Day Walks & Hikes in New Zealand

20 Day Walks & Hikes In New Zealand To Add To Your Bucket List

We are lucky in New Zealand to have an abundance of natural beauty just around every corner. Not only that, but some good buggers have carved trails and tracks through just about every part of it. Heading on a day hike is one of the best ways to clear your mind, get in touch with nature and see as much of our beautiful country as possible – whether you are a tourist or a kiwi!

Just remember that while New Zealand is stunning it can also be rugged, dangerous and moody! Always plan your trip carefully making sure you inform someone of your plans (check out the NZ Mountain Safety Council’s Tool Here), check the weather and any warnings for the area you are going to, and take the appropriate gear. Don’t underestimate NZ’s outdoors – we may not have snakes, spiders & crocs like our pacific cousins but we do have 4 seasons in a day which can be equally as dangerous! Nobody wants to be the person that can’t do NZ.

The Best Hikes in NZ in no particular order!
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Tongariro Crossing New Zealand

Image Credit: Marlies

One of the most well-known & well-worn track in the country, you would be hard-pushed to meet someone that hasn’t heard of the Tongariro Crossing! An 8 hour hike (one way) will take you from the starting point in an alpine-tussock desert, up the “Devil’s staircase” (a harsh and steep climb up volcanic steps), over the expansive crater lake, down past the emerald pools & then on a continuous decline back to the roadend. Despite the fact that massive volumes of people chose to undertake this hike in jandals or jeans, don’t be a dick. The Tongariro Crossing has claimed many lives and should not be treated lightly. Go prepared, with correct footwear, plenty of water and a decent jacket to say the least!

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If you want to experience the sexy icy-blue waters of the Route Burn (river) without walking the whole Routeburn track – doing the return hike to Routeburn Flats Hut is the option for you! The track is very well-formed and accessible for most abilities. After starting at the Routeburn shelter, you will climb gently alongside the Route Burn. Following that you will pass Sugarload Stream, before crossing a swing bridge that marks the beginnings of the open grassed flats!

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The Tongariro Crossing’s lesser known cousin hike – The Pouakai Crossing is an amazing 7-9 hour hike in Mt. Taranaki/Egmont National Park. Starting from the North Egmont Visitor Center, you will climb a steep track, before traversing along the valleys and slips of Mt. Taranaki. Take in the towering dieffenbach cliffs and scramble your way across boomerang slip. You will cross the Ahukawakawa swamp – a deep boggy swamp where the wrong step will leave you knee-deep in stanky mud (as in the video seen here). Following the swamp is an uphill slog to reach the heavily photographed Pouakai Tarns, with that reflecting photo of the Maunga. After the tarns is a 2 hour scramble down the hill to the Mangorei road end, where you should have left your car at the start of the day! The Pouakai Crossing can be done in a single day if you are fit and experienced, otherwise break the trip up by staying at Holly hut or Pouakai hut!

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Image Credit: Holly Barclay

You would be rude not to stay for a couple of nights in the Abel Tasman National Park, but if you are short on time there are many sections of this track that can be done as a day trip. It is really as simple as picking your water taxi dropoff & pickup locations, then walking between the two! We personally recommend the 4-6hr trip between Torrent Bay & Anchorage via the high tide track. This will allow you to undertake the side trips including Cleopatra’s Pools (cannot miss!). Head up the river at the pools until you reach a narrowed section where the waterfall becomes too steep to climb – this section looks like it is straight out of Indiana Jones!

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The Coromandel Coastal Walkway is one of the nicest Summer Day Hikes you can do in NZ! Taking in stunning coastal forest, views of the Pinnacles, Great Barrier Island & Cuvier Island, as well as stopping off at a couple of beautiful little beaches such as Poley bay! Either drive to the peninsular and then walk the return track, or go with Coromandel Adventures to experience the full history of the region! There is also an option of a mountain biking trail in the area.

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Image Credit: Prish Rajendra, La Chapardeuse

Did you even come to New Zealand if you didn’t take a picture at Roy’s Peak? One of the most instagrammed places in New Zealand, Roy’s Peak provides a surreal view of Wanaka & the surrounding mountains. Be prepared to queue for that ideal photo in the busy season! If you are looking for a less popular version of Roy’s Peak turn to Isthmus Peak – largely similar views and difficulty with less people!

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One of the less trekked walks of the Tararuas, the Pukeatua Summit Track is one of the best day walks accessible from Wellington. Starting at Otaki Forks, a steep 45 minute climb will see you on the ridgeline where plenty of grassy clearings open up and allow you views over the Tararua Ranges. From here, you will slowly climb for 2 hours through twisting, mossy covered forest (known colloquially as the “Goblin forest”) that looks straight out of Lord of the Rings. Emerge from the dense forest at the clearing at the summit. A good spot to stop for lunch and admire the view before you turn and head back to Otaki Forks via the same track. Note: you can also continue along the track and head to where it reaches Waikanae (a much longer walk)

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Photo Credit: Jen Howes, Lara Vance

While the full circuit may be a bit too much for most people – you can get a water taxi halfway through the circuit & then walk back to the start! There is also the option to break the trip up and stay in one of the two huts at the far end of the lake. The Rotoiti Circuit takes in the Whisky Falls, dense beech forest as well as numerous vocal birds and is a real highlight of the Nelson Lakes area.

