New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world to go hiking. Not only is the scenery astounding, but you don’t need to hike for hours to reach some of the best viewpoints in the country. In fact, some of the best hikes in New Zealand are short and sweet.
In this blog post, I’ve compiled the most expensive list of the 50 best hikes in New Zealand spanning across both the South and North Islands. Of course, there are loads more amazing hikes in New Zealand than what’s listed here, but I’ve narrowed it down to my favorites.
Each hike here varies in length, difficulty level, and of course, traverses the different landscapes that make New Zealand such a popular place to hike. It’s no surprise that one of the best things to do in New Zealand is hiking!
I’ve completed all of the hikes you’re going to read about, and if I’m honest, they should all be added to your New Zealand bucket list (should you have the time!) But if not, just choose a couple that suit your skill level and you’ll be more than happy. Trust me, every single one of the hikes in this blog are epic – you won’t be disappointed.
So without further ado, here are the 50 best hikes in New Zealand!
Best Hikes in NZ (on the South Island)
1. Ben Lomond Track
The Ben Lomond Track is a moderate/difficult trail located in Queenstown and officially starts from the top of Bob’s Peak (top of the gondola). However, part of the adventure to Ben Lomond summit involves hiking from Queenstown via One Mile Creek, the Tiki Trail, or Skyline Access Road. Important to note is the Tiki Trail is considered by locals as the “official way” to hike Ben Lomond, and it’s the route 99% of people go.
In total, hiking the Tiki Trail and Ben Lomond Track to Ben Lomond Summit and back down is 14 kilometers (8.7 miles). For most people, hiking from Queenstown to Ben Lomond Summit will be a tiring day of around 8 hours of hiking (possibly more.) From the top of the gondola, the trail length is only 11 kilometers return with an elevation gain of just over 1,000 meters. My advice – use the gondola as a shortcut!
Hiking the Ben Lomond track requires some planning to hike the trail safely. In the winter months, avalanches are a risk and in the summer, the hike’s difficulty and exposure to the elements require the right gear.
2. Queenstown Hill
Queenstown Hill Track is a beautiful hike that leads to Queenstown Hill summit with breathtaking views over Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, and The Remarkables Mountain Range. It’s one hike I absolutely love and easily one of the best hikes on the South Island of New Zealand.
It is an easy/moderate trail that is 5 km (3.1 miles) return. There is a hefty elevation gain of over 400 meters – so be prepared for that. On a good day, it will take 3 hours to complete this hike (that includes a nice, scenic rest at the summit!)
One of the things I love most about the Queenstown Hill hike is that it’s one of the few things you can do even in the winter months in Queenstown!
3. Roy’s Peak
If I had to pick the most popular day hike in New Zealand, I’d have to choose Roy’s Peak Track, which is located 10 minutes from the town of Wanaka. Don’t get me wrong, there are others that come close, but Roy’s Peak Track is a dream and a bucket-list hike for most people in NZ. Its popularity doesn’t come from the hike itself (which is less scenic than other hikes in New Zealand) but the incredible views from the summit.
Don’t be fooled by its popularity though, Roy’s Peak is a hard day hike. The trail involves an 8-kilometer (5-mile) climb with a 1,300-meter elevation gain. It’s tough and relentless the entire way to the summit, which takes around 3 to 4 hours.
Once there though, the views are out of this world. You can peer down at Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains. It’s common to be above the clouds which is really cool! Of course, you can also get that famous Roy’s Peak photo – but expect to queue for it! Don’t get confused though, the famous peak isn’t actually the end of the trail. It’s 30 minutes from the top.
Without a doubt, Roy’s Peak is one of the best hikes in New Zealand and if you’re heading to Wanaka, I recommend that you check it out!
4. Isthmus Peak
Isthmus Peak is known as the “other Roy’s Peak”. The trail also starts just outside of Wanaka, and although it’s less popular than Roy’s Peak, is still considered one of the best hikes in Wanaka. The trail is slightly easier (only just) than Roy’s Peak with a 1,113-meter elevation gain over 8 kilometers (5 miles) one way. But don’t be fooled, it’s still really hard!
The views from Isthmus Peak rival those at Roy’s Peak only you get to enjoy them without the crowds, which I love! Isthmus Peak is perfect for the hiker who really wants to avoid the large crowds that Roy’s Peak attracts. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Wanaka and once you see the views for yourself, you’ll completely understand why.
5. Rob Roy Glacier Track
If you want to explore beautiful valleys and spot hanging glaciers, then Rob Roy Glacier Track is a top choice and is located just outside of Wanaka. It’s beautiful, and one of the best free things to do in Wanaka!
The trail is a 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) return hike with a steady elevation gain of 450 meters. In total, it only takes 3 hours to hike the trail so it’s a perfect half-day hike on the South Island.
The views along the way are typical of New Zealand, just imagine blue rivers, tussock grass, New Zealand sheep, and of course that epic view of Rob Roy Glacier (and the waterfalls the glacier creates below!) The trail is popular, so if you plan on visiting in the summer, be sure to set off early!
6. Liverpool Track
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Mount Aspiring National Park is to hike the Liverpool Track. The Liverpool Track begins at Raspberry Creek parking lot just under a 2-hour drive from Wanaka township (same starting point as the Rob Roy Glacier Track mentioned above). Follow the Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road West for 54 km to reach the parking lot.
