Sara Bunny - A Beginner’s Guide To The Great Walks

Publish Date
Thursday, 23 June 2016, 3:02PM
By Sara Bunny

When a bunch of keen trampers get together, it’s not long before talk turns to New Zealand’s nine ‘Great Walks’.

While outdoorsy types tick them off their travel list like grocery items, to the uninitiated, it’s hard to know where do start. Whether you prefer exploring beaches, lakes or glaciers, there is a walk to suit every nature lover.


Lake Waikaremoana

Expect to see: Glorious views from Panekire Bluff, majestic Korokoro Falls and an invigorating rainforest walk.

Timeframe: A 46km one-way tramp over 3-4 days.

Good to know: A steep section can make for a demanding walk, but the bulk of the track follows a leisurely path through rainforest.


Tongariro Northern Circuit

Expect to see: Glacial valleys, native beech forests, volcanic landscapes and stunning emerald lakes.

Timeframe: A 43.1km loop, with 3-4 days tramping.

Good to know: Few places equal the drama of this volcanic region, but changeable weather conditions mean late November-March is the best time to visit.


Whanganui Journey

Expect to see: The winding Whanganui River, a forest walk that leads you to the fascinating ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, and Tieke Kainga, the only DoC hut that also doubles as a marae.

Timeframe: An 87km or 145km one-way journey over 3-5 days.

Good to know: The Whanganui Journey is the odd one out, as most of the trip is spent paddling in a canoe rather that walking.


Abel Tasman Coast Track

Expect to see: Forested tracks and golden sand beaches, plus a 47m-high suspension bridge to test your nerve.

Timeframe: A 60km track with 3-5 days of tramping.

Good to know: You don’t have to have any hiking kit for his track; light walking shoes are fine.


Heaphy Track

Expect to see: The dense rainforest of the West Coast and the roaring swell of the Tasman Sea. The track is also open to mountain bikers from May 1 to September 30.

Timeframe: A 78.4km track with 4-6 days of tramping.

Good to know: In the northwestern corner of the South Island, the higher sections of the trail get very chilly in winter.


Routeburn Track

Expect to see: An alpine trek through meadows and valleys, with amazing views of the Routeburn Gorge, Hollyford Valley, and the majestic Earland Falls.

Timeframe: A 32km one-way track, with 2-4 days of tramping.

Good to know: Keep an eye on weather warnings before heading out to this alpine wonderland, as 32 avalanche paths cross the track, and the Routeburn Valley can get flooded in heavy rain.


Kepler Track

Expect to see: Idyllic lakes, beech forest, soaring tussock-covered ridgelines, and spectacular views of Lake Te Anau.

Timeframe: A 60km loop track, with 3-4 days tramping.

Good to know: The track is said to be one of the most well-maintained of all the walks, but weather conditions mean the trek is most pleasant between late October – early May.


Milford Track

Expect to see: Giant glaciers, ancient rainforests and towering waterfalls on a trek many believe to be the most spectacular of the Great Walks.    

Timeframe: A 53.5km one-way tramp, over 4 days.

Good to know: Situated in New Zealand’s largest National park, it’s essential to book your spot well in advance as demand for this trek is high all year round.


Rakiura Track

Expect to see: Incredible birdlife on our southernmost Great Walk, where the bush meets the beach on Stewart Island.

Timeframe: A 32km loop, with 3 days of tramping.        

Good to know: While conditions on Steward Island can be unpredictable, the planked walkways and gentle gradients mean the track is accessible in all weathers.

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