16 Amazing Hiking Trails in New Zealand’s North Island and South Island

by Jackie
Hiking Rotorua, New Zealand Rainbow Mountain Summit Track View

Love hiking and want to experience the worthwhile places to hike on your next adventure to New Zealand? You’ve come to the right place! New Zealand has plenty of awesome trails to choose from. Besides the health benefits, hiking is free and can provide epic experiences during your travels. It’s hard to resist the stunning views of turquoise lakes, incredible glaciers, luscious mountains, and more that New Zealand has to offer!

Life Of Doing and 10 travel bloggers share 16 amazing hiking trails in New Zealand’s North Island and South Island.  Check out the unique day hikes or multi-day hikes trails below and visit the bloggers’ website for more information on their travels. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) is another great resource for the hikes that require permits/overnight stays. We hope you get some great inspiration planning your next hike!

 


Map of the New Zealand Hiking Trails

We included a map of the hiking trail locations that are mentioned in the post.


Hiking New Zealand North Island

1. City to Sea Walkway in Wellington

Recommended by Nicole from Travelgal Nicole

Distance: 12km / 7.5 miles | Duration: 6-8 hours | Difficulty: Moderate

The City to Sea Walkway in Wellington starts near Parliament in town and ends in Island Bay about 12km away. The City to Sea Walkway is a day walk that takes 6-8 hours to complete and can be done in stages.

Along the way, you’ll pass the Botanic Gardens, historic cemeteries, the cable car, and the green belt of the city. There are also scenic views throughout the walk.

The City to Sea Walkway is classified as an moderate walk and you need a good level of fitness to complete the walk. The views along the way are definitely worth it.

Hiking City to Sea Walkway in Wellington, New Zealand

Photo by Travelgal Nicole

 

2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park

Recommended by Dave from Dave On Arrival

Distance: 19.4km / 32 miles | Duration: 5-9 hours | Difficulty: Moderate

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4km hike through the Tongariro National Park in the center of the North Island. It takes anywhere from 5-9 hours to get from one end to the other depending on your fitness level and how many side trips you take. Without the side trips, it’s a medium difficulty level with plenty of uphill parts.

It’s highly recommend to climb Mount Ngauruhoe, aka Mount Doom, from the “Lord of the Rings” movies. If you’re in decent shape it takes 3 hours to go up and down by itself. The route is a difficult climb.

The whole trek is one way so it’s best to arrange a shuttle to drop you off at one end of the trail and pick you up from the other. Shuttles can be arranged online or at any of the i-Sites in the surrounding towns.

The views along the hike are breathtaking. You’ll love the various terrain from volcanic wasteland to lush rain forest and yellow dirt to red rocks to green lakes. No wonder it’s rated as one of the best day treks in the world.

Hiking Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Photo by Dave On Arrival

 

3. Coast to Coast Trail in Auckland

Recommended by Jub from the Tiki Touring Kiwi

Distance: 16km / 9.9 miles | Duration: 4 hours | Difficulty: Easy

The Coast to Coast Trail is a 16km section of the Te Araroa Trail taking you from one side of Auckland’s coastline to the other in 4 hours or so for the average hiker.

The best part is you get to see pass through some of the cities must-see attractions like Mount Eden (196 meters / 643 feet in elevation) and One Tree Hill. You can start the hike from downtown Auckland and catch the train back once you’ve completed. Make sure to take some food along so you can have a picnic along the way (with the sheep at Cornwall Park perhaps).

Hiking Coast to Coast Trail in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo is of Mount Eden.

Photo by Tiki Touring Kiwi

 

4. Mount Eden in Auckland

Recommended by Jackie & Justin from Life Of Doing

Distance: 3.2km / 2 miles | Duration: 30-45 minutes | Difficulty: Easy

Short on time? Consider the hike on Mount Eden in Auckland. The trail itself is easy with nicely packed dirt and mostly a flat trail. It takes about 15 minutes to climb up if you park along Batger Road or one of the side streets along Mount Eden Road. At the top of the summit is Mount Eden, an inactive crater, that overlooks Auckland’s Central Business District and the city. If you have extra time, hike the Coast to Coast Trail which passes Mount Eden and is mentioned above. 