The beginning of the track follows the West Matukituki Track to Pearl Flat. From Pearl Flat, cross the swing bridge. Then, it’s a steep uphill climb to Liverpool Hut (at 1100 meters). Once past the bush line, the track starts across the exposed shingle, rock, and tussock terrain before bearing left up an easier tussock slope to reach a knoll overlooking the hut. All up, it’s 15 km (9.3 miles) each way.
You can spend the night at the hut here, the Liverpool Hut, and it needs to be booked in advance when booking in the busier months (1 December – 30 April). Adults cost $20 NZD and youths $10 per night. It can be booked via the Department of Conservation website. Get in early otherwise the hut will likely be fully booked and this trail is far too long to do in one day.
7. Kepler Track
My favorite Great Walk in New Zealand is the Kepler Track! The 60-kilometer (37.3 miles) loop track is usually hiked over 3 to 4 days, staying in huts and camping along the way. Most people hike the Kepler in an anti-clockwise direction, and if you do, the trail begins with a steep climb up to Luxmore Hut.
Luxmore Hut is stunning and spending the night there is one of the best things to do in New Zealand! Afterward, you must walk the entire ridgeline of Luxmore Mountain and enjoy epic views down deep fiords and into the horizon at huge mountain peaks. Next, the trail takes you down the valley where humid forests, lakes, and waterfalls await – it’s breathtaking!
The trail covers so many different landscapes and you’ll almost certainly have an encounter with a cheeky Kea on the Kepler Track! To me, the Kepler Track is worth of its title of a “Great Walk” and one of the top hikes in NZ.
The Kepler Track starts just outside of the town of Te Anau. In fact, it is one of the best things to do in Te Anau!
Related read: The drive from Queenstown to Te Anau is highly underrated, and contrary to what you might’ve heard, there are actually lots of great places to check out on that drive!
8. Earnslaw Burn Track
Starting just outside the small town of Glenorchy, Earnslaw Burn Track is one of the best free things to do in Glenorchy. The trail isn’t overly popular, but it really should be. Earnslaw Burn Track starts with a steady climb through New Zealand beach forest before climbing higher until you can stare up at the Earnslaw Glacier and Mt Earnslaw.
Unfortunately, if you want to hike the trail in one day you’ll need to be prepared for a 10-hour backcountry hike. Instead, many people (including myself) opt to spend the night camping near the glacier. It’s honestly a beautiful place to camp and spreads the hike over two days.
This is a hiking trail on the South Island for the more adventurous. So if you consider yourself an experienced hiker, be sure to add this one to your NZ must-do hiking list!
9. Routeburn Track
The Routeburn Track is another one of the 10 Great Walks on this list (don’t worry, more are coming.) It is without a doubt one of the most popular and best hikes in all of New Zealand.
This 32-kilometer (19.9 miles) point to point trail is hiked in one direction usually over 2 to 3 days. One end of the trail starts at Routeburn Shelter near Glenorchy, and the other, at The Divide on the road between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
The trail goes through both Fiordland National Park and Mt Aspiring National Park – two parks at once!. On the trail, you get to experience a huge variety of landscapes including rivers, valleys, alpine lakes, mountain peaks, and waterfalls.
To hike the entire Routeburn Track, bookings for the campsites and huts need to be made well in advance. The best part is though, you can also do lots of great day hikes on the Routeburn Track. I’ve both hiked the full trail and done day hikes, and I never get sick of the views!
10. Key Summit
Another hugely popular trail in New Zealand is the Key Summit. This trail is actually the rival to Lake Marian (more on that one below) in the sense that most people only have time to do one in this area, and they’re located down the road from each other.
The Key Summit is a viewpoint trail that has you hiking part of the Routeburn Track before branching off onto the Key Summit Track. The entire Key Summit is steep, but at only 3.4 kilometers (2.1 miles) each way, it takes less than 3 hours in total.
The Key Summit is most famous for its breathtaking views over Fiordland National Park, and on a clear day, you can actually peer down at Lake Marian. There is also a small tarn at the Key Summit where you get stunning reflections of the mountains.
11. Lake Marian Track
My favorite of all the hikes in and near Milford Sound is Lake Marian. I absolutely love the view from the edge of Lake Marian of the surrounding mountains. It’s also the place I went for my first polar dip in New Zealand – it was so cold!
From the parking lot, it takes around 2 hours to reach the lake and 1 hour to return back down. There is a constant slope until the lake, and in total, you’ll climb 400 meters in elevation. The trail is not well maintained and you will need to use your hands in some parts as well as be careful on slippery rocks.
With that said, it’s worth it! If you get great weather the views are mind-blowing and as you sit in that huge valley you feel so small!
12. Milford Track
The Milford Track is the most famous of the 10 Great Walks in NZ. It’s so popular that getting bookings for the huts along the trail could be compared to getting concert tickets – it’s crazy! However, for those lucky few who do manage to snag a booking or go on a guided tour, you’ll get to experience one of the most diverse and rewarding hiking trails in New Zealand.
