New Zealand is known for its stunning beauty, adventure activities and vast untouched but accessible wilderness. So it is no surprise that NZ trekking holidays are very popular. But with hundreds of marked and well maintained routes to choose from what are the best treks in New Zealand?
NZ trekking holidays
Anyone with an adventurous bone in their body and a love for the outdoors will have considered visiting New Zealand. It’s one of the most beautiful, diverse and exciting destinations on the planet. And exploring it on foot is the best way to really get to know this stunning country.
Trekking in New Zealand is spread over both islands. You will explore the peaks of volcanic giants, glaciers, snow covered mountains and lush temperate rainforest. You will tramp around cavernous valleys that are filled with the darkest of waters and fed by stunning waterfalls, plus hike on sandy shores in a subtropical climate.
With a vast range of climates, ecosystems and difficulty of trails available, you should do your research before you go. To enjoy some of the best treks in New Zealand below, be sure to plan routes that are achievable based on your experience and fitness.
In addition to the treks below there are amazing day hikes around almost every corner. So if you want to take in multiple treks and hikes then it is great to get a vehicle and travel around. By far the best option is to explore New Zealand in a self-contained campervan, which gives you the most freedom and flexibility.
11 best treks in New Zealand
Here are the top 11 routes you should try to include in NZ trekking holidays.
This four day hike takes place in the Te Urewera National Park, which is located in the far north-east corner of the North Island. The majority of the 46-kilometre trek follows the shore of this magnificent lake, providing plenty of opportunities for swimming and fishing.
The hike passes through a multitude of terrain, from the montane beech forests of the Panekire Bluffs to dense temperate rainforests, and offers wonderful bird spotting opportunities. This is a popular route, and it is imperative to book huts and campsites before setting off.
Tongariro Northern Circuit
One of the visual highlights of the North Island is Mt Tongariro. This trek takes hikers over Tongariro itself and around nearby Mt Ngauruhoe. Passing by lakes, springs, waterfalls, deserts, and volcanic craters. This hike is a diverse and natural adventure through the landscape of New Zealand.
The route is 43 km and takes three to four days to complete. If you cannot fit the full hike be sure to at least do the Tongariro Crossing which can be completed in one day during summer or the snow covered winter. Whether you do the full route or the day trip it’s one of the best treks in New Zealand.
This is ideal if are looking for day hikes that are based from a central location. Locate yourself in Coromandel Town, and explore various day hikes in the area before returning to comfortable accommodation each evening. Perfect for those who want to stay somewhere nice and not carry loads of gear on NZ trekking holidays.
Hiking here can involve anything from 4-7 hours on the trail each day, exploring the best of what the Coromandel Peninsula has to offer. It’s an area of spectacular and diverse scenery including jagged mountain peaks, beautiful waterfalls, and sandy beaches. You need at least four days to do the Coromandel justice.
Abel Tasman Coast Trek
Located in the Abel Tasman National Park on the northern shores of the South Island. The Abel Tasman Coast Trek is 51 km long and takes anywhere from three to five days to complete. Established in 1942, Abel Tasman is New Zealand’s smallest national park, but the trek itself is world famous and should be included in NZ trekking holidays.
A mild climate means that this route is great to try at any time of the year, and is considered to be a relatively easy trekking experience. The landscape is spectacular and the hike takes in sandy beaches, beautiful rivers and forests. You can even kayak some of the route or trying mountain biking along the way.
Located in the Kahurangi National Park in the north-west corner of the South Island. The Heaphy Track is 78 km and takes anywhere from four to six days. The route is named after Charles Heaphy, who in 1846, was the first European to traverse the coastal portion of the hike.
The modern-day version of the trek traverses the region crossing over rivers, through lush forests, and of course along the beautiful coast that Heaphy explored back in the day. This is a hut-to-hut hike and as such all accommodation should be booked in advance.
The Kepler Trek is located in Fiordland, which is in the far south-west corner of the South Island. This is an area known for its impressive mountains and lakes, and the Kepler Trek is a journey that takes in the best that Eastern Fiordland has to offer.
