New Zealand is famous for its many amazing day hikes, and it’s definitely hard to pick the best ones. With hundreds of hikes to choose from, even some around big cities like Auckland, it wasn’t easy to single out the best 10 ones, but I managed to do it anyway.
We’ll start slow, with some easy tracks that are perfectly suitable even for beginners and children. And we’ll get to the more difficult ones a little bit later – but be sure that there will be a track even the most expert hikers out there will consider a challenge.
But there is something all of these hikes have in common – stunning views along the way and amazing photo-ops.
All of them can be completed within a day, but most also offer a place at the end of the track where you can spend the night if you get too tired. So, whether you are an expert or a beginner, at least one of these 10 amazing routes will be perfect for you.
If you are up for a hike in the rain forest, then you’ll love this track. You’ll get to see plenty of waterfalls and gorgeous scenery. There are even a few good spots for bird watching, along this track! And it’s more than suitable for beginners, since the track gradient is usually very gentle, expect for a few spots around the Bridal Veil Creek.
The track is only about 3.4 km long, which should take you less than an hour and a half. You can return via the same track, and the hike back might even last shorter since you’ll mostly be going downhill. You should know that there aren’t any toilets along the track, so prepare yourself. Also, bring enough water, as the uphill hiking is bound to make you thirsty.
The star of this track is the Dobson Memorial. The obelisk memorial is at the very end of the track, and it commemorates Arthur Dudley Dobson – the man whose name the Arthur’s Pass carries. That is also the highest point of the track, and just imagine al the photo-ops you’ll get there!
Peach colored dunes with dune grass, gorgeous views of Motuopao Island and Cape Maria Van Diemen are good enough reasons to try out this hiking track. It is an easy walking track that connects the Twilight and Te Warahi beaches, and so it’s also suitable for beginners.
You can get to the track from the Te Werahi Gate car park, and with a little over 7 kilometers to cover, the hike lasts for about 3 hours. About hallway through the loop you will get to a junction that can take you back to the car park. But you can also choose to continue south for another hour or so, and you will then reach the Twilight Beach campsite.
The 3-hour long one way hike will totally pay off if you make it to the beach. My advice is to get on the road early, so you can spend most of the day on the beach. And then you can go back in the evening, and really take your time to admire the stunning nature. Just remember to bring your camera and plenty of H2O.
This is another hike suitable for beginners, and also the last one I’m going to talk about (at least in this guide). It’s a very pleasant, 2-hour long hike, and the most popular hiking track in the Remutaka Forest Park. And it’s so accessible that it’s also great for families with children, especially with the swimming holes at Turere Stream that wait at the end of the track. Plus there are toilets at the end of the track, which means that you won’t have to rush back if nature calls.
For the most part of the Orongorongo track you will be climbing along the Catchpool Stream. You will also get an opportunity to see many different trees in this part of the forest, and that includes nikau palms, tawa trees and tree ferns. Be sure to take in all the gorgeous nature as you walk, because when you climb to the drier sides of the Cattle Ridge, you’ll notice that they mostly consist of hard beech.
An awesome hiking and tramping track, that is for some more experienced hikers, but still suitable for families with children. They will just have to take a little bit more time to complete the 8.4 km (one way) track.
The Alfred River runs alongside the track, and you can even go for a swim in it if you want. At one point the track also passes through a red beech forest, where you can see some of the most stunning beech trees in New Zealand. But the most interesting part of the track is the Sluice Box Bridge that crosses the Maruia river, which you’ll get to about 10 minutes into the hike.
Eventually, you will get to the edge of Lake Daniell, where you will also see the Manson Nicholls Memorial Hut. It provides accommodation to travellers on a first come, first served basis – even though this hiking track can certainly be completed in a day, it’s always good to have options.
The Big Bend Track is another popular track in the Remutaka Forest Park, and it connects the Orongorongo Track to the Whakanui Track. However, this one is much more difficult then the Orongorongo Track, and it’s not really suitable for beginners, or even slightly claustrophobic people.
It starts at the Turere bridge, and it lasts only about an hour and a half, but it is by no means easy. It includes going over a very narrow swing bridge, as well as some pretty steep inclines, so you should definitely come prepared. If you are looking for a challenge, then try out this hike!
You will have to go through some pretty narrows paths, and some very rocky climbs, so be sure to wear appropriate hiking shoes. Water is also going to be a necessity, and bring either a hydration pack or a couple of water bottles – those uphill climbs will make you very thirsty in no time.