The 54-kilometer (33.5 miles) trail takes between 3 to 4 days to complete and begins with a boat ride across Lake Te Anau to start. Then, it’s 4 days of walking through stunning fiords and ancient rainforests until you come out the other side at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound.
It’s an epic journey and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s one of the most noteworthy hikes in NZ!
Related Read: Check out our guide about where to stay in Te Anau, including the best hotels for all budgets!
13. Gertrude Saddle Route
If you’ve ever wanted to stare down into a deep fiord without paying for a scenic flight, then the perfect trail for you is Gertrude Saddle Route. This epic hike is only a 7.4-kilometer (4.6 miles) return hike but you must make a steep climb up to the saddle, which in some places, is actually dangerous.
The views are out of this world and you’ll be so humbled by the sheer size of the glaciers that carved these fiords. Oh, and did I mention you can see Milford Sound too!
As I mentioned above, the trail is not suited to young children and you should exercise extreme caution when hiking Gertrude Saddle Route. Never hike the trail in bad weather or in winter, and be sure to research the trail beforehand so you can be prepared!
14. Blue Pools Track
The West Coast is a wild place on the South Island. Its forests are green, rivers blue, and the New Zealand black fly will have you wishing you’d brought bug spray! The most popular place to visit is of course the Blue Pools. These stunning pools showcase those amazing watercolors caused by rock flour from glaciers, the greenery of New Zealand, and yes, black flies are everywhere!
The Blue Pools are accessed along State Highway 6, 76 kilometers from Wanaka. It is a popular place to visit on any road trip from Queenstown to Franz Josef. From the highway, there is a 1.5-kilometer (0.9 miles) trail to the pools. It only takes 20 minutes to walk each way and once there, you must cross two suspension bridges all while enjoying the crazy colors of the water!
You can swim at the Blue Pools but I must warn you from experience, it is freezing!
15. Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk
The West Coast is glacier country. So it’s no wonder many of the best hikes in New Zealand are located here. Franz Josef Glacier is arguably the most well-known glacier in NZ and you can actually hike to the viewpoint of the glacier completely free.
The Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk is a short 2.5-kilometer (1.6 miles) trail each way, that takes around 1.5 hours. The trail is flat, well maintained, and rated as easy. Along the way, you’ll pass a few waterfalls before eventually arriving at the viewpoint.
Although close, the viewpoint has become much further from the glacier as it has shrunk over the years. Unfortunately, it’s still happening so let’s hope they move the viewpoint closer! With that said, this hike is one of the best things to do in Franz Josef and is well worth your time.
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, skip the valley walk and instead do a heli hike on the glacier! You’ll ride in a helicopter and land on the glacier before hiking on the glacier for 2.5 hours with your guide. Although a little pricey, this is an epic hike you’ll remember forever!
Related Read: Spending a couple of nights in Franz Josef? Read my guide about the best Franz Josef hotels!
16. Alex Knob Track
If you’re an experienced hiker there’s one New Zealand hike on the South Island that you need to do – Alex Knob Track! It’s one of the best trails in New Zealand to see glaciers.
This grueling 17.2-kilometer (10.7 miles) return hike will crush your legs on a journey that takes around 7 hours in total. From the top though, the views of Franz Josef Glacier are pure magic. Seriously, you’ll have your breath taken away (if the hike didn’t do that already!)
17. Lake Matheson Walk
Nothing beats an amazing reflection, especially of the mountains. Now add Mount Cook (New Zealand’s tallest mountain) to the equation and you have yourself one epic view!
Lake Matheson is home to the famous photo above that you may have already come across. At sunrise, photographers come to a place called Reflection Island to get that picture-perfect shot.
The hike to Lake Matheson is only around 20 minutes, however, to get to Reflection Island you’ll need to follow the signs and walk another 20 minutes. It’s only one of the many epic views on the hike, so be sure to walk the entire lake trail and visit The View of Views for another!
Lake Matheson is located just a few minutes outside of Franz Josef town, and it’s a popular stop on any road trip from Wanaka to Franz Josef.
18. Brewster Hut
My favorite overnight hike on the West Coast of the South Island is the hike to the Brewster Hut. This short hike takes around 3 hours each way, and climbs 1000 meters in elevation over only a few kilometers. It’s steep, and after rain, really slippery!
That effort doesn’t come unrewarded though! Once you reach the Brewster Hut you’ll get stunning views of the Southern Alps and New Zealand’s gorgeous West Coast. If you get a clear night, the stars are breathtaking and you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye!
You do need to book the Brewster Hut in advance and there is also a river crossing where the trail starts at Fantail Falls, so be prepared!
19. Sealy Tarns Track
Mount Cook National Park is filled with stunning hikes and the Sealy Tarns Track is a must-do! The Sealy Tarn is a beautiful alpine tarn located high above the valley in Mount Cook National Park with breathtaking views of Mueller Glacier, the Hooker Valley, and of course, Mount Cook.
The Sealy Tarns Track is not a long hike, however, the trail pretty much only consists of stairs – 2,200 of them to be exact. Although it sounds impossible, it only takes around 2 to 3 hours to reach the top, and once you do, you only have another 2,200 stairs to walk back down.
I actually hiked the Sealy Tarns Track in winter so I never saw the tarn. Instead, I played in the snow and enjoyed the beautiful winter wonderland that is Mount Cook National Park!
