New Zealand Walks Guide
New Zealand Walks: Tongariro National Park. Photo by Chris Schoenbohm.
When to take a hike
Best weather: October – March, but busy December -January
Avoid: May-Sept (cold and wet, esp. South Island, impassable tracks)
n. b. The weather is unpredictable at any time so take rain gear whatever month you go.
Lake Harris, Routeburn Track, New Zealand. Photo Andre Chalmers
On a track of Moderate difficulty you will need to be able to walk for six to nine hours, carrying your own gear over rough ground, climbing and descending for up to 18 km (11 miles) a day – tho’ not usually this much.
Don’t even ask about the ‘Challenging’ tracks, just get fit and practice serious walking!
Unpredictable weather, including snow, is possible throughout the year.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to do a multi-day trek there are thousands of shorter, much easier walks in New Zealand’s various national parks and conservation areas.
For great walks in New Zealand’s South Island, no matter how warm it is when you set off, DoC says that regular jeans, T shirts and sweatshirts are unsuitable. Clothing in quick drying propylene is best.
You will need at least one set of clothes to walk in and another dry set to change into at night. Drying clothes in huts is not possible. Suggested items to carry, which you can usually hire or buy in your base town, are:
Boots: broken in and comfortable
Socks: wool/propylene, 2 pairs
Undershirt/T shirt: wool/propylene
Trousers/long johns: wool/propylene
Raincoat, windproof with hood
Extra socks, underwear, shirt
Pack clothes in a waterproof bag/bin liner.
Also take a good quality sleeping bag, a lighter, first aid kit, drinking bottle, a torch with spare batteries, all the other usual camping gear and light shoes for use in the huts.
A few of New Zealand’s short and easy walks
Other short walking tracks from Aoraki/Mount Cook village
Glencoe Walk, 30 mins return, views over village to Hooker Glacier and Mt Cook. Recommended for sunrise and sunset.
Governors Bush Walk, 1 hour return, views and birdlife. Often combined with 10 minute Bowen Bush Walk.
Red Tarns Track, 2 hours return, mountain views plus red weed ponds.
Kea Point Track, 2 hours return, views of Mount Sefton, The Footstool, Hooker valley, Mueller Glacier lake and Mount Cook.
Coromandel, North Island
The Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway on the Coromandel Peninsula, North Island. Photo by Podzemnik.
Many walks of less than half a day with different levels of physicality available.
Season: Best December-January, but OK and quieter Oct – March.
Coromandel gets busy at weekends with Auckland stress-refugees, especially in the summer. It’s not as dramatic or rugged as areas of the South Island, but the area is a treasure trove of coastal and forest walks.
The west coast has some interesting towns, while the east coast is more scenic. A good kick-off is Whitianga in beautiful Mercury Bay.
After a day of bushwacking you can go to Hot Water Beach, south of Hahei, dig a hole in the sand (two hours before or after high tide) and bathe in the resulting hot pool. Spades for hire!
Ninety Mile Beach, Cape Reinga Walkway
Ninety Mile beach, North Island.
3 days, long but easy walking. In the far north of New Zealand this year round beach-side track has huge sand dunes, surf-fishing and secluded swimming.
Banks Peninsula Track, 4 days, or faster if you hoof it. It winds along the coast south-east of Christchurch (South Island), through native forest and past farmland.
BTW, there are regular signs pointing out that tides on 90 mile beach come a go very fast, because it’s so flat. Consequently tourists and over-relaxed (i. e. smashed out of their heads) locals frequently get trapped by the tide and quite often lose their vehicles – for ever – to the rising sea.