Great Walk | Hiking

How many great walks are there in New Zealand? An overview

Planning a trip to New Zealand? We have some great news for you! There are many amazing walks in this country. You can choose from short, medium, or long walks. Whether you want to see the golden beaches and volcanoes of the north island or enjoy the glaciers and mountains on the south island – there is a walk for every type of traveler.

New Zealand has named some premier multi-day walks, great walks. These hiking paths will take past the most spectacular scenery New Zealand has to offer. There are 10 Great Walks in New Zealand for hikers to enjoy. They range from native temperate forests, lakes, and rivers to rugged mountain peaks, deep gorges, and vast valleys.

Let’s take a look at what these 10 Great Walks have to offer.

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Wainui Abel Tasman Track
Photo: Start Abel Tasman Track Wainui by Kiwishirts

Lake Waikaremoana Track

This track follows the shore of Lake Waikaremoana for 25 km and offers excellent trout fishing, swimming in secluded bays, exploring old Maori settlements, and beautiful forest walks. The middle section is a big day walk with steep climbs up to some spectacular viewpoints, but it’s followed by an easy stretch along the lake where you can relax before tackling one final climb towards Te Waihou Hut (bookings are available). Lake Waikaremoana Track is great if you’re looking for something challenging that will offer lots of scenery on your trip.

Distance: 46 km one way
Days: 3 to 4 days
Accommodation: huts or campsites
Difficulty: intermediate tramping track
Bookings: required for campsites and huts year-round
Fee: click here for fees and discounts

Whanganui River Journey Bridge
Photo: Whanganui River Journey by Chris McLennan

Whanganui Journey

Are you not able to walk many kilometers a day? Or would you like a different scenery? Try paddling a canoe or kayak down the Whanganui River. The track is between 87 and 145 kilometers one way, so be prepared for a multi-day paddling excursion. The river journey from Taumaranui to Pipiriki takes an average of 5 days to complete by canoe. A shorter 3-day excursion is also possible.

Paddlers from beginner through advanced experience level can explore this journey on their own or with the help of an experienced guide. The trip is not only scenic but also historical, as you’ll have opportunities to visit many historical sites along the way, like a short walk to the Bridge to Nowhere and an overnight stay at the Tieke Kainga (DOC hut that is also used as a marae).

There are just a couple of cafes during your trip down the Whanganui River (on days 1 and 2) so make sure you are prepared. You must bring food for the duration of your stay. Because the weather in the Whanganui National Park is changeable, always be prepared with warm clothes, rain gear, and a torch.

Distance: 87 to 145 km one way
Days: 5 days
Accommodation: huts or campsites
Difficulty: intermediate
Bookings: required for huts and campsites during Great Walk season
Fee: click here for fees and discounts

Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Photo: Tongariro Crossing by Camilla Rutherford

Tongariro Northern Circuit

The full Tongariro Northern Circuit involves a trek of approximately 43 km. The track can be walked in either direction, and there are various options for overnight camping or accommodation along the way. There’s plenty to keep you busy with views as diverse as volcanic craters, thick temperate rainforest, and bare mountain tops.

This Great Walk is suitable for anyone who is confident walking on various terrain and has the necessary fitness levels. You won’t get enough of the magnificent Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, which show spectacular volcanic terrain and views of the central North Island.

The Tongariro Northern Circuit is an easier tramping track that takes about three to four days. It can be walked in either direction, and there are various options for overnight camping or huts along the way. There’s plenty to keep you busy with views as diverse as volcanic craters, thick temperate rainforest, and snow-capped mountain tops.

Expert tip: You will share part of the track with many hikers who are taking on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of New Zealand’s most popular day walks. You can beat the crowds, not by starting early, but by starting late. Most days, hikers will start very early in the morning to finish the 19.4 kilometers, so if you start after 10 a.m., it should be a lot less crowded.

