5 Best New Zealand Hikes
When it comes to nature trips, nothing beats New Zealand. From mountains and inlets, to valleys, forests, waterfalls, and stretches of white and black sand beaches, it has a little bit of everything.
With all sorts of trails to choose from, finding something that perfectly suits you can be a challenge. To help you start off on the right track, so to speak, here’s a rundown of the five best hikes in New Zealand today.
Abel Tasman Coast Track (Abel Tasman National Park)
Of New Zealand’s iconic Great Walks, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is probably the least tiring. It’s a one-way beach hike that stretches for 30 miles or so, offering picturesque views of the landscapes and the lush bush land.
If you’re in a hurry, you can complete the trek in two days. However, you can also take your time and complete it in five days, cooling off every now and then in the crystal blue waters a short distance from the trail.
You’ll alternate through fern and manuka groves and bare golden-sand beaches along the path. Keep an eye out for some granite cliffs, too. Many of the tidal inlets need to be crossed during low tide, so start your hike early. You’ll then have extra time later in the day to watch seals playing in the water and even take a dip or dive if you wish to cool off.
You can set up camp by the shore or in Department of Conservation huts. Just make sure to arrange it beforehand.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing (Tongariro National Park)
Among day hikes, the 12-mile Tongariro Alpine Crossing tops the list. The trail includes lava fields and jagged volcanic rocks and involves a lot of steep climbs. Tolkien fans would say that the trail reminds them of Mordor in The Lord of the Rings universe.
On sunny days, however, hikers will have beautiful views of Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom?) and the turquoise waters of the Emerald Lakes. The entire hike takes seven hours or more and ends at Ketetahi trailhead. From there, you can take a bus back to your starting point.
For the more adventurous, though, there’s an optional activity once you reach Summit Crater and if the time and weather permit. There is no path up the mountain, so you can side scramble up, then go down the ridge from Red Crater to enjoy the neon blue heated waters of the Emerald Lakes. From there, you can go down to the Ketetahi trailhead and the bus that takes you back.
As the weather in this area can be unpredictable, come prepared with the appropriate attire, communications equipment, and enough food and water.
Mueller Hut Route (Mount Cook National Park)
If you’re planning for an overnight hike, consider the Mueller Hut Route. The three-mile hike begins at the valley floor and gets pretty steep. (Good thing your path offers relaxing sights of glacial pools and the valley’s braided river system.)
When you reach Sealy Tarns, brace for a field of loose talus which leads to the ridge of a high alpine plateau. There you’ll find Mueller Hut, a trekker’s hut where you can rest and spend the night.
The best part? You’ll be treated to breathtaking views of Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, and its beautiful, snowcapped peak.
Mt. Victoria Trails (Wellington)
For the best city hike, go to Wellington, the capital of North Island. It has great hiking trails in the semi-wild green hills known as the Town Belt, the best of which is the track that skirts Mt. Victoria. That trail will bring you right to the summit of the 643-foot mountain, where you will have clear views of Wellington.
From Mt. Victoria’s peak, you can either continue trekking by following other connecting trails, or call it a day and make your way down to the sea.
Buck Taylor Track Loop (Karekare, North Island)
Still on North Island, if you want to go off the beaten track, you can try the Buck Taylor Track Loop. This unconventional trail takes you downhill to a marshy inlet with black sand dunes leading to a rock tunnel and the black-sand Karekare Beach. You can get lucky there and spot seals on the rocky perches.
Before you head back up on the Zion Hill Track, take a side trip to the 100-foot Karekare Falls and swim or dip your feet in its shallow pool.
Whatever kind of adventure you’re seeking, you can count on New Zealand and its score of hiking trails to give you what you need. Get your boots and jacket ready, and off with you to experience the wonders of the Land of the Long White Cloud while you still can.