One of our favorite reasons to buy a car in New Zealand is to get easy access to so many of the fantastic hikes around the country.

New Zealand has hundreds of breathtaking hiking trails (or tramping as we call it here) and there are a few particularly special ones known as the Great Walks of New Zealand.

These are located on both the North & South Island and some tramps are extremely popular with a set allocation of people allowed on them each day. This means you may need to think ahead and book in to do these walks.

Below is a quick overview of each of the nine great walks.

North Island Great Walks

1. The Lake Waikaremoana Track

Lake Waikaremoana is 46 km long and is located in a remote part of the North Island. The track stays near to the Lake, and it takes 4 to 5 days to walk. Take your togs (swimsuit) and fishing rod, as there is ample opportunity for both on this walk.

2. Tongariro Northern Circuit

This track takes 3 to 4 days and is based in the central volcanic plateau region which incorporates Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngaruahoe, and Mt Tongariro. Part of the walk takes you over the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is one of our most beloved day walks. If the weather is clear, at the top of the pass you can look out to the ocean and across to Mt Taranaki.

3. The Whanganui Journey

This is not actually a hike…it is actually a canoe or kayak ride down the stunning Whanganui river and can be as long as 145 km in length. The trip can begin in Taumaranui and takes around 5 days, or you can shorten it by beginning further south.

great walks in the north island

South Island Great Walks

1. The Abel Tasman Coastal Track

This is one of the easier Great Walks and at 50 km in length, most people take 2-4 days to walk it. You can pack away your heavy hiking boots and enjoy this walk wearing comfortable, lighter shoes. You will need to arrange your own transport to get to the start and end of the track. There is an array of accommodation options, including campsites. This track is very popular to mix and match with sea kayaking.

2. The Heaphy Track

At around 80 km in length, this walk takes most people around 5 days and covers an array of scenery including the West Coast beaches, beech forests and tussock downs. It starts and finishes in Golden Bay and the West Coast, depending on the direction you choose to take, so you will need to arrange transport at either end.

3. The Kepler Track

The Kepler Track takes 4 days to walk, and handily it is a loop track that starts and ends in Te Anau. To stay in a hut costs approx. $54 a night.

4. The Routeburn Track

This track covers almost 40 km, and you will see waterfalls, mountain lakes, and beautiful New Zealand flora and fauna. There are two starting and finishing points, one close (68 km) to Queenstown and the other 85 km from Te Anau.

5. The Milford Track

This is our most famous Great Walk and has an international reputation. It is based in Fiordland and begins in Lake Te Anau and finishes at the stunning Milford Sound. You have the option of a guided and unguided walk on this track. If hiking independently, you will need to book into a hut (at a cost of approx. $54 a night) for the three-night walk. You will also need to arrange transport to the start and from the end of the track.

6. The Rakiura Track

This is based on Stewart Island and takes around 3 days. The weather can be changeable, and this track has a reputation for being quite muddy!

great walks in the south island

Additional Information

For more information about the Great Walks, check out the Department of Conservation website.

This is a one-stop shop where you can watch short videos about each track, and get information about accommodation, transport, trip highlights as well as other planning information. You will also find the link to book yourself to the tracks.

If for any reason you cannot get the dates that you want on the tracks that you want…do not despair. There are hundreds of other track options in New Zealand. They are not as popular or well-known as the Great Walks, but many locals would like to tell you that they offer an experience equal to the Great Walks.

There are a number of companies around New Zealand that offer guided walks. These will of course cost you more than hiking independently but can be the preferred option for less experienced hikers…as well as those who might not want to carry a heavy pack for days.