Things you should know about the Great Walks of New Zealand
Posted on 05/05/2020 by Spaceships Crew
The most popular attraction in New Zealand must be hiking. Our little country has such a diverse scenery, that no hike or walk is the same. And the scenery, wow, around every bend there's something different to view or to enjoy. Another mountain top, another lake, another.... You name it, New Zealand has it. Our most popular hikes are the Great Walks of New Zealand. That's next level walking or hiking scenery-wise. Check out the info below, grab your hiking boots and trekking poles and get ready for an awesome hiking adventure.
The Great Walks of New Zealand can be found throughout the country. It doesn't matter which direction you will be travelling on your road trip, you're (almost) always in the area of a Great Walk. Both the North Island and the South Island host these amazing walks.
Oh and don't forget about the biggest news about the new Great Walk that opened in March 2020. You could be one of the first to explore that track.
What are the Great Walks of New Zealand?
The Great Walks of New Zealand are the best of the best. These walks pass through really amazing scenery, ranging from lakes & rivers to rugged mountain peaks and vast valleys. Or forests... These walks are quite different from a walk in the park in your home country. Here's the one and only list of New Zealand’s Great Walks, each with its own unique character. The list below is ranked alphabetically, not in order of awesomeness as all these walks are great.
Located in the rugged, remote, and vast Te Ureweras National Park, the Lake Waikaremoana Trail follows the lake’s shoreline with excellent track conditions. Te Ureweras is the largest native forest left in New Zealand and evokes a pre-historic aura with its primaeval rainforests, secluded beaches, and waterfalls.
Location: Lake Waikaremoana area and Te Urewera in the East Coast region (see for more info)
2. Tongariro Crossing (North Island)
The Tongariro Northern Circuit is one of the most popular walks in New Zealand. It is the ultimate alpine adventure. It circles around Mt Ngauruhoe, the active volcano of the national park, and treks over the main divide. To the east is the rugged Kaimanawa range while to the north is Lake Taupo. It is the extended version of the popular day-trip to Tongariro Crossing. Have a look at these amazing options: guided day walks, shuttle service to/from Tongariro and helicopter flights in the area.
Location: Tongariro National Park in the Central North Island region (see for more info)
3. Whanganui Journey (North Island)
You can tramp through the Whanganui National Park to the Bridge to Nowhere, or bike The Forgotten World Highway trail through the park. One of the unusual ‘walks’ in New Zealand, can be done by canoe or kayak down the Whanganui River on the way to the bridge.
Location: Whanganui National Park in the Manawatu/Whanganui region (see for more info)
Sneak preview of the Great walks (video)
Check out this video from the Mountain Safety Council for a sneak preview of the Great Walks in New Zealand.
Another popular walk in New Zealand: the Abel Tasman Great Walk. This is the smallest national park sheltering dramatic scenery changes. From the wintery Southern Alps to sunny golden beaches, you can break the walk by kayaking along the coast. Watching penguins, seal and dolphins signal coastal cliffs nearby. The Onetahuti Bay and a sunrise crossing at Awaroa River are highlighted.
Location: Abel Tasman National Park in the Nelson/Tasman region (see for more info)
5. Heaphy Track (South Island)
The forest meets the West Coast on this hike through the extreme contrasts of rainforests and sub-alpine tussock grass lines; the churning surf of the West Coast and high rugged mountains; and views high atop Mt Perry and the boot pole. Encounter the 148m suspension bridge and the hikers’ favourite, a two-hour trek on an unmaintained track.
Location: Kahurangi National Park in the Nelson/Tasman and West Coast regions (see for more info)
6. Milford Track (South Island)
The original and best-known of the walks in New Zealand, this trek is in the Fiordland National Park. You’ll face MacKinnon Pass at 1,154 meters above sea level, while suspension bridges and boardwalks lead you through the park, with a must-do side trip to the mammoth three-level 580m Sutherland Falls.
Location: Fiordland National Park in the Fiordland region (see for more info)
7. Rakiura Track (South Island)
Located on Stewart Island, this quiet and serene Great Walk covers 80% of the Island, a remote location famous for rugged native forests; deserted, sandy beaches; and its large population of Kiwis. With relics from the island’s sawmill history, hiking this track is the best way to see Stewart Island, its wilderness beaches, and Oban on Half Moon Bay.
