Mountains near Queenstown, New Zealand

This article may contain references to products or services from our advertisers. We may earn commission if you click on these links.


New Zealand is known for its many hiking routes.

Kiwis love to spend time in nature and so are many tourists and backpackers visiting this beautiful country. There are thousands of kilometers of tracks with many walking and hiking options for all levels of fitness. It’s actually not that easy to choose the best hikes in New Zealand, since there are so many options.

You can find short walks ranging between 30 minutes and 3 hours everywhere you go, and it is easy to incorporate those in your New Zealand travel itinerary.

There are also day hikes in New Zealand that range from 6 – 8 hours, and needs a little more planning.

And for those who like to be in nature for more than a day there are countless options of multi-day hikes. Including the New Zealand’s Great Walks. These are 9 iconic hiking trails in New Zealand, which feature some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes.

There is a hike for everyone in New Zealand.

Best Hikes in New Zealand (South Island & North Island)

Here they are, 10 of the best hikes in NZ.

These are 10 hikes with the most spectacular landscapes, everything from beaches, forests and volcanic fields to bare cliffs.

The hikes are sorted in no particular order.

1. Hooker Valley Track (South Island)

Aoraki, Mount Cook, New Zealand
Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand / Pixabay

This is one of the best and most rewarding short hikes in New Zealand.

Hooker Valley track gives you breathtaking views of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook (Aoraki).

This easy, flat track leads you through Hooker Valley over several swing bridges and ends at Hooker Lake where you can watch floating icebergs.

STARTING POINT: White Horse Hill car park, at the end of the Hooker Valley Road

TIME:  3 hours both ways, but it can take also more because of the photo stops

DIFFICULTY: Easy

TIPS: It’s a very popular track, so start the hike early to avoid the crowds.

It crosses many swing bridges, so be aware if you are scared of heights or they make you uncomfortable. Check if the trail is open before you arrive, sometimes the river overfloods he area. Pack some sandwiches with you. There is a very beautiful (and sometimes crowded) picnic spot at the end of the trail.

2. Kepler Track (South Island)

Another one of the New Zealand’s famous Great Walks.

It features beech forest, tussocked plains, waterfalls and streams.

The track can be walked in either direction (anti-clockwise is recommended). If you are not interested in a multi-day option you can choose shorter distance and do it as a day walk.

STARTING POINT:  Kepler car park

TIME: 3 – 4 days

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

TIPS: The trail is open from late October through early May. If you’re in no hurry, take the 10-minute side hike up 4,829-foot Mt. Luxmore for a mesmerizing Fiordland panorama. Bookings are required for huts and campsites.

3. Tongariro Northern Circuit (North Island)

Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Alpine crossing, New Zealand
Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Alpine crossing, New Zealand / Pixabay

Another of the New Zealand’s Great Walks, and there’s a good reason for that.

Tongariro is the most unique hike you can do in New Zealand.

You are hiking through volcanic fields with active volcanoes, craters and emerald pools of sulfur all around you. It may sound dangerous, but it is only if the volcano erupts (and it can happen), but don’t let that put you off.

If you are not up for multi-day hike choose the Tongariro Alpine Crossing for an 8-hour hike.

STARTING POINT: Mangatepopo Car Park, or Whakapapa Visitor Centre Department of Conservation

TIME: 3 – 4 days

DIFFICULTY: Easy/Moderate, depending on your level of fitness

TIPS: Some sections of the trail can be a bit tricky due to sections of lava flow which has since solidified and can slip downhill, so take your time when descending. You can’t leave your car in a parking lot for more than 4 hours. So you probably will have to take a bus to a starting/ending point. The shuttle costs 30 NZD per adult and 25 NZD per child. But you can check for good deals on www.bookme.co.nz.

The restrictions will apply during the high season, usually from October 21 until April 30.

Visit the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre for more information.

4. Milford Track (South Island)

The Milford Track is one of the most popular Great Walks.

This is one of the wettest places on the planet, with average 182 days of rainfall every year. That results in many beautiful streams and waterfalls. That includes the Sutherland Falls which is one of the highest waterfalls in New Zealand.

Expect rivers, lakes, and soggy wetlands.

Climb the stunning MacKinnon Pass (3786 ft / 1154 m) for dramatic landscapes.

STARTING POINT: The track starts at Glade Wharf at the head of Lake Te Anau.

There are three scheduled daily boat services (10.30 am, 1 pm and 2 pm) and on-demand water taxi services from Te Anau Downs. Boat transport takes one hour from Te Anau Downs to the start of the track.

TIME: 4 days

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

TIPS: The trail is open from late October through early May.

Pack your raincoat and be prepared for rain. Be careful as the wet rocks might be slippery. Bookings for huts are required.

5. Abel Tasman Coastal Track (South Island)

Beach in Abel Tasman park, New Zealand
Beach in Abel Tasman park, New Zealand / Pixabay

During this hike you’ll be exploring the coastline of Abel Tasman National Park.

It stands out from other trails with its clean white sand, clear blue water and granite cliffs. It will take you through verdant fern and manuka groves and along some spectacular, empty beaches. You can camp at water’s edge or stay in Department of Conservation huts.

Compared to the rest of hikes in NZ, this one is more like relaxation on the beach than hiking. But still you walk, and the views are awesome. That’s why it’s here among the best hikes in New Zealand.

