Three to four days from end to end, the 42km Matemateāonga Track gets kudos as one of NZ’s best walks. Probably due to its remoteness, it doesn’t attract the hordes of trampers that amass on NZ’s more famous tracks. Penetrating deep into wild bush and hill country, it follows the crest of the Matemateāonga Range along the route of the Whakaihuwaka Rd. Work on the road began in 1911 to create a more direct link from Stratford to the railway at Raetihi. WWI interrupted progress and the road was never finished.
On a clear day, a 1½-hour side trip to the top of Mt Humphries (732m) rewards you with sigh-inducing views all the way to Mt Taranaki and the volcanoes of Tongariro. There’s a steep section between the Whanganui River (75m above sea level) and the Puketotara Hut (427m above sea level), but mostly it’s easy walking. There are four DOC backcountry huts along the way: Omaru (eight bunks), Pouri (12 bunks), Ngapurua (10 bunks) and Puketotara (eight bunks); hut tickets cost $15/7.50 per adult/child per night. There’s road access at the track's western end.