I think it’s safe to say that none of know anybody who really headed off to New Zealand in search of busy cities, crazy nightlife and generally just to party!
That’s not to say you can’t go crazy on a night out in New Zealand of course but what you REALLY go to New Zealand for is its impressive sweeping landscapes and plethora of stunning natural wonders! It’s truly a place like no other.
The very surreal nature of New Zealand is what lent itself as a perfect backdrop to the Lord of the Rings films. It’s one of the few places in the world, that’s so dramatic and absolutely unreal that if an elf (or a gnome) jumped out at you and said hello, you’d probably not question it. (Okay, fine you might a little bit! 😀 😁 😆)
I’m a fan of slow travel and there’s honestly no better way to explore some of New Zealand’s natural treasures than on foot. The ability to take in your surrounds and truly appreciate New Zealand’s beauty comes no better than when you’re just walking (relatively slowly) instead of just zooming right past everything in a car.
With that in mind, here are some of the best and most unique hiking trails you have to do in New Zealand! (*Even if you’re not much of a hiker, you’ve gotta give at least one of these a try! It’s totally worth the time and effort!)
1.) Kepler Track, South Island
There’s something humbling about a mountain hike. You’re so high up, yet completely dwarfed by the landscape around you. In Fiordland National Park you’ll find one of New Zealand’s very best mountain routes: a four day hike along the Kepler Track. The highlight is the panoramic view offered at the peak of Mount Luxmore.
2.) Abel Tasman Coast Track, South Island
A close second to a mountain hike is a beach hike! Fine, this may not be the case in many other places across the world but in place like New Zealand with absolutely stunning beaches, it’s an absolute must do! (Plus, if you’re not into heights, it’s one of the easiest hikes you can do!) Abel Tasman National Park boasts over 30 miles of golden beaches. Couple this with its unbelievably clear waters , impressive granite cliffs and lush vegetation, and ‘idyllic‘ ends up being something of an understatement when it comes to describing this hike. The coast track here isn’t too strenuous, and there’s plenty of opportunity for bird-watching and wildlife-spotting along the way.
3.) Abbey Caves, Whangarei, North Island
Often the idea of hiking is to get off the (metaphorical) beaten track. If you’re someone who enjoys getting something unique out of every hike, don’t miss Abbey Caves on North Island. You can take a moderately challenging trail through three caverns to experience the other-worldly beauty of the stalactites and flowing streams in the ethereal light of the caves’ glow worms. There’s not much else quite like it.
4.) Tongariro Alpine Crossing, North Island
Imagine the bragging rights from getting to tell your friends you’ve walked through Mordor. They’re bound to be impressed, right? (Even if they aren’t this is a very solid must-do when you’re in New Zealand). The landscape of Tongariro National Park may be barren but it’s no less beautiful for it. The full hike takes around seven hours, and is twelve miles long, with views of beautifully-jarring jagged rock formations and a view of Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom). If you go the full distance, the views of the naturally heated Emerald Lakes towards the end of the trail are well worth the effort.
5.) Mount Victoria Trails, Wellington, North Island
Sometimes there’s nothing more impressive than looking out across a cityscape from the peaceful surrounds of nature. The green hills swaddling New Zealand’s capital city are the perfect place to do this, and the trails are easily accessible from the city. If you make it to the 643-foot summit of Mount Victoria, you have the choice of doubling back or carrying on down to the sea. Either way, the view from the top is possibly one of the best in New Zealand.
6.) Mount Sunday Hike, South Island
Hiking is almost always about getting away, and Mount Sunday is pretty much as far away as you can get from anything. It’s remote, even by New Zealand standards. If you feel a little Frodo-like hiking through the incredible scenery here, that’s because the area featured as Edoras in the Lord of the Rings films. (*Yes, I know there’s a lot of LOTR references here but hey – if you got it, flaunt it – and New Zealand has definitely got it!). The snowy mountain caps twinned with the view of the Rangitata River offers an unforgettable panorama.
7.) The Tongariro Northern Circuit, North Island
This loop track takes around three to four days. Your start and end point is the base of Mount Ruapehu, and it takes you through the dramatic landscape of the area’s active volcanic region. The views include lava formations, steaming geysers and brilliant emerald lakes. It’s a popular route, with one section — The Tongariro Crossing — acting as a great day walk if you’re not up for a several day trip.
8.) Rakiura Track, Stewart Island
Located on New Zealand’s most southern and most sparsely populated island, the Rakiura Track is a real gem when it comes to spotting some interesting bird life. Since a planked walkway paves the way for hikers, it’s a good option year-round, despite the region’s unpredictable weather. The whole route takes around three days, but its gentle gradients mean it’s not too strenuous.
9.) Charming Creek Walkway, South Island
All of the hikes mentioned offer some stunning natural scenery, but Charming Creek Walkway offers something a bit extra. This six hour return hike follows an abandoned coal railway through the Ngakawau River Gorge. You can see numerous rusted relics from a lost time in New Zealand’s history along the way, including an old suspension bridge. It also offers a pretty incredible view of Mangatini Falls.
10.) Te Araroa to Bluff, from North to South Island
This trail only opened in 2011, and it’s one of the world’s longest trails. It may take around four months to hike the trail in its entirety, but it’s actually a connection of smaller trails, so you can choose a section if you don’t have four months to spare. 😀 It may be a monster of a trek, but the fact that it will take you through everything New Zealand has to offer, from clear lakes to subtropical forests to snowy mountains, makes it too important not to mention. Why not go big? 😉