9 Great Walks of New Zealand Travel Guide

by Jules on February 11, 2013

Tramping, aka hiking, is the best to explore New Zealand’s stunning landscapes and vast wilderness. And the nine ‘Great Walks’ that make up the set of popular hiking tracks are Abel Tasman Coast, Heaphy, Kepler, Lake Waikaremoana, Milford, Rakiura, Routeburn, Tongariro Northern Circuit and Whanganui Journey. Prepare to be inspired by the natural landscapes of rainforests, beaches, fjords and mountains that also inspired the Lord of The Rings and the Hobbit movies. Strap your boots and backpack on for a great adventure.

Abel Tasman Coast
This walk takes you inside the Abel Tasman Park and regenerating rainforest for a three to five day adventure near Nelson. All levels of experienced trekkers and hikers will be able to participate in this glorious expedition through the pristine beaches and statuesque rock compilations. You might also consider taking to the coast for a bit of kayaking to appreciate the beauty in a new light. The cooler months provide more ideal conditions and fewer hikers as you explore beaches and the stunningly clear waters of the Tasman Bay.
Track Distance: 52 km (32 miles)

Heaphy Track
The summer months are more preferable for the Heaphy Track as the winter’s snow often blocks passages. Spend four to six days trekking through a myriad of terrain such as palm tree forests, untouched rainforest and snow-filled sections all of which are filled with caves and fossils waiting for passers-by to take notice. Kahurangi National Park near Nelson does have one challenging passage; however, the majority will be passable with relative ease. Do not forget to take a plunge into the Gorge River to invigorate the senses.
Track Distance: 78 km (48 miles)

Kepler Track
The Kepler experience will take you through land, air and sea, or rather water, throughout the Fiordland National Park near Te Anau. You will be able to explore the diversity of this region from the snowy peaks and glacial valleys. The sights of the towering Mt. Luxmore and Iris Burn Waterfall exuding a powerful energy will command your attention as you approach from afar. This three to four day journey is not overly difficult; however, the first day will prove to be a challenge for some. Measures have been taken to make this walk less challenging than it could be.
Track Distance: 60 km (37 miles)

Lake Waikaremoana
Lake Waikaremoana is located inside Te Urewera National Park. You will be able to see wildlife from ducks to parakeets throughout this three to four day adventure. To be able to experience the best aspects of this track, you should be prepared for somewhat challenging climbs to Panekiri Bluffs and Korokoro Waterfall; however, most of this hikers route will be alongside the lake without too many challenges only spectacular views.
Track Distance: 46 km (28.5 miles)

Milford Track
Often cited as “the finest walk in the world,” Milford Sound will take you through the Fiordland National Park near Te Anau, over the span of four to five days. Sports enthusiasts will be able to explore these exhilarating peaks and valleys at all times of the year; however, be mindful trekking through Mackinnon Pass as it is prone to avalanches in the winter and expect rain throughout the remainder of the year. This tramping route does have several challenging points as you’d expect from one of the Great Walks of New Zealand; however, the contrasting terrain and unforgettable moments will make up for the difficult points.
Track Distance: 54 km (33.5 miles)

Rakiura Track
The Rakiura National Park, on Steward Island, will have you exploring beaches and coast life. This breathtakingly beautiful walk is a more moderate hike with only two moderately challenging inclines. People should be prepared for the uncertain weather, the mosquitos and the sand-flies all of which are entirely worth the opportunity to explore completely deserted beaches over the course of three days. You will even pass through Maori land at various stages.
Track Distance: 36 km (22 miles inc. road walks)

Routeburn Track
The Routeburn tramping track is part of Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park. This two to three day trekking adventure is for advanced hikers and some equipment is required. Individuals who brave this path will be some of the few people in the world to witness to the magical and mystical environments of these alpine views and spectacular forests. One might expect a number of treacherous conditions at any time during the year such as rain, snow, ice, cloudy conditions and avalanches; however, you will also have access to stunning lakes, snowy peaks and lush valleys.
Track Distance: 32 km (20 miles)

Tongariro Northern Circuit
This three to four day walk in Tongariro National Park will take you through some of the most exciting terrains from the alpines to areas with volcanic activity. You will see steam rising from vents in the ground as well as volcano craters. Few walks will induce a rush and sense of excitement like the Tongariro Northern Circuit. You will be able to walk up to a number of stunning warm lakes that are radiating mystical blue-green hues with nearby lava flows. This track will also provide you with views of Mt. Doom, or rather Mt. Ngauruhoe, from the famous Lord of the Rings films. You will be required to have gear to complete the section referred to as the staircase which is only to be attempted in dry conditions.
Track Distance: 49 km (30 miles)

Whanganui Journey
Whanganui National Park, near Taumarunui, is filled with enormous adventure of all kinds. And although the Whanganui route is technically all via water it is still considered one of the Great Walks. You will be able to choose between a three-day and a five-day trekking adventure. You will participate in a number of activities on this walk. You will kayak and explore glow worm filled grottos and canoe through more tranquil regions as you become mesmerized by the towering cliffs and majestic waterfalls. Rapids do exist; however, they are manageable by all levels of experienced kayakers.
Track Distance: 5 day trip: 145 km (90 miles) and 3 day trip: 88 km (54.5 miles)

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