I did a lot of walking in New Zealand… looking back I’m not sure how I managed because realistically, I was not fit enough for the amount I did! But I survived and massively enjoyed every walk so can’t complain! However, some of the walks in New Zealand were more spectacular than others so here I have listed the best of the lot, with pictures of the scenery I encountered along the way. Hopefully if any of you lovely lot decide to venture over to the other side of the world, some of these walk names will stick in your head and maybe you’ll do them!
I’ve googled the return times for each walk but have to say, depending on weather conditions these can take much longer (avoid snowstorms where possible)! Most are really really short, however they are all beautiful and I 100% recommend doing them.
1. BLUE POOLS, MOUNT ASPIRING NATIONAL PARK – 1HR RETURN
The water here, as you can see is, exceptionally blue. Probably even more so on a sunnier day than I found it in! The bridge makes for a great picture plus you can easily climb up the overgrown bank behind for great pictures as well as down to the river bed. Such a lovely little pit-stop when crossing the Haast Pass.
2. HUKA FALLS, TAUPO – 15MIN RETURN
I’m not sure if this can really count as a walk because basically you drive to a car park, park and you’re at the falls. However it’s worth taking a quick look as the falls/rapids are really impressive. I’ve put 15min return for this because that’s roughly how much time I spent there watching the white water rafters.
3. QUEENSTOWN HILL, QUEENSTOWN – 3HR RETURN
This was one of my favourite walks mainly because it started to snow at the top of the hill! It was actually pretty magical up there, sorry I know that sounds super cheesy! The view of Queenstown was also incredible and I’d love to redo this walk in the summer one day as I’m sure the mountains look amazing.
4. STINGRAYBAY/ CATHEDRAL COVE, HAHEI – 2HR RETURN
This was the only stop I made on the Coromandel as I didn’t have enough time to go all the way to Fletchers Bay. Because of this I made the most of the walk and took every little side route and path variation I could! The extra bit to Stingray Bay was amazing, so beautiful and completely empty as everyone is there for Cathedral Cove. Definitely a worthwhile addition to the main track.
5. WILKIES POOL LOOP TRACK, EGMONT NATIONAL PARK – 1HR 20MIN RETURN
Egmont, aka Taranaki! Really lovely loop track although you don’t get much of a view of the mountain. Instead you get sub-alpine forest (which they call goblin forest) and a series of little waterfalls and pools carved into the 20,000 year old lava rock! I climbed further upstream at the pools to get away from other trekkers and it only got more beautiful.
6. LAKE MANGAMAHOE TARANAKI LOOKOUT, TARANAKI – 10MIN RETURN
You can drive to the start of this really short but amazing walk towards the back of the lake. I was lucky to be there on a day Taranaki wasn’t wearing his hat (what the locals were calling the cloud that seemed to permanently sit on top of the mountain!).
7. CULLEN POINT LOOKOUT TRACK, QUEEN CHARLOTTE DRIVE – 10MIN RETURN
The views over the sound (no idea what the sound is called, sorrryyy!) from this lookout are incredible. It’s a short but steep walk! There is also a longer walk you can do here which I reckon is amazing too.
8. ABEL TASMAN COASTAL TRACK (TORRENT BAY TO MARAHAU) – 9HR RETURN
The full coastal track takes around 3 days… or you can catch a water taxi from Marahau to Torrent Bay and then walk back along the track which takes roughly 4.5 hours. This was one of my favourite walks of the whole trip, very peaceful and beautiful beaches. Amazing start to the South Island.
9. MOUNT VICTORIA LOOKOUT, WELLINGTON – 1HR 3MIN RETURN
This is a lovely walk to do in the evening as the city lights and sunset are really pretty. Walking back is a little confusing in the dark though as there are lots of different paths but as long as you head downhill you’ll be fine. You might also find a massive rope swing which was fun too!
10. PANCAKE ROCKS, PUNAKAIKI – 20MIN RETURN
Pancake Rocks are a must see when heading down the west coast of the South Island. The walk is really easy and you get to go between the weird rock formations. If you’re lucky like me you might also spot some seals or dolphins in the sea!
11. FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER LOOKOUT, FRANZ JOSEF – 1HR RETURN
I didn’t do any of the glacier walks in New Zealand as they were pretty pricey and I hadn’t heard amazing things about them. However I still definitely wanted to see Franz Josef so instead did this walk which is as close as you can get to the glacier without being on a tour. It was very cool, my first ever glacier sighting!
12. RANGITOTO SUMMIT TRACK, AUCKLAND – 2HR RETURN
This track passes through lava fields and pohutukawa forests leading up to panoramic views of the bay. Really beautiful and well worth the hike. There are lots of different walks you can do from the top too. I did a longer route down which took me to a beach where the picture above was taken.
13. HOKITIKA GORGE, HOKITIKA – 30MIN RETURN
This walk is another must when heading down the west coast of the South Island. The beautiful glacial river is easily accessible and there is also a swing bridge which is always fun!
14. WAITANGI TRACK, PAIHIA – 5HR RETURN
I saw so many amazing birds nesting in the trees overhanging various rivers along this walk, it was amazing! You start by passing through a kiwi reserve in native forest, then a mangrove swamp (with boardwalks) and end up at Haruru Falls. Such a great walk but unfortunately not a loop track. I’d recomend walking back the way you came as the road route back is pretty unimpressive.
15. HOOKER VALLEY TRACK, MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK – 3HR RETURN
The sun was shining when I started this walk however by about mid way through what turned out to be over a 5hr trek, I got caught in a snowstorm… it was awful! The snow hitting my face felt like tiny needles stabbing me and crossing the three swing bridges in such ferocious winds was terrifying. But it was all type two fun and the view of the iceberg lake at the end was worth the struggle. Would love to redo this in the sun!
16. KEA POINT TRACK, MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK – 2HR RETURN
As the Hooker Valley Track turned out to be a bit of an ordeal I decided to do another walk in Mt. Cook National Park the day after and thankfully the sun was out for this one! The views of Mt. Cook were incredible and you also get to see Mueller Glacier on this track. 100% a must do when in the national park.
And that’s it, my 16 favourite walks in New Zealand all in one list! On my next trip I would love to do some of the more famous, longer treks because I imagine and have heard they are really impressive, especially the Tongariro Crossing. I guess I’m going to have to start planning my next trip soon!