You can spend multiple days hiking, or you can do it as a day hike.

STARTING POINT: Abel Tasman Carpark, Marahau

TIME: 3 – 5 days (depending on how much time you have and will want to spend on the beach)

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

TIPS: Several tidal inlets require that you time your crossings with low-tide, so plan ahead. Bookings for huts and campgrounds are required. You can use a water taxi to get back to the starting point, as this is a one-way trail.

6. Ben Lomond Trail (South Island)

The Ben Lomond Hike is one of the Queenstown’s most rewarding hikes.

You can expect hiking through tussock grasslands with some steeper parts. Once you reach the Ben Lomond Saddle, you’ll see some pretty cool landscapes. On a clear day, you’re treated to a 360-degree scenery of lakes and mountains.

STARTING POINT: Bottom or Top of the Skyline Gondola.

If you hike from the bottom, take the “Tiki Trail” and follow signs for Ben Lomond Saddle.

TIME:  6 – 8 hours

DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate

TIPS: You can shorten the hike by taking the Skyline gondola to the tree line (ticket for adults costs 44 NZD).

7. Mueller Hut and Mount Ollivier (South Island)

Snowy mountains in New Zealand
Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand / Pixabay

Here comes one of the most spectacular and hardest day hikes on this list.

And also one of the best hikes in New Zealand, South Island. The hike up to Mueller Hut.

It goes high above the Hooker Valley in Mount Cook National Park. During this hike you will most likely reach the snow. That’s also about the time when you’ll have some jaw-dropping views all around you.

STARTING POINT: White Horse Hill car park, at the end of the Hooker Valley Road

TIME: 6 – 8 Hours

DIFFICULTY: Hard / Advanced

TIPS: It’s best to attempt this hike in the warmer months, as snow can be very deep on the slopes of Mount Ollivier. Especially after snowfall. Best advised from mid November – end of April.

8. Cathedral Cove Trail (North Island)

Cathedral Cove New Zealand
Cathedral Cove, New Zealand / Pixabay

It’s a great hike.

But it’s also one of the best photography spots on the North Island of New Zealand. And it’s easy accessible.

The trail takes you through native forest along a concrete path, and descends to Cathedral Cove where you arrive at the beach.

STARTING POINT: Cathedral Cove Parking

TIME: 3 hours

DIFFICULTY: Easy

TIPS: Cathedral Cove Parking might be full during the high season. You can leave your car at the Cathedral Cove parking at 65 Grange Road South (it costs 5-10 NZD) or find any free parking spot on the street. During the season the place is full of tourists. If you want to avoid that come very early or right before sunset.

Also check the tide table if you wish to enjoy the beach at its fullest.

9. Avalanche Peak Trail (South Island)

It’s steap. It’s challenging. It’s worth it.

Avalanche Peak is the only peak in Arthur’s Pass that has a marked route to the summit. Stick to the poled route to not get lost.

The climb is  3608 ft / 1100 m vertical from the village (when the total distance is just over 1.5 miles / 2.5 kilometers). So most likely you will be using all four extremities. It’s a challenging trail for those who are not afraid of heights and are in a very good physical shape.

STARTING POINT: Behind the Arthur’s Pass Visitor Center

TIME: 6 – 8 hours

DIFFICULTY: Hard / Advanced

TIPS: For a round trip, start with the Avalanche Peak Track, which begins just behind the visitor centre and come down via Scots track. Check the conditions of the trail in Arthur’s Pass Visitor Center.

For safety reasons tell someone where are you going.

10. Te Araroa Trail (North Island to South Island)

Cape Reinga, New Zealand
Cape Reinga, New Zealand / Pixabay

The greatest of them all.

Te Araroa trail is for the most adventurous hikers looking for a real challenge.

It is a 1864 miles / 3000 kilometers long trail, that starts in the far North – Cape Reinga, and ends at the far South in the Bluff on the South Island. On average it takes hikers around 4 months to complete the full hike.

During this hike you’ll surely see all the best New Zealand has to offer.

There will be beaches, cities, forests, mountains and even volcanoes on this route.

STARTING POINT: Cape Reinga

TIME: 4 months

DIFFICULTY: Hard

TIPS: To do it in 4 months, you’ll have to walk for at least 14.9 miles / 24 kilometres a day. It is best advised to start it in early spring to make sure you reach the Southern Alps in the mid-summer. Preparation for this hike must be taken seriously and nothing should be overlooked when planning.

Have you been in New Zealand? What is your experience with hiking in New Zealand? Have you done any of these hikes?

Featured photo: Pexels

Book Your Trip Like a PRO

1. Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights using Kiwi.com, Momondo.com. Or subscribe to Dollar Flight Club, if you don’t want to be searching for the flights yourself. Momondo usually is my first choice.

2. Book Your Accommodation

Booking.com, Agoda.com and Airbnb. I use Booking and Agoda at least a dozen times a year, and Airbnb – when looking for a long-term stay. My best tip is to ALWAYS compare the price. Sometimes the same hotel is cheaper on Booking.com, other times – on Agoda. Always compare the price!

3. Buy Your Travel Insurance

World Nomads and SafetyWings are two companies I can recommend. World Nomads offers some extra benefits, that will be important for those doing some higher risk activities, while SafetyWings is significantly cheaper. SafetyWings is only $9.25 / week.