From North To South: New Zealand’s Most Stunning Hikes
The great outdoors is one of the biggest drawcards to beautiful Aotearoa, the Maori name for New Zealand. So it’s no surprise the country is home to spectacular hiking experiences revealing moody beaches, lush native bush, cascading waterfalls and impressive mountain ranges.
From self-guided day walks to hosted overnight treks, there’s a track for everyone that’s guaranteed to lead somewhere special. Here’s a taste of some of the best New Zealand hikes – from the tip of the North Island to the bottom of the south.
Mahinepua Peninsula Track, Northland
The Far North is renowned for some of the country’s most pristine beaches complete with pale sand and crystal waters. Mahinepua Peninsula Track in Whangaroa provides bountiful outlooks to these much-celebrated natural assets.
The three-kilometre track tracing the headland offers glimpses of rare native plants and sweeping coastal views that’ll captivate you throughout the entire two-hour return journey.
Lake Wainamu Track, Auckland
Less than an hour’s drive from Auckland City awaits the wild and expansive west coast and one of the most picturesque of New Zealand hikes. The Lake Wainamu Track is a two-hour return journey making up a section of the multi-day hike, The Hillary Trail. Cutting inland from Bethells Beach, the track crosses undulating sand dunes, tussock-covered hillside, a waterfall and freshwater lake.
Nestled among the rejuvenating scenery is Wainamu Luxury Tents. Stay in one of the canvas abodes complete with recycled wooden floors, a cosy bed and proper loo. Soak in an outdoor bath underneath a night sky laden with stars.
The Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway, Waikato
The water from the Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway in central North Island is so pure, it’s bottled and sold. While it serves an important purpose of keeping bodies hydrated, it also makes for a stunning backdrop as you follow its soothing rush along a native bush-laden boardwalk.
Sights discovered along this three-hour return journey are almost otherworldly. You’ll see glimpses of trout in the crystal-clear spring and snapshots of waterfalls trickling down mossy embankments through clearings in the wetlands.
Pouakai Crossing, Taranaki
The 19-kilometre trail of Pouakai Crossing weaves through Egmont National Park on the western tip of the North Island. It leads hikers from Mount Taranaki across to the Poukai Ranges, revealing views of the iconic Mount Taranaki and a few unsuspecting delights along the way.
The ‘goblin forest’ receives its moniker from warped, moss-covered tree trunks twisting over a pathway edged with baby ferns; reminiscent of a scene taken straight from The Lord of the Rings.
Abel Tasman Coast Track, Nelson
You’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve landed on a tropical island after being greeted with white sand beaches and bright blue waters in Abel Tasman National Park. But hints of quintessential New Zealand like regenerating native bush, birdsong, and blooming red pohutukawa trees in summer will remind you where you are – at the very top of the South Island.
There’s option to enjoy all or part of the 51-kilometre track – one out of ten touted as New Zealand’s Great Walks – at your own pace, or guided over three to five days. Kayaking and helicopter tours are available, providing a different perspective. Rest weary legs and stay in beachfront lodges within the national park.
Hooker Valley Walk, Canterbury
The 10-kilometre, three-hour return track shrouded in the jagged Southern Alps has been described as having the best views-to-effort ratio. The track winds through the Hooker Valley inside Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and is one of The Department of Conservation’s best day hikes.
Breathe in the fresh alpine air as you pass pebbled brooks and speckles of yellow amongst the moody alpine scenery; the Mount Cook buttercup holds the prize of the world’s biggest of its variety. Hooker Lake and Mount Cook are definite showstoppers.
Hollyford Track, Fiordland
Enter a storybook of New Zealand history and learn about the detailed eco-system of Fiordland National Park by joining a two-night guided walk along the 20-kilometre Hollyford Track.
Did you know a native tree can adapt the height of which it grows its leaves to prevent predators from eating it? It’s a fascinating process known as ‘plant intelligence.’ The diverse landscape will leave you with an unwavering appreciation for Mother Nature.
Arrive in comfortable private lodges in the evening and enjoy luxuries including a hot shower, glass of wine, deliciously cooked meal and a comfy bed. Leave the bush in style with a scenic helicopter flight over Milford Sound.
Milford Track, Fiordland
For the opportunity to gain a more intimate feel for the lay of the land, consider a four-night guided walk along the 54km Milford Track. Another of New Zealand’s Great Walks, this has a reputation as one of the world’s most beautiful hikes.
Traipse valleys carved by glaciers, wander through ancient rainforests and feel refreshed in the mist from gushing waterfalls. Settle in for the evening inside private lodges offering a well-deserved glass of wine and meal.
(Lead portrait image: Monica Tischler. Lead landscape image: Jeremy Beckers)
Published 31 May, 2019