Don’t Settle for a Good Walk. Go on a Great Walk!
It’s difficult to imagine how so many different landscapes can be in one country. In the North Island, there are volcanoes, native rainforest bush and mighty long rivers with steep valley sides. Then the South Island takes us into beech forest territory, paradise beaches, secluded tussock lands, and onto majestic mountains.
Tramping just one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks gives a real feeling of serenity and achievement. Tramping all 10 well you will have the ultimate experience of New Zealand’s backcountry, as well as proving you are the ultimate machine! Whichever walk you choose, make sure you are well-prepared by taking a look at How to Prepare for a Great Walk in New Zealand and download the Great Hikes App for Android and for iOS (more information can be found at the end of this article).
Here is a list of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks to tick off your list.
1. Lake Waikaremoana
Kicking off our list of NZ great walks is Lake Waikaremoana. Walking the shoreline of Lake Waikaremoana will take you through a mass of rainforest, waterfalls and secluded beaches. This Great Walk is in the Te Ureweras. It is a moderate level walk full of culture and history. Take a look at the Te Urewera – Guide for Backpackers for more information.
Distance: 46km (28.6 miles). 4-5 days.
2. Tongariro Northern Circuit
In this volcano country, you walk past Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe a.k.a Mt Doom in The Lord of the Rings. The Tongariro Northern Circuit includes one of the most popular day walks in New Zealand: the Tongariro Crossing. This includes a magnificent view of the Emerald Lakes that fill the volcanic craters. Find out more about this national park with world heritage status in Tongariro National Park – Guide for Backpackers.
Distance: 43km (26.7 miles). 3-4 days.
3. Whanganui Journey
The definition of “New Zealand Great Walks” is being a bit twisted for this next entry. Not so much a walk, as this trip is done by canoe or kayak. Steep valley walls and native forest stand on either side of the Whanganui River. The Whanganui Journey possesses a cultural experience, as one of the backcountry huts is a marae (Maori meeting house). Read more in Whanganui National Park – Guide for Backpackers and Guide to the Whanganui Journey.
Distance: 145km (90 miles). 3-5 days.
4. Abel Tasman Coast Track
One of the more easily accessible New Zealand Great Walks, the Abel Tasman Coast Track takes you through stretching golden sand beaches and native bush. You don’t even have to do the whole journey on foot, as taking a water taxi and kayaking are also good ways to revel in coastal scenery. Although it has this reputation of being easier than the other Great Walks, that’s not to say that there are a few climbs to coastal cliffs along the way. Find more on the Abel Tasman National Park here.
Distance: 60km (37.3 miles). 3-5 days.
5. Heaphy Track
The Heaphy Track is where the forest meets the West Coast. Along the way, you’ll walk over the Gouland Downs, dense rainforests and along the wild West Coast. A whole bunch of native birds are likely to be spotted such as tui, weka, kea, kaka, kereru and if you are super lucky, a kiwi. The Heaphy Track is in Kahurangi National Park.
Distance: 78.4km (48.7 miles). 4-6 days.
6. Kepler Track
Tramping the Kepler Track is one of the Great Walks that traverses through the huge Fiordland National Park and one of 5 Incredible Multi-day Hikes in the Fiordland National Park. The walk is a circuit starting and ending just outside of Te Anau. The terrain goes from lakeshores, to tussock lands, and to mountaintops. Be sure to bring a torch to explore the limestone caves near the Luxmore Hut.
Distance: 60km (37.3 miles). 3-4 days.
7. Milford Track
On this iconic New Zealand Great Walk, you will see an abundance of waterfalls including the gargantuan Sutherland Falls, which is 580m high. Walk along the rivers in pure green rainforests. The Milford Track emerges into the famous and stunning fiord of Milford Sound. Again, this is another track in the huge Fiordland National Park and one of the 5 Incredible Multi-day Hikes in the Fiordland National Park.
Distance: 53.5km (33.2 miles). 4 days.
8. Routeburn Track
This walk through the Southern Alps gives you the best views of the glacier-carved valleys and majestic lakes. Out of the 3 New Zealand Great Walks in the Fiordland National Park, the Routeburn Track spends less time in the forest and more time in the alpine environment.
Distance: 32km (19.9 miles). 2-4 days.
9. Rakiura Track
The most southern Great Walk, the Rakiura Track is on Stewart Island. Because the Rakiura National Park makes up 80% of the island, doing the Rakiura Track is the best way to really see Stewart Island. Walk along golden sand beaches and forests. You never know, you might see or hear the island’s native kiwi.
Distance: 32km (19.9 miles). 3 days.
10. Paparoa Track
Rounding off our list of the NZ great walks is the Paparoa Track. Delve into the wilderness of the wild West Coast of New Zealand on the most recent addition to the New Zealand Great Walk, the Paparoa Track. Wander among karst limestone landscape, amidst ancient forest and over the Paparoa Ranges for breathtaking views. Find out more in our Guide to the Paparoa Track.
Distance: 45km (28 miles), 2-3 days.
[PRO TIP] Use the NZ Great Hikes App
Free and made in New Zealand, this app is specially designed for the NZ Great Walks. Once you download a trail, the app works fully offline and is GPS enabled to help orientate yourself along the tracks. It includes all the official Department of Conservation Great Walks including the Whanganui Journey paddle. The companion app Great Rides App also has some dual-purpose tracks that are also walks, such as the Timber Trail, Link Pathway, Queen Charlotte Track and Welcome Rock Trails.