Walking in New Zealand

Whether you're a family out for a stroll, or a sure-footed mountaineer, New Zealand has a walk to suit you. There are thousands of tracks around the country, from family-friendly trails to mountaineering challenges. Some walks require bookings during the peak summer season and camping is restricted in some areas, so check out track information before setting out at any National Park Visitor Centre or with the Department of Conservation (DoC).

Great Walks in New Zealand

DoC has identified nine 'Great Walks' as being representative of New Zealand's diverse and beautiful environment. Tracks may be open in the off-season so check first.

  • Lake Waikaremoana Track
    If fishing, swimming or mountain scenery appeal, head to this 51km forest track around Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urewera National Park. You'll find five huts and several campsites, great views and swimming spots. Bookings are required year round.
  • Tongariro Northern Circuit
    Explore the wonder of volcanic activity with this walk through the spectacular Tongariro National Park. Choose from several starting places, including Whakapapa Village, and tackle the two/three-day track around Mount Ngauruhoe, one of the three largest volcanic mountains in the park.
  • Abel Tasman Coast Track
    Come and see the golden beaches and coastal forests of Abel Tasman National Park which make this three to five day coastal track so popular. About an hour’s drive from Nelson, the track has four huts and numerous campsites, which must be booked in advance. Visit in winter to avoid the crowds.
  • Heaphy Track
    See a smorgasbord of scenery on this three/five-day historic and scenic link between Golden Bay and Karamea through Kahurangi National Park. To revitalise overnight, there are seven huts and several campsites.
  • Milford Track
    With dramatic Fiordland landscape, you'll soon see why this is dubbed 'the finest walk in the world'. Open November to March, the four-day track (54km) starts from Lake Te Anau (boat transfer is included in the booking system) and ends at Milford Sound. Bookings are required.
  • Routeburn Track
    Be treated to wonderful forest and alpine scenery on this three-day track in Mount Aspiring and Fiordland national parks. You’ll find entry and exit points from the Milford Road (1.5 hours drive from Te Anau) and Glenorchy (1.5 hours from Queenstown). There are four huts and two campsites. Bookings are required during summer and snow covers the track in winter.
  • Kepler Track
    Lake edges, beech forest, alpine mountains – it’s all here on this three/four-day circuit between Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri in Fiordland National Park. You must book during summer, and much of the track is snow-covered in winter.
  • Rakiura Track
    Forested coastline, wildlife and history make this two/four-day loop track on Stewart Island/Rakiura a delight. There are huts and campsites, and experienced kayakers can also take on the challenge.
  • Whanganui Journey
    Enjoy a sublime river journey on this three/five-day ‘Great Walk’ through Whanganui National Park – a stunning scenic, historic and wilderness experience, with campsites, huts and a marae. You can also take to the waters in a kayak or raft.

Short Walks in New Zealand

You don't have to be a super-fit mountain goat to get out and enjoy New Zealand's stunning scenery and wildlife. With hundreds of short walks ranging from 20 minutes to several hours, what are you waiting for? Choose the walk for you through the Department of Conservation, visiting www.doc.govt.nz or a visitor information centre, lace up your walking shoes, and go.

Te Paki Dunes, Cape Reinga (2-3hrs)
Seeking coastal splendour? Visit New Zealand's northern tip for huge sand dunes, stunning seascapes and colonies of rare prions and petrels, taking in Cape Reinga, Te Werahi Beach and North Cape.

Trounson Kauri Park, Northland (1hr)
Tane Mahuta, Waipoua ForestWood, wonderful wood, here at one of New Zealand's finest kauri forests. Other recommended kauri walks are Tane Mahuta and Kauri Walk in Waipoua Forest and Omahutu/Puketi Forest Walk (wheelchair suitable).

Rangitoto Island, Auckland (2-3hrs)
Explore the wake of nature's fury on this volcanic island covered in pohutukawa forest. Just half an hour by ferry from downtown Auckland, the popular summit track will reward you with stunning harbour and city views.

