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The Great Walks of New Zealand

Skip to: New Zealand's 9 Great Walks | The Most Popular Great Walks | Great Walks Discovery Hiking Tour

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.

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The hiking trails that make up the nine Great Walks in New Zealand

North Island

  • 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.

South Island

  • 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.

Stewart Island

  • 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 most popular Great Walks in New Zealand

North Island 

The Tongariro Crossing - the world's greatest day hike

Hiker looking over Emerald Lakes on the Tongariro Crossing

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!

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South Island

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:

The Milford Track

Milford Track

The Routeburn Track

Key Summit

The Kepler Track

Kepler Bridge

Hike the South Island's Great Walks in 4 nights/5 days

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

Plus

  • Cruise Milford Sound
  • Overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound

 Video: Discover the Milford Track Great Walk, and cruise Milford Sound with Active Adventures

And finally, you can experience New Zealand's Great Walks as part a (5 to 14 day) New Zealand adventure tour:

 

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4984 reviews)

    Chris Darcy review of Rimu Trip

    The term trip of a lifetime gets used far too frequently. This was one. The South Island of New Zealand is likely the most beautiful place on earth, pound for pound. Nowhere else can you find so much beautiful landscape, diverse landscapes and microclimates packed into such a small area, which can be travelled in such a short amount of time while still doing it justice. Our guides, Holly and Claire, were fantastic - wonderful dispositions, knowledgeable, tireless and attentive - and made the trip special. And Kiwis are some of the nicest folks on earth (after Canadians of course) - we didn't have a single negative experience the whole time we were there. If you've been thinking of going to New Zealand don't wait - you can't do better than this trip - just make sure you take extra memory cards for your camera.
    Chris Darcy Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Rimu, November 2016
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Amazing Honeymoon Experience

    We decided to travel around NZ with Active Adventures for our honeymoon. What an incredible decision! All the logistics were taken care of for us, so we didn't have to worry about any of it while we were focusing on planning the wedding. The staff were terrific....excellent tour guides and went above and beyond for us. New Zealand itself is such a gorgeous place and was a great place to kick off married life. Active Adventures really does it right and the group sizes (max 14) are perfect. We had an amazing experience and plan to travel with Active Adventures again on our next adventure!
    Crista Cohen Review Image
    – Colorado, United States
    Tui, January 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4984 reviews)

    2017 Oct/Nov Rimu

    My 2017 Rimu trip was fantastic! Somehow our fabulous guides Ben and Emma arranged for clear sunny skies, a great mix of travelers, and an all around fun time. Seriously though, our group of 10/11 (we had a late addition) got along well from day 1 - we learned about each other's backgrounds, played cards and dice games, and shared bottles of wine. Ben and Emma worked tirelessly to make sure our travels were smooth - often 16+ hour days for them. Emma cooked wonderful meals for us and made sure everyone's dietary requests were met. Ben drove Whina (our bus) so well for so many hours to get us to our destinations - we'll never forget the tunnel! And they both were great guides on the hikes. Thanks for all the wonderful memories!
    Jeanne Stallings Review Image
    – North Carolina, United States
    Rimu, December 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4984 reviews)

    An Unbelievable Experience

    The Rimu trip was beyond phenomenal! The sights we saw were breathtaking and the small group size allowed us all to bond and truly enjoy our time together exploring this magnificent country. Our guides were fantastic and provided lots of information and fun facts, along with a large amount of encouragement as we tackled some of our adventures! I'm still searching for words to describe just how great a trip it was!
    McKayla Anderson Review Image
    – Nebraska, United States of America
    Rimu, January 2018

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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