Known as the adventure above the clouds. This is a 60km, three to four-day hike for those looking to challenge themselves physically. Yet there are still good facilities en route.
From the gentle lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri to the alpine tops of Mt Luxmore. The Kepler Trek offers magnificent panoramic views of the area’s diverse and spectacular natural landscape making it one of the best treks in New Zealand.
In 1908 The Milford Track was declared by English poet Blanche Baughan as the finest walk in the world. Since then the 53 km four day route has become a must-do on NZ trekking holidays.
Located in the South Island’s beautiful Fiordland National Park it heads to the world famous Milford Sound. This is a wild and beautiful part of New Zealand with an abundance of spectacular scenery. Expect glacial valleys, mountain rivers, lush forests, deep fjords and awe-inspiring waterfalls.
Combined with the panoramic views on offer, this all conspires to make the Milford Track an incredibly popular option for hikers of all abilities. Thankfully, the quality of the track and facilities en-route are first class and more than meet the demands of the thousands who trek here each year.
While the Milford Trek receives the majority of the attention, the Routeburn Trek more than deserves a share of the plaudits. Also located in the Fiordland area, this route offers a similarly spectacular hiking opportunity but with less people on the trail.
Located mostly at a sub-alpine level, the views on offer are spectacular as you cross New Zealand’s Southern Alps and hike alongside clear green rivers, beautiful alpine lakes and over wonderful mountain passes. Serviced huts and campsites are both options for this 32 km journey, which normally takes around two to four days to complete.
On the east side of the South Island, the Kaikoura area is known for the diversity of its flora and fauna. Hikers can expect to see a variety of rare and endangered species including native bird species and resident wildlife such as deer and chamois.
The hike traverses the untamed wilderness of the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains, through forests and rivers and dramatic alpine terrain. It is a three day trek that can begin at the luxurious Shearwater Lodge, and ending in Kaikoura where you can go whale watching or swim with dolphins.
The Northwest Circuit
The Northwest Circuit is a 125 km hike that takes place on Stewart Island which is found at the southern tip of the South Island. Getting to the island involves a short 15-min flight or 1-hour ferry ride to Oban where the circuit begins.
The 10-day hike is a loop that covers the top half of the island where daily hiking times can vary anywhere from 3 to 8 hours. It is a hut-to-hut journey of lush temperate rainforests, beautiful beaches, and abundant birdlife.
It is a remote option which means it is just perfect for those trekkers wanting solitude. Definitely one of the best treks in New Zealand if you prefer to not meet many other people on the trail.
Ultimate NZ trek
Running from Cape Regina in the far north of the North Island to Bluff in the far south of the South Island this 3,000 km route is the best trek in New Zealand if you want a huge challenge. It takes 100-160 days (around four months), alternatively break it down into small chunks spread over a few NZ trekking holidays.
Te Araroa was only opened in 2011 and is known as New Zealand’s answer to the Appalachian Trail. Most people hike north to south but it can be done in either direction. The route takes in the best that New Zealand had to offer, including everything from beaches to volcanoes and forests to cities.
Other NZ treks to consider
It is a shame this article is only the 11 best treks in New Zealand as there are plenty of others we would have liked to have included. Other routes to consider on NZ trekking holidays include:
- Cape Reinga Walk, Far North, North Island (41 km, 3 days)
- Travers-Sabine Circuit, Nelson Lakes, South Island (80 km, 4-7 days)
- Mueller Hut Route, Mount Cook National Park, South Island (10 km, 2 days)
- Rees Dart Track, Otago, South Island (57 km, 4-5 days)
- Pelorus Track, Marlborough, South Island (36 km, 3 days)
- Rakiura Track, Stewart Island (37 km, 3 days
With so many options for trekking in New Zealand we could go on and on… And I am sure we have missed some excellent options – if so let us know in the comments. Ultimately, we recommend you pack a bag and go to explore for yourself, as there are excellent trails all over New Zealand.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to best treks in New Zealand. If you are planning NZ trekking holidays be sure to check out our New Zealand discounts as you could save a fortune on your next adventure.