20. Mueller Hut
The Mueller Hut is actually the longer version of the Sealy Tarns which I’ve described above. At the Sealy Tarn, you need to continue hiking up further to the Mueller Hut – a stunning alpine hut with the most epic views I have ever seen. This hike involves climbing up a grueling 2,200 steps!!
It’s not just the views but the experience of the Mueller Hut that makes it so great. I actually hiked the Mueller Hut in winter and with crampons and an ice axe I climbed through the snow to the hut before spending a memorable night under the stars (but still in the comfort of a New Zealand hut.) It was exhausting both physically and mentally, but I loved it.
The trail is 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) in each direction with an elevation gain of over 1,000 meters. In summer, the trail can be hiked up and back in a day (around 6 hours), but in winter, the trail is not only more challenging but also dangerous without the proper gear. If you ask me, staying at the hut is all part of the experience, so I recommend doing that.
21. Tasman River Lookout
The shortest hike in Mount Cook National Park is the trail to the Tasman River. The track leads to a famous viewpoint among photographers who come to the edge of the lake to capture amazing sunrises over the glacier, mountains, and the many icebergs in the lake. I’ve personally spent two sunrises here and loved them both!
This almost isn’t a “hike” because it’s so short, but I just had to include it in this blog of the best hikes in New Zealand. The trail only takes around 20 minutes to walk each way. If you want to watch that glorious sunrise you need to follow the signs to the Tasman River. It’s at the river mouth at the lake where you get the best view and also where you’ll find the icebergs!
22. Hooker Valley Track
The Hooker Valley Track is at the top of everyone’s New Zealand bucket list, and rightly so. It’s the trail every visitor to Mount Cook should do and one of the most famous day hikes in New Zealand
The Hooker Valley Track is a relatively flat trail 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) each way that leads through the Hooker Valley (duh!) The trail crosses three suspension bridges over the Hooker River before you arrive at Hooker Lake. The views are beautiful and from the edge of the lake, you can see Mount Cook’s beautiful reflection on the water and also the Hooker Glacier in the distance.
All up, it only takes around 2 to 3 hours to hike the trail and it’s well maintained and suited to families!
23. Truman Track
I did a huge NZ road trip with my mum once and on that trip, we could only do easy hikes as she is definitely not a hiker. One trail I found that we both loved was the Truman Track near Punakaiki. The trail is super short at only 700 meters each way but leads to a stunning beach and some caves to explore. At the beach, you can enjoy the coastline, spot blue penguins, and even find starfish.
You can hike the Truman Track any time of the day, however, to access the beach you need to go at low tide. It’s not recommended to swim as the currents are really strong. So, just take a short walk and enjoy those spectacular West Coast views!
Related Read: To get to Punakaiki, consider driving the epic route from Franz Josef to Punakaiki – there are plenty of awesome attractions along the way.
24. Abel Tasman Coast Track
The north of the South Island is home to lots of great hikes with very different landscapes. Instead of mountain peaks, you’ll enjoy beautiful coastal bays, stunning beaches, and even warmer weather. No hiking trail in the Abel Tasman area is as famous as Abel Tasman Coast Track. This 60-kilometer (37.3 miles) one-way trail is actually one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks.
Visitors usually hike the trail over 3 to 5 days depending on how fast you want to go. With that said, you can also do lots of day hikes on the trail and kayaking trips.
Because it is a Great Walk, you do have to book the huts and campsites well in advance. Unlike other Great Walks, you usually don’t have to book as far in advance.
25. Queen Charlotte Track
To the east of Abel Tasman National Park near the town of Picton (where the ferry between the North and South Islands operates) is another famous multi-day hike called Queen Charlotte Track. Queen Charlotte Track navigates part of the Marlborough Sounds (a must-visit place in NZ) along a 72-kilometer (44.7 miles) track that takes around 4 days to walk.
It’s most common to begin Queen Charlotte Track in Ship Cove (the furthest point from Picton) and walk towards Anakiwa. Along the way, you’ll visit similar landscapes as Abel Tasman National Park that includes beaches, bays, and greenery like you’ve never seen before!
Bookings also have to be made in advance for this trail to spend the night, especially for the summer hiking season. However, it’s nowhere near as busy as other hiking trails in the area such as Abel Tasman Coast Track.
If you just want to hike part of the Queen Charlotte Track, you can do so on this guided kayaking and hiking tour – a great option for a full-day experience.
26. Mclean Falls Track
A great short hike in the Catlins region is the walk to Mclean Falls. It’s only a 1-kilometer (0.6 miles) walk to the falls from the parking lot, so although not much of a hike, it’s one of the most incredible waterfalls in New Zealand. It does get very busy here during the day – so try to get here early or late in the day to avoid the crowds.
The trail follows a river where you’ll find lots of other small waterfalls along the way. But that’s just the start, the true attraction is the huge Mclean Falls. I love getting long exposure shots of the falls, it’s just so magical!
Related read: For more info on places to stop on a Catlins road trip, check out my blog about the scenic drive from Queenstown to Dunedin via the Catlins.
27. Godley Head Loop Track
Located just on the outskirts of Christchurch on the way towards Kaikoura there is a really beautiful coastal track called the Godley Head Loop Track.
