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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 of New Zealand can take you from lakeside wonder to the grandeur of mountaintops, with each hike providing a fresh view of local land and culture.

New Zealand is a marvelous destination for hiking, with more than 11,000 square miles of premier trails crisscrossing the islands. The country’s hikes offer stupendous coastline views, towering mountain peaks, and woodlands.

You can find any number of trails in the regions you visit, with diverse scenery that spreads from the North to South islands to reach remote towns, coastlines, mountain passes, or vineyards.

  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 has a magical ambiance encompassing over 28 miles of trails. Culturally, the area is the ancestral home of the Ngai Tuhoe Maori tribe.

With untouched rainforest, regenerating wetlands, rushing rivers, crashing waterfalls, and valleys shrouded in mist, you can enjoy majestic views or hear the stories of the community’s deep spiritual links to the landscape, search for nearly every species of native North Island native forest bird or listen for the 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 trails encircle Mount Ngauruhoe in the Tongariro National Park, where explosion pits rest and historic lava floors emerge.

Getting to the top of the summit is reward enough, but witnessing the changing volcanic landscape provides a new adventure. Whether on a day hike or attempting the full circuit, the trail will unveil the raw power and delicateness of nature, from cooled magma to wildflowers.

3. Whanganui Journey

Landscape in Whanganui, New Zealand

Whanganui, New Zealand

The Whanganui Journey is not just about the trails, but its splendor. 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 and look for ancient Maori heritage.

4. Abel Tasman Coast Track

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

White-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and 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 trails that connect the gorgeous coastline with impressive rock formations.

As one of the most famous Great Walks of New Zealand, the panoramas sweep over bays and valleys, immerse you in manuka forest, and take you across a 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 trails encompassing ancient Maori pathways, lush forests, and the crashing waters of the western coastline.

The strong contrast between land and sea emerges against palm trees fringing the beaches and tussock grasslands overtaking the rainforest canopy. Limestone and marble rock formations lead to cave networks and archways, with every corner revealing a new perspective of the South Island’s landscape.

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. For more than 150 years it has attracted hikers eager to explore the alpine scenery and fiordland beauty across 33 miles of trails.

Suspension bridges, boardwalks, and mountain passes lead to remote mountains and valleys that extend to the horizon as mist rises from the base of Sutherland Falls.

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

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 trails travel.

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

8. Routeburn Track

Scenery view in Routeburn Track, New Zealand

Routeburn Track, New Zealand

Routeburn Track will connect you with the soaring mountain peaks of Mount Aspiring and the huge valleys and waterfalls of Fiordland that are linked by nearly 20 miles of trails.

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 valleys shaped by ancient glaciers. Instead of a loop, the track leads between two trailheads, so you can choose where to start and finish as you absorb the grassy flats, swing bridges, and 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 quiet, Rakiura Track introduces you to a landscape barely changed over a millennium. Gorgeous beaches reflect an untouched wilderness and Maori history brings to life stories of the landscape.

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

10. Paparoa Track

Landscape of Paparoa Track in New Zealand

Paparoa Track, New Zealand

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

This, the 10th Great Walk, opened in March 2020 and captures the spirit of New Zealand’s connection to continuity and natural beauty, from beech forests to the 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 natural history, nature’s beauty, and culture. The country’s 10 Great Walks 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 from our New Zealand Tours & Vacations. Further information can be found in our New Zealand Travel Guide.

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