Hiking in Auckland, New Zealand Mount Eden Crater

 

5. Rainbow Mountain Summit Track Hike in Rotorua

Recommended by Jackie & Justin from Life Of Doing

Distance: 6.4km / 4 miles | Duration: 1.5 hours | Difficulty: Moderate

If you’re in Rotorua and need a break, consider hiking on the Rainbow Mountain Summit Track  on the Rainbow Mountain Scenic Reserve. You can easily miss the entrance to this place as it’s off of the main road (SH-5) in Rotorua. In the beginning of the hike, there is a viewpoint to oversee a lake and the colorful red and green mountain.

Continue on the path to reach the summit, Maungakakaramea (Rainbow Mountain) at 743 meters / 2438 feet. There are two routes that you can take which reaches to the summit –  a mountain bike or a shared mountain bike/walking path. At the summit, you’ll love the overview of the city with another lake and rolling green hills and forests. The featured image at the top of the post is the view from the summit!

If you need more greenery and rolling hills, check out our post of Hobbiton Movie Set.  

Hiking Rotorua, New Zealand Rainbow Mountain Summit Track


Hiking New Zealand South Island

1. Abel Tasman Coast Track in Abel Tasman National Park

Recommended from Mags from The Family Freestylers

Distance: 51km / 32 miles | Duration: 3-5 days | Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of the easiest and most stunning trails in New Zealand. With its white sand beaches, dazzling turquoise water, secluded bays, and natural rock pools, it’s an extremely popular trail. Access is either on foot or by boat as the route is closed to vehicles.

Walk the whole track in either direction or mix it up by taking one of the many water taxis or kayak between different locations.

Stay at one of 4 huts or 19 campsites, which needs reservations. All equipment and food need to be carried in. The trail is one way so transport needs to be arranged either side of the trail. There is one compulsory tidal crossing so consult a tide timetable before booking your trip.

Hiking Abel Tasman Coastal Track in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Photo by The Family Freestylers

 

2. Mount Robert Circuit in Nelson Lakes National Park

Recommended by Sarah from ASocialNomad

Distance: 9km / 5.6 miles | Duration: 2.5-5 hours | Difficulty: Hard

The Mount Robert Circuit in the Nelson Lakes National Park of New Zealand’s South Island is classified as an advanced hike. It’s 9km long and combines a couple of tracks. One of the tracks, Paddy’s Track is pretty exposed, so you’ll want to ensure that you’re doing this in decent weather. That exposed walk up lends itself to glorious views of the beautiful Lake Rotoiti. The trail is mostly well formed, although loose shale means you’ll need to watch your step as you head down. Along the way, rest at the Bushline Hut.

Beware that water may not be available, so take enough along with you for the entire tramp.  The Department of Conservation (DOC) estimates that this will take 5 hours to complete, however, 2 hours and 30 minutes plus rest stops is doable.

You can do this easy day hike as part of the Angelus Hut tracks if you want to head further afield. Stop by and check out the historic KEA hut, built by skiers in 1931.

Hiking Mount Robert Circuit in Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand

Photo by ASocialNomad

 

3. Mueller Hut Hike in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Recommended by Andra from Our World To Wander

Distance: 10.4km / 6.5 miles | Duration: 3-4 hours | Difficulty: Moderate

One of New Zealand’s most famous treks, the Mueller Hut trek will steal your heart. It’s an accessible one day trek located in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, in the South Island. You can also try and sleep in the hut, but make sure you reserve in advance from the Department of Conservation (DOC).

What makes this trek so attractive is that it offers some magnificent views over the Mount Cook Range. The starting point for the trek is in the car park at the White Horse Hill Campground, close to Cook Village.

And although it’s not a challenging trek, you might want to take it easy on the first part that involves around 1806 steps. However, the rewards you get from the top are not bad at all for a hike of 3-4 hours.

Hiking Mueller Hut Hike in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

Photo by Our World To Wander

 

4. Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Recommended by Jackie & Justin from Life Of Doing

Distance: 10km / 6.2 miles | Duration: 3 hours | Difficulty: Easy

Hooker Valley Track is a popular day hike in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. The out and back hiking route is straightforward when starting from the White Horse Hill Campground car park. The route itself is flat and non-technical. You’ll pass through picturesque moments of mountains with glaciers, beautiful wildflowers, and even walk across three suspension bridges.

The final destination is Hooker Lake where you can have a picnic or take a break. It’s lovely to see the lake and have Aoraki/Mount Cook in the background. Unfortunately, Hooker Lake didn’t have any glaciers during our visit.

You may consider bringing a jacket for the hike. The open area has a high chance of gusty winds along the walking path. Weather may change drastically, even during the summertime.

