Don’t you just love it when you can breathe in crisp fresh air as you walk, leaves crunching underfoot, your eyes treated to marvellous sights of mountains and forests and trees? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a casual walker or enjoy going on long hikes, New Zealand is one of those places you must certainly take your walking shoes with you. The delightful sights don’t cease and the landscapes unfolding before you are breathtakingly beautiful. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about your fitness levels and whether you’ll be able to do it because there are several options to suit all levels.
Some of the short walks are from 30 minutes to 3 hours and you can fit in a walk as part of a longer itinerary. You won’t regret doing this as you walk along coastal walkways, or even past ancient glaciers and forest trails. There are also single day and multi-day hikes which are certainly better suited for those who have a little more endurance and for whom hiking is a way of life. Then of course, there are the Great Walks, the iconic 9 walks where you can discover stunning aspects of New Zealand, its diverse wildlife and awe-inspiring wilderness. Here’s a look at some of the different walks you can enjoy while in New Zealand.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go hiking in a prehistoric forest? A lush green world that seems enchanted and almost too beautiful to be true? The Lake Waikaremoana Track which is an hour and a half from Gisborne and around 40 minutes from Wairoa, leads you on a magical journey across the shores of this lake. The entire walk lasts three to four days and also takes you through the ancestral home of the Ngai, a Māori tribe. Rivers, waterfalls and misty valleys await you as you trudge towards the Panekire Bluff. This is a popular walk although it can be a little challenging if you’re not used to extensive walking. It takes around 3 to 4 days to complete it and it is around 46km long. It includes walking over a heart stopping suspension bridge near a waterfall, making it an unforgettable experience.
If you’ve ever felt like getting near a volcano, New Zealand is the best place to do it, and this walk in particular which is around 40 minutes away from Turangi takes you around Mount Ngauruhoe, which is an active volcano in Tongariro National Park. This is certainly a memorable hike, more so if you decide to climb to the summit. There are lava flows and craters around you which will leave you feeling awed. There are also emerald and blue lakes, awash with brilliant colour that is the result of volcanic minerals that have washed down from thermal areas. The entire walk takes around 4 days but there’s also an option to do just the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which is an excellent single day hike.
This South Island trek is 5 days long and brings some daring rock formations and the chance to explore the Abel Tasman National Park at length. It’s around 40 minutes from Nelson. Beautiful beaches await you and since there are boats available here, you also have the option to try the kayak tour if you don’t want to walk it entirely. Each day, there are new delights – from beech forests to estuaries, a 47m long suspension bridge over an inlet, Tonga Island with its marine reserve and the options to go snorkelling and a number of gorgeous birds in the forested section of the hike will keep you enraptured. Since this is not a circuitous track, you have to ensure some form of transport at either end.
If you want to be stunned by a constantly shifting landscape, then you should certainly consider the Heaphy Track which is an ancient Māori trail that is on the West Coast, at an hour’s journey from Takaka. Lasting nearly 6 days, this gorgeous trail will leave you spellbound as you come across a number of contrasts in just one journey. All of nature’s wonders such as lush rainforests, grasslands, rugged mountains, and beaches – all of this encapsulated in one walk! The beauty is sure to leave you speechless. It’s a whopping 82km of walking but one that you won’t notice as you take in the valleys and rivers. The track is within Kahurangi National Park which is where you will find a number of Great Spotted Kiwi birds. Kahurangi is a delight in many ways, offering some interesting rock formations along with caves, bluffs and several natural arches.
Prepare to feast your eyes on some mind-boggling scenery as you go on the Routeburn Track, which is just 45 minutes from Queensland. There are mountain peaks, valleys, waterfalls and shimmering lakes along the track, and you’ll want to spend more time at each such place. This track has been shaped by glaciers which makes it all the more interesting. The track begins with a swing bridge and gets even more exciting along the way. Beech forests, valleys, rivers and mountains accompany you on your walk and panoramic views will leave you wanting more.
This is usually considered to be New Zealand’s most famous walk. Milford Track is indeed very enthralling and offers some spectacular views. At 53kms long, the track takes around 4 days to cover and begins at Lake Te Anau. The nearest city from here is Queenstown which is a little more than 2 hours away. You’ll have to balance yourself as you walk across daring suspension bridges but the sights more than make up for whatever difficulties you might come across. Expansive valleys, towering mountains, vivid lakes and of course, the sight of Sutherland Falls which is considered to be the tallest waterfall in New Zealand are some of the wonderful things you’ll get to see while on this track.
This one’s a 60km walk that shows you all the best features of Fiordland, from its mountains, waterfalls and forests to its valleys that have been shaped by glaciers. This is a relatively new walk and brings you all the natural sights that your heart longs to see. Hear the twittering of birds as you walk into the beech forest, and if you’re lucky, you might even come across the kea, which are New Zealand’s large alpine parrots. Prepare to have your breath taken away as you look at the valleys, the craggy mountains and the shimmering lakes in the distance.
If a multi-day hike does not sound like something you want to do, there are several short walks that you can go on. An hour’s journey from Christchurch will bring you to the rather easy Kura Tawhiti Access Track which is renowned the world over for its limestone rock formations. This is just a 20 minutes walk which will leave you enthralled by the sights. If waterfalls are more your scene, then two hours from Christchurch will bring you to the Devil’s Punchbowl Walking Track which showcases a stunning 131m waterfall or the Wainui Falls Track which has a swing bridge and takes you through lush forests.
There are also day hikes which last from 4 to 8 hours and span volcanic landscapes to coastal forests and of course the amazing glaciers in South Island. New Zealand is indeed a walker’s dream come true as there are so many different places to visit and see, all on foot.