Following the coastline, the Godley Head Loop is a 9.3-kilometer (5.8 miles) track that takes around 3 hours to walk. Along the way, enjoy views of Lyttelton Harbour, and be sure to keep an eye out for seals, dolphins, and even whales!
This is my favorite hike near Christchurch and just goes to show that even in a New Zealand city, you’re not far from nature!
28. Devil’s Punchball Walking Track
Want to visit the most ferocious waterfall in New Zealand? Then be sure to drive Arthur’s Pass and hike the Devil’s Punchball Walking Track. The name alone should get you excited but if that doesn’t, then the fact it’s a 131-meter tall waterfall should!
The trail is to the falls is short and sweet with a small elevation gain that takes around 20 minutes each way. Once there you’ll be amazed at the falls and might even get a little wet. Regardless, this waterfall is epic and a popular stop for anybody driving from Christchurch to Hokitika.
29. Kura Tāwhiti Access Track
This is one of the most famous places to visit on the South Island. Kura Tawhiti or Castle Hill Conservation Area is a unique attraction in New Zealand that everyone driving this road trip should see. Kura Tawhiti even has Topuni status!
Fun fact: Topuni status means a chief has placed a cloak over the area. Tōpuni status therefore means Ngāi Tahu values on the conservation area are upheld. You can read more about it.
The rock formations at Kura Tawhiti formed many years ago and were once under the ocean. Over the years, limestone rocks formed and were then eroded away into the unique shapes you see today.
Visiting Kura Tawhiti is easy and done by making your way from Porters Pass Viewpoint to the large parking lot only 10 minutes away. This attraction is well signposted and very hard to miss. From the parking lot, there is a well-defined walking track you can enjoy that leads through the boulders. It takes anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes to explore the area and the 1.4 kilometers (each way) walking track is considered easy.
30. Avalanche Peak
Avalanche Peak is the best hiking trail on Arthurs Pass. By no means is this 6-kilometer (3.7 miles) trail easy, in fact, most people take 5 to 6 hours to walk the 6 kilometers! The reason? The steep terrain and huge elevation gain of over 1,110 meters. For those who do, get to witness arguably the best panoramic view of the Southern Alps, seriously!
Avalanche Peak sits at 1,833 meters above sea level and the trek up can actually be dangerous if you’re not experienced or prepared. Please do not attempt this hike in high winds, winter, or rain!
Hikes in New Zealand (on the North Island)
31. Pouakai Circuit
The Pouakai Circuit is a 25 km (15.5-mile) track that starts 30 minutes from New Plymouth CBD at East Egmont Village parking lot. It takes 2-3 days to complete the full loop. It is a popular hike in New Zealand because it loops around Mount Taranaki and the famous top at the Pouakai Tarn.
This track was finished recently and it passes through some of the best parts of Egmont National Park – namely rainforests, alpine tussock fields, the unique Ahukawakawa swamps, and a volcano. You will even be treated to epic views of Mount Taranaki. Along the way be sure to stop for a photo at Pouakai Tarn (pictured above) which is known for having ‘the best view of Mount Taranaki‘. On a calm day, the reflections here are memorizing!
There are DOC huts along the Pouakai Circuit to spend the night (the most famous being the Pouakai Hut) all need to be booked in advance. You can also camp near the huts for free.
For those who don’t want to hike the entire trail, I recommend only hiking up to the Pouakai Hut and back down staying in the hut for one night. This trail is around 2.5 hours each way and gives you plenty of time to watch sunset and sunrise at the Pouakai Tarn only 10 minutes from the hut.
32. Mt Taranaki Summit
If you’re looking for a challenging hike in New Zealand then look no further than the Mount Taranaki Summit Track. It is a 6.3 km-long hike (3.9 miles) up to the summit of Mount Taranaki and returns back down the same way you came – so a total of 12.6 kilometers. Although not long in distance, the vertical climb is a whopping 1.6 kilometers – it’s a steep trek!
On top of that, the terrain is challenging with kilometers of slippery shale. When I completed this hike I found it frustrating as I tried to climb up and was slipping the entire way. One step up, two steps down is what it felt like. With that said, the way down involved a lot of sliding which was fun!
Climbing to the summit of Mount Taranaki is best done from December to April when there will be less snow. I completed the hike in January and there was still snow at the summit! Those with the right equipment and mountaineering experience can attempt the hike outside of these months, however, I don’t really recommend it.
This hike must be completed in a day as there are no huts or places to camp on the route. It takes most people 6-9 hours to complete it.
33. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Experience what many people call the “World’s Greatest Day Hike”. This 19.4 km (12-mile) hike is located in Tongariro National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site. It should take between 6 and 8 hours to complete and is rated as very hard (trust me on that one.)
On the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, you will spot three volcanic peaks – Ngauruhoe, Tongariro, and Ruapehu. Which is truly unique.
The beginning of the track climbs up to Red Crater. Be mindful that you will be climbing nearly 800 meters in altitude and you may feel the effects of oxygen deficiency. So, be prepared!
Those who love the Lord of the Rings movies might recognize Mt Doom and Mordor. This was the spot chosen to shoot those scenes in the movies and when you visit it’s not hard to see why!
