10 Spectacular Long-Distance Hikes in New Zealand

10 Spectacular Long-Distance Hikes in New Zealand: Discover the Land of the Long White Cloud

By Claire WhittersDestinations

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New Zealand, also known in Maori as Aotearoa, is a land of unrivaled natural beauty. This magical island country in the South Pacific boasts incredible topographic variation in addition to an abundance of flora and fauna. From soaring alpine crests to sandy beaches and everything in between, this stunning landmass is etched with fascinating indigenous history that begs to be explored, as some of the long-distance hikes below traverse through tribal grounds.

Explore deep fjords, volcanic mountains, lush native forests, glow-worm caves, crystalline glacial lakes, and more! Home to 13 National Parks that showcase the country’s most scenic landscapes, the vast swathe of protected wilderness exceeds 30,000km2—encompassing countless hiking trails. In our opinion, the best way to appreciate the unspoiled backcountry is by immersing yourself in the wilds. Discover the “Land of the Long White Cloud” as you explore one of the many gorgeous long-distance hikes, otherwise known as tramping tracks in New Zealand.

Note: all of the hikes below are managed by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, which provides adequate trekking infrastructure, backcountry huts, and a plentiful amount of designated campsites. To protect the environment and control the number of trekkers on the trails, the Department of Conservation, or DOC, requires adventurers to book their huts and/or campsites in advance, which can be done online on the Department of Conservation website.

Best Treks In New Zealand Map

Best Treks In New Zealand Map

1. Te Araroa Trail

The Te Araroa Trail, otherwise known as The Long Pathway, is a relatively new trekking route that extends over 3,000.0 km from Cape Reinga on the North Island to Bluff, on the South Island. You could say this hike demands a modest effort—requiring between 4-6 months of your time. Though challenging, this route showcases the beauty and diversity of New Zealand’s rugged and remote wilds—explore sandy coastlines, bustling cities, lush forestlands, volcanoes, high mountain passes, farmlands, and more.

We recognize that the average joe cannot commit to 4+ months in the wilderness, so why not complete it stage by stage? Check out our detailed Te Araroa itinerary for a daily breakdown of this epic expedition. Due to the variety of the trail, accommodations are not limited to backcountry huts or camping, instead, you can opt for a more luxurious experience, staying in hotels or B&Bs along the way.

Location: North Island and South Island
Distance: 3,000.0 km
Days Recommended: 4-6 months
When to do: October-May

Te Araroa Trail

Te Araroa Trail

2. Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk

Compared to the Te Araroa Trail, the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk is a breeze! The horseshoe-shaped multi-day hike travels through an enchanting landscape reminiscent of a fairy-tale. Explore the largest area of native forest in the North Island, traveling through misty valleys, lush rainforests, the magical ‘goblin forest’, and discover cascading waterfalls and beautiful rivers as you trace the shoreline of the pristine lake. This beautiful track is ideal for beginner trekkers or those seeking a relaxing few days in nature.

In addition to the enchanting environment, this walk boasts the perfect opportunity for birding and wildlife viewing. Though not necessary, guides can be useful in communicating the area’s rich Indigenous history and ecology. The Lake Waikaremoana Walk has 5 DOC huts and numerous designated campsites for hikers that require reservation.

Location: North Island
Distance: 46.0 km
Days Recommended: 3-5 days
When to do: October-May

Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk

Lake Waikaremoana by altanramadan, CC-BY 2.0

3. Heaphy Track

The Heaphy Track is another one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and this one exhibits the country’s awe-inspiring topographic variety. Traveling 78.0 km through the Kahurangi National Park, this long-haul trail explores a landscape occupied by dramatic coastal headlands, sandy beaches, palm groves, lush rainforest, rugged mountains, and vast grasslands.

While the terrain and scenery are ever-changing, this thru-hike is rated as moderate, and most can complete it in as little as 4 days. It is worth noting that the Heaphy Track converts to a shared route with mountain bikers from May-November, so those trekking during these months will experience more traffic. Like the other Great Walks, accommodations—including huts and campsites – must be reserved.

Location: South Island
Distance: 78.0 km
Days Recommended: 4-6days
When to do: November-May

Heaphy Track

Gouland Downs by Martin Lopatka, CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Milford Track

Undoubtedly the most famous long-distance hike in New Zealand is the Milford Track. Often regarded as one of the finest hikes in the world, this amazing multi-day hike is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers alike. Enjoy the country’s tallest waterfall, temperate rainforests, high alpine passes, glacial valleys, and pristine lakes. Traveling to high altitudes, this adventure sees extreme weather conditions, notably in the off-season, so it’s best to hike between the months of October and April.

From Glade Wharf to Sandfly Point in Milford Sound, this renowned route travels over 55.0 km through the Fiordland National Park. Managed by the DOC, there are 3 huts, 3 private lodges, and 4-day shelters in addition to the campsites available. As this thru-hike is world-famous, expect accommodations to book fast; reserve your shelter far in advance.