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Cooks Cove Walkway is again, one of the more untrekked walks of NZ, given its location on the East Cape! One of the areas that Captain Cook visited on his circumnavigation of NZ in 1769, there are information panels throughout the walk to learn interesting facts about the area. This moderate walk takes in stunning regenerating bush, impressive coastal bluffs with views out over Tolaga Bay, a “hole in the wall” spot to climb through the rock and some sheltered swimming options!
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Image Credit: Sofia Dionisio

The Hooker Valley track is a 10km return hike from near the Mt Cook Village to an amazing viewpoint over the iceberg-speckled Hooker Lake & on up to Aoraki/Mt. Cook. On the walk you will enjoy three swing bridges, areas of cultural significance (the track leads through the sacred Topuni Area of the Hooker Valley – Sacred to Ngai Tahu Iwi) and if you are lucky you will even hear an avalanche booming down from Mount Sefton!

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Putangirua Pinnacles

Image Credit: Parke Englebretsen

The Putangirua Pinnacles are a popular short day walk – known for their feature in the third Lord of The Rings film! Chose to walk either the ridgeline to a viewpoint overlooking the pinnacles, or take the riverbed trail (watch for falling rocks especially after heavy rain). Either way, you are treated with an awesome view of the towering pinnacles of rock that stand – just be careful getting too close!

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The hike to Mt Fyffe Hut can be done as either an overnight or a return day hike (we did the overnighter), but spending the night in the hut is the real attraction to this walk! The track is a 4wd road with a steady incline that doesn’t really let up! Be prepared for a solid 1.5-2 hours of uphill slog! If staying at the hut make sure that you are outside for sunrise & sunset – both are absolutely breathtaking with views over the Kaikoura coastline to the east, and the Kaikoura Seaward ranges.

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Starting from the Dawson Falls Visitor Center, take the loop track via Wilkies Pools, Jackson’s Lookout, The Enchanted Track & the Waingongoro Track. This loop takes in some really awesome waterfalls with crystal clear paddling pools, amazing elevated views out over the Taranaki Region and then some dense twisting forest with a very high swingbridge. The walk is on a well-formed track and is nothing too difficult. A great alternative to the Pouakai Crossing if you can’t be bothered with an 8-10 hour hike!

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Fox Glacier Walk

This easy walk is one of the most interesting in the South Island – not especially because of the scenery, but more to experience just how much (& how quickly) the glacier is retreating. Get a real view of climate change, with signposted dates where the glacier once lay. After a few minutes of walking you will have your first glance of the glacier. Cross a few trickling streams and walk past the “landslip zone” before reaching the viewpoint. Don’t continue beyond the barriers – people have been killed by falling ice/rocks in the past! Note: check the Doc Website before heading to the glacier, as the access road can often be closed due to slips/flooding (as it is in Dec 18).

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Makara Beach Walkway

Image Credit: Ben Lawrence

The Makara Beach Loop track is as good as it gets for a Wellington Summers Day hike! Make sure you wait until there is no northerly then make the drive out! Head along the beach, up the hill to the old World War 2 bunkers, past the gigantic windmill & then back down to the beach, where you can stroll back to the starting point of the walk. Take along a picnic & some togs so you can stop off at one of the many quiet rocky beaches along the way! The water is crystal clear on a still day. Hang around for a sunset on top of the hill. This is one of the best spots to watch the sun go down in Wellington!

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Lake Marian Hike

Image Credit: DOC

Lake Marian is one of the highlights of Fiordland! Begin at the Lake Marian Carpark, before crossing the swingbridge and continuing on to the amazing series of waterfalls about 10 mins into the track. After the falls the track becomes steeper and can often be muddy during the ascent to Lake Marian. If you are lucky to have calm weather, Lake Marian provides stunning reflections of the surrounding mountains.


 

Image Credit: Juan Noba

With multiple different walking options between 350m – 10km, Lake Heron provides an epic location to discover kettle holes and views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The Double Hut Track (10km) is a great option for an overnighter, with the 6 bunk double hut providing a basic night in the Canterbury hills!

 


 

Image Credit: Jen Howes

This section of the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk provides good options for half day, full day or even overnight walks. Put the effort in and be rewarded with stunning views of the bluffs, mountains and the lake itself. The best viewpoint to reach, and a good option for a 1 day walk is “Bald Knob” – 3 hours along the main track. The lookout itself is a few minutes off the track and not signposted but it is the first obvious open area, where the forest has been burnt off in the past.

 


 

Image Credit: Wellington Wanders

The Mount Holdsworth area provides many of the great hikes in the Tararua Forest Park. Pick your option from the Holdsworth Carpark (most Holdsworth option will require an overnighter unless you are very fit/quick).  Start on the stunning Gentle Annie Track, before moving onward past the Mountain House Shelter – and towards Mount Holdsworth. Be careful with weather forecasts as Holdsworth is known to attract high winds and changeable weather!

 


 

Image Credit: DOC

The Ben Lomond Track near Queenstown will leave you with some Roys Peak-esque views of Lake Wakatipu and the stunning Queenstown area. Be prepared for a full day of hiking, with 1438m of elevation gained over the course of the walk. Chose to walk either the 3-4hrs to the Ben Lomond Saddle, or commit to the full 6-8hr walk to Ben Lomond Summit. Go prepared for changing weather, leave early in the morning and pack a head torch, just in case you aren’t back by nightfall.


Find all of these epic Hikes & many, many more on Breadcrumbs App!

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Think we’ve missed something? Let us know via the form below & we will add it to the list! Don’t forget to Drop a Crumb at your local/favorite Hikes to share them with the Breadcrumbs Community