The Top Short Walks on the North Island of New Zealand
Want to see some stunning North Island scenery that doesn’t feel like a mission? Or perhaps you want a stroll that’s suitable for all fitness levels? Try some of the amazing short walks on the North Island. We’ve listed the highlights of the North Island short walks in this list with each walk ranging from 10 minutes to 2 hours. Coastal walks, waterfall walks, forest walks… It’s all here in the New Zealand North Island’s best short walks.
For the South Island equivalent, head to the 20 Best Short Walks in the South Island.
1. The Mount (Mauao) Summit Walk
Visiting Tauranga and Mt Maunganui for the first time needs to be commemorated with a walk up Mauao, otherwise known as “The Mount“. Walk up the extinct volcano to get expansive views of Mt Maunganui’s beaches, the city of Tauranga, the Pacific Ocean and more. Learn more about the trail in the 19 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Tauranga.
Time: 30-45 minutes one way / Distance: 3.4km (2.1 miles) / Location: Tauranga, Bay of Plenty
2. Rail Tunnel Loop – Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway
While there are two walking at Karangahake Gorge, one is under an hour making for an excellent short walk. On the Rail Tunnel Loop, walk through a 1,100m rail tunnel, over swingbridges and alongside mining relics. For a longer journey, take the Historic Walkway (4 hours return) instead.
Time: 45mins return / Distance: 2.5km (1.6 miles) / Location: Paeroa, Waikato
3. Dawson Falls and Wilkies Pools Loop
Venture through the gnarling moss-covered trees of the “goblin forest” to Wilkies Pools on the 1h20min Wilkies Pools Loop. While the trail makes a pleasant short walk on its own, we recommend combining it with the 1-hour Kapauni Loop Track to see the picturesque Dawson Falls.
Time: 1h20mins and 1-hour loops / Distance: 1.4km (0.87 miles) and 1.9km (1.2 miles) / Location: Egmont National Park, Taranaki
4. Onepoto Caves Track
For a truly off-the-beaten-track short walk on the North Island, find the Onepoto Caves Track on the shores of Lake Waikaremoana. Walk from cave to cave in the Te Urewera forest, where you can look out for cave weta and check out the views from two lookouts. See more walks in the area in the 17 Best Lake Waikaremoana Walks.
Time: 2 hours loop / Distance: 2km (1.2 miles) / Location: Te Urewera, Gisborne/Bay of Plenty
5. Deliverance Cove Track to Castlepoint
Walk to the iconic photo spot of the Wairarapa, Castlepoint Lighthouse, on this stunning coastal walk with two routes to choose from. Either walk through pine trees above a lagoon or walk the southern route on the edge of the lagoon through coastal grassland. Both tracks lead to Castle Rock and the Castlepoint Lighthouse mounted on top.
Time: 1h30mins return / Distance: 3.6km (2.2 miles) / Location: Masterton, Wairarapa
6. Manginangina Kauri Walk
There are no lack of short family-friendly kauri walks on the North Island – just take a look at the 10 Kauri Forests in New Zealand. A real goodie, however, is the Manginangina Kauri Walk, which displays New Zealand’s largest trees along a boardwalk. It makes a good pitstop on your way to the Far North.
Time: 15mins / Distance: 350m (383 yards) / Location: Kerikeri, Northland
7. Smugglers Cove Loop Track
Soak up the stunning coastal views of the Whangarei Heads and check out the World War II gun emplacements on the easy Smugglers Bay Loop Walk. The walk also encompasses small tracts of coastal forest and chances to explore pebble beaches. See more walks like this in the 12 Whangarei Walks You Can’t Miss.
Time: 1h30mins loop / Distance: 3km (1.9 miles) / Location: Whangarei, Northland
8. Manawatu Gorge Tawa Loop Track
Although there are super-short and long hikes in Manawatu Gorge, the Tawa Loop Track provides a happy medium for those seeking a short walk on the North Island. The Tawa Loop Track meanders through the forest lining a dramatic river gorge with a highlight being the Maori sculpture part-way through. See more walks nearby in the 26 Best Hikes Around Palmerston North.
Time: 2-hour loop / Distance: 4.1km (2.5 miles) / Location: Ashhurst, Manawatu-Whanganui
9. Muriwai Walk
Enjoy expansive ocean views and undulating pastures on this track on the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula. The Muriwai Walk also features a historic Maori pa site. Note that part of the walk crosses an estuary to complete a loop, which is best done at low tide. Otherwise, you can return the same way. See more walks in the 16 Best Hikes in The Coromandel.
Time: 2-hour loop / Distance: 6km (3.7 miles) / Location: Coromandel, Waikato
10. Taranaki Falls Walk
See the 20m (65ft) Taranaki Falls tumbling off the edge of a lava flow on this loop walk. Features of the Taranaki Falls Walk include forest, ancient lava flows and views of the volcanoes Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe on a clear day. See more walks in the 13 Best Walks Around National Park Village & Whakapapa Village.
