There is something quite magical in being able to lose yourself in New Zealand’s natural beauty by exploring on foot. To wander along dramatic coastlines, lush forests, and rugged mountain landscapes in an untouched paradise is genuinely luxurious. Stay in five-star lodges, eat at award-winning restaurants and explore beautiful places.
Northland has a sub-tropical climate and diverse landscape, ranging from pristine beaches to jagged coastlines. Cape Reinga is at the very tip of the North Island, where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide. According to a Maori legend, it is the tail of Maui’s fish and the place where the spirits of the deceased leave their homeland.
Northland’s long stretch of white sandy beach coastline makes it an ideal place for walking and hiking. There are more than 100 walks in the region. They range from short strolls to multiple-day hikes. Walk along beaches and through the subtropical native bush so unspoiled it’s simply breathtaking.
The Urupukapuka Island Archaeological Walk is an ideal hike that combines beautiful views with a bit of history. If dramatic coast and cliffs are what you are after, the full-day Cape Brett Track is one to do. This hike blends stunning views over the Bay of Islands, Cavalli Islands, and Poor Knights Islands. And there is, of course, the added bonus of spotting dolphins and whales along the way.
A coastal paradise easily explored by foot. It is a must-do for those who enjoy being active with a good dose of relaxation. Spend a morning hiking in lush bush and forest, then lose track of time on the beaches. Helicopter services are available to take you to the region’s most isolated and idyllic beaches for total privacy.
Kayak through the crystal blue water or set sail on a catamaran. Discover secluded bays, islands, and marine life such as seals, penguins and dolphins. For thrill-seekers, go sky diving for a bird’s eye view of Abel Tasman National Park.
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 60-kilometre trail between Totaranui and Marahau. The track follows an immaculate coastline of turquoise bays and abundant bird and sea life. You will walk through four estuaries that are only accessible at low tide.
It is suitable to do all year round, best experienced on a multi-day adventure. There are much shorter and full-day walk/kayak or walk/cruise options available for those who are short on time.
The Canterbury region is the perfect place for outdoor adventures. The Southern Alps offer some of the region’s most breathtaking views of lakes and rivers and rolling plains waiting around every trail corner. For walkers keen to spot a whale, the eco-friendly and understated luxury of Hapuku Lodge and Treehouses, near the town of Kaikoura, make a great starting point to explore.
One of the best walks in the region is Hooker Valley Track. It passes through Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, rugged land of ice and rock, and travels beside the Hooker River. It can be walked in several ways and takes anywhere from one and a half to four hours to complete.
The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway extends from the east coast of the region, and it’s a must-do if you’re nearby in Kaikoura. Experience ocean views, and while you’re there, chances are you’ll spot some of the varied wildlife, including seals – you might even glimpse a friendly whale or dolphin.
From lush vineyards and wild coastlines to sky-piercing mountains and glacial lakes, Canterbury is a region of remarkable contrasts and a haven for those seeking incredible scenery and adventure.
Wanaka is a lively alpine town set around Lake Wanaka. It is the ultimate outdoor base to explore the Southern Alps and Mt Aspiring National Park. The clear waters of Lake Wanaka are ideal for fly fishing, boat cruises, kayaking, and swimming. There are over 750 kilometres of walking tracks to explore in the Wanaka region ranging from short, easy walks to multi-day hiking adventures.
With so many tracks to choose it’s the perfect destination for walkers and hiking enthusiasts. The Rocky Mountain Summit Track has sensational views over Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountain ranges. The narrow path before the summit feels like walking on top of the world.
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The Mount Iron Track is near the centre of town. It is a steep climb with the reward at the end a jaw-dropping view. Minaret Station, accessible only by helicopter, is an ideal place for hikers to rest and recuperate in picturesque isolation. Let the world slip away from your memory here, and enjoy an authentic alpine experience in a slice of Wanaka paradise.
Roys Peak Track is one of the most popular things to do in Wanaka – the views from the top of Roy’s Peak are pretty much picture-perfect! Many consider it one of the best places to visit on the entire South Island and one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand.
This 16-kilometre track has a 1.300-metre elevation gain and is challenging. The trailhead is six kilometres from Wanaka town and starts from the Roy’s Peak parking lot on Mount Aspiring Road.
Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most trendy destinations. Flanked by the Remarkables and sitting alongside Lake Wakatipu, this picturesque resort town offers some truly spectacular walks and hikes.
From the luxury lodges, you can enjoy several stunning walks, ranging from a trip down to the bustling town centre, a walk along Lake Wakitipu, or a hike through the Routeburn Flats that begins in the nearby town of Glenorchy.
There are day walks that leave from the centre of town. Some are as easy as strolling along the lakefront and Queenstown Gardens. Others are as demanding as any backcountry track. Try the highly recommended Queenstown Hill Time Walk. It is a three-hour trek which leaves from Belfast Street and offers panoramic views at the top.
Also accessible from central Queenstown is the four-hour-plus Ben Lomond saddle hike. Start from the Skyline gondola complex with the Tiki Trail and walk through native bush. Don’t be surprised if you are surrounded by adventurers zip-lining and mountain biking. Emerge from the tree line and head for the saddle with magnificent views of the lake, mountains, and the summit of Mount Aspiring. It is well worth it to take a moment to get a sense of the geography of the area. If you’re fit, consider hiking to the top of Ben Lomond’s summit for an extra-special panorama.
Let your feet take you to places your eyes might have otherwise never seen. Walk or hike to extraordinary places in New Zealand for an unforgettable experience.
Andrew Morten is Founder of A Journey DownUnder. A Journey DownUnder creates bespoke, tailored trips to Australia and New Zealand.
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