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing can be dangerous if you are not fully prepared. Extreme weather, difficult terrain, and the long distances to cover means many ill-prepared hikers have to be rescued. In winter the trail often claims the lives of keen hikers. Parking at the trailhead is also limited to 4 hours so you need to take an organized shuttle from Taupo or Turangi.
The Tongariro Crossing is an epic hike and one of the best hikes on the North Island. It’s certainly one to add to the bucket list!
Related Read: Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the best things to do in Taupo!
34. Tongariro Circuit
You can hike the above Tongariro Crossing as part of the longer 3-4 day Tongariro Circuit. This hike is a loop, so no shuttle is needed but it is longer (43 km or 26.7 miles) and you will need to stay in huts along the way. The Tongariro Circuit is one of the 10 Great Walks in New Zealand, and as such, is very popular. So you must book the huts well in advance (typically as soon as bookings open each year.)
One of the highlights of this great walk is Taranaki Falls (more of that below) as well as Mount Ngauruhoe which is an active volcano. You will also see craters, explosion pits, lava flows, and more.
35. Taranaki Falls Loop
The Taranaki Falls Loop is a lovely 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) return walk in Tongariro National Park that can easily be done in under two hours. The main feature of this track is of course the waterfalls. I highly recommend this track for families.
The track starts from the parking lot across the road from the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre. From here, it’s well-marked and mostly flat with just a few steps to climb. Stunning views of Mount Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe can be seen from the upper loop track.
If you are walking the Tongariro Circuit, you will pass the falls on either your first day or last day (depending on the direction you are hiking the loop.)
36. Cathedral Cove
One of the most famous beach hikes in New Zealand is the stunning walk to Cathedral Cove. This 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) return trail begins in the small but cute town of Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula (the perfect place for a romantic getaway in NZ.) Made famous by the Narnia films and the fact that the rock formation is simply stunning, this hike is a must-do!
The trail is considered easy and although there’s some elevation gain, it’s very mild. All up, it takes around 45 minutes to walk the trail each way, but you’ll want to allow an hour or two to enjoy Cathedral Cove and the beaches nearby.
Parking at the trailhead is not possible, however, nearby houses charge $10 for the day. Otherwise, you can take a shuttle from Hahei for $5 for adults and $3 for children. This includes your return trip too. I myself always pay someone who lives nearby simply for convenience.
37. Mt Paku Summit Walk
The Mt Paku Summit Walk is without a doubt one of the shortest trails mentioned in this blog. In fact, the trial is only 2 kilometers return (1.2 miles) and takes around 50 minutes to complete.
Starting just outside the town of Tairua the trail is rather steep and ascends a volcanic peak that used to be an island around 6,500 years ago. Nowadays, the volcano is dormant and lots of locals live below it.
The trail to the top begins at the parking lot below and at the beginning, you’ll walk through a suburban area before you reach the actual trail. From here it’s a steep climb to the top, but once there, you’ll be welcomed with 360-degree views of the Coromandel. There are even a few plaques at the top pointing out the nearby islands.
During rain, the trail can be slippery so you may want to avoid it. Also, please be careful where you park as the locals prefer visitors to use the parking lot and not the street. There are signs where parking is not permitted.
38. The Pinnacles Walk
The Pinnacles Walk is a very popular day and overnight hike on the Coromandel Peninsula. The trail begins 9km from Kauaeranga Valley Visitor’s Centre at the end of Kauaeranga Road and is 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) each way to the summit via the Webb Creek Track.
Although rather short, the trail involves some scrambling and the use of ladders. Because of this, it takes at least 3 hours each way. Along the way, you’ll pass the Pinnacles Hut (1 kilometer from the summit.) If you have an advanced booking you can spend the night here and enjoy the Pinnacles view the next morning at sunrise from the summit. At the top, the views are spectacular!
If you don’t have a booking at the hut, you’ll need to hike back down that day.
On the way down you have the option of going back the way you came (shortest option) or taking the slightly longer trail to your left past the Billy Goat Campsite. I myself always take the second option simply because the views are different. Not to mention, if you didn’t get a spot at the hut you can always camp here if you’re craving an overnight adventure.
39. Te Paki Coastal Track
This stunning 48 km coastal track (28.9 miles) passes the famed Cape Reinga Lighthouse – the most Northern point of the North Island. Typically hikers allow 3-4 days to complete the Te Paki Coastal Track. Along the way you can camp at DOC campsites – you just need to carry your equipment with you.
The track follows along the coast from Spirits Bay past Cape Reinga and ends at Te Paki Stream. You can hike the whole track or just do sections of it. These sections vary in length from 45 minutes to several hours.
No bookings are required to hike the trail and all campsites are on a first come first serve basis costing $15 NZD for adults and $7.50 for children. Should you take on the whole track keep in mind it is an advanced tramping track. You can book pick up and drop off for the trail with Real Far North Tours and they also have secure parking available.
40. Mangawhai Cliff Walkway
The Mangawhai Cliff Walk is a 2-3 hour return track that starts just outside the small coastal town of Mangawhai. The hike takes you from the shoreline to the cliff tops in Mangawhai with stunning views over the ocean. On the coastal stretches, keep your eyes peeled for whales and dolphins!