Time: 2-hour loop / Distance: 6km (3.7 miles) / Location: Tongariro National Park, Manawatu-Whanganui
11. Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk
The Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk is just one of the amazing short walks along Te Anga Road from Waitomo. Venture down a limestone gorge and through a 17m (56ft)-high arch on this stroller-friendly walk. The top of the arch is studded with stalactites, where you can get better views by climbing the stairs. Continue the loop walk over farmland and back to the beginning.
Time: 20mins loop / Distance: 700m (766 yards) / Location: Waitomo, Waikato
12. Mangakara Nature Walk
Learn about New Zealand’s native trees on this example of a fantastic nature walk on the North Island. The Mangakara Nature Walk in the Pirongia Forest near Hamilton features illustrated signs to identify trees. While the stroll is particularly popular with families, it is not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs.
Time: 1 hour loop / Distance: 1.8km (1.1 miles) / Location: Pirongia, Waikato
13. Huka Falls Walks
There are two ways to experience Huka Falls and the views of its raging rapids from the walkways. The short version is parking at the Huka Falls car park and viewing the falls from multiple lookouts on both sides of the river. Alternatively, enjoy the 1h30min walk from Spa Park in Taupo where you can also bathe in the free hot pools of Otumuheke Stream. See more of the 8 Best Walks in Taupo.
Time: 10mins to 1h30mins one way / Distance: 167m (183 yards) to 3km (1.9 miles) / Location: Taupo, Waikato
14. Limestone Creek
A real hidden gem of the North Island, Limestone Creek might be a short walk but you’ll want to take your time with all there is to see. Admire glowworms in these towering caves covered in moss. Be prepared to get your feet wet, as you’ll walk through a shallow stream. Learn more about Limestone Creek in the 6 Best Things to Do in Apiti.
Time: 10-20mins / Distance: 600m (656 yards) / Location: Apiti, Manawatu-Whanganui
15. Rangitoto Summit Track
After taking a ferry from Auckland city centre, walk the Rangitoto Summit Track across lava fields and through New Zealand’s largest pohutukawa forest to the crater summit of this island volcano. We highly recommend taking the 15-minute one-way side trip on the Lava Caves Track to find caves to scramble through. See more islands with short walks in The 10 Best Islands in Auckland to Visit.
Time: 2 hours return / Distance: 7km (4.3 miles) / Location: Rangitoto Island, Auckland
16. Mt Manaia Track
The Mt Manaia Track is a steady climb through nikau palm and kauri forest on the way to a rocky summit with breathtaking views of Whangarei Heads. Find more walks nearby in the 12 Whangarei Walks You Can’t Miss.
Time: 2 hours return / Distance: 4km (2.5 miles) / Location: Whangarei, Northland
17. Cathedral Cove
One of the most visited natural attractions on the North Island, Cathedral Cove is known for its white cliffs arching over the beach. Walk from the Cathedral Cove car park in the off season. Otherwise, this is closed between October and April, so either take the shuttle from the entrance of Hahei or walk from the northern end of Hahei Beach adding an extra 20 minutes each way.
Time: 1h30mins (low season) or 2h10mins (high season) return / Distance: 2.5km (1.6 miles) or 3.5km (2.2 miles) / Location: Hahei, Waikato
18. Redwood Memorial Grove Track
One of the many walks and bike trails in Rotorua‘s Whakarewarewa Forest, also known as The Redwoods, the Redwood Memorial Grove Track is a pleasant little walk through the forest’s towering Californian Redwoods. Another feature is an old thermal pond with crystal clear water. See more walks nearby in the 11 Must-Do Walks in Rotorua.
Time: 30mins return / Distance: 2km (1.2 miles) / Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty
19. Cape Reinga Lighthouse
Dubbed as the top of the North Island (although it’s not quite the northern point), the Cape Reinga Lighthouse is accessed on an easy stroller and wheelchair-friendly walk but note that there are some steep sections. There are interpretation panels indicating the cultural significance of the site, as well as views of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean colliding.
Time: 10mins one way / Distance: 300m (328 yards) / Location: Cape Reinga, Northland
20. Lake Rotopounamu
Finally, for those of you heading in or out of the Tongariro National Park or perhaps wanting to break up the journey across the central North Island, Lake Rotopounamu is a picturesque short walk worth stopping for. Walk around the perimeter of a green lake (when the sun is shining on it) and through dense forest alive with birdsong. Find more walks nearby in the 12 Best Walks in Turangi.
Time: 2-hour loop / Distance: 5km (3.1 miles) / Location: Turangi, Waikato