Ten Incredible Hikes Across New Zealand

Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand

Traversing Aotearoa: A Tale of the Top Ten Hikes in New Zealand’s North and South Islands

By Oscar Davis

Hiking in New Zealand.
Hiking in New Zealand.

New Zealand, a land of unparalleled beauty and diverse landscapes, beckons avid hikers and RVers from around the globe.

With its North and South Islands offering a huge selection of trails, each step unveils a new chapter in the young country’s awe-inspiring natural narrative.

Here, we embark on a journey to explore the top ten hikes that showcase the very essence of New Zealand’s majestic terrains.

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New Zealand’s North Island:

1. Tongariro Alpine Crossing:

Our adventure begins in the heart of the North Island, where the Tongariro Alpine Crossing stands as a testament to the fiery forces that shaped this land. This 19.4-kilometer trail winds through otherworldly landscapes, passing emerald lakes, steaming vents, and the iconic Red Crater. As you traverse the volcanic plateau, the panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, including Mount Ngauruhoe, will leave you breathless.

2. Te Araroa Trail – Northern Circuit:

Embarking on the Te Araroa Trail’s Northern Circuit, we delve into a pristine wilderness within the Tongariro National Park. This multi-day hike explores lush forests, alpine meadows, and serene lakes. Highlights include the serene Lake Rotopounamu and the refreshing Taranaki Falls. The track also offers glimpses of Mount Ruapehu, the North Island’s highest peak.

3. Journey

The Southern Alps, on the South Island of New Zealand. photo: Marie Javins.
The Southern Alps, on the South Island of New Zealand. photo: Marie Javins.

Leaving the mountains behind, we navigate the Whanganui River on a unique adventure that combines hiking and paddling. The Whanganui Journey, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, unfolds as a 145-kilometer canoe journey through native forests, deep gorges, and historical sites. The solitude and tranquility of the river make this an unforgettable experience.

4. Waitomo Coastal Walkway:

Heading west to the Waitomo region, the Coastal Walkway offers a refreshing change of scenery. This coastal track meanders along cliffs, beaches, and through native forests, treating hikers to stunning vistas of the Tasman Sea. Keep an eye out for the diverse birdlife and, if you’re lucky, spot seals basking on the rocks below.

5. Pinnacles Track, Coromandel:

The Coromandel Peninsula beckons with the Pinnacles Track, a trail that leads through ancient kauri forests to the eerie remnants of an old gold-mining operation. As you ascend, the iconic Pinnacles rock formations emerge, and the panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes make the climb well worth the effort.

Coromandel view in New Zealand's North. Max Hartshorne photo.
Coromandel view in New Zealand’s North. Max Hartshorne photo.

New Zealand’s South Island

6. Abel Tasman Coast Track:

Venturing to the northern tip of the South Island, the Abel Tasman Coast Track unfolds as a coastal gem. This Great Walk immerses hikers in golden beaches, turquoise waters, and lush native forests. The track can be customized to suit various lengths, allowing hikers to explore the pristine coves and estuaries at their own pace.

7. Kepler Track:

Nestled in the Fiordland National Park, the Kepler Track showcases the grandeur of New Zealand’s southern wilderness. This 60-kilometer loop traverses alpine ridges, dense beech forests, and skirts the shores of Lake Te Anau. The panoramic views of Fiordland’s fiords and mountains, including the iconic Mitre Peak, make this a must-do hike.

8. Routeburn Track:

Often referred to as one of the world’s greatest walks, the Routeburn Track is a 32-kilometer journey through Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks. With alpine meadows, cascading waterfalls, and mirror-like lakes, the track epitomizes the South Island’s breathtaking scenery. Key highlights include the spectacular Harris Saddle and the picturesque Lake Mack

Milford Sound New Zealand.


9. Milford Track:

No exploration of New Zealand’s hiking trails would be complete without the Milford Track, often called the “Finest Walk in the World.” This 53.5-kilometer trek winds through rainforests, across suspension bridges, and along the shores of glacial lakes.

The awe-inspiring climax comes at Milford Sound, where towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls create a mesmerizing spectacle.

Mount Cook National Park – Hooker Valley Track:

Our journey concludes in the shadow of Aoraki/Mount Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand. The Hooker Valley Track offers an accessible yet stunning hike with jaw-dropping views of glaciers, alpine meadows, and the iconic Hooker Lake. The majestic presence of Mount Cook looming overhead provides a fitting finale to our exploration of New Zealand’s top hiking trails.

New Zealand’s North and South Islands offer a diverse tapestry of hiking experiences, from volcanic plateaus to coastal cliffs, ancient forests to glacial valleys. Each trail presents a unique chapter in Aotearoa’s natural story, inviting adventurers to lace up their boots and immerse themselves in the breathtaking beauty that defines this island nation. So, pack your gear, embrace the spirit of exploration, and let the trails of New Zealand unveil their wonders one step at a time.

Franz Josef Glacier on the South Island

Franz Josef Glacier, nestled on the rugged West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking the perfect blend of RV exploration and hiking adventures. As you embark on your journey to this glacial wonder, here’s a guide to what you can do and where to stay for an unforgettable experience.

RV Exploration:

Franz Josef Glacier provides an ideal setting for RV enthusiasts, allowing you to immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes at your own pace. The journey to the glacier is part of the adventure, with winding roads offering glimpses of lush rainforests, towering mountains, and cascading waterfalls. As you approach the glacier township, take advantage of the designated RV parks that provide essential facilities for a comfortable stay.

The Honeytrekkers in New Zealand.
The Honeytrekkers in New Zealand.

Hiking Adventures on the Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier Walk: Begin your exploration with the Franz Josef Glacier Walk, a must-do for any visitor. The well-maintained trail takes you through ancient rainforests before revealing panoramic views of the glacier. As you navigate the valley floor, marvel at the ice formations and listen to the creaks and groans of this dynamic ice mass.

Fox Glacier Heli-Hike: Extend your adventure by taking a short drive to Fox Glacier for an exhilarating heli-hike experience. Soar above the Southern Alps before landing on the glacier, where expert guides lead you through ice formations, crevasses, and ice caves. The helicopter ride itself offers breathtaking aerial views of the surrounding landscapes.

Where to Stay:

Franz Josef TOP 10 Holiday Park: For RV enthusiasts, the Franz Josef TOP 10 Holiday Park is an excellent choice. Offering powered sites for RVs, this park provides modern amenities, including communal kitchens, showers, and laundry facilities. The location is convenient, just a short drive from the glacier entrance.

Rainforest Retreat: If you’re looking for a mix of comfort and adventure, consider staying at the Rainforest Retreat. This accommodation offers a range of options, from powered campervan sites to private cabins and luxury treehouses. The retreat is set amidst lush rainforest surroundings, providing a tranquil and immersive experience.

Glacier Country Kayaks & Campervan Park: Situated near the Franz Josef Glacier Guides’ base, this campervan park is an excellent choice for those seeking proximity to adventure activities. The park provides powered sites and basic facilities, making it a convenient option for RV travelers eager to explore the glacier.

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