New Zealand is a country of incredible landscape and scenery. The geography takes on a life of its own and is considered by many backpackers to be the true ‘wildlife’ of the country. There is no better way to engage with nature and the incredible scenery than hiking, trekking or rambling. New Zealand has many trails and treks dotted around the countryside but, the most famous hiking trails are commonly known as the ‘Great Walks’. Most of the walks are accessible from major towns and one can choose to do self walks or guided walks. The top nine walks are as follows (in no particular order).
1. Milford Track: Is probably the most famous of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Located in the Fiordland National Park famous for its sharp mountain peaks, impressive water falls and indigenous rain forests. The distance is 53.5Km and takes approximately 4 days to complete and its closest town is Te Anau.
2. Kepler Track: A mountain top trail nestled between the Kepler Mountains on the one side and crystal blue lakes on the other, ultimately offering hikers spectacular views of the Fiordland National Park. . The distance is 60km and takes approximately3- 4 days to complete and its closest town is also Te Anau.
3. Tongariro Northern Circuit: Ever wanted to get close to a Volcano? The Tongariro Northern Circuit crosses the World Heritage Area of Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe. Experience unique active volcanic craters, bubbling geothermal landscapes, glacial valleys and crystal blue lakes. The Duration of the walk is 3-4 days, has a distance of 43km and is near to the impressive super volcanic lake Taupo.
4. Abel Tasman Coast Track: Is a 51km coastal track in the Abel Tasman National Park. Considered on of the more gentle tracks of the nine to walk and is accessible in both the winter and the summer. It is part of a marine reserve and there is plenty of opportunity to explore the park by water taxi, canoe, kayak and swim with local marine wildlife. The Abel Tasman Costal Track is 55.2km in distance and can take up to 3-5 days.
5. Heaphy Track: Is also located in the beautiful Nelson region and encompasses all of New Zealand’s South Island’s unique scenery. This 78.4km trail will take you between 4-6 days to complete but, includes coastal forests, rivers, mountain peaks and wild, West Coast indigenous forest. Truly unique to New Zealand.
6. Rakiura Track: Stewart Island/Rakiura is New Zealand’s only island national park and is home to the country’s most unique and endangered bird species. To get there you’ll need to take a ferry from the township of Bluff or fly from Invercargill. The Rakiura Track is a 3 day 32 km journey that offers peaceful bush and coastal scenery all year round.
7. Routeburn Track: Connects two of New Zealand’s most spectacular National parks together. (Mount Aspiring National Park, home of Mount Cook and the Fiordlands National Park). Easily accessed from the popular resort town Queenstown the Routeburn Track is a 32km trail that can last between 2-4 days. It offers some of the most spectacular glimpse into the Southern Alps and has unique waterfall vistas on display.
8. Whanganui Journey: Although not strictly just a hike the Whanganui Journey is considered one of New Zealand’s significant national treasures. It is a multi-day canoe trip covering approximately 145km that starts from a high mountain range inland and follows the Whanganui River to the sea. The Whanganui Journey has a deep cultural and historical references to the Maori people.
9. Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk: Is part of the Te Urewera National Park which is set in the heart of the North Island. The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk will take you through untouched forests, steeped in rich, ancient Maori historical lore. The distance is 46km and takes about 3-4 days.
The ‘Great Walk’ trails are well established and generally easy to follow. Tickets and hut accommodation is run and administered by the Department of Conservation. Hut prices start from approximately $30 per night and children under 11 stay free. Planning and preparation is generally encouraged and is wise to make your accommodation bookings well in advance. Wearing the right gear is important due to New Zealand’s changeable weather. It is always wise to get advice on the current weather conditions before setting out. Summer is the peak season and generally starts from the 1st of October to the 30th of April. For further information about the walks and to make a booking please contact the Department of Conservation.
New Zealand Backpackers Magazine
This article and images were submitted by the travel writers from New Zealand Backpackers Magazine. Photos by Tourism New Zealand.