New Zealand is famous for its stunning scenery, and immersing yourself in nature is the best way to experience its remarkable landscapes up close. Hiking is a popular activity with locals and visitors in New Zealand, which has a number of exceptional trails to choose from. From the iconic Great Walks to overnight hikes and short walks, there are options for all ages and levels of ability.
Multi-day hikes are the best way to discover remote lakes and waterfalls or sleep in a picturesque hut on the top of a mountain peak. If you’re looking for something with less gear and effort, opt for a day hike instead – try a shorter section of one of the Great Walks or choose from one of the many short trails with breathtaking views.
Here are some of our favorite hikes in New Zealand for exploring the country’s coast, volcanoes, mountains and national parks. Some are easy, some are spine-tingling, but all of these hikes are pure Kiwi magic. Just keep in mind that if you’re doing a Great Walk or overnight hike, you’ll need to book huts or campsites well in advance through the Department of Conservation.
1. Rangitoto Island Loop
Best from Auckland
7 km (4.3 miles), 2 hours
Auckland’s youngest but largest volcanic cone was created just 600 years ago in a series of fiery eruptions. It is an elegant island and beloved city icon, reachable via a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland.
Hike up the modest summit (250m) for great views of the city before wandering along the coast, where hardy plants pursue their quest to populate the lava fields. Surprisingly, Rangitoto is home to the country’s largest pohutukawa forest – a type of crimson-flowered myrtle also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree.
2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Best one-day walk
20km (12.4 miles), 6-8 hours
Set amongst volcanic scenery made famous by the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, this crossing in Tongariro National Park is often lauded as New Zealand’s finest one-day walk and one of the best in the world. It’s no wonder, with its peculiar moonscape graced with steaming vents and springs, vivid lakes and vast ridges.
The highly weather-dependent 20km (12.4-mile) walk takes between six and eight hours, although sure-footed types can add on a side-trip up the near-perfect cone of Mt Ngauruhoe (aka Mt Doom). Parts of this trek are steep, and the weather can be very unpredictable, especially in winter. If you want to experience this hike between May and October (potentially in the snow), it’s best to sign up for a guided trip.
3. Abel Tasman Coastal Track
Best for beaches
60km (37.3 miles), 3-5 days
One of New Zealand’s most popular Great Walks, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, follows the coastline of the Abel Tasman National Park. The track winds through lush forest and golden beaches, and sections of the trail are popular with day visitors. Many hikers access the trail by boat, as cars aren’t allowed into the national park.
If you only have a day to dedicate to the Abel Tasman National Park, try walking the 11km (6.8-mile) section from Medlands Beach to Anchorage instead. Be sure to allow enough time to relax at idyllic Anchorage and make the side trip to the peaceful Cleopatra’s Pool.
4. Coromandel Coastal Walkway
Best for stunning coastal views
20km (12.4 miles), 7 hours
The remote and rugged tip of the Coromandel Peninsula is well worth the time and effort required to reach it, particularly if you soak up its superlative scenery on the coastal Coromandel Walkway.
Linking Stony Bay and Fletcher Bay, the 20km (12.4-mile) track takes seven hours, with memorable views over the aptly named Sugar Loaf, Pinnacles and Great Barrier Island. A whole day is required to complete the return hike, or you can arrange shuttle transport with Hike and Bike Coromandel.
5. Angelus Hut via Pinchgut Track and Robert Ridge
Best overnight hike
24.4 km (15.2 miles), 2 days
This trail in Nelson Lakes National Park leads to one of the most magical overnight spots in the country. Tucked into the mountains, on the edge of an alpine lake, the Angelus Hut is in a fairytale setting.
Take the route up the aptly-named Pinchgut Track to Mt Robert, with the beautiful Lake Rotoiti in view for much of the way. Then continue along Robert Ridge towards Lake Angelus – the trail can be steep but rewards hikers with expansive mountain vistas into the heart of the park. Spend the night soaking in your spectacular surroundings, then amble back down via the gentler Paddy’s Track the next day.
6. Lake Matheson / Te Ara Kairaumati Walk
Best short hike with mountain views
4.4 km (2.7 miles), 1.5 hours
This walk to Lake Matheson proves that you don’t always need to put in a huge amount of effort to be rewarded with fantastic scenery. The easy track winds through an ancient forest and leads to astounding views of the surrounding mountains reflected in the dark waters of the lake.
The first section of the walk (2.4km return) is fully accessible for wheelchairs and prams, and it passes through native bush before reaching the epic mountain view. The full loop continues around the lake with two other scenic viewpoints along the way.
7. Sealy Tarns
Best one-day mountain climb
7.1km (4.4 miles) return, 3-4 hours
Home to more than three-quarters of New Zealand’s highest mountains, Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park’s vertiginous terrain is generally more suited to climbers than hikers. However, several trails offer the chance to survey this majestic landscape, all starting from the excellent National Park Visitor Centre.
Our favorite pick is Sealy Tarns Track. Although it involves a grunty, two-hour climb, the ever-present views of the Hooker Valley and surrounding peaks should provide ample distractions. If you’re after a longer hike, continue to the Mueller Hut, one of the most picturesque places to spend a night in New Zealand.
8. Charming Creek Walkway
Best for history, forests and waterfalls
5.5 km (3.4 miles), 2 hours one-way
One of the best day walks on the West Coast, the Charming Creek Walkway is an all-weather trail following an old coal railway line through the Ngakawau River gorge. Along its length are rusty relics, tunnels, a suspension bridge, fascinating geological formations and the mighty Mangatini Falls. The walkway is also an excellent mountain bike ride and is a good option for active families, as the varied scenery will keep children entertained. You’ll need to arrange transport back to avoid retracing your steps.
9. Gertrude Saddle
Best for mountain views
7km (4.3 miles), 4-6 hours, advanced
About 25 minutes from Milford Sound, the hike to Gertrude Saddle is a wonderful way to experience the Fiordland National Park in a single day. A challenging day hike that's best for advanced climbers, this route takes you up through the mountains and to amazing views of the valley, overlooking part of Milford Sound.
The trail crosses over a river and past the Black Lake – a perfect spot for lunch and a swim if you don’t mind braving the cold water. Keep in mind that the route involves climbing and should be avoided if there’s rain or snow.
10. Routeburn Track
Best of the Great Walks
33km (20.5 miles), 2-4 days
Arguably the most beautiful of all New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Routeburn Track meanders through alpine rivers and past mirror-like lakes, offering incredible views across mountain peaks and valleys. The track takes you through an alpine wonderland of tarns and sphagnum bogs and is hiked best in the warmer months – only attempt it between May and October if you have alpine, navigation and river crossing skills.
If you don’t have time for the full hike, get a taste of the 3.4km (2.1-mile) Routeburn Track on a one-day hike to Key Summit. The 3-hour trail affords panoramic views of Fiordland National Park's mountains, valleys and waterfalls, and it completes the picture with interpretive displays explaining how this spectacular landscape was formed.