The Great Walks of New Zealand
The "Great Walks" are generally regarded as New Zealand's premier multi-day hikes. They have been afforded special status in order to better regulate the numbers of hikers on the trails to enhance the experience for those people, and to eliminate or minimize overcrowding and erosion issues. The number of hikers is regulated by requiring pre-booking of beds in the backcountry huts along these tracks. During the main season, the cost for staying in these huts is considerably higher than for a normal backcountry hut, which helps subsidize the extra management required, but at the same time, the facilities are far better, with solar-powered lighting, gas stoves and flush toilets.
- Lake Waikaremoana Track - one of the more gentle Great Walks, this 46km track circumnavigates the picturesque Lake Waikaremoana over the course of 3 or 4 days, with plenty of opportunities for fishing and swimming.
- Tongariro Northern Circuit, part of which is the Tongariro Crossing. This 3-4 day track traverses up and around some of the most stunning volcanic scenery that New Zealand has to offer.
- Whanganui Journey - not strictly a great walk - this is an odd-one-out as it is actually a kayak trip - 145km down the Whanganui River, from Taumarunui to Pipiriki, which takes around 5 days, though it can be turned into a shorter 3-day trip with an exit at Pipiriki. This is an awesome adventure, visiting places only accessible by river, as it was in the early days of exploration and colonization, by both Maori and Europeans.
- The Milford Track is the jewel in New Zealand's hiking crown, an extremely popular 4-day track through Fiordland, from Lake Te Anau to the stunning Milford Sound.
- The Routeburn Track is a 32km, 3-day tramp between Glenorchy and The Divide, crossing through Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National parks.
- The Kepler Track, at 60km, is possibly the most challenging of the Great Walks, taking 3-4 days to complete. It is also the course for the Kepler Challenge - an 'ultra-marathon' trail running race of the entire track, which takes the winners around 5 hours to complete!
- The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one of the most popular tramps for visitors to the country as it runs along the coastline of the sunniest part of the South Island, featuring some stunning beaches of golden sand and crystal-clear water.
- The Heaphy Track is another hike in the northern South Island and at 79km (4-6 days) is the longest of the Great Walks, with some of the most diverse scenery, from the forests of the Kahurangi National Park to scenic West Coast beaches. It is also unique in that it is open to mountain bikers during the Winter Season.
- The Rakiura Track is a 2-3 day, 30-37km track with a great mix of beach and forest scenery.
If these Great Walks sound like your cup of tea then our 'Manuka' trip is the ultimate choice – as part of the two week tour of the South Island, you’re able to customise days seven to eleven. You can either choose to hike the entire Milford Track and then rest the legs with a cruise on Milford Sound or take on our Great Walks Discovery, hiking sections of the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler Tracks before finishing with a wilderness cruise in Doubtful Sound.
The Tongariro Crossing - the world's greatest day hike
Photo: A happy hiker looks down on Emerald Lakes, as he hikes the Tongariro Crossing on day 4 of the 5 day 'Kauri' - Ultimate North Island Adventure
The Tongariro Crossing is the most famous section of any of the Great Walks to span New Zealand's North Island, and is widely recognised as the 'world's greatest day hike'. The Tongariro Crossing is part of the Tongariro National Park and encompasses 3 volcanoes: Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe (famously known as 'Mt Doom' in the Lord of the Rings trilogy).
How to hike the Tongariro Crossing solo:
- Start and finish: The Tongariro Crossing is a one-way day-hike spanning 19.4 kilometres (12.1 miles) from car park to car park - so you'll need to organise a shuttle from your accommodation to the start of the hike, then from the finish back to your accommodation. When you're requesting this shuttle, bear in mind the most common (and recommended) direction to hike the Tongariro Crossing is by starting at Mangatepopo Carpark and hiking through to Ketetahi Carpark.
- Be prepared: In this one (epic!) day you'll find yourself hiking through high mountain passes - some of which are susceptible to snow in the middle of summer, as well as lush rainforest. So you'll need to prepare for every element. We definitely recommend taking a look at our day hike packing list to make sure you don't get caught out in the elements.
Hike the Tongariro Crossing as a guided tour
You can take the tricky organisation out of hiking the Tongariro Crossing by joining a trip like our 5 or 11 day 'Kauri' trip. This trip starts and finishes in Auckland - and we'll take care of all your food, accommodation, hiking permits and transport.
And the best part: on a guided tour you'll have 2 world class Kiwi guides with you every step of the way. For over 20 years we've been taking small groups of keen adventurers (just like you!) into the most wild and remote parts of the great New Zealand countryside, so we'll make sure you're adequately prepared for every hike, keep you safe, have a lot of fun and take all the hard work out of organising your journey - so you have more time to enjoy your surroundings and forge friendships with your travel companions.
If you'd like to learn more about our 'Kauri' trip, simply request a free travel brochure or check our trip availability today!