Location: Rakiura National Park and Stewart Island/Rakiura in the Southland region (see for more info)
8. Kepler (South Island)
The Greatest Walk remains at the top of the list due to challenging climbs, outstanding views of the Fiordland National Park, big photo ops, and the Luxmore Caves. It’s a custom-built path with sweeping vistas of giant mountain ranges, native forests, waterfalls, and glacier-carved valleys. Along the way is a worth-while detour to the Iris Burn which is above the bush line with panoramic views of everything a Great Walk is about. From above, hikers have said that the Kepler trail is reminiscent of the Great Wall of China.
Location: Fiordland National Park and Lake Manapouri area and Lake Te Anau area in the Fiordland region (see for more info)
The first new addition in 25 years to the Great Walks family. This Great Walk opened on 1 March 2020. As it's a new track/walk, you will have a super unique experience. This Great Walk hasn't been featured extensively on social media yet. You will still be one of the first to conquer this Great Walk of New Zealand.
The tracks offer karst limestone landscapes, the cliffs of Mt Hawera, and Mt Ryall at 1250m. Other highlights include breathtaking views up and over the Paparpoa Ranges, the beauty of the Pororari and Mawhera rivers, and tributaries of Roaring Meg and Smoke-ho Creek.
Location: Paparoa National Park in the West Coast region (see for more info)
10. Routeburn Track (South Island)
Another top Great Walk, this track goes through the Southern Alps amongst Humboldt and Darren Mountains, Lake Harris, and trekking on the exposed Hollyford Face. Routeburn links the Fiordland National Park to Mount Aspiring by way of Harris Saddle. Of this list of the Great Walks in New Zealand, this hike commands an experienced fitness level hiker.
Location: Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park in the Otago and Fiordland regions (see for more info)
Which one is the best Great Walk in New Zealand?
A question many people ask but that is so hard to answer. The best Great Walk of New Zealand is.... The one that you enjoy the most. Each walk will offer you amazing scenery and Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. We wouldn't dare to name one walk better than the other. It's like having to choose one favourite child. They're all different, they're all unique. The same goes for the Great Walks of New Zealand. There is a reason they all have the word Great in the name.
However, travellers always have their own favourite walks. Favourites they love to share on social media, in blog posts and when having a beer at the campsite and sharing stories with other travellers. Some walks can feel crowded at some point at certain times of the year... Just because every traveller adds the same Great Walk to his or her must-do New Zealand list. But you can do it differently this year by steering clear of the popular Great Walks.
Where to find free maps of the walks & routes?
Are you ready to hit the hiking trails in New Zealand? Ready to know how to get these amazing walks in New Zealand? And where to find free walking or hiking maps. Easy. We've listed the best hiking maps below. Click, read and make sure you're prepared when you're ready to conquer the Great Walks of New Zealand.
- Lots of detailed information about each Great Walk can be found on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website.
- The official resource for free walking maps for New Zealand is The Walking Access website (created by the New Zealand Walking Access Commission, a government organisation)
- Use the free hiking resources from the Mountain Safety Council to prepare for your trip.
Safety first when hiking in New Zealand
As there are so many walks and hikes in New Zealand, there's a hike for almost every level of fitness. Make sure, to be well-prepared when going on a multi-day hike in New Zealand. Make sure to visit the Mountain Safety Council's website for year-round hiking tips. They are the number one source for hiking tips in winter, walking advice in summer... Basically, any outdoor activity - walking, hiking, climbing.. you name it - in every season is covered by them, so check it out.
Also, use their super-handy trekking or hiking planning tool. Simply enter your activity, location and time of the year and the hiking tool will give you:
- Live weather alerts
- A packing list for your hike
- Heaps of info to read before you go
- Track options (where to go)
This can all be saved as a PDF, so you can print it and take a copy with you. Most important, stick to the outdoor safety code:
- Plan your trip (be prepared)
- Tell someone your plans before you go (tell hostel/campsite staff, your family or friends or sign in at a visitor centre)
- Be aware of the weather (the weather in New Zealand can change suddenly)
- Know your limits (do walks or hikes you can handle)
- Take sufficient supplies (bring enough water and snacks or food)
Enjoy your walk in New Zealand
You're now ready for your hiking adventure. Pack all your gear, put it in your campervan and hit the road. Camping close to your favourite walk is much easier than staying at a hostel far away. Therefore it goes without saying that you'll be making this trip of a lifetime by campervan.
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