New Zealand is home to stunning and diverse landscapes, mountains, lakes & beaches. Although there are many hiking trails to choose from, there are 9 Great Walks that have been voted as the very best! Each of the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand offer Guided or Self Guided options along with lodge or hut style accommodation along the way. Many of the places to stay have solar lighting and running water as well as cooking facilities.
These walks are not for the faint hearted, ranging from 2 to 6 days. Hiking for a few days is also one of the best ways to see some of New Zealand's National Parks.
9 Great Walks New Zealand
5 of the 9 Great Walks are located in New Zealand's South Island, along with the 6th hiking trail located on Stewart Island (at the very bottom of the country)! Apart from Abel Tasman National Park, all of the south island trails are mountainous and weather dependent - hence require extensive pre planning. A bit of rain shouldn't put you off though as the waterfalls are always more spectacular after a bit of the wet stuff.
1. Milford Track
53km, 4 to 5 day walk through Fiordland National Park finishing in the iconic Milford Sound. Although there is a lot of walking involved the track is classed as easy / intermediate. Highlights of the walk - valleys, rivers, fiords, swimming holes and New Zealands tallest waterfall.
Accommodation. You have to book 3 of the huts along the track with DOC, especially in peak season. Camping is not allowed.
2. Kepler Track
The Kepler Track is a 60km, 3 - 4 day loop track through the Fiordlands. The track was opened in 1988 and was designed to show you the highlights of the area such as spectacular views of mountains, waterfalls, valleys and limestone formations. This track is classed as intermediate.
Accommodation. There are 2 campsites and 3 huts provided by the DOC. Again during peak season booking is essential.
3. Routeburn Track
Linking Mt Aspiring National Park with the Fiordlands, this trail is a 3 day 39km walk. Highlights include, valleys, mountains, lakes, waterfalls and forest. This is also classed as an intermediate grade of walk.
Accommodation. There are 2 campsites and 4 huts along the track.
4. Heaphy Track
The longest of the tracks, the Heaphy Track is 78km and takes 4 to 6 days to complete. The trail will guide you along the North Western coastline of New Zealand's south island. This is a great track to see a bit of everything, rainforests, lowland forest, grasslands, mountains and palm tree lined surfing beaches. This track is good for those at an intermediate level.
Accommodation. There are 9 campsites and 7 huts, all run by the DOC. All huts have heating, toilets, bunks and water; and a few have gas cooking facilities and lighting.
5. Abel Tasman Track
50 km of coastal trails - a stunning 4 to 5 day intermediate walk! The Abel Tasman National Park is just beautiful so this walk is well worth doing to see more of it. Highlights to see are the white sand beaches, friendly and cheeky wildlife and crystal clear waters. If you don't fancy the walk then hire a kayak or just do parts of the walk after a boat ride.
Accommodation. There are several campsites and and 4 huts run by the DOC.
6. Rakiura Track
The very 'end of the world' trail - this 3 day 36 km walk is on Stewart Island. Possibly the easiest of the 9 Great New Zealand walks the Rakiura Track is also a great place to spot wildlife, especially birds. Find secluded beaches whilst listening to Kiwi Birds and Owls.
Accommodation. There are 3 DOC campsites and 2 huts.
7. Tongariro Northern Circuit
Home of Mt Doom! 41km. 3 - 4 days. Along with the Milford Track this is probably one of the more famous New Zealand walks. This walk includes active volcanoes, unbelievable lakes and waterfalls and wildflowers. Suitable for intermediate level.
Accommodation. 3 DOC run huts - bookings are absolutely essential.
A shorter option is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing - this walk will take you 8 hours, it's 19km and possibly the most popular walk in NZ because of Mt Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe).
8. Lake Waikaremoana
On the Eastern side of New Zealand's north island, this trek will take 3 - 4 days at 46km. The track mainly takes you around the lakes shore, going through prehistoric rainforest and passing rivers, misty valleys and waterfalls. You might even spot a goblin in the 'goblin forest'. Intermediate.
Accommodation. There are 5 huts and several campsites. You must make a reservation.
9. Whanganui Journey
A 5 day, 145 km trek that will need a canoe or kayak to complete. Although this is classed as one of the 9 Great New Zealand Walks it is actually more of a canoe trip. There are parts of this that can be done by foot, but for the full experience you'll need canoe. Leave the river and take a small walk to see the bridge in the middle of nowhere.
Accommodation. Campsites and huts dotted along the river.
For more information on the Great Walks of New Zealand: www.newzealand.com
If you enjoy being out in the wilderness and walking then why not consider doing some volunteer work with the DOC?
6 Must-Haves for the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand
Before you head off on your own great adventure, you’ll have to make sure you have the essentials. Every experienced hiker knows the basics: a high-end backpack, sturdy hiking boots, a waterproof container for your passport and cash. But what else do you need for a walk through New Zealand? Don’t worry, here's a few ideas:
1. The Right Clothes
Most of New Zealand’s Great Walks will take 3-6 days, and in that time you’re likely to meet with some crazy weather. If you want to stay comfortable, you need to plan ahead. Start with some hiking clothes that are light and quick-drying - then put them on and layer up!
2. Personal Hygiene Supplies
It doesn’t matter if you’re exploring New Zealand with your family, your best friends, or your significant other, after six days of hiking you’re not going to love how they smell. Well, surprise: the feeling’s mutual. Now, you don’t have to bring a whole shower caddy with you. A toothbrush and skin care bar will keep you feeling fresh and clean, without adding extra weight to your backpack.
3. A Fast-Drying Towel
If there’s one thing I hate about backpacking trips, it’s the challenges associated with taking a shower. Not the shower itself, but drying off with a towel and then having to carry around a wet towel amongst the rest of your clothes and supplies. Thankfully, there is an easy solution to this situation: microfiber towels. These little beauties work just as well as the terry cloths in your linen closet. Best of all, they dry in an instant!
4. Activated Charcoal Capsules
Activated charcoal capsules help absorb toxins in your body that can cause problems, from upset stomachs to diarrhea (it’s like Pepto-Bismol, but it passes airport security)! To truly enjoy the beauty of New Zealand’s Great Walks, you’ll need to feel your very best, so make sure this stuff is somewhere handy!
5. Travel Pillow
International flights can be long and cumbersome, but they don’t need to be uncomfortable. A travel neck pillow can make or break your flight - and determine whether or not you’re able to catch some zzz’s on your journey to arrive rested and ready for your adventure. A durable travel pillow is not just helpful for your flight to and from New Zealand, but can actually double as a pillow during your hiking trip, too.
6. Something To Capture The Memories
There are lots of reasons to travel the world - experience new cultures, meet new people, broaden your horizons. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to one reason: to make some memories you’ll cherish forever. Whether you’re snapping photos with your cell phone or documenting your journey with pen, paper, and a sleek travel journal, make sure you have something handy to help you preserve the moment.
Once you have all your essentials in your backpack, say bon voyage. You’re ready to experience everything New Zealand has to offer! Enjoy the unspoiled scenery on one of the country’s Great Walks, help yourself to a plate of traditional Maori hangi, go shopping in Auckland –– whatever you do, you’re bound to leave your heart in this beautiful country.
6 Must-Haves for the 9 Great New Zealand Walks - These hiking must have suggestions were kindly provided by Grace Li. Grace Li is a freelance writer from Omaha, Nebraska. She’s been published across many digital platforms for her travel tips and experiences. When she isn’t working on DIY projects with her two daughters, she’s volunteering at her local pet shelter.