The Best Hikes in New Zealand
Published on: November 15th, 2018
Last modified: July 26th, 2023
New Zealand is known for its epic hikes. Stretching over multiple days and winding through spectacular scenery, they are some of the best hikes the world has to offer.
If you’re only in the country for a short while, you can still experience New Zealand’s dramatic landscapes on foot, and there are plenty to suit different levels.
From coastal tracks to soaring mountain peaks, here are some of the best hikes in New Zealand.
1. Tongariro Crossing, Taupo
One of the more well known hikes in New Zealand, Tongariro Crossing encircles the cone of Mount Ngauruhoe. Located in Tongariro National Park, Mount Ngauruhoe is surrounded by steaming mud pools and erupting geysers. With sixty-one eruptions since 1839, Mount Ngauruhoe is also New Zealand’s most active volcano. However, visitors can rest assured in the knowledge that it’s currently resting, so visiting is perfectly safe. Base yourself in nearby Lake Taupo at one of our luxury properties, such as the charming Huka Lodge or the modern Kinloch Club.
2. Mount Arthur Hike, Abel Tasman
Mount Arthur is a 1,759 metre tall peak on the Eastern boundary of the 500,000 hectare (1 million acre) Kahurangi National Park. A vast expanse, its natural alpine environment and karst landscape is one of the most accessible hikes in New Zealand. Access to this wonderful day walk is via the Flora car park road, which ascends to 960 metres.
One of the highest access roads in New Zealand, it transports visitors to the beginning of an alpine walk. Leaving the car park, the track rises through Flora Saddle and beautiful beech forest before climbing through unusual mountain neinei, otherwise known as the Doctor Seuss plant. The hike ends atop Mount Arthur Hut, affording spectacular views across Nelson and Tasman Bay.
3. Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman is New Zealand’s smallest national park, frequenting the front pages of tourist brochures with its dream-like golden beaches and emerald green waters. While a day’s boat trip is a lovely way to get an introduction to the region, hiking and kayaking are also great ways to explore. On a guided three-day walking and kayaking trip, you’ll stay in small lodges dotted along the coast. Your luggage will be transported for you, so all you’ll have to think about is the beautiful scenery, previously the setting for many a feature film.
4. Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Sounds
The Marlborough Sounds is made up of three main bodies of water – the Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus. Large areas of these ancient sunken river valleys are only accessible by sea, including the Queen Charlotte Track. Accessible via water taxi, this track can be hiked in either five days or five hours. The first portion, from Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet, provides an insight into the region’s history alongside incredible views. We suggest basing yourself in the tranquil Bay of Many Coves, or the historic Marlborough Lodge.
5. Hooker Valley Track, Lake Tekapo
In the heart of Mount Cook National Park, this hike can be enjoyed from a base in Lake Tekapo or in Queenstown. Starting in the sacred Tōpuni area, the Hooker Valley Track is one of the top five hikes in New Zealand. As you soak up views across Mueller Lake and Mount Sefton, learn about rich Maori history and the ancient legends of the region. As you soak up views across Mueller Lake and Mount Sefton, learn about rich Maori history and the ancient legends of the region.
There is also unique flora and fauna native to the region, including the Mount Cook buttercup and the Kea. Continuing your walk, you’ll see sweeping alpine views, snow-capped mountain peaks and vast open valleys before arriving at the breathtaking glacier lake. At the end of the hike, you’ll spend a few moments taking in the majestic glaciers atop towering Mount Cook before descending.
6. Routeburn Track, Fiordland National Park
Spectacular Fiordland National Park in the south-western corner of the South Island is known for stunning vistas. Soaring mountain peaks, huge valleys and jewel-like lakes along the Routeburn Track link Fiordland National Park with Mount Aspiring National Park. The views are sweeping, with the highest point of the track sitting at 1,225 metres above sea level. Birdwatching enthusiasts will enjoy the forested section of the track, as species range from tomtits to wood pigeons.
The best way to get to the track is on a day trip from Queenstown, accompanied by a private guide. One of the more leisurely hikes in New Zealand, you’ll start the day ambling alongside the picturesque Route Burn river, before heading up to Bridal Veil Waterfall. Along the way, you’ll learn about fascinating Maori history and the bird life native to the area. Adventurous types can continue hiking up to the Routeburn Falls Hut, where you’ll be greeted by cascading waterfalls.
7. Hollyford Track, Fiordland National Park
Remote and spectacular Hollyford Valley is home to breathtaking beech forest and has a rich history. Travelling alongside the gin-clear Hollyford River for two and a half hours offers views of Fiordland’s highest mountains. Adrenaline junkies can get up amongst the treetops on the carefully constructed swing bridge. On the way back, there’s also the option to catch your breath at the quaint and quirky Hollyford Camp with a cup of tea before returning to your lodge. Those seeking an extra thrill can hike the track on a 2-night experience, complete with private lodge stays and helicopter rides.
8. Rob Roy Glacier Hike, Wanaka
Located in Mount Aspiring National Park, Rob Roy Glacier is part of UNESCO World Heritage site Te Wähipounamu. The hike starts with a short valley walk across Raspberry Flats before crossing a swing bridge over the West Matukituki River. It continues with a steady climb through a small gorge alongside Rob Roy stream and then journeys through native beech forest. The walk is peppered with teasing glimpses of Rob Roy Glacier through the trees, as well as an occasional unobstructed view of the impressive natural phenomenon.
9. Skippers Canyon Heli Hike, Queenstown
One of the most luxurious great walks of New Zealand, Skippers Canyon Heli Hike combines the best of both worlds. A scenic flight over Queenstown’s iconic mountain landscapes precedes a gentle walk through historic trails. Your guide will help you navigate through Skippers Canyon to Dynamo Flat, New Zealand’s first hydroelectric power scheme. From there, you start your five to seven hour hike through alpine wilderness, passing tranquil waterfalls and native forests.. This is one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets.
10. Mount Earnslaw Heli Hike, Wanaka
A must for Lord of the Rings fans, this hike starts with a helicopter ride over the Moonlight Saddle and Richardson Mountains. On the journey, you’ll fly over Mount Earnslaw and the Middle Earth waterfalls. Once you land in the valley, you’ll embark on your trek through native tussock fields and rolling high-country farmland. At the head of the valley, you’re sure to be in awe of you’ll find majestic waterfalls and the hanging Earnslaw Burn glacier, standing at a staggering 1,000 metres. Tolkien fans can play fantasy by walking under Middle Earth waterfalls and departing Rivendell to continue their quest. Even if you’re not a Lord of the Rings enthusiast, the ethereal views are still extremely impressive.