Great Walks and hundreds of trails will have you navigating a range of landscapes, from rugged mountain ranges and lush farmland to tussocked fields, and sandy beaches. New Zealand’s walking trails traverse natural wonders and offer encounters with wildlife such as, penguins & seals and iconic native species, kiwi and kea.
No matter what your fitness level, New Zealand has walks for anyone and everyone! Your Stray driver-guide will be able to advise you on your options and help you make any arrangements as necessary.
You don't have to go for a long walk to experience some of New Zealand's best tracks. Here are a few of our favourites:
- Ruakuri walk: A walk through native bush - follow the Waitomo Stream to head down into an impressive cave that provides a great view of stalactites, stalagmites and the limestone formations. Go along in the evening, and glowworms will illuminate the track!
- Centre of New Zealand Walk: Start at Nelson’s Botanical Reserve and walk across the site of New Zealand’s first ever rugby game. At the top, you’ll enjoy a view of Nelson and be in the very middle of the country!
- Blue Pools Track: A short and easy walk that will take you through beech forest, over the Makarora River to a viewing platform, allowing for a great view of the Blue Pools.
- Tokaanu thermal walk: A short walk around a natural thermal area where you will see bubbling mud pools and steaming hot natural mineral pools.
- Franz Josef Glacier Walk: Beginning with a forest walk, follow a riverbed path, past a waterfall and slight climb to the glacier viewing area.
- Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes: This 20min loop walk starts by walking through native bush and out to the coast where you'll see amazing rock formations created when the sea bed was raised above sea level by earthquakes to form the coastal cliffs and coastline.
- Kea Point Walk: Short 1 hour return walk to Mueller Glacier, with a great view of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the Main Divide.
- Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Lookout Tracks: A great 1 hour hike to do in rain or shine. Stop by the majestic Blue Lakes and then meander the stairs to the beautiful lookout over the glacier lake. The perfect way to kick-start your day.
- Tasman Glacier River and Jetty Tracks: One of the quickest and easiest walks at Mt Cook National Park. You won't see Mt Cook as clearly but you will see the stunning snow-capped mountains surrounding the serene glacier lake. Best experienced later in the day when the sun is shining on the glacier lake - so beautiful!
Longer walks are the perfect way to experience a day of sightseeing amongst New Zealand's stunning scenery.
- Cathedral Cove Walk: the beautiful beaches of Cathedral Cove can be accessed by hiking the coastline track, past Gemstone and Stingray Bays.
- Tongariro Crossing: Across volcanic terrain, highlights on this walk are steaming hot springs, craters and the Emerald lakes. On a clear day, you can see Mt Taranaki and Lake Taupo.
- Roys Peak Track: Wind along tussock grasslands to the summit. Roys peak provides spectacular panoramic views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring - it is worth the climb!
- Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway: A beautiful walk around the headland, where you’ll see a seal colony. Head up the hill to a lookout point and follow the track to the Whalers Bay viewpoint. This walkway ranges in duration from 5 minutes to 3 hours, depending on which route you choose.
- Queenstown Hill: Accessible from the city centre, this demanding walk will reward you with views of Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables and other mountain ranges once you reach the popular ‘Basket of Dreams’ sculpture.
- Hooker Valley Track: A very popular walk of swingbridges and tussocked valleys that lead up the Hooker valley towards Mt Cook, offering great views at the Alpine Memorial and glacier lake of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps.
- Sealy Tarns Track: An exposed and uphill track with an elevation gain of 450m, best to tackle on a clear day. The incredible views from the top will be totally worth it. This walk will take you approximately 3 to 4 hours.
- Mueller Hut Track: For all the die-hard hikers out there. You could choose to complete this walk in one day which can take about 7 to 8 hours or split it across two days with an overnight stay in Mueller Hut (bookings required) where you can see the sun set and rise again. Whichever way you choose to do it, the magical 360 degree, panoramic views of glaciers, snow-capped mountains and rock faces will be worth it!
MULTI DAY WALKS
The nine Great Walks of New Zealand are just nine of the best ways to venture through the country’s spectacular and diverse scenery. Flowing rivers, native forests, rugged cliffs, and vast mountain ranges await!
- Milford Track (Fiordland National Park): Described as the ‘Best Walk in the World,’ this hike will take you past mountain peaks, canyons and stunning waterfalls and finishes at the majestic Milford Sound.
- Lake Waikaremoana (Te Urewera): Navigate the scenic shoreline of Lake Waikaremoana with lush forest and plenty of remote beaches perfect for swimming.
- Tongariro Northern Circuit (Tongariro National Park): New Zealand’s first national park boasts three active volcanoes. You’ll tramp a varied landscape which ranges from alpine fields to stunning volcanic crater lakes. Most people complete it in 2-3 days but if you've only got one day, you can hike the Tongariro Crossing section of the track.
- Whanganui Journey (Whanganui National Park): Travel via canoe or kayak through green hilled landscapes and bush clad valleys along the river.
- Abel Tasman Track (Abel Tasman National Park): This coastal track hugs tidal inlets with clear waters, golden sand beaches and lush coastal forest. Walk, sail, kayak or water taxi to different parts of the track or walk the whole thing.
- Heaphy Track (Kahurangi National Park): With the widest range of scenery of the Great Walks, this walk will bring encounters with wildlife such as the great spotted kiwi.
- Routeburn Track (Fiordland & Mt Aspiring National Parks): Traverse the impressive Southern Alps of both Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks.
- Kepler Track (Fiordland National Park): This circuit will have you walking through the spectacular scenery along the shores of both Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri and can be walked in either direction.
- Rakiura Track (Rakiura National Park): A circular track located on Stewart Island, passing through idyllic native bush and beaches. With a small human population, the untouched environment is a great sanctuary for native species.
The summer months of December to April are the best time to hike NZ tracks as during the winter months, weather conditions can limit access.
Tracks and trails are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Why walk when you can ride? New Zealand’s network of cycle trails is growing each year, and there’s a trail to suit all riding abilities, ranging from short rides to multi day adventures.
Here are just a few of the great cycle trails that New Zealand’s National Parks have on offer:
- Great Lake Trail: Revel in the stunning views of Tongariro National Park whilst riding through native forest along the shores of Lake Taupo.
- Otago Central Rail Trail: This trail takes you deep into Central Otago, through dry and rugged landscapes, sheep stations and river gorges and tunnels. The historic Otago Central Railway was completed in1907, and the Trail is now considered New Zealand’s original ‘Great Ride.’
- Queen Charlotte Track: Experience the picturesque scenery of the Marlborough Sounds on this track that stretches from the historic Ship Cove to Anakiwa. Ride around bays, through coastal forest and be treated to spectacular views of Kenepuru Sound and Queen Charlotte Sounds. Keep an eye out for dolphins, seals and other wildlife!
For more information about New Zealand’s cycleways, check out the official Cycle Trail website.