A once in a lifetime place to visit, New Zealand delivers with its spectacular scenery, mountain lakes, green forests and iconic long hiking trails. If you go for a hike in New Zealand you may find that you’ll want to relocate here as soon as possible. Fitting in a couple of hiking trails during your trip is totally recommended.
Hiking in New Zealand
Weather and Conditions
Just before you go off into the great unknown of New Zealand, keep an eye on the weather. You may encounter any number of things in the mountains from thunderstorms, tropical cyclones, avalanches, floods and even harsh blizzards.
Before hiking in New Zealand, check with the Department of Conservation (DOC) in order to find out about any updates related to national parks. Perhaps there may be a weather warning or some routes may be closed? The best month to visit New Zealand is during the peak of summer in January, but the winter can also work as long as you check for things like avalanche warnings.
Plan ahead but if you think that you are in danger because of current weather conditions, turn back as soon as possible. There is just no point in risking anything and you can wait until the weather gets better to resume your hike another day. You don’t have to turn around if there is a light drizzle, just put things into perspective.
What to Pack
Wherever you decide to hike, you can prepare the bulk of your luggage before leaving. However, New Zealand has some of the best hiking stores in the world, with highly competitive prices. It might be wise to check with some of them before embarking on one of the great walks New Zealand offers. People here are extremely knowledgeable about all things related to both camping and hiking, so they know what you need to take along with you for a good trek!
A Comprehensive Hiking Gear List:
- Hiking boots that are completely waterproof
- Hiking trousers and shorts
- Breathable wear
- A jacket made of down for when it gets cold
- Windproof jacket
- Fast drying towel
- Silk Liner
- Sleeping bag
- Waterproof jacket
- Many socks (because you can never really have enough when you’re on a hike!)
- Hygiene supplies
- Hiking poles
- Battery packs
- A camera
- A knife and fork
- A gas burner
- Pots pans and some basic utensils
And of course, enough food and water, so eat your veg out here mate! This cannot be stressed enough because dehydration and fatigue could lead to problems out in the open. These problems could be potentially fatal, so plan ahead.
South Island Hikes
Out of the two islands, the South Island in particular makes for some great hikes. Here I’ve put together some of the best for you in ascending order of difficulty.
The Hollyford Trail
Distance: 55 km
Time: Approximately 3 days
In the south of Queenstown, the Hollyford track is stunning and easy trek, suitable for most hikers. There are a number of rainforests, creeks and rivers all along the trail. One of the most unique things about this hike is its proximity to the mountains and fjords of Fiordland National Park. There really are many breathtaking sights along the way.
Queen Charlotte Trail
Distance: 71 km
Time: Approximately 4 days
This New Zealand hiking tour is at the top of the South Island, showcasing over 70 km of stunning forests and golden beaches. There are a number of steep climbs, but these provide stunning 360° views of Malborough Sounds. It’s even possible to see right across to the North Island on a good day. Whenever you’re tired, the beaches offer a great refuge and place to pitch a tent.
Distance: 84 km
Time: Approximately 10 days
This trail is not for the fainthearted, but one of the most unique treks you can do in New Zealand. The beginning is only accessible by boat, helicopter or plane - this makes for very remote experience that is free from tourists. Push yourself to the limit over a number of creek crossings and challenging mountain assents as you take in all of the breathtaking views.
South Island NZ Day Hikes
If you haven’t got all day and all the time in the world, there are a number of different day hikes available on South Island depending on the type of scenery you’d like to see.
Rob Roy Glacier
Distance: 10 km
Time: Approximately 3 hours
This walk follows the iconic Roy Ray Glacier and takes you through kilometres of trees, mystical New Zealand forests and of course an enormous glacier. In the winter there is a slight risk of avalanche so beware if travelling at this time. Other than this, the hike is relatively easy and enjoyable for novice hikers.
Sandymount Reserve Hike
Distance: 6 km
Time: Approximately 2 hours
Sandymount provides a series of breathtaking South Pacific Ocean views. The trial also overlooks wide sheep paddocks and enormous coniferous forests. If you’d like to see some wildlife, this is one of the best New Zealand hikes to go on. Even the sheep will be looking at you and interacting, but don’t worry, the path is clearly marked and you will not be trespassing on anyone’s land. The pièce de resistance of the hike is a feature known as The Chasm which provides breathtaking views of the ocean.
Distance: 20 km
Time: Approximately 5 hours
This is a fairly straightforward hike, so don’t let the word creek put you off. There are some steep sections, but otherwise this is a stunning hike that reveals brilliant views of Lake Wakatipu all year round. You’ll the navigating through a lot of forest, but people don’t usually hire hiking guides because everything is signposted clearly. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike right up the creek to Mueller Hut. It’s not New Zealand's highest peak but a high climb nonetheless - the circuit will add an extra 10 km onto the journey and will be a little more gruelling, but the views will pay off.
Have a Great Time
Now that you're planned and ready, the last thing you need to do is enjoy. When you’re on the outdoor tracks, New Zealand has some of the world’s most diverse forests and scenery with surprisingly few animals that can attack you. Wherever you plan on going, whether it is a New Zealand lord of the rings hike or a week-long tour, you’ll be blown away. The rich biodiversity, particularly with the number of bird species, will have you in complete awe of nature. Let go, turn off your phone and plug yourself out of the social world to enjoy the hiking experience of a lifetime.
Have you been to New Zealand before? Did you enjoy some of the hiking trails? It would be great to hear how you prepared yourself for the trip.
Author: Сatherine Wiley is the lead travel writer at Gear Expert Guides. Her passion for writing in all aspects of traveling flows through in the expert industry coverage she provides.