Fiordland National Park
Fiordland National Park is home to (arguably) the 3 best multi-day hiking trails in the world. In this one spectacular National Park you'll find the following Great Walks:
To experience the South Island's best Great Walks, you have a few options:
- Hike one trail in its entirety by 'winging it' solo - but make sure you book your Great Walk accommodation (the mountain huts) far enough ahead of time as they do sell out. Make sure you commit a great deal of time planning your transport to and from the start and finish of each hike, since the Great Walks of New Zealand are not loop tracks.
- Hike one trail in its entirety on a 4 night/5 day Guided Tour that starts and finishes in Queenstown.
- Or you can experience a broader diversity of Fiordland's rugged landscapes by hiking the absolute best sections of a handful of Great Walks - this type of trip is called a 'Great Walks Discovery'.
On the 4 night/5 day Milford Track Guided Tour you will:
- Start and Finish in Queenstown
- Hike the Milford Track
On the 4 night/5 day Great Walks Discovery you will:
- Start and finish in Queenstown
- Hike Ben Lomond for views over Queenstown
- Hike a section of the Routeburn track
- Hike a section of the Milford Track
- Hike a section of the Kepler Track
- Cruise Milford Sound
- Overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound
And finally, you can experience New Zealand's Great Walks as part a (5 to 14 day) New Zealand adventure tour:
Winter Rimu New Zealand Winter Adventure
- 14 Days
- South Island
- US$4599 + tax
May to September is one of the best times to explore New Zealand. Our maritime climate ensures we have relatively mild winters, we’ll almost always have the tracks to ourselves and the snow-capped mountains make an even more dramatic backdrop than in summer – and usually you can get a great deal on flights! Years ago, we adapted our signature Rimu trip to suit the cooler conditions by adding skiing and snowboarding options, along with some of the South Island’s best hikes. This adventure is the perfect excuse to escape the heat!
Activity level: This is one of our more adventurous trips, but has options to suit a range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. Typically hikes on the ‘Winter Rimu’ range between three and six hours to complete, with a longer more challenging hike on the Copland Track.
Manuka Milford Hiking Adventure
- 14 Days
- South Island
- From US$6399 + tax
If you wish to concentrate on hiking the iconic tracks of New Zealand and like your creature comforts, we’ve crafted this trip just for you. It has a strong focus on New Zealand’s natural history. Our guides have plenty of time to interpret the flora and fauna and explain the geological and social history of the areas you’ll visit. You also have the choice of a selection of the best day hikes Fiordland National Park has to offer, along with an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, or hiking the famous Milford Track in its entirety. The ‘Manuka’ really is hiking New Zealand in style!
Activity level: The 'Manuka' is an active hiking trip, but has options to suit a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. Typically hikes on the 'Manuka' trip range between three and six hours to complete, with longer hikes on the Milford Track Guided Walk option.
Rimu Ultimate South Island Adventure
- 14 Days
- South Island
- From US$5499 + tax
This is our signature adventure and a great, outdoorsy way to see New Zealand. We’ve been fine-tuning this perennial favourite since 1996 and it’s simply an awesome trip. You’ll explore the most beautiful, famous and little-known places in the South Island – up close and personal – with legendary hospitality and our unsurpassed attention to detail. For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5-day 'Kauri' options available).
Activity level: The ‘Rimu’ is one of our more adventurous trips, but has options to suit a wide range of ages and outdoor experience. Typically, hikes on the ‘Rimu’ trip range between two and five hours to complete, with longer hikes available on the multi-day option. If you think you’d prefer a more relaxed pace and shorter one to three hour hikes, we recommend checking out our ‘Kiwi’ trip. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to chat about the various options.
Tui Essence of the South Island
- 8 Days
- South Island
- From US$3999 + tax
This is an action-packed adventure where you’ll explore some of New Zealand’s most iconic and remote wilderness. It works well if your vacation time is limited, since you can fly from North America on a Friday evening, sleep on the plane, and be back at work ten days later to share your photos and stories on Monday morning. For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5-day 'Kauri' options available).
Activity level: The ‘Tui’ suits people of a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience, particularly if you enjoy a variety of activities. Typically hikes on the ‘Tui’ trip range between two and six hours to complete.
Kiwi South Island Explorer
- 14 Days
- South Island
- From US$5799 + tax
New to adventure vacations or not quite ready to hang up your hiking boots just yet? On this South Island walking tour you'll experience beautiful, famous and little-known places – taking plenty of time to explore along the way! For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5 day 'Kauri' options available).
Activity level: The ‘Kiwi’ suits anyone who enjoys walking and likes to give things a go. The pace is flexible and relaxed with most hikes taking one to three hours to complete on well-formed tracks with some undulations.
Takahe Great Walks Discovery
- 5 Days
- South Island
- From US$2999 + tax
Over five days you'll hike on three of New Zealand's nine 'Great Walks', all located in the Fiordland National Park - a UNESCO World Heritage area with mystical coves and dense temperate rainforest. This is a bucket list hiking trip where you need not forgo any creature comforts.
Activity level: The 'Takahe' is a hiking-focused trip, with options to suit a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. Typically hikes on the 'Takahe' trip range between three and six hours to complete.