On the walk, you will pass through farmland, native bush, and unique rock formations. Have your camera ready to snap the fabulous scenery including the Hen and Chicken Islands, the Hauraki Gulf as well as the Great/Little Barrier Islands at the many viewpoints along the way.
This track starts from the parking lot near the Mangawhai Surf Life Saving Club and is rated as moderate so it is suitable for children. Just keep in mind, it is quite steep in parts and there are many steps to climb.
This is overall a really underrated hike in New Zealand and those traveling Northland should make the short stop to hike it!
41. Duke’s Nose (Kaiaraara Rocks) Track
Those looking for an off-the-beaten-path hike in Northland shouldn’t look past Duke’s Nose Track. This short 35-minute each-way trail (500 meters) is considered relatively easy up to the final 10 meters which is very steep (you are literally pulling yourself up to the summit with a rope). Along the way, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Whangaroa Harbour throughout the hike.
The track starts behind Lane Cove Hut in Whangaroa Harbour and at the beginning, you’ll follow a stream behind the hut towards the top of Duke’s Nose. This section of the track can be very slippery after wet weather so be sure to wear appropriate footwear.
Unfortunately, without a boat, you’ll need to reach the start of the Duke’s Nose Track via the Wairakau Stream Track which is a 5.6 km one-way trail that begins at the end of Wairakau Road in Totara North. That means you’ll need to walk 12-kilometers return to complete this track.
Another option is to turn this trail into an overnight hike by staying at the Lane Cove Hut. You can book the hut in advance and it costs $15 NZD for adults and $7.50 for children. There are basic facilities at the hut and 16 bunk beds.
42. St Paul’s Rock Trail
If you want to get epic views of the Bay of Islands then you need to hike the St Paul’s Rock Trail. The trail is rather unknown to tourists and to be honest, I’m not sure why. It’s easily one of the best things to do in the Bay of Islands.
The trail, which involves some scrambling as well as the use of ladders and chains, takes around 30 to 45 minutes to reach the top depending on your fitness level and experience. It’s short and sweet but very steep! Does that rhyme?
Once at the top be sure to take your time and enjoy the 360-degree views of the small islands and bays – it’s a rather sketchy climb down the way you came.
The trail begins on Old Hospital Road near the town of Whangaroa. If the parking lot is full you can park down the road on the street. There are also a lot of beautiful hotels in the area if you want to stay somewhere away from the crowds.
Related Read: Heading to the Bay of Islands? Check out my road trip guide between Auckland and Paihia.
43. Whanganui Journey
Okay so, the Whanganui Journey isn’t a hike – it’s actually a canoe/kayak journey along the Whanganui River. But, it’s one of the Great Walks of New Zealand so I just had to include it on this list. Plus I love unique experiences such as this one.
The route starts at Taumarunui and finishes at Pipiriki and is a whopping 145 km (90 miles) long. It will take most people 5 days to complete it.
It’s a wild ride, taking you through some truly unique landscapes such as steep-sided canyons and forested valleys. You’ll be met with peace and quiet on your journey as well as abundant birdlife like kereru, tui, and fantail. You may even spot the brown kiwi which comes out at night!
You will even get the chance to leave your canoe and follow an easy hiking trail to discover an abandoned bridge deep in the forest.
While the Whanganui Journey is a fun adventure, I must warn you, it is tough. If you’re used to hiking then your arms might not be ready for this kind of workout. If you’re not a regular kayaker, then consider the shorter version that is done over 3 days instead. This is the route that I did. It starts in Whakahoro and is only 88 km (54.6 miles)long.
There are a number of campsites and DOC huts on your route – they are all only accessible only by boat. Depending on the time of year, reservations or tickets are required for huts and campsites.
44. City to Sea Walkway
This 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) track is a great way to see the best of Wellington city and it will take 6-7 hours to complete.
The City to Sea Walkway begins near Parliament buildings and ends in Island Bay. The track takes in famed sights such as the Botanic Gardens and Te Aro Valley. You will also be treated to gorgeous views of central Wellington, Government House, historic Erskine College, the Brooklyn wind turbine, Mount Victoria, Mount Kaukau, and Cook Strait along the way.
It’s really a great introduction to the city and hits many of the best attractions in Wellington. Since Wellington is NZ’s capital city, this is easily one of top hikes to do in New Zealand.
45. Red Rocks Coastal Track
Want to enjoy a free wildlife experience in Wellington? Then don’t miss the Red Rocks Coastal Track. Via the short walkway, you’ll explore the area along the coast and spot New Zealand Fur Seals.
The coastline itself is also stunning and your chances of seeing seals are really good. Just be sure to give them plenty of space as this is their home.
From Wellington, you can either take a bus or drive out to the Red Rocks. They are around 11 kilometers from Wellington city center.
If you want to take the bus, catch bus 1 to Island Bay. This will take you around 2 kilometers from the rocks and you can walk from there. Bus number 4 does stop closer but it’s unavailable on weekends.
46. Putangirua Pinnacles Track
The Putangirua Pinnacles is another famous Lord of the Rings film location. The tall pinnacles were used as Dimholt Road in the ‘Paths of the Dead’ scene in the Return of the King movie. For any fan of the movies, this is a must-visit!
