New Zealand conjures images of mountains, glaciers, forests and unspoiled lands that bring lasting joy. No surprise then that it’s one of the top backpacker destinations around.
Book your Great Walk accommodation early as many spots fill quickly. Thankfully, most trails provide multiple overnight options.
1. Milford Track
Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and an integral part of many travellers’ bucket lists. A four day and three night hike, it entails rugged mountain peaks, jaw-dropping sheer canyons and stunning waterfalls along its path – perfect for adventure travellers! Tucked into Fiordland National Park it offers lush forests, pristine rivers and alpine passes for exploring. Along the trail are native tree ferns, Fiordland parrots and South Island robins; rain can make the landscape unique by adding magical moss-draped forests or energetic streams and rivers running past its majestic waterfalls!
Walking the Milford Track independently or taking part in a guided tour can be rewarding experiences, with everything taken care of for you during a guided tour – so all that remains for you to do is pack and admire the spectacular views! A hike on the Milford Track should be experienced once in your lifetime; to make this easier we highly suggest booking one of our 14-day Masterpiece trips that includes track transport and hut bookings like this.
2. Abel Tasman Coast Track
If you’re searching for a stunning hike with easy access and incredible views in New Zealand, the Abel Tasman Coast Track should be on your itinerary. As one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, this coastal trail provides access to unspoiled coastline with little elevation gain and fantastic water taxi services along the route; so that all major hiking points lead directly into Totaranui where your overnight bags will be shuttled safely along.
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is famous for its breathtaking scenery that boasts golden beaches, glittering blue waters, and odd granite rock formations. Hikers can choose to stay at Department of Conservation huts/campsites/private lodges/glamping accommodations along the route.
Fall is an excellent time to visit the Abel Tasman Coast Track as crowds tend to dissipate while temperatures remain warm and sunny – not only can you witness beautiful natural scenes like that of Abel Tasman Pied Oystercatchers patrolling beaches; fall offers much fewer visitors and offers them ample chances to listen out for them as they roam along.
3. Tongariro Crossing
Tongariro Crossing is one of the greatest day hikes available in New Zealand, boasting Mars-esque volcanic peaks and smoking craters that provide stunning panoramic views. Additionally, this hike is famous among Lord of the Rings fans since many iconic scenes from that movie were shot here.
Tongariro National Park features stunning volcanic terrain with majestic mountainous vistas, epic volcanic formations such as ancient lava flows and alpine meadows along its one-way track.
Hikers must remember they are entering an environment which is delicate and unique, such as UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Cross. Hiking should respect this land by not touching its lakes, pooping in its mountains or playing loud music – these would all be signs that an adventure is imminent!
As it can get busy during peak season, it is wise to plan and book transport to get to and from Ketetahi car park. Or if you prefer, do the Northern Circuit in Tongariro National Park which includes overnight stays at Department of Conservation huts around Mount Ngauruhoe.
4. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the premier day hikes worldwide, boasting volcanic peaks, lava flows, and stunning crater lakes – not to mention making an appearance in Lord of the Rings trilogy as Mt Doom during Frodo and Sam’s search for The One Ring!
As it is a popular walk, reaching the starting point, Mangatepopo, can be difficult. On busy days you may need to arrange transport or join a tour that includes this round trip.
Winter can be the worst time to attempt the crossing due to snow and ice being potentially hazardous, however if you decide to undertake this challenge then book a guided experience that includes all the specialist equipment, transportation and expert guidance needed for success. By doing this you will enjoy more intimate experiences along the track while avoiding some crowds; during summer (November through April) however expect large crowds but perfect weather!
5. Mount Cook National Park
Mount Cook National Park, famed as a training ground for world-class mountaineers, offers breathtaking alpine beauty with 23 peaks over 3000 metres and multiple glaciers. Even novice adventurers will find satisfaction hiking through this park’s trails that lead to alpine tarns, herb fields and spectacular glacier views; climbers may take on multiple mountain passes while shorter walks provide equal reward.
Aoraki Mount Cook Village lies at the base of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, nestled alongside Lake Pukaki and surrounded by snow-capped mountains. There is limited accommodation and dining available here; for additional options nearby towns include Tekapo and Omarama.
From Christchurch or Queenstown, Aoraki/Mt Cook can be reached in four hours by road and three by air respectively. There are flights available between both locations as well. It offers New Zealand’s largest gold-status International Dark Sky Reserve for stargazing enthusiasts – here you’ll witness an array of stars, moonlight, and northern constellations appear across the night sky like never before!