Hiking Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

 

5. Tasman Glacier Hike in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Recommended by Clemens from Travellers Archive

Distance: Various depending on heli-hike tour companies | Duration: 2 hours | Difficulty: Easy

The Tasman Glacier Hike is one of the most impressive hikes you can do in New Zealand. It’s part of the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. The area is not only very picturesque, but offers some great scenery with the snow-capped mountain in the back.

You can reach the Tasman Glacier itself only by helicopter. After a 10 minutes helicopter flight it will land on the ice and leave the hiking group to the eternal ice. Packed with spikes, a thick jacket and walking sticks, the group now walks on the ice, discovers glacier caves and jumps over ice crevices. The hike takes about two hours and you don’t need to be a professional or advanced hiker to do it. It’s not about distance but about discoveries.

Hiking in Tasman Glacier Hike in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

Photo by Travellers Archive

 

6. Key Summit Track in Fiordland National Park/Milford Sound Road

Recommended by Sonja from Migrating Miss

Distance: 8km / 5 miles | Duration: 3 hours | Difficulty: Moderate

The Key Summit Track is one of the best walks along the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound, and well worth making the stop for! The walk begins at The Divide, and it takes approximately 3 hours round trip.

The first part of the walk is under the cover of a lush forest with small waterfalls trickling down. It’s mostly all uphill with a lot of switchbacks. You then emerge above the forest into the more mountainous terrain, and make the turn off to Key Summit for a steep 20 minutes.

The panoramic views from the top are well worth the effort! There is a small tarn and a boardwalk with signs explaining the difference flora and fauna that you can see. It’s also wonderful to just sit and enjoy the views. Keen hikers continue on from here to do the multi-day Routeburn Track, but for the day walkers, it’s all downhill back to the car park.

Hiking Key Summit Track in Fiordland National Park/Milford Sound, New Zealand

Photo by Migrating Miss

 

7. West Matukituki Track in Mount Aspiring National Park

Recommended by Julie from NOMAD/nester Travel

Distance: 9km / 5.6 miles | Duration: 2.5 hours | Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

The Mount Aspiring National Park should be more popular than it is. With its crystal turquoise rivers, towering snow-covered peaks, and wild-flower adorned fields you could be forgiven for thinking you had been transported to Switzerland.

It’s recommended to take the West Matukituki Track through this park to the Mount Aspiring Hut. This deep valley meanders for 9km to the hut from where you get jaw-dropping views of Mount Aspiring itself. The track takes you through farmland and then into the national park proper. It’s a mostly level walk with just a couple of not too steep hills and is a perfect introduction to overnight trekking for the novices.  

This area is readily accessed from Wanaka via Mount Aspiring Road, around an hour drive down mostly dirt road with a number of fords to cross. It can be easily done in a conventional car but check road conditions as this road can flood after bad weather. Once you reach the car park for East Matukituki Valley, keep driving till the end of the road where you will find Raspberry Creek car park. This is the access point for the West Matukituki Valley as well as the Rob Roy Glacier walk.

The area is accessible most of the year, although there is a danger of avalanche in some areas during winter. The walks heading up out of the valley should only be attempted in the summer months of December to March and even then only in good weather.

Hiking West Matukituki Track in Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand

Photo by NOMAD/nester Travel

 

8. Rob Roy Glacier Track in Mount Aspiring National Park

Recommended by Chris from Explore Now Or Never

Distance: 10km / 6.2 miles | Duration: 3-4 hours | Difficulty: Easy

Rob Roy Glacier Track is one of the most stunning and scenic hikes in New Zealand. Located an hour drive north of Wanaka at the gateway to the gorgeous Mount Aspiring National Park in the West Matukituki Valley on the South Island. (There is a reason it was used as a filming location for the “Lord of the Rings” movies. The landscape here is out-of-this-world beautiful!)

This rewarding day hike begins in the lush Rob Roy valley where you’ll stroll past cavorting sheep and perhaps cows and their calves drinking from the Rob Roy stream. Over the next 3-4 hours, you’ll traverse any number of swinging bridges over turquoise streams and climb high into a dense beech forest until you can see the summit of the snow-capped glacier. Plan on 6.2 miles round trip.