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel (2hrs)
Strolling has never been so spectacular, with stunning coastal scenery, bluffs, rock arches and a superb beach.

Waitomo Walkway, Waitomo (2hrs)
Rocks rock – as you’ll see here, with classic limestone landscapes - sculpted rocks and a tunnel, set in regenerating lowland forest.

Wilkies Pools, Egmont National Park (1.5hrs)
Take on a real life fairytale adventure, walking through a 'Goblin forest' to mystical mountain pools and falls on Mount Taranaki.

Arahaki Lagoon, Whirinaki Forest Park, Bay of Plenty (2-3hrs)
Stroll through the forest to a wetland, where you’ll see magnificent kahikatea emerge from the water's edge. Check out the Whirinaki Falls Track, featuring majestic podocarp forest, and the dramatic Te Whaiti Nui a Toi Canyon.

Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay (4-5hrs, impassable at high tide)
Walk the beach beneath towering cliffs to Black Reef and Cape Kidnappers for a close-up encounter with the world's largest mainland colony of Australasian gannets.

Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park (2hrs)
Volcanic landscape, falls cascading over an ancient lava flow, tussock plains, beech forest and mountain views – you'll find it all here. Take on the nearby Silica Springs walk for more volcanic splendour and subalpine forest, or Lake Rotopounamu, a beautiful forest-lined lake.

Swingbridge Track, Kaitoke Regional Park, Lower North Island (1hr)
Lord of the Rings fans shouldn't miss this, the film location for Rivendell, with impressive podocarp and rata forest river scenery just 40 minutes from Wellington city. Partly suitable for wheelchairs.

Waikoropupu Springs, Golden Bay (30min)
Marvel at the large crystal-clear freshwater natural spring set amid native forest, or take in a spot of goldmining history on this short walk.

Flora Tableland, Kahurangi National Park, Nelson Region (3hrs)
In just three short hours, you can check out limestone formations, natural rock shelters, alpine tussock, beech forest and an historic pack track.

Honeydew Walk, Nelson Lakes National Park (1hr)
This saunter offers birds and beech forest beside mountain-framed Lake Rotoiti. Suitable for wheelchairs.

Kaikoura Peninsula, Kaikoura (2-3hrs)
If you love all things coastal, you’ll find wildlife, sea cliffs and caves here, with the Kaikoura Ranges providing a towering backdrop.

Pororari River, Paparoa National Park, West Coast (1hr)
Sixty minutes walking will reward you with subtropical rainforest and limestone cliffs, or try nearby Punakaiki Blowholes (wheelchair access) and Trueman Track for coastal forest and spectacular sea caves.

Franz Josef Glacier, Westland/Tai Poutini National Park (2hrs)
Come face to face with the magnificence of the glacier, and check out your reflection in the mirrored beauty of nearby Lake Matheson.

Ship Creek, South Westland, West Coast (1hr)
Wild beaches and wildlife abound here, with rare Hector's dolphins and Fiordland Crested Penguins and podocarp and rata rainforest.

Kea Point, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park (1hr)
Come on up, and enjoy the superb views of Aoraki/Mt Cook, the ice-cliffs of Mt Sefton, Hooker Glacier and its glacial lake. Or stride it out on Red Tarns or Hooker Valley walks for more alpine magnificence.

Tunnel Beach, Dunedin (2hrs)
Coastal delights are all on offer here – spectacular sea cliffs, arches, rock stacks and a tunnel.

Lake Wilkie, Catlins Forest Park (40min)
Enjoy fine native forest, an ancient dune lake and prolific birdlife on this short stroll.

Key Summit, Fiordland National Park (2-3hrs)
Part of the Routeburn Track, this walk offers you breathtaking views of the Fiordland mountains, alpine tarns and wetlands, and beech forest.

Ulva Island, Stewart Island (2hrs)
If scenery and birdwatching are for you, head south to this open island sanctuary, renowned for the diversity of its birdlife and plants.