Walks in New Zealand – Top Picks
Nature is not a place to visit in New Zealand; it is our backyard. For visitors short on time or compiling a bucket list of short walks on the must-go list here’s a start. The places to go with your walking boots laced are from the top of the North Island to the South Island Fiordland National Park. These walks are part of a series of Walks in New Zealand – Top Picks.
Unmissable, unforgettable walks and that’s just the start …
MOUNT MANAIA TRACK – WHANGAREI
Ascend Mount Manaia’s summit to stunning views of Taurikura Bay, Hen and Chicken Islands, Bream Head and the harbour entrance with Whangarei laid out before you. The mountain’s unusual rock formations are part of Maori legendary stories about people turned to stone by the Thunder God.The track leads you under nīkau palms and kauri stands with glimpses of northern rātā hanging from pōhutukawa among a cluster of jagged bush-covered peaks.As you climb towards the summit of Mount Manaia, 420 m above sea level, the gradient gets steeper and the views get more impressive.
The climb has steps and the natural rock lookout no railing, supervise children.
- Length: 4 km (return)
- Duration: 2 hours
Your reward is phenomenal harbour views and the promise of excellent coffee in the Whangarei viaduct precinct afterwards.
RANGITOTO SUMMIT TRACK – AUCKLAND
Walk on a dormant volcano where lava flows are very evident. The harsh black lava rock with regenerating bush is a heartbeat away from New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. In the Auckland harbour is Rangitoto (volcanic eruption 400 years ago) and it is an exhilarating ferry ride from the heart of Auckland to explore this volcano and the island it created.
There are several walking options from the base of the volcano, hopping onboard a people mover or ascending the summit to view Auckland city, the skytower and harbour.
CAPE FOULWIND WALKWAY – WESTPORT, WEST COAST
Variety is the keypoint of this top walk with wildlife, a lighthouse and awesome driftwood strewn wild West Coast beaches to view. The sight of the New Zealand fur seal nursery with pups feeding and the seals actively hunting is fascinating. The boardwalk is wheelchair accessible. Best time to visit is between November to February.
- Length: varies from 1 km to 2.5 km
CATHEDRAL COVE – COROMANDEL PENINSULA
Discover how the ocean has sculptured a magnificent sea arch on a gold sandy beach. The walk passes through lush coastal bush as you ascend to the beach below. The iconic views of the natural sea arch at low tide with glimpses of the native bush, the gold sand and shallow azure waters makes for a glorious short walk.
You can take the easy route to Cathedral Cove on a water taxi! No walking required.
WAINUI FALLS TRACK, NELSON TASMAN
A suspension bridge, a waterfall with over 20 metre drop onto water smoothed granite rocks and a walk through a native forest of nikau palms, rata trees and tree ferns is the perfect mix for this top walk. One of the Abel Tasman National Park unmissable places to go.
- Length: 3.4 km (loop track)
- Duration: 1 ½ hours return
KURA TAWHITI ACCESS TRACK, CANTERBURY
How long will it take? This is a 1.4km, 20-minute return walk to the natural limestone rock formations up to 30 metres in height. The limestone rock has been eroded by water into the distinctive sculptured landforms.
New Zealand’s rarest daisy survives in the 6 hectare reserve. Kura Tawhiti is the first reserve in New Zealand established specifically to protect the Castle Hill buttercup. With just 67 plants in existence, the Castle Hill buttercup can only be found within the 6-ha reserve.
History and culture. This area is sacred to the local Ngai Tahu iwi (tribe). There is an extensive history of food gathering in the area.
LAKE MATHESON TE ARA KAIRAUMATI WALK, WEST COAST
Glacier lakes with their inky deep blue water and still surface mirror reflections of the surrounding mountains and native forest. It is memorable to stand and observe nature’s reflected glory of Aoraki Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Brilliant.
- Length: 2.6 km
- Duration: Easy short walk on a well maintained path
A very popular spot for selfies.
BLUE LAKES AND TASMAN GLACIER VIEW, CANTERBURY
Icebergs floating on a glacier lake is nature’s treat for walkers on this 40 – 50 minute loop walk. New Zealand’s longest glacier, Haupapa Tasman glacier at 27 km, breaks into enormous chucks of ice that float onto the Blue Lakes. This is a summer walk with the lake freezing in winter. As you walk, listen out for the chirpy voice of New Zealand’s smallest bird, rifleman.
This is a glorious walk in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
- Length: 2.7 km (loop)
- Grade: Easy walk on rock steps. You are walking through the moraine of a glacier in retreat.
Who needs to go to the Antarctia?
HOKITIKA GORGE – WEST COAST
Hokitika Gorge walk manages to deliver lots of punch for a short walk. There is a swing / suspension bridge or two, extraordinary cobalt blue water and a gorgeous gorge. A must-go place for the scenery with surging glacial sky blue water and rock gorge surfaces smoothed by eons of water erosion. The walk’s start passes pristine mature hardwood forest to a viewing platform with the option of continuing further on boardwalks passing small waterfalls and access to a small beach. There are several viewing platforms along the walk
- Length: 2 km
- Grade: flat easy well maintained track
LAKE GUNN NATURE WALK
A taste of UNESCO world heritage with this walk in Fiordland National Park. Alpine red beech native forest, birdlife and glimpses of th eEglinton valley. You are embraced with the sound of Tomtits, Riflemen and forest birds trilling. Look for the flitting birds through the trees as you stand still for a few moments. There is a well signposted short track to Lake Gunn and stony beach. The deep quiet alpine lake is surrounded by massive mountains. It’s awe inspiring.
- Length: 1.4 km (loop)
- Grade: easy flat walk
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