New Zealand is one of the world’s great hiking destinations. The terrain is nearly perfect, from high mountains to long coastal walkways and everything in between. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) maintains a first-rate system of trails and backcountry huts. And the New Zealanders you meet along the way couldn’t be more welcoming.

Hiking in New Zealand begins with the Great Walks. These nine epic treks average 3–4 days in length and pass through some of the country’s finest scenery. Many visitors to New Zealand make one or more of the Great Walks a centerpiece of their trips. The Great Walks should be booked online as early as possible, particularly the three in Fiordland: the Milford, Routeburn, and Kepler Tracks.

Beyond the Great Walks are countless other trails and fewer people. The Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds is not a Great Walk and there are none in beautiful Nelson Lakes National Park or the Northland region. The Round the Mountain Track in Tongariro National Park is a better hike than the Tongariro Nothern Circuit, a Great Walk, and it gets only a fraction of the visitors.

For day hikes and short strolls, almost every town and point of interest in New Zealand offers a variety of trails.

Great Walks

Milford Track (South Island)
Routeburn Track (South Island)

Hiking in New Zealand
Mackay Falls, Milford Track | Flickr Credit: Tewahipounamu

Kepler Track (South Island)
Abel Tasman Coast Track (South Island)
Heaphy Track (South Island)
Raikura Track (Stewart Island)
Tongariro Northern Circuit (North Island)
Lake Waikaremoana Track (North Island)
Whanganui Journey (North Island)

Best Regions for Hiking

Fiordland (South Island)
Aoraki/Mt. Cook (South Island)
Abel Tasman (South Island)
Tongariro (North Island)
Northland (North Island)

Best Easy Hikes

Lake Matheson (South Island)
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway (South Island)
Abel Tasman Coast Track (South Island)
Kauri Forest (North Island)
Cape Reinga Coastal Walkway (North Island)

Best Challenging Hikes

Milford Track (South Island)
Gillespie Pass Circuit (South Island)
Mueller Hut (South Island)
Mt. Fox Route (South Island)
Round the Mountain Track (North Island)

Climate and Conditions

New Zealand has a temperate climate with abundant sunshine and medium to high rainfall. The mountains of the South Island get cold and snowy in the winter; the North Island is considerably warmer with subtropical conditions in the Far North. Even in this small country weather patterns and precipitation often are location-specific.

For hiking, particularly on the South Island and at higher elevations, the warmer months from November through April are ideal. Rain is consistent throughout the year but generally is not debilitating. Always carry rain gear in your pack. You’ll notice the Kiwis pay close attention to incoming weather and you will benefit by doing the same. Stay as flexible as possible and make the most of clear days.

For current weather and trail conditions while in New Zealand, stop by the nearest Department of Conservation office or I-SITE.

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