as an essential part of national identity.

Whether during a remote outing or on a guided route, you can find the right way to explore the islands with inspiration on our New Zealand Tours & Vacations.

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