Distance: 43.1 kilometers, loop walk
Days: 3 to 4 days
Accommodation: huts or campsites
Difficulty: intermediate tramping track
Bookings: required for huts and campsites during Great Walk season
Fee: click here for fees and discounts

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Learn everything there is to know about New Zealand’s best day-walk in this article
Whariwharangi Bay Abel Tasman Coast Track
Photo: Abel Tasman Coast Track by Kiwishirts

Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is definitely one of my favorite walks in New Zealand. It’s the perfect mix of beautiful scenery, good length, and easy accessibility (it starts at a car park at either end of the trail).

After a day of hiking, you can relax at one of the many golden beaches along the way. You can even take a plunge in the waters of the Tasman Bay. The climate is very mild, and the track is even walkable in winter. Make sure you book ahead, especially in summer, during the holiday season.

It is also possible to kayak the Abel Tasman Coast Track. You will get up close and personal with beautiful beaches and marine life. There are plenty of kayaking rental stations in Marahau where you book a multiday kayak trip with water taxis, huts or campsites included. I have an excellent experience with Abel Tasman Kayaks.

More on Abel Tasman Coast Track

You can find extensive information about the Abel Tasman Track in this article.

If you choose to explore the Abel Tasman Coast by Kayak, please book a mosquito bay campsite. It is a tiny campsite right at the beach and only accessible by boat. Don’t be put off by its name!

Distance: 60 kilometers one way
Days: 3 to 5 days
Accommodation: huts or campsites
Difficulty: intermediate tramping track
Bookings: required for huts and campsites year-round
Fee: click here for fees and discounts

Heaphy Track

A great walk for anyone with a little bit of hiking experience. The Heaphy Track is more remote than the Abel Tasman Coast Walk, but it also has many fewer people. You’ll see spectacular white sand beaches and coastal headlands as you trek through forests filled with mature trees like Kauri, beech, podocarpus, and rimu that are over 150 years old.

At one point along the way, there’s a chance that you can spot or at least hear the great spotted Kiwi bird while hiking and camping the Heaphy track. You may also see kea and kaka, weka, and tui.

You can start at either side of the trail at Brown hut in Golden Bay or Kohaihai on the West Coast. Bus and taxi transfers are available, as well as vehicle relocation services.

Distance: 78.4 kilometers one way
Days: 4 to 6 days
Accommodation: huts or campsites
Difficulty: intermediate tramping track (or mountain bike)
Bookings: required for huts and campsites year-round
Fee: click here for fees and discounts

Paparoa Track

The Paparoa Track offers you a chance to explore the rugged coastline of Westland National Park, which is made up of volcanic rock and spectacular surf beaches. The track runs for about 55km from Blackball to Punakaiki with some short diversions off the main route. Walkers can camp at either end or stay in lodges/campsites along the way. Accommodations are booked out well ahead, so bookings must be made before arriving in New Zealand if possible.

You’ll find everything on this trail from rainforest walks, blowholes (although not guaranteed), geothermal hot springs, and boiling mud pools that make it worth exploring every inch! Explore the spectacular Pororari River Gorge with its many waterfalls and pools before reaching the secluded beach of Pororari.

The Paparoa Track is a challenging walk, with steep and slippery sections, so extreme care must be taken during wet weather conditions. It’s not advisable for those who have no experience hiking or people in poor health. If you enjoy walking long distances, then this is one for you!

Allot around three days for this trek due to its length. Take time to relax and follow gold miners’ footsteps on the historic Croesus Track and take a side trip to Garden Gully to see gold-mining remains. Don’t forget to stay overnight at the Moonlight Tops Hut for incredible sunsets over the Tasman Sea.

Distance: 55 kilometers
Difficulty: intermediate tramping track (or mountain bike)
Accommodation: huts (no camping)
Bookings: required for huts and campsites year-round
Fee: click here for fees and discounts

Routeburn Track view from Falls Hut

Routeburn Track

The Routeburn track is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful and popular walking tracks. It is one-way, and the full walk takes two to four days to complete. You will walk through lush forests, meadows, and tarns and past several jaw-dropping waterfalls and lakes. You will find yourself amongst the peaks of the Southern Alps. It is just a stunning experience.

You can start the walk from either end but need to book DOC huts or campsites in advance – New Zealand summer is short, so it’s worth booking early. The track is well marked and signposted. Be aware; some segments are steep and rough. You will need suitable footwear to complete this track.

