A man hiking in New Zealand

The Best Walks and Day Hikes in New Zealand

Home to some of the world’s most enthralling hikes, New Zealand is a walker’s paradise. With its majestic mountain ranges, meandering trails, and epic glacial lakes and rivers, it is truly a treat for the senses that no hiker can be steered from.

The diversity of walks in New Zealand breed something very unique, so whether you love a coastal, rainforest, mountainous, or fjord valley hike, there is something spectacular for everyone. The great thing about this is that no matter what your experience or fitness level may be, or how long you prefer to explore, New Zealand has hikes of all calibres; no one goes home unhappy.

Travel to: New Zealand

New Zealand great hikes

Just because you’re out for only a day, doesn’t mean you don’t need to bring anything with you. The weather in New Zealand is known for being unpredictable, and so there are a few things that are a necessity when hiking in Kiwi land.

  1. Plenty of food (think slightly more than you would usually eat)
  2. Water (minimum 1 litre)
  3. A water/windproof jacket, 2 warm layers, and gloves
  4. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a sun-protective hat
  5. Camera (to capture your memories)
  6. Phone/communication device (in case of emergency)
  7. Well supported hiking shoes/boots
  8. A flashlight or head torch

It is usually recommended to begin hiking at around 8am, leaving plenty of daylight for you to complete your trip. However, sometimes it can be easy to lose track of time, and so being prepared is always a good idea.

In the winter months, or year-round during advanced day hikes, it is important to equip yourself with alpine tools such as an ice axe and crampons, just for extra precaution.

Best day hikes in New Zealand

1. Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is an iconic feature in New Zealand’s notorious nature scene. Widely recognised as New Zealand’s best day hike, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing offers a trek across a volcanic alpine landscape. You will meander through steaming vents and ancient lava flows, glacial valleys, and intensely blue crater lakes, all with endless breathtaking views of the New Zealand high country. Between the months of October and April there is a 4-hour parking restriction at Tongariro National Park, and so eager hikers who wish to complete the walk will need to organise a shuttle bus to and from the hiking track.

Climbing the Red Crater, you will reach the highest point on the crossing at 1,886 metres (6,188 feet), making it the ideal photo spot to capture the beauty of New Zealand.

  • Hiking time: 5 – 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • When to hike: October – April
Two people hiking in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Tongariro Alpine Crossing | © Emily Woolerton/Unsplash

2. Roy’s Peak Track

Adventure meets a sacred nirvana; hikers of Roy’s Peak are invited to truly indulge in New Zealand’s majestic mountain ranges! As you make your way through the elevated farmland and alpine meadows, you will soon encompass exquisite scenes of Lake Wanaka and snow-capped Mount Aspiring with its abundance of islands and bays.

Although this involves a steep climb to the summit, it is said that this hike suits those with a low to moderate fitness ability, lending its appeal to hikers of all calibres. Roy’s Peak is closed from October 1 – November 10 due to lambing, making the ideal time to visit between November – April, when the skies are clear and you can enjoy a post-hike dip in Lake Wanaka.

  • Hiking time: 5 – 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • When to hike: November to April
Roys Peak Track, New Zealand
The view of Glendhu Bay from Roy’s Peak | © Martina Vitáková/Unsplash

3. Te Whara Track

If you’re looking for a hike with a bit of history behind it, then why not follow the Te Whara track – an ancient Māori trail along a glorious coastal view. Your craving for lush vegetation is sure to be satisfied as you make your way through the tapestry of lush forest that sits beside the coastline. Upon reaching the peak of the track, you are rewarded with a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding waters, and the ruins of a WWII radar station. Te Whara track dates back 700 years, as it follows the ancient footprints of the Māori track, Manaia.

  • Hiking time: 5 – 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • When to hike: Year-round

More great walks in New Zealand

1. Avalanche Peak Route

Avalanche Peak will guide you through the only poled route to the summit of Arthur’s Pass. For the more experienced hikers, this climb offers a steep and rocky journey to the top of 1,833 metres (6,014 feet), where you will be greeted by a harmonious wave of mountains. The best time to hike is in summer and autumn, reducing the risk of avalanches and encouraging a clear enough day to spot Crow Glacier and Mount Rolleston across the sound.

