On the back of the exciting news that New Zealand started accepting international visitors from May 1 after two years, it's now time to book that multi-day hiking adventure in New Zealand’s incredible wilderness.

The bad news? The most popular walk, Milford Track, already sold out in three minutes beating Glastonbury festival, which took 20 minutes to sell out in 2022.  

hiking the Mount Herbert Trail, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
Hiking the Mount Herbert Trail in Christchurch, New Zealand © Alasdair Turner / Getty Images

What are New Zealand's Great Walks?

The Great Walks concept, launched back in 1992, is all about protecting New Zealand's wilderness and wildlife from what we later termed “overtourism”. To manage its iconic tracks from becoming overwhelmed by hikers, the Department of Conservation started limiting the number of hikers allowed on a track at any one time through a hut and campsites booking system.

When first established the Great Walks network included seven of New Zealand’s most popular multi-day walks: Tongariro Northern Circuit, Lake Waikaremoana, Abel Tasman, Heaphy, Routeburn, Milford, Kepler, plus the newly formed Rakiura Track. Since then the list has grown to 10. 

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A new Great Walk for 2023/24

A new Great Walk, Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track in Southland has just been announced and is expected to open for the 2023/24 season with a three-day backcountry loop through sub-alpine scenery.  

As the Minister of Conservation, Kiri Allan explains: “It pays to do your homework and find out which Great Walk is most suitable for you and your group before you book. It’s also important to know what fitness, skills and equipment are required, expected track and weather conditions and how to limit your impact on the environment.

“There are many different ways to experience a Great Walk. Whichever you choose, it’s an experience you’ll never forget.”

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Mt. Ngauruhoe in the Tongariro National Park
Hiking near Mt. Ngauruhoe, an active volcano in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand © Breathing Images / Getty Images

How to choose the best New Zealand Great Walk for you? 

Lonely Planet’s Hiking & Tramping in New Zealand is the ideal planning tool for a New Zealand hiking adventure with detailed information on what to expect and how to plan and prepare for each of the Great Walks, as well as other less well known but equally stunning adventures. 

If it’s rugged alpine scenery you’re after, book the Tongariro Northern Circuit on the North Island – a four-day intermediate-level walk through volcanic features like luminous lakes, steaming vents and angry red craters. A day walk here is an option if you’re short on time, or gear. 

For lush forests, the South Island’s Milford Track journeys along two wilderness rivers – Clinton and Arthur – past deep pools and through riverbank rainforest.

Waterfall lovers will want to tackle the ​​Routeburn Track, which links Mount Aspiring National Park with Fiordland National Park

Abel Tasman Coast Track is an easy to moderate hike, over five days, past golden sands and turquoise bays.

The most surprising Great Walk is not a walk at all, but a five-day 145km canoe journey on the Whanganui River.

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Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand
An ice cave in Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand © Westend61 / Getty

Take the Tiaki Promise: protect and preserve the natural wonder

New Zealand takes protecting its natural assets very seriously. Expect to pledge to travel well and take the Tiaki Promise before you arrive. 

Getting fully informed and prepared is one way you can minimize your impact. Before you set off, make sure you get the latest weather and track information. Check in at the nearest DOC office for track and condition updates and visit the MetService website for weather details.

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