It’s another awesome hike in the Northland region, which will present a challenge even to some experienced hikers. That is mostly because the hike goes over some really rocky terrain, so be sure to wear some appropriate footwear. And you might also get to see some ‘disappearing’ waterfalls that come and go depending on how much it rained recently.
The track begins at a farm road, which is pretty steep and clay-based, and you should take some extra precautions if it rains before or during your hike. Some 20 minutes into the hike you will get to the Wairakau Stream. You will have to cross the stream somehow, and your best two options are to either go barefoot, or wear some waterproof hiking boots.
The track is not too long; it’s about 5.6 km one way, and you can easily complete it in a day. It ends at the Lane Cove Hut, which offers accommodation to travellers, but also toilets and day shelters for hikers who don’t wish to spend the night there.
This track is part of the Fiordland National Park in the Fiordland region. It’s the perfect track for people who are looking for a slightly challenging, but short hike. The Key Summit track is about 3.4 km long, and it should take you some 3 hours to complete the hike both ways.
You can leave your car at the Divide car park, and then follow the Routeburn Track for maybe an hour or so. You will eventuallty get to a sign that marks the beginning of the Key Summit Track, which includes a 20-minute climb to Key Summit.
When you get to the top, you will get some stunning panoramic views of the Darran and Himboldt Mountains. Those views will make hiking across steep and rocky terrain totally worth it, especially if you bring your camera. Also be sure to bring enough water, as you will get hot and thirsty during the uphill climb.
If you find yourself in the Northland region, somewhere in the Whangarei Heads area, be sure to try out the Te Whara Track. It is one of the best day hikes in New Zealand, and it allows you to follow into the footsteps of the ancient Maori ancestors.
The track follows their trail, which is at least 700 years old, from Ocean Beach to Urquharts Bay. So, not only will you set out on an awesome hiking adventure, but you will also experience a piece of New Zealand’s ancient history – how cool is that?!
This track is very difficult mostly because of the large change in elevation, which is +/- 456 meters. And there are also some spots on the track where tree roots protrude onto the path, and where rocky outcrops have steep drop offs. But the 360-degree view of the coastal panorama at that elevation is most certainly worth the 5-hour hike, so be sure to bring your camera. You could also bring a drone, but you would need permission from DOC to use it.
If you are up for an 8 hour adventure, then this is just the hike for you – provided that you are in the Canterbury region. There are actually two different tracks in this area that you can explore, the Sealy Tarns Track and the Ball Hut Route. One is twice as long as the other, so consider the time and the difficulty of each track before you set out on an adventure.
The Sealy Tarns Track offers some spectacular views of the Hooker Valley and peaks of the area during the 3-4 hour (return) hike. The track is very steep with a 600m elevation gain, which also includes 2200 steps up the ‘stairway to heaven’. The climb got the name because it ends up straight at the lakes of Sealy Tarns, which make the tiring effort completely worthwhile.
The Ball Hut Route is the longer track, in the Tasman valley. The hike is 3-4 hours long one way, and even though it can be completed within a day, you can sleep over at the Ball Hut if you get too tired. Once you get to the historic Ball Hut site, you will experience stunning views of the glacier and peaks in the area. They definitely make the effort worth it, especially if landscape photography is your thing.
The Peak Hill track is definitely for those hikers who are looking for an adventure. It is a relatively short hike, and you can complete it and go back within 3 hours. But you will probably want to stay at the top longer, to take in that gorgeous nature of this part of the Canterbury region.
The challenges that this hike presents come in the form of frozen track and flora. Even in the warmer months there is some ice on the track and snow at the top. So, prepare yourself and dress appropriately. That includes some sturdy hiking shoes, as well as a warm (and preferably insulated) jacket.
The sun should warm you up a little when you get to the top, and the stunning view will make you want to set up camp there. You will see almost the entire Lake Coleridge and its surroundings, and get some awesome photo-ops. But, this is definitely a hike to go on with friends, since you will want to share that feeling of reaching the top with someone. And take some amazing selfies!
I couldn’t include all the hikes in New Zealand in this post, so there are a few worthy hikes I did not mention. One that you have probably heard about is the Tongariro Crossing with it’s turquoise lakes and insane volcanic scenery.
Another one worth including here, but a bit further to the west on the North Island, is the hike up Mount Taranaki. Obviously this one is also very volcanic, after all this is New Zealand, but because it is such an ascent, you also get spectacular views!
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.