Hiking Rob Roy Glacier Track in Mount Aspiring National Park

Photo by Explore Now Or Never

 

9. Roys Peak Track in Wanaka

Recommended by Jackie & Justin from Life Of Doing

Distance: 16km / 9.9 miles | Duration: 4.5 hours | Difficulty: Hard

If you had one hike to do in Wanaka, definitely consider Roys Peak Track. It’s one of the hardest hikes due to the steepness of the trail. The track doesn’t have any shade so start early in the morning or in the late afternoon. The weather can be finicky so prepare for cold and rainy weather even during the summer.

Along the trail, you’ll see the beautiful views of Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring, other mountains, and herds of sheep munching on the grass. When you’re 75% of the way to the top, there is a section that overlooks the lake and is the perfect photo taking place. You may see a line queued up at this spot. The last 25% to reach the summit is challenging with the steep gradient. The summit is at 1578 meters / 5177 feet and most people hang out around the tower for a 360 degree overview of the area.

Hiking Roys Peak Track in Wanaka, New Zealand

 

10. Mount Iron Track in Wanaka

Recommended by Jackie & Justin from Life Of Doing

Distance: 4.5 km / 2.8 miles | Duration: 1.25 hours | Difficulty: Moderate

Mount Iron Track is within the city of Wanaka and easy to complete if short on time. There are two ways to take the trail. You can do a clockwise or counterclockwise loop from the carpark. If you do counterclockwise loop, you’ll have a steeper route going up to the summit.

One of the best parts about this track is the amount of shade along the trail. It’s nice to have the coverage during the steep sections. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be in awe of how beautiful Wanaka city, Lake Wanaka, and the surrounding mountains area. There is also a podium at the summit where you can take a photo.

Hiking Mount Iron Track in Wanaka, New Zealand

 

11. Rocky Mountain Summit Track in Diamond Lake Hospital Flat Conservation Area/Wanaka

Recommended by Jackie & Justin from Life Of Doing

Distance: 7 km / 4.3 miles | Duration: 2 hours | Difficulty: Moderate

Rocky Mountain Summit Track is an awesome hike if Roys Peak Track isn’t an option. The views are outstanding along the Rocky Mountain Summit! The first half of the trail is where you’ll climb up to see an overview of the huge Diamond Lake.

The second half of the trail is where you’ll reach the summit at 775 meters / 2543 feet. You can take either the East or West route to reach the summit. The West trail has more shade as you travel through the forest. The East route is better for the views. The summit overlooks Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring, and other mountains.  Hikers can easily rest here for a snack and break and enjoy the views. You may consider taking either East or West route for the return trip back down.

Hiking Rocky Mountain Summit Track in Wanaka, New Zealand


Now that you’ve read through these hikes, it’s time to plan your hiking adventure to New Zealand’s North Island and South Island! We hope you enjoyed reading through these 16 amazing hiking trails. Although this is a snapshot of the trails available, there are many more to explore in New Zealand! Happy hiking!

 

Which hikes would you like to do on your next visit to New Zealand? If you’ve been to New Zealand, which hikes would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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16 Amazing Hiking Trails in New Zealand North Island and South Island16 Amazing Hiking Trails in New Zealand North Island and South Island

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5 comments

Chloe Koh June 2, 2018 - 10:28 am

I’m a fan of hiking but not climbing. Love that you clarify the distance, difficulty level, and duration. That really helps to determine which course to choose. Tasman Glacier Hike in Aoraki intrigued me!

Reply
Lauren June 2, 2018 - 7:40 pm

Having lived in NZ for 6 months on the South Island, I can completely agree with many of these – now I just have to go back to check the rest off my list!! I must say, the hike to Mueller Hut and staying there overnight is up there with the best nights of my life.

Reply
Greta June 2, 2018 - 11:55 pm

Such a good round up, I just came back from New Zealand and I’m glad to see some of the hikes I did are on here! Roy’s Peak was my favourite, so tough but such a good view! I guess I’ll just have to go back another time to do the others haha

Reply
Gemma | mum off the map April 12, 2019 - 1:12 pm

I’ve been lucky enough to do several of these, and have several on the list of one’s I want to do too!
I’d love to hike Mount Taranaki (which was used as the lonely mountain in the hobbit). Avalanche peak in Arthur’s Pass was one of my favorites too, there were several Kea at the summit which was amazing!

Reply
Jackie April 16, 2019 - 5:30 pm

Gemma – It’s awesome that you’ve been able to do these several of the trails. We would love to go back to explore more of New Zealand’s hiking opportunities.

Reply

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