New Zealand is home to some of the world’s best hiking trails. With a diverse natural landscape, hiking options range from glistening coastal trails to rugged volcanic terrain. From North to South, you don’t have to venture far from the main centres to find a challenging adventure.
With far too many excellent trails to fit into the one post, we’ve handpicked the most impressive tracks for this list. So tie up your laces, grab your pack, and let’s take a look at which trails make the list. To kick things off…
Cape Brett Walkway
We’re starting at the top of the North Island at the Cape Brett Walkway. This rewarding eight-hour track passes through native forest, dramatic cliffs and rocky coastline, where trekkers can enjoy panoramic views of the ocean and secluded bays below. When the weather is warm, dolphins frequent the area, playing in the waves and showing off to onlookers. Walk through ancient Pa sites and broaden your understanding of the area’s rich Maori history.
Lake Waikaremoana is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, located in the Te Urewera region of the East Coast of the North Island. The trail travels along the lake’s shoreline, passing through isolated bays, plunging waterfalls and ancient podocarp forests. While anyone with a reasonable fitness level can enjoy the Lake Waikaremoana trail, this is a multi-day walk, and hikers need to come prepared. With several suspension bridge crossings and a ridgeline climb, sections of this trail are sure to get your adrenaline pumping!
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is quite possibly the most famous New Zealand hiking trail of all. Traversing rugged volcanic terrain in the heart of Tongariro National Park, the Tongariro Crossing is a scenic marvel. Thousands walk the Crossing during the summer season when unguided treks are permitted, winding through beech forest, glacial valleys, active volcanoes and stunning emerald lakes. Preparation is essential for this walk as conditions can change at the drop of a hat, and the track can be steep and slippery at times.
Skyline Walkway Wellington
Wellington is New Zealand’s cute little capital city. Located at the bottom of the North Island, Wellington is the final stopover before crossing the Cook Strait to the South Island, which is why many hikers choose to stay overnight at places like Bolton Hotel, Rydges, or James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor in Wellington and catch the earliest ferry.
Just outside the bustling city centre is the challenging Skyline Walkway that follows the ridge tops of the Outer Green Belt. During the six-hour hike, trekkers indulge in a mix of rural, coastal and city tracks, with breath-taking views of the Kaikoura Ranges, Marlborough Sounds and Wellington Harbour. Good fitness and hiking gear are necessary for this walk as it can be steep and slippery along the ridges. However, several entry and exit points along this trail allow hikers to come and go as they please.
The top of the South Island is Abel Tasman National Park, a sunny coastal haven of native bush, golden beaches and crystal clear water. Trekking through Abel Tasman takes between three and five days, with various stops to take in the scenery along the way. Like all multi-day hikes, planning is essential, and hikers must be prepared for changing tides and weather conditions. Tackle this unforgettable hike from either direction, but don’t forget to snap a photo of the 47-metre long suspension bridge over the rushing Falls River!
Queen Charlotte Track
The Queen Charlotte Track is like no other hike in the world. Located in the stunning Marlborough Sounds, the area is famous for its expansive native bush, skyline ridges and coastal beauty. With accommodation and eateries along the track, hikers can take their time, embrace the sights and even enjoy a day on the water if they wish to. The undulating trail climbs to 400 metres at some sections, so hikers must have a good fitness level. It’s best to tackle the Queen Charlotte track during summer when weather conditions are stable and hikers can enjoy the full experience.
We’re heading deep into the South Island to Fiordland National Park, where the stunning Routeburn Track is located. The New Zealand landscape dramatically changes the further south you go, with snow-capped mountain ranges, deep valleys, icy waters and alpine gardens. The scenery on the Routeburn Track is nothing short of majestic, and the hike is considered a bucket list experience. Be sure to head up Key Summit to see panoramic views of the mountains, tarns and Routeburn River. The Routeburn Track is best between November and April when weather conditions can ensure a safe hike.
Te Araroa Trail
New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail is the ultimate hiking challenge, and the only way to walk the entire length of the country. Taking up to 120 days, this is not a journey for the faint-hearted. Some sections can take up to eight days before hikers reach the next town, so hikers must be prepared for long stints of isolation.
See gradual changes in scenery as you hike from the winterless north to the snow-capped South and meet friendly kiwis in every town along the way. Te Araroa passes through some of New Zealand’s Great Walks, such as the Tongariro Crossing and Queen Charlotte Track. It’s a true bucket-list adventure!
Enjoy The Best New Zealand Has To Offer
New Zealand is an outdoor adventurer’s dream. From short walks to multi-day treks, New Zealand is home to an extensive range of hiking trails for every skill level. With so much natural beauty to take in, the best way to experience Aotearoa is by foot.
New Zealand is often regarded as one of the most picturesque places in the world. No wonder it’s the perfect spot for a hike! Have you ever wandered a trail in New Zealand? What did you think? Make sure you let us know by leaving a comment in the comments section below.