Location: South Island
Distance: 56.0 km
Days Recommended: 4-6 days
When to do: October-April

Milford Track

Milford Track

5. Dusky Track

The Dusky Track boasts an otherworldly experience. This exciting long-distance trek travels through luxuriant temperate rainforests, dramatic glacial valleys, over countless suspension bridges, and up into a rugged mountain range. Stretching 84km from Lake Hauroko or from Lake Manapouri, this epic expedition will dazzle you with its mystical scenery.

Reserved for avid adventurers, this route is renowned as the country’s toughest hike—demanding numerous river crossings and the navigation of slippery, muddy terrain. In fact, the biggest obstacle along this route is flash flooding, which has caused the Department of Conservation to recommend that hikers avoid backcountry camping. Thus, huts are the preferred accommodation.

Location: South Island
Distance: 84.0 km
Days Recommended: 8-10 days
When to do: November-May

Dusky Track

Dusky Track

6. Routeburn Track

Stretching 32.0 km from Routeburn Shelter to The Divide, the Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Connecting Mount Aspiring National Park with the Fiordland National Park, this route explores a landscape that is occupied by glaciated valleys, native forests, soaring crests, waterfalls, idyllic lakes, and a rugged coastline. Offering a diversity of scenery, this short trek packs a punch!

This lovely trail is ideal for those just starting to dip their toes into the trekking waters. Like the other epic expedition on this list, the Routeburn Track is managed by the Department of Conservation, thus backcountry huts and campsites must be reserved in advance to manage the amount of traffic this route sees.

Location: South Island
Distance: 32.0 km
Days Recommended: 2-4 days
When to do: October-April

Routeburn Track

Lets Stay Here For A While by Janko Luin, CC BY-SA 2.0

7. Abel Tasman Coastal Track

The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is at the top of New Zealand’s Great Walks. While many of the country’s trekking routes touch the shoreline, this incredible trail traces the coast in the Abel Tasman National Park. Wander along the jade-colored ocean through pristine beaches, isolated inlets bound by Nikau Palms, impressive geological formations, and estuaries. You will also get to experience the 15 ft tidal range along the way!

This long-distance hike is undoubtedly the busiest in the country, so be sure to book accommodations, including campsites and huts—far in advance! The maritime conditions are fairly mild and allow for off-season exploration, making this one of the few tracks in the country that encourages year-round expeditions.

Location: South Island
Distance: 51.0 km
Days Recommended: 3-5 days
When to do: Year-round

8. Kepler Track

The Kepler Track uncovers a mystical corner of the world. Built in 1988, this route was constructed to showcase the best of what the Fiordlands had to offer. Spanning 60km, this incredible loop travels from Lake Te Anau into the alpine. Offering the best of both worlds, the Kepler Track is notorious for its adverse conditions, so come prepared wearing plenty of layers and be ready to take refuge beneath the treeline.

Often referred to as the “adventure above the clouds”, the Kepler Track ascends Mount Luxmore, amongst other high alpine passes, with a fair share of fun swinging bridges. This epic expedition usually takes about 3 days to complete and the backcountry huts reserve far in advance—so book now.

Location: South Island
Distance: 60.0 km
Days Recommended: 3-5 days
When to do: October-April

Kepler Track

Kepler Track

9. Tongariro Northern Circuit

Discover some of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes on the Tongariro Northern Circuit. Explore the Tongariro National Park as you circle around the base of Mount Ngauruhoe—a spectacular resting volcano. Fun fact: this landscape was featured in the Lord of the Rings movie! Explore steaming craters, crystalline lakes, old lava flows, and barren ridges on this hike.

Note: the first day of this excursion follows the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is perhaps the most popular day hike in the country. Those who are limited on time can get a taste of the Tongariro Northern Circuit by completing the Alpine Crossing. Most adventurers should be able to complete this route in 3 days, though we encourage you to block out an extra day or two in case you encounter inclement weather along the way.

Location: North Island
Distance: 41.0 km
Days Recommended: 3-6 days
When to do: October- April

Tongariro Northern Circuit

Tongariro Northern Circuit

10. Hollyford Track

The Hollyford Track boasts a wonderful experience. Stretching 55.0 km from Hollyford Road to Martin’s Bay, this lovely trek travels through the lowlands. Exhibiting the area’s topographic variety, hikers will explore the fjords in addition to the mountains. Wander through temperate rainforests, along pristine beaches and lakeshores, over swing bridges, and past mesmerizing cascades.

Demanding only 3-5 days of your time, the Hollyford Track is ideal for those who lack time or experience. The beauty of this route is that it is ideal for beginner hikers, but it can also be extended by connecting with the Milford Track for those who seek a more demanding experience. Like the other Great Walks in New Zealand, explorers will have to reserve huts through the DOC.

Location: South Island, Fiordland
Distance: 55.0 km
Days Recommended: 3-5 days
When to do: April-October

Hollyford Track

Hollyford Track

Other Best Treks Lists Around the World

Can’t get enough of the best long-distance hikes in New Zealand? If you want to explore the most epic trekking adventures from around the globe, be sure to check out some of our other articles that provide an in-depth look at several other regions and the amazing long-distance trails that can be found within them:

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