  • Hiking time: 6 – 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • When to hike: December – May
Arthur's Pass, New Zealand
Arthur’s Pass on the Avalanche Peak Route | © Daniel Bartolo/Unsplash

2. Rob Roy Track

Snowfields, glaciers, sheer rock cliffs, and waterfalls; the Rob Roy track along the valley has it all! With this beginner’s walk you can take things at your own pace alongside the Rob Roy stream, whilst embracing the cascading waterfalls and spectacular alpine scenery. The glaciers that hang from Mount Rob Roy are active, and from your safe viewing spot you can watch out for any movement or avalanche. The track is mainly flat, making it ideal for both the summer and winter months.

  • Hiking time: 3 – 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • When to hike: Year-round
Rob Roy's Glacier Car Park, New Zealand
Live glaciers in Rob Roy Track | © Will Turner/Unsplash

3. Lake Alta Track

Feeling adventurous? Then why not follow the Lake Alta track to get up close and personal with the most picturesque glacial lake ever! This short hike is steep in parts, but the ideal picnic spot awaits you at the top. Not only can you enjoy some lunch by the lake, watching for wildlife in the mountains, but you can also gaze over the whole Queenstown region. This scenic spot will definitely bring about a euphoric moment!

  • Hiking time: 2 – 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • When to hike: December – April

4. Mount Eden Volcano Walk

Do you fancy a hike but already have accommodation sorted in Auckland city? Well then Mount Eden Volcano walk is perfect for you. Just outside of the city, this volcano last erupted 15,000 years ago and left behind a crater 50 metres (164 feet) deep. As you reach the top of Mount Eden, not only will you have the most epic views of the whole crater, but also a 360-degree panorama of Auckland. Along with breathtaking views, you are also invited to explore the old occupation terraces, storage pits, and housing sites of the formed Māori settlement that inhabited this space.

  • Hiking time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • When to hike: Year-round
Mount Eden Summit, Auckland, New Zealand
Sunrise at Mount Eden Summit | © Tim Marshall/Unsplash

Best Multi Day Hikes New Zealand

If you love a day hike but you’re looking for something that lasts a bit longer, then why not take advantage of the many multi-day hikes that New Zealand has to offer.

1. Milford Track New Zealand

Experience ‘the finest walk in the world’ as you follow the steps of the world-famous Milford Track. Make sure to pack your camera, as you’ll immerse yourself in nature like never before. Indulge in valleys carved by glaciers, echoing rainforest ambience, and plummeting waterfalls from sheer heights. The deep inlet of sea between the high cliffs is home to fur seal colonies, penguins, and dolphins, so get ready to make some friends along the way!

  • Hiking time: 4 days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • When to hike: October – April
Mckinnon Pass, Milford Track, New Zealand
The Mckinnon Pass on Milford Track | © Claire K/Unsplash

2. Abel Tasman Coast Track

Hiking meets luxury – the Abel Tasman Coast track offers golden sand beaches and coastal native bush. Not often does a hiking excursion also present the stereotypical “holiday” features. After a long day of walking, cool-off in Cleopatra’s Pool (a natural rock pool with a moss-lined waterslide), whilst taking in the vibrant coral reflections of the sun setting on the water. The track also passes across a 47-metre (154-foot) suspension bridge over the spectacular Falls River, where you can keep an eye out for fur seals.

  • Hiking time: 3 – 5 days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • When to hike: Year-round

Walking in New Zealand

  • Beginner: Low to moderate fitness abilities / no backcountry experience
  • Intermediate: Moderate fitness abilities / little backcountry experience
  • Advanced: Moderate to high fitness abilities / substantial backcountry experience

Whether you’re an expert hiker looking for an epic hike over several days, or you just want to explore a little bit of New Zealand in a new way during your trip, this beautiful, outdoorsy country is more than likely home to your new favourite hike!

Which of these trails would you like to tackle?

Half-English and half-Canadian, Simone now resides in Melbourne where she is consumed by both the Victorian architecture and the love of tending to her garden. When she isn’t planning her next adventure or fertilising her blood orange tree, she enjoys writing, hiking, and learning German.

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