Are you searching for an unforgettable hike in New Zealand’s South Island? Look no further – whether you’re an expert or just starting out, we’ve put together the top hiking tours on offer so that everyone can have a fantastic experience.
Continue reading to uncover more about these incredible adventures and start planning your trip now!
1. The Abel Tasman Track
Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s most beloved hiking spots, boasting stunning beaches, lush native bush and a mild climate ideal for exploring. The 60km (37-mile) Abel Tasman Coast Track is considered one of the country’s Great Walks and can be completed within three days – making it accessible to hikers of all ages and abilities.
This track winds its way from Marahau on the southern end to Wainui Bay on the northern, providing an exciting full day’s adventure that should not be missed. You’ll traverse coastal, rainforest and beach terrain with occasional hill climbs along the way.
Hiking the Abel Tasman Track is an unforgettable adventure that will take you through some of New Zealand’s most stunning scenery. The track is well-formed and well marked with frequent signposts and markers for ease of navigation.
While walking the Abel Tasman Coast Track, there are a few things you should be aware of. First and foremost is that there are several major tidal crossings so be sure to check the tides before setting out on your hike – this could make all the difference between having dry feet after several hours of hiking and getting wet!
Thankfully, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has put together some useful advice to assist you when planning your trip. It identifies four tidal areas along the Abel Tasman Coast Track and gives both high and low tide routes around each. This is especially important if you plan on completing the track from Whariwharangi to Awaroa – making sure all tides are considered!
Tidal crossings can add an additional hour or two to your hike, so be sure to plan ahead and consult the DOC before beginning your trek. Furthermore, two new tidal streams have recently opened up along the Abel Tasman Coast Track; one requires wading across a shallow river for access.
If you’re short on time, water taxis are an excellent option for getting to and from the start of the Abel Tasman Track. These boats leave from town easily, drop you off anywhere along the track, then pick you up again when finished. Prices vary based on distance travelled; they provide a great way to explore both sides of this adventure while having fun along the way!
To find out more about hiking tours in New Zealand you can visit: https://newzealandtrails.com/
2. The Queen Charlotte Track
The Queen Charlotte Track is one of New Zealand’s premier walking trails and an ideal experience for anyone wanting to discover the stunning natural landscapes in the area. It offers tranquil bays, lush green forest and breathtaking skyline views over Marlborough Sounds.
This walk is an excellent way to discover Queen Charlotte Sound and the world-renowned Marlborough wine region. As you stroll along its dramatic coastline, take in breathtaking views and appreciate this secluded part of New Zealand that has long been a haven for tourists from around the globe.
Start your adventure in Picton, a small town at the top of the South Island and spend your first day hiking along this track. This track offers different sections that are suitable for all abilities – from novice to experienced hikers.
This long-distance trail can be challenging but rewarding. To fully appreciate its scenic appeal and challenge, it should be done in sections. Thankfully, it’s well-marked and shouldn’t be too difficult for most people to complete; although some steeper sections may make the track seem more challenging than it actually is.
Along the trail, there are various Department of Conservation campsites and private accommodation options. If you prefer a camping experience, Lake of Many Coves, Lochmara Bay and Miritu Bay are among the numerous options.
Many campsites feature a picnic table and barbecue to relax with friends and family after a day of walking. You’ll have ample chances to swim in either Queen Charlotte Sound’s clear blue waters, or Kenepuru Sound with its lighter turquoise hues.
As the weather warms and sun shines more, you can take in stunning vistas of the sea and mountains while having your meal or snack. In wintertime, you may even get lucky enough to witness an unforgettable sunrise over Queen Charlotte Sound’s majestic mountains.
3. The Routeburn Track
Hiking New Zealand’s iconic Routeburn Track is an idyllic way to discover its stunning mountains, glaciers and lakes. Recognised as one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”, this trail has long been a favourite among both Kiwis and tourists alike.
The Routeburn Track begins in Glenorchy, just an hour’s drive from Queenstown and concludes in Fiordland National Park near Te Anau and Milford Sound. Although this hike is considered moderate for day hikers, you could also opt for a multi-day trek if your fitness level allows.
This stunning walk takes in New Zealand’s most captivating forests, breathtaking waterfalls and sparkling alpine lakes. Along the way you’ll be treated to stunning views of Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks as well as abundant flora and fauna.
Given you’ll likely be spending a lot of time outdoors, you should bring appropriate clothing and gear. The weather in South Island can change rapidly, especially at higher altitudes, so being prepared for all conditions is wise.
If you’re planning to stay overnight on the Routeburn Track, DOC huts and campsites offer bed linen, mattresses, water and toilets. But you need to book them ahead of time via the DOC website or visit a nearby DOC office during peak Great Walks season.
Accommodation spots on this trail can be booked up to one year ahead, but it is best to make your reservations as soon as possible. With an increasing number of hikers taking this trail, it is essential to secure a spot quickly in order to avoid disappointment.
Important to remember is that DOC huts and campsites are only open during the main hiking season (October 29 – April 30), so it’s best to book as soon as possible for your desired dates. Rates for a hut bed are NZD 130 per person per night while camping costs NZD 40 per person per night during this period.
For the most up-to-date availability and prices for staying along this trail, visit the New Zealand DOC website. Alternatively, if you have any queries about bookings, feel free to ask at your nearest New Zealand DOC office or travel agent.
4. Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is one of New Zealand’s most beloved hiking spots, offering visitors an impressive variety of trails to explore. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tongariro boasts emerald lakes, steaming craters and old lava flows within its diverse terrain surrounded by majestic mountains, rivers and alpine forests.
Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand’s highest peak, dominates this park. Additionally, there are plenty of hiking tracks and trails throughout Tongariro Alpine Crossing National Park, including one of its iconic ridgelines.
Tongariro National Park is easily accessible by car or bus from Lake Taupo and nearby towns. For a longer stay, Whakapapa Village, situated within the park itself, might be worth considering; it makes an excellent base to explore and is conveniently situated close to the start of the renowned Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
For a longer hike, the Tongariro Northern Circuit is an excellent option. It can take several days to complete and passes through various landscapes from beech forests to stunning Oturere Valley. Along the way you’ll see incredible lava formations and if you have time, don’t miss out on visiting Blue Lake!
Visitors to Tongariro National Park should also consider riding the Mount Ruapehu Gondola, an enjoyable attraction that allows you to save on a long hike uphill to the summit. With just 300 meters of elevation gain and stunning views at every turn, taking this gondola is definitely worth trying out!
Alternately, you can take on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing for an exciting one-day trek that traverses various landscapes from steaming craters and old lava flows to hot springs and thermal lakes. This world-famous trek offers not only challenges but also stunning scenery that will leave you with lasting memories.
Weather can change rapidly on the majority of the track, and without shelter you won’t want to get caught without warm clothes for all seasons. Even summer can be chilly at altitude, so make sure you bring along plenty of layers to protect yourself from rain and cold winds.
Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest and most visited national park, drawing one million visitors annually. Spread across 80,000 hectares, this spectacular collection of volcanic sights has earned Tongariro both cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage status for its cultural and ecological importance.