Expert tip: If you run out of luck and the track is fully booked, try to book a bed in Routeburn Flats hut or a campsite just a few hundred meters further down the valley and explore the area from there. That’s what I did back in 2019. I hiked to the campsite, put up my tent, and continue onwards to Routeburn Falls lodge and even beyond that. You’d be amazed at how much you can still see in just two days, staying at the same spot.

Distance: 33 kilometers
Difficulty: intermediate to moderate
Accommodation: huts and campsites
Bookings: required for huts and campsites during Great Walk season (book well in advance)
Fee: click here for fees and discounts

More on the Routeburn Track

You can find all there is to know about the Routeburn Track in this article.
Milford Sound
Photo: Milford Sound by Rob Suisted

Milford Track

Another very famous New Zealand walk is the Milford Track. It’s a bit harder than Routeburn Track, with an elevation gain of about 1000 meters, and it takes four days to complete. It is well worth doing this track, though, because you will get some excellent views of Fiordland National Park as well as enjoy the beautiful scenery around that area. Some call the Milford Track the finest walk in New Zealand, with cascading waterfalls, stunning valleys, and ancient rainforest at your disposal.

Indeed, Milford Track is one of the most popular walking tracks in New Zealand. It is considered a national icon and an easy track to find your way through. Only 40 people are allowed to start on this track daily, which means that you’ll have plenty of room for yourself! Therefore, it is advisable to book this tour well in advance through the Department of Conservation (DOC).

You do not necessarily have to be trained for the Milford Track, but a good basic physical condition is required. The backpack you will carry will be quite heavy because of all the equipment and food you need to bring along for four days. Water is available at the track.

Distance: 53.5 kilometers
Difficulty: intermediate to moderate (Mc Kinnon Pass)
Accommodation: huts (camping is not permitted)
Bookings: required for huts and campsites during Great Walk season (book well in advance)
Fee: click here for fees and discounts

Kepler Track Swing Bridge
Photo: Kepler Track Swing Bridge by Miles Holden

Kepler Track

The Kepler Track is a four-day track with a heavy emphasis on exceptional vistas. You will need to hike around 15 or 16 kilometers a day to complete this track in three or four days. It is a stunning track with beech forest, shorelines of lake Te Anau and Manapouri, and spectacular alpine views. It is a popular track that looks to be designed to show you all the best features of Fiordland.

There are three huts and two campsites provided by the department of conservation along the Kepler Track. Huts are located at Lake Manapouri, Iris Burn, and Mt Luxmore. Campsites exist at Brod Bay and Iris Burn.

Kepler Track Panorama
Photo: Kepler Track Panorama by Fraser Clements

The track is circular and can be walked in either direction. It is well-marked, but it can be slippery after rainfall; please take care.

This track has earned its reputation as an outstanding walking experience due to various landscapes, including extensive forest, lakeside beaches, alpine areas with spectacular views, and a vast array of flora and fauna that will astound you at every turn. The most popular starting point for this walk is Te Anau township on the shores of Lake Te Anau.

Distance: 60 km (loop)
Difficulty: moderate
Accommodation: huts and campsites
Bookings: required for huts and campsites during Great Walk season
Fee: click here for fees and discounts

Rakiura Track

For the last of the Great Walks, Rakiura Track, we head down to Stewart Island, the most southern place in New Zealand. It’s a challenging three-day walk that takes you along the sheltered shores of Paterson Inlet, past historic sites, and over Maori land.

You will hear the Rakiura kiwi calling at night, so be on the lookout for this rare and elusive bird. The track will show you the amazingness of New Zealand’s native forests. Please pack solid raingear, even in summer, because the weather can be very changeable and unpredictable on Stewart Island.

The track is for experienced and well-equipped trampers only, who are aged 15 years or more. You will need to take a ferry from Bluff (at the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island) to Stewart Island.

Distance: 32 km (loop)
Difficulty: intermediate
Accommodation: huts and campsites
Bookings: required for huts and campsites all year round
Fee: click here for fees and discounts

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