New Zealand boasts some of the world’s most picturesque hiking trails. But with so many to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down your list!
We’ve curated a collection of the top day hikes in New Zealand’s North Island. These short routes offer stunning scenery and an authentic sense of discovering uncharted wilderness.
1. Rob Roy Glacier Track
For those wanting a taste of New Zealand’s majestic mountains without making an overnight trek, the Rob Roy Glacier Track is an ideal option. Situated within Mount Aspiring National Park, this walk offers easy access and breathtaking views.
Visits to New Zealand’s majestic mountains can be costly and time-consuming, which makes the Rob Roy Glacier Track such a tempting day hike. Only an hour away from Wanaka by car, this popular trail provides convenient access for those with limited time or resources.
Starting your hike with this scenic drive past Lake Wanaka and through a valley framed by breathtaking mountains is just the start of it! Once you arrive at the end of the road, simply follow some straightforward signs to locate the trailhead!
From here, the track starts in the Matukituki River valley and climbs steadily through forested gorge of Rob Roy Stream. It is a moderate hike with some steep sections and plenty of stairs to keep things interesting!
As you near the glacier, the path becomes increasingly rocky. It is essential that you stay on track and avoid any rockfalls as these can be hazardous. Furthermore, be aware that this part of the trail has a high likelihood of flooding during winter months; thus, check the weather forecast before planning your trip!
After about an hour of hiking, you will reach the lower viewpoint. Here, you can take in stunning views of Rob Roy Falls as it plunges down a sheer cliff face south of the glacier. On cold sunny days, melting water from below and snow on the slopes above can refreeze and form an impressive waterfall!
Once you’ve taken in the scenery at the lower viewpoint, head up to the upper viewpoint for even more stunning vistas. You may even get a glimpse of Bridal Veil Falls itself – 261 meters (856 feet) high and cascading uninterrupted from above!
No matter which route you take – exploring the glacier itself or taking in stunning views – this hike will be an unforgettable experience. It’s ideal for families with children or those wanting to see some of New Zealand’s finest.
2. Wenderholm Perimeter Track
Hiking in New Zealand is an unforgettable way to take in the country’s natural splendors, and there are endless hikes available. From week-long expeditions through mountains to short circuits along beaches or through forests, there’s something for everyone when it comes to hiking here.
If you’re searching for a short track to explore, the Wenderholm Perimeter Track is an ideal option. This easy and short walk from Auckland city provides stunning sea views as you traverse along its path.
This track begins near the historic Couldrey House and winds its way up to a lookout point with stunning views of Waiwera Estuary and beach before returning you to your carpark. This is an enjoyable day walk that should be added to your list of things to do in Auckland.
You can also try the Te Akeake Loop, located in Wenderholm Regional Park (Auckland’s first regional park), for a beautiful coastal stroll. This easy loop walks leads to the end of a sandspit headland at Puhoi River mouth and long sandy beach. This trail is popular with locals and well-marked; public toilets, changing rooms, and picnic tables are available at its trailhead.
Families with young children and dogs will love this track as it’s relatively flat and easy to navigate, though you should pay attention when your pup is running around. Additionally, you should watch out for wildlife such as kiwis, New Zealand robins, and wood pigeons while on your adventure.
Families with young children will love the Farm Loop Walk in Duder Regional Park, which offers an enjoyable and scenic walk that features Kiwi farmland, a Maori historical site, and stunning coastal views. It’s one of the most popular walks in the region and makes for a great day trip from the city.
If you’re in search of a longer hike, Mount Ruapehu’s Round the Mountain Track is an ideal option. This trail takes in stunning volcanic landscapes, alpine herb fields and tussock country as well as thundering waterfalls. Plus, it forms an entire circuit around Mount Ruapehu; one of few longer tracks to start and end in one location. Plus it offers some remote backcountry solitude unlike any other in New Zealand.
3. Tongariro Crossing
Tongariro Crossing is a world-renowned day hike that should not be missed by any Kiwi visitor. Its stunning alpine landscapes and turquoise lakes have made it an attractive destination, while being recognized as both UNESCO World Heritage Site for both its natural beauty and cultural significance.
This challenging hike takes you from Mount Ngauruhoe’s base to the Emerald Lakes and offers many scenic overlooks. To successfully complete this trail, it is recommended that you have a good level of fitness.
You’ll pass several craters and stunning lakes as you make your way up Devil’s Staircase towards Mount Ngauruhoe’s summit. Be prepared with all your hiking gear as well as plenty of water for this challenging part of the cross!
Another thing that sets this hike apart is its proximity to active volcanoes. You’ll pass smoking heat vents, petrified lava rocks and gigantic volcanic craters along the way.
Adventurers will find this hike to be an exhilarating experience! For even more, why not book a private sunrise walk and explore this lunar-like terrain without all of the tourists?
Though this hike may be difficult, it’s a must-do for any Kiwi visitor. Hiking across Tongariro National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – will leave you feeling as if you’ve just entered Middle Earth.
Fans of The Lord of the Rings trilogy will love this hike. Many scenes from the movies were filmed here!
The most challenging part of the trail is descending from Red Crater to Emerald Lakes, as you must traverse a steep slope covered in loose lava rock. Additionally, you’ll have to navigate some snow and ice.
To maximize the experience of this hike, opt for a tour that includes both a guide and all necessary gear. The Premium Tongariro Alpine Crossing Guided Trek offers all this at an unbeatable price of only $292 NZD (USD).
4. Waiau Pass Route
The North Island of New Zealand boasts some of the most breathtaking hiking trails in the world. With its mountains, forests, lakes and beaches, it’s no surprise why this region attracts so many trampers from around the globe.
There are so many breathtaking hikes in this area, each one varying in length and difficulty level but all offering breathtaking scenery. Some of these hikes have also earned recognition as New Zealand’s Great Walks, necessitating booking in advance for certain dates.
This trail offers breathtaking views of mountains, lakes, forests and an impressive waterfall along the way – making it a great option for those wanting to experience New Zealand’s stunning natural landscapes without committing to an extensive hike.
Although not as demanding or strenuous as some of the other trails on this list, this one still requires some effort. If you plan to do this trail make sure you have all necessary gear and a high fitness level.
Once you reach the summit, you’ll have breathtaking views over Lake Waikaremoana, majestic native trees, and an awe-inspiring waterfall. There are huts along the trail but they tend to fill up quickly so it’s best to book well in advance.
The trail can be steep and difficult to follow at times, but it’s usually easy to locate. Near the end of the track you’ll come across some large scree slopes which will pose a challenge but usually provide an accessible route up.
After this, the path drops down to a large lake where you can rest and regroup before ascending again. It’s only 500m uphill with most of the route poled but it may become tricky in poor conditions so be extra cautious.
Crossing this section requires advanced winter walking skills as it is highly vulnerable to severe avalanches. Be sure to check with DOC St Arnaud for any weather warnings or potential avalanche risks before beginning your trek.