Discover where some of the great walks in New Zealand are. Between both the North and South Island you’ll find thousands upon thousands of hiking trails and walks through some of the most pristine and spectacular scenery on the planet. What is more, it has a highly organised and comprehensive infrastructure which makes it possible for every kind of outdoors lover to make the most of those opportunities. Young or old, casual stroller or hard-core hiker – there are walks which can take minutes and there are tramps which can take days and lead you into the most remote and unspoiled areas which New Zealand has to offer.
Some of the best walks in the world are in New Zealand
Short Walks and Day Walks
If you are interested in walking then the first thing you need to do on arriving in an area is take yourself into the nearest i-SITE – present in even the smallest of towns and settlements. These little (and sometimes not so little) places are goldmines of information for visitors with mountains of maps, guides, tourist literature and helpful staff.
Whatever you need on the subject of walking you will find here – whether you are looking for a 5 minute walk which brings you to a pretty-as-a-picture waterfall; walks which satisfy some special interest – for example – bird watching, wildlife, flora and fauna, history and heritage or you need something which offers disabled access.
Most of the literature you can pick up will be free but sometimes you may have to pay a few cents for leaflets and publication which might list and detail all of the walks in the area for example or more comprehensive maps.
Department of Conservation (DOC)
DOC offices and their wonderful website are also invaluable sources when you are looking for places to walk and tramp and much of the literature available can usually be picked up at local i-SITES too. The website advice and information is presented so that everyone of every age, every fitness level and every experience level can find something to suit and find answers to every single question they might have. Maps, routes and locations are of course all there but there is a world of extras too.
There are many DOC publications on the theme of walking – some more specific such as ‘Easy Access Walks in the North Island’ – while others go by region. All of the publications are downloadable from www.doc.govt.nz
The Great Walks – 2 to 6 days
There are nine of these ‘Great Walks’ as categorised and managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). They are typically well formed and easy to follow and offer options for moderate fitness and outdoor experience upwards.
As all of the walks cover at least one overnight part, DOC provides huts and camp-site options along the way. The facilities at huts vary and typically will provide a communal, basic shelter which all have mattresses, water, toilets and heating with fuel. Some also have solar lighting, cooking facilities and an on-site warden. Because places at huts are limited all of them need to be booked in advance during peak season and some have to be booked in advance all year round.
Fees vary for each Great Walk hut as does the amount of preparation needed for the walk in question and also skill and fitness levels – all of the details of which can be found on www.doc.govt.nz This vast website also has extensive terrain guides, maps, general and specific advice, distance between huts, route breakdowns, what to take, what is available at each hut/camp site and so forth.
Don’t assume all the Great Walks are for the super-fit, super-skilled outdoors type only. Although all the walks require some level of fitness and planning and preparation awareness, the terrains and difficulty vary considerably and are designed to cater for all to some degree.
The Milford Track
Route – Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, South Island
Distance – 53.5 km
Duration – 4 days
Accommodation available – 3 huts, no camping
Route – Southern Alps, Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park, South Island
Distance – 39 km
Duration – 2 to 4 day
Accommodation available – 4 huts, 2 camp-sites
The Kepler Track
Route – loop walk from Te Anau, Fiordland, South Island
Distance – 60 km
Duration – 3 to 4 days (1 day mountain top)
Accommodation – 3 huts, 2 camp-sites
Rakiura Track – Stewart Island
Distance – 30 km
Duration – 3 days+
Accommodation – 2 huts, 3 camp sites (huts must be booked in advance – all year)
Abel Tasman Coast Track
Route – Abel Tasman National Park, South Island
The only coastal Great Walk and the easiest option
Distance – 54.4 km
Duration – 3 to 5 days
Accommodation – 4 huts, 18 camp-sites (huts must be booked in advance – all year)
Route – Kahurangi National Park, South Island
The longest of the Great Walks
Distance – 78.4 km
Duration – 4 to 6 days
Accommodation – 7 huts, 9 camp-sites (huts must be booked in advance – all year)
Route – encircles Lake Waikaremoana, Te Urewera National Park, North Island
Distance – 46 km
Duration – 3 to 4 day
Accommodation – 5 huts, 5 camp-sites (huts must be booked in advance – all year)
Tongariro Northern Circuit (also Tongariro Crossing – day walk)
Route – Tongariro National Park, North Island (active volcanoes eruption hazard – last eruption 21.11.12)
Distance – 51.5 km
Duration – 3 to 4 days
Accommodation – 4 huts
Taumarunui to Pipiriki, North Island
This Great Walk is actually a 145 km kayak or canoe journey down the river.
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