At the Pinnacles, you can explore a few walking tracks that range in length from 2 to 4 hours. Nearby there is a DOC campsite that costs $6 NZD per person per night.
Although typically visited by Lord of the Rings fans, the trail is beautiful even if you aren’t a fan of the movies and I highly recommend going!
47. Mount Eden Volcano Walk
Located a short 5 km from Auckland CBD is this short but steep walk that takes you to the top of Mount Eden – the highest volcano in Auckland. But don’t worry, it’s not an active volcano. In fact, the last eruption was over 15,000 years ago. At the summit, you will be treated to 360° views of Auckland and you can also admire the 50-meter deep volcano crater.
The Mt Eden Volcano Hike will only take about 20 minutes each way. To reach Mt Eden you can either take public transport using this route or drive and park at either the Puhi Huia Road parking lot (corner of Clive Road) or Whau Café. If you are disabled you can park at the top of Mt Eden.
Visiting M Eden is also one of the most popular things to do in Auckland, so be sure to add it to your to-do list!
48. Orokawa Bay Track
This short walk (just 45 minutes each way) takes you from Waihi Beach to the gorgeous Orokawa Bay. On the walk, you will be treated to ocean views and lush native bush. There are even several historic pā sites (old Maori Villages) and gold mining tunnels along the track.
To reach the Orokawa Bay Track, head north along Waihi Beach. The track follows the coastal headlands before heading down into the bay.
If you want to do a slightly longer hike then continue onto William Wright Falls (another 40 minutes further from Orokawa) or Homunga Bay (another 2 hours from Orokawa).
49. Mount Manganui Summit
In my opinion, no visit to the Bay of Plenty is complete without visiting Mount Manganui. Whilst here be sure to take on the Mount Manganui Summit Track which is in fact New Zealand’s single most popular walk.
This epic hike takes you to the top of Mount Manganui (which is an extinct volcano). If you have a reasonable level of fitness the hike to the top is well worth the climb and takes around about 45-minutes each way.
Although steep, the panoramic views at the top are outstanding. Standing at the top of the 232-meter high summit you will see the Western Bay of Plenty, Pāpāmoa, Tauranga city, Matakana Island, and Waihī Beach. There are a few different ways to the top but just start the first trail you see and head up.
50. Lake Waikaremoana Track
Taking 3-4 days to complete and encompassing 46 km (28.5 miles) of unique terrain the Lake Waikaremoana Track is both challenging and awe-inspiring. It is one of New Zealand’s Great Walk.
It is located in Te Urewera Park near the town of Whakatane. The track follows along the shores of Lake Waikaremoana and includes waterfall and cliff views. One of the best views of this hike can be seen from Panekire Bluff – which you’ll come across on your first day of hiking.
It’s been described as more of a wilderness/back-country hike and is ideal for those looking for a challenge. It’s rated as intermediate and there are campsites and huts along the route to spend the night in.
Hiking this trail takes a fair bit of planning so I won’t go into it in too much detail. Instead, check out the DOC website for more information.
Important Info for Hiking in New Zealand
It’s so important to be safe when hiking in New Zealand especially if you’re a beginner hiker, here are some tips that I feel are very important to learn/prepare for before embarking on a hike in New Zealand.
- Research the trail well in advance – after you’ve decided on the hike you want to tackle. Your next step is to do your research. Search the hike online and read a handful of different blogs and webpages to ensure the information is accurate.
- Download a map in advance (for offline use) – this is one of my favorite hiking tips for beginners or really anybody. Lots of hiking trails are in remote areas without cellphone service. That means that if you get lost, your phone isn’t going to load a map to show you the way out.
- Pack more snacks/ water than you think you’ll need – staying hydrated is so important especially during the summer. Some snacks I like to pack include trail nuts, cereal bars, and raisins.
- Hike with others – as a beginner hiker, I don’t recommend hiking alone. Even experienced hikers often hike with other people. Not only is it safer, but it’s more fun.
- Be prepared for avalanche risks – a common hiking hazard in the winter months are avalanches. Trails that are perfectly safe in the summer can be risky in the winter or spring due to avalanches. Assuming you’re not an expert at reading avalanche risks, I recommend checking in with your local conservation office or visitor center to ensure the trail you are planning to hike is safe.
- Bring some basic safety gear – there are some safety basics you should consider packing for your hike. What type of safety gear you pack should largely depend on the length and difficulty of the hike you’re doing. I advise taking a first aid kit; flashlight; knife or multi-tool; matches or a lighter and an emergency locator.
I will also add that if you’re a beginner hiker the best season to go hiking is summer as there is no risk of avalanches and you won’t happen across any icy or snowy sections that can be treacherous.
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to book a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Thanks for reading!
If you’ve done any hike in New Zealand I’m sure you’ll agree, it is one of the best places in the world to go hiking! Looking back, I can’t believe just how many trails I’ve done and can’t wait to explore many more soon!
For you though, this list is a great start to choosing what trails you want to do in New Zealand. There’s no right or wrong answer for which ones to choose and one thing I promise is that you’ll love them all!
Thanks so much for reading my guide to the best hikes in New Zealand. If you loved this blog then browse around, My Queenstown Diary is filled with awesome guides about Queenstown, hiking, and so much more!