The 10 Great Walks of New Zealand

New Zealand's Great Walks showcase the very best of the country's epic landscape. Discover what to expect on each trail and find your perfect adventure...

6 mins

If you're heading to New Zealand to watch the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, why not make the most of your trip by exploring its world-famous natural landscapes on foot? New Zealand's 10 Great Walks highlight the staggering and diverse beauty this country has to offer, with alpine peaks, coastal paths, luscious rainforests, and rare wildlife. There's even opportunities to follow in the footsteps of Māori tribes. 

Here, we guide you through everything to expect on each low-impact trail, including a brand new Great Walk due to open later in the year.

1. Abel Tasman Coast Track, South Island

Abel Tasman Coast Track (Tourism New Zealand)

Best for: Beach swims

Distance: 60km

Duration: 3-5 days

The Abel Tasman Coast Track hugs the shoreline, allowing you to explore New Zealand's golden beaches and luscious coastal forests. Taking anywhere between 3-5 days to complete, the trail is good for those who are new to walking or with a low level of fitness as it has little elevation and a manageable terrain. There's beach hut accommodation you can book, but it’s also worth carrying a tent with you, as the campsites en route offer some of the most breathtaking beach front views. The mild climate here makes for great year-round trekking.

2. Kepler Track, South Island

The Kelper Track has the most awe-inspiring landscape (Daniel Deans/New Zealand )

Best for: Wildlife and waterfalls

Distance: 60km

Duration: 3-4 days

The awe-inspiring landscape on this hike is hard to beat, Kepler Track shows off all the best parts of Fiordland. From soaring mountains and glacier carved valleys, to magical waterfalls and native forests, this is what New Zealand is all about. Along the way you may spot keas, the world’s only alpine parrot - but do be cautious as they may steal your snacks. The starting point is around two hours from Queenstown, and just five minutes from Te Anau. It’s best to check the forecast before starting your trek, as the conditions can frequently change.

3. Heaphy Track, South Island

Trek through forests on the Heaphy Track Great Walk (Tourism New Zealand)

Best for: A historic journey

Distance: 78.4km

Duration: 4-6 days

Once walked by Māori tribes, the Heaphy track traverses through thick forests and onto the wild West Coast. An hour from Westport, this trail boasts the best of both New Zealand’s nature and history, with a chance to spot native wildlife, plants and rocks - some of which are up to 500 million years old. Those who are extremely lucky maybe even spot the great spotted Kiwi. Do beware, it can rain a lot on this walk, so make sure you pack your rain jacket and waterproofs.

4. Tongariro Northern Circuit, North Island

Emerald lakes on Tongario Northern Circuit (Visit Ruapehu)

Best for: Volcano hikes

Distance: 44.9km

Duration: 3-4 days

Heat things up on a hike around Mt Ngauruhoe, an active volcano in Tongariro National Park. This trail does pass through a volcano hazard zone, so do be aware of the risks. But if you book with experienced guide operators Adrift Tongariro and Chris Jolly Outdoors, you will be in the best hands for witnessing craters, explosion pits, lava flows and the breathtaking volcanic landscape. While exploring the World Heritage area, you’ll also be able to spot karearea, the New Zealand falcon which flies at more than 100mph and can catch prey six times its body weight.

5. Routeburn Track, South Island

Routeburn is one of the most challenging Great Walks (Tourism New Zealand)

Best for: Birdwatching and epic photos

Distance: 33km 

Duration: 2-4 days

Linking Mount Aspiring National Park with Fiordland National Park, the Routeburn Track may be the shortest Great Walk, but is one of the most challenging. There are steep, rocky sections and climbs up to 1,255m above sea level. The scenery will reward your efforts, with sweeping views of mountain peaks, valleys and the Fiordland’s most impressive waterfall, Earland Falls. The walk is filled with native bird species, and you can also explore knowing you’re following in the footsteps of early Māori tribes, who once traversed this track in search for pounamu (greenstone).

6. Milford Track, South Island

Milford Track is New Zealand's most famous walk (Tourism New Zealand)

Best for: Wilderness magic

Distance: 53.5km

Duration: 4 days

This is New Zealand’s most famous walk, and deservedly so after welcoming hikers for more than 150 years. The trail is so magical that Rudyard Kipling named it the ‘eighth natural wonder of the world’. Hikers will experience New Zealand’s untouched world, seeing the mighty Mackinnon Pass and Sutherland Falls en route. Some even prefer to explore in the rain, watching the water pour down the mountainsides. You can only access this hike by catching a boat, and it’s best to book in advance as it can sell out during peak times of the year.

7. Rakiura Track, South Island

Rakiura Track explores the South Island (Great South/Tourism New Zealand)

Best for: Peace and solitude

Distance: 32km

Duration: 3 days

Passing through early  Māori settlements, this walk lets you explore up to 80% of the South Island in just three days. This is the perfect walk for spotting Kiwis, or at least searching for evidence of the notoriously shy bird. Listen out for its calls and watch out for its footprints, and make sure to bring a red light so you can look but not disturb. Other than kiwis, you will be able to go bird spotting on Stewart Island and see tui, fantails, kereru and even little blue penguins. Stewart Island is also an International Dark Sky Reserve, a great place for seeing the dazzling Southern Lights.

8. Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track

Hunt for gold on the Paparoa Track (Jase Blair/Tourism New Zealand)

Best for: Searching for gold

Distance: 55km 

Duration: 3 days

One of New Zealand’s most recent walks which opened in 2019 is the Paparora Track. Just 40 minutes from Greymouth, the trail follows in the footsteps of early gold miners and settlers, and links to Pike29 Memorial Track which remembers the 29 miners who sadly lost their lives in the Pike Mine disaster. Hikers will wind through snowcapped mountains, limestone landscapes and rainforests bursting with life. Our very own Pheobe Smith took on the Paparoa Track before it opened to the public in 2019.

9. Whanganui Journey

Whanganui Journey takes you on a kayaking adventure (Miles Holden/Tourism New Zealand)

Best for: Spiritual journey

Distance: 87km or 145km 

Duration: 3 or 5 days

Although not technically speaking a ‘walk’, this kayak or canoe adventure follows the Whanganui River and provides one of the most spiritual and memorable journeys in New Zealand. As you paddle downstream in a kayak or canoe, passing by canyons and rainforests, you’ll be able to connect with many significant cultural sites which have importance to the Māori population, including the Tieke Kāinga village. There’s also the chance to catch a glimpse of short and long tailed bats, the country’s only native mammal. This is a fantastic trip to do on a group tour with friends, but you must be a strong swimmer to do so.

10. Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track

The Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track is New Zealand's next Great Walk (Pink Penguin Studio/Tourism New Zealand)

Best for: A new adventure

Distance: 61km

Duration: 3 days

Due to be New Zealand’s next Great Walk, the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track is a three-day loop around the south coast offering the most awe-inspiring sub-alpine views of Steward Island, Fiordland coastlines and the Southern Ocean. This is the only private walk open on national park land in New Zealand, and is one of the more challenging hikes, covering a great distance in a few days and with a 1,000m ascent on one day. Want to be one of the first to take on this Great Walk? Book your guided tour with Hump Ridge Track and Tuatara Tours.

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